Why do we adventure? Half the time they’re uncomfortable, or as Bilbo Baggins describes them in The Hobbit: “Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner!” The travel moments that we recall decades later aren’t often the easy ones.
The best adventure holidays for 2023
From scaling the Balkan three peaks to kitesurfing in Peru or biking through Scotland's Outer Hebrides, Escapism is here with our pick of the best adventure holidays to get your adrenaline pumping and heart thumping
Adventure isn’t sitting in an airport lounge pouring yourself a second bloody mary. It’s not visiting a spa. Adventure happens when you’re feeling most vividly alive, often when you’re miles away from your comfort zone.
It’s when you’re treading territory that feels unsteady beneath your feet. It’s navigating the crevasse zone of an icefield, climbing the sharp igneous rocks of a volcano, catching a wave that’s a few feet taller than usual, or pushing your body to cover a distance you hadn’t thought possible.
Adventure is drilling down into the core of what it means to be alive while braving the elements, so for this adventure roundup we've opted for an elemental theme. The Earth section is packed full of overland journeys. Ice takes us to the frozen hinterlands. Water invites us to explore lakes, rivers and oceans. And Fire asks us to push ourselves to the very brink. We’ve detailed some of the wildest experiences known to humankind, dotted across all corners of the globe.
From exploring the polar deserts of Antarctica to running a hundred miles across a frozen Mongolian Lake to traversing Pakistan by tuk-tuk, you can be sure that you’ll be well outside of your comfort zone. And, hobbits need not be concerned, almost all experiences include dinner.
Walk across Australia
Covering almost 8,000,000 square kilometres and around 32 times larger than the UK, it’s safe to say Australia is a sizeable country. This expansive space near the bottom of the world is home to all manner of terrain, from sparkling coastlines to ochre deserts, snow-capped peaks to dense rainforests and everything in between. This walking trip, hosted by Audley Travel, will take you to two of Australia’s most contrasting points; the fiery heat and white-sand coastlines of Western Australia; and the moody, bucolic greenery of Tasmania. Set across 18 days, your itinerary will have you tackling a four-day walk on Tasmania’s Maria Island alongside the stunning Cape to Cape track in WA, with time exploring art-packed Hobart, winery-strewn Margaret River and sunny Perth in between. When you’re not walking through some of the country’s most impressive landscapes you’ll find yourself exploring Fremantle, taking a seaplane ride over Rottnest Island and touring vineyards.
Audley’s Australia specialists recommend an 18-day Australia’s Great Walks: Tasmania and Western Australia itinerary. You'll take a guided four-day walk on Tasmania’s Maria Island, home to an abundance of wildlife and diverse natural beauty. The route includes beaches, forest and some of the island’s notorious convict sites as well as places of Aboriginal significance. You'll also have the chance to walk to the top of Mount Maria or Bishop and Clerk for stunning panoramic views of the island.
18 days from £7,675pp; audleytravel.com
So, you’ve weathered the Scottish mist on the West Highland Way. You’ve traversed the Alps on the Tour du Mont Blanc. You’ve even braved thin air to make it to Everest Base Camp. Perhaps it’s time to strike out on the road less travelled? If you’re looking for a trekking experience that’s legitimately remote, consider Much Better Adventure’s expedition through Tajikistan’s Pamir Mountains. The Pamir Trail is a new long-distance hiking trail that threads the needle below 7,000m giants. After hitting the road from Dushanbe and warming up on a few hikes to acclimatise to the altitude, you’ll embark upon an incredible trek through the Langar Dara Valley, braving the rarefied heights of some of the world’s highest mountain passes and soaking in natural hot springs to loosen up sore legs. Along the way, you’ll sleep next to the azure waters of glacier lakes in some of the most empty mountainscapes on the planet. You’ll also get the opportunity to become familiar with Tajik culture, warmly welcomed in their villages and homestays. Regardless of whether you’re an experienced walker or not, Tajikistan looks primed to offer an outdoor experience that’ll stay with you for years to come.
