Article may contain sponsored links

8 Travel Adventures That Are Sure to Get Your Heart Pounding

If you want to get your heart racing this year, this is your must-read round-up of top adventure trips to take. These are experiences of a lifetime for travellers who desire something altogether more exhilarating.

There’s no disputing that travel can broaden the mind and recharge the batteries. And, when you take a trip with adventure at its heart, it’s also true to say that travel can quicken the pulse, put fire in your belly, and a whole lot more than a mere spring in your step.

If that’s the kind of year you’re hoping for, read on for Rough Guides’ round-up of top adventure trips to take in the coming year. These are experiences of a lifetime for travellers who’ve been there, done that, turned down the t-shirt and desire something altogether more exhilarating.

1. Croatia – Biking, Hiking, Rafting and Boating

Emerald wildernesses, mighty mountains and the awe-inspiring Adriatic coast - Croatia is one of Europe’s top destinations for getting active in the great outdoors. And, with twelve routes to explore, each of them revealing beautiful lakes and waterfalls, UNESCO World Heritage Site Plitvice Lakes National Park arguably sits top of that adventure tree.

For heart-pounding adventures of the four-wheeled variety, discover the gorgeous Gacka River valley during an exhilarating off-road quad safari. More hiker than biker? Northern Velebit National Park offers walking trails along Croatia’s longest mountain.

Split is a brilliant base from which to enjoy world-class rafting experiences along the Cetina River and the delights of the Dalmatian islands. Inspired? Take a look at ultimate adventure trip around Croatia. Fancy tweaking this itinerary to make a bespoke trip? No problem. Like all Rough Guides Tailor-Made Trips, this one is 100% customisable to quench your personal pangs for adventure.

2. Sri Lanka – Tropical Trekking, Rafting and Wildlife-Watching

From trekking tropical forests, to abseiling monumental mountains, Sri Lanka offers off-the-scale-exhilaration that’ll satisfy even the most adventure-seasoned travellers. Sri Lanka for adventure lovers is a fully customisable tour guaranteed to get your pulse racing.

One of the most gratifying aspects of visiting this diverse Indian Ocean island is the fact that its epic hiking trails also afford incredible wildlife-watching opportunities. Take trekking to Single Tree Hill, for example. Setting out from Shanthipura (Sri Lanka’s highest village), the trail traverses thick forest habitats beloved by wild boars, sambar deer and leopards.

If bird-watching is more your bag, it doesn’t get much better than enjoying a jeep safari through Gal Oya National Park. Being home to the likes of elephants, sloth bears, jackals and marsh mugger crocs, the park isn’t half bad when it comes to spotting bigger beasts, either. Meanwhile, the mist-shrouded Knuckles Mountain Range is the perfect place to spend a few nights under canvas after trekking its forests.

3. Madagascar – Back-to-Mature Immersion and One-of-a-Kind Wildlife

Known as the Great Red Island, and renowned for its astonishing biodiversity, Madagascar is an undeniably majestic destination. That said, if it’s thrills you’re after, it’s worth knowing that this alluring island is less about wham-bam, high-speed experiences, and more about awe-inspiring immersion. To enjoy exactly that, visiting Analamazaotra National Park is essential. Famed for its indri lemurs, the park is also home to giant boehmei day geckos, Parson’s chameleons, and Madagascar serpent eagles.

To see the island at its most sublimely scenic, trek the canyon trail through Isalo National Park. More experienced hikers could tackle the Piscine Naturelle Circuit - you’ll be rewarded with a palm-fringed pool to cool off in.

Meanwhile, the valley city of Ambositra (esteemed for its woodcarving and marquetry traditions) is the perfect place to find unique presents to bring back home. All that considered, taking a trip to Madagascar is a bona fide bucket list experience you’ll be boasting about for years.

4. Peru – Culture, Kayaking and Magnificent Machu Picchu

If there’s one place that’ll gratify active adventurers and wannabe Indiana Jones’ at one fell swoop, that place is Peru, especially during a trip to the heart of the ancient Incan Empire.

After beginning your big adventure by kicking back in Peru’s capital (well, kind of - lively Lima is brimming with bustling bars), Cusco is the perfect place to commence your foray into Incan culture. Formerly the capital of the Incan Empire, this city of the Peruvian Andes delivers an invigorating double dose of history in the form of ancient archaeology and Spanish colonial architecture.

Head to picturesque Lake Piuray for scenic kayaking before boarding a train to Chachabamba, your entry point to the magnificent Machu Picchu complex. After having your breath well and truly taken away by Sacred Valley, you’ll want to allow a couple of hours to climb the ancient steps to the rambling ruins of Wiñay Wayna before your onward hike to Intipunku (Sun Gate).

