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The Best Trekking Adventures for 2015

Shredding sand: The 1,000-foot-tall Sossusvlei dunes of Namibia, one of the world's top "sand-boarding" destinations.

If... You want to stare down a lion and live to tell the tale

Then... Track endangered wildlife in Namibia, Africa

Sandwiched between the Namib and Kalahari deserts, Namibia’s arid climate seems forbidding to animal life. Yet its fragile ecosystems have the most cheetahs in the world and, thanks to successful conservation efforts, growing populations of elephants, lions, giraffes, and free-roaming black rhinos. Wilderness Safaris’ 10-day Diverse Namibia trip explores this vast country with climbs up the 1,000-foot-tall Sossusvlei dunes—some of the tallest in the world; game drives in Etosha National Park; elephant- and rhino-tracking in the desert near the Huab River; and even an Atlantic dolphin-watching cruise. This is a chance to visit a gorgeous country that’s actually getting conservation right—and, in the process, contribute to the cause.

10 days from $2,785; wilderness-safaris.com

IF...YOU’RE A GLUTTON FOR PUNISHMENT AND KNOW MORE GREEK THAN “CARPE DIEM”

Then... Unleash your Spartan beast in Vermont

Before it was a slick, Reebok-sponsored international obstacle-racing phenomenon, the Spartan Race was a quirky, little-known adventure race in Vermont’s Green Mountains. Brutally efficient at its stated goal of breaking competitors, it consisted of a series of physically difficult and random challenges—chopping wood, crawling through barbed wire, throwing spears, hauling rocks, jumping over a fire—with an indeterminate end. The Spartan Vermont Ultra Beast is the closest relative of the infamous Death Race (youmaydie.com), but without the cruel mind games. Still, it’s the pinnacle of the Reebok series, an unforgiving sufferfest that covers more than 26 miles of territory and features some of the same challenges. So why do it? To prove you can.

$45–$245; spartan.com

If... YOU LIKE TO EAT AND SUN AS MUCH AS YOU LIKE TO SWEAT AND CLIMB

Then... Go the distance in Costa Brava, Spain

Tourists have long flocked to the sun-drenched Catalonian coast to explore its medieval cliffside villages and kick back on its white-sand beaches. But the husband-and-wife team behind Running & Trekking Costa Brava have come up with a more active way of showing off their region’s stunning scenery, rich culture, and delicious cuisine—a weeklong trail run. Pablo and Cristina’s 100-mile route traverses footpaths over mountains, along hilly trails, and past fishing huts and narrow cobbled streets through ancient villages. Pablo is your guide, shuttling runners to and from trailheads, showing them the best places to eat, and ensuring comfortable accommodations. Each run serves as an exploration, revealing the fine gastronomy and culture of this stunning countryside at a very relaxed yet challenging, natural pace.

7 days from $1,215; runningcostabrava.com

If... YOU WANT TO WORK YOUR LEGS DURING THE DAY, THEN TUCK INTO A FRENCH BISTRO AT NIGHT

Then... Run the Tour du Mont Blanc in France

The European Alps offer some of the world’s most scenic trekking—and, with so many mountain villages to visit, some of the most comfortably civilized adventuring as well. The Tour du Mont Blanc, a roughly 100-mile circuit of Europe’s highest mountain peak, which passes through France, Italy, and Switzerland, has been a classic walking trip for more than a century. Inspired by the popular annual Ultra-Trail Mont Blanc (UTMB) ultra-endurance race, mountain runners are now taking to the trails, challenging themselves in the rugged Alpine environment. California-based Sierra Mountain Guides offers a six-day fully supported trail run of the TMB that makes use of the network of villages and high-elevation refugios, or mountain huts. Each day guests are guided into the mountains, where they’re free to run through charming mountain villages, past flower-strewn Alpine meadows, and over scenic passes (piling up 30,000-plus vertical feet over the trip’s course) while their luggage is shuttled to the night’s destination.

6 days from $2,700; sierramtnguides.com

If... YOU SECRETLY YEARN TO EMBRACE YOUR INNER CONQUISTADOR

Then... Skywalk Machu Picchu in Peru

To reach the city in the sky, Mountain Lodges of Peru runs a seven-day journey along the Lares Trek that visits archaeological sites and villages populated with traditional Andean highland weavers and farmers. The trip is no boring museum tour, though—big day hikes of five to seven hours traverse soaring high-mountain passes that reach higher than the tallest Rocky Mountain peaks. Recharge each night at MLP’s three deluxe lodges.

7 days from $2,090; laresadventure.com

If...YOU’RE DYING TO TRY THE EARTH’S MOST PERILOUS JOURNEY

Then... Make the pilgrimage to Mount Everest in Nepal 

Maybe you don’t want to trek through the crevasse-riddled Khumbu Icefall or climb into the oxygen-starved “Death Zone” on your way to the 29,029-foot roof of the world. But you should still consider the trek to Everest Base Camp. Not only is it a challenge—covering 38 miles and ascending 8,000 feet through thin air—but it also represents a once-in-a-lifetime journey through a picturesque Himalayan landscape, from verdant Lukla to the glacier-choked Everest massif. And, because of the need to acclimatize while you ascend, it forces a slower, almost contemplative pace that’s perfect for soaking up Sherpa culture in the local bazaars and temples. REI Adventures offers a 19-day trip loaded with side hikes that visit ancient monasteries, smaller peaks, and remote cliffside sacred sites. 

19 days from $3,399; rei.com/adventures

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