You’ve biked the classic trails of the USA’s Sierra Nevada and hiked the razor-ridged mountains of Chile’s Torres del Paine. So perhaps it’s time for you to tackle a few of the world’s lesser-known (but no less memorable) adventures.
From sailing on a surface other than water in Argentina to descending a dune on your belly in Namibia, these alternatives from Lonely Planet’s Atlas of Adventure will help you win back the bragging rights.
Land sailing in… Argentina
When a lake has no water, your sailboat isn’t going anywhere... unless it has wheels, of course. Across the clay surface of Pampa El Leoncito, 25km from the town of Barreal, carrovelismo, or land sailing, is big, with ‘wind cars’ recording speeds in excess of 100km/h across the smooth, 13km-long lake bed. Andean mountains tower to almost 7000m beyond the lakeshores, and the reliable evening ‘conchabado’ winds can reach up to 80km/h, thus providing ample propulsion. Take a tandem joyride with a guide, or work your way up to driving your own single-seater.
Cave tubing in… Belize
The Caves Branch River floods another underground network, Nohoch Che’en Caves, providing ideal conditions for cave tubing. After a short jungle trek, you climb into a rubber tube and float through the darkened caves, where stalactites and strange Maya paintings on the cave walls are illuminated by your headlight. For a more extreme adventure, a guide will take you on a full day spelunking trip deep into the system, wading through streams, scrambling over rocks and emerging into the extraordinary Crystal Cave.
Mokoro trips in… Botswana
You won’t set any speed records when gliding through the myriad channels of the Okavango Delta, but in a mokoro (traditional dugout canoe) you don’t have to – this is a thrill experienced in gloriously slow motion. Sitting just below water level, with your head among the vegetation, you’re almost hemmed in by its wonder. Reach out and let the reeds roll slowly off your fingertips, gaze deeply into the maze to spot minuscule frogs and other wonders, or simply lean back and look up to a blue sky painted with the colourful calls and wings of the delta’s birdlife.
Bog-walking in… Estonia
Mires cover a fifth of mainland Estonia, and play an important role in the country’s folklore. During summer, strap on a pair of bog shoes (like snowshoes) and enjoy an amble around these mysterious peaty domains, which are 10,000 years old and boast unique wildlife. Top bog walks include Lahemaa and Viru in the north, and Soomaa and Matsalu in the south.
Ski-exploring in… Greenland
The treacherous beauty of the Arctic has not diminished one iota since the Golden Age of Polar Exploration and little has changed since Fridtjof Nansen’s landmark Greenland crossing in 1888. Modern explorers can follow in the footsteps of historical giants by pitting themselves against an epic 500km traverse of the ice. Many expeditions begin in the east at Ammassalik and finish in the west at Kangerlussuaq (or vice-versa). Whichever direction you take, no trip would be complete without witnessing the haunting sight of the abandoned DYE2 missile detection station languishing deep within the frozen wastes. Adventure Consultants, Jagged Globe or Icelandic Mountain Guides can provide logistics.
Pony trekking in… Lesotho
Few people consider pony trekking a hardcore pursuit, but most soon change their tune after riding one of these robust little equine adventurers into Lesotho’s mountains. Whether sliding down steep rock faces or carrying you along precipitous paths, the country’s sure-footed Basotho ponies are astonishing. There are numerous opportunities for multi-day pony treks across the country, in places such as Ts’ehlanyane National Park, Bokong Nature Reserve, and at both Malealea and Semonkong lodges.
Volcano trekking in... Vanuatu
Begging to be climbed, the brooding twin peaks of Mt Marum and Mt Benbow loom large in the centre of remote Ambrym island. Often hazed by smoke, volcanic activity is constantly monitored and you must trek with a local guide. It’s possible to do a day trek up and back from the north, scaling only Mt Marum, but a better choice is a cross-island trek with an overnight camp, visiting both volcanoes and hiking down the other side. Either way, you’ll experience jungle trekking and a challenging ascent that delivers a view into a rumbling, spewing pot of magma, like looking into the very eye of planet Earth.
Dune boarding in… Namibia
The Namib is the world’s oldest desert, but there’s a new way to experience its dunes: on a board. Not far from Namibia’s coastal town of Swakopmund, one of Southern Africa’s top adventure-activity capitals, there are mountains of sand that provide perfect slopes to carve down. When you first set eyes on the dunes towering hundreds of feet into the blue African sky, you’ll begin to buzz with anticipation, though it’s wise to conserve a little energy – your journey of joy starts with some hard work: a hike up to your launching point. With board, gloves and goggles in hand, you’re eventually staring down over some serious off-piste action. Now strap in, lean further back than you’re used to (if you’re familiar with snowboarding) and let loose! Once you’ve had your fill, try the lie-down ‘schuss’ option, which will see you hit speeds of 80km/h. Alter Action runs daily dune boarding trips from Swakopmund.
Coasteering in the UK
An exciting combination of scrambling, jumping, wild swimming and free climbing, coasteering involves traversing the intertidal zone of a section of coast without using a boat, board or ropes. Participants expect to get wet and meet jagged rocks, and wear appropriate safety clothing: typically a wetsuit, helmet and footwear. The concept was coined in 1986 by Andy Middleton, director of TYF Adventure in Pembrokeshire, Wales. and now the pursuit is offered by hundreds of operators who guide groups on rugged shorelines all around the UK – especially Wales, Cornwall and Devon – and well beyond. It’s also practised independently, but good local knowledge is crucial for safety.
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