Vacation isn’t always best spent relaxing. For some, adventure travel is the name of the game. Chasing an adrenaline rush with any number of extreme sports and experiences can make for an unforgettable adventure and an excellent travel story.
Here are 12 unexpected spots for an overseas adventure travel for the traveler looking for an unexpectedly adventurous getaway. From ice climbing in Africa (!?) to animal encounters in the Caribbean, you are guaranteed a memorable trip to these unique destinations.
12 Unexpected Adventure Travel Destinations
1. Baños, Ecuador
In a country known for its adventure sports, there is no better spot to visit than Baños, Ecuador. Sitting below the active Tungurahua volcano, Baños sits on the border of the Andes Mountains and the Amazon Rainforest. Its rivers cascade down from the mountains, creating dozens of stunning waterfalls surrounding the city.
That is where canyoning comes in. While it may not be the most well-known adventure sport, it sure is worth a try. What could be more thrilling than repelling down a rushing waterfall? Adrenaline junkies across Latin America and beyond head to this canyoning capital for an unforgettable adventure.
The best part? Even beginners can go canyoning in Baños. It might take some time to get used to the harness and find your rhythm, but the highly-skilled guides ensure a great experience, even for beginners. Get ready to see a waterfall from a whole new perspective!
Read More: Ultimate Travel Guide to Baños, Ecuador
2. Sacred Valley, Peru
The four-day hike from the Incan stronghold of Ollantaytambo to Machu Picchu might be one of the most famous treks on the planet. Still, far too many hikers miss out on the other incredible treks of the Sacred Valley.
Seize every challenge as an adventure traveler in one of Peru’s most scenic destinations. The Salkantay trek is a 5-day trek through the mountains that takes participants past the stunning high-altitude Humantay Lake and also culminates with a visit to Machu Picchu.
For those looking to get even further off the beaten path, consider hiking to the hidden mountain lake of Laguna Juchuycocha or the ruins of Huchuy Qosco – “Little Cusco” – that cling to the mountainside above Cusco. Both options are doable in just a day.
3. Mt. Etna, Sicily
Italy’s most famous ski destinations might be a bit further north in the Alps, but who could turn down the opportunity to ski down a volcano? With a view of the Mediterranean below, skiing on Mt. Etna in Sicily defines unexpected overseas adventure travel.
Mt. Etna is home to two ski resorts, Piano Provenzana and Nicolosi, both of which provide a variety of slopes – alpine and downhill. You’ll also enjoy that crowds tend to be much smaller than in Italy’s northern skiing hotspots, and tickets are far more affordable.
Plus, you’ll have some delicious Sicilian food to look forward to after a busy day on the slopes.
4. Hang Son Doong, Vietnam
What could be more immersive than delving deep into the world’s largest cave? Hang Son Doong – known as Son Doong Cave – was only just discovered in the Vietnamese jungle in 1991 and first explored in 2009. It features an underground river, and the cave is thought to be almost 6 miles long in total.
In addition to its spectacular size, the cave’s interior is stunning and varied, making a trip unforgettable. Sections of the cave are open to the sky due to naturally occurring sinkholes, meaning a visit isn’t only lit by a flashlight.
Visitors can embark on different treks, swimming and snorkeling adventures, and even camp, all while staying within the cave. You’ll need a permit to visit the cave, which is available through the Oxalis Adventure Tours company.
5. Medellin, Colombia
Medellin is best known for its delicious coffee, vibrant culture, and dark past, but did you know that this unforgettable city is a popular destination for mountain biking too? Renting a bike and exploring the hills and valleys around the sprawling metropolis is one of the best things to do in Medellin.
Popular trails take you through Parque Arví, a favorite weekend getaway easily accessible by Medellin’s cable car system that connects to its city metro. You’ll also find some mountain biking trails near the city with stunning views of the sprawling downtown, like at Pan de Azucar and Cerro Las Tres Cruces.
For an adventure outside the city, head to nearby coffee country or even further south to the town of Manizales. There you’ll find even more scenic routes, though conditions are more challenging.
So grab a bike and hit the road to enjoy the stunning landscape of the Andes Mountains in Colombia – it will help you work off all that bandeja paisa!
Plan Your Adventure in Colombia
6. Mallorca, Spain
The Balearic Islands off the coast of Spain are best known for their stunning beaches, clear waters, and lively parties in Ibiza. But for those travelers looking for a side of adrenaline with their rest and relaxation, the largest Balearic island of Mallorca is home to some unforgettable rock climbing.
Many consider Mallorca to be among the best rock-climbing destinations in Europe. Climbers can choose from independent excursions or guided climbs with experienced guides.
With the island’s craggy coastline, many of the best routes sit along the turquoise waters, making for some of the best deep-water soloing spots in Europe. Can you imagine diving into the refreshing Mediterranean after a sweaty climb?
