We are one week away from 2018! It’s time for our New Years resolutions! Instead of vowing to use that gym membership you purchase annually, how about promising yourself to have more adventures?!
Here is a list of my favorite, must-do, bucket-list worthy adventures for you to add to your 2018 travels.
1) Hang Out with Giant Tortoises and Blue Footed Boobies in the Galapagos
The Galapagos is the northernmost region where one can see both penguins and palm trees together. Whether it’s the flora or the fauna, these islands have fascinated people for centuries. Blue Footed Boobies, similar to large seagulls with bright blue feet, can be seen all over rocks alongside sunbathing lizards piled on top of each other. Although today Lonesome George has sadly passed away, the islands are teeming with tortoises ranging from ones raised in rehabilitation/scientific facilities to wild roaming ones who are not scared of people due to the extremely strict laws prohibiting touching or disturbing any wildlife on the archipelagos. These islands hold the possibilities of many adventures from diving to hiking or simply absorbing the local culture which has been preserved even with increasing tourism.
2) Explore Ancient Egyptian Pyramids on Camelback
Seen from a distance, like a mirage or the old movie image stereotyped with the cheesey music , The Pyramids of Giza glimmer though the heat haze rising from the golden sand dunes. Consisting of three immense structures, Khufu, Khafre, and Menkaure, the pyramid complex, guarded by The Great Sphinx, is located 9 km from the Nile in the Libyan Desert and 13 km from Cairo. Not only is Khufu the largest Pyramid in Egypt, being the tallest man-made structure for almost 4,000 years, it’s also the only remaining Seven Wonder of the Ancient World. However, the unrivaled custom to fully experience the enchantment of these pyramids is by camelback. There is nothing more urgent and amazing than to saunter and sway with the rhythm of the camel as it meaders through the sands as views of unparalleled architecture and construction leave one feeling miniscule and transported in time.
3) Kayak the Islands Off of Croatia
The best way to see the Dubrovnik’s surrounding Island, Lokrum, and a vastly different perspective of the Old City, is to take a kayak for a spin on the sea. Roughly 2 hours paddling time with a 30 minute break for a quick dip in a cave, was the perfect amount of physical activity with the sunset tour being by far the best choice. This island has a long history dating back to 1023, when the Benedictine Abbey and Monastery was founded. The legend says in 1192 Richard the Lion-Heart was shipwrecked on the island after the crusades and vowed to build a church if he was saved. So he was but so he did not as he built the church on the mainland. Sea kayaking the tranquil waters of the Croatian Adriatic is both relaxing and exciting as caves and small beaches are only accessible by boats or kayaks. Thus, they are exponentially quieter than the more frequented beach sites on the mainland. After a few hours of exploration, there is nothing better than a quick dip in the water followed by a wonderful nap on a secret beach, hoping they’d wake me before they leave!
4) SNUBA Dive the Red Sea in Eilat and Hangout with Rainbow Fish
Eilat’s gulf at the southernmost tip of Israel in the Negev Desert, boasts an amazing variety of more than 1,200 species of fish (10% of which only exists there) and upwards of 200 variations of both stony and soft corals. These waters also contain pristine reefs stretching along the 11 km coastline, 20-30 meters of visibility, and an average of 360 sunny days a year. SNUBA is different than traditional SCUBA diving because instead of having a self-contained underwater breathing apparatus carried on the back, this style has the compressed air tank floating on the surface of the water. As a cross between tradition diving and snorkeling, SNUBA offers many health related advantages over SCUBA including reduced risk of decompression sickness (DCS), virtually no risk of nitrogen narcosis or oxygen toxicity, as well as reduced back pain from the air tank floating on the surface of the water instead of lugged around on the back. Disadvantages do exist some of which are a depth limitation of around 6m, and as you are constantly connected to the air tank above, it will also limit how fast you can go. Furthermore, despite the fact DCS is not really an issue, barotrauma is still a major risk factor but can be easily avoided by breathing normally upon ascent. Try a new style of diving among an incredible sundry of flora and fauna! Check out my article about diving in Eilat for more inspiration.
5) Paraglide Over the Matterhorn
Zermatt, blanketed by white snow and twinkling Christmas lights set against posh stores lining the streets, is what you would imagine a stereotypical Swiss skiing town to be. In the evening, beautiful people in their designer ski wear hoisting their skis onto their shoulders, walk around town to their favorite après-ski venue where they will mingle by fireplaces drinking a chilly beer. However, if you are a thrill seeker then the Matterhorn holds many possibilities for an amazing weekend beyond shopping and après-ski. Whether it is glacial skiing at 4,000 m or climbing the Matterhorn itself (which I am not recommending as you will see there is a cemetery in the town center devoted to people who have died in the pursuit of summiting this beast.), your expectations will never be disappointed. If you are striving for something out of the ordinary, paragliding is the experience for you. You will experience the thrills of spinning, flipping, and sailing throughout the bluebird sky, occasionally catching some thermals hoisting you even higher then gradually letting you down, all the while the Matterhorn is in the background, watching over the valley. For some après-paragliding, a nearby bar called the Papperla Pub is the local hangout for the paragliders in town and is best known for their homemade caramel vodka. Afterwards, head over to Time Out where you can play some games of pool while being entertained by the hilarious owner. Check out my article about paragliding in Zermatt for more inspiration.