14 days from £2,278pp; trektajikistan.com
Mountain biking in Scotland's Outer Hebrides
Why deep–fry a Mars Bar when you can deep-fry your calves on the Hebridean Explorer guided mountain bike holiday? Over the course of a week, you'll explore one of Europe's last true wilderness regions on a guided mountain bike holiday through Scotland's Outer Hebrides. The 336-kilometre-long route kicks off in South Uist, known for its white sandy beaches and turquoise seas (Tulum, watch out), before heading to the Isle of Harris, filled with rugged mountains and lochans. You'll cycle the Isle of Scalpay and tackle two days of mountain biking and boat rides on the Isle of Lewis, including a visit to the Standing Stones of Callanish and the historic Dun Carloway Broch. Finally, you'll end the trip at the Butt of Lewis, which sits perched on the Atlantic at the very edge of Europe. The trip includes half-board accommodation, full tour service, all ferries and transfers from Glasgow International Airport.
7 days from £2,295pp; skedaddle.com
Pakistan tuk-tuk adventure
Get your motor running with a one-of-a-kind journey in a one-of-a-kind destination. Travel specialist company Large Minority has launched a completely unique experience that hits rarefied heights. How about exploring the Karakoram mountains of Pakistan… by rickshaw. It’ll be the first rickshaw rally of its kind, with intrepid motorists jumping on three-wheelers to tackle the world’s highest road, The Karakoram Highway, which stretches across the Himalayas to the border of China. Upon arrival, you’ll receive a training on how to operate the vehicles in Islamabad, before spending the next nine days traversing from 100 to 200 kilometres a day from Hunza and Peshawar to Gilgit, topping out at immense altitudes of over 5,000 metres. Along the way you’ll be meeting friendly local Pakistanis and stopping off for fragrant rice and spiced kebabs, with the majority of the expense allocated to helping regenerate the communities visited. There will be medical, operations and mechanical teams dotting this pioneering route, so rest assured that you’re in good hands.
2023 (13 May and 23 September) from £1,435pp based on three sharing one vehicle; largeminority.travel
Small ship cruise to Svalbard
Does a cruise ship sound like your idea of personal hell? Do you despise the concept of floating around on an enormous hunk of metal with hundreds of other people in a vessel too big to access anywhere off the beaten track? Boy do we have the solution for you. Let us introduce you to the MK Vikingfjord, the newest vessel from conscious travel group Secret Atlas, which aims to offer off-grid, intrepid journeys that have a minimal environmental footprint. Taking guests out on ‘micro-cruises’ that sleep up to just 12 guests, these adventures can get you into the far corners of the polar regions, with up close and personal wildlife encounters and expert guides talking you through the intricacies of these important parts of the world. The interiors emanate Scandi-chic, an on-deck sauna and hot tub boosts evening relaxation up a notch, and the observation lounge on the bridge allows guests to take in as much of the jaw-dropping, ice-strewn views as possible.
From €8,500pp; secretatlastravel.com
Surfing in the Faroe Islands
From Iceland to Norway to Chris Hemingsworth in Limitless, cold water surfing is becoming a badge of honour for wave-riders looking to push the envelope. For those that want to catch the ultimate wave, book a flight to the ultra-remote Faroe Islands, a wind-battered archipelago between the Shetlands and Iceland. Not for the faint of heart or the inexperienced, the cold and changeable waters can be difficult to navigate but tenacious surfers will be gifted with beautiful breakers among insane surroundings. Surfing has been growing in popularity locally and you’ll find a thriving community. Booking a good guide is, of course, a prerequisite for ensuring both safety and success. Travel the 18 isles and you’ll find that Faroe Islands Surf Guide are the most established and go-to surf guides, who will very literally show you the ropes.
From £175pp; faroeislandssurfguide.com
Kitesurfing and surfing in Peru
Seas the day, or seven for that matter, because the Basubu kitesurfing and surfing adventure in Peru, offers a whole week of wave rapture. You’ll spend your mornings having private kitesurfing and surf lessons in Mancora, a destination with world-class waves spots and reliable swells throughout the year. After slamming the seas, you’ll tan and relax on the beach in the afternoon, and spend the evenings recharging with a massage, devouring Peruvian chocolate and relaxing by the bonfire under the stars (kombucha in hand, of course). Beyond surfing there are a host of activities to keep the adrenaline pumping, or chakras balanced, including diving, bike tours, horse riding, yoga classes, holistic ceremonies and acupuncture. Throughout the trip, you’ll stay at the eco-friendly boutique hotel, La Maison, within walking distance of the yoga studio and some of the best surf and kite spots, cafes and restaurants in town. Complete with a swimming pool, terrace, ‘Olympian’’ breakfasts and adjacent palm grove, La Maison is the perfect cocoon after a day of surfing and soaking up the sun.
