Jun 10, 2012 5:12:08 AM
Best adventure travel ideas
If you’re after an outdoor adventure, look no further. In this excerpt from Lonely Planet’s 1000 Ultimate Experiences, we bring you the white-knuckle tour of six continents.
1. Ski touring the Haute Route, France and Switzerland
Strap on the skins for one of the world’s great ski experiences as you tour between the famed Alpine resorts of Chamonix and Zermatt. Most skiers take around a week to complete the 140km, hut-to-hut route, crossing 20 glaciers and savouring views of many of the Alps’ highest and finest peaks. Expect more than a leisurely jaunt: the terrain is challenging, and climbs along the route total more than 10,000m. If you prefer feet to skis, you can always wait for summer and hike the Walkers’ Haute Route. Guided tours depart from Chamonix; expect to pay in excess of US$2250 depending on group size. Basic mountaineering skills and the ability to ski off piste are essential.
2. Cycling the Icefields Parkway, Canada
Stretching 230km between Jasper and Lake Louise and following a lake-lined valley between two chains of the Rocky Mountains, the Icefields Parkway is considered one of the world’s most scenic roads. Cyclists also know it as one of the great mountain-biking tours. The impatient can ride it in two days, but well-spaced camping grounds and hostels mean it can also be lingered over for four or five days. Expect mountains, lakes and a menagerie of mammals – goats, bighorn sheep, elk, moose and perhaps even black and grizzly bears. Check the route map at www.icefieldsparkway.ca; you can hire bicycles at shops in Banff , Alberta, for around C$40 a day.
3. Bungee jumping at Verzasca Dam, Switzerland
They call it the Golden Eye jump, as it was on this Ticino dam that Pierce Brosnan, aka James Bond, fell so far that in order to recreate the stunt you must submit yourself to the world’s highest commercial bungee jump, a leap of 220m. Make the classic swan dive or leap backwards, then endure a 7½-second fall that will border on eternity. Only later will you appreciate the fact that you’ve just relived the stunt once voted the best in movie history. Jumps are conducted between Easter and October. The Golden Eye jump costs €170 the first time and is half price if you do it again on the same day. You know what Bond would do.
4. Mountain biking in Moab, USA
Moab is the mother of all mountain biking destinations, its fame riding on the slickrock (smooth, wind-polished rock) that makes mountain biking in this Utah town unique. Top of the pops in Moab is the Slickrock Bike Trail, arguably the most famous mountain-biking route in the world. This 20km loop crosses sandstone ridges above the town, a roller-coaster route of supersteep climbs and plunging descents. If you’re nervous about whether you’re slick enough for the Slickrock Bike Trail, you can always pluck up courage on the 3km practice loop. One-day or multi-day tour options are available. Bring your own bike or rent one and go for broke; for sample rentals check out www.poisonspiderbicycles.com.
5. Rock climbing at Krabi, Thailand
Fancy a tropical beach that’s more about cams than tans, and where the closest thing to a thong is your harness? Then you should come to Krabi. This city on Thailand’s Andaman coast is blessed with spectacular karst formations, even in the middle of Krabi River, making it one of the world’s great climbing destinations. If you’re serious about scaling a cliff, you’ll want to head for Railay, west of the city. This peninsula’s steep, pocketed limestone cliff s offer a liquorice allsorts of climbing features, including good overhangs and the occasional hanging stalactite. You’ll find accommodation, guides and gear for hire at Ao Nang and Railay East Beach; over 650 routes have been pioneered in the area since the 1980s.
6. Kayaking on Glacier Bay, USA
The name alone ought be enough to tempt any sea-kayaker, but the reality goes beyond even the moniker. In Alaska’s Glacier Bay, 10 glaciers flow down from the mountains, filling the sea with an assortment of icebergs. The tour boat MV Spirit of Adventure can drop kayakers at various points in the bay, so you can pretty much paddle where you please. The truly hardy eschew the boat and paddle from Bartlett Cove to the glaciers of Muir Inlet (allow about two weeks). The blockbuster ‘bergs are in the West Arm, though camping there is limited. Beach camping on the Beardslee Islands allows you to extend your time with nature; kayaks and guides can be booked at www.glacierbayseakayaks.com.
7. Walking in Kruger National Park, South Africa
What better way to mingle with a hungry horde of lions, cheetahs, rhinos, elephants and giraffes in South Africa’s most famous park than on foot? Kruger has seven wilderness walking trails, along which you can take guided overnight walks with armed guides. Of the trails, the Napi Trail is noted as the best for spotting the big five (black rhino, Cape buffalo, elephant, leopard and lion). Most of the walks last for two days and three nights, covering around 20km each day at a leisurely pace… unless, of course, you notice a lion behind you. A four-day walking safari costs between US$800–1000 for groups of no more than eight. For more details visit www.krugersafari.com.
8. Hiking the Larapinta Trail, Australia
For 223km of desert delights, set aside a fortnight to walk the Larapinta Trail through central Australia’s West MacDonnell Ranges, one of the oldest mountain chains in the world. Stretching between Alice Springs and Mt Sonder, the Larapinta winds through oasis-like gorges, over sharp quartzite ridge tops and across desert plains. Regular camp sites and water tanks mute the desert’s ferocity but not its beauty – this is the Red Centre at its finest. Food drops can also be arranged to ease the load on your back. The full expedition costs AU$3960; book at www.treklarapinta.com.au.
9. Trek the Torres Del Paine, Chile
Like a fistful of broken fingers, Chile’s Torres del Paine rise more than 2000m from the Patagonian Steppes. For ‘real’ trekkers these ‘Towers of Pain’ are one of the most instantly recognisable features on the planet. The classic walk here is the so-called ‘W’ trek, which takes about five days. Beginning at Laguna Amarga, the W climbs to the spectacular Torres del Paine Lookout, immediately below the towers, and continues via Los Cuernos and Lago Pehoé to Lago Grey, famed for its flotillas of icebergs – some as big as houses. Trails are well marked; trek in autumn or spring to avoid crowds. The ‘W’ trek can be completed in six days, including the return bus trip from Puerto Natales. Sunrise illuminates the Torres del Paine one by one, transforming them into slabs of gold.
10. Swimming with killer whales, Norway
Close your eyes and think of friendly dolphins and you might find it easier to roll overboard and into Norway’s Tysfjord. For three months each year, orcas settle into this fjord, chasing a feed of herring. Hard behind them are the whale-watching boats and the few hardy snorkellers prepared to brave both the Arctic waters and their visiting killer whales. For something marginally warmer, you may prefer to hire a kayak for a paddle among the cetaceans. To play with the orcas check out www.orcasafari.co.uk; tours depart from the UK.
This article was refreshed in June 2012