When asked to think about where to go for a classic American adventure, we tend to immediately picture the great national parks of the United States and the activities they offer: rafting in the Grand Canyon, hiking in Yosemite, or lake kayaking in Yellowstone. But if we ponder a bit longer, we’ll find that the “big p’s” (our national parks) aren’t the only sites for large exploits.
On a Maine adventure tour, you can bike along Penobscot Bay, savoring the scent of sea air and the crash of waves on rocky shores. Travel to the Yukon and you can backpack into remote mountain ranges, climb far above the tree line, and spin and fly-fish in wild rivers and clear alpine lakes. Or what about a North America tour that will whisk you away to the Magdalen Islands in the Gulf of St. Lawrence where you could spend some soul-stirring, private time with white-furred, baby harp seals?
The more southern Americas have their own array of adventures. Choose a Central America trip to Costa Rica, for example, and you could head up into the canopy of a cloud forest by skywalk — a series of suspension bridges — for a bird’s-eye view of trees draped in a profusion of bromeliads and orchids. On a Panama adventure tour you can cruise up the fabled Chagres River in a motorized dugout canoe; then marvel at the Panama Canal (a ninety-nine-year-old epic engineering feat), before snorkeling on the second largest coral reef in the Pacific. Or explore Guatemala, a country that spans the heartland of the Mayan empire.
On a tour of Argentina and Chile, you might travel into the Patagonia region where gauchos still ride a land of glacial lakes, saw-toothed peaks, and golden pampas. Sail around Cape Horn to the faraway Tierra del Fuego; or cruise the Galápagos Islands, where iguanas, penguins, and blue-footed boobies will share the beaches with you, unconcerned by your presence. Or take a South America trip to Peru, where you can hike the ancient stones and stairs of the Inca Trail to reach the Gate of the Sun and your first unforgettable view of Machu Picchu.
North America’s national parks spell big adventure. But there are many more “big p’s” in the Americas that point to pulse-quickening thrills: Penobscot Bay, Panama, Patagonia, and Machu Picchu are just a few preliminary picks.