6) Glacial Skiing in Marmolada, the Highest Peak in the Dolomites
Marmolada, known as the Queen of the Dolomites standing at 3343 m, contains both adventure and history. One of five Natural UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Italy, Marmolada boasts both a pinky grey Marmolada limestone originating from coral cliffs, as well as volcanic material, and the Marmolada Glacier, the only glacier of the Dolomites section of the Alps. Marmolada was the frontline in WWI between Austria and Italy which prompted the establishment of the “Ice City”, a city constructed under the glacier in 1916 by Austro Hungarian soldiers, which could house up to 200 soldiers. Many of the WWI routes traversing the mountain are open as recreational, albeit difficult, Via Ferrata today. Yet, Marmolada may be best known for her skiing with the main slope “La Bellunese” being the longest run (12 km) in the dolomites, extending from Punta Rocca (3269 m) down to Malga Ciapela (1446 m).
7) Wreck Dive WWII Warships in the Sea of Malta
If you are looking for some of the best diving in the world, then look no further than Malta’s archipelago. Wreck diving can be both unbelievably exhilarating and difficult with the challenges including: 1) Entries ranging from 50m walks down to steep coastal paths; 2) Some wrecks requiring a ten-minute swim to reach the site, calling for good physical condition; 3) Some of the best wrecks are deeper than 30m, and therefore not suited for beginner divers or divers new to wreck diving. There are some wrecks which are both great diving and accessible to most divers such as the P29 Patrol Boat or the Lockheed P-2 Neptune airplane. Located in Cirkewwa, the northern tip of Malta, at 35 m rests the P29 Patrol Boat which was scuttled in 2007. Today although it is a relatively new site, it holds a range of sea life from Alicia Mirabilis, to squid, flying gurnards, and rays. In 2015, off the coast of Bahar ic-Caghaq, a Lockheed P-2 Neptune airplane was discovered at 30m after being lost when it was sunk following damage of a failed landing in Luqa airport in the early 1950s. Malta holds many underwater adventures for the daring and the curious with new dive sites being discovered annually.
8) Take a Road Trip Through Bosnia and Explore Hidden Waterfalls
I was on the M6 road into Bosnia which was about the same width as my car, my GPS was going in and out, and for two hours, the only things I passed were a few cows. Being off-the-grid so to speak was both slightly nerve racking as I did not see anything around me except mountains, and also quite exhilarating. I was off on an adventure to find the Kravice Waterfalls in Studenci near Ljubuški, one hour southwest of Mostar. After arriving in a parking lot, I made my way on foot down the slope, where, suddenly the falls were visible over my right shoulder, leaving me standing motionless in astonishment. I immediately stripped down to my bathing suit and jumped in without hesitation. Looking upwards towards the bright blue sky contrasting with the green of the trees and the white of the crashing water, I thought this must be paradise.
9) Horseback Ride Through the Spanish Hillsides
Just 30 km outside of Valencia, Spain, close to Parc Natural de la Serra Calderona, there is a riding center called Centro Hípico Hermanos Esteban specializing in Andalusian horses, also known as the Pure Spanish Horse (PRE). Here they offer trekking experiences through the nearby countryside. A symbol of traditional Spain, the PRE horse is highly intelligent and has a huge willingness to please. Set atop one of these magnificent creatures, one can explore and admire the typical semiarid and Mediterranean climate of the region. La Calderona is known for it’s biodiversity and unique geological formations making a trek near this region quite spectacular. In the nearby town of Benisanó, a small, mid 15th century medieval castle stands bearing the flag of the community and makes a lovely stop post-riding. This structure can be considered a castle-palace, where the fortress and the noble residence are combined and can be visited in under an hour. Take a step back into the middle ages of Spain by riding a majestic ancient breed of horse while traversing historical and protected land.
