Calling all adrenaline junkies and intrepid adventurers: we've scoured the globe for the very best adventure holidays, from trekking through the mystical cloud forests of Laos to rafting in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
Not sure just how adventurous you are? We've got some ideas for weekend escapes, too – and even one that you can do without leaving London at all. So whether you're a waterbaby, landlubber or just really love mountains, we've found a holiday that'll pique your interest – all arranged handily according to difficulty. So sit back, relax and dive in…
29 best adventure holidays to book ASAP
Best adventure holidays on water: 8 to try
1. Jump off a cliff in Cornwall
Rating: Helmets at the ready ◆
Why sit on a beach when you can throw yourself off a rocky outcrop and into the Celtic Sea in Cornwall instead? Cornish Rock Tors' sessions will see you spend two hours in the waters of the Celtic Sea, clambering over rocks and swimming into coves at the gorgeous National Trust locations of Port Quin and Port Gaverne. For an extra twist, book into an Ecoasteering session and you'll get to learn about local marine life, too. Worth it for the sexy helmet photos alone.
Need to know: Introduction to coasteering sessions, £45pp. cornishrocktors.com
2. Surf in Sydney, Australia
Rating: Life's a beach ◆
There are few surfing locations more legendary than Sydney, and with waves that are so absolutely perfect and blue, it's easy to see why. Tick off the must-visit beaches of Bondi and Manly, then swerve the crowds and head to the lesser-surfed spots at Garie in the Royal National Park, home to a left-hand break, and Wanda, which has a nice southeast and easterly swell.
Need to know: Vietnam Airlines flies from Heathrow to Sydney via Saigon from £388 return. vietnamairlines.com
3. Surfing in the South of France
Rating: Dip a toe in ◆
Surfing: looks cool, but is actually really, really hard. Brush up your skills while soaking up sultry summer nights to a suitably chilled soundtrack in Boardmasters' camp in Moliets-et-Maa, southwest France. Expect surf lessons, yoga sessions, live gigs and late-night parties – checking all our boxes for the ultimate summer getaway. Accommodation involves stylish bell tents and there's a skate ramp, an outdoor cinema and a cocktail bar. Gnarly, dude.
4. Kayak and camp on the southern Greek Coast
Rating: Make a splash ◆◆
The first physical challenge of this Med weekender will be kayaking around Greece's wild coast; the second will be seeing how much souvlaki you can possibly fit inside your body. And given you'll be spending your days paddling around the Peloponnese and hiking to a medieval castle, you're guaranteed to work up an appetite. Much Better Adventures' sun-soaked watery tour will see you stay a night in a three-star guest house, spend a night camping under the stars on an islet, and lounge around on secret beaches, giving you all the adventure you need with a healthy dollop of R&R.
5. Swim across Lake Powell, USA
Rating: More than your usual workout ◆◆
Swap chlorine for crystal-clear blue water, manky white tiles for red rocks, and your commute for hiking through the Navajo Indian trails of Arizona, USA for a four-day, three-night adventure with Strel Swimming. You'll spend your days splashing around the warm waters of Lake Powell under the watchful eye of Martin Strel, a swimmer so legendary he earned the nickname Big River Man, and your nights gawping at the sunset and star-filled sky in one of the world's most beautiful locations. Beats our morning swim any day.
6. Sail around Thai Islands
Rating: Make a splash ◆◆
Everyone knows someone who's bagged that near-iconic snap on the beaches of beautiful Phi Phi island off Thailand's west coast. Now you can one-up them by cruising around those very islands on a yacht, stopping to kayak, paddle board and snorkel through the inlets, caves and hidden lagoons as you go, thanks to Intrepid Travel. You'll also be fed delicious local cuisine by the on-board chef, with beach barbecues at sunset and the chance to sleep outside under a blanket of stars. Sounds pretty darn nice to us.
