If you’re looking for a magical destination above and beyond the ordinary vacation, here are three authentic altitude adventures you won’t want to miss. Each one of these expeditions provides an uplifting introduction to visitors with no shortage of thrills. Leave the familiar behind and indulge in a different type of trip where you explore the world above the clouds on one of these culturally authentic journeys.
If adventure is your middle name, take the circular tour around Manaslu
See the scenic glory of the Himalayas that fewer than 2% of trekkers have seen. Even in high season, you’ll enjoy the sights and sounds of magical Nepal that are untouched by the regular tourists. The isolated circuit around the 8,000-meter peak, which is tucked in between Annapurna and Ganesh Himal, will allow you to immerse yourself in the rich culture of the region.
You’ll enjoy the jaw-dropping natural beauty of forests, rivers, and flora of the Manaslu region. Trek through the steamy lowlands striped with terraces of rice and millet while you gaze up at turquoise waterfalls before crossing the mighty gorges of Budi Gandaki. You’ll never forget the sweeping vista of Cheo Himal, Himlung Himal, Nemjung, Gyaji Kang and Kang Guru, and Annapurna II.
Although Larky La Pass at 5,167 meters is technically the highest point on the trek, the suspension bridges may be what makes you feel like you’re flying. Along the way, you’ll see abundant wildlife native to the area, like the tahr, pika, agali, and marmots.
If you want a front-row seat to discovery, take the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu
The trailhead for the four-day adventure to the hidden city of the Incas begins in Cusco, the Peruvian city that floats in the high altitudes at 3,400 meters above sea level. As one of the top treks in the world, and certainly the most famous in South America, this is all about the sights and sounds you’ll see along the way. Along the 26-mile trail, you’ll see stunning peaks, hike through a magical cloud-forest, and hear the howler monkeys call to you in subtropical jungles.
Your arrival to the Intipunku Sun Gate at sunrise leaves you enough time to scale Huayna Picchu later that day. The path up the peak is narrow and steep to reach the top for a spectacular view of the most sacred Inca site in Peru. Few adventurers see the monument from this perspective, as hiking is limited each day. The descent is even trickier, with no handrails and steep drop-offs that will challenge even the most sure-footed hikers.
After you’ve explored the lost city of Machu Picchu, you can hike back into Aguas Calientes on a more direct path taken by locals every day. Catch the Peru Rail train to Ollantaytambo to scale the massive Inca fortress, or stay on the train one more stop to the Pachar station. Spend a night you’ll never forget hanging from the side of a cliff in a pod anchored above the Urubamba River.
If you eat danger for breakfast, try biking El Camino de la Muerte
At 3,640 meters, Bolivia’s administrative capital, Nuestra Señora de La Paz is the tallest capital city in the world. One trek that beckons thrill-seekers to the scenically uplifting Andes Mountains is the road that leads into the Amazon rainforest. Yungas Road takes a narrow, winding path down the side of the mountains that separate La Paz and Coroico. The lack of guardrails, seasonal conditions, and altitude make for notoriously dangerous conditions for travelers. The road is so treacherous that it is better known by its nickname, El Camino de la Muerte.
Not many tourists will attempt to drive the road, but those that do will be rewarded with the astounding natural beauty of the rainforest laid out like a postcard. Profoundly brave adventurers can tempt fate by taking a guided mountain bike tour down “Death Road” to experience the rush firsthand.
There’s nothing like a high-altitude adventure to get your heart pounding. Active travelers will love these rare opportunities to push their boundaries. Pack your oxygen and your camera; you’ll need both for these extraordinary expeditions.