Not everyone’s idea of a great holiday involves sitting on a beach with a good book. In fact, for some it’s not a real break unless you’ve put yourself to the test and got out of your comfort zone. That’s why we divide our adventures into four categories: easy, moderate, challenging and tough. You don't have to push yourself to the limits, but adventure activities are a great way to shake things up a bit.
Of these outdoor adventures, the challenging category contains some of our favourites. They’ll immerse you in wild and remote places few others get to experience. You’ll have to step up, and you’ll probably wish you’d trained a little more than you did, but they’re all within reach of anyone with a good fitness level, a resilient attitude, and a taste for adventure.
So if you’re looking for a real 'type two fun' challenge to get your teeth into, here are twelve challenging adventures that have got us dreaming at HQ.
1. Self-Powered 100km Kayaking Adventure in Greenland
Perfect for: Anyone looking for 'life-changing' week-long adventure trips
‘One of the Top Life-Changing Adventures for 2019’ according to the Telegraph, this adventure will be one to tell your grandkids. Travel under your own speed, kayaking across one of the most remote and beautiful landscapes on earth, witnessing the Qaleralig Fjord and the coastline of the Nuulussuaq Peninsula along the way. You’ll explore dramatic fjords and icebergs, paddle up to towering glaciers, hike on an ancient ice cap and camp in possibly the most remote place you’ll ever get to lay your head.
Fitness Level: Testing – you might want to work on your upper body strength and people with back problems should give it a miss. You’ll be kayaking for up to 3 – 5 hours per day and covering distances of up to 20 km, so it’s a good idea to do some cardio and upper body exercise in the run-up to the trip. However, you do not need any prior kayaking experience for this one.
2. Trek the Selvaggio Blu Trail in Sardinia
Perfect for: Challenging adventures with the ocean in sight
Sardinia is known for being a laidback holiday destination, where you can relax on the beaches and stuff yourself with delicious food. But there's another side to the Italian island - its brilliant trekking opportunities. And the Selvaggio Blu trail is the wildest and most challenging of the lot! You'll push yourself to your utmost limits as you climb up and abseil down vertical sea cliffs, tackle via ferrata, hike through deep forests and narrow chasms. You'll wild camp on beaches and in abandoned shepherd's huts, cooling down with a dip in the ocean after a long day's hike.
Fitness Level: This adventure is rated as "tough", our highest difficulty rating. While you don't need climbing or abseiling experience, you will need to be very physically fit, and prepared for exposed hikes on tough, rocky terrain.
3. Trek Untouched Corners of Torres Del Paine, Patagonia
Perfect for: Out of this world views
Go off-the beaten track in one of the world's most beautiful wilderness areas: Patagonia. Follow winding tracks to mountain miradors, take a boat to the face of the mighty Glacier Grey, explore the remote and insanely beautiful Bader valley, then camp on the shore of lovely Lake Pehoe – all in one of the world’s most spectacular National Parks.
Fitness Level: You’re out in the wild and far from civilisation, and while the trekking is not technically difficult, you are off the beaten track for 7 days and covering a good distance each day with some steep and uneven sections.
4. Kayak Norway’s Great Fjords
Perfect for: A little bit of everything
Unplug for a week and paddle and hike your way through some of the most scenic Norwegian fjords. At night you’ll camp near the shore or stay at a historic farm converted into a boutique hotel. The literal high point of this adventure is a hike up the majestic Galdhøpiggen (2469m), a snow-capped summit that requires the use of crampons and ropes.
Fitness Level: This is a multi-day trip with some longer days and shorter days of kayaking and hiking. Depending on the circumstances you will be paddling up to 6 hours on the longer days and with headwinds, which asks for sporty arms and a sporty mind. You do not need much experience since it is not a technically difficult trip - you will be shown how to use crampons - but you should have a good level and fitness and be sure you can sit in a kayak for quite a few hours.
5. Complete the Annapurna Sanctuary Trek, Nepal
Perfect for: an introduction to Himalyan trekking
Cross an endlessly changing Nepalese landscape of mountains, rhododendron forest, remote villages and Hindu temples, then unwind in a natural hot spring, finishing at the 4,130-metre-high Annapurna Base Camp.
Fitness Level: It wouldn’t be the Himalayas if it didn’t push you. You’ll hike between 4 to 6 hours a day, averaging around 10km per day and gradually ascend from 1050m to 4130m. While the trail is generally good, there are some more challenging uphill sections.
6. Join a 250km Expedition Through the Heart of Costa Rica
Perfect for: An adventure challenge in tropical surroundings
Hike and bike through cloud forest, mountain villages and virgin rainforest teeming with wildlife, before heading up and over the Continental Divide. You'll then embark on a white water rafting expedition down the Pacuare River, towards the pristine Costa Rican coast for a rest day.
