Fitness adventures: challenge yourself by travelling the world

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Science is pretty clear on the fact that exercise makes you healthier and happier; not to mention the intoxicating effect of your brain on nature when you take things outdoors. Think of it as an elixir for feel-good wellbeing.

But if you want to be the most glowing version of yourself this year, the gym isn’t the only place to find your fitness fix. Nor do you need to pound the pavements on a chilly winter’s evening (although that’s good, too). Turns out, adventure travel is a bit of an unsung hero when it comes to keeping in shape. 

There’s nothing like hiking an Icelandic glacier, or white-water rafting in the rainforest of Costa Rica, to stretch your strength and stamina. These kinds of experiences won’t make you fit in an instant. But they do offer a fun, accessible way of working out in the wild. And, although most are available to anyone of moderate fitness, they also provide a challenge to aim for.

Break out of the gym and try adventure travel for your next fitness fix

Better still, you may not even realise you’re busting a sweat – because you’ll be so swept up in the moment. And the cherry on the cake? You’ll get to try these energetic experiences in the company of fellow travellers/friends (something that makes workouts a whole lot more fun).

Below we’ve listed some of the best fitness adventures to extend your comfort zone this year – no willpower needed. Prepare for an overload of joy as you get set to say hi to a fitter, bolder you…

Trek to the foot of Mount Fitz Roy in Argentinian Patagonia

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This day-long hike gives you a front-row seat to the Patagonian wilderness, as you ascend 800 metres to Argentina’s iconic Laguna de los Tres viewpoint. We’ll make no bones about it, it’s a tough old trek. You’ll give those hamstrings something to think about by heading into the heights of snow-capped peaks. But it’ll be worth every last step thanks to sensational views and the feeling of being an absolute champ for making it to the top. Plus, you’ll have your Pack Leader and fellow solo travellers right there to cheer you on.

Come trekking in Patagonia

Learn to surf in Portugal

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The Atlantic coast near Lisbon is a popular surfing spot, and for good reason. There are some great waves here, including for beginners, with golden sand dunes providing the perfect backdrop for a little pre-surf training. Add in a laid-back surf culture that anyone can vibe with, no matter how well they’re able to actually ride a board, and the scene is set. Hop right in with a private surf lesson, where you’ll learn all the tricks to catch a wave or three (and stay balanced for maybe three seconds). From leg and core strength to the cardio benefits of paddling, it’s a sport to get your body firing on all cylinders. You’ve got this, dude…

Ride the waves in Portugal

Hike a glacier in Iceland

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Sólheimajökull Glacier counts as one of Iceland’s many majestic wonders, dotted with ridges, crevasses and dramatic ice sculptures. A great spot, then, for a rousing half-day hike – just remember to bring your thermals. Brilliant blue ice caves and epic glacial viewpoints are all part of the adventure, as you make your way along the magnificent landmark. Like a Viking of yesteryear, you’ll be putting every skill of balance, agility and coordination to the test. But a treat awaits along the way, in the form of an alfresco glacier picnic (and you don’t get one of those every day). 

Ice-hike the glaciers of Iceland

Walk with gorillas in Rwanda

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The chance to see mountain gorillas in their natural habitat is a lifetime experience – not least because there are only around 1,000 of these gentle giants left in the wild. Gorilla tourism is one way to help protect the species, but it’s tightly controlled in order to maintain a fragile ecosystem. You’ll make an early start to trek through Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park, hiking your way up bamboo-covered slopes in the lead of expert trackers. Your reward lies in the ability to marvel at the world’s largest living primates up-close, observing their human-like behaviour and family interactions. Suffice to say, this is one workout you’ll never forget.

Meet the gorillas of Rwanda

Canyon the Wadi Mujib in Jordan

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If you fancy an exhilarating challenge, canyoning the Wadi Mujib – Jordan’s answer to the Grand Canyon – may well be it. Imagine a landscape of rugged gorges and river systems, with a meandering river route that takes in waterfalls, crevices and giant slippery rocks. It’s raw and real: a natural playground nesting in the shadow of towering sandstone canyons. You and your fellow solo travellers will work as a team to navigate your way downriver, scrambling and sliding to the max. Irresistibly fun, and just a little scary, we defy you not to love it. 

Jordan’s canyons are calling

Swim with dolphins in New Zealand

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Dusky dolphins, aka “duskies”, are the team players of the marine world. They often hang out in pods of over 100, and they count as the most sociable of all dolphin species. Off the South Island town of Kaikoura, you’ll get the chance to swim with these gorgeous creatures – equipped with a wetsuit, mask, snorkel and flippers. Their natural curiosity may well draw them close to your group, leading to an ocean dip of dreams. For bonus points, you’ll be working out a boatload of muscles – including in your quads, hamstrings, core and shoulders – as you go. Win. 

Be wowed by New Zealand’s dolphins

Tackle grade III and IV rapids in Costa Rica

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White-water rafting doesn’t get much better than in the lush wilds of Costa Rica. You and other Flashpackers will work together to tackle grade III and IV rapids, on a thrilling ride that leads to a remote rainforest lodge. It’s a whole different take on forest bathing – as you fly beneath the jungle canopy, catching glimpses of tropical wildlife amid the hurl and torrent of the river current. A spectacular way to boost your muscle strength and cardio fitness, we think you’ll agree. 

Ride the river wild in Costa Rica

Abseil down Table Mountain in South Africa

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Our Cape Town stint at abseiling is not for the fainthearted but sailing down an 110-metre cliff face is also all kinds of fun. One of the world’s highest commercial abseils begins with a steep hike up to the top of Table Mountain, one of the region’s most iconic sites, at 1,086 metres above sea level. Once at the top, you’ll have a bit of time to soak in the views of Cape Town below (either against clear blue skies, or a “tablecloth” of moody clouds) before abseiling part of your way back down. Terrifying? A bit. Physically demanding? You betcha. A workout worthy of a dinner party story? 100%.

Become an aerial artist in South Africa

Body raft in Sicily’s Alcantara Gorges

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Your body is your greatest instrument in this unique foray down the Alcantara Gorges in eastern Sicily. You’ll don a rather fetching wetsuit and helmet before careening yourself downstream, using your body as a raft to follow the flow of the river. Along the way, you’ll find rock pools, gullies and mini waterfalls – framed by dramatic canyons and wildflower meadows. It’s a bit like the water parks you visited when you were little, only entirely natural and in the theatre of the Great Outdoors. Oh, and you’ll be nabbing an all-body workout as you go. 

Your Sicilian adventure starts here

Flash Pack is a group travel company that specialises in small group adventures for solo travellers in their 30s and 40s. Find out more about how we work, and our mission to build a global community of friendships

Images: Flash Pack, Unsplash

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