Savvy travelers know that there’s more to vacationing than lying on the beach and sipping fruity drinks. Although a complimentary Cruzan Rum does happen to be part of the package when you book a guided running tour with Active Island Tours & Events in St. Thomas. After all, what better way to unwind after a run than with a cocktail?
Sure, vacations are centered around relaxation, but the best trips of 2014 are all about exotic and exciting adventures. They’re about that balance between leisure and liveliness. Why not try rock-climbing in Thailand or a tropical trek through the rainforest in Dominica?
Up for even more of challenge? Maybe one of the world's most difficult adventure excursions through the Namib Desert in South Africa is more your style. Or if something like a trip back in time sparks your wanderlust in a big way, in 2014 you can visit Dracula’s castle while exploring the mystical history of the Dark Ages in Hungary or tour the escape route of Siberian gulag prisoners during World War II.
These are the best new adventure travel destinations and tours of 2014. Whether you’re a serious cyclist in search of challenging climbs, a dedicated yogi on a quest to find the next best meditation location, or a just an avid adventurer ready to plan your next bucket list expedition our list is bound to feature a trip that will have you packing your bags and booking a flight faster than you can say, “Pour me a drink.”
1. Sand Boarding & Windsurfing in Jericoacoara, Brazil
Also known as Jeri, Jericoacoara is a relatively undiscovered coastal village in northwestern Brazil. Half the fun of visiting Jeri is getting there (think 4x4s), but the other half is getting to snowboard at the beach. Adventure Life now offers sand boarding—a sport similar to snowboarding, except on sand dunes instead of slopes—as a part of their trips, which also include more traditional activities like horseback riding, windsurfing and yoga.
2. Beer Cycling Tour in Belgium
Cycling is Belgium’s national sport and as a country it brews more than 1,130 beers, so it’s safe to say that Belgians know a few things about bikes and beers. New in 2014, adventurous, lager-loving bikers are invited to experience the historic area’s two favorite pastimes with a nine-day “Bike Across Belgium” tour, featuring what tour provider Ciclismo calls some of “the most scenic cycling in Europe.” This trip will take you through the cobbled streets of Luxemburg, past the Venice-like vistas of Bruges, and into the historic Orval Abbey—home to one of the few remaining Trappist breweries in the country. Plus, the tour offers access to more boutique breweries than any other European bike tour, making it the ultimate active adventure for bike- and beer-lovers alike.
3. Transylvania Tale Tour in Hungary
If your idea of adventure involves exploring Meieval castles, age-old Byzantine churches, and ancient Ottoman Mosques, then book your flight to Budpest where you can join Tucan Travel for their Transylvania Tale tour. Not only does this package include access to Dracula’s castle, but you’ll also embark on excursions to destinations like Plovdic—one of Eurpopes oldest cities where you can visit the Roman Amphitheatre—and the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul—the largest and oldest in the entire world. All in all you’ll cover over 800 miles from Hungary to Turkey, all the while experiencing the mystifying and intriguing history of the Dark Ages.
4. Island Excursions in Burma
Travel via catamaran yacht around Burma’s untouched Myeik island chain. Yes, Burma’s tourism numbers have soared recently, but the waters remain relatively untouched because they are difficult to reach and off the typical tourist paths. There are few organized itineraries through this area; Intrepid Travel is one of the only to offer sail power with a boat equipped to be self-sustaining. Island excursions include snorkeling among the coral reef and myriad marine life, jungle hiking in the hilly forest, or kayaking on the turquoise sea.
5. Great Bear Rainforest in Canada
The Royal Canadian Geographical Society and Maple Leaf Adventures escort you into North America’s last rainforest by classic tall ship. Explore fjords, grizzly bear havens, and the rainforest inlets in the heart of Canada’s west coast wilderness. Anchor in a cove or bay to see the evidence of several northwest First Nations, and nose through modern villages practicing ancient art traditions. Want to up the ante? Travel in the spring for the opportunity to explore Kitlope Valley, which preserves the largest continuous tract of coastal temperate rainforest in the world. A September journey promises predators of the fall salmon run, including grizzly, spirit, and black bears, killer whales, sea lions and wolves.
6. Wildlife Photography Tour in Chile
A unique opportunity for photographers to experience wildlife up close, surrounded by stunning Chilean Patagonian scenery, launches at Tierra Patagonia. Chilean flora and fauna expert, Pia Vergara, and a team of wildlife trackers lead you on the hunt for the perfect shot of the elusive native puma. The big cat is only one of the South American “big five” you will photograph among the backdrop of the Torres del Paine National Park. See camelid, huemules, condor, and native fox among stately mountains and clear blue water of Lake Sarmiento.
7. Surfing in Papagayo, Costa Rica
The Andaz Peninsula Papagayo hotel opened in December and is the first Andaz property in Latin America. While the hotel’s accommodations and amenities are noteworthy, their most action-packed offering is the Witches Rock surf package that provides guests with airport pickup in a surfer’s VW bus, a surf-specific goodie bag, and for guests who want to ride the waves and remember them for years to come, a professional photographer to document the day. Located in Santa Rosa National Park, Witches Rock is a world-class surfing destination that brings both amateurs and the boldest surfers to Costa Rica.
8. Agony and Ecstasy Bike Tour in The Dolomites
July 2014 marks the 100th anniversary of the start of WWI—a war in which many brutal battles were fought in the Italian Alps. July 2014 is also when Italiaoutdoors Food and Wine sets off on their most extreme cycling tour—a seven-day adventure known as the Agony and Ecstasy Tour. With a hardcore itinerary including the toughest climbs in the Dolomites, the Agony and Ecstasy Tour is designed for serious cyclists who aren’t afraid to tackle challenging terrain. It’s also designed for those who appreciate stunning scenery, homemade meals, and a glass or two of local wine.
9. Totally Tropical Trekking in Dominica
With the newly opened Waitukubuli National trail, adventure lovers are welcomed to experience the natural beauty of Dominica’s quiet, uncrowded beaches and jungle-cloaked, rugged terrain. On this six-day walking tour with KE Adventure Travel, beginning at the island’s southern most tip you’ll cover 115 miles of rainforest hiking through the island’s inner-most areas and along both coasts until you reach your final destination in Portsmouth at the island's north end. The tour offers everything from a Caribbean culture cooking class and breathtaking waterfall views, to family-run guesthouse lodging and exciting interactions with the island’s natives. The package includes an English-speaking guide, most meals, and all park entry fees. Just bring a comfy pair of hiking boots, a wide-brimmed hat, and your ambition for adventure.
10. The Unexplored Coast in Tanzania
Tanzania’s Mount Kilimanjaro, Serengeti National Park and Lake Tanganyika make it one of the most visited countries in Africa, but with hundreds of miles of coastline on the Indian Ocean—not even counting the island paradise of Zanzibar—there’s plenty more wild to explore. The coast north of the capital, Dar es Salaam—farther north, even, than the historic port town Tanga—is virtually unvisited when compared to the country’s southern shores, and yet features mangrove swamps, untouched beaches and fleeting sand islands that disappear at high tide. Infinite Safari Adventures is the only operator offering kayaking tours of the area. Paddle trips are based out of remote Fish Eagle Lodge and use handmade fiberglass boats. “If you kayak there you will be one of less than a 1000 [people] who has ever had the opportunity to kayak in this area,” says the company’s owner Alan Feldstein.
More from The Active Times