REI’s Top 5 Adventure Travel Destinations for 2018

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Prepare for some serious wanderlust.

It’s a hard feeling to describe, that mix of awe, nervous excitement and expanding sense of self that comes with adventure travel. We take that feeling seriously. Not only do we chase it ourselves, but we bring you along.

At REI Adventures, we travel the world to find the best of the best travel experiences to share with you. We’ve gotten our travel experts together—our guides and program managers—to look at the year ahead and offer up our top destinations for 2018.

1. Tanzania

From standing atop Mount Kilimanjaro to watching wildebeests stampede across the plains, Tanzania offers epic and authentic ways to experience Africa. That’s why it’s our top travel destination of 2018.

Start with our quintessential safari where we take in large stretches of stunning landscape, flat-topped acacia trees silhouetted against orange-purple sunsets, and graceful, powerful animals racing across the vast savanna.

Find your way off the tourist path with our ultimate adventure trip. You’ll cycle the verdant lower slopes of Kilimanjaro, trek through remote highland Maasai communities deep in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, and stroll through a coffee farm.

Of course, what draws many people to Tanzania is found far above the clouds—the summit of the highest peak in Africa and one of the seven summits of the world. The personal reward of climbing Mount Kilimanjaro and the feeling of standing in solidarity with fellow adventurers keeps this peak at the top of so many bucket lists (including ours).

With six adventures offered, we have something for everyone.

“This trip was something that pushed every single person in our group to their limits. It was mentally and physically one of the hardest things we have done. … This trip was a life-changing experience that all adventure-seeking people should do.” —Nick13, Mount Kilimanjaro Climb–Marangu Route, 2017

Tanzania

2. The Alps

Explore the birthplace of alpine adventure among Europe’s true giants: the Alps. Whether you’re looking to tick an iconic trek like the Tour du Mont Blanc off your bucket list or find yourself on an off-the-beaten-path adventure in the remote Julian Alps of Slovenia, these mountains draw you in.

This destination tops our list because it’s not only about trekking through some of the most phenomenal hiking locations on the planet, it’s also about the people. With so many distinct ways of living—eight countries all share parts of the Alps—you have the opportunity to experience the unique charm and tradition of some of Europe’s most fascinating cultures in a single visit.

And, of course, there is the food. We can’t help but drool a little thinking about twisting linguine around our forks or loading up on world-famous Swiss chocolate while heading toward the Matterhorn.

We offer five popular itineraries in the region, from the Eiger and Matterhorn to the Dolomites. Sign up for a trip today.

“I always wanted to hike in the French Alps. When I looked at the itinerary for The Tour Du Mont Blanc that included the Italian and Swiss Alps, the decision was made. … I couldn't have asked for a better group of fun loving, considerate, understanding, encouraging and friendly group of travelers. … Oh, did I mention that the last day after the hike we went paragliding over Chamonix?!” —Lucky Lou, Tour du Mont Blanc Classic, 2017

The Alps

3. Patagonia

To our south, nature runs wild, rugged and tall.  While it’s often referred to as “the end of the world,” Patagonia isn’t as far as one might think, but feels that way. With increased access in and out of Santiago, Chile, it’s easier than ever to explore the vast and panoramic landscapes of the region.

With towering granite peaks, massive blue-white glaciers and some of South America's most spectacular national parks, Patagonia offers a vast playground. From the shark-fin profile of iconic Mount Fitz Roy to the unrivaled beauty of Chile's Torres del Paine National Park, we strive to always take in the sights with active adventure (and plenty of local cuisine and libations).

Comfortable accommodations, tough hikes and a region that remains remote and wild in our ever-loudening society—Patagonia is a destination you cannot miss in 2018. We offer volunteer vacations, multisport adventures and hiking trips. Find the adventure that’s best for you now.

“Patagonia has been a bucket list item for many years. This trip was a great experience. Our guide enhanced the experience even more. His personal interest in rock climbing and living in the very area we visited added tremendously. The treks were demanding, the weather challenging, but the views were breathtaking.” —Butch, Patagonia Hiking & Camping, 2017

Patagonia

4. Great Smoky Mountains

Traveling to new countries for new adventures is an exceptional treat. But we can’t forget about those unforgettable places right here at home. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the most accessible, gorgeous and adventure-filled parks in the United States. (It’s also the most-visited of our 59 national parks and one of the few that’s free.)

Whether you’re looking for the classic rite-of-passage trek of the Appalachian Trail (AT) or the sweeping views from Clingmans Dome, this park covers more than 522,000 acres from North Carolina to Tennessee. Ideal for everyone from an entire family to a solo traveler, there are endless ways to enjoy this park. Head to Cades Cove to look for black bears, foxes, otters and other wildlife or visit historic buildings like Jim Bales Cabin for a taste of our past. And that’s not all. Bike, camp, fish, hike or horseback ride—it’s all available for you.

Whether you want to take a weekend hike with the family, zip-line through lush forests, or backpack the AT with other adventure-minded women, we have the trip for you.

“I went on this backpacking trek … as my first visit to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I'm a Westerner from Denver and have spent most of my time in the Rockies and Sierra—and I knew that this would be a completely different experience for me … I had an amazing time. I'll be back to the Smokies—and I'll always remember this first visit!” —Colorado Ben, Great Smoky Mountains Backpacking – Appalachian Trail, 2017

Great Smoky Mountains

5. Galapagos Islands

The Galapagos aren’t your typical island getaway. With uninhabited terrain, remote trails, the clearest of blue waters and plentiful flora and fauna, we simply cannot get enough of this unique destination.

The archipelago of volcanic islands offers an incredible array of biodiversity: The Galapagos are home to giant tortoises, penguins, marine iguanas and hundreds of other exotic species. Cruise, kayak or hike on one of our adventures to this eco-paradise. Best yet? We’ve made plenty of family-friendly and low-key itineraries, so this is a great option for those who are dipping their toes into the adventure travel lifestyle.

“We chose this trip twice with different sets of grandchildren, because it had a great itinerary for kids and our experiences with REI have been excellent. … There were so many highlights, making chocolate in the jungle, seeing turtles for the first time in the Galapagos, snorkeling and kayaking and visiting the equator in Quito.” —Judy, Amazon Basin & Galapagos Islands Family Adventure, 2017

Galapagos

About REI Adventures

Whether it’s taking you to the unknown parts of parts unknown, or finding unique ways to experience existing iconic destinations, REI Adventures' style of travel is deeper. Deeper connection to the location. Deeper, more meaningful interactions. Deeper understanding and appreciation of the local culture. While we are excited about our entire portfolio of adventures, these are some of the hottest locations for 2018. Are you coming?

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