Are you a travel insurance agent’s worst nightmare? Does your idea of flying home from a holiday involve taking an emergency medevac helicopter from the middle of the jungle, as you turn purple from a dare to eat a frog? Are you forever fighting the urge to launch yourself off the side of a mountain wearing a Viking helmet with something akin to a giant pillowcase strapped to your back?
Those that like to live big, generally like to travel big as well. However, you don’t need an encyclopedia of “near-death” adventures from the road to want try experience something different on your travels. Just something a little more exciting. So to help get out of your comfort zone, here’s my top five thrill-seeking destinations for 2016.
1. Diving into the best of Southeast Asia in Thailand
Reassuringly, for those looking to get their pulse racing on the road, Thailand has a variety of nerve-testing ways to get from Point A to Point B. The country is home to a wide array of daring transport choices, such as island-hopping long-boats, for which the concept of “staying afloat” is more an aspiration than long-term reality, and abnormally confident tuk tuk drivers who smile maniacally as they steer you narrowly from one near-bone-shattering collision to the next.
While getting around Thailand may make your mother wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat, for today’s voyeuristic thrill seeker, nothing says “daring armchair adventurer” quite like visiting a Muay Thai kick-boxing tournament to watch local martial arts experts face off. Those travellers looking to dive into the best Thailand has to offer, though, should strap on an oxygen tank and venture to Ao Nang village in Krabi. Home to all of the eye-watering beach paradise clichés of white-sandy beaches with swaying coconut palms, Ao Nang also offers some great diving opportunities for beginners and experts alike, with abundant coral and fish, and good underwater visibility of 12–35m (39–114 ft).
2. The Inca Trail — where blisters are badges of honour
The Inca Trail has long been a top-of-the-bucket-list pilgrimage for adventurous travellers and the source of much new business for podiatry practices around the world. The Sacred Valley is a place where travellers wear the blisters on their feet like badges of honour, and the hiking takes you past some of the most significant historical sites in all of South America.
More than 43km (26 mi) long, the Inca Trail combines beautiful mountainscapes, lush cloud forests, subtropical jungle, and, of course, a stunning collection of Incan stones, ruins and tunnels. A combination of three overlapping trails, this trek will have you climbing to beyond 4,200m (13,779 ft) and in constant awe of your seemingly superhuman porters. The undoubted highlight of the hike is arriving at the incredible ruins at Machu Picchu, which reward weary trekkers’ eyes with a stunning combination of the ancient Incan ruins and mountain scenery.
3. Thrill-seeking on a diet in New Zealand
If you want to get your heart rate up, but are less man versus wild, and more man battling to find a hair product that survives the rigours of a sweaty nightclub at 3 am, then zip-lining your way through New Zealand’s South Island is for you.
While New Zealand is undoubtedly beautiful, it also has an extreme edge. It has the kind of attitude of: why land a plane when you can jump out of it? Or, why go on a cruise along the lake when you can basically send yourself into orbit from a parachute dangling precariously from the back of a speedboat?
Zip-lining in Queenstown is thrill-seeking on a diet. The low fat, sugar free version of jumping off a bridge with nothing but the innards from a giant hairband tied to your feet to defy gravity. But when you find yourself strapped into a harness hurtling through treetops with only a thin metal cord keeping you from plunging 30m (100 ft), it still feels pretty adventurous.
4. High-altitude trekking to the summit of Kilimanjaro
For those thrill-seeking travellers looking to stretch their legs on an African adventure, trekking to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro — which is Africa’s highest point — is a must. The trek is truly unique, and on ascent hikers rise from sub-tropical conditions at the base of the mountain, to near-Arctic weather patterns at the summit.
With days of hiking across an average of 67km (41 mi) to get to the top of “Kili,” you’re going to use up a fair bit of energy, but this effort is well worth it as not only do the areas around the mountain offer the chance to see elephants, leopard and buffalo in their natural habitat, but the view from the top of Africa is unforgettable.
This altitude-heavy trek — a maximum elevation of 5,895 m (19,340 ft) — is a great workout and good for your overall health. So instead of coming home post-holiday looking like a beached walrus after one too many umbrella-laden cocktails on the sunlounge, you’ll be able to impress friends with your clearly defined calf muscles and ability to walk up a flight of stairs without the need of a defibrillator.
5. Buenos Aires: where football is more than a game
If the act of watching a soccer game does not automatically come to mind as a thrill-seeking activity, you obviously haven’t been to a Boca Juniors football match in Buenos Aires. The Boca Juniors are the working-man’s club, where those from a less well-off barrio (neighbourhood) of Buenos Aires come to make it rich off 90 minutes of athletic theatre.
Kickoff at a Boca Juniors home game is an uncoordinated ballet of human passion. Boca’s hardcore fans surge toward the wire fence at the edge of the pitch. They thrash in the air. Scream. Bang drums. Unfurl huge banners. People slam into each other as the stadium becomes a crazed throng of convulsing bodies rioting in delight. Young boys climb the wire fence and empty their lungs screaming for a Boca victory. They shout insults at the opposition fans in the stand above, who respond in kind by urinating on anyone unfortunate enough to be directly below.
As much to be experienced for the fan theatre as what occurs on the pitch, Boca Juniors’ stadium can at times closer resemble a seething cauldron of madness, than the backdrop to sporting fine art.
G Adventures runs a wide range of tours that cater to the heart-racing desires of today’s discerning thrill-seeking traveller. Encompassing a wide range of departure dates and activities, we can’t wait to show you the more adventurous side of this wonderful blue planet of ours — check out our small group trips here.