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I live my life in pursuit of adventure, and travel has been an amazing tool to do that. Here are my top epic adventures I’ve been lucky to live to inspire your travels.
#1. Hike the Inca Trail
The Inca Trail was the first multi-day hike I ever completed and it changed my life. I can’t tell you how at peace I felt with the world after spending four days in the wild of the Andes mountains. It had some of the most beautiful landscapes I’ve ever seen.
This 42km four-day trek starts near Cusco and culminates in the ancient city of Machu Picchu, which happens to be one of the seven ancient wonders of the world (hello bucket list)! But to be honest, I actually enjoyed the trail itself more than Machu Picchu.
The trail has many Inca ruin sites along it, as well as breathtaking natural scenery. We passed through snow-capped Andes Mountains, lush jungle, and mystical cloud forests. Just go on this epic trek. You won’t regret it.
The Inca Trail is one of those epic adventures that actually needs to be booked WELL in advance of going. I booked mine six months before the trek started.
It is possible to experience altitude sickness on the Inca trail as the incline goes from 2400m to 4200m. Altitude sickness is the negative health effect of high altitude, caused by rapid exposure to low amounts of oxygen at high elevation.
It’s important to train for the Inca Trail and adjust to the altitude beforehand by giving yourself some time in Cusco.
#2. Hike rainbow mountain in Peru
Another epic hike in Peru, rainbow mountain is a day hike from Cusco. While not nearly as long as the Inca Trail, it is challenging due to the altitude.
The tours leave Cusco around 4 am because it takes about 4 hours to get there. Don’t count on getting more sleep during this time because the drive is through a typical Peruvian bumpy road where you are just praying the bus doesn’t slide off into the thousand-meter drops.
The hike itself is relatively short at 7km round-trip, but what makes it difficult is the altitude. The trail starts at under 5,000m and goes up to 5,200m. By the end of it, I felt like I was struggling for each breath.
However, the beautiful views all along the way keep you motivated to the very top. We passed through snow-capped mountains, fields of llamas, and colorful valleys.
There is also the option to take a horse up the mountain, halfway up, or even the last km up. There are literally locals offering horses the entire trail.
Despite my lungs feeling like they were going to collapse at the very end, I eventually made it to the top and immediately collapsed to the ground in happiness.
You can’t actually see the rainbow colors of the mountain until you reach the summit, but once you are it explodes with color below you. Once at the summit (and you catch your breath), there is an option to climb a little further up to get even better views (but it is VERY windy up there).
The color of the mountains was created due to weathering and mineralogy. Sediments that are iron-rich will change color when exposed to oxygen and water, so this, in combination with tectonic plate changes which have tilted the sedimentary layers, creates a very beautiful mountain in the present day.
That’s probably a very bad explanation, but basically, thousands of years of the earth doing crazy shit. Our guide told us that in 50 years, the mountain won’t look like this anymore, so that’s pretty neat to be able to hike but a small speck in Earth’s geological timeline.
If you have your own way of getting to the mountain, that would be a much better option than a tour as you could avoid the crowds.
#3. Stargazing in the Atacama Desert
Set high on the arid high plateau of Northern Chile, San Pedro de Atacama is surrounded by dramatic landscapes, including geysers, deserts, hot springs, salt flats, and volcanoes. It’s also one of the best places in the world to go stargazing!
The desert is one of the clearest stargazing spots in the world, and every night you can see billions of stars infinitely around you. I did a tour called Una Noche con las Estrellas which was amazing.
You go to an astronomer’s house nearby town, and they will give you a crash course in astronomy, then you get to view the night sky through his giant telescopes. We saw Neptunes, Jupiter, and Twin stars! I
You can also see the stars from town, but if you head about 10 minutes out, you will get an even clearer sky.
The landscape around San Pedro is so interesting, with the salt flats, high lagoons, and surrounding mountains reflecting in them.
The concept of wildlife and the desolate desert doesn’t exactly go hand in hand, but I was pleasantly surprised by how much wildlife is around.
#4. 4×4 Tour from Chile to Bolivia
The salt flats of Bolivia are a must-see in South America, and the 4×4 3-day tour from San Pedro to Uyuni is the best way to visit them as you’ll get to discover many otherworldly landscapes in Chile and Bolivia.
I couldn’t begin to tell you how many viewpoints we stopped at, and each one was more magical than the next! The combination of reflecting mountains in the lake made for endless photo ops.
We stopped at the Salvador Dali Desert, which is named so because the artist had painted an extremely similar painting to the desert without ever having been there. It was super fun driving the 4×4 over this landscape and exploring the surrounding desert.
Yellowstone and Iceland may have some impressive geysers, but you’re definitely not getting as close as you can in Bolivia!
The tour was definitely jam-packed with stops, but each one was amazing, and it was crazy how much the landscapes changed in just two days.
#5. Bolivia Salt Flats
The Bolivia Salt Flats, also known as the “Salar de Unuyi”, are the largest salt flats on the planet. They are so enormous, you can see them from space!
