Travel adventures: The most extreme things to do on Earth

(CNN) — It’s easy to travel the world and feel oddly at home, particularly if you’re in one of the planet’s 24,000 Starbucks.
But it’s still possible to break loose from the rut and go to destinations that are beyond the ordinary. (Indeed, some of these are arguably insane.)

Spanning multiple continents and oceans, these adventures will make you feel alive — albeit in some cases terrified you might not be among the living much longer.

Running of the bulls: Spain

Every July, Pamplona offers an exciting chance to get gored.
Less extreme alternative: Share the street with thousands of sheep during Madrid’s annual Transhumance Festival.

The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race: Alaska

Extreme destinations

Mushers race through 1,000 miles of beautiful Alaskan landscape in the annual Iditarod Sled Dog Race.


It takes at least eight days to complete the 1,000-mile journey which generally features falling snow, high winds and temperatures dropping to -50 C (-58 F).

For the canines completing it, never has “Good dog!” been so earned.

Less extreme alternative: Have a pint of beer while rubbing the bellies of these London pub dogs.

Chernobyl tours: Ukraine

Bizarrely, one of its chief pulls is a chance to see an array of wild animals ignoring the after-effects of nuclear fallout to thrive in humanity’s absence.

Less extreme alternative: Visit Bataan Nuclear Power Plant in the Philippines, which was built more than 30 years ago but has never been used. You even get to see a reactor without the radiation.

The Door to Hell: Turkmenistan

Also known as the Gates of Hell or, less colorfully, the Darvaza crater. You won’t find anything else like it in Central Asia (or anywhere else on Earth for that matter).

It was created more than 40 years ago when the ground collapsed in the desert during a Soviet drilling mishap. Then scientists set the gas cavern on fire.

Decades later, it still burns like … let’s just say the name is apt.

Less extreme alternative: Visit the Crater of Diamonds — an Arkansas state park where you can dream of finding something as eternal and more sparkly instead.

Extreme surfing: Teahupo’o, Tahiti

Extreme destinations

A must-surf for any brave wave riders.


Considered to be home to both the world’s heaviest and deadliest waves, it’s the ultimate in high-risk, high-reward surfing.

To ride these waves is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but to fail is to risk a truly horrific wipeout.

Less extreme alternative: Brush up your surf skill at Wales’ Surf Snowdonia, an inland wave pool where there are waves for all levels of surfers.

Extreme heat: Death Valley, California

If you insist, “It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity,” this may put your belief to the test.

While there is debate over the authenticity of Death Valley’s alleged record high of 56.7 C (134 F), this California desert also holds the record among temperatures that are generally accepted as legitimate at 54 C (129.2 F).

Which is frankly warm enough.

Extreme cold: Oymyakon, Russia

Once you’ve handled the heat, why not try the other end of the spectrum? Five hundred incredibly hardy residents make this Siberian destination the coldest community on Earth — it averages -50 C (-58 F) in winter and has reached -67.8 C (-90 F).

And yes, this is the place to make the Iditarod seem balmy by comparison.

Inga Rapids on the Congo River: Democratic Republic of Congo

Nat Geo describes them as a “50-mile section of waterfalls, whirlpools and kayak-eating hydraulics.”

Extreme rain: Mawsynram, India

Extreme destinations

Mawsynram receives about 20 times more rainfall than London annually.


This village in Meghalaya is the world’s wettest place, averaging 467 inches of rain annually.

It’s made all the more intense by the fact the rain isn’t evenly spaced out, with the result that villagers have experienced more than 5 feet of rain in just 24 hours.

Less extreme alternative: Soak into the turquoise geothermal water of Blue Lagoon in Iceland.

Chevé Cave: Mexico

The United States Deep Caving Team (USDCT)'s expedition to Cueva Cheve in 2017. (always Include a description of the team's exploration:

The United States Deep Caving Team (USDCT) is carrying out another expedition to Chevé Cave in 2017.