Fitness Level: Let’s just say a healthy dose of determination is a must. For nine days on the trot you'll be hiking, biking or rafting. One day, you'll cycle 49 kilometres - on another you'll be rafting for 20 kilometres on a fast-flowing river. You’ll need stamina and your wits about you.
7. Summit Mount Kilimanjaro, Then Go on Safari
Perfect for: When you want to push yourself (up a mountain)
Spend eight days trekking through some of the most beautiful scenery on the continent, then face-off against the 5,895-metre summit of Africa’s highest mountain, Mount Kilimanjaro via the Northern Circuit. Job done, its time to relax on a 3-day safari, spotting elephants, lions and rhinos along the way.
Fitness Level: It will certainly test you, but anyone with a reasonable level of fitness should be able to claim the summit. Mount Kili is not a technical mountain, you just need to be prepared and determined. Just be wary of the high altitude, slow and steady is the name of game.
8. Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu, Peru
Perfect for: tough trekking and cultural marvels
Lay claim to one of National Geographic magazine’s 25 best treks in the world, as you cross cloud forest, glacial moraine, high mountain passes and mist-shrouded peaks on the way to the ultimate bucket list destination – Machu Picchu. This is the most popular alternative to the over-trodden Inca trail and widely regarded to be way more impressive (and with fewer crowds).
Fitness Level: The high altitude and steep terrain can be hard going at times, but anyone with pretty good fitness and a can-do attitude shouldn’t have any problems. Expect to trek between 5 and 10 hours a day, covering more than 51km on your journey.
9. Cycle the Backroads of Cuba
Perfect for: revolutionary rides
If you're fascinated by Cuba, then cycling down its backroads provides a wonderful immersion into its culture and scenery. You'll start in Havana and pedal through the Sierra de Rosario, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. After passing through spectacular forest you'll head towards the Caribbean coast, and head back to Havana by Viñales Valley. Although you'll be cycling every day, there's plenty of downtime for wild swims and checking out Cuban music. You'll stay in Casas Particulares (homestays) for a unique taste of local culture.
Fitness level: You'll need a decent level of fitness and some cycling experience to spend hours in the saddle every day. But the rides aren't long, if you're used to long-distance cycling - you'll be averaging 50 km a day.
10. Summit Yala Peak (5,500m) in Nepal
Perfect for: a mountaineering challenge in the Himalayas
Climb one of the few non-technical peaks in Nepal and experience the mighty Himalaya away from the crowds. You’ll trek through the Langtang Valley, close to the Tibetan border, dodging yaks and bedding down in remote teahouses. Get up close to towering peaks and tumbling glaciers with panoramic views of Mt Shishapangma (8,027m) and Mt Gangchempo (6,387m) and grab your ropes and crampons for a torchlight push to the top.
Fitness Level: You'll need to be fit and an experienced trekker for this one. Being at altitudes above 3000m/10,000ft is more demanding on the body than walking at low elevations, so you should pack in some training beforehand. The guide will set the pace and as with all altitude treks, the theme is ‘slowly slowly’ to ensure you adjust to the altitude. So although this trek is rated ‘challenging’ there are plenty of hours factored into each day to ensure it is completed by all.
11. Trek the Laugavegur Trail in Iceland
Perfect for: otherworldly scenery and elemental weather
Tackle Iceland's classic hut-to-hut trek - 55km of multi-coloured mountains, gorges, glaciers and the Eyjafjallajökull volcano. You’ll trek through one of the world’s most iconic landscapes, including the otherworldly Landmannalaugar mountains, a geological wonder, and stay in atmospheric mountain huts along the way. The trip ends in the beautiful valley of Þórsmörk - 'The Valley of Thor' - beneath the active volcano Eyjafjallajökull and is included in National Geographic's '20 Best Hikes in the World’.
Fitness Level: You'll need to have good fitness levels for this trek. You'll be hiking for 5-7 hours each day on 4 consecutive days of hiking. The route isn’t overly technical and doesn’t reach high altitudes, so beginner hikers will be fine - providing you're already pretty active and a pair of broken in hiking boots.
12. Canoe Expedition in the Yukon Wilderness
Perfect for: the ultimate long adventure by canoe
If you want a really challenging adventure, head to the iconic Yukon wilderness to spend over a week paddling down the Teslin and Yukon Rivers on a Canadian canoe. Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife such as bears, caribou and moose appearing on the forested banks. You'll spend long days on the water and evenings wild camping under the midnight sun. We respectfully acknowledge that this trip passes through the First Nation territories of the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in, Tutchone, Tagish and Tlingit people.
Fitness Level: Days on the expedition are long and action-packed and you'll be exposed to the elements on a week in true wilderness, so a love for adventure and the great outdoors is a must. The canoeing is manageable by anyone with decent fitness levels, and who has done adequate training.
If you want to push yourself harder, check out our range of challenging adventures, for small groups in remote places.