January 21st, 2013
Seven Surprising Destinations
As travelers flock to more adventure-based destinations to do more physically active trips, the amount of available adventures to be had in new destinations is exploding.
Everywhere you look, it seems like ziplines are going up, trails for hikers and bikers are being cut, new adventure races are being announced, and derivations of traditional outdoor activities are being introduced (downhill unicycling anyone?). These seven destinations are just a few of the surprises you might find when you’re researching your next adventure. It includes some locations that might be new to you, as well as some familiar names that are offering up some very new, very exciting twists…
Chiapas – Far from the turbulent unrest along the US/Mexican border, Chiapas is Mexico’s poorest, and possibly safest, state. Once part of Guatemala, the state is bursting with culture – and adventures. White water rafting, equestrian rides, jungle treks, and some truly amazing whitewater kayaking balance out the cultural opportunities of exploring ruins and archeological sites, sustainable coffee plantations, and the comfortable colonial confines of picturesque San Cristobal de las Casas, which makes an outstanding (and comfortable) basecamp for adventures.
Chile – You might know of the great summer skiing in Chile (North American summer that is), but did you know about the fantastic sea kayaking? Or what about whitewater rafting, trekking, fantastic fly-fishing, and rock climbing in ‘The Yosemite of Latin America’? The Peurto Varas region, which was settled by Swiss and Germans, also boasts a unique blend of Latin lifestyle with Germanic influences. There aren’t many places in the world where you can get authentic empanada and kuchen – in a single café.
Namibia– A ‘big five’ safari in this former South African territory is a no brainer. But it also offers activities you might not have considered before, such as sandboarding the massive dunes outside Swakopmund, a desert drive to find the fascinating ‘little five’, or cycling a former township outside Windhoek. Or how about flying over shipwrecks and massive seal colonies along the Skeleton Coast? Further, as a former colony of Germany, the democratic government is relatively efficient, things run on time, its extremely safe, and the streets are often spotless.
Norway – The photos don’t do it justice. Really. The stark and stunning contrast of wild sea abutting such powerful vertical stone faces in the fjords must be seen in person. Better still: see it via a hike, mountain bike, or sea kayak. There are snowsports aplenty of course, like glacier walking and snow kiting, but the extensive summer daylight allows you ample time to hike, climb, canoe, or fish to your heart’s content. You haven’t truly lost yourself in an outdoor activity until you’ve looked down at your watch and realize, by sunlight, that it’s 2:00 AM.
Quebec – Long have Montreal and Quebec City beaconed to North Americans interested in quick access to some European flavor. But, once you get out of the cities, Quebec offers up a massive amount of backcountry, including 27 national and provincial parks. Just a short drive out of Quebec City, near the town of Charlevoix, you can immerse yourself in via ferrata climbing, canyoning, whale watching from zodiac boats, and some fantastic bike touring. For the truly adventurous, get up to the First Nations communities in Nunavik to do some polar bear watching.
Scotland – The castles and scotch are great, of course, but if you need something a little more active, then get on a mountain bike. Scotland has become a world-renowned destination for the sport and the highlands in particular are filled with extremely well maintained trails. Get up to Cairngorms National Park for walking tours, ropes courses, quad biking, and more. Besides, you can always take your conveyance of choice (horse, feet, sea kayak) right to the castle for that scotch.
Switzerland – You know about skiing and hiking the Alps. But what about canyon-jumping, where you drop 150 meters from a perch to swing, pendulum style, out on a taunt climbing rope between the walls of a slot canyon? For the height-averse, try mountain scooters, where you take a gondola up the mountain, and blaze down on beefy scooters with knobby tires. Or take an e-bike tour, SCUBA a pristinely clean lake, try wind-surfing or ‘sledging’ down sledding runs that are kilometers long, and generally step outside the confines what you thought of as a ‘traditional’ Swiss vacation.
Chris ‘Chez’ Chesak is Vice President of Business Development for the Adventure Travel Trade Association, which powers the consumer adventure directory at Adventure.Travel. He travels nearly 100 days a year.
by Chris Chesak