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The Sunday Times Travel writers Mark Hodson and David Wickers.

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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.

Adventure holidays for adults

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.

Even wilder are the Faroe Islands, an unspoiled archipelago between Iceland and Norway, just an hour’s flight north of Edinburgh. This three-night Faroe Islands Weekender self-drive is a great introduction. You can also go in winter.

At the other end of the planet, you could join an Antarctic expedition cruise to get up close with penguins, whales and some of the world’s most dramatic landscapes. At the adventure end of the market, the best operators include Aurora ExpeditionsLindblad Expeditions and Quark Expeditions. Options include camping out on the ice, cross-country skiing and snorkelling.

One of Africa’s most exciting destinations is Ethiopia. It’s great for mountain trekking though you should try to join a four-wheel drive expedition through the salt pans and volcanic lakes of the Danakil Depression.

Nepal offers a stunning combination of Himalayan peaks, colourful Buddhist culture and unique wildlife experiences. Combine the temples of Kathmandu with a stay in Pokhara and an elephant-back safari in Chitwan National Park on either a private tailor-made holiday or a small group tour.

Discover The World has a great selection of wildlife holidays around the world, from Orcas in Iceland to Grizzly Bears in Canada.

One of its most exciting destinations is Alaska which is packed with wildlife and natural wonders – eight national parks, half the world’s glaciers and the second biggest rainforest after Amazonia. Choose between self-drive itinerariessmall-ship cruises, trekking and rail journeys.

Head to South America for endless adventures and heart-stopping encounters with nature. How about Colombia? This compact and friendly country is like a miniature version of South America with mountains, coffee plantations, colonial cities, Caribbean beaches, rainforest, nature reserves and Amazonian jungle. This 14-night Classic Colombia tour hits many of the high points.

You could spend a lifetime exploring the pristine landscapes of New Zealand, soaking up the world’s cleanest air and some of its best food and wine. These fly-drive itineraries run from five days up to 22 days.

Russia is a vast country of art treasures, rich culture and breathtaking scenery. Join an escorted group tour, take a river cruise, or a rail journey (perhaps to Beijing via Mongolia).

In the summer months you could explore the wild beauty of Kyrgyzstan on the Silk Road on a small group trekking tour, sleeping in traditional yurts.

If you have lots of 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.

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 with Activities Abroad.

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.

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.

Australia is on every teen’s bucket list, but rather than try to cover the whole country, we suggest you stick to one region in order to cut down travel time. This 11-night Ultimate Family Adventure in Queensland is very popular.

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.

Adventure holidays for children

Asia is a great destination for children as the people are so welcoming. 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. It’s just one of these family adventure holidays selected by my colleague Mark Frary.

Last updated: 14 October 2019

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