The Best Adventure Trips To Take In 2023
Adventure can be found just about anywhere. That said, there are some parts of the world where getting outdoors is an entirely unmatched experience. Maybe it’s going to a home base for backcountry skiing that can only be accessed by helicopter, or wild, waterfall-filled terrain that few people have ever traversed. Or perhaps it’s a desert that initially seems inhospitable yet proves itself full of life. Though vastly different from each other, all of these locations have one thing in common: a sense of place unlike anywhere else.
Make 2023 the year you push your sense of adventure further.
Entries are in no particular order. Picks were chosen and written by Suzie Dundas, Tim Wenger, Eben Diskin, and Katie Scott Aiton.
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“The North,” as BCers call it, takes the best of British Columbia’s famed outdoor recreation and amplifies it. Here, you can jet boat along the Skeena River and kayak the Kispiox in the same trip, flying into the small mountain town of Smithers before heading north to base yourself at Bearclaw Lodge. Outside the region’s hub towns of Smithers and Terrace, most of the region is First Nations land, the home of multiple Witsuwit’en communities as well as the Kitseguecla, Nisga’a, and others. The mountains hold legends as big as the adventures, with ample hiking, backpacking, mountain biking, fishing, and skiing available.
As travelers continue to head into the outdoors in record numbers, northern BC offers an escape from the crowds. It’s one of the best places in the world for heli-skiing, and even if you stay grounded, it would take multiple lifetimes to explore all of the region’s backcountry skiing access. Smithers is also home to the world’s first backcountry-only ski area, Hankin Evelyn, where ski touring up the mountain provides access to cut runs and an old hut to post up at to rest over your packed lunch. For lift-accessed skiing, Hudson Bay Mountain Resort and Shames Mountain offer some of the gnarliest terrain in The North.
To sleep closer to civilization, Smithers and Terrace are the places to be. In Smithers, the Prestige Hudson Bay Lodge puts you walking distance to the town’s Bavarian-inspired downtown dining and shopping core. In Terrace, check into Hidden Acres Treehouse Resort for a unique stay near the heart of town.
— Tim Wenger
The Mexican state of Oaxaca rarely comes up in conversations about mountain destinations in Norther America. Indeed, this hub of agave and agriculture is better known for its mezcal and mole than its mountain biking, but it’s high time the lush trails of the Sierra Madre get the recognition they deserve. Oaxaca is rich in natural beauty and in trails along which to take it in, both south and north, including La Mesita Park outside the village of of San Pablo de Etla.
Upon landing at Oaxaca International Airport, check into lodging on the northern side of Centro or in Guelaguetza. Selina is ideal for adventure travelers looking to work remotely while in Oaxaca, with an onsite coworking space and an in-hose community of digital nomads to explore with. For a higher-end stay, opt for Hotel Escondido Oaxaca, a lux property with uber-clean rooms and a spacious garden.
Then make your way to the office of Coyote Aventuras, a local adventure travel tour operator that leads mountain biking and hiking trips in the Sierra Madres. Choose a tour that includes stops at Hierve al Agua, a natural spring in the mountains, or overnight biking tours that cover dozens of trail miles over multiple days. Another must-do in Oaxaca is a visit to Monte Alban, the ancient Zapotec capital city, where you’ll walk through the elevated ruins and earn your night’s mole in what is effectively a cultural tour that doubles as a full-on hike.
Nothing says adventure like a trip to the Arctic. The Arctic is one of the last places on Earth where staggering natural beauty isn’t spoiled by flash photography and tourism-oriented road signs. In Greenland’s west coast, roads between towns and settlements often don’t even exist, but that’s part of the appeal of visiting everything from the glaciers of Kangerlussaq to the whales and icebergs of Ilulissat.
You can easily spend the entire day on the Russell Glacier ice fishing, hiking, seeing wildlife, or even spend multiple days on a dog sledding expedition, all courtesy of Albatross Arctic Circle. Via ferry or small plane, you can hop along the coast through the tiny seaside villages that embody Greenlandic fishing culture. In Ilulissat, take a boat tour through the famous icefjord, home to some of Greenland’s most epic icebergs. If you’re lucky, you’ll also catch a glimpse of a humpback whale. A short ferry ride from Ilulissat is Disko Island, the biggest island in Baffin Bay. Its capital of Qeqertarsuaq (the only town on the island), is a colorful fishing village in the shadow of towering mountains, and the perfect base for exploring the nearby Lyngemark Glacier or the basalt rock formations of Kuannit.
