I believe in adventure travel. For the experience. For the immersion in a moment. For the potential transformation.

But also? Adventure travel is more than a series of zip-lining or adrenaline pumping challenges. Adventure travel is a feeling. An opportunity. To explore the outdoors. To immerse yourself in local flavors and customs. To push boundaries. To meet people.

And as far as the transformation goes? Adventure travel oozes possibilities that fill us up with physical, emotional, mental and spiritual wellness.

So…the question is…where should you go for the ultimate adventure travel dream destination and life-altering journey?


10 Adventure Travel Dream Destinations

Call it an adventure travel bucket list. A dream list. A must see list. There are A LOT of fabulous places around the globe for adventure. I’m not sure that an entire lifetime is enough to experience them all, so for now – I am sharing my favorite adventure travel dream destinations that I loved and want to go back to as well as new-to-me adventures that are are the very tippy top of my list.

You will notice a few similarities. These dreamy destinations are absolutely skewed toward my love of the mountains and water (and their energizing properties). For each destination I’ve shared either my experience or why it ranks at the top of my list as well as additional articles to delve deeper into the experience. 

 


Find your way on a trek through Torres del Paine I will be honest. Although I’d long dreamt of visiting Patagonia, I only recently became acquainted with Torres del Paine. Mountains, glaciers, rivers and more make this region of Chilean Patagonia a dreamscape for outdoor adventurers of all levels. The W Trek – a 32-mile, W-shaped route in particular, intrigues me, for its daily trekking and varied conditions and vistas. And although the idea of a multi-day trek is something I’ve always wanted to do, I am not sure I’m ready for full on backpacking and camping. So I love the idea of a guided trek where you end the day either in a luxurious eco-friendly dome or in a refugio (extra bonus: you usually only need to carry a daypack during these organized treks).



Torres Del Paine resources:

Patagonia Dreaming: Adventures in Torres del Paine

Hiking the W Circuit of Torres del Paine National Park

EcoCamp Patagonia

Fantastico Sur W Trek

Want a truly epic adventure in Chile? Wildland Adventures is organizing a one-of-a-kind journey to Chile’s Atacama Desert AND Patagonia!  


Bliss out while learning to catch waves on a surfboard in Cambutal, Panama

Surfing in Camutal Panama | LiveDoGrow

Preparing for a morning of catching waves at Playa Guanico near Cambutal, Panama.

Always wanted to learn to surf? The surf breaks in Cambutal in Los Santos, Panama are ideal for newbies wanting to learn to catch waves. The welcoming Pacific Ocean swells nurture the inexperienced without the crowds of the more well known Bocas del Toro surf sports on the Caribbean side of the country. And while many people will tell you to head to Costa Rica, El Salvador, Nicaragua  or Maui to learn to surf – the Panamanian waters, energy of Cambutal and incredible surfing instruction from the Sansara Resort Surf team won me over. Plus, once you are in Cambutal – there is yoga, horseback riding, SUP and hiking to waterfalls to round out your day when you are out of the water.



Take in the waters of Greenland

Untouched nature. Glaciers creating booming movements as pieces break off into Arctic waters. Sun in the middle of the night (or dark in the middle of the day). The more I’ve read about Greenland over the last few years, the more I’ve wanted to experience it myself. Maybe it is the idea of sleeping on an ice sheet or maybe it is the idea of getting to know a deeply rooted yet remote culture. But there is something serene about the idea of traveling to Greenland. As if the quiet stillness would translate to finding a new level of peace – around me and within myself.



Dream of ancient traditions on the Salkantay trek in Peru

If you are anything like me, you pause and catch your breath every time you see a photograph of Machu Picchu. But there is more to this sacred valley than the Inca trail and magnificent ruins. The Salkantay Trail, known as the road less traveled to Machu Picchu, traverses 46 miles through nine different biozones and terrain ranging from glacier lakes to forests. Yes, there are all sorts of physical challenges to overcome along the way – especially the exertion at a high altitude. And yes, there are jaw-dropping landscapes that will undoubtedly turn even the least skilled photographer into an Ansel Adams wanna-be. But  more than just a trek, this trip along the trail offers a chance for a cultural and spiritual journey following in the footsteps of all those who’ve come before you. Although the possibility to camp along the trek exists, I admit to being lured by the promise of ending each day in the warm and luxurious refuge of a lodge. Because apparently the idea of hot showers, gourmet meals and outdoor jacuzzis after a day of trekking wins out over the temporary appeal of sleeping under the stars in this legendary region.



