If you like some action on your vacations, there's no doubt our planet is packed with all sorts of active, adventurous, and sometimes downright adrenaline-pumping options. Some are "soft," requiring no great skill or physical fitness, while others will delightfully challenge you. How to narrow it down to just seven? Well, let me give it a try!
Snorkeling in Belize
The 700-mile Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System is the world's second largest, and the 190-mile long Belize Barrier Reef (top) is a part of that. Lying from 980 feet to 25 miles off the coast, with underwater caves, more than 100 types of coral and more than 500 species of fish. Top spots include the Bay Islands of Roatán and Utila, along with Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker. You can also opt to snorkel right off the shore at mainland resort areas like Plasencia. Apart from a riot of tropical fish like yellowtail damsels, barred hamlets, and angelfish, you'll also likely spot sharks, stingrays, sea turtles, and even West Indian manatees.
Trout Fishing in Argentina
If you're a trout fishing enthusiast, Argentina may not have occurred to you, but the fact is that South America's second largest country not only offers great saltwater fishing along its more than 3,500 miles of ocean coastline but also thousands of miles of often pristine rivers. The country's three major world-class fly-fishing destinations are stunning Patagonia way down south, where the waters of many rivers - Río Corcovado, Río Grande, and Río Pico, to name just three- are packed with rainbow and sea-run brown trout. Farther south still, Tierra del Fuego ha's stretch of the Río Grande is also superb for monster sea-run browns. Meanwhile, up north near the border with Paraguay, crystal-clear rivers are full of giant golden dorado. The waters are so rich in fish that you’re almost guaranteed to hook an impressive 20-pounder. Don’t let your rod down as it battles to shake off your hook—this will be an epic battle that will leave your heart pumping like crazy.
A Turkish Treat: Hot-air Ballooning
These days hot-air ballooning is well, hot, no doubt about it. There are great options all around the world, but one of the coolest and most distinctive is in the Capadoccia region of central Turkey, a 7½ -hour drive from Istanbul and 3½ from Ankara. That's because this adventure will float you over the “fairy chimneys”, rock formations of volcanic ash, lava and basalt that form impressive swirling spires. You can choose from standard to deluxe and private balloon flights in sunrise or sunset. But that’s not all, there are horseback rides through World Heritage Sites and exploration trips of underground caves and centuries-old towns - you can even overnight here!
Golfing in Arizona
Hitting the links is a fun, dynamic and sometimes even quite demanding activity for both body and mind. And the Grand Canyon State, with more than 300 courses, is one of the world's premier golfing destinations, with top destinations including Phoenix, Tucscon, and Scottsdale, where for example you can buy amazing golf packages which include access to top local links while staying in luxury condos - with these packages you don’t have to do much except but grab your clubs, grip 'em and rip 'em!
Finland's Winter Wonderland
For some truly memorable, frosty fun, Lappi (Lapland), a four-hour flight from Helsinki, serves up the perfect winter adventure. You can spend your day skating over the ice or watching reindeer or huskies run in the snow as they pull your sled. Spots like Kakslauttanen also offer day trips on the icebreaker Sampo as it clears the path through Bothnia Gulf. You can try your hand at ice fishing, or if you’re brave enough, even plunge into the freezing waters, followed by a nice hot sauna. And for the main attraction, prepare for midnight hunts for the aurora borealis (northern lights). They're very elusive, but still, you’ll probably manage to catch a glimpse of this surreal spectacle from your sleigh, snowmobile, or skis.
Sandsurfing in Egypt
Here’s a complete 180-degree pivot from frozen Finland: Egypt with its heat, its ancient culture - and its great sand sea. For some hot adventure head out to remote Siwa Oasis, nine hour drive west of Cairo, and try plummeting down its steep sand dunes. While sandsurfing is the main attraction in Siwa, there are also ancient tombs and temples to discover in Indiana Jones style. And of course on the way to or from here, don't forget to experience the history and culture of Egypt's capital and the nearby pyramids of Giza.
Hiking the Peruvian Andes
Everyone's heard of Machu Picchu, of course, and this magical spot does indeed live up to the hype. And most visitors take a train here from Cuzco, but for real adventure, find a guide or join a group to get there the old-fashioned way nature intended - on foot, with a four- to five-day trek through ancient sites and mountainside communities of weavers and farmers. The best known route is the 26-mile Inca Trail, consisting of three overlapping routes and much of it following paved tracks laid down by the anicent Incans themselves (but it's become pretty popular in recent years, so Peru's government has limited the number of trekkers to 500 daily, and you'll need to book well in advance). Lesserr known but equally rewarding - and favored by Incan priests - is the Salkantay Trek (which also has the advantage of being easier to book). Another big difference experience-wise is that this 46-mile route goes mostly through mountains - more than 16,000 feet above sea level - which yields some majestic views but is also more taxing, both in terms of endurance and potential soroche (altitude sickness).