5 Approachable Adventure Tours that Won't Break the Bank (Or Your Back)

by  Amanda Black | Sep 17, 2013
Parthenon, Athens
Parthenon, Athens / anyaivanova/iStock

Since 2009, the adventure travel industry has grown at a staggering rate – 65 percent year-over-year – and today it's a $263 billion industry. While the words "adventure travel" might make you think of extreme heli hiking or mountain biking through the Alps, there's a huge range of options, many of which are entirely doable for the average traveler. From slow-paced culture and adventure trips, to hiking, kayaking, and biking tours, there's something for almost everyone, from kids to baby boomers and beyond. We've rounded up a few of our favorite tours and ranked them by effort and strenuousness – 1 being the least challenging (light activity like walking), 2 a little bit challenging (like snorkeling), 3 mid-level challenging (longer, slow-paced hikes), 4 intermediate-level challenging (like stand-up paddle-boarding and hiking through rainforest), and 5 at an advanced level (strenuous hikes or mountain climbs throughout the trip). You might be surprised at how affordable – and approachable – they can be:

1. South Africa

If Africa has always been on your travel bucket list, consider this vacation. It's guaranteed to cross off some major destinations like Table Mountain, Cape Town, and Victoria Falls. Explore the country's capital, stop in South Africa's wine country, and continue on to Kruger National Park, a game sanctuary, for a few days of safari. You'll have the opportunity to see zebra, giraffe, hippo, and more wild animals. End on a high note (literally) at Victoria Falls, one of the seven natural wonders of the world, where 550,000 cubic meters of water go over the towering falls every minute. 11 nights; from $3,593 with airfare

Adventure level: 1

2. Cambodia

No matter what kind of vacation you're looking for, Southeast Asia has it – beaches, wildlife, adventure. This Cambodia-Thailand trip gives you a good introduction to Southeast Asia's diverse landscape. Arrive in Bangkok, Thailand, where you can roam the unique city for the day. Venture on to Angkor where you'll explore Ta Prohm, Angkor Wat, and other temples in the ancient complex. After experiencing a piece of the country's history, take to the water and go on an optional boating trip or snorkeling adventure before finishing in Cambodia's capital, Ho Chi Minh City. 10 days; from $799 (airfare and optional activities not included)

Adventure level: 2

3. Greece

There's something romantic about seeing a country on foot. This trekking-focused trip through Greece takes you from historic Athens to the beautiful Greek Isles. Starting in the capital, you'll explore the original Olympic Stadium and the National Gardens. From there, take a ferry out to Naxos, where you can wander through Hora, the main town on the island, and take a day trip to Tragea – the area is known for ancient olive and citrus groves. And of course, a trip to the islands wouldn't be complete without a stop on the white- and blue-washed island of Santorini. Catch your breath before embarking on the famous 'Cliff Trail' to Oia – the hike should take about four hours but it isn't too challenging and the path is very clearly marked. Trust us: The views from this hike are worth the effort. Once in Oia, leisurely wander the hilly streets and don't forget to relax and catch the unforgettable sunset over the Mediterranean. 7 nights; from $1,260 (ask about air prices upon booking)

Adventure level: 3

4. Costa Rica

Get close to nature in Costa Rica where you'll sleep not only in hotels, but also in jungle lodges. This eight-night tour covers a few of the must-sees in the country, including the incredible Arenal volcano and Tortuguero National Park. Paddle through Tortuguero by kayak, hike through the jungle, and go stand-up paddle-boarding in Lake Arenal. Add on other activities like rappelling down a waterfall, or soak your muscles in a natural hot spring. 8 nights; from $699 (airfare and optional activities not included; use promo code G13PLUSAIR100 to get $100 off air when you book through G Adventures)

Adventure level: 4

5. Nepal

If you're into experiencing a place like a local, this trip through Nepal is for you. Immerse yourself in the culture of one of the highest-altitude inhabited villages in the world, Pangboche. Tour Kathmandu, Sherpa villages high in the mountains, and the famous monastery at Thyangboche. You'll also have the option to take your adventure to the next level: choose between a day hike up to Ama Dablam Basecamp (at 4,750 meters) or Tawoche Hill (at 5,000 meters). From both spots, the views of Everest (the tallest mountain in the world) and Makalu (the fifth tallest) are unrivaled. 12 nights; from $1,800 (airfare not included)

Adventure level: 5

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