The 15 Greatest Countries for Outdoor Adventures

Posted by on September 28, 2016 · 2 Comments  

The 15 Greatest Countries for Outdoor Adventures

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…

World's Greatest Outdoor Adventures- Australia
The Outback of New South Wales by Melanie Grevis-James

AUSTRALIA

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

World's Greatest Outdoor Adventures-Xunantunich Mayan Ruins
Mayan Ruins of Xunantunich by Lauren Yakiwchuk

BELIZE

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

World's Greatest Outdoor Adventures- Costa Rica
La Paz Waterfall Gardens by Micki Kosman

COSTA RICA

Outdoor adventures abound in tiny Costa Rica, which is blessed with active volcanoes, beaches, mist-shrouded cloud forests, and coastal jungles. You can surf world class waves in the Pacific Ocean in Guanacaste, zip line among waterfalls and cloud forests, take an ATV tour across clear rivers, and climb active volcanoes. Costa Rica has the highest density of biodiversity of any country in the world. Fun outdoor activities such as horseback riding, kayaking and hiking can bring you up close and personal with sloths, scarlet macaws, poison dart frogs, and even elusive wild cats. -Micki and Charles Kosman TheBarefootNomad
World's Greatest Outdoor Adventures- Cuba
Cuba by Lina and David Stock

CUBA

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

World's Greatest Outdoor Adventures- Dominican Republic
Dominican Republic coastline by Mary Ellen Manic

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC

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

World's Greatest Outdoor Adventures- Iceland
Dynjandi, Iceland by Hugo Cura

ICELAND

The land of ice and fire is a prime destination for outdoor adventure lovers. With its volcanoes, glaciers, mountains and canyons, this country truly has it all. Which is why we keep returning, year after year. Iceland’s nature is raw, remote and mostly unexplored. Plus, it offers countless opportunities for adventure. Think hiking the highland trails of the nature reserve Þórsmörk, going inside an ice cave in Vatnajökull National Park, walking behind Seljalandsfoss waterfall, climbing the crater of a volcano in Mývatn, or a whale-watching boat trip in Húsavík. And this is just the beginning… -Hugo Cura of Breathe With Us

World's Greatest Outdoor Adventures- Himalayas

Himalayas by Trupti Devdas Nayak

INDIA

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

World's Greatest Outdoor Adventures- Indonesia
Flores Island, Indonesia by Suzanne van der Veeken

INDONESIA

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

World's Greatest Outdoor Adventures- Kyrgyzstan
Reflection Lake in Kyrgyzstan by Alesha Bradford & Jarryd Salem

KYRGYZSTAN

Straddling the edge of Central Asia, the former Soviet nation of Kyrgyzstan is developing a strong reputation for being the planet’s next adventure hotspot. With 93% of the nation’s terrain covered in mountains, the opportunities for outdoor adventures here is limitless. Already known as a Mecca for trekking, new tour operators are focusing on a range of activities to grow tourism to the country, such as mountain biking, rafting, camping, horseback riding, skiing and snowshoeing. With the capital of Bishkek acting as an excellent transport hub and most nationalities receiving a 60-day free visa on arrival, this affordable and off-the-beaten-path destination is only going to continue gaining popularity in the coming years. -Alesha Bradford and Jarryd Salem of NOMADasaurus
World's Greatest Outdoor Adventures-Mongolia
Eagle Hunter in Mongolia by Susan Portnoy

MONGOLIA

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

World's Greatest Outdoor Adventures- Morocco
Mule to the ski lift in Oukaimden, Morocco by Amanda Ponzio-Mouttaki

MOROCCO

Morocco is often envisioned as the land of 1001 Nights, camels, and belly dancers. But it is so much more! For lovers of outdoor adventures, it provides ample opportunity to do just about anything. The coast of Morocco is home to kite boarding capitals and surf breaks that bring in some of the best athletes in the world. In winter, snow skiing in the High or Middle Atlas Mountains is truly a unique opportunity. Trekking and hiking across the country is plentiful, including the opportunity to scale Mount Toubkal– the highest point in North Africa and one of the tallest mountains in Africa. You can also whitewater raft on Morocco’s rivers or sandboard down a dune in the Sahara desert! The hardest question to answer may be, how long can you stay? -Amanda Ponzio-Mouttaki of MarocMama
Las Salinas de Maras, Peru by Melissa Banigan
Las Salinas de Maras, Peru by Melissa Banigan

PERU

I purchased a boleto turístico as soon as I arrived to Peru, allowing me entry into bustling village markets, a small weaving community in the town of Chincerho, and magnificent archeological sites such as Pisac and Ollanyaytanbo. Located in the Sacred Valley along the Urubamba River, a winding pass through the mountains connects each of them, leading directly to Peru’s crown jewel, Machu Picchu. My tourist ticket also gave me access to ancient salt pans in Salinas that are still used today, as well as the magnificent agricultural terraces in Moray. Although I often had to grit my teeth while careening around slender corners of mountain passes, the road offered stunning views of the valleys below. –Melissa Banigan of Advice Project Media
World's Greatest Outdoor Adventures- South Africa
Beach in South Africa by Meg Jerrard

SOUTH AFRICA

From Kruger National Park to cage diving with Great White Sharks off the spectacular Cape Town coast, South Africa’s diverse landscape of forests, mountains, rugged coast, and game-trampled national parks means the country overflows with opportunities for outdoor adventures. The infrastructure for activities is well developed, and there is an impressive national network of hiking trails. Popular outdoor activities include surfing, kayaking, white water rafting, fishing, ballooning, mountaineering and rock climbing. The country’s access to wildlife is unparalleled, and whether you’re a birdwatcher or looking to track the famed Big 5, you’ll find there’s never a dull moment. -Meg Jerrard of Waking Up Wild
Best Travel Experiences of 2016- Tanzania
Elephants in Taragire National Park, Tanzania by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

TANZANIA

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

World's Greatest Outdoor Adventures- Thailand
Khao Yai, Thailand by Ted Nelson

THAILAND

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

 

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2 Comments on “The 15 Greatest Countries for Outdoor Adventures

  1. Travel adventures are fun. Could be in any country, I suppose.

  2. So interesting! I have lived in Costa Rica and Indonesia and visited South Africa, Belize, Thailand, Morocco, and India twice. I guess I am truly an adventurer. I have a friend who traveled to Iceland and since then have wanted to go there. My goal is to travel to Machu Pichu in Peru. By the way, I’m vision-impaired so even vision loss doesn’t keep me away!
    Thanks for an interesting read!
    Amy

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