10) Via Ferrata and Grappa Tasting in Bassano del Grappa
In the Monte Grappa region of the Venetian Pre-alps in Veneto, Northern Italy, Grappa and Via Ferrata go hand in hand. During WWI, the dolomites and pre-alps region of Italy were the frontlines between Austrian and Italian fighting often demanding great skill in rather savage and hostile land. To combat challenges faced in mountain fighting, steel cables, ladders, and other fixed anchors, known as Via Ferrata, were established and many of those WWI routes constructed during this time are maintained as recreational Via Ferrata today. Monte Grappa, standing at 1,775 m, is very rich in both flora and fauna due to its geographic position near the Venetian plain where both small Mediterranean scrub bushes and lush alpine vegetation flourish. Scrambling, climbing, and traversing up beautiful and abundant nature is always a worthwhile venture, however, knowing upon descent the finest Italian liquor will be waiting for you, well that is another happiness too. Bassano del Grappa, a medium sized city at the base of Monte Grappa, is the home for a unique and indisputable Italian digestivo, Grappa. Made by distilling the skins, pulp, seeds, and stems from leftover pressed grapes used for winemaking, Grappa takes on many flavors either giving flora and fruity notes if aromatic or if aged in wooden barrels, vanilla, cinnamon, licorice, cocoa, and even tobacco. Bassano’s historic distillery, Poli, has a little museum called the Museo della Grappa near the famous bridge, Ponte degli Alpini. The museum offers a few rooms filled with old distilling equipment, giving the sense of a chemistry lab rather than a museum. In addition, Grappa tastings are offered and an enormous selection of their crafted Grappa for sale in their showroom. After a long and challenging climb, the gift of Grappa is the perfect reward for a job well done.
11) Canyon the Gorges du Verdon
True to its name, the Gorges du Verdon nestled in the canyons of south-eastern France, Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, is a turquoise-green river about 25 km long and up to 700m deep. Often considered to be one of Europe’s most beautiful rivers and Europe’s deepest gorge, it is a destination for beach goers, trad and sport climbers, sightseers, kayakers, and canyoners. The gorge itself is comprised of thick limestone and coral deposits dating back to the Triassic period where Provence was covered by the sea. The green color of Verdon is due to fluorine and algaes in the water and the artificial lake of Lac de Sainte-Croix, at Verdon’s base, owes it magical blue color to argil. The Styx du Verdon is a sub-canyon section of the gorge where the river runs below massive rocks, smoothed by eons of erosion, and resurfaces above ground. There are numerous locations with amazing canyoning opportunities and each one depends of the height of the river at that given moment. The canyon of Saint-Auban, with 6 m high jumps, numerous natural slides, and a thrilling zipline across a 12 m tall waterfall, is one of the most aquatic, athletic, and fun canyoning experiences. This canyon is situated in the Estéron Valley which neighbors the city of Castellane on the hillside of Ubac de Tra Castel Mountain (1,480m). Following a few hours of adrenaline, a local bar only 5minute walking distance from the meeting point of the canyon, offering a much desired cold beer, is a local hangout of the guides post-canyoning.
12) Rock Climb the Famous Rock of Céüse
In the distance above, I saw the rock: A beautiful multicolor striped stone of grey, ochre and steel blue limestone standing over us, looking down at the camp. After a few minutes to reorient myself to reality, I prepared myself physically and mentally for the one hour approach to the climbing crags of Céüse. Be aware, this is by far not a beginners crag, with the minimum grade being a 6a and they all feel harder than stated. It is not necessary to come with a belay buddy as a lot of lone climbers come here expecting to make new climbing partners. The key to this is to hang by the bathroom-the social hub of the camp as it’s the only area where there are outlets and phone service- looking for a climbing partner. With the encouragement of fellow climbers, I ended up climbing the highest grade I had ever attempted and finished my week at Céüse, like most climbers do: happy and satisfied but with a burning desire to return and tackle the rock once more. Check out my article about climbing in Céuse for more inspiration.
13) Surf the Atlantic Off the Coast of Morocco
With warm waters, hot sun, and endless supply of freshly made mint tea, Agadir is an exceptional region to surf. Many surf houses offer full board with reasonably priced packages including surf lessons, rentals, and pre- and post-surf yoga and spa sessions. Sporting waves easy enough for first timers or difficult enough to keep even the most avid surfer entertained, Morocco encompasses everything a surf destination requires. For a change from surfing or your non surfing companion, the beaches are a 20 minute taxi ride to the center of Agadir where hammams, or Moroccan bathhouse, offer hours of relaxing and de-stressing extremely sore muscles. Here also are markets, shops, and a long stretch of boardwalks which offer downtime enjoyment and entertainment when off the waves. I suggest getting a freshly prepared avocado smoothie from a local street cart and go up to the Agadir castle on the mountain overlooking the city to watch the sunset.
