Calling all adrenaline junkies and intrepid adventurers: we've scoured the globe for the very best active 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…
Adventure holidays on water
SURFING IN THE SOUTH OF FRANCE
Adventure 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.
SAIL AROUND THAI ISLANDS
Adventure 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.
RAFTING AND HIKING IN ALASKA
Adventure 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.
Adventure holidays for seeing beautiful landscapes
HIKING IN SEYCHELLES
Adventure 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.
TREK CLOUD FORESTS IN LAOS
Adventure 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.
MOUNTAIN BIKE IN PATAGONIA
Adventure 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.
Adventure holidays in the snow and cold
SKI TOURING IN NEW ZEALAND
Adventure 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.
GO DOGSLEDDING IN NORWAY
Adventure 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…
WINTER TREKKING IN MOROCCO
Adventure 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
Adventure holidays for weekends
CRYSTAL MAZE LIVE, LONDON
Adventure 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
TRAILER CAMPING IN ICELAND
Adventure 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.
A SCOTTISH WEEKEND CHALLENGE
Adventure 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.
Adventure holidays in the desert and sun
MOUNTAIN BIKE SAFARI IN NAMIBIA
Adventure 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.
ZIPLINING IN RAS AL KHAIMAH , UAE
Adventure 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?
DESERT SURVIVAL IN ARIZONA, US
Adventure 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.