If you have a taste for adventure there are plenty of pulse-quickening ways to explore almost every country. Whether hiking, climbing, cycling, surfing, canoeing... the hardest part is often choosing where to go.

Wondering which destinations have outdoor activities that fall into the 'don't-leave-without' category? This excerpt from Lonely Planet’s Atlas of Adventure will show you some of the best action-packed activities that define each destination.

Ride Mt Buller in Australia

Mt Buller’s 40km Australian Alpine Epic Trail in the Victorian highlands is the only track in the country granted official ‘epic’ status by the International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA). 

Join the De Panne Beach Endurance Race in Belgium

Try testing your mettle at the De Panne Beach Endurance Race, a 52km beach ride over dunes and over wet sand, all within view of the North Sea.

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Cycle the Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia

Cycling the world’s biggest salt flats, Salar de Uyuni, is a disorientating, surreal and unforgettable experience. In the vast white expanse, you’ll encounter Dalíesque standing rocks, brightly colored hot springs and miraculous colonies of chinchillas and flamingoes.

Hike the Tsodilo Hills in Botswana

A hike into the sacred Tsodilo Hills will bring you close enough to examine some of the 4000 prehistoric San rock paintings found there – it’s an outdoor art gallery like no other.

A hang gliding instructor takes off with a passenger from Pedra Bonita in the Tijuca National Forest.
Go hang gliding in Brazil ©lazyllama/Shutterstock

Hang Glide over Rio de Janerio in Brazil

The tandem hang-gliding flight from Pedra Bonita over Rio de Janeiro, which lands on a beach below is a breathtaking, must-do experience. Just be sure to check that the operator is certified by the Brazilian Hang-Gliding Association.

Rare glimpse of iconic Angkor Wat free of tourists

Cycle around Angkor Wat in Cambodia

Cycle from crumbling tower to ancient pagoda to serene pond at Angkor Wat, a 12th-century World Heritage-listed monument and the world’s largest religious site, located close to Siem Reap

Angkor Wat: everything you need to know about Cambodia's most iconic temple

Kayak around Haida Gwaii in Canada

Adventure abounds in the second largest country in the world and each province has its specialty, but the sea kayaking around British Columbia’s Haida Gwaii, is worth a special trip.

Ski at Portillo in Chile

This famous ski resort located high in the Andes mountains is not to be missed by fans of winter sports. The runs here are a combination of well groomed ones with steeps and big mountain slack country, all with spectacular views of the road crossing to Mendoza, Argentina.

Women in Sport
The jungle lined coast of Costa Rica is a great place to explore, though the Salsa Brava is best left to experienced surfers. Joel Sharpe/Getty Images

Surf the Salsa Brava in Costa Rica

This powerful wave is found on the country’s Caribbean Coast, at Puerto Viejo de Talamanca. It's a big wave and breaks over a sharp coral reef, making it best for seasoned surfers only.

Visiting the Avenue of the Volcanoes in Ecuador

Ecuador's Avenue of the Volcanoes is full of adventures enough for any outdoor enthusiast. From biking to trekking to mountaineering, there’s something here for everyone, all in the shadow of one of the planet’s most active volcanoes.

Bouldering at Fontainebleau  in France

Check out some of the world’s best bouldering, just an hour south of Paris. The historic bouldering location of Fontainebleau has the flat, sandy landings, endless boulders, soft-on-the-skin sandstone, unique shapes, and densely concentrated problems perfect that make for an ideal location.  

Ruins of a medieval fortress Atskuri in South Georgia.
Some sites like the ruins of the medieval fortress Atskuri in South Georgia are best seen from the air. © Kharkhan Oleg/Getty Images

Paragliding over the Caucasus Mountains in Georgia

With a range of launch sites countrywide, from 500m to 2500m high, paragliding the Caucasus is a serene experience that will linger long after feet touch terra firma.

Hiking to El Mirador in Guatemala

A 60km hike into Petén jungle brings you to the spectacular ruins of El Mirador, a fascinating, largely unexcavated Mayan city. The vast Maya Biosphere Reserve is one of the most ecologically diverse regions in the world, home to giant anteaters, scarlet macaws, jaguars and pumas, plus hundreds of unique plants and trees.

Iceland is the only place in the world where you can explore the magma chamber of a volcano © sergemi / Shutterstock
Iceland is the only place in the world where you can explore the magma chamber of a volcano © sergemi / Shutterstock

Exploring Thrihnukagigur in Iceland

Iceland is home to the world’s only volcano that can be explored from the inside: Thrihnukagigur. The volcano is east of Bláfjöll Mountain and hasn’t erupted for 4000 years. Using an open elevator, subterranean explorers experience a journey into the Earth as they’re lowered 120m into the magma chamber.

