Every traveler has their ultimate list of experiences around the world - from eating street food in Thailand to seeing opera in Vienna - but since we spend most of our time outdoors these days, we've put together a series of outdoor adventure lists for you. Think of these as the ultimate trips for intrepid travelers, including epic hikes and creative ways to see some of the most beautiful landscapes on the planet. These 15 activities are sure to excite you and change your entire outlook on life.
Climb Machu Picchu, Peru
No adventurer's must-see list would be complete without Machu Picchu, the famous Inca citadel located in the Andes. While the site can be reached by bus, more adventurous travelers can take a five-day trek along the entire 26-mile Inca Trail.
Hot Air Ballooning over Cappadocia, Turkey
A hot air balloon ride over the Cappadocia region of central Turkey offers a 360-degree view of the famous limestone spires and "fairy chimneys" - something you can't see from the ground.
Sleeping Under the Northern Lights
Ah, the elusive Northern Lights. There are many factors at play when it comes to seeing the colorful phenomenon - location, time of year, weather conditions - but a trip to Finnish Lapland is hard to lose. The Arctic is one of the best areas on Earth for viewing the lights.
Swim Through Mexico's Natural Wells
Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula is rich in unique natural beauty, especially when it comes to its sponge-like natural wells. Floating in one of these natural cesspools is an incredible experience, much like diving through an underground cave system. In Tulum, visit Dos Ojos ("Two Eyes") to see one of the most beautiful underwater sites on earth (bonus points for water visibility), or head to Gran Cenote to see rock formations resembling Gothic architecture.
Rafting Along the Amazon
Some of the most remote destinations can best be seen from the deck of the ship, including the upper Amazon. Aqua Expeditions' luxury cruises traverse the Peruvian stretch of the river, touring the region's wildlife and culture at a delightful, leisurely pace. You can even enjoy chef-prepared cuisine and five-star suites with floor-to-ceiling windows. Looking for something a little less luxurious? Amazon Adventures offers kayaking trips along some Amazon tributaries, where you can fish for piranhas and camp in the rainforest.
Camping in Antarctica
Antarctica really is the last frontier when it comes to adventure travel, offering unspoiled landscapes, unique wildlife and more activities than you know what to do with (cruising, cave exploration and hot spring soaking, to name a few).
Dive the Great Blue Hole of Belize
Known for its round shape and striking deep blue color, the Great Blue Hole is a 1,000-foot-wide sinkhole in the middle of Belize's Lighthouse Reef. While aerial shots are enough to convince anyone of its beauty, scuba divers are the ones who can experience the spectacle below: massive 40-foot limestone stalactites and stalagmites formed during the last ice age.
Swimming with Wild Dolphins in the Azores
We can't get enough of the Azores, a group of nine islands located about 900 miles off the coast of Lisbon. The picturesque archipelago is the perfect getaway for adventure travelers who can canyoneer down steep cliff walls, glide over vineyards and swim with migrating and native dolphins.
Road Trips Through America's National Parks
There is perhaps no better way to explore the United States than to take a good old-fashioned road trip. Many of the country's national parks are perfect for multi-day drives, such as Virginia's Shenandoah National Park and Alaska's Denali National Park. But if we could only choose one itinerary, we'd take the Almighty Five, Utah's cluster of national parks that includes Zion, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, Arches and Canyonlands. One has to see the Martian-like landscape to believe that the journey can start anywhere from Salt Lake City to Las Vegas.
Sand Surf in the Sahara
The dunes of the Sahara are colossal, untouched, and tailor-made for extreme sports. The desert's rows of barchans (meaning “crescent-shaped dunes” in Turkic) have ideal shapes for sand surfing (descending the slopes on a surfboard) and sandboarding (descending the slopes on a snowboard)—and those views don't hurt, either. Stay at Erg Chigaga Luxury Camp in Morocco, which offers sandboarding in addition to other desert activities like camel rides and quad biking.
Bungee jump above the Kawarau River, New Zealand
New Zealand practically invented adventure sports when the Kawarau Bridge Bungy opened in 1988. Here you join around 38,000 annual visitors to take the 140-foot jump from the South Island's historic, steel-framed Kawarau Bridge.
Climb Mount Fuji
Possibly Japan's most iconic natural wonder, the lonely Mount Fuji rises 12,388 feet above the village and is reflected in the lake. You can get views of this landmark from Lake Kawaguchi in Fuji Kawaguchi and even the Park Hyatt Tokyo, but it's the view from the mountain that's worth boasting the most.
Boats Under Iguazu Falls
Located on the border of Brazil and Argentina, Iguazu Falls in South America looks like a mere trickle in comparison to all other waterfalls. More than 200 cascade systems (reaching a height of about 270 feet) can be seen from the surrounding walkways and T-tops, but we preferred the adventurous vantage point - hopping on an Iguazu Jungle inflatable raft and sailing directly underwater in an exhilarating, high-pressure descent.
Canoeing in Botswana's Okavango Delta
When it comes to seeking adventure, going on safari in Africa is a breeze, but where do you actually start? Botswana's Okavango Delta is a must-see for beginners and seasoned safari enthusiasts alike, thanks to its rich wildlife and terrain diversity. Take a mokoro canoe ride for the best and most intimate way to observe roaming elephants, antelopes and cheetahs, among other animals.
Tour the Great Barrier Reef
Divers and snorkelers around the world need to experience the Great Barrier Reef at least once in their lifetime. Not only is the site home to more than 400 different types of coral and 1,500 species of fish, but the natural wonder is rapidly eroding due to coral bleaching and global warming. That means it's more urgent than ever to see it in all its glory - and to understand what we're losing.