THE WORLD’S MOST EXTREME TRAVELERS don’t look out over an ocean or a mountain range and think to themselves, “Oh, that’s nice. Well, time to head back to my hotel and get some shuteye before another big day tomorrow.” No, they look out over the world’s wonders and think, “How can I get an adrenaline fix out of this? Perhaps by finding an incredibly fast way to get from the top to the bottom of that mountain, or perhaps by jumping into that ocean with its most dangerous inhabitants and little protection.”
The new age of exploration is all about self-exploration — seeing how far you can push yourself, seeing what you’re really made of. Matador teamed up with Flights.com to help guide those whose travel style can best be described as “adrenaline junkie.”
1. Cliff jumping
Easily the quickest activity on our list, cliff jumping / diving can be done anywhere that has cliffs, gravity, and non-lethal materials (i.e., water) at the base of said cliffs. It involves basically no preparation — all you need is a swimsuit and a little bit of courage — and there are countless amazing places around the world to do it. One notable spot for the uncertain is Rick’s Cafe in Negril, Jamaica, where, if you don’t want to jump, you can have a drink and watch other fools do it instead. For more of a challenge, check out Palawan in the Philippines.
2. Shark diving
An important perk of diving with one of the world’s deadliest apex predators is that you’re underwater, and no one will ever know if you wet your pants. There are many types of shark dives available, from free-diving with huge, docile whale sharks, to cage diving with the infamous great white. For our money, the best spot for the latter is around Seal Island near Cape Town, South Africa. Even if the water visibility isn’t great (which, to be honest, doesn’t matter when a great white is five feet away), you may get to see the huge predators breach the water a la “Air Jaws” as they hunt the area’s many Cape fur seals.
3. Volcano trekking
You can go hiking anywhere, but there’s nothing particularly adventurous about a run-of-the-mill stroll. To remedy that, try hiking into the literal bowels of the Earth. Volcano trekking varies in definition from place to place, mostly because volcanoes vary so wildly in their activity. Haleakala, in Hawaii, for example, hasn’t done much in the past few hundred years, while the scenic volcanoes in Java are a bit more active. One of the best places to go volcano trekking, though, is Mount Etna, both because of its range of route options, its incredibly active status, and the fact that any day spent on Etna will end with a Sicilian dinner.
4. Cave diving
Scuba diving is an otherworldly experience in itself, but cave diving takes you to some of the most remote, least-touched places on the planet. It’s particularly dangerous, and thus requires an advanced certification and specialized equipment, but it’s worth it. You’ll discover geological wonders and wildlife that can be seen literally nowhere else on Earth. Become a cave diver, and you’re a legit explorer — you’ll be going places no one else has gone. One of the best known places to cave dive is in the sinkholes (or cenotes) of Mexico’s Riviera Maya, but the best cave diving spot may yet be undiscovered.
5. The Ice Marathon
An ordinary marathon would have no place on this list. Everyone does them and then puts those “26.2” stickers on the back of their car. Big deal. The Ice Marathon, however, is for true badasses — it’s a marathon in Antarctica. The race was originally founded so hardcore runners could run a marathon on all seven continents, but it’s since become its own thing. It takes place in the Antarctic summer, but that still involves constant strong winds resulting in a -20 C windchill. It all takes place only a few hundred miles from the South Pole, at the base of the Ellsworth Mountains, and offers some pretty incredible views.