Craving adventure but can’t choose between the mountains and the sea? Who said you should choose? From high altitude peaks where precious air is scarce, to deep blue lagoons and delicate coral reefs, here’s 10 breathtaking places to ignite your fearless spirit.
1. NGAZUMPA GLACIER, GOKYO VALLEY - NEPAL
West of the famous Khumbu region of the Himalaya lies the Gokyo Valley. Heading on foot from Gokyo towards Thangnak will see you cross a section of the longest glacier in Nepal, the Ngazumpa. Stretching for around 25km from its beginnings on the high slopes of the famed 8,000-meter peak Cho Oyu, Ngazumpa presents a challenging high-altitude trek. The constant grinding of the glacier echoes underfoot as it moves its way ever further down the valley. A stark reminder of this strange rock that we live on.
You can cross the Ngazumpa glacier as part of World Expedition’s 21-day circuit trek that takes in the spectacular Himalayan traverse of the challenging Cho La Pass, the blue Gokyo Lakes and the Khumbu Valley leading to Mt Everest Base Camp and onwards to Kala Patthar.
Plan your trip: Visit worldexpeditions.com ; welcomenepal.com
2. MONT BLANC, CHAMONIX VALLEY - FRANCE
Definitely one of Europe’s finest alpine treks, the tough 170 km circumnavigation of Mont Blanc across France, Italy and Switzerland is full of superlatives. This is adventure ‘the way you want it’, with the trek giving you the opportunity to camp in a tent, stay in pretty local accommodation, or experience the conviviality of the region’s many mountain refuges. Experienced mountaineers can also ascend the Mont Blanc mastiff itself, the highest in Europe at 4,809 meters. However you choose to experience it one thing is guaranteed, and that’s amazing local produce!
Insider tip: Avoid trekking during the popular Ultimate Tour du Mont Blanc endurance race which takes place each year on either the last weekend in August or the first weekend of September.
Plan your trip: Visit autourdumontblanc.com ; france.fr
3. KALA PATTHAR, KHUMBU VALLEY – NEPAL
At an altitude of 5,644 meters, climbing Kala Patthar is not for the faint hearted. Located on the south ridge of Pumori in the Nepalese Himalayas, this is the closest you can get to Mt Everest without having to climb it yourself. Oh, and it has bragging rights, as it’s actually higher than Mt Everest Base Camp. World Expeditions run fabulous trips to the region.
Insider tip: Consider travelling in December. Although December is the coldest time of the year in the Himalaya it also happens to be the clearest, so you’re sure to actually see the mountains!
Plan your trip: Visit worldexpeditions.com ; welcomenepal.com
4. GLACIER PIEDRAS BLANCAS, LOS GLACIARES NATIONAL PARK - ARGENTINA
While most adventurers scramble up the main trail from Argentina’s small settlement of El Chalten to descend on the mighty and highly recognised Cerro Fitz Roy, just a short detour off the main trail brings you to what is arguably the most spectacular glacier in the national park. With its distinctive icefalls that descend to the cirque of the North Fitz Roy mastiff, the Glacier Piedras Blancas will burn your retinas with its beauty. Definitely worth the detour.
Plan your trip: Visit losglaciares.com ; argentina.travel
5. ATACAMA DESERT - CHILE
With much of the desert at 4,000 meters, this is another high-altitude escapade. The landscape here harbours vast salt flats, volcanos, thermal geysers, and intense blue lagoons. Climb a volcano, or simply camp out in the desert and stargaze in what is believed to be the best location for astronomy on planet earth.
Plan your trip: Visit sanpedroatacama.com ; chile.travel
6. PADAR ISLAND, KOMODO NATIONAL PARK - INDONESIA
A climb to Padar Island’s impressive view point gives you an appreciation of Komodo’s rugged coastline, confirming its status as one of Indonesia’s most precious and mysterious landscapes.Whether you choose to island hop by local boat, walk with the Komodo Dragon, or dive into the depths of the region’s many impressive dive sites, a visit to Komodo is of Jurassic proportions, both terrestrial and marine.
Insider tip: If you MUST see the Komodo Dragon, give the dragons of Komodo Island a break and visit those at Rinca Island instead where populations are believed to be more stable and rangers are available to guide you.
Plan your trip: Visit indonesia.travel
7. TORRES DEL PAINE NATIONAL PARK, PATAGONIA - CHILE
As one of the most striking places on earth, Chile’s Patagonia oozes adventure and some! Whether you choose to do a day trip from nearby Puerto Natales; take on the full ‘O Circuit’, or ‘W Trek’; or snuggle up in a chic eco lodge, you’ll want to delve right in to this magical landscape.
Insider tip: Don’t be a Gortex ninja. Regardless of how much Gortex you wear, it won’t protect you from Patagonia’s unpredictable wind and rain!
Plan your trip: Visit torresdelpaine.com ; chile.travel
8. PULAU SILADEN, NORTH SULAWESI - INDONESIA
Forget Bali, Indonesia has over 17,000 other islands to explore, yet none offer a sunset as good as this. Loved by scuba divers for good reason, Pulau Siladen offers prime access to the famed Bunaken Marine Park, along with daily sunsets capable of making you weep. Underwater adventures are a must; with vibrant coral walls, abundant fish life, impressive macro critters and a friendly population of green and hawksbill turtles.
There is little accommodation on the island, so treat yourself to a stay at Siladen Island Resort.
Plan your trip: Visit siladen.com ; indonesia.travel
9. PIAYNEMO, RAJA AMPAT - WEST PAPUA
In West Papua, emerald jungle covered islands give way to brilliant white sandy beaches and delicate blue lagoons. Trek through the jungle on the quest for the Red Bird of Paradise, kayak from island to island with Kayak 4 Conservation in search of the rare Epaulette walking shark, or plunge below the surface into its coral gardens and underwater caverns harbouring the highest marine diversity anywhere on planet earth. Above or below, Raja Ampat delivers adventure in spades.
Plan your trip: Visit kayak4conservation.com ; indonesia.travel
10. ALOR ARCHIPELAGO, EAST NUSA TENGGARA - INDONESIA
A visit to Alor is like stumbling across a treasure chest with a kaleidoscope of colours and hidden gems that leave you breathless. The coral reefs here are exceptionally healthy, tourism is undeveloped with only a few eco operators, and the island’s here are still inhabited by many of the Flores sub ethic peoples who still preserve their traditional ways of life. Go scuba diving, free diving or just chill at the Alor Divers Eco Resort, or island hop your way around the archipelago. With mind-blowingly beautiful coral reefs, welcoming villagers and the chance to see; hammerhead sharks, dolphins, false killer whales, and marlin, what’s not to like?
Insider tip: Keep an eye out for the local fisherman as they dive to depth with their handmade wooden goggles to check their woven fishing baskets.
Plan your trip: Visit alor-divers.com ; indonesia.travel