A mountain climber ascends a rock face in Alaska.

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Adventure Tours

Deciding which adventure vacation is right for you can be an intimidating experience. There are thousands of options, and it's hard to know where to start. One way to determine what's a good fit is to get in touch with a travel agency that provides or specializes in adventure tourism. They can help steer you through the myriad choices that you'll face.

Aside from seeking help from a travel agency, the first thing you should do is determine exactly how adventurous you want to get. Many adventure tours can incorporate dangerous and thrilling activities like paragliding, river rafting and big game hunting. Others require you to be in top physical shape -- mountain and rock climbing, surfing monster waves and snow-shoeing across frozen tundra are a few examples. Be honest with yourself about your capabilities.

A giraffe stands in the cool dusk of the African savanna.

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Some adventure vacations involve performing a dream job you never had a chance to experience. The movie "City Slickers" had Billy Crystal go on a spiritual journey of sorts as a cattle driver in the rugged West. Perhaps due to that film, cattle drives are one of the more popular adventure vacations today, offered everywhere from Utah to Patagonia. Sports-themed vacations are popular for athletes that never realized their dream of becoming the next Cal Ripken Jr. or Dale Earnhardt. Baseball fantasy camps let your average Joe compete against former major leaguers, while NASCAR driving schools allow you to release your inner speed demon.

Safaris are exciting soft adventures that draw people of all ages. A host of travel agencies offer driving and walking tours led by experienced guides through the African plains. The big draw of a safari is the chance to come into close contact with the "big five" -- lion, leopard, elephant, rhino and buffalo. You can even go on a "working safari" and contribute to a variety of primate and elephant projects that make a lasting impact on African conservation. Participating in such a project can increase the feeling of reward and accomplishment.

The Taj Mahal at sunrise is a stunning sight for an adventure tourist.

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Many times the destination itself is the adventure. The Seven Wonders of the World have long been popular tourist destinations -- adding biking and hiking tours to these locales adds an adventurous edge. The adventure tour Web site iexplore.com has an ongoing list of the most popular adventure vacations. In December 2007, the list had the following top ten destinations, including several world wonders:

  • Pyramids of Egypt
  • Safari in South Africa
  • Expedition to Antarctica
  • Machu Picchu, Peru
  • Adventure in Costa Rica
  • Cultural Tour in Japan
  • Adventure in Chile
  • Taj Mahal in India
  • Great Wall of China
  • Cultural Tour in Ethiopia

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In the next section we'll look at some more adventure tours.