Lonely Planet Writer

The best places in the world for lovers of adventure tourism are revealed

Iceland is the best country in the world when it comes to its potential for adventure tourism, according to new research.

Seljalandsfoss waterfall is one of the country's most spectacular
Seljalandsfoss waterfall is one of the country’s most spectacular Image by Andrés Nieto Porras / CC BY-SA 2.0

Germany, New Zealand, Norway and Switzerland make up the rest of the top five in a scorecard for adventure travel compiled by the Adventure Travel Trade Association. Countries were ranked in ten different categories, beginning with their natural resources: coastline, population density, and other physical characteristics.

Zipline in New Zealand.
Zipline in New Zealand. Image by Rotorua Canopy Tours

Cultural resources like national parks or UNESCO world heritage sites were also factored in along with adventure activity resources that allow for outdoor, nature-based activities. They also looked at tourism infrastructure particularly things that tempt adventure travellers like availability of trail maps, eco-lodges, access to trained guides and so on.

The Mhondoro Game Lodge in South Africa offers intimate encounters with wildlife from an underground waterhole hide. Image: Mhondoro Game Lodge
Eco lodges were shown to be tempting to adventure travellers.   Image: Mhondoro Game Lodge

Their ‘Adventure Tourism Development Index’ also ranked countries by region with Iceland coming out on top in the competitive Europe and North America section.  New Zealand was rated best in East Asia and the Pacific, Croatia in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, and Chile in Latin America and the Caribbean. Also ranked top in their respective regions were Israel, Bhutan, and Botswana in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The report said adventure tourism had significant benefits for countries not just in terms of attracting tourists but also helping preserve their heritage. It explained: “For countries and communities fortunate enough to possess outstanding natural and cultural characteristics, adventure tourism can provide a source of sorely needed income and an incentive to conserve vestiges of the past, current cultural identities and ecological wonders.”  Adventure tourism is big business and was worth an estimated US$263 billion back in 2012, the most recent year for which data is available.

The Adventure Travel Top Ten:

1. Iceland

Skógafoss, Iceland.
Skógafoss, Iceland. Image by Andrew Studer

2. Germany

A boathouse on the Obersee, a lake in Bavaria, Germany
A boathouse on the Obersee, a lake in Bavaria, Germany Image by Jenn and Willie Witte/ Little, Brown and Company via AP

3. New Zealand

Cycling through a cutting on Otago Rail Trail, South Island, New Zealand.
Cycling through a cutting on Otago Rail Trail, South Island, New Zealand. Image by Getty Images

4. Norway

Eskil performing at the look out over Trollstigen on in Norway.
Eskil performing at the look out over Trollstigen on in Norway. Image by Sindre Lundvold / Barcroft Media / Getty Images

5. Switzerland

Moleson mountain towering above cobbled streets of Gruyeres.
Moleson mountain towering above cobbled streets of Gruyeres. Image by Pete Seaward

6. Canada

Overlook of Moraine Lake and Valley of the Ten Peaks in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada.
Overlook of Moraine Lake and Valley of the Ten Peaks in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada.
Image by Noppawat Tom Charoensinphon/Getty Images

7. Australia

Young traveling couple having rest on the rock and enjoying view in Blue Mountains in Australia.
Blue Mountains in Australia. Image by narvikk/Getty Images

8. Finland

The glass igloos at Kakslauttanen Artic Resort in Finland. Image: Kakslauttanen
The glass igloos at Kakslauttanen Artic Resort in Finland. Image: Kakslauttanen

9. Austria

Skiing in the Alps, Zauchensee, Austria.
Skiing in the Alps, Zauchensee, Austria. Image by coberschneider/Getty Images

10.Denmark

Danish adventure tourism is on the rise.
Danish adventure tourism is on the rise. Image by Getty Images