1. Queenstown, New Zealand
Pick an extreme sport and imagine doing it on snowcapped mountains, in extreme weather, or with river spray in your face. You are likely to find all of those options on the South Island of New Zealand. Just about anything goes, from heli-skiing to careening at high speeds near the rocky edge of a river in a jet boat to bungee jumping—in fact, bungee jumping was developed in Queenstown; the first trusting souls threw themselves off the town’s Kawarau Bridge in 1988.
2. Lake Louise, Banff, Canada
Surrounded by six glaciers, this icy blue lake in Banff National Park beckons ice-skaters in winter, paddlers in summer, and visitors year-round who stand on the pine-lined shore mesmerized by the Canadian Rockies’ backdrop. See it all from 6,850 feet (2,088 m) by riding the Lake Louise Gondola (May–September).
3. Moab, Utah
Biking slickrock brings great bragging rights among mountain bikers, while marathon runners take in the alpine mountains in the distance and the earthy tones of canyons along the Colorado River. The Old West is alive and well here, as cowboys still work the land and Native American influence is abundant.
4. Watersports, Southern West Virginia
Autumn colors swirl past in a roar when white-water rafting near Fayetteville on the Upper Gauley or New River in September and October. By contrast, just down the road a piece, on Summersville Lake, silence is broken only by the sound of an oar dipping into the placid water.
5. Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands
With neon pink, yellow, and blue fish, green turtles, and dozens of species of coral, Grand Cayman offers up a constantly changing aquatic feast. The sandbar known as Stingray City is one of the world’s few places to get intimate with stingrays in their natural habitat.
6. Rain Forest, Costa Rica
Every turn in the road, every crest of a hill, every sunrise over a crocodile-infested river yields a new sight. Whether zip-lining high in the canopy and seeing toucans or the flamboyant scarlet macaw, or taking an aerial tram within inches of rare orchids and bromeliads, there isn’t an inch from the Caribbean Sea on Costa Rica’s east coast to the Pacific Ocean on the west coast that isn’t a natural wonder.
7. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Hang gliding from atop Pedra Bonita for a soft landing on São Conrado Beach brings two landscapes together in a matter of minutes. While you are in the air, Sugarloaf Mountain looms within reach, and Corcovado Mountain is in sight, with the iconic Christ the Redeemer statue.
8. Isle of Bute, Scotland
Take a hop, skip, and 90-minute jump from Glasgow to the heathered moors to the north. They offer rugged beauty, while the sandy beaches in Rothesay and the manicured gardens of Mount Stuart offer a completely different experience.
9. Aeolian Islands, Italy
Sailing through this chain of volcanic islands off the north coast of Sicily can be intoxicating. Pass by the largest island—Lipari—with its crumbling fortress, watch the sulfuric steam rising from the active craters of Stromboli and Vulcano, stare into the deep waters off the cliffs of Stromboli, or explore black-sand beaches.
10. Kruger National Park, South Africa
Not everyone gets a chance to witness the cycle of life from its unmerciful, violent side to its most breathtaking. Commune with majestic water buffalo, catch a glimpse of the menacing gaze of a hyena, and gain a deeper understanding of the roles everyone plays in this cradle of mankind—from termites to vultures.