Looking for your next great adventure? The grandeur of these ten natural landscapes will leave you awestruck.
PICOS DE EUROPA (SPAIN)
Spain's oldest, and arguably most spectacular, national park will celebrate its centenary in 2018, a date that's also thought to mark 1300 years since the Virgin Mary is said to have appeared inside a cave here to a Christian nobleman fighting the Moors. That cave in the north-western corner of the park is now considered the second-holiest site in Spain, behind only the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela that is the finish post for the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage.
For visitors on hiking and climbing pilgrimages, the grandly named limestone Peaks of Europe present what is effectively a scaled-down, but equally dramatic, version of the Dolomites. Long overshadowed by the Alps and Pyrenees, they're a wild and rugged small range of sharp-tipped mountains split by the Garganta del Cares, a gorge almost as deep as the Grand Canyon. Two of the 10 deepest caves in the world are also found here, while the most striking peak in Spain, Naranjo de Bulnes, spears up from the range.
The Garganta del Cares and Naranjo de Bulnes dominate visitor agendas here. Rock climbers haul themselves up the sheer walls of Naranjo de Bulnes, while hikers also seem to gravitate to its base, where a busy refuge and camping area creates a sense of base camp.
The Garganta del Cares is one of the most exhilarating day hikes in Europe. From Arenas de Cabrales, the narrow gorge wriggles through the range for 11 kilometres, with white limestone cliffs towering up to 1500 metres overhead. The gorge is so bereft of space that the walking trail is cut into the cliffs, and then finally through the cliffs, burrowing into them in a long tunnel as the trail nears its end at the village of Cain.
This is a mountain range and national park truly deserving of attention for its milestone moment. mapama.gob.es
PAPAROA TRACK AND PIKE29 MEMORIAL TRACK, NEW ZEALAND
The Pororari Track in Paparoa National Park, New Zealand. Photo: SHUTTERSTOCK
New Zealand's Great Walk system has long been the envy of the walking world, and the nine Great Walks are about to become 10. In 2019 the Paparoa Track and Pike29 Memorial Track will open, creating a 55-kilometre journey through old mining areas around the Paparoa Range on the west coast of the South Island. The name Pike29 memorialises 29 miners killed in a 2010 mining disaster. As it crosses the Paparoa Range, the track will alternate between rainforest, gorges and open alpine mountain tops. doc.govt.nz
LAKE DISTRICT, ENGLAND
Ullswater Lake in the of England. Photo: SHUTTERSTOCK
Already a perennial tourism favourite, the Lake District will come even more sharply into focus after being added to Unesco's list of World Heritage sites in July 2017. It was listed in part for its history of inspiring "an awareness of the importance of beautiful landscapes", which is an ability it's never lost. England's highest peak rises here, and pooled at its foot is the country's deepest lake, while the finest section of the famous Coast to Coast Walk bisects the region. lakedistrict.gov.uk
LOS ALERCES NATIONAL PARK (ARGENTINA)
If the likes of Moreno Glacier and the Torres del Paine mountains dominate most thoughts of Patagonia, they may soon be joined by this little-visited national park, which was another addition to the World Heritage list in 2017. The park rests against the Chilean border, and was listed for the pristine condition of its Andean forests, in particular the namesake, sequoia-like alerce, the world's second-oldest tree (at a lazy 3600 years) and the largest in South America. parquesnacionales.gob.ar
With stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) booming in popularity, it was inevitable that somebody, somewhere, would find a way to up the ante on the activity. In this case, it's been the usual adventure suspects – Canada and New Zealand – who've recently added heli SUP to their adventure menus, flying clients to remote mountain lakes for a paddle among the peaks on inflatable boards. Expect to hear a lot more about this one. paddlewanaka.co.nz; paddlesurfit.com
TASMANIAN MOUNTAIN BIKING
First there was Blue Derby, which opened in 2015 and quickly earned plaudits as one of the world's great mountain-biking destinations. Next year it will get a southern sibling in the form of the Maydena Bike Park. Around 90 minutes' drive from Hobart, at the very edge of the World Heritage Wilderness Area, the Maydena Bike Park is slated to open in January 2018. Trails will have an elevation range of more than 800 metres, meaning plenty of gravity at work. There will be about 30 kilometres of trails at its opening, with plans to grow that to 120 kilometres. maydenabikepark.com
The Middle East's rock of stability, Jordan, this year joined the likes of New Zealand, Nepal and Italy in forging a hiking trail across the length of the country. The Jordan Trail stretches for about 650 kilometres from Umm Qais, on its northern border with Israel, to the shores of the Red Sea. From ruined Roman cities and hot springs in the north, it heads south over about 36 days to its most evocative sections – passing through Petra and out across the Wadi Rum desert in a Lawrence of Arabia-esque finish to Aqaba on the Red Sea. jordantrail.org
LORD HOWE ISLAND
Lord Howe Island's Seven Peaks Walk. Photo: Supplied
Long a place to simply drop and flop, with perhaps a climb of Mt Gower to spice things up, Lord Howe Island has rarely figured in adventure equations, but that's rapidly changing. Recent years have seen Pinetrees Lodge devise Ocean Swim Weeks (with Trevor Hendy) and the guided multiday Seven Peaks Walk. Newer still are open-ocean kayak crossings to (conditions permitting) an enormous cave on Roach Island, offshore snorkelling trips to the likes of the incredible Ball's Pyramid, and new Nitrox generators that allow exploratory dives to areas where you can even get to name the reef. lordhoweisland.info
WILSON'S PROMONTORY BOAT TRIPS, VICTORIA
One of the leading lights of Tasmanian nature tourism, Pennicott Wilderness Journeys, is branching out north to bring its distinctive style of wilderness boat trips to Victoria's ever-popular Wilson's Promontory. Approved at the start of this month, the 2½-hour trips in Pennicott's familiar yellow fast boats will head out from Tidal River, exploring the cliffs and beaches of the Prom's remote west coast and a scattering of islands that are home to breeding colonies of Australian fur seals. Trips are expected to begin in October 2018. pennicottjourneys.com.au
Hiking in the jurassic landscape of Laugavegur, Iceland. Photo: SHUTTERSTOCK
Tourism is booming in Iceland – in 2016 alone, visitor numbers increased by more than 30 per cent – which surely makes it a short matter of time before the adventuring world cottons on to the fact that Laugavegur is one of the most spectacular treks on the planet. This 55-kilometre trail between Landmannalaugar and Thorsmork, which takes most people four days, pieces together a virtual greatest hits album of Icelandic landscapes – lava fields, hot springs, glaciers, ice caves, and a rainbow of volcanic colours – with hiking huts at the end of each day.
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