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Best adventure holidays

By Mark Hodson, Sunday Times Travel Writer and Editor of 101 Holidays

If you want to inject some excitement into your holidays, we’ve got some great ideas for adventure holidays in the UK, Europe and across the world. Whether you’re travelling alone, with teenagers or as a couple, we think you’ll find something you like amongst these adventure holiday ideas.


Note: all the travel companies featured are personally recommended by our editors.

Potato CodSailing in the Greek Islands

Adventure holidays for adults

Although it’s a small country, Jordan is packed with astonishing sights from the Dead Sea and the empty desert wastelands of Wadi Rum to the magical ancient city of Petra.

If you haven’t yet seen the Northern Lights it’s probably on your to-do list. One of the best places to witness them is Iceland where you can also explore glaciers, hot springs and geysers, volcanic craters, lava flows and waterfalls. Take a few days in Reykyavik, do a fly-drive tour or a jeep adventure.

You’ll also have a great chance of seeing the Northern Lights while staying at Sweden’s Ice Hotel. Have a few shots of vodka in ice glasses at the ice bar before wrapping up warm and sleeping on a slab of ice. In summer, Sweden is magical. Try this highlights holiday which takes in Stockholm, Lake Silja, Lake Vattern and the Tivedens National Park, with a chance to hit some spectacular walking trails.

Another “before I die” destination is Antarctica where you can explore one of the last wilderness regions on Earth. If you want to do more than admire the scenery, try this Active Antarctica cruise which includes activities such as snow-shoeing, kayaking, mountaineering, cross-country skiing and scuba-diving.

For the ultimate sailing adventure, hop on board Tiger Blue, a 34-metre yacht that sails between the stunning islands of the Indonesian archipelago. The crew can arrange diving and snorkelling, picnics on deserted beaches, a visit to see the Komodo dragons and a hike up a volcano. You can charter the whole boat or just rent a cabin.

One of the best ways to see Africa is one a trekking holiday. Take a short break in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco or – if you want a real challenge – how about an ascent of Kilimanjaro?

One of Africa’s most exciting and fast-emerging destinations is Ethiopia where you can take a private tour or join a group trip to see highlights such as the remote churches of Tigray and the island monasteries of Lake Tana, the towering stelae of Axum and the ancient walled city of Harer. You can join a community walk or embark on some road cycling or mountain trekking in Ethiopia’s national parks.

For some cultural adventure, the fascinating – and emphatically friendly – country of Iran is now firmly back on the tourist map. Highlights include exquisite palaces, mosques and madrasas, the ancient capital of Pasargadae, the Zoroastrian fire temples of Yazd and the magnificent ruins of Persepolis. Join a Treasures of Persia group tour or take a private tour by rail which visits seven Unesco World Heritage Sites. Check the dates of Ramadan – it’s best to avoid this time of year.

If you have some time on your hands – perhaps you’re retired, self-employed or looking for a career break – how about joining an overland adventure by truck. Trips last between five days and 40 weeks and cover Africa, South America, Morocco, Egypt and Jordan and Central Asia.

safari-in-kenyaBest adventure holidaysthe-galapagosAdventure holiday to Kilimanjaro

Adventure holidays with teenagers

Once your kids hit the teenage years they need something more exciting than bucket and spades on the beach. Some will want to hang out with friends, sleeping until lunchtime and playing computer games. The best way to lure them away from this is by doing something more adventurous.

We recommend this selection of teenage adventure holidays. They offer great activities in exciting locations, ensuring that your teens have lots of independence and free time, all within a safe and environment. Examples include an exciting activity holiday in Turkey including a gulet cruise, mountain biking and a chance to try scuba diving.

If your kids are interested in wildlife, you could take them on a safari holiday in Kenya. On game drives and walking safaris they will encounter the Big Five, visit the Masai Mara and sleep in a tree top hotel. In Zambia you can combine thrilling walking safaris with a visit to Victoria Falls. Stay at a private safari villa such as Chongwe River House in the Lower Zambezi.

For the ultimate biology lesson, follow Darwin’s footsteps to the Galapagos Islands in South America. Get up close to seals, turtles, iguanas, giant tortoises and exotic birdlife. Spending time is this special place feels like a real privilege. We recommend this Galapagos on Land and by Sea land-sea combo for families.

South Africa is another destination that teenagers love, as it combines wildlife, natural beauty, culture and history. Take a self-drive tour from Cape Town to go whale watching, and take boat trips to see seals at Grootbos Nature Reserve.

There is plenty to love in America. For an adventurous road trip, rent a motor home and explore the highways and byways. Or you could saddle up for a dude ranch holiday where you can learn to ride, visit a rodeo and try whitewater rafting, fishing and camping out in the wilderness.

Iceland is ideal for short haul adventures – it’s probably the world’s most exciting geography field trip. Explore this fascinating landscape of mountains, glaciers, volcanoes and geysers. In summer you’ll see the Midnight Sun while in winter you may experience the Northern Lights. Check out these adventure tours and short breaks.

Not exciting enough? How about trekking up the Everest Valley or exploring the Okavango Delta in Botswana in dug out canoes!

Adventure holidays for children

Tourdust has an inspiring selection of family adventure holidays with a particular emphasis on teenagers. Its tour of Morocco includes a two-day trek in the Atlas Mountains, two nights in a Marrakech riad and three nights on the Atlantic Coast with surf lessons. Peru’s Inca Trail is a fantastic challenge and works well in the Easter or summer holidays.

Asia is a great destination for children as the people are so welcoming. We love these adventures in India. Or try one of these family holidays in Vietnam, where you could take a junk cruise in Halong Bay, and visit the villages of the Mekong Delta.

This selection of family adventure holidays for kids of all ages is excellent, ranging from toddlers to teen adventures. Take a look at these fabulous tours of India.

It’s a long way to Australia but you can mop up the best bits a fortnight. Try this two week winter sun holiday over the Christmas holidays.

Last updated: 2 June 2017

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