Adventure travel is gaining momentum. In place of touring a city or exploring a museum, more people are choosing to hike up a mountain or trek to a secluded swimming hole to take a dip. Luckily, there’s an increasing amount of places to explore in this tourism niche, and many are not what you’d expect. Here are some surprising destinations for adventure travelers.
Situated on the Baltic Sea, Latvia is a relatively unknown gem for adventure travel. This northeastern European country is home to white sand beaches, national parks and acres of forest and marshlands, all ripe for exploration. Jurkalne offers a wide-open beach protected by tall bluffs, as well as a popular spot for kiteboarders and paragliders. Farther inland, Gauja National Park is filled with long-distance hikes and underground caverns, while Kemeri National Park has boardwalks to explore miles of marshlands and bogs.
Traveling to Romania feels like stepping back in time — castles and medieval towns dot the landscape, and the existence of vampires feels all too real. After you're satisfied at Bran Castle or Black Church, you may be ready to venture into the country’s breathtaking natural landscape. The Carpathian Mountains serve as the perfect backdrop for adventure. Travelers may trek through the mountains, explore old volcanic craters or climb the unusually shaped rocks for which the terrain is famous. Transylvania is also home to Europe’s largest population of bears and wolves, and wolf watching tours are available in the winter months.
If you’re looking to spend time in the Alps, forget Switzerland and Austria and head to Slovenia. The Julian Alps offer phenomenal hiking in the summer months and top-notch skiing in the winter — at a much more affordable cost. Campers and backpackers can leave their tents at home and hike to one of the many huts situated high in the mountains. All the huts have rooms or dormitories available to rent, and some, like the popular Triglav Lodge at Kredarica, have electricity on top of the mountain. If you prefer to stay somewhere grander, try Bled Castle, situated high above a stunning glacial lake near Triglav National Park. Or, travel underground to Postojna Cave, an underground excursion that boasts the largest cave castle in the world.
Long heralded as a religious travel experience, Israel has climbed the ranks as a top-notch adventure travel destination as well. Whether you like hiking, biking or surfing, Israel has it all in spades. The country’s vast expanses, red rocks, and deep canyons make for phenomenal hiking experiences, especially in Masada or Galilee. Plus, travel companies offer privately guided hikes throughout the country’s rugged terrain, like this day-long excursion in Wadi Darga. The trek requires top-level fitness abilities, as travelers must traverse through canyons, scramble up rocks, rappel down craters and swim through natural pools. The Dead Sea, infamous for its salinity, provides the perfect opportunity for water sports like surfing, boating and kayaking. And if you’re too exhausted from all the adventure, just take it easy and enjoy the buoyancy of the salt water with a nice, relaxing float.
South Korea doesn’t get the credit it deserves as a premier destination for adventure travel. Home to the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea has mountains worthy of a ski trip, many of which are only a short train ride away from Seoul. If you visit Deogyusan Resort, make sure to soak at the outdoor hot springs after a long day on the slopes. Venture farther out of the city and hit up one of the country’s many parks, such as the gorgeous Seoraksan National Park. Seoraksan features sweeping vistas, steep rock walls, a 2,000-foot high cave and a fortress that can be reached by cable car or stairs. If you’re willing to leave the mainland altogether, head to Jeju Island, which boasts beautiful beaches, lava tunnels and stunning volcanic terrain.