Read More: Best Beaches in the Balearic Islands, Spain
7. Interlaken, Switzerland
Ever wanted to take to the skies and fly? If you’re looking to try paragliding, consider visiting Interlaken, Switzerland, where you can glide over the historic town while glimpsing green valleys and snow-capped peaks.
If paragliding isn’t enough for you, head outside of Interlaken to Stockhorn, considered by some to be the most scenic bungee jumping destination in the world. You’ll plunge head-first over the stunning Hinterstockensee Lake, surrounded by the Alps.
8. Islas Mujeres, Mexico
Swimming With Whale Sharks
If the thought of swimming with sharks seems a bit too scary, consider visiting Isla Mujeres off the coast of Mexico to swim with whale sharks. These gentle giants are filter feeders, meaning they’re not interested in humans, and are the largest fish in the world, growing to be up to 40 feet long.
Whale sharks migrate through the Caribbean Sea during the warm-water summer months of June, July, and August.
While experienced guides do their best to guarantee you’ll have the best experience swimming with these giants, there is no guarantee you’ll be able to spot them! The anticipation makes a long-awaited sighting even more special.
9. Drakensburg, Lesotho
The last place you’d probably think of for ice climbing might be your next unforgettable overseas adventure travel destination: the tiny Sub-Saharan African nation of Lesotho.
It might be unexpected, but the Drakensburg Mountain Range along the border of Lesotho and South Africa is home to countless ice climbing routes during the winter months of June through August, universally regarded as Africa’s best ice climbing destination.
While there are dozens of spectacular ice climbing spots throughout the mountain range, one of the highlights includes the Sani Pass, with four or five frozen waterfalls in the southern portion of the mountain range, considered the easiest for beginners.
Consider embarking on the trip to Giant’s Castle for a more significant challenge. This route includes a challenging 9-10 hour trek to reach base camp. Still, it is regarded as the most impressive ice-climbing destination on the continent.
Read More: South Africa Travel: A Beginner’s Guide
Located in the Indian Ocean off the Madagascar coast, the island nation of Mauritius might fly under the radar, but not if you’re looking for an excellent wave.
With its position in the ocean causing perfect winds for this unique sport, plus its stunning coastlines and beaches and excellent tourist infrastructure, add Mauritius to your adventure travel bucket list.
The conditions in Mauritius are perfect for windsurfing almost year-round, though you may want to avoid the monsoon season from January through March when you’re planning your itinerary. Visitors will be pleasantly surprised to find that this island paradise is more affordable than they might expect.
Direct flights from several major cities in Western Europe make it more easily accessible than one might expect, too!
Plus, Mauritius is home to one of the world’s best digital nomad visas! How about sticking around for a few months working remotely while enjoying windsurfing on a white-sand beach after work?
11. Kathmandu, Nepal
Nepal’s mountainous landscape offers travelers much more than hiking opportunities. It’s also a world-famous destination for white water rafting, as the mountain-fed rivers create incredible rapids throughout the country.
Whether you’re looking for a quick river rafting excursion from Kathmandu or choose to use the capital as a jumping-off point for a multi-day excursion on one of Nepal’s rivers, you’re bound to find the right experience for your itinerary and budget.
Bhote Kosi and the Trishuli River are fantastic destinations for day trips from Kathmandu, while the rivers near Pokhara are more suitable for multi-day excursions.
12. Coron, Philippines
In September 1944, the United States Air Force launched a surprise attack on the Imperial Japanese Navy, devastating their fleet and littering the bay at Coron in the Philippines with sunken wrecks. Today, the remains of the fleet make for an incredible, world-class diving destination.
While at least twelve shipwrecks are easily accessible for divers in Coron, most visitors choose from among the “Big Six” wrecks. The Akitsushima is one of the most impressive wrecks you’ll find here, and divers can access the control room and take a peak at the guns still attached to the deck.
The Okikawa wreck has sections for beginner and more experienced divers, including ways to swim into the engine room!
Not an experienced diver? You can still enjoy exploring wrecks at Coron. Several Japanese shipwrecks sit in shallow water, making them accessible even for snorkelers.
When you’re in Coron, remember to visit the neighboring island of El Nido Palawan! You’ll find stunning cliffs, white-sand beaches, and crystal-clear water, all of which have put this destination on the map.
With all these unexpected destinations for an adventurous trip, you’re sure to find something that interests you. Whether you plan an entire trip around an adventure or are just looking for a fun way to spend a day or two, consider adding some adrenaline to your next vacation.
This article originally appeared on Wealth of Geeks.
Carley Rojas Avila is a bilingual New York-based travel writer, editor, content marketer, and the founder of the digital travel publications Explorers Away and Home to Havana. Carley is an expert on all things Latin America, the Caribbean, and Cuba, having lived and worked in four different countries in the region. Her writing has appeared on the Associated Press wires and in Travel + Leisure, Yahoo, MSN, Euronews, The Weather Channel, and more. When she's not writing about her travels, find her front row at a Bad Bunny concert, befriending street cats, and taste-testing every pizza in Havana.