If you’d rather have the experience of a lifetime than a fortnight of lying on a beach, Dara Flynn has something that will suit every explorer and their budget.
Some people just can’t relax, even on holiday. If you’re the extreme-sport, hiking, biking and marathon-running type, there’s a holiday out there to keep your limbs limber and your brain engaged. Here are 11 of the world’s most exciting and unusual adventure holidays. Just don’t blame us if you crave that relaxing beach break as soon as you get home.
Challenge yourself in Norway
Adventure challenge company IGO Adventures has announced that the N60° — the gruelling Norwegian Challenge — will take place from March 12-19 next year. There are only 30 places for competitors for this notoriously challenging (some say life-changing) four-day/161km expedition across the untamed Norwegian wilderness. It’s designed by athletes and professional adventurers to push competitors to the limits of their physical and mental abilities. There’s touring, downhill skiing, fat biking, dog-sledding, cross-country skiing and snow trekking/running. The route — from Hemsedal to Geilo — is the same snowy landscape where the men trained for Captain Scott’s final expedition. When you sign up, you’ll be assessed for fitness and receive a four-month training programme, so this one isn’t for the uncommitted. It costs from €5,560. igoadventures.com
Ash-boarding in Nicaragua
Try your hand at new activities, including volcano boarding, with a 14-day multiactive holiday in Nicaragua, El Salvador and Honduras. Visit the Mayan ruins of San Andres and Copan in Honduras, where you can kayak through mangroves with crocodiles and take a zipwire through the forested slopes of Mombacho volcano, before a boat tour of Lake Nicaragua’s islets and the waterfalls and the twin volcanoes of Ometepe Island. You’ll also get some downtime, exploring the colonial town of Granada, but at Leon you will walk up the volcano of Cerro Negro and then ash-board all the way down. Arrive in El Salvador by boat and stay at the laid-back beach resort of El Cuco, relax in a hammock and have a go at surfing. There are departures on December 17 and February 4 and April 1, 2017. The land-only price is €2,455 and includes most meals, park entry fees, guides, activities, equipment, accommodation and overland transport. keadventure.com
Surf off the Faroes The Faroe Islands, the remote archipelago of 18 islands between Iceland and Norway, have fairy-tale landscapes, sheer cliff-faces, houses topped with grass roofs and sheep to outnumber people by a ratio of two to one. It’s also a unique place to surf. The towering waves of Tjornuvik Bay (Streymoy) with constantly changing weather patterns, call for skill and a degree of craziness. Magicseaweed.com is the site for surfers to check, with daily surf updates for the islands, and there are flights year-round (to Vágar Island, via Copenhagen) from €439pp. Twice-weekly direct flights operate via Edinburgh to Vágar Island until December 18, from €237pp return. visitfaroeislands.com
Cliff jump in Wales
Cliff jump into the Blue Pool on the Gower Peninsula in southwest Wales, named Britain’s most impressive rock pool and once believed to be bottomless. In fact, its depth ranges from 4 to 8 metres depending on the tide. There are natural jumping-off points at different levels, and it is accessible only on foot when the tide is out.
While you’re there, stay in one of Scamper Holidays’ shepherd’s huts, timber tents, tiki-vans or tiki-lodges, located around the peninsula. A timber tent starts at €209 for two nights and sleeps four. scamperholidays.co.uk; explore-gower.co.uk
Rafts, bikes and treks in KenyaIrish company Earth’s Edge organises the Kenya Tri Adventure expedition each November, “a challenge of a lifetime” covering more than 200km in seven days. The expedition includes five days of trekking to Mount Kenya (4,985m), a dormant volcano and Africa’s second highest mountain, via dense rainforests rich in elephants, buffaloes and monkeys.
There are also two days of dirt-road biking covering 130km through the Kenyan countryside (many fun downhills are promised) and one day of rafting on the Tana river, the longest in the country with a rapids section known as “can of worms” for its four
90-degree bends. There are still spots left for the departure on November 3.
It costs €2,999 including return flights to Kenya, an expedition leader and doctor travelling with the group, all transport, all meals on the expedition, group gear including bikes, two safari game drives, all accommodation (based on twin sharing in lodges and camping), a local support team and an Earth’s Edge softshell jacket. earths-edge.com
Biking the best of Ireland
Biking.ie knows the best mountain bike trails in Ireland and will take you to discover them on a seven-day journey starting and ending in Dublin. The week takes in the best trails in Wicklow, Limerick, Cork and Galway, with the focus on the most fun trails and allowing plenty of bike time.
