Eight boundary-breaking holidays that will lure you out of your comfort zone
After a shot of adrenaline from your next getaway? These spine-tingling adventures will give you the life-affirming jolt you’ve been looking for
From unearthing ancient antiquities in the sizzling Egyptian desert à la Indiana Jones, to hiking, biking and kayaking through Costa Rican cloud forest, a glut of exhilarating expeditions is available for travellers keen for a dose of jeopardy and the mindset-shifting high that comes with being pushed to one’s limits.
If you’re in this camp, we’ve rounded up eight boundary-breaking expeditions to try. Whether you’re travelling with kids, a partner or seeking out a group of like-minded people, each is bound to set you up with a spread of staggering stories to share with friends and family once you’ve arrived home (and recovered)...
Rewild a white rhino in South Africa
Safaris are an obvious option for getting close to wild animals. With the help of Cookson Adventures, plucky amateur conservationists can take part in the relocating, naming and releasing of rare white rhinos into a 70,000-acre wilderness reserve in South Africa’s vast, semi-desert plateau, the Great Karoo. Working with local rangers who protect these animals from violent poachers, efforts such as this are living proof of tourism being a force for good. Not so long ago, the white rhino was almost extinct but, thanks to rewilding efforts, their numbers are on the up.
Snorkel between tectonic plates in Iceland
Would you dare descend into the giant magma chamber of a dormant volcano? Iceland is known for being an adventure playground but luxury travel company Black Tomato ramps things up a notch with an extreme itinerary that includes a trip to the heart of the country’s Thríhnúkagígur volcano, which last erupted 4,000 years ago, and has left a vast chasm to explore. Next up is Thingvellir National Park for the chance to snorkel in the Silfra fissure – the breathtakingly cold spring water channel that separates the European and American tectonic plates. Here, subterranean cliffs descend 60 metres, offering vertiginous views through the deep blue water.
Cruise the Patagonian Fjords and Antarctica
From 2024, Norwegian cruise company Hurtigruten will be operating intrepid voyages aboard purpose-built expedition ship MS Maud, which will combine cruising the remote Chilean and Patagonian fjords with a trip to Antarctica lasting from 17 and 24 days. You’ll also witness the majesty of the sparsely populated Falkland Island archipelago and South Georgia, which was visited by Captain Cook in 1775 and is known as the ‘Galapagos of the Poles’ due to its rich biodiversity. Just like explorers of yore, you’ll witness giant icebergs and whales that are almost mythical in their untouched beauty. You can even take a ‘polar plunge’ in the ocean if you’re feeling really brave.
Hit the Bear Grylls Explorers Camp, Ras Al Khaimah
Your mission, if you accept it, is to fly to Dubai and drive to the neighbouring emirate of Ras Al Khaimah, about an hour away. Here, you will check in to a camp built from repurposed shipping containers before heading out into the wilderness for a 24-hour Primal Survival Course that teaches you how to locate food and water, trap animals and prepare them for cooking, light fires, administer first aid, build emergency shelters and defend yourself from predator attacks. Other activities include abseiling and rock climbing, and traversing ravines on zip-lines and cable bridges. (Less extreme programmes are available for children and families.)
Walk, cycle and raft from coast to coast in Costa Rica
If your idea of a holiday is being swathed in a hammock with a mai tai and a beach read, look elsewhere. Extreme-seekers, on the other hand, are better suited to Much Better Adventures’ limit-pushing coast-to-coast journey across Costa Rica. Undertaken on foot, by bike and on rafts, the route passes through cloud and jungle, over the Continental Divide, and down the Pacuare River, which carves its way through lush, bottle-green hillsides. No motorised vehicles are used at any point during the entire ten-day trip. Pit stops include a camp at El Nido del Tigre – home to sloths and boa constrictors – and the banana plantations of Finca Pacuarito, before finishing at the Caribbean Sea.
Excavate Cleopatra’s tomb in Egypt
Fans of Tomb Raider can embark on an intrepid quest to uncover Queen Cleopatra’s final resting place with a team of experts. Facilitated by future-facing new educational travel company the Luminaire, trips will depart from autumn 2023 and throughout 2024, in partnership with renowned archaeologist Dr Kathleen Martínez. Participants will be able to take part in a “once-in-a-generation opportunity” to observe a live excavation and restoration works at the Great Temple of Osiris, as well as have a go at interpreting ancient hieroglyphic manuscripts with an archivist from the Alexandria National Museum. Just don’t steal any treasure or you could unleash a curse.
Mountain bike through gold mining gorges in New Zealand
If you’ve been going hard in the gym and are intrigued to test your limits, G Adventures hosts multi-sport tours of New Zealand’s North Island, where you can trundle through the Karangahake Gorge (which is hollowed out by 19th-century gold mining tunnels) by bike, and hike through the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. All of this can be done in a single day, but it requires you to traverse a Martian-like volcanic landscape with emerald-green lakes, active craters and hissing steam vents. Cool down with a heart-thumping session of white-water rafting and high-speed jet boating in the Whanganui River.
Camp under the stars in the Oman desert
After flying into Muscat, head off the beaten track (literally) with a 4x4 off-road expedition into the deserts of Oman’s Empty Quarter. Career up and down sand dunes with the team from Wild Frontiers, who will escort you through this scorching Bedouin heartland, where camels and Arabian oryx roam. After watching the sun dip behind the country’s ethereal mountainscapes, you’ll spend the night wild camping under the stars, surrounded by nothing but sand and silence. Next is an excursion to the Unesco World Heritage site the Lost City of Ubar (aka Atlantis of the Sands), built in one of the most inhospitable places on Earth, which is said to have sunk into the ground. Parts of the city were excavated by explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes in the 1980s.