7. Rafting and hiking in Alaska
Rating: Cannonball! ◆◆◆
Pack your waterproofs and wrap up warm, because even though this trip takes place in spring, the average temperature in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in northeastern Alaska, US is still only 5°C. You'll join intrepid tour operator Arctic Wild at its Fairbank headquarters before heading to the Kongakut River, where you'll be surrounded by 20 million acres of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The area is home to caribou, grizzly bears, wolves, musk oxen, peregrine falcons and more, which you're likely to spot as you raft 60 miles down the river – meeting hulking blue walls of broken-up ice as you go. You'll also get to fun-run class III rapids, embark on mountain climbs and go on natural-history hikes – under the watchful eye of an expert guide. The icing on the cake? On the last day, you'll hike to a stunning view of the Arctic Coast and the pack ice of the Arctic Ocean.
8. Kayak down a wild river in Albania
Rating: You're going to get very wet ◆◆◆
There are several reasons why you should spend your hard-earned time off braving the waters of Albania. 1) You'll have four days hurtling down the Vjosa, one of the world's last wild rivers. 2) With Much Better Adventures, your guides will be local activists working to protect the river from the threat of hydroelectric dams. 3) You'll also get to experience breathtaking beaches, snorkelling in crystalline waters and visit Albania's historic cities and villages – and you only need to take two days off work.
Best adventure holidays for seeing beautiful landscapes: 9 to try
9. Trek through Bhutan
Rating: Time to get some new walking boots ◆
In a world that's becoming increasingly accessible, the country of Bhutan – sandwiched between China and India – remains delightfully mysterious. The number of tourists is controlled by the means of a minimum spend per day (several hundred dollars), but this is hands-down worth it for access to the nation's largely crowd-free sights and outrageous natural beauty. The best way to experience it? With Another World Adventures' Druk Path trek that'll see you make your way through the Himalayas along an ancient trade route that traverses lush rhododendron forests, mountain passes and yak herder settlements.
Need to know: 12 days costs £3,149, including flights, visa, accommodation and most food. anotherworldadventures.com
10. Overland your way across South America
Rating: Get ready to go all-in ◆
When it comes to adventure, hopping in a truck and making your way from Santiago, Chile to La Paz, Bolivia will give you a little bit of everything: two nights in the world's highest city; stargazing in the Atacama desert; and exploring on horseback with gauchos at a working Estancia. How adventurous you are is up to you – scale it up with extra activities like white water rafting on the Mendoza River, or take it easy and kick back in the thermal baths in Cacheuta.
Need to know: 21 nights for £1,090 plus £590 for the kitty, including guides, accommodation, most food. dragoman.com
11. Biking in Noto, Japan
Rating: Take it easy ◆
Feel the wind in your hair, the sun on your skin, and fill your belly with some of Japan's best seafood on a cycling tour of the remote and near-unexplored Noto peninsula. Book onto TravelLocal's seven-day itinerary and you'll cycle from village to village via sandy beaches, rugged coastline, Buddhist monasteries and the Insta-worthy Ganmon rock formation. You'll stay in locally owned ryokans, where the owners raise their own fish and forage for wild vegetables in the surrounding fields.
12. Hiking in Seychelles
Rating: No beach bums here ◆
Yes, Seychelles has beaches, and yes, they are beautiful. But there's far more to the archipelago than sea and sand – like its unparalleled biodiversity, from the coral reefs prime for snorkelling to the untouched forests ideal for exploring. One of the best ways to get yourself in amongst all that lush vegetation is to go on a six-hour hike across Silhouette Island to the Grand Barbe plateau organised by Hilton Seychelles Labriz Resort & Spa, roaming through mangrove forests and stopping at those Insta-worthy beaches as you go. Depending on your fitness levels, you might even be faster than the giant tortoises that reside on the islands.
13. Trek cloud forests in Laos
Rating: Not a walk in the park ◆◆
For urban bustle meets mystical cloud forest, head to Luang Prabang, Laos for a city break and book yourself onto Inside Asia's Laotian forest trek. It'll kick off with a historic tour of the ancient city before moving on to the region of Houaphan to gawk at ethereal cloud forest, trek thorough remote Khmu villages, go for a dip in the Tad Ang waterfall and camp overnight in bamboo huts. You'll also stop at the Poung Nied salt lick, where you might spot wildlife including deer, bears and wild cats, er, licking the ground to get essential nutrients. You'll also venture into two temple caves and visit a petanque tournament – which, as it turns out, is a game loved by Laotians. Yes, really.
