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New to Adventure travel? Here are ten destinations for your first adventure

the adventure begins

I grew up living a life of adventure. With my family I camped all over Europe and at age 15 I set off on my own, cycling from Austria to The Netherlands, a journey of over 1000 kilometres. At the end of it I was hooked and soon I was cycling and hitchhiking all over the old continent, from Amsterdam to Istanbul and up to the North Cape on the Arctic Ocean.

I was one of the lucky ones and often I get asked by people who haven't travelled as much but want to give it a go, where they should start. So this post is for you. If you are new to Adventure travel, here are ten destinations for your first adventure. With adventure travel meaning active for some, immersion in foreign cultures for others and perhaps wildlife encounters for yet other travellers, I came up with a list that offers something for everyone.

boat ride in torres del paine

1. Patagonia - stunning landscapes and exhilarating activities

Known for its stunning landscapes of glaciers, mountains, and vast plains, Patagonia offers opportunities for hiking, trekking, mountaineering, and wildlife spotting. The towering granite pillars of Torres del Paine, reflected in the waters of Lago Nordenskjöld, are of course on everybody's list. On the Argentine side meanwhile, the Perito Moreno Glacier is one of the easiest accessible ice fields in the world, while the Fitzroy range offers world-class hiking, ice climbing and camping amidst some of the most spectacular mountain scenery you will see anywhere in the world.

Less well known, Península Valdés is home to a staggering array of wildlife – sea lions, killer whales, elephant seals, Magellanic penguins, guanacos, rheas and numerous seabirds. Southern right whales breed here between June and mid-December.

On your way to Patagonia, many stop off in Santiago or Buenos Aires, both interesting cities with cultures just different enough to warrant a deep-dive. Perhaps now is the time to learn to dance the tango!

Why Patagonia for your first trip? No jetlag, a not-too-different culture, English widely spoken, great outdoor activities

hanging bridge in arenal, costa rica

2. Costa Rica - for nature lovers

With its rich biodiversity and lush rainforests, Costa Rica is perfect for adventure travellers interested in activities like zip-lining, white-water rafting, surfing, and exploring volcanoes and national parks. And what Costa Rica may lack in cultural experiences (although there are some), it more than makes up for in scenic beauty and wildlife.

Only a short flight away, Costa Rica makes for a great one-week break from winter. But if you can, stay a bit longer and explore places beyond Arenal, Monteverde and Manual Antonio. Places like Tortuguero, a remote network of canals and waterways that intersects the lowland jungle, where you can paddle a canoe or take a guided tour and discover hidden wildlife and plants along the banks.  

A favourite of mine is remote Rincón de la Vieja.  One of the most thermally active areas in the country, it is home to two massive volcanoes and numerous hot springs, mud pots and fumaroles.

In the deep south meanwhile, Corcovado has been called 'the most biologically intense place on earth'.  Home to many endangered species, this is one of the last great stands of tropical rainforest in Central America.

Why Costa Rica for your first trip? A great one-week break only a short flight away. A huge variety of ecosystems and activities, English widely spoken

mosque, istanbul, turkey

3. Turkey - for history and culture

My first ever venture outside of Europe was a six-week trip in Turkey, crossroads of culture and history.

I experienced the different cultural influences in the bazaars of Istanbul, the city founded by the Romans, cultivated by the Byzantines, conquered by the Ottomans and made cosmopolitan in the modern era.

I felt it in the ancient ruins of Ephesus, the Armenian churches in the east and the medieval fortresses along the south coast.

I tasted it in the olive oil–lathered Aegean vegetables and the spicy Anatolian kebabs.

Turkey truly is the place where East meets West!

Why Turkey for your first trip? The people of Turkey are known for their hospitality. Great destination for lovers of history and landscapes.

tortoise in galapagos

4. Galápagos Islands - for active naturalists

Ecuador packs a lot of variety into a small country. The undisputed highlight is the Galapagos Archipelago, with its otherworldly volcanic landscapes and stunning array of wildlife. Snorkel with sea lions and penguins, come close to boobies and albatrosses, iguanas and tortoises and watch whales. This is nature in its primordial state, nature as it used to be. These enchanted islands offer incredible opportunities for snorkelling, diving, hiking and kayaking.

Why the Galapagos for your first trip? No jetlag. An adventure cruise through the islands is a relaxing way to spend a holiday of up to two weeks, engaging with nature.

archways, morocco

5. Morocco - cultural immersion and activities while stepping back in time

With a culture that bridges the gap between the Muslim world and the West, Morocco is a great place for some unique cultural encounters. On my last trip to Morocco I lost count of how many times we had a meal in a local home. I soaked up the bustling, exotic atmosphere in ancient suqs; joined a camel trek into the Sahara; slept under expansive star-studded skies; witnessed traditional lifestyles in kasbahs; walked to hamlets high up in the mountains and got lost in winding alleys. And did I mention the wonderful food and the traditional riads (old mansions converted to htoels)? All that and more awaits you in Morocco.

