The following 10 destinations certainly deliver! These destinations are ideal for what I call “soft adventure,” where you get to be active and explore natural wonders—without having to “train” for the trip or put yourself at great risk. After all, there’s a world of possibilities between “scaling Everest” and “lounging by the hotel pool”! On a soft adventure tour, you’ll learn knew skills and challenge yourself—all within a safe and comfortable environment led by a team of experts.

 

If that sounds like what you’re craving, see if any of the following 10 destinations pique your adventurer’s curiosity. I’ve been to all 10 (and sent tons of clients), and I know they deliver an exceptional experience.

 

— Anita Gibeau

Owner and Group Travel Specialist

Kaleidoscope Travel & Cruise

Image by redcharlie

Africa

I hope a safari adventure is on your bucket list—because there’s simply nothing else like it. Holding on to the railing of your 4x4 as your driver inches closer and closer to lions lolling in the grass or elephants bathing in a watering hole … it’s a “take your breath away” kind of experience for sure. I loved my journey to South Africa, but Zimbabwe and Zambia also make for great first-time destinations within the continent.

Ideal for:

  • Animal lovers

  • Photography enthusiasts (you can capture incredible images on your safari)

  • Bucket-list travel

 Ideal for:

  • Eco-minded travelers (there are tons of gorgeous eco-lodges in the country)

  • Animal lovers

  • Hikers

  • Water sports—especially surfing in Playa Grande

Image by Dennis Michel

Costa Rica

From beaches to volcanoes, jungles teeming with wildlife to cities teeming with culture, there is so much variety in Costa Rica. And you can experience it all on a guided tour! If it’s adventure you’re after, though, you’ll want to journey into the rainforest and scan the trees to spy spider monkeys, white-faced capuchins, colorful quetzal birds, and the iconic toucan. Hop on a zip-line for an extra-close encounter with the jungle canopy!

Ideal for:

  • Hikers

  • Bucket-list travel    

  • Nature lovers

Image by Jonatan Pie

Iceland

Iceland is a perennially popular destination for adventurous travelers for a reason—its sheer natural beauty is otherworldly. Go in the summer to experience (slightly) warmer temps as you tour the famous Ring Road, driving past massive glittering glaciers, roaring waterfalls, and deep canyons. Go in winter for your best chance of catching the Northern Lights. No matter when you visit, be sure to sink into the hot springs after a day spent out exploring!

Image by Morgan

Croatia

Croatia has the most indented coastline in the Mediterranean—plus 1,246 islands. Which means the best way to explore this stunning country is, hands down, by water! Paddle your way into coves and around islets, marveling at the diamond-clear sea and the sun-bleached cliffs and ancient walled towns that rise above it. You can even join a sailing expedition and flit from isle to isle on your schooner, then get your feet wet with snorkeling, kiteboarding, diving, and other water sports.

Ideal for:

  • Water sports

  • History buffs

  • Game of Thrones fans (Kings Landing is located in Dubrovnik!)

 Ideal for:

  • Hikers

  • History buffs

  • Foodies

Image by Babak Fakhamzadeh

Peru

Of course, there’s the marvelous Machu Picchu, the great Incan citadel in the Andes that you have to hike for yourself to believe. But when I visited Peru, I quickly realized its most famous site was just the beginning. You can fly high over the Nazca Lines in a private plane for the best glimpse of the mysterious geoglyphs carved into the desert. You can sail down the Amazon River, whose headwaters begin high in the Peruvian Andes.  And you can eat your way through ceviche and street food in Lima—a culinary adventure in its own right!

Ideal for:

  • Hikers

  • Foodies

  • Lord of the Rings fans

Image by Rowan Simpson

New Zealand

This is another adventurous destination that is all about variety, thanks to the diverse landscapes you’ll find on New Zealand’s North and South Islands. On the North, you’ll trek through valleys and canyons blanketed in green, take a boat ride through glow worm caves, sip exciting New World wines, and visit the hobbit holes made famous in Lord of the Rings. On the South, you’ll swear you stepped into Alaska, with its icy scenery and massive glaciers. You get two times the adventure in New Zealand!

Image by Marc James

Australia

They might be neighbors, but Australia and New Zealand are worlds apart. The lushness of N.Z. gives way to the arid, otherworldly beauty of Australia’s bush. Take a Down Under safari to spy wallabies, kangaroos, emus, and more. Hike around the base of Uluru, the massive sandstone monolith sacred to the indigenous people. And of course, get your feet wet along the Gold Coast—and maybe even dive for sharks!

Ideal for:

  • Animal lovers

  • Hikers

  • Water sports

 Ideal for:

  • Animal lovers

  • Bucket-list travel

  • Water sports

Image by Simon Berger

Ecuador & the Galapagos

Another must-see, bucket-list kind of journey, sailing around the Galapagos Islands is expedition cruising at its very best. On board your ship, you’ll learn about the one-of-kind flora and fauna that blanket the islands from an expert naturalist. Then, you’ll see it all up close—swim with sea turtles, penguins, and Galapagos iguanas and hike among giant tortoises, sea lions, and blue-footed boobies. Back on Ecuador’s mainland, there’s still so much to see and do, like rafting down the Amazon or doing a home stay with a local family in Tena. When I visited Ecuador, I even paraglided down the side of a mountain—talk about a rush!

Ideal for:

  • Eco-minded travelers

  • Hikers

  • Nature Lovers

Image by Arno Vermote

Slovenia

You might not *think* of Slovenia as a great active travel destination, since it’s smack dab in the middle of Europe. But when I visited, I was blown away by the astounding natural landscape—I thought we were in the Mountains of Alberta, not continental Europe! Slovenia is a hiker’s paradise, with snow-capped mountains blanketed in old-growth forest and more pristine lakes than you can possibly hope to visit. Plus, Slovenians are good stewards of the environment; the country won a National Geographic “World Legacy Award” in 2017 for being the most sustainable tourist destination.

Image by François Pierrot

French Polynesia

Yes, the islands of French Polynesia—including Tahiti and Bora Bora—may be most famous for their luxe over-water bungalows … but there is so much here for an adventurous traveler to explore. My recommended way to experience French Polynesia? On board a small-ship cruise that can easily sail you from island to island (this is exactly what I did on board my recent Paul Gauguin cruise, where I got to visit Tahiti, Huahine, Taha’a, Bora Bora and Moorea). Snorkel your way through the glass-clear waters, marveling at the kaleidoscopic sea life below. Add even more adventure with an ATV ride through the island jungle, kayaking through the lagoons, or even an aquabike excursion!

Ideal for:

  • Water sports

  • Photography enthusiasts

  • Bucket-list travel

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