While it is possible to do a single-day tour, I highly recommend taking one of the 3-day tours, which start/end in Unuyi or San Pedro de Atacama, Chile.
The night before we arrived at Salar de Unuyi, our tour guide gave us the option to wake up at 4 am to see the sunrise on the salt flats. No one likes waking up that early, but we knew the sunrise would be spectacular, and we all agreed to get up.
We parked the car and all got out to watch the sun appear over the flats, which were just as beautiful as I could have dreamed. As it was in the wet area, it created an incredible reflection in the ground of the sky above.
There are some incredible photography opportunities on Bolivia Salt Flat Tours. The landscape of the salt flats creates a photo effect in which you can easily look larger/smaller than nearby objects/people, which makes for incredible perspective photos.
#6. Camp by an Active Volcano
This has to be one of my favorite epic adventures in all of Central America. It was actually the first thing I did while backpacking Guatemala. Not even 24 hours off the plane and I was hiking up a volcano! Guatemala is just that kind of country.
The hike is up Acatenango Volcano, but what makes it such an epic adventure is that you can watch it’s twin volcano, Fuego, erupt all night! We spent the night camping on Acatenango, sharing stories by the campfire with a million stars in the night sky while Fuego went off about every 20 minutes. It’s hands down the most epic place I’ve ever spent a night. Then we got up at 4 am to hike to the peak of the volcano and watch one of the most beautiful sunrises I’ve ever seen.
How to book: Tours depart from Antigua, Guatemala. I booked mine the day before I left. There are a ton of companies that offer this tour but they aren’t all created equal. I recommend Old Town Outfitters which you can book online here.
#7. Go Sailing Through Remote Islands
I’ve done sailing trips in a few different countries, and every time it’s the highlight of my time in that country. One of my favorite experiences was in the San Blas Islands, which are an archipelago between Panama and Colombia. I actually did the speed boat tour with San Blas Adventures, but you can go sailing here if you want.
Visiting the San Blas islands is not only a great way to travel between the two countries but an epic adventure through some of the most remote and beautiful islands on the planet. We spent our days snorkeling in the water (I saw giant manta rays), eating fresh fish, drinking from coconuts, and enjoying the pristine beaches. At night, we slept in hammocks on the islands. It’s a four day trip in total from Panama to Colombia, but you can also do it as a return trip from Panama City.
Another great place to take a sailing trip is in the Philippines, which is home to over 8000 islands! I did the 5-day TAO expedition in Northern Palawan between El Nido and Coron, which was an absolute blast. It’s a similar idea to the San Blas, but slightly more luxurious. The food they prepare on the islands is unbelievable, and they have cute bamboo huts to sleep in at night.
Last but not least, Belize is another amazing destination for exploring remote islands. I did the 3-day sailing trip from Caye Caulker to Dangriga with Raggamuffin Tours which was the highlight of my time in Belize. Its home to the second largest barrier reef in the world, so the snorkeling was incredible.
#8. African Safari
Getting to see the incredible species that live on this planet is one of my favourite parts about traveling. There are so many epic places for wildlife around the world, but Africa is the motherland of safaris.
If you’re looking for one that’s actually affordable, check out South Luangwa National Park in Zambia. It’s one of the best places to see leopards, and it’s home to four of the big five. There are no rhinos, but you can see them separately on a WALKING SAFARI in Victoria Falls. Speaking of which, Victoria Falls is one of the best places in the world for adventure travel.
#9. See elephants in the wild
Another great place for safaris, and Asian elephants in particular, is Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka has the highest density of wild Asian elephants in the world, and the country has done an amazing job of protecting wildlife while still making it accessible to tourists.
One of the places to see elephants in Sri Lanka is Udawalawe National Park. There’s also a number of other wildlife adventures you can go on in Sri Lanka!
#10. Galapagos Islands
The Galápagos Islands are a volcanic archipelago in the Pacific Ocean, about 600 miles off the coast of mainland Ecuador. Due to the lack of human presence on the islands until recent years, the wildlife does not have any fear, so you can get up close and personal with the local residents.
Almost every time I went snorkeling here, I had playful sea lions in the water with me! If you are visiting the Galapagos on a budget (aka not on a cruise), there are a bunch of day tours you can join which will get you up front with wildlife.
Galapagos is also home to some of the best dive sites on the planet. Diving Gordon Reefs off the coast of Santa Cruz was my top dive this year; we swam with dozens of Hammerhead sharks and sea turtles bigger than you could ever imagine.
The Galapagos offers so many incredible tours offering visitors a chance to see the unique wildlife. If you are a wildlife lover, Galapagos is the best place to travel in 2019 for up-close wildlife encounters.
#11. Visit the Amazon Rainforest
A highlight of any trip to South America is to visit the Amazon Rainforest. Spread across 9 countries on the continent, there are many options for experiencing the Amazon. Ecuador is a great choice given its eco-friendly lodges and affordable river cruises.