The cost is €950 per person, and the next one leaves on September 19. It includes five days of guided biking, return transfers, six nights’ accommodation and all breakfasts. If you need to rent a bike, the cost is €20 per day for a front suspension model, or €30 per day for full suspension. There are only eight riders per tour, and it’s suited to those with a minimum ability level of 2C. biking.ie
Wild Atlantic rock climbing, Donegal
The Wild Atlantic Way isn’t only for foodies and tourists: Wild Atlantic Climbing, based in Donegal, provides Irish rock climbing adventures for all levels, in the beautiful Malin Head area. These tailormade adventure packages are accessible to all visitors, regardless of experience, and are led by Bren Whelan, an award-winning photographer who has a Mountain Instructor Certificate and International Mountain Leader qualification. You choose when to go — tours run from March through November — and shoes, harnesses, helmets and all other specialist equipment is provided. Prices start at €70 for a half-day based on three people in the group; or from €80 per head for two, €99 per person for a full day for two, or €155 for a one-on-one full day. wildatlanticwayclimbing.ie
Reindeer herding in Siberia
Travel to Siberia’s Yamal Peninsula with a nomadic tribe of reindeer herders on this new trip from Intrepid Travel. After a stop in St Petersburg, travel by train, bus and Trekol all-terrain vehicle to the Yamal Peninsula, known as “the end of the world”. The region extends far above the Arctic Circle and has been home to the Nenets, a tribe of nomadic reindeer herders, for centuries. Now, for the first time, the Nenets are inviting travellers into their community for a glimpse at their daily existence. You’ll learn about life on the tundra, how they stay warm in -50C and how much they rely on their herds. The 15-day trip costs from €2,605 per person, with one scheduled departure on July 25, 2017. intrepidtravel.com
Dive in darkness, the Maldives
Baros in the Maldives is renowned as one of the best diving locations in the Indian Ocean. There’s a spectacular house reef 15 to 30 metres from the shore of Baros, which has just launched new dive offerings for divers of all levels. On a “fluo” night dive, you’ll see the reef in an entirely different way, diving with lights designed to generate the maximum bio-fluorescence (blue light), with a barrier filter over your mask. It’s led by an experienced and qualified fluorescent night-diving instructor.
For less experienced divers, there’s a new Padi package at Baros from €770 per night, including transfers, seven nights in a private villa, a full diving course with expert instructor resulting in a Padi certificate, return speedboat airport transfers, equipment, boat trips and refreshments. On your daily dives, you’ll have your own GoPro underwater camera and you’ll spot manta and eagle rays, sharks, turtles and the Maldives Victory shipwreck. baros.com
Polar snorkelling off Greenland
Aurora Expeditions is encouraging travellers to take a dip in some of the world’s chilliest waters, at Spitsbergen, Greenland and Iceland, on their polar snorkelling expeditions. Above water, the ice shades range from deep grey to pastel blue, but below is an ethereal array of hot pink fish, rainbow-coloured corals, giant sea stars, nudibranchs and penguins. Snorkellers are supplied with drysuits, gloves, hoods and a tiny in-built fan that keeps the body warm. The 24-day trip starts on Spitsbergen, with its coastline of glaciers, bird cliffs and pack ice (pot walruses, reindeer and polar bears) and your ship will follow east Greenland’s iceberg-laden coast before reaching its finishing point of Iceland. The voyages depart throughout September and prices start at €9,750. auroraexpeditions.com.au
Eco tours on the Seychelles
Set opposite Mount Dauban, the Hilton Seychelles Labriz Resort & Spa is on Silhouette Island in the Seychelles, 93% of which has been designated a national park. The Eco Centre here allows guests to explore the diverse Marine National Park that surrounds Silhouette, as well as the island itself. This trip takes you on guided walks into the slopes, spotting native giant tortoises and viewing whale sharks in the crystal-clear waters. At night, witness the Seychelles fruit bat and the endangered Seychelles sheath-tailed bat flying along the hillside and admire the Lodoicea maldivica — coco-de-mer tree — in forests scented with spices from cinnamon to wild vanilla. You can also visit the Island Conservation Society, based on the capital island of Mahé. Kuoni has seven nights with breakfast at Hilton Seychelles Labriz in a garden villa, including flights with British Airways from Dublin to Heathrow, Etihad flights from Heathrow to the Seychelles (via Abu Dhabi) and group transfers. Prices for May 2017 start at €2,175 per person, based on two sharing. To book, quote: IO0381. kuoni.co.uk