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Exploring the Tatacoa Desert in southwest Colombia. (JOSE MIGUEL GOMEZ/REUTERS)
Exploring the Tatacoa Desert in southwest Colombia. (JOSE MIGUEL GOMEZ/REUTERS)

The best spots for adventure travel in 2011 Add to ...

WALES, U.K.

Why now?

Long known for having more sheep than people, these pastoral landscapes are also home to numerous adventure sports. The Welsh countryside boasts some of the U.K.'s best mountain biking. The rugged sea cliffs of the Gower Coast provide a stunning backdrop for rock climbing, with routes for all abilities, and the Pembrokeshire Coast is a perfect place to try coasteering: don a wetsuit and helmet, scramble up cliffs, and fling yourself into the sea. Or try the Real Ale Wobble, a mountain bike race where participants refresh with Welsh ales en route to the finish line. Completing the race is optional.

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Base yourself in Cardiff, the Welsh capital, a vibrant city with centuries of culture. From there you have easy access to all of southern Wales and numerous accommodation and tour options. Tuck into one of Cardiff's pubs for a hearty cawl, a stew made from lamb, cabbage and leeks, after a day outdoors.



Who's it for?

Outdoor adventure seekers, beer drinkers who like mountain biking and mountain bikers who like drinking beer.

www.callofthewild.co.uk; www.legendarywelshadventure.com



YUKON

Why now?

A vast wilderness landscape, with summer temperatures hitting the mid-20s and daylight lasting well into the night, Yukon is emerging as a top adventure travel destination. With a land mass larger than California and a population of barely 35,000 (most of whom live in Whitehorse), there's enough space to truly lose yourself. Hop on a mountain bike and ride some of the 800 kilometres of trails that exist in the Whitehorse area alone, many of which are repurposed Klondike-era wagon trails. Head to Montana Mountain near Carcross and descend specially built downhill tracks with hair-raising ramps and drops built by youth workers from the Carcross Tagish First Nation.

Or paddle a canoe down the Yukon River to spot bald eagles, bears and caribou. Choose from a guided half-day trip from Whitehorse to a 16-day paddling expedition to Dawson City.

Experienced backpackers can tackle the challenging 100-km Donjek Glacier route or the 85-km Cottonwood Trail in Kluane National Park, Yukon's World Heritage Site.

Who's it for?

Adventure travellers who want an untouched wilderness all to themselves.

borealebiking.ca; upnorthadventures.com; www.pc.gc.ca/eng/pn-np/yt/kluane/index.aspx



SLOVENIA

Why now?

With more than half the country covered in forest, and a third of it protected, Slovenia is one of Europe's greenest places. And all that green is nirvana for outdoor adventure enthusiasts. Sandwiched between the Adriatic and the Alps, tiny Slovenia has a mild climate, seaside towns, snow-covered peaks, picturesque mountain villages and vineyard-draped valleys in a country about half the size of Switzerland. Throw in some historic castles and cathedrals and the Slovenes' warm welcoming culture, along with fewer crowds and lower costs than in neighbouring nations to the west, and Slovenia may be Europe's next hotspot.

Vancouver-based BikeHike Adventure's eight-day Slovenia Sports Extravaganza tour offers an active experience of the country's highlights. Hike up a 2,000-metre peak in the Julian Alps, mountain bike through the alpine villages surrounding Bohinj and dine at a shepherd's farm. Spend a day canyoneering in Goriska Brda's Susec stream; wearing wetsuits and helmets, slide down waterfalls and dive into tide pools, then head to the Renaissance-era Grad Dobrovo Castle for dinner. Round out the trip by rafting on the surging swells of the Soca River before returning to the capital Ljubljana.

Who's it for?

Active travellers wanting a double dose of adventure and culture in a less-well-travelled part of Europe.

www.bikehike.com/slovenia/slovenia_01.html



SEDONA, ARIZ.

Why now?

Situated amid red rock canyons and skyscraping sandstone spires, Sedona is a magical place equally suited for adrenalin-based activities like mountain biking, canyoneering and rock climbing and more sedate pursuits such as yoga and meditation. Rise early, grab your camera and head out on the three-hour Cathedral Rock Trail to capture the golden light and postcard photos. Or take in a bird's-eye view with a hot-air balloon high above the desert. Spend the afternoon on a road bike pedalling the 19-kilometre, 800-metre-vertical ascent up Route 89A through Oak Creek Canyon, renowned as one of the most scenic routes in America. Finish the ride in Flagstaff, on iconic Route 66.

Afterward, relax and energize your spirit at Boynton Canyon, one of the brilliant box canyons which is also believed to be the site of a vortex - an energy field emanating from inner earth which has both spiritual and healing powers - which you may well need after a hard day of play. Make the most of this impressive landscape with a four-day hiking and yoga retreat with Toronto-based Exhale Adventures.

Who's it for?

Those who believe inner balance is as important as balancing on a canyon wall or mountain bike.

www.exhaleadventures.com



COLOMBIA

Why now?

Once known more for its drug violence than its tourist potential, Colombia is now considered safe for travel. From stunning Caribbean beaches, surfing, scuba diving and jungle treks to vibrant cities, colonial architecture and easygoing locals, Colombia may be the best place in Latin America. For experienced scuba divers, UNESCO-listed Malpelo Island, located in the Pacific, about 500 kilometres west of the Colombia mainland, is one of the world's premier dive sites, with hammerhead sharks, manta rays and whale sharks. An expedition-style trip is needed to reach Malpelo. On the Caribbean side, head for Isla de Providencia, with its 32-km-long barrier reef and sponge-covered wall dives and abundant marine life, or explore Providencia's shipwrecks.

Surfers, head to Nuquí on the Pacific coast, and base yourself at the El Cantil Ecolodge. The best breaks are only accessible by boat, so remote here really means remote - and waves are epic. If you want to stay dry, book on Intrepid Travel's nine-day Experience Colombia itinerary and discover Bogota's colonial heart, wander beneath floral balconies in Cartagena and bliss out beachside in Tayrona National Park.

Who's it for?

Divers, surfers and travellers in search of the next "it" destination.

www.elcantil.com; www.underseahunter.com; www.intrepidtravel.com

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