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  • Take a New-You Adventure 1

    6 Adventure Trips That Will Change Your Life

Enrich yourself with these full-immersion experiences that will change you forever.

Hiking the iconic Inca Trail. Exploring the Yukon Territory. Transiting the Panama Canal. Get ready for travel experiences that are more about enrichment and engagement than recreation and amusement.

Here are six full-immersion trips in amazing destinations where you can challenge yourself, learn something new, and even transform your life with once-in-a-lifetime experiences.

Summer 2

Cruise Around Iceland with Windstar Cruises

Step aboard Windstar’s Star Pride, which carries no more than 312 guests, and cruise “Around Iceland.” On this seven-day voyage, you’ll sail to remote fjords and scenic fishing villages and have the opportunity to soak in the therapeutic waters of the famous Blue Lagoon, and sample Viking “sushi” (fermented shark), the national dish of Iceland. As you circumnavigate this showstopping country, you’ll tick off incomparable experiences: Witness the rainbow-colored Godafoss, or “Waterfall of the Gods”; explore the island of Heimaey; visit the renowned Blue Church in Seydisfjordur; and greet friendly Icelandic horses, brought to Iceland by the Vikings in the 9th or 10th century A.D. You won’t return home the same.

Trek to Machu Picchu, Peru with Country Walkers

Retrace the footsteps of ancient Incans on an eight-day Country Walkers excursion: “Peru: Cusco, Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley.” Start by descending into the Sacred Valley and the largest town in the valley: Urubamba. Visit local markets and learn about the religious ceremonies, textile production, and farming in this region, which includes some of the 4000 varieties of potatoes grown in Peru. Visit Ollantaytambo, known as the only living Inca town, where local people maintain their traditional costumes and live in their ancestors’ old stone houses.

Embrace the challenge of hiking portions of the steep Inca Trail to arrive at one of the world’s iconic destinations: the ruins of Machu Picchu, ringed by the majestic Andes. Follow mountain paths formed centuries ago that lead to the “Lost City of the Inca,” dramatically crowning a mountain ridge. Pinch yourself as you walk through the Sun Gate to discover the terraced 15th-century site. Talk about a “wow” moment.

End the tour in the city of Cusco, where colorful markets sell hand-woven fabrics and knitwear and cobblestone streets wind through the hilly town. Include a quick side trip to Sacsayhuamán, another astonishing Inca fortress, or book the Lake Titicaca post-tour extension, an experience that few tour operators offer. Be prepared for a trip filled with Insta-moments.

Transit the Panama Canal with Windstar

Thrill to both natural and manmade wonders on this seven-day “Costa Rica & Panama Canal” cruise on a tall-masted sailing ship with Windstar Cruises. Take a daylight transit through the 48-mile-long Panama Canal, one of the world’s most stunning engineering feats on an intimate ship of no more than 148 passengers. Expert onboard commentary enhances your journey as you watch the intricate workings of this world-famous icon.

Then cruise to Costa Rica to sample its remarkable natural attractions. Hike through Manuel Antonio National Park to enjoy its lovely beaches and abundant animal life. Explore the rainforest near Quepos in search of such wildlife residents as monkeys, sloths, and toucans. Visit a traditional cacao plantation in Golfo Dulce and search for dolphins on a traditional Panga boat at Isla Parida. You’ll enjoy two bucket-list countries in one trip.

Cycle Cape Town with VBT Bicycling Vacations

Begin this nine-day bike trip in Cape Town, considered one of the world’s most beautiful cities, and wind your way through the Little Karoo Valley before ending on the famous Garden Route. Along the way, take in the spectacular coastline, dramatic mountain scenery, and glorious wine country on this “Cycling South Africa: Cape Town and the Garden Route” tour from VBT Bicycling Vacations. Special experiences include visiting the summit of iconic Table Mountain, touring an ostrich farm, visiting a penguin colony, dining with a local family, and sampling delectable South African vintages at the source. Raise a glass to that!

Hike New Zealand’s South Island with Country Walkers

Lace up your boots and join this eight-day guided walking tour of “New Zealand: The South Island” from Country Walkers. Thrill to one of the country’s “Great Walks,” the Abel Tasman Coast Track, admiring its golden beaches, crystal-clear bays, and startling rock formations. Gaze at the Southern Cross in moonlight from a remote lodge, accessible only by foot or boat. Explore the South Island’s great national parks, including an alpine trail in Nelson Lakes National Park for views of the snow-tipped Southern Alps. Admire the dramatic coastlines at Marlborough Sounds, as you ascend the ridge-top trails of the Queen Charlotte Track.

Mingle with the locals in the inviting shops and galleries of Hanmer Springs, before soaking in its thermal, mineral-rich pools. And feast on freshly plucked greenshell mussels, native to New Zealand, and local Sauvignon Blanc aboard a private cruise across the Marlborough Sounds. How’s that for bragging rights?

Cruise and Train Around Alaska with Holiday Vacations

Explore the best of Alaska and discover what makes The Last Frontier a once-in-a-lifetime destination on this 13-day “Alaska & Glacier Bay Cruise” from Holiday Vacations that combines cruising and land travel. Cruise the famous Inside Passage, ride a historic train through the spectacular White Pass, and glide along the Chena River on a classic sternwheeler in Fairbanks. Along the way, you can admire North America’s tallest mountain in Denali National Park; get up close and personal with postcard-perfect glaciers; spot caribou, moose, and grizzlies; visit the Iditarod Trail headquarters; pan for gold; and immerse yourself in native culture at a recreated Athabascan Camp. What a way to check off your bucket list!

For more travel experiences available from the Xanterra Travel Collection® and its affiliated properties, visit

Written by Veronica Stoddart, award-winning travel editor and former travel editor of USA TODAY. She has written for dozens of publications and websites and believes that travel can be a force for good in the world.