Tourism has grown exponentially over the years since 2009’s economic crisis, outpacing every other aspect of the service industry. The United Nations World Tourism Organization found that Nature-based tourism accounts for about 20% of all international travel, with outdoor adventures becoming one of the fastest-growing sectors of the industry.
But these days adventure travel isn’t just for extreme sports enthusiasts. Whether it’s hiking glaciers in Argentina, zip lining in Costa Rica, camel trekking in the Wadi Rum desert or cycling in the Alps, outdoor adventures around the world have become increasingly accessible. The best countries offer a diverse array of options appealing to every possible interest and fitness level.
But don’t just take our word for it. Check out this guide to the 15 greatest countries for outdoor adventures, with suggestions from some of the world’s top travel bloggers for things you simply MUST see and do during your visit…
Australia is a land of vast contrasts and vivid colors. It has verdant green rainforests, turquoise blue oceans, and white sandy beaches. However, it’s the dramatic reds of the Outback that always beckon me. The Outback contains some of Australia’s most iconic and spectacular scenery. For outdoor adventures, you can trek the legendary Larapinta Trail in the rugged heart of the Red Centre, walk around Uluru, climb rocky outcrops in the Flinders Ranges, or uncover ancient Aboriginal dreamtime culture in Mutawintji or Mungo National Park. With over 500 National Parks and 19 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Australia’s wild places will capture your soul, just like they have mine. -Melanie Grevis-James of Our Planet Travel
If you love outdoor adventures, you simply must travel to Belize. The country offers an array of opportunities to spend time in nature, including hiking, discovering caves, and bird watching. Belize is home to the second largest coral reef system in the world, with exceptional spots for divers and snorkelers. The Belize Barrier Reef is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, featuring the famous Great Blue Hole– a favorite dive site. For explorers and history buffs, there are numerous ancient Mayan Ruins. Be sure to check out Xunantunich to visit the remains of a Mayan city. You can climb to the top of the El Castillo pyramid for 360 degree panoramic views of the surrounding Guatemalan countryside. -Lauren Yakiwchuk of Justin Plus Lauren
Most people assume Cuba is all about colonial cities, classic cars and beaches. But for adventure lovers, there are nine National Parks with hiking trails, waterfalls, mountains, jungles, and diverse flora and fauna that beg to be explored. Outside of these parks you can enjoy kayaking along the coastline, as well as snorkeling and scuba diving on some of the most pristine reefs on the planet. When you’ve had enough of the water, head to the West side of the island to explore tobacco plantations on horseback. When you get hot, abseil into a cave for a refreshing dip in the underground water system. If you’re into roughing it, a train journey to the rural East will open your eyes to the country and its people. If you’re going to visit Cuba, get off the beach and add some adventure to your travels. -Lina & David Stock of Divergent Travelers
With a plethora of outdoor adventures available to travelers of all activity levels, the Dominican Republic offers eco-adventure options for everyone! From Puerto Plata, active nature lovers travellers can hike up 27 Waterfalls, visit the immaculate beaches of Playa Delrado and learn to kitesurf the waves where the sport was born, or explore the coral reefs off world-renowned Sosua Beach. On the southern side of the island, Punta Cana’s environmental stewardship is rebounding. You can also get permission to visit one of the DR’s 16 national parks to view wondrous wildlife and tropical birds. Your mind, body and spirit will thank you for visiting the Dominican Republic! -Mary Ellen Mannix of James’s Project
Himalayas by Trupti Devdas Nayak
India is a treasure trove of unique experiences, whether it’s being awed by the Taj Mahal, relaxing on a houseboat in tranquil backwaters of Kerala, or indulging in piquant pani puri from a street food vendor. For an adrenalin rush, India offers a smorgasbord of outdoor adventures. If you have your sights set ambitiously on the grand Himalayas, you can join guided group treks to Kedarnath, Badrinath or Dharamsala. Wildlife enthusiasts can seek out tigers on a safari in Bandhavgarh and Kanha National Parks, setting out at dawn in search of the elusive royal beasts of the jungle. Water babies should dive into the crystal clear waters of Andaman and Nicobar islands for world-class snorkeling and Scuba diving. For those not afraid of heights or winding roads, biking on the roof of the world in Ladakh is an adventure not to be missed. -Trupti Devdas Nayak of Exploring The Blue Marble
Few countries offer a better combination of isolated islands, dense rainforests, breathtaking underwater scenery and a sense of exploring the untouched than Indonesia. As the world’s largest archipelago, Indonesia qualifies as a multi-adventure paradise on both sides of the surface. With hundreds of Gunungs Berapi (volcanoes), it has endless invitations for a climb uphill and hot springs bath reward on the way down. Ruteng (Flores) is perfect for an off-the- path hiking or biking adventure through the tropical forest and rice paddies. Swim underneath waterfalls, only to be discovered after getting lost first in the bamboo forest. Camp on an inhabited island in Komodo National Park and jump into an aquarium for your morning swim. Hike to a desa (village) where no roads go and experience tribal life away from civilization. Adventure time here is guaranteed, but the biggest rewards come from meeting the friendliest ‘orang’ (people) of Indonesia. -Suzanne van der Veeken of destinationXploration
Bordered by Russia in the north and China in the south, Mongolia is famed for its vast mountain ranges, rugged expanses and the golden sands of the Gobi Desert. Here, nomadic culture still thrives and traditions practiced for thousands of years are the norm, not dusted off for tourists. This is why you explore Mongolia. It’s one of the few countries where time travel is seemingly possible, and you can immerse yourself in a way of life that is utterly different from your own. Kazakhs (who call the Altai mountains in the west home) still practice the art of Golden Eagle hunting, training the winged predators to track and subdue Wolves and Foxes for the pelts used to make the coats and hats their families wear during the frigid winters. In the south, the Gobi Desert promises ever-shifting vistas right out of novel, camel rides and star-studded nights that will blow your mind. -Susan Portnoy of The Insatiable Traveler
Tanzania is one of those places I’d dreamed about for decades before we visited in 2015. It was also one of those places that so far exceeded my expectations, I wondered in retrospect if my visit had been a dream all along. The safari circuit alone would be enough to earn a spot on this list. The vast herds and endless plains of Serengeti National Park deserve their reputation as a world-class place for wildlife watching. The stunning scenery of Ngorongoro Crater, dense elephant population of Tarangire National Park, and varied ecosystems of Lake Manyara National Park all deserve equal acclaim. But some of our favorite outdoor adventures in Tanzania involved the locals. Whether hiking Mount Kilimanjaro and visiting coffee farms run by the Chagga people or learning about the cultural traditions of the Maasai, Tanzania’s outdoor adventures kept us thrilled for two weeks and hungry to go back for more. –Bret Love & Mary Gabbett of Green Global Travel
When travelers think of outdoor adventures in Thailand, Chiang Mai comes to mind. The area around the city offers superb hikes through hilltribe country, waterfalls, and roaring rivers. While Chiang Mai is fantastic, the epicenter for outdoor adventure in my mind is Khao Yai National Park. Located five hours northwest of Bangkok, Khao Yai is an outdoor adventure wonderland. The national park features impenetrable mountain rainforest, waterfalls, great hiking, and perhaps the best wildlife viewing opportunities in Southeast Asia. In my two visits I’ve seen five elephants, 50-100 hornbills, porcupine, civits, barking deer, Asian fairy bluebirds, and many others. You know when you enter the park and see a sign declaring, “Careful: Cobra Crossing,” that you are in a unique environment. -Ted Nelson of Traveling Ted