Ranked: best countries for adventure travel

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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.

Switzerland, with its long history of Alpine tourism, was ranked second, while New Zealand, one of the world’s best hiking countries for hiking, took third place. Germany, Canada and Australia also performed well, as did the other Nordic countries.

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.

RankCountryScore
1Iceland10
2Switzerland11
3New Zealand19
4Germany24
5Norway24
6Finland29
7Sweden31
8Canada35
9Denmark36
10Australia37
11Austria37
12Monaco37
13UK38
14Ireland39
15Czech Rep39
16France40
17Netherlands42
18Japan44
19Chile44
20Luxembourg47
21Slovakia50
22Slovenia50
23Spain54
24Israel54
25Malta56
26Estonia57
27Belgium59
28Italy59
29USA59
30Poland60
31Bulgaria60
32Portugal63
33Romania65
34Cyprus69
35Greece70
36Liechtenstein71
37Andorra78
38Costa Rica84
39Croatia84
40Korea, Rep87
41Dominica90
42Bhutan91
43Hungary93
44Latvia96
45Uruguay96
46Georgia101
47Montenegro106
48Jordan113
49Barbados115
50UAE116
51Turkey121
52Lithuania122
53Botswana128
54Serbia129
55Albania145
56Morocco145
57Peru146
58Seychelles146
59Panama150
60Mongolia153
61Qatar154
62Singapore155
63Thailand155
64Armenia156
65Fiji159
66Argentina162
67Kyrgyzstan163
68Azerbaijan163
69Kuwait164
70Bahamas167
71Micronesia171
72Palau171
73Russia172
74Belize176
75Philippines177
76Mauritius177
77Bahrain178
78Mexico180
79Ukraine180
80St Vincent & Gren180
81Kazakhstan181
82Brazil182
83Rwanda188
84Oman188
85North Macedonia190
86Belarus196
87Brunei Darussalam197
88Cape Verde200
89Saudi Arabia204
90Dominican Rep204
91Colombia207
92St Lucia207
93China208
94Namibia210
95Nepal212
96Zambia214
97Tunisia215
98Samoa215
99Laos217
100Vietnam221
101Moldova224
102Senegal228
103El Salvador229
104South Africa230
105San Marino230
106Uzbekistan231
107Guatemala233
108St Kitts & Nevis234
109Cuba237
110Maldives240
111Tajikistan244
112Trinidad & Tobago245
113Vanuatu248
114Egypt250
115Jamaica250
116Algeria250
117Ghana251
118Ecuador251
119Iran254
120Bosnia & Herz257
121Marshall Islands258
122Guyana260
123Nicaragua261
124India263
125Sri Lanka263
126Malaysia266
127Lebanon268
128Kiribati268
129Indonesia270
130Gabon272
131Kenya274
132Suriname275
133Antigua & Barbuda276
134Grenada276
135Tanzania279
136Cambodia292
137Solomon Islands295
138Bolivia298
139Pakistan302
140Sao Tome & Prin303
141Ethiopia304
142Malawi306
143Venezuela,307
144Papua New Guinea312
145Swaziland315
146Paraguay320
147Uganda322
148Cote d’Ivoire323
149Comoros325
150Bangladesh327
151Turkmenistan328
152Zimbabwe333
153Gambia334
154Burundi335
155Lesotho341
156Tonga350
157Burkina Faso352
158Cameroon353
159Myanmar353
160Benin354
161Mali354
162Honduras357
163Timor-Leste362
164Yemen379
165Madagascar380
166Equatorial Guinea380
167Guinea380
168Mauritania382
169Guinea-Bissau389
170Sudan391
171Mozambique395
172Afghanistan397
173Niger398
174Togo405
175Palestinian Territories405
176Sierra Leone408
177Liberia408
178Eritrea410
179North Korea413
180Libya416
181Syrian Arab Rep417
182Haiti419
183Angola420
184DR Congo423
185Central African Rep424
186Nigeria433
187Djibouti438
188Chad440
189Congo448
190Iraq459
191Somalia487

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Lead image: Zhukova Valentyna/Shutterstock

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