Adventure travel is one of the most creative ways to explore the myriads of beautiful natural and cultural landscapes that the world has to offer.
While the whole world is full of enriching adventures, there are some places that are teeming with diverse adrenaline-pumping opportunities.
To find out some of the best places in the world for adventure seekers, I spoke with the OG of outdoor adventure, Bear Grylls.
“We live on a truly remarkable planet. And if we’re lucky enough to get a chance to travel, I think we should try and grab those opportunities,” says the British adventurer and survivalist.
“I never traveled very much as a kid. But as soon as I joined the army, I started to travel. Afterward, those doors opened even further. It’s a great privilege [that] now as part of my job, I get to see so many of the world’s extreme places,” adds the 48-year-old.
Here are Grylls’ top picks for the ultimate action-packed vacation:
#1 California, USA
According to Grylls, California tops the list of must-visit adventure travel locations. “We recently partnered with Duracell and Make A Wish and I got to take an incredible young man called Cameron, who’s had some life-threatening critical illness, on an adventure together in the deserts of California,” Grylls shares. “I will never forget that one,” he adds.
There are plenty of adrenaline-pumping adventure activities to do in the Golden State. From hiking along the riverbed in the Fern Canyon surrounded by 50ft tall walls of foliage, exploring the dense kelp forests underwater in Santa Catalina Island off the coast of Los Angeles to camping near the San Andreas Fault where the Mojave Desert merges with the Colorado Desert, and everything in between.
#2 Uttarakhand, India
With rocky terrains, steep gorges, dense forests and cascading rivers that dot the area, the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand is ripe with heart-racing adventure opportunities from bungee jumping, white water rafting and kayaking to mountain biking, rock climbing, paragliding and jungle safaris.
“[It’s] a beautiful part of the world with amazing mountains and forests and beautiful people as well,” says Grylls who filmed an episode of Man Vs Wild in 2019 in the jungles of Jim Corbett National Park, Uttarakhand–the first and largest tiger reserve in India.
“[It’s] a really unique, remote and incredible country with so much diversity. And again, beautiful people,” says Grylls.
Landlocked in the eastern Himalayas, the South Asian country offers a wide range of adventure activities for every kind of thrill-seeker. Whether it’s kayaking in the mighty waters of Sunkosh and Wang Chhu rivers, paragliding in Ura Valley, practicing archery (the country’s national sport) in one of the villages near Paro, trekking to the pristine Himalayan hot springs in Bumthang or crossing over the 100-years-old swaying suspension bridges in Punakha.
#4 Valais, Switzerland
Switzerland, in particular the Valais region, is home to some of the most incredible mountains, forests, rivers and again, really interesting, adventure-centered people, notes Grylls.
With incredible options like snowkiting over the high plateau of the Simplon Pass, jet skiing or wakeboarding in the Rhône Valley, mountain biking along the famous Five Lake Trail, canyoning through the steep gorges of Grimsel or Chli Schliere and hiking from Grindelwald to Jungfraujoch to explore the heart of the Bernese Alps–adrenaline-junkies will be spoilt for choice. Avid hikers can also climb to Gornergrat which offers sweeping views of 29 mountain peaks, including the majestic Matterhorn, as well as the Gorner glacier–the third longest glacier in the Alps.
#5 Everest National Park, Nepal
The dramatic landscape of this region boasts spectacular snow-dusted peaks, steep gorges, pristine glaciers and deep valleys, with Mount Everest towering in the backdrop.
“Everest National Park is mind-blowing when you first go there,” Grylls affirms. Also, “the Nepalese people of the Khumbu region [are] some of the most beautiful, kind, adventure-minded people you’ll ever meet,” adds the survivalist.
Besides trekking and mountaineering in the Everest region, adventure enthusiasts can also go on a canyoning excursion in Lekhnath, try bungee jumping in Bhote Koshi gorge, climb a frozen waterfall in the Langtang Valley, take a bike trip to Mustang or go heli-skiing in the Nepalese Himalayas, among other things.
#6 South Island, New Zealand
“I’ve always enjoyed my visits there,” says Grylls. “Some of the best skiers, mountain bikers and paragliders in the world I know come from there,” notes the adventurer.
From ziplining 597ft high in Canyon Fox, mountaineering in Central Otago and skiing and snowboarding in Wanaka to 9000ft tandem skydiving in Abel Tasman National Park and kayaking through the surreal Te Anau Glow Worm Caves–the island offers every kind of adventure you can think of.
#7 Llŷn Peninsula, Wales
Stretching along the northwest coast of Wales, the Llŷn Peninsula is known for its stunning windswept beaches, watersports and the historic Tre’r Ceiri hillfort that dates back to the Iron Age.
“[It’s] a very unspoiled region. And close to Snowdonia mountains, that are wonderful,” says Grylls.
The place offers a host of adventure activities including surfing, bodyboarding, jet skiing, canoeing, sea kayaking, rock climbing and camping.
#8 Brecon Beacons, Wales
Adventurers will love exploring this area in South Wales because of its tough terrain, unforgiving mountains and challenging weather, says Grylls.
Here, outdoor enthusiasts will find ample adventure opportunities from kayaking, canoeing and gorge-walking to climbing and quad biking and everything in between.
Lush deciduous and evergreen forests, thick mangroves, vibrant coral reefs and tropical islands dominate the landscape of this Central American country making it an ideal destination for camping, hiking, trekking, ziplining and canyoning as well as kayaking, snorkeling and whitewater rafting.
“We film there a lot,” says Grylls who has shot several shows in the region including episodes of Running Wild with Bear Grylls guest starring Brie Larson and Zachary Quinto.
#10 Palisades Tahoe, USA
Situated in Olympic Valley, Grylls recommends this mountain resort as one of the best spots for skiing. It’s the largest ski resort in the Lake Tahoe region that boasts 3,600 skiable acres to explore and a progressive terrain–making it a perfect destination for beginners and pros alike. Besides skiing, the resort also offers other adventure activities like hiking, camping, snow tubing, paddle boarding and river rafting.