Traveling abroad is an adventure in itself, but when you add to that activities like rock climbing, skydiving, or rafting down class 5 rapids, you’re sure to have an experience that will stick out in your memory for years. You can choose to face these challenges alone (you brave soul, you!), or you can sign up for adventure travel programs for young adults, which means an instant community and instant fun.
Things to Keep in Mind When Visiting Adventure Travel Destinations
Before we get into the most baller destinations for adventure travel, here are a couple things to keep in mind when deciding on the best program or activity for you:
Be smart about it.
When you’re traveling to a foreign country, it’s easy to throw caution to the wind and engage in activities that you would not do at home. While it’s fantastic to be spontaneous and open to new experiences abroad, it’s important to make sure you’re staying safe. I know, I know; I’m sure you’ve already heard this a million times from your Mom or Dad or over-protective aunt from Missouri, but they just have your best interests at heart.
It’s easy to feel invincible while you’re traveling overseas. You realize that the world isn’t a scary place looking to swallow you up, but rather a welcoming place that’s nowhere near as dangerous as the news back home would make it seem.
If you’ve been abroad for a while, you probably feel pretty confident in your ability to take care of yourself, you’re starting to get a feel for being alone in a foreign country, and you think you can take on the world. That’s awesome. Just don’t forget that you should take the same safety precautions abroad as you would at home. Think your scuba instructor is too hung-over for a safe dive? Skip it. Does that skydiving parachute look a little worn out? Run.
Foreign countries sometimes have less safety restrictions than back home, so go with your gut. If something’s telling you to skip an adventure activity, better safe than sorry.
Make sure it’s not exploiting anyone or anything.
The best part of traveling overseas is being able to experience things that you would never do at home. Being in a different country opens you up to new environments, cultures, animals, and food that are exotic and unique from anything you’ve experienced before. While it’s great to take advantage of these once in a lifetime opportunities, be aware of the impact it’s having on the local community. Riding an elephant may seem like a fantastic way to experience new cultures and connect with local animals, but elephant-riding is actually damaging to their backs and the animals are often treated inhumanely.
Do your research.
Ask tour operators lots of questions. That’s not to say that you should stay home while the rest of the travelers in your group go out and have awesome adventures. Just be aware of the impact on local human, animal, and environmental populations. As responsible tourism gains exposure, more and more adventure activities are becoming aware of their effect on the local community and finding ways to conserve and give back.
Read reviews of different small group adventure travel programs before you make a selection. Ask to speak with past participants, check their website to make sure they’re legit, and investigate their community partnerships.
Now that we’ve got those important public service announcements out of the way, on to the fun part!
The Best Countries for Group Adventure Travel Abroad
There are tons of destinations around the world that offer a variety of adventure activities, but finding a travel program that fits your thrill-level and personal interests is key. Here are some countries that offer experiences for every adrenaline level, from couch potato to stunt-men and women in training:
To the outside world Australia seems like one big, never-ending beach, and while there are gorgeous coastlines, Australia’s landscape is extremely diverse. This varied environment means there are plenty of different outdoor activities! Of course there’s the well-known Great Barrier Reef, a worldwide favorite for scuba diving, but Australia is home to a number of lesser-known (and cheaper!) adventure destinations too.
From wildlife parks like the Jirrahlinga Koala and Wildlife Sanctuary near Melbourne to wine tasting in the Yarra Valley (hey, that can be an adventure!) to rock climbing at the Blue Mountains near Sydney, there’s really something for every level of adrenaline junkie in Australia.
While Honduras may not be at the top of your bucket list, it’s worth a look if you’re interested in scuba diving. The Bay Islands off the Eastern coast are one of the cheapest places in the world to get your open water Scuba certification. If you’re more into the young backpacking scene, head to Utila, where backpackers come en masse for the cheap scuba, delicious seafood, and all-night parties.
If you’re looking for something quieter or heading to Honduras with the family, Roatan has beautiful resorts and lovely beaches. On days off from your scuba classes, you can catch a boat ride to nearby islands or, depending on the time of year, head out in search of whale sharks. If you’re really lucky, you’ll be able to enjoy a short swim with these gorgeous underwater giants. Be sure to investigate which dive shop offers the most responsible experience that focuses on protecting the whale sharks rather than exploiting them!
With such a dramatic, archaic landscape, it’s hard not to have an adventure in Iceland. Forget the same hum-drum tourist activities, Iceland offers some truly unique travel programs for young adults that you wouldn’t find in many other places in the world. Looking for something really epic? Try dogsledding through the Icelandic countryside (Yep, you heard that right. Dogsledding). An experienced musher will lead your sled dog team through the gorgeous Golden circle to see Iceland’s pristine outdoor beauty. Again, whenever you’re participating in a tourist activity that involves animals, it’s crucial to do your research and choose an operator that prioritizes the welfare of the animal over tourism dollars.
If you’re more of a summertime person, just the name Iceland may have you running for your electric blanket. Surprisingly enough Iceland has plenty of warmer weather activities, like horseback riding, kayaking, and yes, even snorkeling. But, before you bust out your bikini, a wet-suit is recommended in Iceland, even in the summer.
If you need to warm up after your snow activities in Iceland, check out Costa Rica. The local government has done a fabulous job protecting their environmental resources, making it a perfect destination for group travelers interested in eco-tourism. Soar through the jungle like superman on one of the world’s longest zip lines or learn to surf in the waves at one of the country’s many beaches, it’s up to you. Hey, porque no los dos? Do both!
Thanks to the environmental protection initiatives in place, Costa Rica is also a great spot for wildlife lovers. Trekking through the Monteverde Cloud Forest, travelers have to opportunity to get up close with nature, exotic animals and Costa Rica is popular with backpackers, so you’re guaranteed to make new friends at the same time.
What’s more baller than cruising through the African desert on an epic safari? Not only can you experience the gorgeous, rustic South African landscape, but you can track the famous Big Five (lion, elephant, buffalo, leopard, and rhinoceros) for a glimpse of truly epic wildlife. Some adventure programs in South Africa even offer overnight stays in rustic campsites. There’s nothing more adventurous than coming face to face with a herd of wild elephants in the African desert.
For an equally thrilling experience, conquer your fear of heights in Cape Town by bungee jumping from Bloukrans Bridge, the world’s highest commercial bridge! Even the bravest adrenaline junkies will get sweaty palms looking down from the 216 meter drop. Just make sure to tell your parents about your death-defying experience after you make it back safe on the ground.
It’s no secret that Nepal had a rough year in 2015, and their tourism industry has definitely taken a hit. While the Nepalese people are still recovering from a terrible set of earthquakes, the tourism board has announced that they are ready for travelers to come visit their gorgeous country once again! Adventure-addicts will have no shortage of choices in Nepal. Hikers can book a group tour trekking through the foothills of the Himalayas, stay with local families in Nepali villages along the way, or take on the challenge of conquering Mount Everest. Nepal also has lots of opportunities to connect with the local community through volunteer programs, like building houses and teaching English.
Whether you’re an adrenaline junkie or just like a bit of excitement during your travels, there are plenty of destinations around the world that cater to adventure tourism.