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Ranked: best countries for adventure travel

Ranked: best countries for adventure travel

The best countries for adventure travel have been ranked by a panel of experts. We review the results below

The Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA) has named Iceland the best country for adventure travel for the third year in a row. The small Nordic island nation, famed for its geysers, volcanoes, geothermal lagoons and cinematic landscapes, remains an attractive destination for adventure seekers, particularly those concerned with sustainability.

Established in 1990, the ATTA is the largest global network of adventure travel leaders. With the help of its 30,000-strong community of people involved in adventure tourism, the ATTA produces the Adventure Tourism Development Index (ATDI), a global ranking of adventure travel around the globe.

Tourists completing a via ferrata in Switzerland, one of the best countries for adventure travel
Oliver Foerstner/Shutterstock Tourists completing a via ferrata in Switzerland

The ATDI uses a panel of 360 industry experts as well as data such as gross domestic product (GDP), population density, protected areas, the Environmental Performance Index, the World Resources Institute and travel advice from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office.

Experts must have over five years of experience in the adventure travel industry to be considered for the panel. On average, those selected have 15 years of experience in tourism and 12 years in adventure travel.

The ATDI assesses countries across 10 categories that fall into three pillars:

SAFETY & WELCOMING

  • Sustainable Development Policy
  • Safety & Security
  • Health
  • Natural Resources

ADVENTURE

  • Adventure Activity Resources
  • Entrepreneurship

READINESS

  • Humanitarian
  • Tourism Infrastructure
  • Cultural Resources
  • Image

10 best countries for adventure travel

  1. Iceland
  2. Switzerland
  3. New Zealand
  4. Germany
  5. Norway
  6. Finland
  7. Sweden
  8. Canada
  9. Denmark
  10. Australia

Key findings

As the world faces unprecedented challenges in the form of climate change and a global pandemic, the report also highlights the need for the world’s leading adventure travel destinations to build back more sustainably.

Iceland, which topped the ranking of the best countries for adventure travel, scored particularly well in the Adventure Activity Resources category. Switzerland, in second place overall, was highest ranked in the Sustainable Development category and consistently performed well across most other categories.

In general, countries around the world are increasing the amount of protected marine and terrestrial areas which, in turn, protect the habitats of many endangered species.

A beach in Seychelles
Jakub Barzycki/Shutterstock Island nations are adapting to climate change faster

Island nations typically performed well in the Sustainable Development Policy categories. Barbados and Seychelles have led the way in implementing policies designed to mitigate and adapt to climate change and, as such, have seen positive results in their Environmental Performance Index scores.

Overall, the worst-performing countries tend to be developing nations and are often in a post-conflict or conflict situation, such as Sudan and Somalia. While tourism is not a priority for these countries, it is worth noting that many popular adventure tourism destinations, such as Rwanda, Croatia and Slovenia, have had relatively recent civil wars and used adventure tourism as a vehicle for economic development, job creation and rebuilding post-conflict.

“The coronavirus pandemic demonstrates the urgent need for a sustainable leadership approach — one that focuses on resiliency, resourcefulness and efficiency.”

– Adventure Tourism Development Index

The UK slipped out of the top 10 due to a weak score in the Natural Resources and Adventure Activity Resources categories. The country was recently named one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world with one in seven native species facing extinction and more than 40% in decline.

The USA dropped three places due to lower scores in the Natural Resources and Cultural Resources categories. This is likely due to recently downgrading or downsizing protected areas during the Trump administration (although some are beginning to be restored). Additionally, the Everglades National Park in the USA remains on the List of World Heritage in Danger.

Complete ranking

The best countries for adventure travel ranking is based on the ATDI, produced by the ATTA in conjunction with the George Washington University International Institute of Tourism Studies.

The index does not capture visitor numbers and is not a ranking for the volume of tourists.