7 days from £869pp, basubu.com
Wild swimming in Scotland
From Wim Hof to the many swimming groups that now dot wintry coastlines across Britain, wild swimming and cold water therapy have gone from being fringe pursuits to mainstream phenomena. Research has shown that taking a frosty dip not only has the potential to improve your mental health and alleviate anxiety and depression, but to actually extend your life. For those who want to take their swimming to the next level with a little luxury stirred into the mix, book yourself into one of The Fife Arms’ 46 rooms. Set within the stunning burns, rivers, wetlands, farms and crofts of the Cairngorms Plateau in the Scottish Highlands, they’ve put together a full-day guided experience with ex Fife Ghillie Annie Armstrong. Starting with a half-day guided walk through old growth Caledonian pine forest and lunch in a Royal hut, you’ll visit a waterfall and then a river for an invigorating wild swimming session. Annie will also be instructing on Kundalini-style breathwork, so that you can return to the experience centred.
From £434 per night; thefifearms.com
Sea to Summit Guatemala
As a child, there’s a tendency to overestimate the amount of volcanoes you’re going to come into contact with when you grow up. Rat Race is offering the opportunity to remedy that shortcoming and burn obscene amounts of calories while doing so with Sea to Summit: Guatemala. Participants will kick off the trip by climbing the 2600m active volcano Acatenango, an actual real-life erupting volcano complete with lava flows, to help acclimatise ahead of a gruelling multi-day journey that covers 107 miles on mountain bike and 34 miles on foot from sea level to the summit of Central America’s tallest mountain: the 4,203m Volcán Tajumulco. You’ll have the opportunity to explore multiple seaside towns such as the Unesco Heritage Site Antigua-De-Guatemala as well as the tranquil black sand beaches of Champerico, before hitting the trail and winding your way through backcountry far removed from the tourist track. Along the way you’ll have the opportunity to camp at sites such as working coffee plantations and mountain clearings, before topping out on the continental divide. And, there’s some R&R pencilled in for good measure, with a luxury stay at Hotel Atitlan on the famous crater lake.
From $4000pp; ratrace.com
Serengeti Girls Run
As fitness-based travel continues to grow year on year, it’s evident that travellers are looking to see the world and push their movement boundaries as they go. This trip takes that all up a notch, with a six-day experience focused on running through the Serengeti national park, while also allowing you to give back to the community you’re visiting. Payment splits between cost covering for the trip itself, alongside a sizable donation to the Grumeti Fund, a non-profit organisation that focuses on boosting quality of life for women and girls in Tanzania. Funds contribute towards scholarships for local girls to attend school and tertiary education, empowerment events, sanitary products mentorship programmes and life skills training. When you’re not running, guests can take guided game drives to explore this magical 350,000-acre protected reserve; get immersed in the Grumeti Fund’s work with visits to a career fair or their Anti-Poaching Unit and Environmental Education Centre; or simply relax in the luxury of the Singita Sabora Tented Camp.
Total cost £18,982 (£5,291 per person for a fully inclusive 6-night package and £13,691 donation to the Grumeti Fund); singita.com
Petra Desert Marathon
Indiana Jones was cool, but did he ever run a marathon through the Petra Desert? Channel your inner explorer by pacing it past tombs, caves and mountainside carvings during the Petra Desert Marathon, taking place in the sweltering heat of early September. Before you light up those legs, you’ll have the opportunity to deep dive the rich cultural heritage of Jordan, stopping off at the Dead Sea upon arrival, where you can relax your muscles in one of the original spas, floating on the water’s surface. The next day, you’ll drive to Wadi Musa and explore the city before carb-loading on endless plates of pasta. Race day sees participants beating the crowds to Petra before opens, then starting from the Street of Facades. Finally, you’ll get the special opportunity to active recover while walking the ancient lanes around the Siq. After lunch during free time, you can either opt to try the Turkish baths and spas or enjoy one of the many local restaurants service excellent Jordanian cuisine. In the evening, all participants will head to the desert for a festive celebration dinner to put a bow on the experience with a proper knees-up.
