Wow, where to begin? I guess if I were to put together an abbreviated bucket list for world travelers, it would include these five destinations:
Ski the Alps
I could try to get creative and tell you to ski Chile in the summer, but the impossibly long slopes and jagged, majestic peaks that stretch into forever, not to mention the cultural flavor, make the Alps the ultimate skiing experience. Take your pick from Italy, France, Switzerland, Austria, or Germany. My suggestion is Saas-Fee in the German speaking upper Valais of Switzerland. It’s an under-the-radar village hidden beneath two glaciers that’s a lot like nearby Zermatt but without the snottiness. Private cars aren’t permitted downtown, and it’s a place where people come to ski, not to be seen. And there’s plenty of skiing, for 10 months of the year, among its 60 miles of trails.
Walk the Milford Track
Considered by many to be the world's greatest trek, this 30-mile path passes beneath glacier-capped peaks, towering waterfalls, dense beech forests, and broad crystal lakes, terminating at the massive fjord cliffs of Milford Sound. The path is limited to 90 hikers a day to reduce impact, and Ultimate Hikes is the sole outfitter licensed to lead guided groups on the path. Prices start around $1,200.
Fly Fish in Patagonia
Set aside the fact that trout is actually an invasive species, first introduced to the wild, river-veined plains and forests at the bottom fin of the Andes a century ago. Instead, just marvel at the prehistoric size of the hungry brooks, browns and rainbows you’ll find here. Then there’s the scenery, which is unchanged from when Magellan marveled over it in the 1520s. The Rio Manso Lodge occupies the banks of a river and lake within the Nahuel Huapi National Park, where few non-guests ever venture with their fly rods. Rates start at $645 per night, with fishing guide service and meals included.
Kayak the Antarctic Peninsula
Paddling the clear, frigid waters off the shore of the mountainous Antarctic Peninsula is a fairly new concept, but getting a penguin’s-eye view is the ultimate way to experience this barren expanse of shoreline. Surrounding you will be a surprising amount of wildlife, from whales, seals, jellyfish, and penguins to albatrosses and terns. Some adventure cruise ships offer daily kayak excursions, and really experienced paddlers can hire a guide service for an unsupported extended trip. One of the best ship supported expeditions is organized by Southern Sea Adventures. Nine-day trips start at $6,725 per person.
Mountain Bike the Himalaya
The Kingdom of Bhutan is quietly becoming a hot mountain biking destination. The single-track, switchbacking climbs through the Eastern Himalaya—from tropical valleys to high alpine scrub—are some of the longest in the world, ascending thousands of feet over the course of 20 or 30 miles. The impossibly extended descents are just as otherworldly. The people are welcoming, and, according to a recent study, the happiest in Asia. Wilderness Journeys leads mountain biking trips, starting at $4,460 for 12 days.