With most major airlines announcing even more surcharges just in time for summer vacation, some people may trade the ‘unfriendly skies’ for a camping, hiking or biking adventure in their own backyards.
For others, however, true adventure can only be found on the other side of the globe.
Regardless of which camp you fall into, this article will give you ideas to find the perfect summer adventure for you and your family.
Imagine yourself coming face-to-face with mountain gorillas in the volcanic forests of Rwanda, exploring China’s lush rural hinterlands on a bike or trekking in the shadows of Mount Cook in New Zealand. Or, if your sense of adventure keeps you closer to home, envision spending the day hiking through the exotic landscape of Arches National Park in Utah, kayaking through the world-class rapids of Western North Carolina or cycling through the Badlands of North Dakota.
Adventure travel companies are eager to serve, and judging by their rising numbers on the Internet alone, the idea of following in Indiana Jones’ footsteps isn’t so far-fetched after all.
And why not: If finding adventure by experiencing the joy of moving our bodies could actually prompt some people to lead more healthy and active lifestyles, it may help reverse the rising trend of America’s overweight and obese population.
The options are seemingly boundless.
Top 100 Best Adventure Towns Across the U.S.
National Geographic Adventure Magazine online has an entire section devoted to adventure travel with articles and book recommendations.
The site also features a top 100 list of the Best Adventure Towns across the United States, including Alaska and Hawaii.
To my surprise, America’s Finest City—and the home of ACE’s headquarters—San Diego, did not make the list. Los Angeles, however, made the cut. According to the editors, being able to ski and surf in the same 12 hours can make anyone forget about the city’s infamous traffic and smog.
Californians really can’t complain about a lack of outdoor adventure; neither can Coloradans. Both states show the highest rankings overall in terms of cities nationwide to find adventure.
To the north, Portland, Ore., is on the list for year-around skiing at Mount Hood, wind and kite-surfing on the Columbia River in the east and surfing on the west; and Bellingham, Wash., is ranked for snow-draped Mount Baker, kayaking, canoeing and its parks.
In the middle of the country, the editors picked Tulsa, Okla., for “serious hiking two hours southeast in the Ouachita Mountains and hard-core singletrack in Osage Hills State”; Valentine, Neb., a place with fewer than six people per square mile, is a true frontier with wide open spaces, quiet lakes, grasslands and one of the best waterways in the country.
In the South, Austin, Tex., rules: The riverside college town offers affordable kayak and bike rentals during the day and some of the country’s best music by night.
The town of Alexandria, La., is ideal for backpacking, mountain biking and a great swim in Kisatchie Bayou’s rushing water.
To the east, in Lenoir, N.C., the editors praised the Wilson Creek Wilderness area for the rugged trails as prime for avid hikers (www.friendsofwilsoncreek.org), and as a great spot for kayakers and scenic river tours.
Charlottesville, N.C., is known for its rich American history, but the town is also a paradise for hikers (Appalachian Trail) and trek packing (www.nps.gov/shen). Burlington, Vt., may be better known for skiing, but in the summer the Green Mountains (Stowe, Smuggler’s Notch, Sugarbush) are also a paradise full of hiking and riding trails.
Global Adventure Tours
With the explosion of adventure tourism, travelers can choose a destination in practically any corner of the globe, according to the Adventure Tourism Development Index, a joint initiative of the George Washington University and The Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA).
Considerations for selecting a destination may include:
- Cultures, customs and type of nature travelers are interested in exploring
- Adventure activity: Cycling, climbing, hiking, rafting
- Entrepreneurship: A destination in which young businesses can start up and gain traction
- Humanitarian: For travelers concerned about the human development in a country
- Visiting a developing vs. a developed country
- Safety and security concerns: Countries with high levels of transparency and low or no travel warnings are generally safe for adventure travelers
If you’re wondering about the allure of the ATTA’s top-rated developing and developed countries to visit, here are snapshots of what you can expect in each destination.
