We've all spent a vacation lazing on the beach day after day or aimlessly wandering around a city's historic sights, but how many people do you know who have hiked the Himalayas, snorkeled around the Galapagos, or summited Mount Kilimanjaro during their time overseas?
Participating in an adventure tour will provide you with the opportunity to explore some of the planet's most awe-inspiring landscapes while being supported by an enthusiastic and experienced guide. You'll go home with once-in-a-lifetime experiences, endless stories to tell -- and it'll leave you excited to continue exploring everything this world has to offer off the beaten path.
Where to Go
From the deep red earth of the rugged Outback to more than 30,000 miles of coastline, lush green rainforests and snowy mountain peaks, Australia is an adventure lover's dream. It's a world-class snorkeling and diving destination, a country where surfing is a way of life even in its biggest cities and is home to many species you can't see anywhere else in the world. Australia is great to visit year-round, though some activities are only offered in specific seasons.
Iceland isn't referred to as the land of fire and ice for nothing. You can trek snow-capped volcanoes, hike glaciers in Europe's largest national park, walk behind waterfalls, and snorkel between two continents. Catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights and soak your tired limbs in one of the country's many geothermal hot springs after a tough day of adventuring.
Iceland can be visited year-round, but there are a few things to keep in mind when booking your trip. The weather is most pleasant during the summer months, though you'll only experience a few hours of darkness each day. Winter is also a great time to visit. It's typically less crowded, and it's when you're most likely to see the Northern Lights, but be aware that there's usually only a few hours of light per day.
Thailand is a great country for outdoor adventures. From jungle treks to local hill tribe villages to year-round water sports including diving, sea kayaking, and kiteboarding, not to mention epic rock climbing surrounded by limestone peaks, there's something for everyone. You can zip-line through lush rainforests, experience some of the best wildlife viewings in Southeast Asia, and so much more. Thailand experiences dry and wet seasons, so it's typically best to visit from November to April when the weather is cool and dry.
A quarter of the country's land is protected jungle and "Pura Vida" (meaning pure life) is its motto, which is exactly what you'll get a taste of on an adventure tour in Costa Rica. Go whitewater rafting down the Pacuare River, explore the Arenal Volcano, zip line over coastal jungles, or surf world-class waves in the Pacific Ocean. Costa Rica is great to visit any time of year, though it does experience wet and dry seasons and has many microclimates that vary drastically across the country.
Planning Your Trip
What to Look for in an Adventure Tour
Before booking an adventure tour, it's important to read company reviews as well as gain an understanding of what's included and what's not in the tour fees. Booking the cheapest tour, even if the activities are identical across providers, isn't always the best value. Many tours may charge an additional fee for meals, equipment rental, or some activities. There may also be a difference in the experience level of the guides provided, for example.
There are tours that cater to every level of adventure lover -- from the slow and steady explorer to the adrenaline junkie. Be realistic about your own fitness level, know what you're signing up for and make sure you're comfortable participating in all of the activities included in the tour.
Have a look at the company's safety procedures and qualifications to make sure that you'll have support throughout the trip from qualified guides to help show you the ropes.
Average Adventure Tour Cost & Length
Tour cost will vary depending on the country you're visiting -- Iceland, for example, is on the more expensive end, while Thailand is more affordable -- though tours typically start from around $200 per day.
Expect to pay anywhere from several hundred to several thousand dollars depending on the length of your adventure tour, the level of comfort you wish to have, and the activities you plan to participate in. The average length for an adventure tour can range anywhere from three days to two or more weeks and costs will go up slightly if many of the activities included in the tour require specialized gear rental.
Flights are not typically included in the price of the tour, and you'll likely need to arrange transportation to and from the country on your own. If you're looking to save a bit of money, arrange pre and post-trip accommodation and airport transfers on your own.
Packing Tips & Gear Rental
Packing recommendations will vary depending on the time of year you're traveling and the activities you're participating in, though it's important to figure out what you absolutely need to bring. Most tour providers will provide a packing list for suggested items specific to your tour.
If you're doing an activity that requires specialized gear, check with the provider to see if they provide rentals or if you need to bring your own. In most cases, you will be able to rent any specialized gear in country. Use common sense when planning for your trip and have a look at the local weather before you go.
In most cases, you'll need to sort out your own visa for the adventure tour. While you can get a visa on arrival in some countries, others could take up to several weeks to process so it's important to plan ahead. Ask your tour provider if you have any specific visa-related questions!
It's important to have travel insurance to protect yourself from any unforeseen travel mishaps. Make sure that you choose an insurance provider that covers the types of activities you will be participating in, as not all plans include coverage for adventure activities.
Qualification & Training
Adventure tours can be physically demanding so you should be in decent shape and prepared for any of the activities you plan to participate in. You won't need special training for most activities, though you should speak up if you have any questions about using equipment or gear. Your adventure tour guide will likely provide instruction and give a quick demo before participating in any activities.
Any type of adventure activity comes with its own set of risks and it's important to gain an understanding of what is involved in any activity that you participate in. Terrain can be challenging and lead to slips and falls, weather can be unpredictable, and water conditions are difficult for the untrained eye to judge.
Risks will vary by activity, location, and season, so it's a good idea to read up on the places you will be traveling to as part of your tour to know in advance what kind of risks you might be facing. Your guides will be trained to deal with any emergency situations and will do their best to ensure you're not put into a dangerous situation.
The most important safety tip is to pay attention to your adventure tour guide at all times. As an experienced guide, they will be familiar with the terrain and know of any potential risks and concerns. Make sure to follow your guide's instructions at all times and wear suggested safety gear.
If you're participating in a trek, altitude sickness can be a concern, so it's important to stop and adjust to lower oxygen levels during your summit. Always pay attention to the weather, as it can often be unpredictable.
If you're participating in water-based activities, it's important to be confident in your swimming ability and not put yourself in an unsafe situation. Always wear a life jacket when recommended.