We get the sense you may be craving a little adventure after a year spent mostly indoors. Perhaps hiking America’s famous Appalachian Trail, marveling at the mighty Great Pyramid, or exploring hidden ice caves in Iceland. Although travel restrictions are still tight, there’s no harm in dreaming about where that blockbuster trip will take you. We selected seven incredible destinations that will inspire your next adventure trip in the U.S. or abroad.
Now may not be the right time to travel, but there’s never a bad time to wanderlust. Just be sure to check local government guidelines before making arrangements for or reserving any part of an upcoming trip. When you are ready to go, Skyscanner is here to help you book your flights, accommodations, and rental car with confidence.
1. Ride the rapids in the Grand Canyon
The main adventure
The Grand Canyon is arguably one of the most picturesque destinations for an adrenaline-pumping rafting experience. Take on the mighty Colorado River as soaring cliffs and stunning rock formations surround your group at every turn. A multiday river trip will have you hiking, battling major rapids, sleeping under the stars, and learning about the geology of the Grand Canyon from knowledgeable, experienced guides.
These trips are known to sell out months—and sometimes a full year—in advance. If your preferred dates are unavailable, ask if there’s a waitlist you can join. And if you want to visit more than one beautiful park this year, you might want to consider investing in a U.S. National Parks Pass.
Travel restrictions: Arizona has none as of January 5, 2020.
2. Hike the Appalachian Trail
The main adventure
The Appalachian Trail (called the AT by those in the know) snakes through 14 states from Georgia to Maine. If you were to thru-hike the AT end to end, you’d trek approximately 2,200 miles for 5-7 months. That’s an adventure, for sure, but not quite the adventure we’re proposing. Even a week or just a weekend is enough to reap the benefits of getting out into nature and elevating your heart rate.
There’s no shortage of options for scenery, level of difficulty and total distance. If you’re interested in day hikes, there are plenty of access points along the AT. You can tackle different remote parts of the trail by heading out in one direction and doubling back or finding connector trails to make a loop. Alternatively, you could complete a section hike and sleep under the stars at night. This type of hike means you begin and end in two completely different spots. It could be as few as 5 miles or as long as 50.
Start your hike in the spring or fall. Not only will daily temperatures be more pleasant, but you’ll be surrounded by wildflowers in the spring or colorful leaves in the fall.
Airport options: Bangor International Airport – Bangor, Maine; Albany International Airport – Albany, New York; Dulles International Airport – Washington, D.C.; Charlottesville-Albermarle Airport – Charlottesville, Virginia; Asheville Regional Airport – Asheville, North Carolina; and Hartsfield International Airport – Atlanta, Georgia
Travel restrictions: Depending on which state you enter to start your hike, a negative PCR test may be required upon arrival. Based on information available as of January 5, 2020.
3. Get your kicks on Route 66
The main adventure
There is simply no drive more famous in the United States than Route 66. The roadway itself is like any other, of course. It’s the attractions, quaint small-town cafes, and scenic stretches along the way that make for an exciting adventure trip.
Cruising the length of Route 66 is quite an undertaking. The entire 2,448-mile journey runs from the heart of Chicago to the Santa Monica Pier, crossing through eight states. If you don’t have the vacay days to spare for a weeks-long road trip, then carve out a section that hits your utmost desires. Check out these top Route 66 sites:
- Route 66 Museum in Pontiac, Illinois
- Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Missouri
- Eisler Bros. Old Riverton Store in Riverton, Kansas
- Blue Whale of Catoosa in Catoosa, Oklahoma
- Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, Texas
- Historic San Miguel Mission in Santa Fe, New Mexico
- Petrified Forest and Painted Desert in Arizona
- Elmer’s Bottle Tree Ranch in Oro Grande, California
Take. Your. Time. A road trip like this is truly all about the journey. Stop at as many roadside attractions as your heart desires. You’ll see many “world’s largest X” along the way. Even silly five-minute detours can turn into the most memorable experiences.
Airport options: O’Hare International and Midway Airports – Chicago, Illinois; St. Louis Lambert International Airport – St. Louis, Missouri; Will Rogers World Airport – Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; Albuquerque International Sunport – Albuquerque, New Mexico; Flagstaff Pulliam Airport – Flagstaff, Arizona; Los Angeles International Airport – Los Angeles, California
Travel restrictions: Depending on which states you enter and how long you will stay, a negative PCR test may be required upon arrival. This is based on information available as of January 5, 2020.
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4. Go night snorkeling with manta rays in Hawaii
The main adventure
This magical experience brings you close to manta rays in the waters off Kona on Hawaii’s Big Island. During the night snorkel, your tour operator will attract plankton by shining a light on the water. This, in turn, attracts hungry manta rays. These gentle giants feed on plankton by gracefully somersaulting in the water with their mouths open. Snorkelers watch the show while holding onto a flotation device attached to the tour boat. This ensures you won’t disturb the rays, which sometimes swoop within inches of your face near the water’s surface!
It’s also possible to go diving, if you’re certified. Divers watch the manta rays from below. It’s a beautiful view as the light shines down from the water’s surface. When they aren’t actively feeding, the rays will be swimming all around and sometimes get very close to divers as well.
Travel restrictions: A negative PCR test is required prior to departure, otherwise it is mandatory to self-quarantine for 10 days upon arrival. Kauai Island enforces a mandatory 10-day quarantine regardless of test results. This is based on information available as of January 5, 2020.