Climbing ancient Borobudur in Indonesia

The world’s largest Buddhist monument features massive temple spires that sprout from the Kedu Plain valley floor, all set against a backdrop of countless volcanic peaks, including the volatile Mt Merapi.

Exploring the water around Ireland 

Though the water can be a bit chilly, Ireland is still a great place for watersports. The island nation is home to the biggest and most varied surfing conditions in Europe, and sea kayaking and canoeing are also great here. Just don’t forget your wetsuit.

Tourist admiring Mt. Fuji in autumn, Japan
The beauty of Mount Fuji has inspired many legends. © Marco Bottigelli/Getty Images

Skiing Mt Fuji in Japan

In Shinto it’s the embodiment of nature itself, for Buddhists it’s a gateway to another world. There is something special about skiing or boarding down the beautiful, conical Mt Fuji – the most iconic peak in Japan.

Scrambling up the 100 Waterfalls Trek in Laos 

Accessed via Nong Khiaw village, ankle-tickling water is a constant chaperone for the 10km ascent up the Waterfalls Trek, which involves ropes and rickety bamboo ladders beside beautifully cascading waterfalls.

Mouth of a cave in Madagascar's Ankarana National Park © aaabbbccc / Shutterstock
Madagascar's Ankarana National Park is riddled with caves to explore © aaabbbccc / Shutterstock

Caving in Ankarana National Park in Madagascar

You can explore some 140km of the Ankarana National Park's subterranean rivers and caves – just watch out for the cave-dwelling crocodiles.

Skydiving over Swakopmund in Namibia 

Perhaps the most spectacular way to view the stunning meeting point of water and sand, where the Namib Desert meets the cold Atlantic ocean, is from the air. Skydiving over this unique coastal landscape is available in the city of Swakopmund on the coast of Namibia. 

Getting in the water around the Corn Islands in Nicaragua

Explore the excellent diving and snorkeling around the Corn Islands on the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua, with wrecks and reefs both accessible from the beach.

Oman's Wadi Ghul © typhoonski / Getty Images
Oman's Wadi Ghul is a Grand Canyon-like rift in country's Al Hajar Mountains © typhoonski / Getty Images

Exploring Jabal Shams in Oman

Sometimes referred to as ‘Arabia’s Grand Canyon,’ one of the most daring things to do at Jabal Shams is the nerve-wracking Balcony Walk around the rim.

Exploring the caves in Samoa 

Go underground and explore one of Samoa’s incredible caves, such as Pa’ape’a Cave on Upolu (with its population of Polynesian swiftlets) or Dwarf’s Cave on Savai’i, a surreal subterranean lava tube leading into the underworld.

Exploring the Drakensberg in South Africa

Whether you go on foot or on wheels, this mountain range, both the longest and highest in South Africa, is a must see for outdoor adventurers.   

Mirissa Beach, surfer surfing at sunset, South Coast of Sri Lanka, Southern Province, Asia
The waters surrounding Sri Lanka have something for every type of water enthusiast. ©Matthew Williams-Ellis/Getty Images

Exploring the oceans around Sri Lanka 

Sri Lanka is a paradise for water sports enthusiasts. Diving, snorkeling or surfing the warm waters around this island nation. 

Getting out in nature in Sweden 

For those looking for a more urban adventure, Stockholm offers plenty of opportunities to explore the outdoors. Paddle or ice skate around the city’s archipelago, and camp on the islands. 

Outrigger paddling in Tahiti and French Polynesia

Outrigger paddling, is a way of life in French Polynesia. Visitors can opt for the traditional dug-out experience, or go for the comfort of a modern sea kayak, stow camping gear and set off to discover their own empty patch of paradise.

A paraglider flying over Turkey's Ölüdeniz Beach ©  Danita Delimont / Getty Images
Paragliders get a bird's-eye view of Turkey's gorgeous Ölüdeniz Beach ©  Danita Delimont / Getty Images

Paragliding Mt Babadağ in Turkey 

Paraglide from one of the highest commercial sites in the world, perched atop the 1960m Mt Babadağ. It’s a 30-40 minute thrill ride back down, landing on the postcard-perfect Ölüdeniz Beach. Almost as adrenaline-pumping is the 4WD journey up to the summit and the brief instruction session – ‘Run. Fast. Don’t stop.’

Hiking Zion National Park’s Angels Landing Trail in the USA 

While this trail is just 8km long, the scenery makes it utterly unforgettable. The last 100m traverses a ledgy via ferrata route to a pedestal smack in the middle of the canyon, 460m above the canyon floor and the Virgin River below. Not for the faint of heart or the acrophobic.

Kayaking Halong Bay in Vietnam 

Many Halong tour boats carry kayaks that allow visitors to explore the bay's sea caves and arches. They can also be hired from operators and hotels on Cat Ba Island.

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This article was first published August 2017 and updated March 2022

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