14. Race across untamed wilderness in the Azores, Portugal
Rating: Prepare to sweat ◆◆
Home to lush mountain landscapes, volcanic craters, blue lakes and more outrageous natural beauty than you can shake a stick at, the Azores archipelago – an autonomous region of Portugal – sounds like our idea of Eden. Except our Eden probably wouldn't involve a trail race through rocky mountainous terrain against other fitness-mad runners. If that does sound like your kind of thing, the Extreme West Atlantic trail run is a 35km dash around the island of Flores, 90% of which takes place on unpaved trails. On your marks…
15. Hike, run and bike in the Atlas Mountains, Morocco
Rating: Get yourself to the gym, stat ◆◆◆
Don't mind getting sand in your pants? Good, because after taking part in IGO Adventures' Morocco weekender you'll probably have half the Sahara desert in your shorts. Over two days, you'll hike, run and bike through 58km of the Atlas Mountains, home to snow-capped peaks, lush valleys and traditional Berber villages. Of course, you should do this just for the sheer exhilaration of completing such a mammoth challenge, but the locally sourced organic food, bushcraft workshops and shiny medal all help, too.
16. Mountain bike in Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA
Rating: Bring a first aid kit ◆◆◆
You could enjoy the foothills of the majestic Sangre de Cristo mountains from the safe (read: boring) confines of a car. Or you could get your hammer on at La Tierra Trails, 17 miles of well-signed trails from downtown Santa Fe – where you'll also find plenty of pueblo architecture, culture and delicious food, too. You can thank us later.
Need to know: British Airways flies from Heathrow to Santa Fe from £1,090 return. britishairways.com
17. Mountain bike in Patagonia
Rating: Are you crazy? ◆◆◆
Swap knackering yourself on your daily cycle through London for mountain biking over the lava fields of active volcanoes in Chilean Patagonia on H+I Adventures' latest tour. Over 12 days you'll cover more than 2,000km, from lakes and volcanoes to the spectacular Torres del Paine National Park, taking you through forests of bamboo and araucaria, hot springs, and Patagonian estancias along the way. Don't worry, there's more than a little R'n'R involved too, as you'll get to sample fine Chilean wines, learn about the native Mapuche culture at a traditional dinner and gaze at the Milky Way in the crystal-clear night skies of Patagonia. Warning: your commute will suck even more when you get back.
Best adventure holidays in the snow and cold: 6 to try
18. Winter safari through Yellowstone National Park, USA SNOW
Rating: Sit back and relax ◆
Sure, we love exploring and getting up close and personal with the great outdoors. But there are times when it's OK to park your butt on a comfy seat and take it all in, too – especially in the dead of winter. Head out on Audley Travel's 11-day tailor-made tour of Yellowstone National Park in the colder months and not only will you get to see this legendary landscape in a whole new light, with fewer crowds and from the toasty confines of a car, but it's also the best time of year for spotting wolves, too. Win-win.
Need to know: From £2,970pp for 11 days, including flights, vehicle hire and accommodation. audleytravel.com
19. Ski touring in New Zealand
Rating: Just a bit chilly ◆
If skiing down neatly groomed pistes just doesn't do it for you anymore, and you're looking for a proper DIY adventure, try alpine ski touring. Think of it as a bit like a cross between backcountry skiing and mountaineering: you whack some skins on your skis (to enable you to walk uphill in them) and hike off-piste to find virgin snow – and escape the crowds and queues. Obviously ski touring's possible anywhere with snow and mountains, but to experience it at its absolute best head to the extraordinary terrain of New Zealand. Unless you've already got serious skills and experience, you might want to venture out with Alpine Guides, whose experts run tours around Aoraki Mount Cook National Park.
20. Go skiing in Oslo, Norway
Rating: Pack your woollies ◆◆
When it comes to cities for adventure, the Norwegian capital of Oslo is hard to beat, all the way from its glittering fjords to its soaring mountain peaks. You've got swimming, you've got hiking, you've got heaps of food and culture… And less than a 20-minute train journey from the city centre you've got the Oslo Vinterpark, where you can find all the snow-based thrills and spills you could ask for, whether that's sledding down the corkscrew-shaped Korketrekkeren run or exploring the Holmenkollen ski jump.
