Do you want an adventurous holiday just without difficult logistics, in your face locals or less safe conditions? Well lucky for you we have pulled together the 12 best safe countries for active holidays. These destinations all offer easy adventure travel while still providing plenty of thrills.
**This article was originally published during the Covid 19 pandemic and has since been updated in September 2023.**
Before we get started I feel we should define what we mean by ‘safe’ and ‘easy’. Both of these terms are highly subjective. What I consider easy travel would be difficult for my less adventurous friends. Likewise, what I consider to be safe is wildly different to what my mum considers to be an acceptable risk.
So for this article about the best safe countries for active holidays we are looking at each destination relative to others in the same region. The idea is to pick out the gems where you can have an adventure holiday, but risks and hassle are both minimised.
Being an action sport and adventure travel website what you can do in each destination is key. So we are looking for countries with a diverse range of activities that are easily accessible. Now don’t forget your safety will also be influenced by the activities you choose to do. Also we are not factoring natural disasters into this article.
With that in mind, it’s worth adding that nowhere is 100% safe. For example, Covid19 made travel risks very different to normal. It is clear that some countries are safer than others, plus some destinations are much better set up for travel and far less hassle for tourists.
You also need to consider if your normal behaviour could put you at risk. Sad as it it, in some countries same sex relationships are illegal, so perhaps use a specialist gay travel agency if you want to explore while being open about your sexuality.
Being a Brit I would always use the FCDO (formerly FCO) travel advice as a gauge for how risky a destination is. While none of the countries on this list are high risk, it’s always worth checking the latest travel advice.
Part of easy adventure travel is seamless entry into a country. If getting a visa requires weeks of advance notice, a visit to an embassy or an extortionate fee then it is not easy to visit.
Entry requirements vary depending on your country of origin, and in some instances where else you have visited. Being British, we are basing this article on entry requirements for UK residents. But these are mostly the same for Europeans, American’s, Aussies, Kiwis, and Canadians – so it is a good base.
It is worth checking out the likes of Byevisa.com. They offer electronic visas to more than 50 countries that you can arrange online in just a few clicks. From Argentina to Zimbabwe, New Zealand to Nepal and UK to UAE their easy to use website will help you seamlessly arrange a visa.
To choose the safest countries we consulted the Global Peace Index and picked two from each region that are adventurous and easy to travel in. For example, despite being very safe Singapore missed out as it is mainly a city with very little adventure. And Bhutan, despite being safe and adventurous, missed out as their visas are restricted and expensive.
Let’s start with Africa. Not only does it embody adventure and exploration, but alphabetically it is also the first continent. Obviously parts of Africa are rather dangerous. However, Botswana, Tanzania, Zambia, Namibia, Ghana, Senegal and Madagascar all just missed out on this list offering safe, easy and adventurous holidays.
Rwanda comes 83rd in the global peace index, but is often described as the safest country in Africa. The genocide of 1994 prompted a rebuilding of the nation for the better. In 2017 the World Economic Forum ranked Rwanda as the 9th safest country in the world. As Africa goes it is low on hassle and high on friendly, helpful locals.
Plus for a small country there are plenty of adventures to be had such as caving, paramotoring and canopy walks. Safari is high on most visitors wish list and includes hiking to track mountain gorillas. But there is also good kayaking, canoeing and paddle boarding on Lake Kivu – the largest African lake without crocodiles or hippos.
Know as the country of 1000 hills there is plenty to explore on bike or foot. The popular 10 day, 227 km Congo Nile Trail takes in a range of environments. There are also nine volcanoes (three active) that form the 4,507m Virunga Massif with great day hikes and overnight treks with camping.
The Seychelles do not appear in the Global Peace Index because their population of around 100,000 is too small to qualify. But this Indian Ocean archipelago to the north east of Madagascar has become famous for luxury holidays and has the highest GDP of any African nation.
Part of the reason it’s included in this article as one of the best safe countries for active holidays is the Seychelles response to the Covid19 Pandemic. They have quickly vaccinated the majority of the adult population and as of March 2021 the Seychelles were open for tourism.
There is world class scuba diving and surfing to enjoy plus other water sports like sailing, kayaking, SUP etc. On the larger islands, including Mahe, there is good hiking and biking into the mountainous interiors plus some rock climbing to enjoy. While known for luxury and honeymoons the the Seychelles also offer easy adventure holidays.
