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Unexpected adventures: eight escapes in the world's wildest destinations

Active breaks in hard-to-reach places will elevate your spirits and test your nerve, as well as discovering new regions and destinations.

The scenery in British Columbia makes a spectacular backdrop for trail running.

Photograph by Fredrik Larsson
By Sam Lewis
Published 31 Jul 2022, 18:00 BST

There’s something so appealing about setting off an adventure far off the beaten track. It’s not for everyone, of course, but sidestepping the most popular spots in the world and aiming for something more remote has a lot to offer.

Some of the world’s top ski resorts are open to hikers and bikers in summer, offering leg-burning long-distance trails and bike parks. And with an efficient network of lifts and gondolas, adventurers can easily reach the top of mountains without the uphill grind. 
Clear skies inland provide good conditions for paragliders and skydivers, while climbers can find plenty of scenic climbs close to lakes ideal for cool dips or paddleboarding. And while the wind may not be as reliable inland, there are some spots for keen kitesurfers, too, so if you’re feeling inspired, why not plan an adventure in the remote outdoors. 

1. Alpine running in Canada

Keen runners seeking more inspirational landscapes can join a new tour by CMH Heli-Skiing & Summer Adventures to discover the wild beauty of the Bugaboos in the heart of the Canadian wilderness. Soar over verdant forest trails, rugged mountain tops and granite spires in a helicopter before being dropped on a summit. Runners will revel in the sunny skies, breathtaking panoramas and plenty of breaks, often in crystal-clear glaciated lakes. The day ends back at base camp, a spacious fly-in backcountry luxury lodge where guests can relax with a massage, sauna or a soak in a hot tub.

Where to stay: CMH Bugaboos log-hewn lodge at the base of Bugaboo Glacier offers gourmet dining, swimming and a rooftop hot tub. From $3,025 (£1,926) for three nights/four days including meals, helicopter flights, guide, equipment and local transfers. 

2. Heli-biking in New Zealand

Cycle far from the crowds in the Wanaka region past glaciers and lakes on gentle high-country trails and tricky single tracks that combine easy free-wheeling with adrenaline pumping fun. For seasoned cyclists, the four-hour Mount Burke trail is the holy grail of mountain bike trips with riders ferried to the top by chopper to avoid the uphill grind. Soak up the scenery at 4,593ft before braving the epic downhill descent through scenic valleys and farmland to the glassy waters of Lake Wanaka and Lake Hawea for a gourmet picnic. 

Where to stay: Minaret Station, an off-grid lavish four-chalet lodge accessible by only helicopter or boat, located at 7,000ft with a valley to one side and Lake Wanaka to the other. Five nights from £5,250pp, including four nights’ full-board at Minaret Station with return helicopter transfers, excluding international flights, with Black Tomato

Preparing to go heli-biking in New Zealand.

Photograph by Fredrik Larsson

3. Glacier hiking in France

Head to Saint Martin de Belleville to traverse the Glacier de Chavière and conquer not one, but three cols, or mountain paths, at altitudes of around 10,000ft. Set off at dawn, after learning how to use an ice axe and crampons, to begin an energetic climb attached by a rope to an expert guide. Enjoy incredible views of snow-covered ridges, steep couloirs and rock towers, but take care where you place your feet as some narrow paths come dangerously close to crevices with sheer drops. After reaching the three cols — Col de Thorens, Col Pierre Lory and Col du Bouchet — return to Val Thorens in the early afternoon for a leisurely lunch. 

Where to stay: The renovated four-star Hotel Lodji at the base of Saint Martin with cosy bar, restaurant, sunny terrace and spa. Rooms from €150 (£129) a night.

4. Horse riding in Macedonia

Macedonia is peppered with magnificent lakes, national parks, churches and sheep farms, best seen on a horseback tour, staying in a different location every night. Start at the pretty village Glaichnik, tasting cheese and wine before riding the Bistra Mountain trail to Stogovo with views of the country’s highest mountain, Korab, before continuing to Mavrovo lake. Learn about Macedonia’s history spanning from Alexander the Great to present times, experiencing the local culture and riding well-trained Balkan mountain horses western style five to nine hours a day. 

