The Best Outdoor Activities to Try When Traveling
The Best Outdoor Activities to Try When Traveling

The Best Outdoor Activities to Try When Traveling

Traveling is all about broadening your horizons with new experiences. One of the best ways to do this is by trying outdoor activities, particularly adrenaline-fuelling outdoor activities, in the countries you visit.  

I’m confident that if you try any of the activities on this list, you’ll not only remember it as one of the highlights of your trip, but you’ll be keen to try another. I haven’t done every single activity on this list, but I can promise you that it won’t be too long before I have.

Now let’s get into the list of the best outdoor activities to try when traveling.

Hiking

If I was only allowed to recommend just one of the activities on this list, it would be hiking. The barrier to entry both money and fitness wise is low and, in my opinion, it’s the one that allows you to connect with nature the most.

You need minimal equipment to get out on a hike and can make it as easy or difficult as you like. Be it a slow multi-day trek up an extinct volcano or a quick up and down of a local hill with a viewpoint, hiking will have even the most city-dwelling travelers appreciating what mother nature has to offer.

Just ask the locals wherever you are and you’re bound to find out about the best hiking trails.

Alan doing some hiking, which is one of the best outdoor activities.

Running

Next in on the list is running. This is another one that you can get going with easily. Just grab yourself a decent pair of running shoes and you’re all set.

No matter where you are, running is a great way to enjoy the outdoors on your travels and see a lot of your current location in a short time. Whether you’re in the middle of a city or in a remote mountain town, setting out on a run will help you to see the sights and add some adventure to your trip.

I’m more of a hiker/walker myself, but a good run now and again keeps things exciting for me.

Skiing/snowboarding

Snowboarding is my absolute favourite outdoor activity. There’s nothing quite like being in the mountains surrounded by breath taking nature and then getting to glide down them with the fresh air in your lungs. It’s the ultimate sense of freedom and fun.

Granted, snowboarding/skiing can get expensive depending on your budget and where you are. But if your budget allows, then you should definitely try and fit some into your trip. You could work a ski season if you wanted to cut costs and live the mountain lifestyle. Workaseason is a good website for finding mountain jobs in winter.

I did two seasons, one in Les Arcs, France and another as a snowboard instructor at Mt Seymour, Canada. France was the big-mountain experience, Canada was all about amazing snow conditions. Both seasons were incredible experiences and I’m hoping to be back on my snowboard sometime soon.

A picture of Alan Palazon, the author, snowboarding.

Rock climbing

The closest I’ve come to proper rock climbing is indoor bouldering. However, this gave me a taste of what it’s like and so I have no doubt that the real deal is an awesome outdoor activity to fit into your travels.

What I love about climbing is that it’s both a physical and a mental challenge. You need to pick your line before you start tackling the climb. Then, when you’re on the wall, you need to make smart moves to conserve energy and not get yourself into a pickle.

It’ a tough challenge which done in the outdoors must be even more fun.

Kayaking

Kayaking is such a worthwhile outdoor activity to add into your trip itinerary. The slow nature of it can allow you to really take in and appreciate your surroundings. Plus, it’s also a great upper body workout.

Kayaking humbles you in a way too as you’re in such a small speck of a vessel at the mercy of the water. Sitting in a kayak for the first time can make you feel a little vulnerable at first and this makes you respect the water.

Here are some pics of me kayaking around the Spreewald biosphere about an hour from Berlin.

A kayak heading down a canal through a forest.

Paddle boarding

Paddle boarding is probably the most relaxing of the best outdoor activities to try when traveling that even the most inactive people would enjoy it. Standing on your board and gently paddling through the water is somewhat therapeutic.

Paddle boarding is great for exploring calmer waters, but can also be really fun in the ocean, especially when trying to get over waves before they crest. I had some pretty good GoPro footage exploring some mangroves with a paddle board in El Salvador a few years back. However, that GoPro was stolen in a hostel not too long after.

Canyon river exploring

This is an incredibly adventurous and fun outdoor activity to try when traveling. Canyon river exploring is all about following a river through canyon on foot and swimming. You’ll be jumping from the canyon into the river, sliding down rapids and scaling trails.

I explored the Canyon de Somoto in Nicaragua and did all of the above. Our guide was wicked; he knew the canyon like the back of his hand and showed us the best spots to jump from. He told me that highest point I jumped from was 20m.

I also had this whole day captured on my GoPro…I hope the dude that stole it enjoyed the footage (and that he broke his leg or something).

Cliff jumping

I’ll admit that I’ve never done cliff jumping per say. Although, I think my experience at El Canyon de Somoto came pretty close. I guess the feeling of jumping from a cliff is an even greater rush and I want to try it. Somewhere tropical with clear blue waters would be insane.

If you do any cliff jumping, or canyon river exploring for that matter, be savvy. Go with a guide and look after yourself.

Skydiving

Skydiving is crazy, no doubt that it has to be on the list of the best outdoor activities to include in your trip. Do it on a sunny, blue-sky day too, and it’ll be one of those experiences you never forget. I passed through a couple of different mental states before the jump. I had the jump booked for a few months with two friends. Right up until about 30 minutes before taking off I was super excited.

Then, after getting geared up, while waiting for the plane to land from taking up the previous group of jumpers, my nerves kicked in. The thought of the possibility of something going wrong, albeit a tiny possibility, went through my mind.   

But the nerves were all part of the fun. And when it came time to jump, the moment I left the plane, the nerves turned to euphoria. The rush of falling at 120mph while being able to see for miles and miles is irreplicable.

The only thing is that it’s over way too quickly, so you really need to be present. Else, with hindsight, it may not seem all that great.

As fun as it was, skydiving was a one and done for me. At the risk of sounding hypocritical, I think experiences that have as big of an impact on the environment as skydiving does are best enjoyed once.

Alan doing a tandem skydive with an instructor.

Alan descending from a skydive via parachute with the tandem intsructor.

Bungee jumping

This one is on my bucket list. For some reason bungee jumping seems a lot scarier to me than sky diving. But I guess that’s what makes up a big part of the draw. I think I’d stay away from doing a bungee jump in a country where health and safety regulations aren’t stringent, but ultimately, it’s your choice.

Surfing

Surfing easily makes my list of the best outdoors activities to try when traveling. It takes a bit of patience to get the hang of timing paddling to catch the wave and then to stand up. But once you get it and you’re up on your board riding the wave, it’s a lot of fun.

Just being out on the ocean sitting on your board wating for a wave is pretty cool too. You generally just enjoy the calmness of it and also get chatting with other surfers. Surfers always seem to be really laid-back people who are great to talk to.  

I did a bit of surfing in Mexico — where I had the best teachers — and Central America and would love to do it in another part of the world.  

A surfer riding a wave in Chacahua, Mexico.

Get more adventure travel idea inspiration

And that’s my list of the best outdoor activities to try when traveling. I’m sure I’ll have new ones to add as my adventures continue, so make sure to check back in the future for more inspiration.

In the meantime, A World Over has more adventure travel content. Head to the A World Over blog where you’ll find destination guides and more adventure travel advice.

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