The best safe countries for active holidays in Asia are among the safest worldwide, but the least safe are among the most dangerous. Not included below but considered pretty safe (although varying degrees of easy!) are Bhutan, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Nepal, South Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Taiwan and Indonesia.
Asia includes most of the Middle East with some of the planets least safe countries. But not all of the region. In the Middle East Qatar, Kuwait, UAE, Jordan and Oman are considered the safest destinations.
Ninth in the Global Peace Index, people in Japan are so polite it is almost off-putting. The biggest challenge is the language barrier, particularly in places where signs are not in English as the Japanese alphabet is bewildering to a newcomer. That said people are very helpful when you ask.
Japan is also incredible for action sports and activities. As this guide to activities in Japan shows, pretty much every activity you can do elsewhere can also be done in Japan. The winters are great for skiing and snowboarding in Japan with hundreds of ski areas and some of the best snow on the planet.
In the summer the same mountains are good for hiking and biking but also white water rafting and so much more. On the coast there is world class surf, diving, kiteboarding, windsurfing and sailing. It’s worth noting that the sub-tropical south has completely different climate to the north.
While Singapore is the safest place in Asia it is not good for adventure. Fortunately, next door is Malaysia which is full of activities. I have been to Malaysia a few times and to me it is like a toned down, more westernised version of Thailand. The food is incredible with a mix of Thai, Malay, Chinese and Indian giving the best variety in Asia.
There is spectacular scuba diving in Sipadan, the Perenthian Islands, and Tioman Island. While there are good adventures to be had on the Malay peninsula a visit to Borneo is where the country really excels. In both Sabah and Sarawak you’ll find jungle trekking and safaris, coastal kayaking, caving, and much more.
Climbing Mount Kinabalu, the highest peak in South East Asia, is well worth the effort. Not only are the views stunning but you can try Via Ferra,,ta near the peak. Back down on the coast from November to March you can kite and windsurf in Malaysian waters.
Unlike Asia and Africa most of Europe is considered safe and is very easy to travel around. In fact six of the top ten and 21 of the top thirty countries in the Global Peace Index are in Europe.
Top of the Global Peace Index and an incredibly adventurous, Iceland is one of the best safe countries for active holidays. The people are friendly, holidays are hassle free and out of the entire world it is the place where bad things are least likely to happen. On the downside it is expensive.
We don’t have space to summarise everything you could try in Iceland, but you can pretty much do every extreme sport and outdoor activity you could wish. From skiing and snowboarding, to surfing and snowkiting, to snowmobiling and scuba diving – and that is just some of the activities beginning with S!
Hiking, biking, 4×4, climbing, kayaking, rafting – you name it you can do it. Check out these summer activities in Iceland and the best outdoor activities in Iceland for much more detail and plenty of ideas.
Appearing in third spot on the Global Peace Index, Portugal offers easy adventure travel in a safe and sophisticated country. With some of the best weather in Europe, well developed infrastructure great food and a friendly vibe Portugal is the perfect holiday destination.
And fortunately it is blessed with some of the best surf on the planet. Surfers, kiteboarders and windsurfers flock to the coast for reliable wind and impressive swells. Add to that stunning coasts, inland national parks and mountainous areas and there are many trails for hikers and bikers.
There is also excellent paragliding in Portugal and very good dropzones to skydive. Coasteering and canyoning are both possible and popular. Kayakers and paddle boarders will find plenty to keep them interested in the more sheltered waters and there are plenty of other activities to try.
North America is not just Canada, United States, Mexico and the often forgotten about Greenland. The continent also includes the Caribbean and Central America all the way down to Panama.
The USA comes 121st (out of 163) in the Global Peace Index, so it doesn’t make the list. But there are near misses for Bahamas, Nicaragua, Greenland, Panama and the Dominican Republic.
With just four people per square kilometre the population density of Canada certainly helps to keep people friendly and crime low. It comes sixth on the Global Peace Index and is renowned for warm welcomes even in the cold of the winter.
It is also one of the best countries if you are looking for adventure with everything from skydiving to scuba diving and climbing to canoeing. The winters are all about snow sports and ski resorts in Canada are some of the best on the planet. There is also world leading heli-skiing, back country adventures, dog sledding expeditions and snowmobiling safaris to enjoy.
When the snow melts you’ll find some of the best trails on the planet! There is everything from easy walks and bike rides to mountaineering and full on downhill mountain biking. The coasts and lakes are popular with water sports and everything from kitesurfing or kayaking with orcas and wakeboarding or windsurfing with whales is possible.