Adventure Tourism Development Index’s top 10 developing countries to visit for 2009:
- Slovak Republic
- Czech Republic
Adventure Tourism Development Index’s top 10 developed countries to visit for 2009:
- New Zealand
- United Kingdom
Methodology: The ATDI 2009 includes 28 developed countries and 164 developing countries. The 10 pillars have been categorized into three factors: Safe and Welcoming, Adventure Resources and Readiness.
Among the Top 8 Developing Countries
- Slovak Republic: This landlocked country in Central Europe has developed significantly since its separation from the Czech Republic in 1993. The Tatra Mountains offer excellent adventure with scenic lakes and valleys.
- Israel: This Middle Eastern country has a reputation for political unrest, but tourists will find it an ideal terrain for adventure activities: Camel safaris, snow skiing, scuba-diving and hang-gliding. It has 169 miles (273 kilometers) of coastline, deserts, plains, highlands and mountains.
- Czech Republic: The Czech Republic is a landlocked country in Central Europe bordered by Germany, Poland, Slovakia and Austria, and offers much adventure: Cycling, horseback riding, fishing, skiing and water activities.
- Estonia: This small country in Eastern Europe boasts dramatic landscapes, which are a draw for adventure tourists.
- Slovenia: Located in Central Europe, Slovenia borders Croatia, Hungary, Austria and Italy, and has 27 miles (43 kilometers) of coastline along the Adriatic Sea, in contrast to the rest of the country, which is mostly hilly and mountainous.
- Chile: This South American country, which borders the Pacific Ocean, Argentina and Peru, has a varied climate, ranging from desert in the north to a Mediterranean climate in the south and the rugged Andes to the east. Many tourists gravitate toward the extremes, exploring the Atacama Desert and hiking in Patagonia.
- Egypt: Egypt, located in northeastern Africa, borders Libya, Sudan, the Red Sea, Israel and the Mediterranean Sea. With its rich history of ancient civilizations and geography dominated by the Nile River, tourists can enjoy camel excursions in the desert, sailing in the Nile and scuba diving in the Red and Mediterranean Seas.
- Bhutan: Bhutan is a small, landlocked country in Southern Asia that is bordered by India and China. It is extremely mountainous and is dominated by the Himalayan Mountains in the north and subtropical plains in the south, which draw mountaineers and hikers.
Among the Top 5 Developed Countries
- Iceland: While the eruption of Iceland’s Eyjafjoell volcano has dominated much of the news lately and disrupted air travel around the globe, Iceland is ranked as the Number 1 travel destination for developed countries. With its glaciers, fjords, geysers, waterfalls, hot springs and lakes, Iceland is a growing tourism destination and boasts some of the highest standards of living in the world.
- Switzerland: Known more for its expensive watches, exquisite chocolate and cheese and secret bank accounts for the wealthy, this mountainous country also boasts rolling hills, plains and large lakes as far as the eye can see: A paradise for mountaineering and skiing.
- Australia: This country boasts a dramatic change of landscapes. It may be the world’s smallest continent, but is home to the world’s largest coral reef. The west and interior are dry desert or semi-arid land known as the outback. The northern coast is tropical and the southeastern coastline is a temperate region.
- Luxembourg: Bordered by Belgium, Germany and France, this country is hilly with low mountains in the north descending to a flood plain in the southeast, and is popular for hiking and bicycling.
- Denmark: Bordered by Germany, the Baltic Sea and the North Sea, this northern European country is a large peninsula and a collection of numerous islands. Tourists flock to this destination to bike, boat, kayak, hike and sail.
With so many wonderful destinations to choose from, finding a perfect match for you and your family should be no trouble. Here are some tips from Orbitz.com to keep the costs of travel down:
- Book early to take advantage of advance-booking discounts and to get the best fare
- Be flexible with travel dates
- Book on Tuesdays or Wednesdays vs. Fridays or Sundays to keep costs down
- Book your airfare and hotel as a package
- Try to avoid extra fees for baggage by checking less baggage
- Don’t expect a la carte pricing to stop
Marion Webb is the managing editor for the American Council on Exercise and is an ACE-certified Personal Trainer and an ACE-certified Group Fitness Instructor. For specific fitness-related story ideas or comments, please e-mail her directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.