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8 Adventure Trips to Take in Your Lifetime

The word “vacation” takes on different meaning for every traveler. For some, an ideal break is all about R&R, while for others it’s about fitting in as much family time as possible. But if you’re in the market for adventure—we’re talking grade-A adrenaline rushes and out-there destinations—then these are the 8 once-in-a-lifetime trips to take now.

A Brooklyn-based writer and editor, Chelsea's work has appeared in Matador Network, The Huffington Post, the TripAdvisor blog, and more. When not planning her next trip, you'll usually find her drinking way too much iced coffee (always iced—she’s from New England) or bingeing a Netflix original series.

See recent posts by Chelsea Stuart

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Bike through the Dolomites

At the offset, cycling 15-45 miles a day may seem a little extreme, but when you consider your backdrop: northern Italy’s ultra-dramatic Dolomite mountain range—we’re talking soaring snowy peaks, meadows blanketed in fresh wildflower blooms, and fairytale hamlets where Austrian, German, and Italian influence meet—you might be quick to reconsider. Link up with VBT Bicycling and Walking Vacations in Venice before departing for Cortina, your cycling starting point. From there, you’ll take to trails that skirt the region’s spellbinding valleys, forests, and medieval towns before wrapping up the end of the week in the spa town of Merano.

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Zipline in Costa Rica

Perched 4,600 feet above sea level and home to a few of the world’s most breathtaking cloud forests and nature reserves, Costa Rica’s Monteverde region has recently made waves as a top ecotourism destination. While you could explore the area on foot, we’re in favor of something a little more adventurous: hitting the treetops via a zip line circuit. Join Costa Rica Sky Adventure on a 2- to 2.5-hour Sky Trek at either their Monteverde or Arenal Park (the first is located in the cloud forest, the latter is by the volcano of the same name); either way, you’ll hop onboard an open-air gondola to be ushered from the ground to the observation area starting point. From there, you’ll get a bird’s-eye view of the deep green countryside as you zoom through mist-shrouded canopies, passing over canyons and more than 2,500 species of flora and fauna (including the largest collection of orchids in the world).

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Dogsled in Sweden

If ever you tried to rig your Great Dane to a snow sled (or at least thought about it), then National Geographic Expeditions' 9-day dogsledding trip through Sweden’s Lapland Region is your chance to try the real thing. Starting in Stockholm, you’ll spend a couple of days exploring the Nordic capital before venturing far above the Arctic Circle. With the aid of Sami guides (indigenous reindeer-herding people), you’ll learn the basics of mushing your own team of huskies—very important, as they'll escort you across miles of blindingly white wilderness, where you'll spot moose, reindeer, lynx, and more. After 5-6 hours spent traversing the alpine peaks, ancient forests, and frozen lakes, each day, unwind with a wood-heated sauna. At the end of it all, you’ll even get to bed down at Sweden’s infamous Icehotel—in a snug thermal sleeping bag—for a night.

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Kayak Lake Louise

Though Alberta’s Lake Louise is far from off-the-beaten-path status (there will be other tourists to contend with), the Mount Victoria Glacier-fed (and framed) lake is a sight to be seen. The implausibly turquoise waters acts as a mirror, feeding back surreal reflections of the Canadian Rockies’ rugged, snow-capped peaks. Take to the chilly lake for a bout of kayaking or canoeing, and once you’ve paddled your heart out, head back to the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, an imposing grand dame that’s stood tall over the Lake of Little Fishes (cute nickname, no?) since 1912.

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Hang glide over Rio de Janeiro

Famed for its sexy samba, white sandy beaches, and boisterous Carnival, Rio de Janeiro is usually experienced with feet firmly planted on the ground—but, we’re not most people. Marvel at Christ the Redeemer perched atop Corcovado Mountain, the Atlantic-hugging Copacabana and Ipanema Beaches, and cable car-rigged Sugarloaf Mountain from an altitude of 1,700-feet up by tandem hang gliding with Just Fly. Rides take off from Tijuca Forest National Park at São Conrado (between the Leblon and Barra da Tijuca barrios)—about an hour’s drive inland from Rio—and last a spellbinding 20 to 30 minutes.

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Whitewater Raft the Grand Canyon

This more than one-million-acre park in Arizona's remote northwestern corner is often considered one of the world's seven natural wonders. With the coursing rapids of the Colorado River running rampant for 277-miles down the eroded river gorge—it's not hard to see why. Sign yourself up for some world-class whitewater rafting with Colorado River & Trail Expeditions. Their 3- to 13-day trips combine adrenaline-pumping rafting and off-river hiking with highlights including Lava Falls Rapid, Havasu Creek, and Deer Creek.

RELATED: 13 Best National Parks in the World

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Go on Safari in Kruger National Park

Just an hour’s flight from Johannesburg, Kruger National Park unfolds across 7,523 square miles in South Africa’s northeastern corner (right on the line of Mozambique). At the largest game reserve—and most iconic—in the country, visitors can spots the Big 5 (that’s lions, leopards, rhinos, elephants, and buffalos) on open-vehicle drives and even bush walks. When it comes to stays, you’ve got plenty of options. Go for thatch-roofed glam villas (think: airy, minimalist decor, deep soaking tubs, and twig-twisted chandeliers) at Lion Sands Sabi Sand—where you can quite literally watch a pride of lions right from your breakfast table—or go the glamping route at andBeyond Ngala Tented Camp where nine contemporary canvas digs look out over the Timbavati River.

RELATED: What It's Like to Go On a Luxury Safari

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Ski the Alps

Whether you’re confined to the bunny slopes or consider yourself a Winter Olympics contender, skiing the Alps—Europe’s highest mountain range— is an entirely new beast. Since the peaks extend across Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Slovenia, and Switzerland, it’s safe to say you’ve got your pick of resort towns. But if it’s the classics you’re after, hit the slopes on the highest summit in the Alps in France’s Chamonix Mont-Blanc; head to Italy’s northern Veneto region for Cortina d’Ampezzo (well-situated among the resorts of the Dolomiti Superski area); or opt for southern Switzerland where the emblematic, pyramid-peaked Matterhorn presides over Zermatt.

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