Located between Nicaragua and Panama near the bottom of the Central American isthmus, Costa Rica has both a Pacific and Caribbean coast. It is politically stable, with a friendly, tourist focussed population and is a safe option in this part of the world.
The pacific coast is peppered with great waves making Costa Rica surfing holidays very popular. Kitesurfing and windsurfing are also possible, with waves on one coast and flat water on the other. Staying in the water, scuba diving is excellent and relatively low cost, plus kayaking, SUP and rafting are all available.
Much of the country is well preserved natural habitats, making wildlife and birdwatching trips very popular. The many national parks are also great for hiking, mountain biking and horse riding with single day options and multiday trails. You can even get involved in caving, canopy walks or ziplining adventures.
Excluding Antarctica, Oceania is the least populated continent and has the smallest land mass. But if you are looking for the best safe countries for active holidays almost any destination here fits the bill. Although most are so small they do not feature in the Global Peace Index.
Second the the Global Peace Index New Zealand is widely regarded as one of the safest countries. They have handled Covid19 exceptionally well, although their quarantine rules currently make it a bit tricky to visit. But normally New Zealand is as welcoming as it is safe and easy to travel around.
And in many regards it is one of the most adventurous countries on the planet. Queenstown – New Zealand’s adventure capital – is the birthplace of commercial bungy jumping and at least three other extreme activities. Skydiving is very popular as is rafting, skiing, snowboarding, surfing, kiteboarding, windsurfing. Name the sport and you can do it in NZ!
The wilderness and national parks in New Zealand are incredible and easy to access, meaning hiking, trekking, horse riding and mountain biking are all excellent. You can also get into the wilderness on quad bikes, 4x4s, jetboats or kayaks. From mountain to coast, volcano to glacier there is so much variety in a relatively small country.
The other antipodean big hitter 13th spot in the Global Peace Index warrants it a spot in this list of countries with easy adventure travel. Crime rates are a little higher than its neighbour, but then the cities have higher populations so it is to be expected. But Australia is still a remarkably safe country to visit.
That said the many Aussie critters may disagree! We have not considered them in this article, but in reality shark, crocodile, spider, snake and jelly fish problems are very rare, particularly if you take sensible wildlife precautions. Your reward is almost every adventure sport known to man in a friendly country with great weather.
Two of the most popular sports are surfing and scuba diving, but sailing, windsurfing, SUP, kayaking, kiteboarding and rafting are all world class. On land there are plenty of great trails for hiking and biking, some of the world’s best rock climbing, ranching, horse riding and interesting wildlife. To top it off you can ski and snowboard and even skydive and bungee jump.
South America had a reputation for dangerous destinations, but this has improved over the last decade or two. These days only really Venezuela is considered very dangerous for visitors. While French Guiana, Paraguay and Argentina all just missed out on this list.
The capital Montevideo has the highest quality of life in South America and the rest of Uruguay is not bad either. The country is relaxed and chilled out compared to much of the continent. Uruguay is also the highest ranked South American country in the Global Peace Index.
In Uruguay you have to hunt the adventures, they’re there but it’s not as in your face as many of the countries in this list of safe and easy adventure travel. On the coast there is good kite and windsurfing, plus more than 80 surf breaks that are mostly empty. There are also three dropzones if you like to skydive.
The highest point is just 500 metres, but there is plenty of hiking through rolling and diverse landscapes. Uruguay is also pretty good for road cycling and mountain biking – although more cross country then downhill. There are also five areas for rock climbing and bouldering plus horse riding, ranching, quad biking and 4×4 tours.
As the second best ranked Global Peace Index country in South America, Chile is one of the best safe countries for active holidays. Politically it is very stable and although crime is higher than in European countries it is lower than a lot of the region. Travelling in Chile is also less hassle than many countries in Latin America.
In terms of adventures Chile has plenty of Pacific coast and a huge swathe of the Andes within its borders. It also shares Patagonia with Argentina in the far south. From hard core mountaineering expeditions to day hikes, and long distance mountain biking routes to some of the best southern hemisphere skiing, Chile has a lot to offer.
The pacific coast is dotted with surf spots and great places to kite and windsurf. There is plenty of opportunity for kayaking, canoeing and SUP both on the coast and in rivers. There is also some some of the world’s best white water rafting on the Futaleufu River in Chile.
We hope you found this guide to easy adventure travel interesting and useful. If you want to visit one of the 12 best safe countries for active holidays then check out our adventure holidays to start planning.