It’s that hard to describe feeling: that effervescent mix of anticipation and excitement, awe and a bit of nerves. That life-affirming sense of self and family. That childlike, giddy feeling of expectation and breathless note of suspense—what will tomorrow bring?
You know that feeling, you get it every holiday season as you plan presents and Christmas morning cocoa. You also get it when you start planning that epic adventure vacation you’ve been dying to go on. When you for real commit to going, when you start packing, and when you struggle to fall asleep because tomorrow’s the day you get on a plane and FINALLY make that dream a reality.
The holidays season and adventure travel both share that something special that keeps you dreaming all year long. And when you put them together? Magic.
And who doesn’t want their holiday season to be full of magic and wonder?
We put together our Top 10 Holiday Adventures so that you can do as Santa does and spend your holiday vacation doing some globetrotting. So that you can maybe make a new tradition and make a place for adventure, nature and family in your holiday.
This year, skip the tree and gather around adventure! Are you coming?
1 - Yachting in the Galapagos
Heading to the Galapagos is definitely one way to spend the holidays under the sun and surrounded by plenty of friendly, exotic and fascinating wildlife that would go great in a claymation holiday movie. We have a number of comfortable and spacious yachts and ships for our Galapagos cruises, so that you can hop from volcanic island to volcanic island without a worry in the world. In between your outings hiking through terra firma, snorkeling with sea lions and kayaking around unique geologic features, you can put your feet up on deck and relax with stunning views, gourmet meals and a sundowner.
2 - Wildilfe Viewing in Kenya
Are you dreaming of a white Christmas? Or are you safari dreaming? With images of lions, elephant and rhinos dancing upon vast grasslands? If you’re hoping for close encounters of the wildlife kind, look no further than Kenya. You’ll wake up with the sun for game drives, hear the calls of majestic wildlife and discover the magic of a natural world that you won’t find in a Christmas tree lot (though those can be pretty magical, too).
3 - “The Everything-ing” Cuba
We couldn’t narrow it down. There’s just too many active adventures to be had in Cuba. Paddling your kayak through sparkling Caribbean coastlines? Check. How about paddling your kayak through the labyrinths of lush mangroves? Check. (recently featured in the NY Times) Switch your paddle for a pedal, and hop on a bike for a cycle through the waving fronds of banana trees and tobacco fields. Hike through richly biodiverse mountains to waterfalls secreted away. Slip on a snorkel and see what those coral reefs are all about. Take to the trail and discover what in the world a mogote is. Or, maybe, put your feet up, cruise in a colorful classic car and discover that history is its own adventure. If you’re one to think outside the box during the holidays (*wink wink* see what we did there?), Cuba might be your holiday destination.
4 - Steppe Trekking Patagonia
There’s no better place to hit the trail, engage your senses and discover the call of the wild than Patagonia. With epic Torres del Paine National Park Tours being the source of the call, it’s not one you want to deny. Stunning mountains that pierce the sky, sky-lit EcoCamp domes surrounded only by steppe, bright turquoise lakes, and glistening icebergs that would make the North Pole jealous await you in this wild “end of the world” destination. If you want to go far out, Patagonia’s a destination that packs a punch. Your choice: snow globe, or eco-dome?
5 - Hiking in Peru
Crossing off a bucket list destination like Peru is a gift in and of itself. Hike little-known valleys and archeological sites like Chachabamba and Wiñay Wayna. Explore bustling villages where local weavers host stands selling their bright textile wears. Trek through the Sacred Valley, pedal to secret lagoons and spend your nights under two soaring mountains: the iconic Machu Picchu and the lush Huayna Picchu. In Peru, each trail is one of discovery—into the country’s rich Incan past, into a breathtaking natural world, into a culture as bright as their parkas. And if you’re up to even more enchantment, you can combine an Andean exploration with a Galapagos cruise.
6 - Cruising Antarctica
Rethink winter at the North Pole (Santa’s not there anyway) and head to the South Pole’s Antarctica. Everything in Antarctica is big and vast. Glacial walls soar over 300 feet high. Sweeping icebergs float the cold waters, serving as floatation devices for seals. Mass colonies of penguins paint the snow in giant swathes of color. Below the sea, mammoth whales croon. Cruising Antarctica takes you to epic passages where it’s just you, your loved ones and panoptic views that are more than just memorable, they’re magical.
7 - Kayaking Baja
Kayak Baja’s blues this winter, and discover why Jacques Cousteau was all about Baja. Warm in the sun, tropical fish cast a kaleidoscope of color under the sea, sea lions give you a underwater acrobatic show better than one you could snag in Las Vegas, and kayaking along the sherbet-colored shores is simply one of the most inspiring, soul-revealing experiences you could hope for. And even better, mid-December is when Baja comes to life with blue, minke and fin whales passing by, and even the occasional orca. Sea kayakers in particular are in paddle heaven as the waters calm and the wind drops during this time of year. It’s taking your “December cruise” to a whole new level.
8 - Jungle Trekking Costa Rica
You can do a lot of jungle-trekking in Costa Rica, but really the adventure options are endless and for your choosing (for all of you people out there who like to choose your own gifts). From zip-lining to sea kayaking, hiking among the toucans and the chirping monkeys to swimming in waterfall pools, Costa Rica is abundant in eco-adventures that should be on everybody’s Christmas list. You can stay in luxurious eco-lodges, see if you can spot a sloth slowly descending from his perch, or maybe simply stare up at the vast jungle tapestry that wraps you in a lush world of green.
9 - Safari South Africa
It’s summer in the Southern Hemisphere during the holiday season, but South Africa won’t be hit hard by visitors in December when the country is warm, lush and green. Cape Town captivates, your favorite African creatures roam the rolling lowveld, Kruger National Park is what safari dreams are made of, and the Western Cape’s seaside vistas will change how you see South Africa. If you’re wild about wildlife, wine and vast coastlines, this is the holiday destination for you.
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10 - Paddling the Amazon
Experiencing the world’s greatest rain forest on an intimate jungle adventure in the Amazon Basin is sure to fill your holiday season with wonders. Paddling through the Amazon’s lush tributaries takes you through a world greater than you could imagine. The jungle canopy above echos with a symphony of chips, songs and squawks from the impressive array of birdlife. Monkeys swing from branch to branch and sloths stretch, stretch and stretch their arms as they shift in their treetop perches. You may even see a pink river dolphin (that’s right—a pink dolphin for those with pink-obsessed daughters) gliding alongside your kayak. If you want an active travel adventure that submerges you in a whole new world, do as the caiman alligator does and take a bite out of the Amazon.