Best of the World: seven adventure destinations for 2022 and beyond

Now is the time of year when many of us plan an adventure for the year ahead. And with countless trips put on hold in recent months, there’s plenty of pent-up desire to set out and explore again — but where to go?

New Brunswick, Canada. 

Photograph by Alamy
By National Geographic’s Global Travel Editors
Published 18 Nov 2021, 12:49 GMT, Updated 19 Nov 2021, 14:46 GMT

If you’re looking for inspiration, editors from National Geographic Traveller titles around the world have picked the planet’s 35 most exciting destinations for travel in 2022. Five categories — Adventure, Culture and History, Nature, Family and Sustainability — frame unforgettable experiences that reveal the beauty and diversity of the world around us. The pandemic may have changed when, where, and how we travel, but there’s no doubt that we’re excited to pack our bags and hit the road again.

1. New Brunswick, Canada

Tackle the longest backcountry trail in the Canadian Maritimes

A turtle-shaped rock near Nepisiguit Falls, in the Canadian province of New Brunswick, carries with it a legend told by the Mi’gmaq people. When water levels drop, the ‘turtle’ — named Egomoqaseg (‘rock like a moving ship’) — appears to be climbing up out of the river, says trail master Jason Grant, whose father-in-law, Mi’gmaq elder Gilbert Sewell, was a keeper of the story.

“Legend goes, once the turtle is completely out of the water, it will be the end of the world for the Mi’gmaq people,” says Grant. Based on his annual visits to the rock, Grant adds, Egomoqaseg has a long way to go before reaching dry ground.

The falls are one of many stops along a millennia-old First Nations migration route, which has been developed into the longest backcountry hiking trail in the Canadian Maritimes. Running 93 miles along the Nepisiguit River, the rugged Sentier Nepisiguit Mi’gmaq Trail follows ancient portage pathways used by the nomadic Mi’gmaq. The route begins at sea level at Daly Point Nature Reserve in Bathurst and ends at Bathurst Lake in Mount Carleton Provincial Park, home to 2,690ft Mount Carleton, the highest peak in the Maritimes. To promote respect for the relevance of the trail to the Mi’gmaq people, the route’s restoration, completed in 2018, included incorporating Mi’gmaq language and culture, such as tipi campsites and a turtle logo inspired by Egomoqaseg.

From National Geographic Travel US (Maryellen Kennedy Duckett)

Mural in downtown San Jose, Costa Rica.

Mural in downtown San Jose, Costa Rica.

Photograph by AWL Images

2. Costa Rica 

Go on a coast-to-coast trek

Stretching across Costa Rica from the Caribbean to the Pacific, El Camino de Costa Rica is a 174-mile window into life far off the well-trodden tourist path. The 16-stage hiking route primarily follows public roads as it passes through remote villages and towns, Indigenous Cabecar lands, and protected natural areas. It’s designed to spark economic activity in rural districts. Local families, nonprofits, and a network of micro-entrepreneurs, provide most of the lodging, food, tours and other hiker amenities available on the trail, such as Ecomiel honey and La Cabaña sustainable coffee.

Due to the remoteness and the patchwork of tourism services, Mar a Mar (‘sea to sea’) — the nonprofit partnership formed in 2016 to develop, promote, and help sustain El Camino — strongly recommends hiking the trail with a guide. Ticos a Pata, UrriTrek Costa Rica, and ViaLig Journeys are among the tour operators offering guided experiences — from single-day hikes to coast-to-coast treks that can last one or two weeks and feature multiple river crossings and rambles through ranch lands, rainforests, cloud forests, and sugarcane plantations. Multiday itineraries typically feature optional adventures, such as a whitewater rafting trip on the world-class Pacuare River rapids.

From National Geographic Traveler Korea (Maryellen Kennedy Duckett)

Cycle path on the two-level Pont de Bir-Hakeim in Paris, France.

Cycle path on the two-level Pont de Bir-Hakeim in Paris, France.

Photograph by Getty Images

3. River Seine, France  

Cycle a new scenic route from Paris to the English Channel

La Seine à Vélo is a new cycling trail picturesque enough for French painter Claude Monet, whose former house and famous water lilies in Giverny are on the route. But the 270-mile Paris-to-the-sea path, which opened in October 2020, offers lesser-known masterpieces too, such as the colourful street art that brightens the Canal Saint-Denis in Paris.

Along the trail’s 15 stages, bikers also pass through protected natural areas, including Normandy’s Grande Noé Bird Reserve, located along a major migratory flyway. While rolling across Normandy, they can visit the ruins of Jumièges Abbey, founded in 654, and take a Benedictine monk-led tour of Abbaye Saint-Wandrille, a centuries-old working abbey. The tearoom and gardens of Château de Bizy, a royal residence built in 1740 and inspired by Versailles, offer a moment's respite from the two-wheeled trek.

And, while Monet isn’t the only reason to ride the trail, pedal-pushers who love paintings should allow extra time for the Giverny Museum of Impressionism, which explores the revolutionary 19th-century art movement.

From National Geographic Traveler France (Gabriel Joseph-Dezaize)

Drone view of dramatic landscape in the Arapahoe Basin Ski Area in the Rocky Mountains, Colorado, ...

Drone view of dramatic landscape in the Arapahoe Basin Ski Area in the Rocky Mountains, Colorado, US.

Photograph by Getty Images

4. Arapahoe Basin, Colorado

Reach a Rocky Mountain high

For unparalleled views of the Continental Divide, one must climb hand over foot up North America’s highest via ferrata. A climbing route comprised of metal rungs and cables, Arapahoe Basin’s Iron Way begins at the base of granite Rocky Mountain cliffs and ascends nearly 1,200ft to a 13,000ft summit. A glance below reveals a weathered Colorado landscape dotted with green moss and pink and purple flora, and rock gardens created by the cliffs themselves, their fallen chunks varying from pebble- to car-sized. The thin air is occasionally punctuated by the shrill peep of a marmot or pika.

