We think that adventure travel may take many forms, and that adventures can be found in every corner of the globe, no matter how you slice it. However, due to a mix of natural resources and tourist attractions, there are some places that have a slight advantage in the adrenaline sector. With this in mind, we looked at data from U.S. News and World Report to see which nations were the greatest for adventurers—along with a couple of our own suggestions. Here are the 15 greatest countries for adventure travel if you prefer scuba diving and camping to spa treatments and relaxing on the beach.
Down Under is packed with adventure chances, with more than 30,000 kilometers of beautiful coastline—most notably in the Outback and the Great Barrier Reef. Bonus: Because Australia’s population-to-land ratio is so low (it’s one of the world’s least crowded countries), you’ll feel like you have vast swaths of it all to yourself.
Mountain peaks with snow on top. Lakes that are turquoise in color. Wild tundra, treeless plains, and ice fields abound. Argentina may be your best pick if you’re an adventurer looking for a country with a seemingly endless rotation of landscapes. The South American country is also ideal for family vacations, and Traveler’s top experts can assist you in planning a trip that is suitable for all ages.
Costa Rica is only 19,730 square miles in size (about the same as West Virginia), but it has protected jungle on a fourth of its area. Simply point in any direction to find a new adventure in a new terrain while you’re not hot-air ballooning above, zip lining through, or climbing in that particular jungle.
Almost any terrain may be found within New Zealand’s California-sized limits (though it has 34 million fewer people than the Golden State). The Traveler office in New Zealand claims that the country has every adventure you can imagine—and then some—and we’re inclined to believe them.
Though it was once the starting point for explorers such as Magellan and Columbus, who set sail from its western coasts, Portugal has evolved into a destination for, well, explorers. While there are lots of outdoor activities on the mainland, don’t overlook the Azores: The nine islands, located about 850 miles off the coast of Portugal, are home to some of the best whale viewing in the world, as well as Portugal’s tallest mountain and numerous volcanoes and crater lakes.
Thailand’s combination of bustling metros, unique street food culture, and blissed-out historical landmarks has long attracted gap year travelers and backpackers, but it is now attracting tourists of all ages. Thailand is as beautiful as it is packed with options for adventure at every turn, whether you remain close to the metropolis or island hop to a cluster of jungle-covered islands off the coast.
Greece is more than whitewashed buildings, peaceful beaches, and epic sunsets—though there are plenty of them, too. With over 6,000 islands and islets and a coastline of about 8,500 miles, Greece is more than just whitewashed buildings, sleepy beaches, and epic sunsets. Are you looking for an island adventure away from the crowds? Try Naxos (Greece’s northernmost island), which is a windsurfer’s heaven, or Thassos (Greece’s northernmost island), which attracts elite mountain bikers.
Spain’s landscape appears to have been designed particularly for adventure. Apart from its world-class beaches, the country has 15 national parks, five of which are located on the Canary and Balearic Islands. So if you want to see volcanoes, sand dunes, wetlands, or mountain ranges, this is the place to go.
Few places on the planet can boast such a diverse range of natural beauty as Italy, from rugged peaks and green hills to breathtaking coastlines. Driving through Tuscany’s winding, cyprus-lined lanes, amid rolling green hills and golden fields sprinkled with sunflowers, is like no other. The Dolomites are some of the most magnificent mountains on the planet, and San Pellegrino Pass is one of the best places to go rock climbing, skiing, or simply stand in awe of them.
Brazil, the largest country in South America, is also recognized for hosting Rio’s legendary Carnival, the world’s greatest party and an experience in and of itself. With the world’s largest waterfall system (Iguaz), largest wetlands (Pantanal), and that thing called the Amazon, which includes both the powerful river and the rainforest, it’s a heaven for outdoor explorers.