Where to stay: The seven-night Miyak Tribe Trail costs from E1,134 (£972) with six days’ riding five to nine hours a day (May to October). Price includes English-speaking guide, accommodation, all meals and transfers (excludes international flights).

Tandem skydiving in Norway.

Photograph by Ervin Beheim

5. Paragliding in Slovenia

Soar like a bird over the Julian Alps and Lake Bohinj on a 90-minute tandem flight from Mount Vogel with sweeping views of imposing limestone peaks and the country’s highest mountain, Triglav (9,396ft). Glide above its crystal-clear waters where people swim, sail and kayak, or fly past the magnificent Savica waterfall before making a gentle landing on the lake’s shores. Acrobatic flights with spirals and wingovers are also available for those who want a more sensational flight. Paragliding from April to November, with prices from €110-€180 (£94-£154). 

Where to stay: For stunning views of the lake and mountain stay at Hotel Bohinj, with 69 spacious rooms reflecting the Alpine location. A restaurant serves tasty locally sourced food, while a serene spa and landscaped gardens with firepit are the ideal setting to relax and admire the scenery. 

6. Skydiving in Norway

A small Alpine town made famous by its spring water, Voss is also Norway’s extreme sport capital with ideal conditions to sky dive from late April to mid-September when the endless clear skies give the best views of Norway’s epic mountain scenery. Take the jump and you’ll have plenty of glorious hangtime to spot tumbling waterfalls, glassy glacial fathomless fjords, lush verdant valleys and snow-dusted mountains. To ensure you get the confidence and training, as well as a helpful nudge when you’re on the edge, the town has several reputable operators, including the largest skydiving club in Norway, Skydive Voss. Tandem dives from 4890 NOK (£400) student/military (£320). 

Where to stay: Bunk in a shared dorm at Skydive Voss for around NOK290 (£24) or stay at the Park Hotell Vossevangen where rooms start from around NOK1695 (£140) per night. 

 Hiking along a glacier in France.

Photograph by C. Ducruet

7. Kayaking in Greenland

Greenland’s UNESCO-listed Ilulissat Icefjord is home to Sermeq Kujalleq, one of the largest and most active glaciers in the world. Glide quietly over the waters of the Icefjord following an expert guide who will lead you from Ilulissat, towards the mouth of the fjord where it’s possible to spot humpback whales. Or paddle under the light of the midnight sun to see the icebergs change from white and blue to shades of orange and red. The range of three-hour tours (from DKK1,250/£144) include kayaking to a nearby island to see the authentic settlement Oqaatsut before hiking to a waterfall. End the day with a scenic sauna session while you watch icebergs drift by. ilulissatadventure.com†

Where to stay: The four-star Hotel Arctic on the shores of the Ilulissat Icefjord. Facilities include a bar, restaurant and five-star conference centre. Double rooms from DKK 1,876.25 (£219) per night in summer. 

8. Kite surfing in the Swiss Alps

It’s a picturesque train journey from Zurich to reach Switzerland’s Engadine valley that takes just under four hours. While the region may be best known for its mountains and winter sports, it’s also home to the shimmering Lake Silvaplana and the reliable Maloja thermal wind that locals say springs up in the valley with the precision of a Swiss watch from June to September. The Swiss Kitesurf school offers beginner courses from CHF200 (£165) or simply rent a board and kite and go solo. With the wind slowly building momentum to around 20-25 knots by late afternoon, mornings can be spent swimming or paddleboarding. 

Where to stay: There are several campsites on the lake or book the Kulm Hotel St Moritz from CHF655 (£540) for two sharing a double room on a half-board basis including unlimited access to the spa and mountain railways. 

Published in the 2022 edition of National Geographic Traveller (UK) The Lakes and Mountains Collection

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