Need to know: Norwegian flies from Gatwick to Oslo from £196 return. norwegian.com
21. Discover Antarctica on a cruise
Rating: Prepare to gawp ◆◆
Start saving your pennies*, because Intrepid's once-in-a-lifetime new trip is an absolute stonker. Venture through the Drake Passage, where there'll be orcas, humpback whales, seals, penguins, and you, freezing your butt off. But who cares about the cold when you'll get to drink in the outrageous landscape of the Antarctic Peninsula with forays in Zodiac boats and on-shore excursions? *Warning: if you literally save up pennies, you'll be waiting a long time.
Need to know: Ten days from £3,995 per person, including meals. Departures run from December 2020. intrepidtravel.com
22. Go dogsledding in Norway
Rating: Time to buy a warmer coat ◆◆
Realise your secret burning desire to become a musher – that's the driver of a dog sled, if it wasn't immediately obvious – on this six-day expedition through of Norwegian, Swedish and Finnish Lapland. The itinerary involves learning how to set up your own sled, drive and care for your team of dogs (Best. Holiday. Ever.), as well as fishing from frozen lakes, watching Arctic wildlife and potentially getting a chance to the see the Northern Lights. We weren't joking about the coat, either – you'll spend a few nights camping in the mountains, too. Or you could just snuggle up to your new furry friends…
23. Winter trekking in Morocco
Rating: Safety equipment needed ◆◆◆
Morocco: known for mint tea, couscous and riads… And now your blood, sweat and tears as you climb North Africa's highest peak, Mount Toubkal (a mere 4,167m high) in the depths of winter with Exodus Travel's Mount Toubkal winter climb trip. Swerve the summer crowds of Marrakesh and head there in the colder months instead, when the bustling city and surrounding areas turn into a walker's idea of heaven, with deserted trails, clear air and jaw-dropping views over the Toubkal Massif, as well as the emerald green Lac d'Ifni. You'll need to be fit for this one, but no previous winter walking experience at all is required.
Need to know: Eight days from £799, including flights. exodus.co.uk
Best adventure holidays for weekends: 8 to try
24. Crystal maze live, London
Rating: Too lazy to leave London ◆
Adventure might not be your cup of tea, but we've still got your back with this day out – and you don't even have to get yourself beyond the safe confines of the M25 in order to do it, either. Test your mettle (and probably your friendships) in the form of Crystal Maze Live's new spinning planets game. Once you've entered the maze, you'll make the dash through the Medieval, Aztec, Industrial and Futuristic adventure zones to get your hands on the all-important crystals.
Need to know: From £54.50pp. the-crystal-maze.com
25. Learn to fire cook in Sussex
Rating: An edible adventure ◆
Based in a treehouse in the gorgeous South Downs near Lewes, Hunter Gather Cook is a school specialising in seasonal cooking, from sustainably hunted meat to wild foraging and cocktail making. On a day course, you'll learn how to butcher, forage and cook over an open fire, with a different, delicious menu for each season.
Need to know: From £160. huntergathercook.com
26. Go on a kayak pub tour in Norfolk
Rating: Gently does it ◆
Just because you're in Alan Partridge country doesn't mean you're confined to owl sanctuaries and spice museums for your daytime entertainment. Head into Norfolk's church-filled county town (which is home to cracking pubs and a great market) for a morning coffee, then rent a canoe and paddle your way out into the country on an afternoon's 'booze cruise', wetting your whistle at four lovely waterside pubs along the way. Bring beer goggles and sea legs.
Need to know: Afternoon tours from £20pp. pubandpaddle.com
27. Rewild Yourself at the 7th Rise, Cornwall
Rating: You won't even work up a sweat ◆
Sometimes you need to run away from phone signal, from your emails and your boring city life. Sometimes you need to canoe, wild swim and fish your weekend away. Sometimes – just sometimes – you need to book yourself a stay at the 7th Rise, an adventure camp on Cornwall's rugged Roseland peninsula where you can escape the modern world and slow the pace with fire-cooking, wood whittling and much, much more.
Need to know: Two-night trips from £295pp. 7thrise.co.uk
28. Love Trails Festival, Gower, Wales
Rating: Running is fun, right? ◆
From dawn runs to beer-fuelled relays, Love Trails festival takes everything you love about running and turns it into a weekend-long runner's high. While camping out on the Gower peninsula in South Wales, you can learn to run barefoot with Vivobarefoot, join guided jogs to long-table banquets and pick up fitness tips from pros like Ross Edgley, Anna-Marie Watson and Charlie Dark.