14) Sail the Archipelago Islands of Northern Sardinia
Sardinia is not your typical Italian island. From the food to the language, the atmosphere is weird and completely captivating. The strangeness of the land only makes it more magnetic and alluring and the longer you spend time there, the harder it becomes to leave. As for activities, it is plainly the most unique and diverse place for adventure. Positioned in northern Sardinia, only 8 miles south of the French Island Corsica, Budelli Island, famous for its turquoise waters and for the Spiaggia Rosa, the Pink Beach, is one of the most unique and exquisite beaches in the Mediterranean archipelago. Its pink color is derived from ground shelled microorganisms called Miniacinia miniacea, that live among the Posidonia and are transported to the beach by the currents. Although now a protected area and no longer available for tourists to enter the island, sailing allows for an extremely close view of this unique place. There are many companies offering sailboat rentals to full day guided tours with lunch included. Anchor close to the islands, sunbath on the deck or grab a snorkel and dive into the crystal clear waters. No matter your fitness level, this is a day that can please everyone. Check out my article about sailing in Sardinia for more inspiration.
15) Canyon in the Jungle of the Azores
Like Jurassic Park, São Miguel Island seems like a prehistoric place where vegetation and animals take over any unclaimed space. Even the weather seems to behave differently where storm clouds and fog slowly crawl over the mountains as if it were alive and creep down their sides to sprawl out over the land below. The Azores is a wonderfully wild place and unspoiled by tourism and profiteering where much of the land is covered by forests or fields. In the Northeast corner of São Miguel, mountainous canyons and waterfalls blanket the terrain making this area the least populated section of the island. For people who love nature and adventure, this tropical rainforest setting makes for some of the best canyoning experiences offering high rappels down steep waterfalls to lofty jumps into deep, cold pools below, all fed by a mountain spring above.
16) Waterfall Rappel the White Mountains in New England
There is nothing more New England than eating lobster by the seaside, visiting all the covered bridges, or putting local maple syrup on everything, except for perhaps frolicking in the White Mountains. Part of the Appalachian Mountains, the White Mountains are a range of mountains where the highest peak (1,917m) in the Northeast USA belongs to the notorious Mount Washington. Although this peak is not as high as other prominent mountains such as the Dolomites in Italy, don’t let it fool you. In 1934, 372km/h winds held the record as the fastest surface wind gust in the world for 76 years. Wild swimming is a local pastime as these mountains are traversed by a myriad of refreshingly cold bodies of water ranging from small basins, to rivers, to gorges and large waterfalls. The 30m+ waterfalls are home to ice climbing in the winter and rappelling in the summer. As one tour company puts it, “Beat the heat and go with the flow on this one-of-a-kind adventure.”
17) Sandboard the Golden Dunes of the Sahara Desert
A blend between surfing, skateboarding, and snowboarding, sandboarding takes boarding sports to a whole new level. There is no better place to sandboard than in the infamous Sahara desert spanning 9,200,000 square kilometers (3,600,000 sq mi). Immense, orange mountains of sand mark the horizon, making navigation and orientation a challenge. The desert heat radiates from the dunes and the air is still and quiet. Standing on top of Erg Chebbi (31.17°N 3.98°W), the highest dune in the Moroccan region of the Sahara, you can see to one side Merzouga and a sea of sand to the other. Unlike skiing, there is no chairlift and you must drag your board to the top of every dune. In the hot midday sun, this task can be quite daunting, yet once you begin to descend the mountain of sand, only a rush of sheer excitement can be felt. After a long boarding session, devouring a freshly cooked tajine is almost as satisfying and sandboarding. A tajine is a typical moroccan dish consisting of meat, poultry, or fish mixed with vegetables, nuts, and fruit which are cooked in a conical shape pottery. Due to the shape, tajines are utilized by people who do not have access to copious amounts of water, such as nomadic Bedouin people who supplement the dish with dried fruits like dates, apricots, and plums, giving the dish a balance between savory and sweet.
18) Take a Thermal Bath at a Beer Spa
Budapest, a buzzing metropolitan city filled with graffiti street art and endless supplies of goulash, is also the home to the most sites for thermal water in the world. Thermal bathing is a cultural heritage for Hungarians dating back thousands of years to the Roman era. The largest medicinal bath in Europe, situated in the middle of City Park on the Pest side of Budapest, is Szechenyi Baths, a striking yellow 1913 neo-Baroque structure. What makes this thermal bath stand out from the dozens of other baths in the city is not because of its 3 grand outdoor pools or its 15 indoor baths with a sauna and steam chambers, but rather because it houses a thermal beer spa. Thats right, you heard me, beer spa! For 45 glorious minutes you can relax in 36 degree water infused with natural extracts of beer such as malt, hops and yeast. And to top it off, the tubs are situated adjacent to a beer tap where you are allowed to imbibe as much beer as your heart desires. Check out my article about Budapest’s thermal baths and beer spas for more inspiration.
About the Author
Hello fellow adventurers, I’m Alessandra, a Biochemist originally from Boston and an exuberant daredevil with a sharp sense of humor and a passion for exploration. I desire traveling the world and creating daring and unexpected experiences. This site, To Bend the Throttle, is intended to divulge how everyone can incorporate travel and adventure into their busy life.