Splitscreen: man (left) and woman (right) sitting on edge of cliff with red rocks in background.
Lee (left) and Kelly (right) while on a three day camping adventure in the Outback.
Photo Credit: Kelly Dunning / Global Goose

9 Adventure Travel Experiences to Take on with Your Partner

If Romance Isn’t Your Thing…

For some couples, vacation time means breakfast in bed, superior spa service, and white tablecloth dining. Others, though, prefer something a little more primal, a time where togetherness gets measured less in whispered sweet nothings and more in pulse-pounding experiences and sights rarely glimpsed by the human eye.

So take heart if you and your significant other prefer to cut your getaways with more than a little excitement! This list of  nine adventure vacations for couples is right up your alley.

Camping in the Outback in Australia

The Red Centre is the hot, dry heart of Australia and it is vast, strange and spectacular. During our Working Holiday in Australia, Lee and I did a three-day camping adventure in the Outback and it was one of the most memorable travel experiences of my life.

We slept in swags beneath the stars and woke every morning before sunrise to hike the red rock canyons. We watched the sun come up over Uluru, marveled at the aboriginal artwork at the Uluru Cultural Centre, walked across a dried up salt lake and cooked damper (a homemade bread) over the open fire.

You may spot dingos, kangaroos and wild camels and you’ll have a chance to learn about the aboriginal people and their way of life, while exploring a surreal and beautiful desert landscape.

Splitscreen: woman (left) rappelling down a water fall and man (right) standing in a waist deep bubbling water.Kelly (left) and Lee (right) canyoning down waterfalls in Ecuador.Photo Credit: Kelly Dunning / Global Goose

Canyoning in Baños, Ecuador

Imagine yourself strapped into a hip harness, suspended over a roaring waterfall deep in the rainforests of Ecuador. You plant your feet on the wet rocks as the water rushes over your legs and slowly ease the rope through your hands as you rappel down into the waters of the Rio Blanco.

Canyoning, the art of abseiling down waterfalls, is a thrilling activity that you can experience in the town of Baños, Ecuador, only three and a half hours from the capital city of Quito. You don’t have to have any extreme sports experience and it’s also quite affordable.

A half-day canyoning experience, which lasted from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and included transport, photos and equipment, cost me and my partner $30 USD per person.

Your instructor will teach you how to “move like a monkey” down the waterfall, with your knees bent and your legs spread wide. You’ll even be able to slide down a zipline and use one of the waterfalls as a water slide, splashing down into a deep pool at the end.

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A figure standing on a white expanse of ground with blue skies above.Kelly stands on the Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia, the largest salt flat in the world.Photo Credit: Kelly Dunning / Global Goose

4×4 Journey Across the Salar de Uyuni

Speaking of strange and surreal landscapes, you’ve never seen anything like the Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia. It will make you feel like you have somehow ended up on another planet.

The Salar de Uyuni is the largest salt flat in the world, the site of an enormous saltwater lake from prehistoric times. When the waters of the lake dried up, the salt had nowhere to go and left behind the huge salt deserts.

The solid crust of salt is anywhere from several centimeters to a few meters thick and as flat and white as a blank sheet of paper.

One of the highlights of South America travel is taking a three-day/two-night tour across the Salar de Uyuni in a 4×4, starting in Southern Bolivia and ending up in Northern Chile, or vice versa. It’s an action-packed journey that involves staying at a hotel made of salt in the desert, hiking through a strange landscape of yellow grass, red lake and purplish mountains and bathing in a geothermal pool.

You can also take some pretty crazy forced perspective photos in this other-worldly landscape, which is a lot of fun.

Seven rafters and a guide in a red raft with white water all around.Lee and Kelly, the two rafters on the right, having a blast down the Rangitata River in New Zealand.Photo Credit: Kelly Dunning / Global Goose

Whitewater Rafting in the Rangitata River, New Zealand

New Zealand is paradise for the adventurous traveler — there are so many thrilling things to do here, from skydiving to bungee jumping to kayaking and much more. One of the best adrenaline adventures in New Zealand is whitewater rafting down the legendary Rangitata River on the South Island.

You’ll be given a full wet-suit and all of the gear you need, as well as a safety briefing before you hit the frothy swells. You’ll splash through the rapids, paddling furiously through the whitewater and then cruising smoothly and swiftly through the flat stretches in between.

It’s an unforgettable thrill and a great activity for adventurous vacations for couples.

Three dolphins crest the water, their bodies shimmering in the sunlight.See whales and dolphins up close while taking a tour in Sri Lanka.Photo Credit: Kelly Dunning / Global Goose

Whale Watching in Sri Lanka

How about a travel experience seeing huge whales close up in their natural habitat off the coast of Sri Lanka? Lee and I went on an amazing whale watching trip with Raja and the Whales, a local tour company in Mirissa, and it was quite a thrill.

Our guide, Raja, had spent his entire life fishing, swimming and sailing in these waters so he knew exactly where to find the whales. When the enormous dark shape broke the surface of the water and sprayed a fine mist from its blowhole, it was a moment I would never forget.

We even got to see some dolphins as well, their sleek bodies moving quickly through the water alongside our boat.

As well as whale watching, Sri Lanka has many other activities for adventure holidays for couples, including hiking, trekking, hot air ballooning, diving and more. It would be the ideal playground for an adventurous couple to explore — plus the people are so genuinely friendly and welcoming and the landscapes are simply gorgeous.