From £1179pp; petra-desert-marathon.com
Balkan Three Peaks Challenge
One trip, two feet, three peaks and four countries – sound like your kind of challenge? Well, if the answer is yes, throw on your walking boots and tackle the Balkans Three Peaks. Over seven tough days, you'll scramble to the top of mountains, hike remote trails over mountain borders and sail across a lake, getting a hefty slice of Albanian hospitality on the side with an unforgettable stay in a remote shepherd's lodge. You'll start the expedition in Albania, sumitting the mighty Korab before heading to Kosovo to scramble to the top of Gjeravica and finishing at Zla Kolata, Montegetro's highest peak. Between the peaks, you'll embark on undulating hikes through enchanting rainforests, summer pastures and blueberry-covered meadows, getting a glimpse of the extraordinary wildlife, including brown bears, wolves, golden eagles and chamois. When you're not breaking an uphill sweat, you'll be feasting at a world-class farm-to-table restaurant, sailing across Lake Koman and strolling through Tirana's colourful bazaars.
7 days from £877pp; muchbetteradventures.com
Want to up your craziness credentials? Rat Race is offering weekend warriors the opportunity to embark upon one of the most surreal multi-day races available, taking place in the northwestern corner of Mongolia in the depths of winter. Lake Khovsgol is one of only 17 ancient lakes that date back over two million years, with some of the world’s purest fresh water, which just so happens to freeze solid over the lake’s 100-mile length to a depth of a metre when the cold weather rolls in. After flying into Ulaanbaatar, you’ll drive across the beautiful, rugged landscapes of Mongolia to a ger camp in Khatgal, acclimatise to temperatures that hover between -20 and -40°C, and prepare yourself for the rather onerous task of traversing the entire lake by fatbike, ice skates or running it on foot. Lodgings will be provided in the form of wilderness camps kept piping hot by crackling fires, and the event will culminate with a slap-up dinner, awards ceremony and vodka-fuelled party. Now it’s time to ask yourself: am I crazy enough to run across a 100 mile frozen lake?
From £2,950pp; ratrace.com
Finnish Winter Adventure
For an adrenaline-pumping, heart-thumping, full-throttled adventure which plunges you into a world unknown, book straight onto Flash Pack's Finnish winter adventure. You'll stay on a private Aurora island on the Arctic circle, welcomed by traditional saunas and a private chef cooking traditional Finnish food. Spend the days discovering the magic of Finnish Lapland as you cross country ski and husky sleigh through tranquil forests and frozen landscapes, visiting all the untouched, hard-to-reach spots. Then go full Wimhoff, plunging into freezing water holes for a taste of heart-stopping cold-water therapy. By night you’ll be huddled by a toasty campfire, hunting for the northern lights.
The trip is exclusively for people in their 30s and 40s, with cold-weather kit, accommodation, meals and transfers included. There’s a maximum of 18 people per group, so it's a wonderful opportunity to hurl yourself into an adventure with total strangers, maybe even making a few friends along the way.
4 days from £2,640pp; flashpack.com
Greenland Midnight Marathon
We all know how boring it can be when somebody is discussing their marathon training block. Don’t be that person. Step it up a notch by running a marathon under the midnight sun in one of the world’s least populated countries. Destination Sports Experiences has put together a package for participants to join the Icefjord Midnight Marathon in Ilulissat, Greenland. You’ll travel from Copenhagen to the rugged inland outpost of Kangerlussuaq before hopping another jet to the mind-bendingly beautiful and Unesco-accredited village of Ilulissat. Hemmed in by a towering icescape and lit by 24 hours of daylight, you’ll take off on a marathon for the ages across a variety of surfaces including pavement, gravel roads, wooden path, rocky trails and, of course, a fair bit of ice! Everything from accommodation to social events to sightseeing and meals will be take care of as part of the package, so you can sink your energy into running one of the wildest races imaginable. The Boston Marathon can eat its heart out.
From £2,219 on a shared basis; icefjord-midnight-marathon.com
White Desert Antarctica
Previously an experience reserved for seasoned professionals and scientists, visiting Antarctica has become something of a luxurious endeavour thanks to White Desert, available to the well-heeled and wealthy. Pioneering luxury travel in Antarctica, the company’s newest camp, Echo, sits at the intersection of adventure and opulence. Rising out of the relentless white like a settlement on another planet, Echo is inspired by space exploration and features a series of sky pods designed to be entirely dismantled without a trace. You wouldn’t guess it once inside; these accommodation spaces feature floor to ceiling windows for uninterrupted views of the astounding landscape beyond, comfortable furnishings and details inspired by space travel. When you’re not skidoo’ing, ice climbing or heading out on an arctic truck safari, you can settle into the dining room for a fine dining meal, relax in the library or take a nightcap into the Art Deco lounge.
From $65,000pp ($780,000 for exclusive use); white-desert.com