From Fez, the Islamic world’s largest mediaeval city, to the sea-side romance of Essaouira; from glorious Marrakesh to the oases of the interior and from traditional bath houses to the sands of the Sahara, Morocco is one country you will not want to miss.

Why Morocco for your first trip? The romance of staying in riads, wandering the suqs and riding a camel through the Sahara. With direct flights from Montreal and easy connections through Lisbon, it is easy to get to. People are hospitable and the food fantastic and it is easy to get by with English or French.

waterfall iceland

6. Iceland - for lovers of the outdoors and stunning landscapes

Nature in Iceland is designed to make you feel small - volcanoes covered by ice loom over a verdant green coastline, glaciers grind their way to the ocean, geysers erupt and the northern lights dance in the sky. It's nirvana for hikers and trekkers.

All the while culture blooms - from mediaeval sagas to modern pop-musicians and Nobel-prize winning authors. And then there is the glorious food and the warm, quirky people - what is there not to love about Iceland?

Why Iceland for your first trip? Active outdoor adventures are easily accessible. Direct flights from many North-American cities, easy stopover en-route to Europe. English is widely spoken.

machu picchu, peru

7. Peru - something for everyone

Perhaps one of the most naturally diverse nations in the world, Peru offers landscapes ranging from deserts to high mountains. Huge tracts of rainforest extend down the eastern flank of the Andes, and it is here that you can discover a biodiversity so rich it boggles the mind.  Wildlife spotting, birdwatching, walks through the jungle and canoe trips to salt licks are but some of the activities on offer.

Culturally there is a rich blend of indigenous and Latino life. A fun experience is overnighting in a traditional Andean home on an island in Lake Titicaca.  Get up with the sun, wander through the village or across the island and see where your feet will take you.

The ancient Inca citadel of Machu Picchu, forgotten until the early 20th century, is for many the reason they came to Peru in the first place.  An air of grandeur, mystery and spirituality pervades the fortress, perched high above the valley below.

Cuzco, with its splendid blend of ancient Inca fortresses, temples and colonial Spanish churches and mansions, is for many another highlight of their trip to Peru.  Explore its many plazas, museums and shops and while away the hours just wandering its winding streets.

Food lovers should have ceviche on the top of their list and don't forget to try causa (potatoes & avocado), lomo saltado (stir-fry), anticuchos (grilled meat skewers), roast chicken and lucuma ice cream. And did we mention guinea pig?

Why Peru for your first trip? No jetlag and a culture that is just that much different from our own to make it recognizable yet interesting. Non-stop flights from Montreal and Toronto.

zebra, kruger, south africa

8. South Africa - the world in one country

One of my favourite countries in the world, South Africa has lions and penguins, traditional African cultures and Western creature comforts, all the Big Five on one morning’s game drive and some of the best food and wine on the planet. From metropolitan Cape Town to safaris in the Kruger area, from hiking in the Drakensberg to scenic drives and boat rides along the Garden Route, come and see why this place has been called “The world in one Country”.

Why South Africa for your first trip? Thanks to its amazing infrastructure and well-developed tourism industry, this is an easy destination to get a feel for everything Africa has to offer

temple and mt fuji, japan

9. Japan - ancient and modern wrapped into one

Japan is a study in contrasts between traditional and modern. Large bustling cities like Tokyo are only a short journey from traditional villages. Pop culture exists next to the grace of a geisha, bullet trains next to the spare beauty of a Zen rock garden. There is temple-rich Kyoto, beautified by cherry blossoms and fall colours; there are walks in the Japanese Alps and on pilgrim trails, followed by a long soak in a classic Japanese bath; there are stays at ryokans (traditional inns); and there is the food, made of the freshest of ingredients. Japan, the Land of the Rising Sun, should be on any adventurer's list.

Why Japan for your first trip? Non-stop flights from Vancouver and Toronto, clean, friendly people and a great infrastructure for travellers.

street vendors in hanoi, vietnam

10. Vietnam - exotic by nature

A breathtakingly beautiful country, Vietnam is at once incredibly exotic and utterly compelling. Gaze over the surreal limestone islands of Halong Bay, walk or cycle through rice paddies, soak up the street scenes in Hanoi’s Old Quarter, get clothing tailored in Hoi An, dodge traffic in Saigon, enjoy delicious food, laze on long sandy beaches and mingle and laugh with the engaging locals.

The mountains bordering Laos and China are home to many hill tribes still living their traditional way of life, while a home stay in the Mekong Delta is a great way to learn more about the way of life in the south.

Food lovers will want to do a deep-dive into the cuisine and perhaps accompany a Vietnamese chef to the market, shop for fresh ingredients and then try their hand at some of the best recipes this country has to offer.  Learn how to create phở noodle soup or some fragrant marinated pork, then indulge!

And once you have had your fill of adventure, with a coastline 2000 kms long, pure white-sand unspoiled beaches are never far away.

Why Vietnam for your first trip? If you are yearning for the exotic, Vietnam is the place to be. With a huge variety of landscapes, Vietnam will keep you engaged. Amazingly friendly people who try their hardest to make you feel welcome.

So what do you think? Does one of these destinations inspire you to take your first trip? Contact me to let me know!



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