Haven’t been much further than your front door since 2020? This coming year is set to be a better one for travellers. Whether you’re raring to book your next far-flung adventure or just want some inspiration for armchair wanderlust, these wild adventures are at the top of my bucket list for 2023.
Five bucket list adventures for 2023
Ski the United States
Wide valleys, backcountry cabins and a very chilled-out vibe – skiing in the good old US of A is a world apart to Europe’s finickity mountain towns. There’s a snow-topped resort to suit everyone in the States – the only hard bit is deciding where to travel to once you’ve packed your skis. Holidu have just announced the most popular ski resorts in the US for next year, and topping the list are Colorado’s wild Copper Mountain, Crystal Mountain (Washington’s local playground) and Big Sky, Montana, which is perfect for powder lovers with an average 400 inches of snow a year. Can’t choose? Pack your skis in the trunk and go on a resort-hopping road trip with your film cameras while taking in multiple magical mountains.
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, and if you want to experience the 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.
Plan a wildlife walk on 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. 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.
Explore Ecuador and Galapagos
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 and the Galapagos. 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 trek into the tangled rainforest to spot parrots, monkeys and intriguing insects. Ecuador also has its very own Darwin-esque archipelago – the Galapagos. The ‘islands born of fire’ are home to unique fauna found nowhere else on earth, including iguanas, sea lions, penguins, blue-footed boobies, finches, and tortoises. Joining a boat trip 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.
Traverse 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.
Climb Mount Kenya
Thinking of scaling Kili? Swap it for Africa’s second-highest but arguably more beautiful peak, Mount Kenya. At 5,199 metres, it’s a smidge lower than Kilimanjaro’s 5,895 metre heights, but there are no crowds on its slopes (if you take the Burguret route you’re likely not to see another soul until summit day). Instead you’ll spot fluffy colobus monkeys and shy elephants and drink in utterly wonderful views across the Kenyan highlands at sunset. Local guides will get you up to the summit with stops to camp in bamboo forests and at remote, snow-clad mountain huts. Adventure Alternative offer a guided trek, and here’s how to DIY trek Mount Kenya. My top tip – minimise the chance of dreaded altitude sickness by teaching you to trek ‘pole pole’ (‘slowly, slowly’) up into the clouds.
Walk the breadth of Scotland, UK
Feeling strapped for both cash and time shouldn’t get in the way of completing an epic journey. Trekking Scotland’s coast to coast from Perth on the east coast to Fort William in the west takes around 10 days, the route meandering through some of Britain’s wildest and loveliest mountain landscapes. You’ll walk through the heart of the highlands and past cold mountains and mirror-like lochs, often with wild birds and the occasional pesky midge for company. TransScotland offers a self-guided trip with accommodation in cosy B&Bs each night, or you could go really zen and walk solo, stopping to sleep in stone bothies or a bivvy bag along the route.
Mountain bike the South Island, New Zealand
Atop two wheels is the perfect way to explore the wonders of the larger and wilder of NZ’s two islands, and the experts at H+I Adventures know its backcountry trails like, well, the backs of their hands. Speed through rainforest, follow the beguilingly-named Old Ghost Road and explore the island’s expansive plains and forests on some of the best biking tracks in the world, stopping to sleep at mountain huts so remote your bags get dropped there by helicopter. It’s not all hardcore riding, though – there’s time to watch whales of the coast of Kaikoura, hike to Mount Cook or just rest your dirt-caked legs in natural hot springs.
Paddle the length of the Grand Canyon, USA
Is there a more extreme backdrop to an adventure than the cavernous, brick-red Grand Canyon? Forget gazing down at it from on high, though – get up close with the world’s most famous gorge by paddling down the majestic Colorado River, which snakes for an astonishing 226 miles through this natural wonder. Raft from Lee’s Ferry to Diamond Creek with Arizona Raft Adventures – they’ll take you over world class waves and some of the 160 rapids on the run (and yes, you eat on the raft and pee in the river as you go, like a proper explorer). No phones are allowed and each night you’ll camp until a blanket of stars on the banks and wish you could be an off-grid canyon dweller forever.
Run the 100k Ice Marathon, Antarctica
Antarctica is pretty inhospitable to life. Temperatures are so far below freezing that boiling liquid turns to ice, bitter winds burn skin and the blazing, UV-laden sun never sets. But every year a group of deranged marathon runners travel to the tundra to race one another over 100km. And you can join in by running a professional marathon on a continent few humans ever set foot on, let along attempted a little jog on. The Ice Marathon is a crazy mission of a run; but one guaranteed to fill survivors with immense pride. Want more? There’s also a North Pole and a Volcano marathon on offer.