Get sporty in Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Adventure travel dream destinations | LiveDoGrow

The view as I soared over the clouds in Jackson Hole.

By now you’ve probably gathered that I love the mountains. But there is something especially unique to me about the landscapes and mountain peaks in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. With the Grand Teton range as a backdrop, the vast grazing fields that line the valley provide a contrast both in color and life. Maybe it is because I had my first paragliding adventure in Jackson Hole, where I soared through the quiet over the landscape below, but everything about Jackson Hole – from the rushing river waters and mountain peaks reflecting in lakes across Grand Teton National Park, to the hub of activity in the mountain village, to the charming town of Jackson – make this one of my favorite adventure destinations. And while you don’t need to set your sights on climbing to the top of Grand Teton – I’m in, if you are!



Lead a team of dogs in the Yukon

I cannot even begin to fathom what it takes to lead a team of sled dogs. The entire undertaking feels like it would be more complicated than conducting a symphony orchestra – and yet, completely magical. The chance to see such teamwork up close – with a backdrop of wide open landscapes during the day and the Northern Lights dancing in the sky at night is the stuff dreams are made of. Even without dogsledding, the more pictures I’ve seen from the Yukon, the more I feel the draw to this remote region. I will be honest. I’d not given much thought to this Canadian province in the past thinking it too cold or too remote. But across seasons, there is something so pure about the natural landscape – that my heart rate slows down in peace just thinking about it.



Explore the Berber Villages of the High Atlas Mountains

Hiking trip in High Atlas Mountains Morocco | LiveDoGrow

I had no idea the impact the High Atlas Mountains would have on me when my family first decided to spend half our time in Morocco hiking amidst Berber Villages. And the notion that I’d look up at Mount Toubkal – sitting at 4,167 meters tall –  and think that I would return to climb it one day? I never saw that coming. But there is more to the region than climbing the highest mountain in North Africa. There is a sense of community as you hike the trails between remote villages, stopping for Berber tea as you go or coming across locals on their daily commute back and forth to the more prominent village of Imlil. The bond between the people, the mountains and the land is strong and impossible to ignore. Regardless of your religious leanings, the call to prayer echoes between the mountain tops and seeps into your veins. Less than 2 hours from Marrakech – the High Atlas Mountains reveal an entirely different side to Morocco and one that will stay ingrained in my heart (until I do go back and make good on the promise to myself to summit Jbel Toubkal).



Reach the summit of a volcano in Chile Adventure travel in Chile | LiveDoGrow Honestly, I blame my time in the High Atlas Mountains for my sudden desire to start climbing mountains and volcanoes. But my time in Chile’s lake region of Puerto Varas cemented my goal of reaching a summit sooner rather than later. The bad news was that my first attempt – to climb the Osorno Volcano – did not go as planned. But what I learned during my time in Chile was that this was the place to try. Without the high elevations of other volcanoes – like Cerro Tocco in Chile’s Atacama Desert – the King of the South, or Osorno Volcano – provides a technical but attainable challenge for new mountaineers.


Find zen and do good while hiking in Nepal

First things first. I don’t think I will ever climb Mount Everest. As much as I’m a chaser of dreams, some dreams are simply too high. But there is more to Nepal than Mount Everest and now more than ever is a time to focus on the region and experience the Nepalese section of the Great Himalayan Trail – the longest and highest alpine walking trail in the world connecting communities from Tibet to Pakistan. Rural villages, snow leopards, magical temples and prayer flags blowing in the wind. The idea of waking up in the morning and meditating in such a spiritual place, followed by a trek through villages and over mountain passes makes my heart go pitter patter. A trip to Nepal offers personal transformation and satisfaction – but also a chance to connect over tea and foster sustainable progress on a grassroots level.



Truth be told, I could go on and on about dreamy adventure travel destinations. Namibia, Thailand, South Africa, Macedonia, Argentina, Alaska and Jordan would probably round out my next top spots. The reality is that we live in a big, huge world – full of possibilities, limited only by time and opportunity (and ahem…finances).

Create your own adventure transformation – anywhere you go!