Whether you’re visiting the wild west coast or the similarly beautiful eastern or southern Greenland, keep in mind that there are limited accommodations and places to eat. Most villages may have a single guest house and a cafe with limited hours, meaning you can’t be too picky when it comes to sleep and food – but you’ll be too busy dogsledding to care.
— Eben Diskin
New Zealand handled the pandemic incredibly well. By locking down its borders in the preliminary stages of the outbreak – and keeping them closed – the island has been unreachable for the past few years. That left travelers some serious catching up to do in 2023.
King County (Rohe Potae), also known as the Western Uplands, is an outdoor jungle gym in the North Island of New Zealand. The picturesque rolling hills and valleys and limestone cliffs and caves are elevated by the welcoming nature of the region’s locals and Māori culture. Although there’s a huge amount to see in the region, including the active Mount Ruapehu volcano that’s North Island’s highest point, the best way to see the region is to travel at a slower pace through Whanganui National Park.
Whanganui National Park is anchored by the Whanganui river, which has water-based adventures to suit all, including a kayaking safari on the Whanganui Journey. New Zealand is a great country to explore by kayak and this route is particularly special as it takes paddlers through deep gorges and past cascading waterfalls. Enjoying the river is a breeze and there are various rental companies and tour operators that can help you plan an itinerary, like Intrepid Travel.
— Katie Scott Aiton
In an age where people can search for information about obscure destinations in a matter of seconds and book flights to remote corners of the earth from a phones, few places in the world anymore seem truly rugged and remote. But the Australian Outback remains one of those destinations that still feels like a genuine adventure — tell people you’re planning a trip through the desert, and you’re bound to get more than a few impressed responses.
That’s probably because of the sheer size and remoteness of the Outback, part of Australia’s Northern Territory (NT). While the inland areas of the NT may lack coastal access, they’re one of the most desirable places to be for people who find beauty in the vastness and scale of the planet’s diverse landscapes. The Outback is an endless, bright-orange desert, sure. But it’s also home to slot canyons and vivid red-rock spires, and sites of cultural significance to Australia and its Aboriginal people. And after the sun sets, the Outback has the most unfathomably large expanse of starry sky you’ll ever see. Self-guided road-tripping is a popular activity, but visitors can take also day tours from the quirky and artistic town of Alice Springs and spend their days on ATV tours, hiking through towering canyons, or searching for elusive desert wildlife after dark.
One of the best things about the NT is that it also has some of the most stunning coastlines in the world. Anchored by Darwin, the NT’s region known as the Top End has more than 6,800 miles of coastline — roughly 10 times more than California. From Darwin, visitors can road-trip to the waterfalls, swimming holes, and historic mines of the achingly beautiful Litchfield National Park, take a bush plane to a wilderness lodge next to a wildlife-filled billabong, or go on a crocodile airboat safari before retreating to a luxury safari tent at the Bamurru Plains luxury bush camp.
After two years of difficult and limited travel, 2023 is the year to plan an extended trip — especially for travelers who can work remotely. Road-trippers will want to spend at least three or four days in the desert (or eight, for the famous Outback Way drive), and truthfully, you’ll want another seven days to explore the gemstone-colored waterways and coastlines closer to Kakadu National Park. And since Darwin is one of the coolest towns in Australia, you’ll want to add a day or two on either end for a sunset fish ‘n chips cruise, afternoon street festival, or pub tour through the nearby desert.
And speaking of festivals: consider planning your 2023 NT adventure around one of the major Aussie festivals in the territory, like the June Barunga Festival, August’s Darwin Festival (with a massive lineup of events and classes celebrating arts and performance), or May’s Taste of Kakadu (a nine-day event highlighting Aboriginal and bush foods in the gorgeous national park). Travelers headed farther south may want to check out the large-scale light and sound installations of the April Parrtjima Festival in Alice Springs; it’s 10 days of cerebral, otherworldly, and beautiful art and performance in the desert.
— Suzie Dundas
Vancouver Island is my favorite island in the world – and yes, I am taking into account tropical, sun-drenched beauties like Tahiti and the Virgin Islands.
Sprawling Vancouver Island is just a quick ferry ride from the city of Vancouver, but it couldn’t be more different from its cosmopolitan neighbor. Anchored by just one city — Victoria, home to roughly half of the island’s 800,000 residents — most of the island is still fairly undeveloped. That’s likely because Vancouver Island’s inlets, sounds, rocky isles, and 6,000-to-7,000-foot peaks are covered in dense temperature rainforest.
