When we think of vacation, the thought of sandy beaches, crystal-clear oceans, and a nice cold beer is what comes to mind. Although most will opt to hop on a plane toward the world's most tranquil beaches, there are other places worth travelling to just for the sake of an adrenaline rush.
Survival shows are quite popular today and the comforts of contemporary living make us feel so secure that we sometimes intentionally seek the thrilling and exciting adrenaline rushes. Whether it's a desert expedition or deep sea scuba diving in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, taking a trip through one of the places we cover in this top 10 list is certainly going to leave you wanting to board the next flight out of town.
Removing the most obvious dangerous places on earth such as the war zones, the interiors of volcanoes or the Zone of Alienation around Chernobyl from this list, we're left with vacation destinations that will not only give you your fair share of thrills, but also a chance to endear your children and grandchildren with stories of adventure.
10 The Island of Skellig Michael
This island in the Atlantic Ocean is at a distance of 11.6 km to the west of the Iveragh Peninsula in Ireland and it was occupied since the sixth century by monks. It was finally abandoned during the last years of the 12th century but you can still see and visit the remains of the monastery. The area became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996 due to its cultural significance and unique example of early religious settlements.
It is quite unexpected to see a monastery on this list so let us see the reasons why it is an extreme trip. To reach the island you go through an hour-long boat ride and there are falling rocks threatening the passage as well as the open ocean with its high waves. Once you get there, the stairs (600 of them) will leave the wind blowing strongly from the sides and there are no safety measures since they were built over 1,300 years ago. Two people have died trying to climb the stairs, but to add safety rails would certainly make it less appealing so it was left just as the monks created it. Oh, and there are no food, water, toilets, and shelter.
9 Tectonic Plates Diving in Silfra, Iceland
The clearest water on earth is in Silfra, Iceland, where you can dive or snorkel in the exact place where the continental tectonic plates between Eurasia and North America divide. This is actually one of the very few places where you can swim between the plates and the water is so clear that you can see 100 meters of ocean depth. Scuba diving here was done for a long time and the area is explored quite thoroughly with four sections defining it: Silfra crack, Silfra hall, cathedral and lagoon. The deepest part reaches 63 meters and the most beautiful part is the cathedral which is a 100-meter long fissure that can be seen in its entirety.
Since the area is located in Iceland, the water has a temperature of 2 to 4 Degrees Celsius throughout the year but the marine life here is quite different from that of the other surrounding regions. There is another nearby diving site named Daviosgja, part of the Thingvellir National Park which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its cultural, geological and historical importance.
8 Expedition to Chad, the “Dead Heart of Africa”
Chad, the fifth largest country in Africa, has a desert zone to the north, an arid central belt and a savanna to the south. Due to its distance from the sea, the country received the name of the “Dead Heart of Africa.” The physical structures that stand out are the Ennedi Plateau and the Tibesti Mountains and they are also the main tourist attractions for those seeking a new experience. The Ennedi desert holds several rock spires which can be climbed and people such as Jimmy Chin went to give it a try while also making a great video presentation about the area with The North Face.
We usually look at Africa and think of poverty and this area is certainly not wealthy with almost 80% of the population living below the international poverty line, but there is so much more to discover and admire here with landscapes that are quite otherworldly through their isolation and solitude. The problem with exploring Chad is the lack of infrastructure and this is why it still remains mostly unknown to travellers today.
7 Reaching and exploring Tristan da Cunha Island
The island is a part of the British Overseas Territory and was discovered by the Portuguese explorer Tristao da Cunha in 1506. It is considered the most remote place on earth since the closest land to it is in Africa at a distance of 1,750 miles. Due to the location of the island, it is the home of less than 300 inhabitants and there is no airport to get you there. To add to that, the locals are quite reticent to allowing anyone to visit the island. You need a statement of purpose to visit, one that must be approved by the government of the island.
The locals make their living by growing their own food and the livestock numbers are controlled so that there can be no outsiders coming to buy land and disturb the balance of things. The economy is based on equality and the land is communally-owned so the main earnings come from crawfish, the Tristan rock lobster and the selling of local stamps and coins that are highly-appreciated by collectors all over the globe due to their rarity.
6 Trekking through the Borneo Jungle
The third largest island in the world, Borneo, is divided between Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia and it hosts one of the oldest rainforests in the world, considered to be 140 million years old. Most of the island is covered by the rainforest and the abundant rainfall made its flora one of the most diverse in the world with 11,000 species of flowering plants.