I am a firm believer in the notion that transformation can happen anywhere. But you do need to be open to the possibilities and the moments instead of rushing from one site or activity to another without any reflection before, during or after the experience. To help adventurers make their own unique meaning anywhere and everywhere, Muddy Shoe Adventures – known for combining adventure travel and life coaching – has developed a self-guided adventure program that incorporates their sought after coaching model into a trip of your own choosing and planning. The self-guided program includes one-on-one work with a MSA coach before, during and after your adventure. 

 



Looking for something a bit more structured for your adventure travel dream destination? How about a structured wellness and adventure retreat to challenge yourself while finding new meaning and exploring the globe?

Try these 4 retreats for a blend of adventure, wellness and travel.

 

Get hiking with Muddy Shoe Adventures in Europe

In addition to the self-guided adventure program, Muddy Shoe Adventures hosts guided adventure and life coaching focused expeditions. Life coaching is not therapy, but it can absolutely help individuals set realistic and attainable personal and professional goals. In 2016, MSA will take off for two trips to my favorite regions in Europe: the Swiss Alps and Italian Dolomites. In some of the most beautiful and idyllic settings on the globe, these adventures will combine hiking, culture (and food!!) and inspirational conversations and reflection. Led by MSA’s founder Michael Bennett, Ed.D., these 7-14 -day experiences are built around Joseph Campbell’s concept of “The Hero’s Journey” and Bennett’s own research about the transformational power of adventure travel. 

 

Learn to be one with an ice pick in Ouray, Colorado

Admittedly, the notion of my wanting to learn to ice or rock climb is still a surprise to me. I didn’t even hang on the monkey bars in elementary school, so imagine my surprise when my inner self perked up at the idea of an all female ice climbing weekend. But after reading about the sense of empowerment and confidence that comes from reaching new heights during a Chicks with Picks program, I started to envision myself doing just that. Talk about female bonding! I’d love to gather a group of all-women friends and experience the challenge together to encourage one another while overcoming personal obstacles and preconceived notions.

 

Hiking, Fitness and Spa at Mountain Trek in British Columbia

Kootenay Lake from Mountain Trek Lodge | LiveDoGrow

View of Kootenay Lake from Mountain Trek Lodge in Ainsworth, British Columbia.

Think life-changing. Think reset. Think sleep. (Ok, not all at once). I haven’t stopped thinking about my week at Mountain Trek near Nelson, British Columbia (and it has been almost two years!). Beyond a program where guests can lose weight and reset their metabolism, the retreat experience has been skillfully created to inspired, educate and engage the body, mind and spirit to foster sustainable lifestyle changes. Yes, I lost 4 lbs during my week at Mountain Trek  while hiking through the Kootenay ranges (and then another almost 20 because of what I’d started there). But I also learned to appreciate yoga, value sleep again and be intentional about moving more each day during my weeklong stay.

Swell Women Surf Retreats

Swell Women Surf retreat

Pre-surf sun salutations with Lauren Llacera of SwellWomen. Photo credit: Sansara Surf & Yoga Resort

 

surfing with Swell Women

Lauren Llacera of SwellWomen, riding a wave like a pro! Photo credit: Sansara Surf & Yoga Resort.

You’ve probably heard of yoga and spa retreats. But a SwellWomen Surf retreat takes everything that is fabulous about a yoga and spa retreat and adds one critical (and life changing) element: surfing. I’ve been on many retreats over the last few years and never have I come home with such deep reflections and inspiration – thanks to the leadership and encouragement of Lulu Agan – owner and chief dream-come-true-maker at SwellWomen and Lauren Llacera – one of SwellWomen’s fabulous yoga instructors. With upcoming retreats in Maui, El Salvador and Nicaragua – these weeklong, all female experiential trips welcome surfers of all levels. And trust me? Apart from a mind so full of joy that even my belly flops made me laugh, my body never looked as strong as after my SwellWomen retreat.



Adventure travel dream destinations | LiveDoGrow

Written by Elena Sonnino

Elena Sonnino

Chaser of Dreams. Life coach, wellness and travel writer, yogini, former teacher, adventure seeker, hiker, foodie …and oh right, cancer survivor. Elena writes about finding everyday wellness in far-flung lands and in her own backyard in the Washington D.C. suburbs.

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