New frontiers: Where to travel for thrill-seekers

If extreme adventure is the ticket to your perfect holiday, Rosemary Behan has a range of expeditions to get you going, including a trip to the North Pole, martial arts camps, summit hikes and trekking a canyon in Peru.

For those who actually want to follow in the footsteps of the great polar explorers, Gane and Marshall’s Ski the Last Degree — Journey to the North Pole expedition departs from Spitsbergen, where adventurers will begin an arduous journey to the North Pole. Courtesy Gane and Marshall For Healthy Living
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“Where have you been on holiday?” With so much of the world now open to tourism, it’s getting harder and harder to answer this question in a way that impresses. On the other hand, there are so many more choices, and extreme environments are so accessible that the activities you can do in remote areas seem limitless. It’s now almost as much about what you do in a place as the place itself.

Extreme holidays offer an opportunity to challenge yourself and your limits, often in some of the most inspiring locations you can imagine. The important thing to bear in mind when booking an extreme holiday is the activity level. How much activity do you want? You would actually be more active at an inexpensive Muay Thai course in Thailand than an expensive cruise to the North Pole. But then you wouldn’t have seen the North Pole — without a doubt one of the world’s most extreme environments. Whatever you desire, here is a selection of trips to get your pulse racing.

A great starting point for extreme-adventure holidays is responsibletravel.com, which gathers 48 trips classed as "extreme" from various companies, allowing you to choose by location. There are tours that allow you to ride a stage of the Tour de France or do a ski marathon in Switzerland; motorbike tours of Mongolia; an activity holiday in Nepal featuring canyoning, bungee jumping, white-water rafting, downhill mountain biking, paragliding and hiking; an overland journey along the Karakoram Highway in Pakistan; diving in Antarctica; trekking the world's deepest canyon in Peru or Austria's highest mountain. In addition to offering specialised activities, most of these trips also give a decent overview of the destination itself.

Other companies that deliver include Exodus (www.exodus.co.uk), which now offers a two-week Journey to the North Pole on the world's largest nuclear-powered icebreaker, equipped with helicopters for aerial sightseeing. The trip costs from £18,400 (Dh103,820) per person excluding flights and involves flying to Helsinki and on to Murmansk, from where the ship departs, stopping at Franz Josef Land before heading to the geographic North Pole. Although there is time off the ship, a lot of time is spent at sea.

Following polar explorers For those who actually want to follow in the footsteps of the great polar explorers, Gane and Marshall's Ski the Last Degree — Journey to the North Pole expedition departs from Spitsbergen, in the Svalbard archipelago, where adventurers will begin an arduous journey across the pack ice to the geographic North Pole. This is a gruelling challenge, requiring participants to haul a sled weighing in excess of 50kg for 10 days in extreme climatic conditions. The trip departs in April 2016 and is led by highly experienced polar explorer Alan Chambers. Prices start from £39,000 (Dh220,000) per person and includes a pre-expedition training weekend in the United Kingdom, return flights from London Heathrow to Spitsbergen, a helicopter flight to ice camp Barneo, ice camping and hotel accommodation for 13 nights, transfers, all meals, specialist equipment and full medical and evacuation insurance. For more information, visit www.ganeandmarshall.com.

Volcanoes, hot springs and geysers For a strenuous trekking programme, World Expeditions (www.worldexpeditions.com) is offering a 21-day trip to Kamchatka in the far east of Russia — a landscape offering sweeping bays, boiling geysers, bears, snow-capped volcanoes, plus alpine meadows and lowland forests. There are six to eight hours of trekking per day with one rest day in the middle, plus a visit to volcanoes and hot springs at the end. The trip costs from £3,660 (Dh20,650) per person, excluding international flights.

Summit bound Exodus offers 18 "summit holidays", allowing you to scale peaks such as Mont Blanc, the highest peak in western Europe, Mount Toubkal in Morocco, the highest in North Africa, Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest in Africa, and Mount Fuji in Japan. An eight-day trip to the summit of Mount Kenya costs from £999 (Dh5,630) per person, excluding flights. There are five hiking days, each with distances of between 9km and 23km, and the accommodation is "private toilet tents". The trip is graded "challenging/tough".

Martial arts If you like a hard workout but prefer a proper bed at the end of each day and proximity to a beach, Muay Thai boxing enthusiasts can head straight to the source in Thailand. There are Thai boxing camps all over the country that accept tourists, with varying costs and levels of activity: the best are extremely tough and will leave you with an exhilarating awareness of your physical potential — and how sluggish our lifestyles usually are. In Phuket, a week's accommodation in a deluxe bungalow at Tiger Muay Thai & Mixed Martial Arts camp (www.tigermuaythai.com) costs from Dh1,000. A week of training costs from Dh354, with a choice of 11 classes daily.

Nepal and beyond The Dubai-based Wild Guanabana (www.wildguanabana.com) offers a variety of hiking and active holidays. An eight-day budget hiking trip to Nepal's Annapurnas, including Poon Hill at 3,210m, costs from $899 (Dh3,300) per person excluding flights; a 14-day "deluxe" trip to Annapurna Base Camp costs from $1,999 (Dh7,340) per person for 14 days. For 12- to 16-year-olds, there's a four-day hiking, abseiling and caving trip to Lebanon (pictured), costing from $860 (Dh3,160) per person, excluding flights. Another option is a 11-day trip to Antarctica aboard the Ocean Diamond, from $6,295 (Dh23,120) per person, excluding flights.

Along the Congo River For a holiday of a lifetime that may be low on comfort but high on adventure, Wild Frontiers (www.wildfrontiers.com) has recently launched a 30-day trip along 1,700km of the Congo River (DRC). The trip starts and ends in Kinshasa and takes in Kisangani and Bolobo. It retraces part of a journey undertaken by Welsh explorer Henry Morton Stanley in 1874 and involves travel by riverboat, camping on the riverbanks and trips into the forest. It costs from £6,295 (Dh35,520) per person excluding flights.

Closer to home The hiking group UAE Trekkers (www.meetup.com/uaetrekkers/) takes on the challenging peaks in the UAE, Oman and beyond, providing training and organisation as a group.

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