5. Hang above Victoria Falls in Devil’s Pool
The main adventure
On the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe is the mighty Victoria Falls. This monstrous waterfall is twice the height and width of Niagara Falls! There are numerous adventure activities offered around the Zambezi River (see Hot tip below), but experiencing Devil’s Pool tops them all.
This natural infinity pool sits on the edge of the falls on the Zambia side. When water levels are at their lowest—typically between mid-August and mid-January—visitors are able to jump into the pool and hang over its edge, as water cascades down around you.
Local guides take groups to Devil’s Pool, so this isn’t an activity you attempt alone. Once your group is safely inside the pool, the guides will take photos and instruct your group how to safely sit on the ledge and then hang over the edge of the falls for an incredible, once-in-a-lifetime experience (and photos that make your stomach drop!).
If you’re looking for a high-adrenaline adventure, Victoria Falls is the perfect destination. In addition to the thrill of hanging over the edge of Devil’s Pool, there’s an incredible amount of activities waiting for you along the Zambezi River. Here is a smattering of what you can experience: bungee jumping, gorge swinging, zip-lining, white water rafting, tandem skydiving, and microlight flights. We didn’t even get into all the incredible wildlife you’ll be able to see on safari!
Travel restrictions: Moderate restrictions are in place in Zambia and Zimbabwe as of January 5, 2020.
6. Explore the ancient world in Egypt
The main adventure
This is the ultimate adventure trip. Why? Of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the Great Pyramid of Giza is the only one still in existence. Standing at the base of this mountainous, man-made object is humbling and awe-inspiring. In fact, traveling throughout Egypt will give you the feeling of stepping into a history book. Seeing the pyramids, the Sphinx and remarkably preserved temple complexes like Karnak and the Temple of Hatshepsut in-person will give you a newfound respect for ancient cultures and traditions.
Giza is near Cairo in the north of Egypt. A flight or train ride south to Aswan will place you at the boarding point for a journey up the famed Nile River. Choose from a riverboat with private cabins or sleep under the stars on a felucca, a traditional Egyptian wooden boat. Bring plenty of back-up camera batteries—the 360° scenery and colorful sunsets from the Nile are stunning.
Travel restrictions: Moderate restrictions are in place in Egypt as of January 5, 2020.
7. Drive Iceland’s Ring Road under the midnight sun
The main adventure
Too often, visitors to Iceland base themselves in Reykjavík, visit the Golden Circle—Gullfoss Waterfall, Geysir geothermal area and Þingvellir (Thingvellir) National Park—and then head home. The land of fire and ice is home to an incredible number of magnificent sights, and a drive around Iceland’s Ring Road is the best way to experience as many as possible. Snowfall closes parts of the road in winter, making summer under the midnight sun the optimal time to cover the most ground. Add these Instagram-worthy stops to your itinerary:
- Seljalandsfoss: you can walk behind this tall waterfall
- Vík: Reynisfjara (black sand beach with towering basalt columns), Dyrhólaey (peninsula with a rock arch) and Reynisdrangar (dramatic offshore rock formations)
- Kirkjubæjarklaustur: Kirkjugólf (“church floor” in-ground basalt formation)
- Skaftafell: non-guided hiking, glacier tours, Svartifoss (waterfall surrounded by black basalt columns)
- Jökulsárlón: breathtaking glacial lake
- Höfn: try the locally caught langoustine
- Dettifoss: Europe’s most powerful waterfall
- Mývatn: picturesque volcanic lake
- Húsavík: go whale watching off the coast of this charming town
- Kolugljúfur Canyon: deep gorge with a beautiful waterfall
Detour off Ring Road to the Westfjords to visit Latrabjarg, the westernmost point in Europe. Puffins are drawn to this cliff, so you are basically guaranteed a sighting. Be warned: don’t get too close to the puffins, which like to perch on the edge of the cliff. The rock can hold their light weight, but it may become unstable if you stand on it.
Airport options: Keflavík International Airport – Reykjanesbær, Iceland
Travel restrictions: Iceland is currently closed to U.S. citizens who enter for tourism purposes. This is based on information available as of January 5, 2020.
Not every destination on this list is allowing international travelers for tourism at the moment. These big adventure trip ideas are an inspiration for your travel list and future holiday plans. We hope that 2021 brings about more positive experiences than 2020. When the world does reopen and you feel comfortable exploring parts unknown, Skyscanner is here to help you book flights, accommodations, and car rentals with confidence.
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Frequently asked questions
The world is full of exciting possibilities! Some adventure trip ideas in addition to what we included in this article are: soaring above Cappadocia in a hot air balloon, watching sunrise from the top of a sand dune in Namibia, sleeping in a yurt in Mongolia, and seeing penguins in Antarctica.
U.S. National Parks are among the best destinations for an adventure trip. Trek around volcanoes in Hawaii, see manatees in the Florida Everglades, hike through colorful rock formations in Utah and tour glaciers in Alaska. Every national park across the nation has fun activities for visitors.
Everyone’s list is different, but there are some popular activities that many people wish to do. These include snorkeling above the Great Barrier Reef, walking on the Great Wall of China, traveling on the Trans-Siberian Railway, visiting the Taj Mahal, attending Oktoberfest in Munich, trekking to Machu Picchu, and going on safari in Africa.
Want to read more?
- Coronavirus travel advice. We continually update this page with relevant state and U.S. government requirements and recommendations, plus the latest airline policy changes.
- 7 lesser-known wonders of the world. Get even more inspo for your next adventure trip abroad.
- When can I travel again? If you’re eager to travel domestically or internationally and want to know where you can go, we list out destination ideas and ways to travel safely.