The National Tour Association states that adventure tourism is a “tour designed around an adventurous activity such as rafting, trekking, or mountain climbing.” Not always for rest and relaxation, adventure travel has always been part of the human existence. Whether it is created by recreation, the search for riches or escape from tyranny or other ideologies, the human pursuit of new places and adventure continues to flourish and evolve every year in the adventure tourism industry.
The original adventure travelers were merchants on expeditions that typically led to unplanned adventures such as Christopher Columbus thinking he had landed in the East Indies when in fact he had sailed to North America. This bravery and attitude of “going for it” in the face of so many unknowns and dangers was part of the adventurer’s life and the beginning of adventure travel.
In the 1970’s modern adventure travel was born with the first planned trip to the Himalayas. The first commercial rafting trips in Ethiopia were also available around the same time period. Then, as political climates, natural disasters and the taste of the adventurer changed so did the adventure travel industry.
In the 1980’s, climbing Mount Ararat and rafting the Nile River in Egypt were popular adventure travel destinations. According to Richard Bangs of the New York Times, that turned to mountain climbing in Switzerland and SCUBA diving in Thailand a decade later. Today, the most popular adventure tourism is Antarctica expeditions and camel trekking across the Egyptian Desert according to iExplore, a leading adventure travel company.
The newest adventure tourism destination is the northern Kurdish region of Iraq, according to Lonely Planet author Cèsar G. Soriano, who has traveled Iraq extensively. “The Lonely Planet does NOT recommend foreigners travel to Arab regions of Iraq, which constitute about 70% of the country,” Soriano explains. “Compared to war-torn regions of Arab Iraq, Kurdistan is another world.”
The scope of adventure travel is broad and can happen anywhere doing any number of activities. Where images of SCUBA diving in Belize or mountain climbing in Bhutan may come to mind, the modern adventure tourism industry has many different choices and opportunities. Depending on an individual’s desires, trips can include a number of more passive activities such as guided tours, cultural experiences or just relaxing at a western dude ranch.
Neither does adventure tourism have to mean world travel. There are many adventurous travels you can find locally. The need for a guide service can be eliminated if you are familiar with the activity or sport and you are willing to do some prior planning. However, if you are trying a new activity, traveling out of country, or just like the security of having a guide service, their use can save hours of logistics and research.
Today’s adventure traveler wants to incorporate an activity that includes discovery that is exciting, physically demanding, or immerse themselves completely into a culture. If you are thinking of stepping up that family vacation to something a little more adventurous, consider adventure travel. There are many activities and locations to choose from, in all price ranges, for all physical abilities.
National Tour Association