The primary challenge for tourists here is to reach Mount Kinabalu, the highest peak on the island with a height of 4,096 meters. The British naturalist Sir Hugh Low was the first to make a documented climb in 1851 and many followed in his footsteps to reach the peak he described as “inaccessible to any but winged animals.” Today, the island is easier to traverse and the peak itself was even described by the Malaysian tourism officials as one of the “safest and most conquerable” in the world but several people have died during the climb.
5 Exploring the Kingdom of Bhutan
The Kingdom of Bhutan remains one of the most difficult places to visit due to the strict governmental control that force you to plan the trip a month in advance. There are a lot of areas where you cannot be accommodated and thus you might have to walk for days before getting to a village, but the landscape is certainly worth the effort since the eastern Himalayan region combines steep and high mountains with deep valleys.
The Gangkhar Puensum is the highest mountain in the country with an elevation of 7,570 meters and it is forbidden to climb since 1994 under the rationale that the peaks are the sacred homes of their protective deities. If the mountains have to be admired from afar you are still left with the possibility of exploring the country by foot or in a whitewater raft through the Drangme Chhu River or the Zanskar, offering you a unique experience.
4 El Caminito Del Rey, the Most Dangerous Footpath
The English translation of El Caminito Del Rey is “The King’s little pathway.” This pathway isn’t "royal" in its size or comfort. It crosses the steep walls of a gorge in the El Chorro Village in Malaga, Spain and it was just reopened recently after extensive renovations. It was closed after five people died trying to pass it in 2000 and this led to the closing of what was called “the world’s most dangerous footpath.”
The original purpose of the walkway was to transport materials to the workers of the Chorro Falls and Gaitanejo Falls power plants. It was built between 1901 and 1905. It received the royal name after King Alfonso XIII crossed it to inaugurate the Conde del Guadalhorce Dam in 1921. The concrete and steel rails of the original construction deteriorated and partially collapsed so it badly needed repairing and it is currently opened, both during summer and winter. The restored pathway is made of wood and has steel bolts with safety lines and you will get a helmet before trying to get across to ensure it is less deadly than the original one.
3 Trekking the Sahara Desert
This would have been almost impossible to trek a while ago since it is one of the harshest environments on the planet and the largest hot desert with a surface of 9.4 million square miles. “Sahara” means “Great Desert” in Arabic and it covers most of North Africa having a size that is comparable to that of the continental U.S. Not all of it is infertile and there are around 1,200 species of plants growing in its oases.
It is easier to traverse it today due to the advent of automobiles but, if you want to experience it in the hardcore way, then you can join the Marathon des Sables which goes on in the south of Morocco each year. You have to register a few years in advance and pay $4,500 for it. You're then placed in a 7 day race, supplies well assorted in your backpack, before covering a distance of 150 miles.
2 Climbing Mount Everest
The highest mountain in the world is also the most dangerous, with a peak reaching 8,848 meters above sea level and alpinists are trying each year to test their strength and experience here. You can climb from the southeastern side of Nepal or from Tibet and, although the climb itself isn’t considered highly challenging, it is the lack of oxygen, wind and avalanche hazards that make it as difficult as it is.
The expeditions here were recorded since the 1920s and the first dated reach of the summit was in 1953 with John Hunt initiating the attempt and Edmund Hillary being the first one to put his foot on the summit. The number of people dying in the attempt exceeds 220 and those who tried it say that it is coming back that is more difficult due to the frequent climate changes and the constant threat of blizzards. Today you can ease the climb by using bottled oxygen and professional guides but it is still something that only expert climbers should attempt.
1 Trekking through Snake Island, Brazil
The major cities of Brazil are quite dangerous by themselves due to the high homicide rate, but they are still safer than some of the more remote places such as Ilha da Queimada Grande which is also called the Snake Island. The island is located just off the coast of Sao Paulo and it is estimated that around 4000 Golden Lancehead vipers currently live on the island. The snakes are an endemic species and are considered one of the most venomous in the world, but are considered endangered since this region is their only habitat.
With a surface of 430,000 square meters, the last inhabitant was the lighthouse keeper who also died from snakebites, at least according to local stories. Presently, you need a permit from the Brazilian Navy to reach the island.