Photo courtesy of Pics1/Dreamstime. Article by Robert Firpo-Cappiello of Budget Travel.
The phrase "adventure travel" has a bit of an image problem. For many, it conjures only images of climbing mountains, diving into underwater caverns, and, well, aching muscles. But when we asked ourselves what kinds of adventures belong on everyone's travel list, we cast a much wider net. All of our can't-miss adventures have one thing in common -- you'll arrive back home with a heckuva story to tell.
Snorkeling in Belize
With knockout beaches on Ambergris Caye, Caye Kaulker, and Placenia, plus inland jungles, 600 species of birds (think toucans and motmots), and Mayan ruins, Belize is paradise for landlubbers. But nothing beats exploring the blue sea and getting up-close-and-personal with the underwater residents on a snorkeling adventure. A visit to the five-square-mile Hol Chan Marine Reserve with a good outfitter will include all snorkeling gear and the chance to hobnob with colorful coral, angelfish, grunts, snappers, rays, nurse sharks (it's okay, they're harmless!), and maybe even a manatee from June to September.
Get started: Raggamuffin Tours offers day trips to Hol Chan Marine Reserve and other packages, including overnights on a sailboat.
Tango Lessons in Buenos Aires
Argentina's cultural life may be defined by dance more than that of any other country. Visit a tango salon, or milonga, and you'll see extraordinary demonstrations of this seductive, mysterious dance, whose rapid turns and inherent drama were inspired by Argentine gangsters. But aside from the flamboyant styles of tango on display, there is also the opportunity for you, as a visitor, to learn a more subdued -- and manageable -- version of the dance. C'mon, we know you've thought about it: Arrive at a milonga early in the evening and you can usually participate in an affordable group lesson. (Experienced dancers won't show up till midnight.) If you're up for it, dress the part: That means dress shoes, suits, and dresses. Ready for even more adventure? Once you've mastered the basic moves, dance with a stranger.
Get started: Academia Nacional de Tango (11/4345-6968) offers evening lessons.
Safari in Kenya
Think a close encounter with lions, elephants, zebra, rhinos, and hippos is out of your reach? Think again. Sure, they don't come cheap, but it's possible to have a full safari experience (including airfare, lodging, meals, and game-viewing drives) for under $2,500. A quality tour will give you time to spot animals in the Maasai Mara National Reserve, Lake Naivasha, and Kigio Wildlife Camp, and guarantee window seats on drives through preserves with an experienced English-speaking guide.
Get started: Gate 1 Travel offers a number of package tours to Kenya from major U.S. airports.
There's never been a better time in human history to find a route to your roots. Heritage travel is big business, with Ireland leading the way with more than 120,000 overseas visitors per year. (One in nine Americans, including President Obama, have some Irish heritage.) Aer Lingus offers a "Discover Your Roots" tour that includes a night in Dublin, an hour-long consultation with an Irish genealogy specialist, and vouchers for car rentals to get you to your hometown. Similarly, African Americans have explored West Africa with the help of Palace Travel's Discover Senegal package; Chinese Americans have booked customized trips through Explore China Tours, and Italian Americans turn to the Pallante Center for Italian Research for genealogical research. Sure, results vary, but for some people a walk back into their family history is the greatest adventure they could take.
Get started: Read "Find Your Roots in Ireland" for a BT writer's narrative of tracing her family's history on the Emerald Isle, plus tips for exploring other ethnic backgrounds.
River Cruise in Europe
River cruises are routinely touted as the "next big thing." And there's a reason for that. While Europe's long, winding, history-drenched rivers aren't exactly a secret, it's true that cruise lines are adding more river cruises each year. And cruising in a small, intimate ship on an iconic European river like the Danube, the Seine, or the Rhine means you're making frequent stops at charming little towns and even big cities like Paris, whose Port de Grenelle dock is walking distance from the Eiffel Tower. Add gourmet meals, local wines, and guided tours and you've got a dream trip in the making. The season runs from March to September, with a high season (read: more expensive) in May, June, and July.
Get started: Viking River Cruises offers sails on the Rhine, the Seine, the Danube, and the Rhône, as well as the Volga.
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