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Craggy coastline covered in green trees.Go scuba diving amid coral reefs and seat turtles off the coast of Saba.Photo Credit: Getty Images

Ecoadventures in Saba

The tiny Caribbean island of Saba, a mere 5 square miles, owes its pristine charm primarily to inhospitable shores. Rough and rocky, only a group of English sailors’ untimely shipwreck in 1632 brought Europeans to its uninhabited shores. Today, you can tell that it’s ideal for couples who love tropical adventure as soon as you touch down at Juancho E. Yrausquin Airport (which boasts one of the world’s shortest runways).

Nicknamed the Unspoiled Queen, Saba’s craggy, rainforest-covered slopes and gorgeous waters have turned it into a prime ecoadventure destination. Scale the 1,064 steps to the top of Mount Scenery for a gorgeous view or hike any of the 18 trails that the Saba Conservation Foundation has marked out. Guided tours can offer more strenuous jaunts or provide further insight into local flora and fauna.

Saba’s real draw, though, is diving. Crystal-clear water, coral reefs and encrustations, sea turtles, grouper, tarpon, sharks — the island contains everything a diving enthusiast could want. Any of the licensed local dive centers can arrange outings to sites such as David’s Dropoff, Big Rock Market and Third Encounter. Snorkelers should enjoy Cove Bay, Wells Bay and Fort Bay.

Train winding along a hilly landscape covered in yellowed grass.Spent two weeks crossing a third of the world from Moscow to Vladivostok.Photo Credit: Getty Images

Ride World’s Most Famous Railroad in Russia

Railways have a regal history, uniting continents as they ferried commoners and kings from one border to another. Few, though, are as famous as the Trans-Siberian Railway. The brainchild of Tsars, it has survived wars and revolutions, spanning a continent as it connects Europe and the Far East.

There are technically three Trans-Siberian routes, but the only “true” one is the line running from Moscow to Vladivostok.

Though crossing a third of world in less than two weeks is definitely an adventure, couples can’t expect to enjoy much privacy on a train. Also, to get the best experience, shop around for a reputable tour company.

Rates vary widely, and ticket price isn’t necessarily a guarantee of berth quality. Still, once you’re on board, have your camera and Russian phrase book ready — you’re about to see a stunning stretch of the world and meet the people who live there.

After touring Moscow — no small task given the city’s rich cultural and historical heritage — make your way to Yekaterinburg and see Ganina Yama, the site where the Romanovs met their untimely end.

Irkutsk contains countless architectural marvels, and Ulan Ude offers engaging museums, gorgeous churches, and the world’s largest bust of Lenin, a sobering reminder of dark times. Finally, dive into the sites of Vladivostok once you’ve disembarked or arrange a day trip to nearby Falaza Mountain.

Woman with backpack admiring far off, snow capped mountains.Book a refugio for $15 a night and hike across incredible landscapes of northern Patagonia.Photo Credit: Getty Images

Find Rough Refuge in Argentina

Patagonia has panache. The southernmost tip of South America is beautifully barren, swathes of green forest cluster beneath craggy, snow-capped cliffs and cerulean waters teem with sea life while birds swoop above. It’s a photographer’s paradise, a naturalist’s dream, and an adventurer’s Elysium. Still, many travel guides focus on the five-star, luxurious Patagonia experience.

There’s another option for adventurous couples, though: the refugio circuits.

Much like California’s famous missions, the refugios of Northern Patagonia serve as shelters for hikers willing to brave stretches of Argentina’s nearly uninhabited woodlands. Many of the area’s eerie glacial wastes and lonely peaks would be inaccessible if not for this network of 13 huts.

For about $15 per person per night, you and your significant other can secure a piece of fire and roof under which to unroll your sleeping bags.

Not much privacy, true. But you can get plenty of that on your hikes, which are lengthy by necessity. The nearest refugios lie at least four hours from any significantly trafficked roads, and others are even more remote. Outings such as the Cerro Chall-Huaco Trek or the Refugio Manfredo Segre Trek can last a mere 24 or 48 hours.

There are so many benefits to hiking, making it a great choice for a trip together. If you want to step things up a notch and do some real bushwhacking, consider following in the footsteps of Conde Nast Traveler’s Christopher Bagley, who took a course that reached most of the refugios over a nine-day hike.

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Coast with oil ship just offshore.Meet native tribes and explore desolate landscapes.Photo Credit: Getty Images

Explore the Skeleton Coast in Namibia

Back in 2006 when entertainment journalists could use the term “Brangelina” without a hint of irony, Hollywood super-couple Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt put Namibia on the map when they traveled to the West African country for the birth of their first child. A seemingly surprising choice, but once you learn a little about this peaceful desert nation, it makes perfect sense.

Namibia’s small population, stable government, and relatively open economy make it particularly attractive to adventurous couples who want to enjoy Africa’s natural wonders without constantly fearing for their safety. And what wonders there are in The Land Of The Brave.

To the north, Etosha National Park offers a more traditional safari experience for couples who want to see black rhino, elephants, wildebeest and leopards.

But the real draw for adventurers is Namibia’s Skeleton Coast. Located in the western part of the country, it’s an area that’s every bit as stripped and stark as it sounds, a rocky desert that the area’s indigenous people dubbed The Land God Made in Anger.

Tour the Dunedin Star, a British liner whose oxidized iron bones rising from dry wastes dramatically point out the dangers of the South Atlantic’s Benguela Current. Meet the native Himba who stain their skin with ocher clay and subsist solely on a carnivorous diet. Finally, toboggan down the roaring dunes or speed over the sandy crests on an ATV tour.

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