More exhilarating sports and activities
RAFTING THE KARNALI, NEPAL
Nepal is home to the highest mountains on earth, and the rivers that run down them are fast, deep, and brimming with whitewater as a result. The Karnali is Nepal’s longest river, and a multi-day trip along it marries tricky, adrenalincharged early sections with calmer moments toward its end. The route also takes in some of Nepal’s most dramatic scenery, including jagged mountains, lush jungle, and rare pockets of savanna. The river runs through remote Bardia National Park, offering the chance to see rhinos, wild elephants, and crocodiles.
DOG SLEDDING, FINLAND
Forget Father Christmas – Lapland’s real draw is its awesome scenery and tangible sense of remoteness. Winters are long and dark, summers short and magnificent, and the sky seems impossibly vast. The husky dogs here are fascinating, charismatic creatures, blending the enthusiasm typical of domestic dogs with otherworldly looks and phenomenal strength and stamina. Enter a tug-of war with one and you’ll be yanked off your feet, but taking the reins is a wonderful sensation, and speeding through the snow on a sled an achingly beautiful experience.
SPHEREING, ROTORUA, NEW ZEALAND
People had tried rolling around in giant balls before of course – and hamsters have been doing it for years – but the sulphurous, activity-mad town of Rotorua is where sphereing (or “zorbing,” as the locals call it) really took off. Participants clamber into giant cushioned balls, wobble their way through a starting gate, and then careen down a 656-ft (200-m) hill or zig-zag course, spinning head over heels in a breathless and completely undignified rush. A “wet” ride adds soapy water to the equation, for the full spin-cycle experience.
SEA KAYAKING, PRINCE WILLIAM SOUND, ALASKA
You may have paddled down rivers or lakes, but kayaking on the sea really is something else. The ocean seems to breathe beneath you, its vast expanse making you feel at once utterly insignificant and connected to something very big indeed. And if it’s scale you want, this southern dent in Alaska’s great bulk is the place to be. Its calm waters mean even beginners can paddle past icebergs, watch glaciers calve, and spot whales and sea otters; experts can range far and wide, packing gear into canoe bags and camping on remote stretches of the coast.
PLANICA SKI JUMP, SLOVENIA
Skiing is Slovenia’s national sport, and more records have been set at these jumps than anywhere else in the world. It’s unlikely you’ll fancy braving any of them yourself (the drops look utterly intimidating) but the annual World Cup event, held in late March, attracts hordes of spectators – there for the party and the sight of the daring athletes.
Denmark’s complex coastline is dotted with islands, fjords, and beaches. Nowhere in the country is more than 33 miles (53 km) from the sea, and sea-fishing trips to catch cod, mackerel, sea trout, and eel are justifiably popular. Permits are easy to obtain and well-stocked rivers and lakes inland ensure that there’s plenty to keep anglers happy too.
KLOOFING, SOUTH AFRICA
While most of the world calls it canyoning, South Africans have their own word for the practice of throwing oneself off cliffs into pools, sliding down rivers, and scrambling up wet rocks. There are bigger drops elsewhere, but Cape Town’s Table Mountain National Park offers the finest collection of kloofs (ravines) so close to a major city.
BUSHWALKING THE OVERLAND TRACK, AUSTRALIA
There are some stellar alternatives, but the king of Australia’s bushwalking destinations is in laid-back Tasmania. The Overland Track takes five to six days, and you’ll have to carry enough food to see you through. Tramping past shimmering tarns and grand peaks you may see wombats, Tasmanian devils, and even platypuses.