As one of the most bio-diverse places on the planet, taking a river cruise through the Ecuador Amazon is a great way to see the incredible flora, fauna, and wildlife. During my cruise down the river, we spotted 6 species of monkeys, anacondas, crocodiles, river dolphins, macaws, toucans, and sloths! Cruising down the Amazon river in Ecuador was a highlight of my time in South America, and an experience I’ll never forget.
#12. Attend a Major World Festival
This is something I CANNOT wait to do when the world is back to normal again. There are so many incredible world festivals, and visiting a country while a local festival is happening is a great way to immerse yourself in the culture and just have a really good time.
One of my all-time favorite festival experiences was attending Carnival in Rio De Janeiro Brazil. I went with two girlfriends for a week and it was insanely fun. Like possibly more fun then I’ve ever had. Aside from the epic parades (which are actually a competition between the dance schools), the entire city becomes a giant party, with ‘blocos’ (street parties) taking part in the various neighborhoods. There are thousands of people there from all over the world. Everyone dresses up in silly costumes, drinks, and dances the night away. It’s like Halloween on steroids.
Another fun world festival to attend (if you like drinking) is Oktoberfest in Germany. It’s pretty much what you’d expect, thousands of people from around the world drinking a shit ton of beer and dancing like idiots. It’s so much fun.
If you want to experience a world festival that’s not so drinking induced, consider visiting India during Diwali. Similar to Christmas in the West, Diwali brings families and friends together to celebrate, relax, pray, and eat. All over the country, you will see families decorating their homes with lights and rangolis, setting off fireworks, and dressing up for the occasion. It was an incredible experience to learn more about Hinduism and one of my favorite memories from traveling in India.
#13. Learn to Dive
Out of all the things I’ve decisions I’ve made in the last few years, becoming certified to dive was one of the best. You can take diving courses all over the world, but I truly think Utila Honduras is one of the best places to learn.
It’s not only one of the cheapest places in the world to get certified, but the atmosphere of the island is amazing. Everyone who comes to Utila is there to dive and have fun. It attracts experienced divers from all over the world, so you will be taught by world-class instructors.
More to that, Utila borders on the Mesoamerican barrier reef system, which is the second-largest barrier reef in the world. It’s considered to be one of the best places to go diving in the Caribbean! There are over 100 dive sites with excellent visibility where you can find sea turtles, stingrays, seahorses, lionfish, angelfish, moray eels, nurse sharks, and more.
#14. Take to the Skies
Want to fly? Go Paragliding! I never thought I would have the courage to do this epic adventure, but someone convinced me while I was in Pokhara Nepal and it’s now one of my favorite adventure activities.
If you’re new to paragliding, Pokhara is a great place to go for your first time. It’s one of the top 5 commercial tandem paragliding locations in the world. Plus, you get to soar next to the Himalayas with eagles flying next to you. It’s insanely magical.
If paragliding seems too intense, a more chill way to fly through the sky in a hot air balloon. I did this for my first time in Jaipur, India, and then again in Cappadocia, Turkey which is one of the most famous hot air balloon destinations in the world. It’s going to be an amazing experience no matter where you do it, but if you go in Cappadocia, you’ll get to see hundreds of other balloons in the sky with you which is pretty cool.
#15. Chase the Northern Lights
The Northern lights are one of the natural wonders of the world and well worth putting on your bucket list. This year, I traveled all the way to Yellowknife to see the northern lights which was a HUGE bucket list item for me to tick off!
Yellowknife is one of the best destinations in the world to see the aurora borealis because of its proximity to the arctic circle and stable weather conditions, which give way to clear skies. You can see the northern lights 240 days a year there, with the exception of the summer months when it doesn’t get dark enough. It’s also just a really cool place to visit in Canada, I spent 10 days there and loved every minute of it. There’s a lot of things to do there all year, especially if you love the outdoors!
If you can’t travel to Canada, the Scandinavian countries are also an excellent place to go Northern lights hunting. Iceland is a great choice, as it’s a hub for adventure travel and incredible natural wonders. Volcanoes, waterfalls, geysers, glaciers. You name it, Iceland’s got it!
#16. Take an Epic Train Trip
One of my favorite ways to travel is by train. You may even be able to do this adventure now if there’s a train in your home country! I took the train across Canada a couple of summers ago and the scenery was just amazing.
Leaving from Vancouver, we traveled through the Rocky Mountains of Alberta, into the bright green canola fields of Saskatchewan, through the lakes and forests of Northern Ontario, all the way to the stunning East Coast of Canada, ending the trip in Halifax. The train is hands down the best way to see the scenery of Canada. You can just sit back, relax, and enjoy the views. The train even has a special glass dome for viewing the Rocky Mountains!
Another epic train ride you can take is in Sri Lanka from Ella to Kandy. What makes the train in Sri Lanka so epic is the open doors, which allow you to get an epic perspective of the train passing through the scenery.
Which of these epic adventures are on your bucket list?
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