Kasia Biernacka/USDCT

If you suffer from claustrophobia or a fear of the dark, head elsewhere. Spelunking, since you ask, is the exploration of caves.

Less extreme alternative: Physically demanding but accessible, Hang Son Doong in Vietnam is the world’s largest cave.

Formula Rossa Roller Coaster: Abu Dhabi

Speeds on the Formula Rossa Roller Coaster fall just short of 150 mph, clocking in at 149. Riders are whipped around a 1.3-mile course in a mere 92 seconds.

Less extreme alternative: If you try hard enough, Disneyland’s spinning teacups can cause light-headedness, too.

Cheese-rolling at Coopers Hill: Gloucestershire, England

Thousands gather to watch a group chase a cheese as it rolls down the hill, continuing a tradition that’s lasted 200 years.

OK, not as glamorous as some events on this list, but that’s a lot of history and it’s both unexpectedly exciting and dangerous.

Indeed, it was canceled over safety concerns in 2010 before resuming.

Less extreme alternative: You don’t have to risk breaking your neck for some Parmigiano-Reggiano in Modena.

Al Marmoom camel-racing with robots: Dubai

Extreme destinations

The race between camel-riding robot jockeys is a highlight at Al Marmoom Camel Racing.

Francois Nel/Getty Images Europe/Getty Images

Camel-racing is big business in the Middle East, with winners commanding prizes in the millions. Even so, it’s more about the experience than the stakes.

Even in races with humans, it’s a revelation when you realize the camels’ trainers and owners are speeding along next to them in 4x4s, yelling at them to go faster.

The Superclásico: Argentina

Extreme destinations

River Plate players were pepper-sprayed by Boca Junior supporters in a game in 2015.


It’s more than a game when two legendary teams from Buenos Aires, Boca Juniors and River Plate, play. (Their alumni include Diego Maradona and Alfredo Di Stéfano, two of the greatest players ever.)

On a personal note, a friend attended one installment and had a great time until he realized a man in the upper tier was urinating on rival fans below.

The Contra (Verzasca) Dam 007 Bungee Jump: Switzerland

Your opportunity to plummet 220 meters (over 720 feet) in Ticino, much like Mr. Bond did in “GoldenEye.” You, however, will probably not end up with Famke Janssen, who played Xenia Onatopp in the film.

Less extreme alternative: Take a ride on the world’s fastest elevator — 20.5 meters per second — in the Shanghai Tower, the world’s second-tallest building.

Hang gliding: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

You’re already used to seeing aerial views of this remarkable city, watched over by the statue of Christ the Redeemer. What better way to experience it personally?

The King’s Cup Elephant Polo: Thailand

The elephant is at the core of Thai identity. (Example: The hit Thai film “The Protector” revolves around Tony Jaa avenging his personal elephant.)

While this sport is not without controversy, it does provide a novel alternative to the horse version. If you’re in Bangkok, check it out.

Less extreme alternative: This luxury tented camp helps you to make friends with one of the rescued elephants in residence.

Great white shark diving: Gansbaai, South Africa

South African great white shark expert Chris Fallows takes CNN’s James Williams cage diving with sharks in Cape Town

It fully blurs the gap between a dream and a nightmare, as you sit in a cage underwater — which, when you think about it, is fairly terrifying itself — and then Great Whites enter the picture.

Dune bashing: Qatar

The stunts from “The Fast and the Furious?” Picture those done in the dirt.

That’s off-roading in the desert, as drivers leap dunes or sometimes fishtail down them.

You can try yourself, though with the high risk of flipping it’s probably best to take at least one run as a passenger first to get a sense of what’s possible on the Inland Sea.

Sean Cunningham has written for and served as an editor for a variety of publications and websites and conducted interviews with everyone from Oscar winners to Wu-Tang Clan rappers while occasionally appearing on radio and television shows.

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