Climbers scale the cliffs using the metal rungs while also gripping the rock or wedging a foot into a crack for leverage. To avoid what could be a 1,000ft plunge to certain death, climbers must clip their harnesses from one cable to the next as they go. The route is entirely exposed, and thunderstorms can roll in suddenly.

From the cliffs above, a herd of high alpine mountain goats are often stoic observers, but typically disappear as travellers reach the summit. This marks the halfway point. From here, climbers must also descend, which, for via ferrata first-timers like Michael Lytle, can be the most harrowing part of the journey. “You try not to look all the way down. The highway looks like a piece of thread from up there,” Lytle says. “The fear factor is real.”

From National Geographic Travel US (Shauna Farnell)

Scuba diver in Chandelier Cave, Palau.

Scuba diver in Chandelier Cave, Palau.

Photograph by Alamy

5. Palau  

Go shark diving in the Pacific

Step off the plane at Palau International Airport and the stamp in your passport will include the Palau Pledge, which all visitors must sign, promising that ‘the only footprints I shall leave are those that will wash away’. The 59-word eco-pledge was drafted by and for the children of this remote western Pacific archipelago to help protect Palau’s culture and environment from the negative impacts of tourism.

Some 80% of Palau’s waters — recognised by National Geographic’s Pristine Seas project as one of the richest marine ecosystems on the planet — is preserved as the Palau National Marine Sanctuary. At 193,000sq miles, the sanctuary is one of the world’s largest protected marine areas, safeguarding more than 700 species of coral and 1,300 species of fish, including a dazzling array of sharks.

“From the air, Palau looks like paradise on Earth,” says Pristine Seas founder and National Geographic explorer-in-residence Enric Sala. “When you get underwater, you’re transported to a different world.”

During the 20th annual Shark Week Palau, from 27 February to 6 March 2022, divers can observe and participate in citizen science-assisted counts of numerous shark species, such as grey reef, blacktip, blue, tiger and hammerhead. Daily dive sites are chosen for their abundant sharks and other marine life, including large aggregations of manta rays and thousands of spawning fish. Snorkellers can join a February or November Oceanic Society tour of Palau’s UNESCO World Heritage-listed Rock Islands Southern Lagoon, home to reef sharks, dugongs, giant clams and marine lakes teeming with thousands of golden jellyfish.

From National Geographic Traveler India (Maryellen Kennedy Duckett)

Locals enjoying a game of football on the beach, Taghazout, Morocco.

Locals enjoying a game of football on the beach, Taghazout, Morocco.

Photograph by Getty Images

6. Taghazout, Morocco 

Enjoy the ride in one of North Africa’s best surfing spots

With waves, dunes and ramps to ride and a traditional souk to explore, finding an active pursuit in Morocco’s surf capital, Taghazout, is no problem. A favourite of European backpackers and surfers, the former fishing village on the country’s southwestern Atlantic Coast isn’t under the radar anymore (there’s a Hyatt Place resort and the luxury Fairmont Taghazout Bay opened in July 2021), yet it remains charmingly laid-back and local. Surf season is October to April, when a consistent northwest swell creates quality waves at reef, point and beach breaks such as postcard pretty Panorama, a sheltered, sandy-bottom break ideal for beginners.

Rent surf gear in town, but plan to bring or buy skateboards to ride the concrete waves at SkatePark Taghazout, built in 2017 by the non-profit Make Life Skate Life. Before hitting the park, take a day trip to the seaside resort city of Agadir, just 12 miles south, to get boards at Tamara SkateShop and to wander the city-within-a-city Souk El Had, a sprawling traditional marketplace covering more than 32 acres. End the trip on a high note by surfing down the beachfront dunes in Tamri, 27 miles north of Taghazout, on a guided sandboarding excursion.

From National Geographic Travel US (Maryellen Kennedy Duckett)

7. Peru 

A new UNESCO listing for Chankillo

Six hours north of Lima, in Peru’s largely undiscovered north, stand 13 time-worn mounds spread across a hillside like the ridged backbone of a dinosaur. More than 2,300 years old, these towers form the oldest astronomical observatory in the Americas and in July 2021 were inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Thor Heyerdahl mentions them in his classic travelogue Kon-Tiki, but hypotheses about their use weren’t formalised until 2007. Located in the already-archaeological-rich Casma-Sechín river basin, this pre-Incan 300-metre-long chain of towers allowed the sun-worshipping inhabitants to observe the sunrise and sunset and calculate the exact date to within one or two days — staggering for the time — to plan their planting and harvesting seasons, as well as religious festivals. Also on site is a temple with three layers of labyrinthine walls that have false entrances to deter attacks.

Other undiscovered attractions in the area include the UNESCO-listed sites of Chan Chan, the largest pre-Columbian city in South America, and the Huaca de la Luna (Temple of the Moon) in the Moche Valley. Also worth a visit are the pre-Incan settlement of Chavín de Huántar in the Huayhuash mountain range and Kuélap, a mist-shrouded medieval citadel built by the ‘cloud warrior’ Chachapoya people and nicknamed the ‘Machu Picchu of the North.’

The World Monuments Fund has a new tour of Chankillo run by Dr Ivan Ghezzi, the former director of the National Museum of Peru, with a portion of the proceeds directed towards increased protection of the site, which has been eroded by strong coastal winds, earthquakes and temperature fluctuations.

From National Geographic Traveller UK (Emma Thomson)

Published in the Jan/Feb 2022 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)

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