5. Oman – Ancient Arabic Culture and Desert Scenery

Visiting Oman offers unparalleled opportunities to discover ancient Arabic culture while getting active, and off-the-beaten-track. After meandering Muscat (its Grand Mosque is a modern-day architectural marvel), venture to 350-year-old Nakhal Fort, ideally en route to the Hajar Mountain range. You’ll want to stop off at Wadi Bani Awf to admire the ancient houses that cling to the mountain before continuing to Jabal Shams Mountain for epic views over the Grand Canyon.

For the ultimate Omani experience, overnight in Wahiba Sands to see a sea of rippling dunes shift from pale gold to burnished orange as the day wears on, while nature-lovers will want to make a beeline for beautiful Ras Al Jinz bay. This nesting site for green turtles is also within reach of Wadi Bani Khalid, where emerald pools and curving canyons reveal Oman’s natural landscape at its most opulently inviting.

Talking of opulence, if you’re of the mind that adventuring shouldn’t mean roughing it, be assured that Oman has plenty of high-end hotels to rest up in, as such those you’d stay in during Rough Guides’ Omani Adventure trip.

6. South Africa’s Garden Route – Cycling, Hiking and Whale-Watching

South Africa’s Garden Route is ripe for active folk who fancy taking on the challenge of cycling a variety of terrain while taking-in outstanding scenery, wildlife and wine (once your day in the saddle is done, of course).

To set the breath-taking tone for this trip, after arriving in Cape Town, voyage across Table Bay in a yacht to see the sun set into the Atlantic Ocean. Come morning, ascend Table Mountain to enjoy a 15-km ride down Tafelberg Road - an experience that’s guaranteed to blow away the cobwebs. If you’re into altitude cycling, head to George for a spin up Montagu Pass - after completing the 600m climb across 10km, you’ll be rewarded with splendid views of the Outeniqua Mountains.

Whichever cycle paths you choose to take during your Garden Route road-trip, be sure to allow time for a spot of hiking and whale-watching. Alternatively, you could simply (and blissfully) rest up on a beach - even adventurers need a break from time to time.

7. Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands – Amazon Adventures and Darwinian Exploration

Encompassing rainforest treks, canoe trips and cruising one of the world’s premier wildlife-watching locations, a dual-destination trip to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands delivers an experience like no other.

From Ecuador’s charming capital Quito, exceptional wildlife can be seen around Puerto Francisco de Orellana (“El Coco”), a gateway to canoeing into the Amazon and exploring Yasuni National Park, where toucans, macaws, caimans and jaguars (and much more besides) await.

Unless time is no object, the best way to discover the Galapagos Islands in a single trip is on an island-hopping cruise. Volcanic Eden Islet is a hotspot for blue-footed boobies, white-tipped reef sharks and Galapagos penguins, while Floreana Island’s brackish lagoon boasts a huge flock of flamingos.

Meanwhile, if you fancy following in Darwin’s footsteps, don’t pass up the chance to explore San Cristobal Island. Alongside enjoying nature walks in the company of countless birds, it’s a great place to swim, kayak and snorkel. Indeed, that’s the beauty of trips to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands - glorious diversity.

8. South Argentina – Glacier-Gawking and End of the Earth Walking

If you’ve been hankering after a genuine off-the-beaten-track experience that takes you (quite literally) to the ends of the earth, exploring the southern extremes of Argentina might be your kind of trip.

After kicking off in capital Buenos Aires (where you might also want to kick up your heels at an exuberant tango show), transfer to El Calafate to set forth on an excursion to Perito Moreno Glacier. Here you can trek multi-level walkways along the Peninsula de Magallanes - expect to be well and truly gobsmacked by the glacier.

Now suitably geared-up for once-in-a-lifetime sights, venture south to Ushuaia (and we mean south - this is the world’s most southerly city, hence its End of the World sobriquet). Spectacularly sited between the Martial Mountains and Beagle Channel (named after Darwin’s ship), Ushuaia is a gateway to Antarctica, and a beautiful base from which to explore Tierra del Fuego National Park - think thundering waterfalls, grand glaciers, thick forests and monumental mountains, with enchanting Lapataia Bay lying in wait after a trek through Lengas Forest. Magic.

If you’re yearning for adventure, Rough Guides Tailor-Made Trips offer you the chance to choose from existing (fully customisable) adventure-focussed itineraries such as those recommended above, along with trips to over 60 other destinations. Alternatively, if you fancy creating your own trip from scratch, the Rough Guides team can connect you to a local expert who’ll personally curate an experience that’s perfect for you. Let Rough Guides Tailor-Made Trips take the hassle out of planning your next adventure so you can focus on what really matters - throwing yourself into it.