Ultimate Adventure Travel Bucket List
Getting to the chinstrap penguin colony along the Antarctic Peninsula isn’t for the fainthearted. To reach the finger of land that juts out from the frozen continent’s western coast, you have to first face the stormy Drake Passage.
But the risks are worth it. Gliding through the waters of Orne Harbor, you may encounter humpback and minke whales, leopard and fur seals, and cormorants and other seabirds. Greeting you onshore is the sight of hundreds of squawking penguins tending their young. Still unimpressed? Then hike up the 935-foot Spigot Peak for awe-inspiring panoramic views of the world’s last great wilderness.
Related: World's Top Adventure Trips
Challenging experiences like Quark Expeditions’ guided trip from Argentina to Antarctica remind us that the toughest journeys are often the most memorable. And in an age where time is treated as a commodity, arriving at a destination through toil and sweat is becoming a lost art.
Adventure plays a key role in T+L’s bucket list of 101 experiences every traveler should know—gleaned from our network of correspondents and tastemakers. But not every escapade requires traveling to the ends of the earth or pushing your body’s limits. David Chang, the chef behind the Momofuku restaurant empire, favors fly-fishing in Jackson Hole, WY.
Other all-American adventures include driving down the dramatic Pacific Coast Highway, with a stop at the Redwood Grill for a pulled-pork sandwich, and paying a visit to the millennia-old sequoias in Yosemite’s Mariposa Grove (documentary filmmaker Ken Burns’s pick).
For thrill-seekers, there are the serious adrenaline rushes: white-water rafting through the Class Four rapids of the Salmon River’s Middle Fork in central Idaho or heli-skiing in British Columbia’s Bugaboo Mountains. And you don’t always need to leave the big city behind. You can channel your inner race-car driver at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, zooming from zero to 60 mph in 3 1/2 seconds in a Ferrari F430 GT.
Read on for more life-changing adventures and our tips on how to tackle them. —Jennifer Chen
Hiking Hawaii's Na Pali Coast
Seeing the Northern Lights in Iceland
Cruising to See Penguins in Antarctica
Sailing the Milford Sound, New Zealand
Fly-Fishing in Jackson Hole, WY
Getting Up-Close to Iguazú Falls, Brazil
Living With Locals in Chyulu Hills, Kenya
“Campi Ya Kanzi, the Masai-community-owned lodge in the Chyulu Hills of eastern Kenya, achieves the perfect combination of luxury and exclusivity, with rigorous sustainability and commitment to the locals. I like to walk with Masai trackers early in the morning or hike up to the cloud forest, which is another world entirely.” —Edward Norton, actor and board member of the Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust
Meeting Polar Bears in Churchill, Manitoba
Cruising China's Yangtze River
Driving Through Mexican Hat and Monument Valley, UT
“The San Juan Inn, in Mexican Hat, Utah ($), is a motel, trading post, and diner on the banks of a gorgeous red river. It’s like the motel from that Humphrey Bogart movie Petrified Forest. Monument Valley is 25 minutes south, and what you see on that drive, the scale of it, is so vast and beautiful. You’re in this enormous, wondrous silence.” —Michael Tilson Thomas, conductor
Racing in Las Vegas
Exploring Chile's Atacama Desert
Ascending Machu Picchu
Enter the citadel like the Incas did by walking through the Sun Gate. Here’s how: hop off the train from Cuzco at Km. 104. Hike to the ruins of Huinay Huayna, five miles away, then north to the 15th-century site. Stay at Sanctuary Lodge ($$$$), the only hotel there. Acquire permits in advance from travel specialist Maita Barrenechea.
Rafting the Middle Fork of the Salmon River, ID
Going to Extremes on Namibia's Skeleton Coast
Flying High Above Rio de Janeiro
Getting Immersed in Papua New Guinea's Culture
Exploring Perito Moreno Glacier, Argentina
Hiking in Yosemite National Park, CA
Wildlife-Viewing Along the Amazon
Whale-Watching on Australia's Kimberley Coastline
Watch for breaching humpback whales along the wildest corner of the outback.
Learning Wildlife Photography in the Serengeti
Seeing Wildlife in Galápagos Islands
Heli-Skiing in the Bugaboo Mountains, British Columbia
Driving to Big Sur, CA
Surfing on Sumba Island, Indonesia
“Nihiwatu ($$$) is essentially a surf camp built by an eco-minded American couple. The staff is made up of mostly locals, and they’ll take guests on village tours. Hikes, bike rides, and diving are all on the menu. Did I mention the surfing wave is perfect?” —Yves Béhar, industrial designer