Rank Country Score
1 Iceland 10
2 Switzerland 11
3 New Zealand 19
4 Germany 24
5 Norway 24
6 Finland 29
7 Sweden 31
8 Canada 35
9 Denmark 36
10 Australia 37
11 Austria 37
12 Monaco 37
13 UK 38
14 Ireland 39
15 Czech Rep 39
16 France 40
17 Netherlands 42
18 Japan 44
19 Chile 44
20 Luxembourg 47
21 Slovakia 50
22 Slovenia 50
23 Spain 54
24 Israel 54
25 Malta 56
26 Estonia 57
27 Belgium 59
28 Italy 59
29 USA 59
30 Poland 60
31 Bulgaria 60
32 Portugal 63
33 Romania 65
34 Cyprus 69
35 Greece 70
36 Liechtenstein 71
37 Andorra 78
38 Costa Rica 84
39 Croatia 84
40 Korea, Rep 87
41 Dominica 90
42 Bhutan 91
43 Hungary 93
44 Latvia 96
45 Uruguay 96
46 Georgia 101
47 Montenegro 106
48 Jordan 113
49 Barbados 115
50 UAE 116
51 Turkey 121
52 Lithuania 122
53 Botswana 128
54 Serbia 129
55 Albania 145
56 Morocco 145
57 Peru 146
58 Seychelles 146
59 Panama 150
60 Mongolia 153
61 Qatar 154
62 Singapore 155
63 Thailand 155
64 Armenia 156
65 Fiji 159
66 Argentina 162
67 Kyrgyzstan 163
68 Azerbaijan 163
69 Kuwait 164
70 Bahamas 167
71 Micronesia 171
72 Palau 171
73 Russia 172
74 Belize 176
75 Philippines 177
76 Mauritius 177
77 Bahrain 178
78 Mexico 180
79 Ukraine 180
80 St Vincent & Gren 180
81 Kazakhstan 181
82 Brazil 182
83 Rwanda 188
84 Oman 188
85 North Macedonia 190
86 Belarus 196
87 Brunei Darussalam 197
88 Cape Verde 200
89 Saudi Arabia 204
90 Dominican Rep 204
91 Colombia 207
92 St Lucia 207
93 China 208
94 Namibia 210
95 Nepal 212
96 Zambia 214
97 Tunisia 215
98 Samoa 215
99 Laos 217
100 Vietnam 221
101 Moldova 224
102 Senegal 228
103 El Salvador 229
104 South Africa 230
105 San Marino 230
106 Uzbekistan 231
107 Guatemala 233
108 St Kitts & Nevis 234
109 Cuba 237
110 Maldives 240
111 Tajikistan 244
112 Trinidad & Tobago 245
113 Vanuatu 248
114 Egypt 250
115 Jamaica 250
116 Algeria 250
117 Ghana 251
118 Ecuador 251
119 Iran 254
120 Bosnia & Herz 257
121 Marshall Islands 258
122 Guyana 260
123 Nicaragua 261
124 India 263
125 Sri Lanka 263
126 Malaysia 266
127 Lebanon 268
128 Kiribati 268
129 Indonesia 270
130 Gabon 272
131 Kenya 274
132 Suriname 275
133 Antigua & Barbuda 276
134 Grenada 276
135 Tanzania 279
136 Cambodia 292
137 Solomon Islands 295
138 Bolivia 298
139 Pakistan 302
140 Sao Tome & Prin 303
141 Ethiopia 304
142 Malawi 306
143 Venezuela, 307
144 Papua New Guinea 312
145 Swaziland 315
146 Paraguay 320
147 Uganda 322
148 Cote d’Ivoire 323
149 Comoros 325
150 Bangladesh 327
151 Turkmenistan 328
152 Zimbabwe 333
153 Gambia 334
154 Burundi 335
155 Lesotho 341
156 Tonga 350
157 Burkina Faso 352
158 Cameroon 353
159 Myanmar 353
160 Benin 354
161 Mali 354
162 Honduras 357
163 Timor-Leste 362
164 Yemen 379
165 Madagascar 380
166 Equatorial Guinea 380
167 Guinea 380
168 Mauritania 382
169 Guinea-Bissau 389
170 Sudan 391
171 Mozambique 395
172 Afghanistan 397
173 Niger 398
174 Togo 405
175 Palestinian Territories 405
176 Sierra Leone 408
177 Liberia 408
178 Eritrea 410
179 North Korea 413
180 Libya 416
181 Syrian Arab Rep 417
182 Haiti 419
183 Angola 420
184 DR Congo 423
185 Central African Rep 424
186 Nigeria 433
187 Djibouti 438
188 Chad 440
189 Congo 448
190 Iraq 459
191 Somalia 487

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Lead image: Zhukova Valentyna/Shutterstock

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