Fortunately, many of those foggy coastal inlets and lush forests are protected by Parks Canada and local Indigenous organizations. Both Pacific Rim National Park Reserve and Gulf Islands National Park Reserve offer activities ranging from coastal hiking to whale and bear watching to paddling, scuba diving and freediving, forest walks with First Nations tribes, and tide-pooling, among other activities. Every summer, climbers and mountain bikers from mainland towns come to Vancouver Island to take advantage of its significant elevation changes, basing themselves near the breweries, trailheads, and festival-filled town squares of coastal fishing-towns-turned-outdoor-recreation-hubs like Tofino and Campbell River.
One of my favorite things about Vancouver Island is the uniqueness of its lodging options, many of which were designed to prioritize sustainability and access to nature. I adore the remote and luxurious Clayoquot Wilderness Lodge, the WILD POD bubble domes inside a UNESCO biosphere reserve, the cozy yurts in the farmlands of Merridale Cidery and Distillery, and the coastal rooms at the modernized Tofino Resort and Marina (a lovely resort inside a renovated seaside motel, complete with a private floating sauna).
There’s no better way to experience Vancouver Island’s beauty than to be surrounded by it, and all visitors should try to go for at least one hike while there. It’s the perfect place for a 2023 trip that blends hiking and wilderness activities with higher-end meals and lodging, especially for travelers who picked up hiking, foraging, or birdwatching during the pandemic. So if you can tear yourself away from trips to see orca whales or afternoons spent exploring Victorian castles and rose gardens, spend a day hiking a section of the challenging Juan De Fuca Trail (29 miles, 4,760-foot gain), which traverses across rainforests and remote beaches. For a more relaxed outdoor experience, take the one-mile hike through Cathedral Grove to see trees more than 800 years old or the .7-mile North Rainforest Hike in Pacific Rim National Park to traverse wooden boardwalks through a tightly packed old-growth rainforest.
A note about trip planning: Vancouver Island is huge, and driving between towns can take hours, especially as very few roads cross the island’s interior — expect winding coastal roads, not freeways. Fortunately, it deserves more than a few days of your time and should be a sizable part — if not the entirety — of your next British Columbia vacation. Spring through fall is the most popular time to visit, not just because of weather but because of the island’s popular festivals. That includes the Pacific Rim Whale Festival to celebrate the annual grey whale migration in April, the 10-day Victoria Jazz Festival in early July, and the weekend-long BC Seafood Festival in late June.
It may be a bit lazy to list “Patagonia” as if it’s just one place. Patagonia, the region that spans more or less all of South America, covers more than 400,000 square miles. And within that is, well, just about everything geographically speaking.
While Patagonia is perhaps most famous for its turquoise fjords, jagged mountain peaks, wild weather, and remote, undeveloped islands, the huge region includes so much more to see. Patagonia is home to dozens of volcanoes that heat hundreds of natural hot springs, temperate forests with rare species like cougars and leopard-like Geoffroy’s cats, deserts where the only way to explore their reaches is by traveling with pack horses and gauchos, and a range of seaside and mountain towns dotted with bed and breakfasts, wildlife photography schools, and mama y papa restaurants offering Argentinian and Chilean cuisine.
With climate change, environmental loss, and the speed with which so many species are going extinct on the global agenda for 2023, it seems like a fantastic year to visit Patagonia, where travelers can see first-hand reasons to protect the planet and its animals and people.
Travelers keen to see the region’s most famous geologic feature – the famous towers of Torres del Paine National Park – will want to base themselves in Puerto Natales, which serves as the starting point for the region’s famous O and W treks. Once a small fishing village, the town now welcomes global travelers keen to reach the park’s farthest-flung corners. Lodging in Puerto Natales ranges from luxury lodges like the modern fjord-side Remota Hotel to hostels to glamping within the park; Chile Nativo offers a particularly appealing two-day puma-tracking tour that includes overnight lodging in bubble domes at a remote camp.
Travelers who base themselves in Punta Arenas have all the activities of the semi-large city at their disposal, like weekend tours to visit a whale research camp; day tours to photograph penguins; guided horseback, hiking, or mountain biking tours; and outdoor markets in the summer. If you’re staying here, consider basing yourself at the walkable La Yegua Loca, a warm and welcoming boutique hotel where rooms are themed after Punta Arenas circa 1920. Many tours to Antarctica also depart from the southern city.
A third option is to stay in Ushuaia, Argentina, near the famous Tierra del Fuego. Visitors can travel to the southernmost point (Cape Horn), kayak across glacier-fed lagoons, or ride the End of the World Train – a great option for sightseeing in Patagonia’s more remote areas without an extensive hike.
Patagonia is a long flight from most US cities, subject to whipping winds and snowstorms even in summer, and home to hundreds of inhabited islands with no one around for miles. These are, of course, selling points for adventure travelers, who will regret kicking the can for yet another year on planning their South American adventure.