Break out of your comfort zone this year with one of these unique adventure vacations that are sure to shake up your routine. Tick the five “stans” off your bucket list, camp on a cliff, or brave whitewater rafting—these trips aren’t your typical bus tour.
Tanzania Active Safari, G Adventures
If you’re looking for a Tanzania vacation that falls somewhere on the adventure scale between climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro and sitting in a 4×4 all day, then check out G Adventures’ Tanzania Active Safari. Small groups of 12 or fewer will canoe through Momella Lake on a water safari, hike into an extinct volcanic crater, and cycle through Lake Manyara National Park. At the end of the trip, you’ll still get a few traditional safari drives—including one in the world-famous Ngorongoro Crater.
Uzbekistan Adventure, Intrepid Travel
After changing its complicated visa process to a simple e-visa in 2018, Uzbekistan has become more accessible than ever. Experience the Central Asian country in an authentic way on Intrepid Travel’s Uzbekistan Adventure vacation, which includes a homestay with a local family as well as a night in a yurt. The tour begins in the capital city of Tashkent, then takes you out to small towns, rural areas, and the Nuratau Mountains.
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The Outbound Pursuit Series
Gather your friends for a grown-up version of camp at the Outbound Pursuit Series. The fire pits and s’mores are still the same, but there will be way more adrenaline, happy hours, and entertainment than the camps of your youth. Choose a long weekend in Utah, Northern California, or North Carolina, all of which have both camping and glamping options available. You’ll be able to try out slacklining (similar to tightrope walking), trail running, rock climbing, hiking, and other activities, as well as take classes on packing, night photography, backcountry first aid, and other useful outdoorsy skills.
Wild Alaska Explorer, Alaska Wildland Adventures
If you are short on vacation time but still want to get a great overview of all that America’s largest state has to offer, sign up for Alaska Wildland Adventures’ Wild Alaska Explorer trip. In just six days, you’ll get to walk through a rainforest, pan for gold, go dog sledding, cruise among glaciers, hike on alpine tundra, and battle whitewater rapids.
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The Five Stans of the Silk Road, Exodus Travels
Get far, far off the popular tourist trail with Exodus Travels’ Five Stans of the Silk Road trip. This epic journey takes you through the five former Soviet republics of Central Asia (Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan) over three weeks. Expect to see the permanently aflame “Door to Hell” in Turkmenistan, Islamic ruins along the great Silk Road, traditional yurt camps, and much more. The trip is hosted by National Geographic Explorer TV presenter and photographer George Kourounis, who will offer photography tips and tricks to help you capture the perfect memory.
Discover Sri Lanka – Temples, Tea Trails, and Safari, REI Adventures
Sri Lanka is quickly becoming a hot new adventure destination. Explore it with REI Adventures’ Discover Sri Lanka tour. Days will be spent biking village pathways, hiking up a 1,500-year-old rock fortress, and tracking leopards on safari. This trip lets you get to know the locals a little bit—you’ll learn how to cook Sinhalese curries in a family’s home and meet members of the Vedda tribe during a hike through their forest.
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Victoria Falls to Okavango Delta Active Safari, Backroads
Three unique countries explored by four different methods: That’s the premise behind Backroads’ multi-adventure Victoria Falls to Okavango Delta Active Safari. This trip uses private charter flights to allow you to cover tons of ground in just nine days. You’ll bike along the Zambezi River, hike through Victoria Falls National Park, canoe the Okavango Delta, and safari in Mashatu. At night, you’ll stay in luxurious river lodges and tented camps where the wildlife viewing can continue.
Cliff Camping, Kent Mountain Adventure Center
Taking your camping game to new heights (literally) by signing up for the Cliff Camping adventure vacation with Kent Mountain Adventure Center. The guides will bring you to a trailhead in Colorado’s Roosevelt National Forest, where you can choose either to hike up to the top and rappel down the cliff face to your campsite, or to rock climb your way up from the ground. Either way, you’ll be spending the night on a portaledge hanging from a vertical rock face. In the morning, you’ll enjoy breakfast on the cliff while admiring views of nearby Rocky Mountain Park before rappelling down.
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Iraqi Kurdistan Adventure, MT Sobek
Iraqi Kurdistan is a destination for the most adventurous of travelers. Those who join MT Sobek on its new Iraqi Kurdistan Adventure tour will be rewarded with insight into a rarely visited region. You’ll explore the area by hiking, kayaking, and caving, plus have plenty of time to check out the cultural treasures. Concerned you’ll be traveling in a war zone? Check out the FAQ section on the tour, which should put your mind at ease: “You will be traveling to the semi-independent Kurdistan region of Iraq (KRI), where there is a blossoming tourism industry and functioning economy.”
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Coastal to Highlands Papua New Guinea Adventure, Trans Niugini Tours
Getting to Papua New Guinea is a bit of an adventure in itself—it’s a remote nation in the South Pacific located just north of Australia. This is an adrenaline-heavy island, not a place to come lie on the beach (although you can definitely do that on the beautiful sandy spots here). See the many different sides of Papua New Guinea on Trans Niugini Tours’ Coastal to Highlands Adventure tour. You’ll snorkel in Kokopo, hike around the villages of Mt. Hagen, and take a charter flight to the Karawari River for river boating.
For more ideas, see Top Travel Destinations for 2019.
Best Hiking Gear to Pack on Your Adventure:
Women's Hiking Outfit
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Caroline Morse Teel wants to take all of these adventure vacations. Follow her on Instagram @TravelWithCaroline for photos from her adventures around the world.