Haven’t been much further than your front door in 2020? Here’s to a more hopeful 2021 for travellers. Whether you’re raring to book your next far-flung adventure or just want some inspiration for armchair wanderlust, these five wild adventures are at the top of my bucket list for 2021.
Five bucket list adventures for 2021
Bike the French Alps
Who says you need to go far from home to find epic two-wheeled adventure? The French Alps may be easy to reach but it’s a true mecca for mountain bikers. Whether you’re riding through the unspoiled forests of La Clusaz or daring the legendary Pleney downhill course in Morzine, mountain bike touring in the French Alps is the perfect way to explore this epic mountain range. Not sure where to start? Come summer, the snow melts away and the vast and scenic Portes du Soleil ski area becomes a playground for all abilities of mountain biker. 12 resorts are connected by myriad trails, and routes range from short easy courses that only take a few hours to cycle to challenging multi-day cross-country adventures. If you want to brush up on your skills first, head to Morzine, where a dedicated mountain bike school can help you get ready to hit the harder trails.
Go wild in the Canadian Rockies
The vast, untamed stretches of Canada’s backcountry are a land of alpine meadows, coniferous forests, ice fields and mountain passes, as well as picture-perfect emerald lakes you can swim in – what more could you want for a trekking trip on the wild side? Whether you start in Jasper or Banff national parks, you’ll find the Canadian Rockies home to mile upon mile of remote and narrow trails suitable only for exploring on foot, on mountain bike or on horseback. You might just spot some local residents on your way, too – the mountains are home to black bears, moose, bighorn sheep, bison, cougars, wolves, and eagles. This is real wilderness, but you’ll find plenty of cosy lodges to stay at after a hard day’s exploring. If you want to experience the real spirit of adventure, make sure you camp for at least some of your trip – a network of campsites are open all summer so you can get your fill of s’mores and sleeping under the stars.
Island adventures in Roatan
When you think of the Caribbean, you might picture lazing the day away on a white sandy beach – but there’s a more active side to these paradisiacal islands. The island of Roatan in Honduras may only be 48 miles long but it packs in dense tropical jungles, lush low-lying hills and immense ocean vistas. Mostly underdeveloped, the east end of the island still has a real feeling of being in the wild, and is home the Port Royal Wildlife Refuge, a 2000-acre reserve set aside for the preservation of the island’s wildlife and home to everything from bald eagles and grasshopper sparrows to flying squirrels and white-tailed deer. Bring your hiking boots and trek through the 40-acre Carambola Botanical Gardens, where tangled jungle trails are perfect for spotting wildlife including shy basilisk lizards, famous for their ability to walk on water. Then hike up to the summit of Carambola Mountain – it may not be a huge peak at 174 metres, but it offers panoramic views of the coral reefs that encircle the island.
If there’s a country that lovers of wildlife and wilderness alike should put straight to the top of their travel bucket list, it’s Ecuador. It has its own slice of the Amazon rainforest, which is easily explored by river boat on the Napo River – head to Yasuni National Park and the Cuyabano Wildlife Reserve to take a guided trek into the tangled rainforest to spot parrots, monkeys and intriguing insects. Ecuador also has its very own Darwin-esque archipelago – the Galapagos, home to unique fauna found nowhere else on earth, including iguanas, sea lions, penguins, blue-footed boobies, finches, and tortoises. Joining a boat trip such as this one is an amazing way to explore these 19 rocky islands, spotting wild cacti growing out of lava cracks on Fernandina Island or peeking into the caldera of Sierra Negra volcano as you alight on a new wonder-filled land each day.
Conquer a glacier in Iceland
Iceland’s volcanic beaches, lofty ice caps and vividly coloured night sky all have to be seen to be believed – and one of the best ways to get up close with this magnificent landscape is by conquering one of its 269 glaciers – in total they cover around 11% of the entire country. Start exploring in Vatnajökull National Park. If you dream of trying ice climbing, aim for Falljökull, famous for its natural ice sculptures and gasp-inducing heights – the latter are suitable only for more experienced climbers but local guides offer organized hikes and climbs suitable for beginners. For a more leisurely ice hike, try the Vatnajökull glacier, the largest ice cap in Europe and covering an astonishing 3,100 square miles. Another iconic glacier is Svínafellsjökull, estimated to be 1,000 years old and celebrated for having sapphire-like bright blue ice as well as surreal ice caves and the spectacular Jökulsárlón Lagoon. The lake is known for its vivid turquoise waters, littered with chunks of icebergs – paddle across the lagoon on a kayak or watch seals frolic in the waters from the shore.