Get your adrenaline pumping by visiting the world’s most highly-rated adventure travel destinations, according to global travellers.*
Waitomo Caves, New Zealand
Intrepid travellers will find a wealth of adventure experiences in Waitomo, a labyrinth of caves hidden beneath fern-covered hills and waterfalls (the name also lends itself to a village and wider region). This subterranean network of 30-million-year-old limestone rock formations was first explored in 1887 by local Maori Chief, Tane Tinorau, accompanied by English surveyor, Fred Mace. The caves are lit by thousands of glowworms that cling to the walls and ceiling; you can take a guided tour including a boat ride illuminated by these bioluminescent bugs. There are also dedicated ‘black water rafting’ tours, which involve floating along underwater rivers in an inflatable rubber ring. Or head above ground for a hike through the bush. Check into Waitomo Boutique Lodge, a short drive from the Glowworm Caves and with views of the Coromandel Range mountains.
Phong Nha, Vietnam
Home to the largest cave in the world (Hang Son Doong, a gargantuan underground cavern that was only discovered in the 1990s), Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park is an adventure wonderland of ancient karst mountains and jungle. These mountains are around 400 million years old and also contain a network of caves to explore, in case you can’t afford to tour the biggest one (tours for Hang Son Doong tend to be pricey and infrequent). You can also cycle alongside tropical rivers past rural villages and lime green carpets of rice paddies and terraced hills. Or take a guided trek, looking out for macaque monkeys and rare birds. Take in the views of karst landscape from the sun terrace of Phong Nha-Tuan Garden House.
With its ochre, bare rocky mountains offset by jade-green rivers and lakes, the landscape around Lehis one of India’s most surreal. Aside from its natural beauty, it’s also a popular destination for daredevils. Partake in one of the many adrenaline-pumping activities available across the high-altitude and rough desert terrain, including mountaineering, cycling and river rafting. But perhaps the best way to appreciate the scenery is on foot, via the hundreds of pristine hiking trails covering the mountains and dotted with Buddhist gompas (monasteries or shrines). Stay at the Mentokling Guest House and Garden Restaurant for its prayer flag- and tree-filled courtyard, and mountain views.
San Gil, Colombia
For a small city in the Colombian Andes, San Gil has a huge array of available adventure experiences, including whitewater rafting, kayaking, paragliding, bungee jumping, skydiving and horseback riding. As a launchpad for exploring the Parque Nacional de Chicamocha, San Gil’s surroundings make a sublime setting for all of these thrilling activities. If you’re feeling gutsy, don’t miss the chance to paraglide over the extraordinary Chicamocha Canyon, involving running and jumping off a steep cliff to float down to the bottom of this 6,500 feet-deep natural wonder. Enjoy some post-adventure downtime in the sunny, hydrangea-filled courtyard of Meraki Boutique Hostel.
San Ignacio, Belize
San Ignacio is one of the most popular ecotourism destinations in Belize, and also home to an extensive network of caves and rainforest. Explore this underground world containing stalactites that resemble melting candles, and honeycomb fossil formations, before taking to the region’s cascading rivers in a white water raft or kayak. It’s worth spending several days here, so that you also have time to horseback ride to nearby ancient Mayan temples and – if you’re feeling brave – go potholing down one of the many dark limestone sinkholes. Stay in a beautiful wooden bungalow in the jungle outside San Ignacio at Vanilla Hills Lodge.
While it’s mainly visited en route to Victoria Falls – the largest waterfall in the world – Livingstone is also an adrenaline-seeker’s paradise. The rapids thundering out of the Falls provide some of the world’s best whitewater rafting, which you can often combine with a camping trip or a nature safari. You can also bungee jump over the bridge spanning between Zambia and Zimbabwe, go canoeing, abseiling or ziplining. But the most unmissable experience of all is taking a dip in the Devil’s Pool; this shallow, calm pool is located literally inches from the edge of the top of the Falls, where rainbows form in the mist. Stay in a private chalet, sheltered by an old indigenous tree, on the banks of the Zambezi River.
Located on the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard, the humble, coal-mining town of Longyearbyen is the world’s most northerly town. 60% of the polar desert tundra is filled with glaciers that are perfect for trekking adventures, or you can snowmobile and dog sled past polar bears, arctic foxes and puffins for a once-in-a-lifetime experience. If you’re still hungry for adventure after sampling all of that, go further afield by quad biking up and down the region’s snow-covered mountains. Stay in a boxy, red wooden Nordic house at Haugen Pensjonat Svalbard.