Let the adrenaline race in some of the world’s most beautiful places.
Lake Louise, Banff, Canada
Photograph by Andreas Hub, laif/Redux
This list first appeared in the book World's Best Travel Experiences.
Surrounded by six glaciers, this icy blue lake in Banff National Park beckons ice-skaters in winter, paddlers in summer, and visitors year-round who stand on the pine-lined shore mesmerized by the Canadian Rockies’ backdrop. See it all from 6,850 feet (2,088 m) by riding the Lake Louise Gondola (May–September). Get more info: www.discoverlakelouise.com.
Photograph by Cameron Lawson, National Geographic
Biking slickrock brings great bragging rights among mountain bikers, while marathon runners take in the alpine mountains in the distance and the earthy tones of canyons along the Colorado River. The Old West is alive and well here, as cowboys still work the land and Native American influence is abundant. Get more info: www.discovermoab.com.
Watersports, Southern West Virginia
Photo by Education Images, UIG/Getty
Autumn colors swirl past in a roar when white-water rafting near Fayetteville on the Upper Gauley or New River in September and October. By contrast, just down the road a piece, on Summersville Lake, silence is broken only by the sound of an oar dipping into the placid water. Get more info: www.adventurewestvirginia.com.
Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands
Photograph by Matt Propert, National Geographic
With neon pink, yellow, and blue fish, green turtles, and dozens of species of coral, Grand Cayman offers up a constantly changing aquatic feast. The sandbar known as Stingray City is one of the world’s few places to get intimate with stingrays in their natural habitat. Get more info: www.caymanislands.ky.
Rain Forest, Costa Rica
Photograph by Yadid Levy, Anzenberger/Redux
Every turn in the road, every crest of a hill, every sunrise over a crocodile-infested river yields a new sight. Whether zip-lining high in the canopy and seeing toucans or the flamboyant scarlet macaw, or taking an aerial tram within inches of rare orchids and bromeliads, there isn’t an inch from the Caribbean Sea on Costa Rica’s east coast to the Pacific Ocean on the west coast that isn’t a natural wonder. Get more info: www.rainforestadventure.com.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Photograph by Paul Springett, Alamy
Hang gliding from atop Pedra Bonita for a soft landing on São Conrado Beach brings two landscapes together in a matter of minutes. While you are in the air, Sugarloaf Mountain looms within reach, and Corcovado Mountain is in sight, with the iconic Christ the Redeemer statue. Get more info: www.riohanggliding.com.
Isle of Bute, Scotland
Photograph by Universal Images Group, Getty
Take a hop, skip, and 90-minute jump from Glasgow to the heathered moors to the north. They offer rugged beauty, while the sandy beaches in Rothesay and the manicured gardens of Mount Stuart offer a completely different experience. Get more info: www.visitbute.com.
Aeolian Islands, Italy
Photograph by Nick Hannes, Hollandse Hoogte/Red/Redux
Sailing through this chain of volcanic islands off the north coast of Sicily can be intoxicating. Pass by the largest island—Lipari—with its crumbling fortress, watch the sulfuric steam rising from the active craters of Stromboli and Vulcano, stare into the deep waters off the cliffs of Stromboli, or explore black-sand beaches. Get more info: www.bestofsicily.com.
Kruger National Park, South Africa
Photograph by Gerald Haenel, laif/Redux
Not everyone gets a chance to witness the cycle of life from its unmerciful, violent side to its most breathtaking. Commune with majestic water buffalo, catch a glimpse of the menacing gaze of a hyena, and gain a deeper understanding of the roles everyone plays in this cradle of mankind—from termites to vultures. Get more info: www.sanparks.org.
Queenstown, New Zealand
Photograph by Clemens Emmler, laif/Redux
Pick an extreme sport and imagine doing it on snowcapped mountains, in extreme weather, or with river spray in your face. You are likely to find all of those options on the South Island of New Zealand. Just about anything goes, from heli-skiing to careening at high speeds near the rocky edge of a river in a jet boat to bungee jumping—in fact, bungee jumping was developed in Queenstown; the first trusting souls threw themselves off the town’s Kawarau Bridge in 1988. Get more info: www.everythingqueenstown.com.
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