Need to know: 4-7 July 2019; weekend tickets from £149. lovetrailsfestival.co.uk
29. Trailer camping in Iceland
Rating: Camping, but better ◆◆
We get it, you want to go camping but you don't really want to get friendly with spiders and slugs. Enter these sweet-as-you-like teardrop-shaped trailers from camping pros Mink in Iceland, which come complete with wifi, a sound system and a swish open-air kitchen so you can explore the wilds of Iceland without straying too far from the comforts of modern life. No matter how remote you get, the sturdy structure and thick tyres will handle both the roads and the gravel highlands with ease. The dealbreaker? The camping pods have glass roofs, so you'll be able to watch the elusive Northern Lights without even getting out of bed, which sounds pretty ideal to us.
30. A Scottish weekend challenge
Rating: You'll need to lie down ◆◆◆
Is your idea of the perfect holiday hiking, running and canoeing across a distance of 51km in just one weekend? Yeah, sure, ours too. But whatever floats your kayak, you've got to admit the chance to tackle some of Scotland's beautiful glens, fells and dales in one hit sounds pretty damn cool. Igo Adventures' Scotland Weekend begins with a 16km trail hike starting in Luss in Trossachs National Park, followed by an overnight camp in a remote bothy, before you canoe across Loch Lomond. Then hike up Ben Lomond. Oof. after that all you need to do is head back to camp, kick back and enjoy some Scottish hospitality – aka plenty of whisky and haggis – which sounds like a damn good reason to take on this absolute stonker of a weekend in the first place.
31. Take on the Reeks District Big Five, Kerry, Ireland
Rating: Pack the protein bars ◆◆◆
Here at escapism, we love a good challenge. So naturally, we're pretty keen on the all-new Big Five in Kerry's Reeks District. All you have to do is head to the south west of Ireland, grab an adventure passport for free, then climb a 1,039m mountain, cycle 90km of mountain passes, paddle a 6km lake, catch a wave on a Blue Flag beach and go night SUPing in a Dark Sky Reserve. Easy, right?
Need to know: Big Five passport is free. reeksdistrict.com
Best adventure holidays in the desert and sun: 3 to try
32. Mountain bike safari in Namibia
Rating: Just a dusting ◆
Think ogling Africa's wildest animals from the safe confines of a Jeep is cheating? Try this mountain biking safari around the hotspots of Namibia instead. You'll pedal from the fog-shrouded beaches and desert of the Skeleton Coast to the Huab River, and the coastal town of Swakopmund to Etosha National Park and the salt and clay pans of Sossusvlei. The 12-day trip with Mountain Bike Worldwide lets you get up close and personal with the wildlife as you make your way around Namibia's stunning natural scenery. And you don't need to be a hardened veteran mountain biker, either – the itinerary is suitable for novices, so you can get properly acquainted with life on two wheels as you go.
33. Ziplining in Ras al Khaimah, UAE
Rating: We hope you like heights ◆◆
Little did Westlife know in 1999 that we'd actually be able to experience flying without wings thanks to Ras Al Khaimah's Jebel Jais zipline, where you zoom headfirst over a distance of 2.8km at a height of 1,680m above sea level. You'll take flight strapped in a superman-style position, swooping over the landscape at speeds of up to 150km/h. Yes, really. It's the only way to take in the unique scenery, even if you do need to pack an extra pair of trousers in case of an, ahem, accident. Because why would you just want to look at it, when
you could fly across it instead?
34. Desert survival in Arizona, US
Rating: Full-blown sandstorm ◆◆◆
It's the end of the world as we know it, and you're stranded in the wilderness without food, water or shelter. But you're as cool as a cucumber about the whole thing, because you had the foresight to take on one of Ancient Pathways' outdoor programs, ranging from desert to urban survival courses. Our choice? The Complete Survivor course, which will show you long-term strategies for living off the land, or the Knife-Only survival course, where you'll learn how to build yourself a shelter, essential first aid and how to source food and water. Book now, and be very smug when the apocalypse rolls around.