5 of the world’s best towns for outdoor activities
Every backpacker has their own reason for hitting the road, but for many, adventure and activities are a big part of the mix. If you think that means basing yourself out in the wild, think again: there are loads of cities around the world that have outdoor adventure right on the doorstep, allowing you to stay in a buzzing city-centre hostel and still get your adrenaline fix. What’s more, a cheap dorm space means you spend less on accommodation, giving you more to spend on outdoor activities – and you’ll find your hostel is a great place to discover local activity providers and meet like-minded adventurers.
Sound good? We've rounded up five of the best adventure gateways to get your trip off to a flying start...
Auckland, New Zealand
Backpackers flock to Auckand for its volcanoes, beaches and surfing. Enjoy 360-degree views of the city from 48 volcanic cones, perfect spots for hiking and picnics. Climb 196 metres to the top of the verdant Mount Eden, the highest of Auckland's volcanoes, or take a volcanic tour of Rangitoto Island, where you can walk through New Zealand's largest pohutukawa forest and see lava caves. Surfers should head to Piha Beach on the city's wild west coast for its pounding surf, black sand and rugged cliffs.
Away from the hip bars and clubs of Reykjavik, Iceland is crammed full of waterfalls, glaciers, volcanoes and gushing geysers. And the good news is that most of these wonders are within easy reach of the capital, which is situated on the island's south coast. Hike up the Sólheimajökull glacier (above) or take a horse riding tour into the lava fields surrounding Mount Helgafell volcano. Soothe your aching muscles in the Blue Lagoon, a giant geothermal bath near Reykjavik’s Keflavik airport.
Cape Town, South Africa
Cape Town is one big adventure playground, with high-octane activities ranging from shark cage diving to bungee jumps. Rock climb the Paarl Mountain granite domes, kayak the Breede River or face the world's highest commercial abseil on Table Mountain.
Known as the gateway to the Amazon, Manaus is an ideal base for rainforest exploration. It's full of jungle tour operators, offering everything from two-day excursions to more adventurous six-day tours. Most trips include piranha fishing, a jungle trek and wildlife spotting – if you’re lucky, you’ll spot alligators and tarantulas.
The nearest town to the famous ruins of Machu Picchu, Cusco was the capital of the Inca Empire and was awarded UNESCO World Heritage Status in 1983. As well as the famous four-day Inca Trail trek from Cusco to Machu Picchu, visitors can choose to hike a string of alternative Inca Trials that are less well-trampled and pass by glacial lakes, remote hamlets and little-known archaeological sites. Other big draws include rafting on the Urumbamba river and mountain biking in Moray.