High-Octane

7 Amazing Vacations From the Grand Canyon to the Amazon for Adventure Lovers

From the Grand Canyon to the Amazon to Egypt and Namibia, here are rafting, skiing, biking, and hiking vacations to satisfy any craving for adventure.

Loafing on the beach not your idea of the perfect vacation? No problem. From heliskiing in British Columbia to trekking the Namibian desert and the Amazon to diving in the Red Sea, here are seven incredible journeys bound to get your blood pumping.

For more exciting destinations, check out our travel coverage.

Courtesy of O.A.R.S

Rafting the Grand Canyon

Major rapids rated class 5 or higher, hiking opportunities galore, and the sheer beauty of the cliffs and the river make a rafting trip through the belly of the Grand Canyon, one of the seven natural wonders of the world, a journey that should be on every adventurer’s bucket list. Travel company O.A.R.S. has been operating guided, nonmotorized trips down the Colorado River since 1969. Guests can choose from two types of vessels: an inflatable raft that offers a bit more give over rapids and travels more quickly through the water, or hard-hulled dories, which make for a more up-and-down experience through whitewater and go at a more leisurely pace through the canyon. Trips range in length from 4 to 19 days, but on each trip visitors can expect to spend three to five hours a day aboard the boat and the rest of the time hiking around the canyon, eating, or hanging out at camp. For beginners we like the five-day Whitmore Wash to Lake Mead trip, which also includes an afternoon of horseback riding, skeet shooting, all-terrain-vehicle riding, or hiking at Bar 10 Ranch and a scenic helicopter ride into the Canyon. Want to stay longer? Investigate their Lees Ferry to Lake Mead trip, a 14- to 17-day adventure through 47 major rapids, and visits to Marble Canyon, Native American ruins, and more.

Courtesy of Bighorn

Heli-Skiing in Revelstoke

Between Revelstoke Mountain Resort, which boasts North America’s largest descent of 5,620 feet and half-a-million acres of heli-ski terrain in the Selkirk and Monashee mountains, it’s easy to see why this British Columbia town has become a must-visit for ski enthusiasts. Take off with Selkirk Tangiers Heli Ski, whose guides lead guests on thrilling deep, dry-powder runs down wide-open glaciers, alpine meadows, and old-growth forests. Gather a group and check into Bighorn ski chalet, a posh new eight-suite property and convenient home base thanks to its private helipad out back. After a hard day on the slopes, unwind with a soak in the property’s oversize hot tub overlooking the mountains, followed by a massage and a visit to the sauna. Evenings include multicourse dinners of delicious, locally sourced food and wine prepared by Bighorn’s private chef, followed by a movie in the private theater or a round of pool in the game room. Trips can be booked via adventure travel company Black Tomato.

Courtesy of Cox and Kings

Trekking Through the Wilds of Brazil

Venture out into the Amazon with Cox & King’s new wildlife safari in Brazil, a 13-day journey, much of which is spent in the country’s lush jungle. Close encounters with the region’s animal population include searching for crocodiles while canoeing down the river, swimming with Amazonian river dolphins, and spotting black vultures and howler monkeys in the tree tops during a hike through the tropical wetland Pantanal. You’ll also take an archery lesson instructed by local Waimiri-Atroari and even try your hand at piranha fishing in the Mutum River. End with a boat ride to the base of Iguazú Falls on the border of Argentina.

Courtesy of Tim Loftus / REI Adventures

Biking the Mountains of the Tour de France

Channel your inner Lance Armstrong with REI’s “Epic Cycling Climbs of France”, a seven-day trip where riders will tackle the leg-burning mountains featured in the world-famous cycling race the Tour de France. The week begins in the French Alps, with full days of ascents up Alpe d’Huez and Col du Galibier (the most popular climb in tour history). On Day 5, it’s off to Provence and the quaint town of Bédoin for some picturesque cycling through the region’s lavender fields and vineyards, followed by a grueling final climb up Mont Ventoux (known locally as the Giant of Provence).

Courtesy of Ker & Downey

Exploring Egypt

Unleash your inner Indiana Jones with Ker & Downey’s “Uncovering Alexander’s Egypt”, a two-week trip to the country’s most incredible ancient sites. Begin in Cairo, with a visit to the Pyramids, Memphis ruins, and the Museum of Antiquities; then head south to the Bahariya Oasis, home of the Valley of the Golden Mummies. Spend a day exploring the Greco-Roman tombs here, then head out to the Black Desert for some “dune bashing” (off-roading across the sand dunes) followed by a swim in the hot springs of Crystal Mountain. The trip continues along an old camel route to the Siwa Oasis and then on to Alexandria, where visitors will dive the ruins in the city’s eastern harbor, filled with remains of shipwrecks and ancient monuments, including the Lighthouse of Alexandria, one of the Seven Ancient Wonders of the World. End the trip on the beaches of the Red Sea with another dive to experience the more than 1,000 species of marine life who make their home in its clear waters.

Courtesy of Austin-Lehman Adventures

Horseback Riding, Rafting, and Biking Across Montana

If you’ve got a family of adventurers who love the great outdoors, investigate Austin-Lehman’s 6-day, kid-friendly trip to Big Sky Country. Days are filled with trail hikes through Yellowstone’s backcountry, exploring the geysers at the national park, bike rides through the Gallatin Valley, and spotting wildlife like bison and elk on drives across the Hayden Valley. Visitors here will also paddle-raft down class 2 and 3 rapids on the postcard-perfect Yellowstone River and go for horseback ride high into the Absaroka Mountains with honest-to-goodness cowboys. Reward yourself for all this activity with a soak in the soothing hot springs and a candlelit dinner on the last evening of the trip at Paradise Valley’s Chico Hot Springs Resort.

Courtesy of Epic Tomato

Trekking the Namibian Desert

Travelers who love off-the-beaten-path adventures can immerse themselves in one of Africa’s vast wildernesses, across the desert regions of Namibia with extreme-adventure outfit Epic Tomato. The trip begins with a bird’s eye view of the Skeleton Coast via helicopter, one of the least-inhabited coastlines on the planet dotted with ship wrecks. Land on top of Brandberg Mountain, the country’s highest peak, where you’ll spend the first night camping surrounded by incredible 360-degree views. The next eight days are spent decidedly not on the tourist trail, trekking across central Damaraland and the Palmwag concession to track elephant, lion, and rhino, then onto the Orupembe region, home to one of Africa’s last traditional tribes, the Himba. The trip concludes with a trek through the Hartman Mountains into the breathtaking dunes of the Hartman Valley.