There is a quiet yet immense force hidden from the world we see and know. As you sit here reading this, trillions of gallons of water are pouring over steep ledges, tucked deeply in winding canyons. At the same time, glaciers the size of cities push through giant valleys, centuries old trees sway in the wind, and vast bodies of water rest placidly in complete silence among buttes and rock cliffs. Living in the city, it can be easy to disassociate with the sheer magnitude and magnificence of nature. For this reason, a venture into the heart of wilderness can be a monumentally transformative experience. Reconnecting with the planet that bore us brings a sense of peace and belonging. In the spirit of transformational travel, we put together a list of places that can have big effects on those who make their way to these sacred and wondrous sanctuaries.
The 5 Most Transformational Adventure Travel Destinations in 2022:
1. Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (USA, Minnesota)
The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, or BWCA, is an expansive nature preserve comprising countless lakes, streams and rivers all nestled within the Superior National Forest in Northern Minnesota. The area has been inhabited since at least 8000 BC, and the stone walls within BWCA feature pictographs from Ojibwe and Oglala Lakota cultures. It’s not hard to see why humans have stayed in the BWCA for so long, the impressive network of natural water sources means that it is abundant with wildlife and forestry.
For recreational travelers, the options for canoeing and hiking in the Boundary waters are virtually limitless. Several outfitters offer guided adventure trips to help you navigate the vast amount of waterways and trail systems within the wilderness area. The BWCA has been nominated as a Dark Sky Sanctuary as well as a Quiet Park, meaning that it’s the perfect place to go for an escape from the constant sensory overload of the civilized world.
2. Grand Canyon (USA, Arizona)
Often referred to as one of the natural wonders of the world, the Grand Canyon is a stunningly cavernous void that’s been carved out by the Colorado and San Juan rivers eroding sandstone for millions of years. Originally home to the Ancestral Puebloans, the expansive canyon has been inhabited by many indigenous cultures over the years, including the Yuman, Havasupai, Hualapai, and Najavo peoples.
It is also one of the most famous natural attractions on the planet, attracting around five million visitors each year. Even though many will be satisfied with the wondrous view from the rim, there are ample opportunities for adventure within the park. Several points of entry allow intrepid travelers to hike into the base of the canyon and even cross it. Those who have been lucky enough to make this once-in-a-lifetime trip agree that it is a truly transformational experience, allowing you to glimpse the mind-blowing scale of geological time.
3. The Berkshires of Western MA (USA, Massachusetts)
Along the Western edge of Massachusetts, the Berkshires comprise an array of verdant meadows, crystal blue rivers, rolling mountains, and quiet towns home to a surprising amount of music and arts. The area hosts a good variety of activities for visitors, boasting a great balance between natural and cultural destinations.
The Appalachian Trail runs directly through the Berkshire hills, and thru hikers make their way down the trying path every summer. It’s also possible to cycle and raft through the old growth forests, soaking in the sun and enjoying the fresh mountain water. For folks living in the Northeast, the Berkshires offer a necessary retreat within hours of NYC, Philadelphia, and Boston.
4. Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park (Canada, Alberta; USA, Montana)
The Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park is a sprawling reserve that’s actually made up of two national parks — Glacier National Park in Montana and Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta. It has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of the many natural landmarks located within. Travelers can hike up to alpine lakes fed by ancient ice flows and enjoy impressive views of the formidable cirques surrounding the glaciated valleys. Both Glacier and Waterton Lakes are home to an impressive variety of fauna, including bison, lynx, grizzly and black bear, marmot, moose, and woodland caribou. Apart from hiking, fly fishing, rafting, and cross country skiing, visitors can relax in one of the many historic hotels built by the railway companies in the early 1900s.
The Glacier-Waterton Park received the 2017 International Dark Sky Park award, due to its remote location and low levels of light pollution, even in populated areas. Also recognized for its quiet peacefulness by Quiet Parks International, the serene setting makes it the perfect place to come and unwind when you need a recalibration.
5. Parque Nacional Los Glaciares (Argentina, Santa Cruz)
For those looking to have an adventure far away from cities and large populations, consider visiting Parque Nacional Los Glaciares, deep in the south of Argentina and only a few hundred miles away from Antarctica. This Patagonian park sits at the edge of the Southern Continental Ice Field, the world’s second largest non-polar mass of ice. Here, the sky is pierced by razor sharp mountains jutting almost vertically into the air. The impressive massif is named Chalten, a Tehuelche word meaning “smoky one” due to the clouds that often form around the peaks. Trails through the park lead to glacial lakes, high mountain ridges, over tumultuous rivers, and across the Patagonian Ice Field itself.
You can also ride your bike to the nearby refugio at Piedra Del Fraile, or up to the amazingly blue Lago Del Desierto, bordering Chile. Only two hours drive to the South is the Perito Moreno Glacier, standing 80 meters high and reflecting brilliant hues of blue. Whether relaxing with a delicious asado or scaling some of the world’s most famous mountains, there is something for everyone here. A special treat in this remote park is the often surreal cloud formations, brought on by extreme changes in pressure and temperature at the border of the ice field.
2022 (we hope) is shaping up to be a year in which borders re-open and travel becomes more accessible. Whatever your travel plans are, we hope you take the time to set some time aside to connect with nature — whether it’s in one of the aforementioned destinations or somewhere else.
Adventure travel can be a truly transformative experience; it inspires us to test our own boundaries, teaches us about risk management, and enables us to reconnect with the things that truly matter. You may want to make the experience even more fulfilling by booking one of our mindful adventure travel retreats. Not only will you have experienced guides to lead you through remote and scenic places, you’ll also have a Recal mindfulness coach on your side to guide you through breathwork, meditation, journaling, and other mindfulness exercises. This enables you to be more present in the moment and well on your way to an incredibly transformational experience in the great outdoors.