Photo courtesy of Wilderness Scotland

While vacations are often about kicking back, an adventurous, far-from-home physical challenge can inspire you to learn a new activity or serve as the perfect motivator for achieving a fitness goal. Here are four adventurous trips to start training for now.

Biking Coast to Coast, Scotland 

Scotland For the ultimate cycle challenge, traverse the rugged, untamed backcountry of the Scottish Highlands by mountain bike with Wilderness Scotland. This week-long, guided trip sees you pedalling 350 kilometres across the country from the North Sea in Aberdeen to the Atlantic Ocean at Ardnamurchan Peninsula, one of mainland Britain’s westernmost points. Along the way, ride world-class trails ranging from thrilling single-track descents and heart-thumping mountain passes to gentle fire roads. Cap your days with a wee dram and hearty Scottish cuisine, a well-deserved shower and a cozy bed. A road-cycling variation is also offered.

Hiking Havasu Canyon, Arizona

Arizona Outback Adventures offers a moderate, guided 16-km trek into the lush oasis of heavenly Havasu Canyon, one of more than 600 side canyons that form the Grand Canyon. Descending a rocky trail laced with switchbacks delivers hikers to Supai, the most remote village in the lower 48 states and the only community where mail is still delivered by mule train. In this otherworldly red rock moonscape, the Havasupai Indians—“people of the blue-green water”—thrive thanks to the swiftly flowing Havasu Creek, tinted turquoise by calcium carbonate and peppered with waterfalls. From a private creekside base camp, you’ll explore one of nature’s greatest treasures before hiking out.

Kayaking in Kauai, Hawaii

Although kayaking Kauai’s rugged Napali Coast is a day tour, it’s not an ideal adventure for novices looking to wet their paddle on their own. Opt for a guided trip with an operator like Kayak Kauai, which offers certified guides and appropriate equipment. But, for those with stamina and a sailor’s stomach, the 27-km journey reveals the raw beauty of untouched Hawaii. Paddle under 1,200-metre pali (cliffs), past verdant Kalalau Valley and Honopu Arch, thundering waterfalls and secluded beaches. Explore volcanic sea caves and an ancient fishing shrine before landing on Polihale Beach, where you’ll be handed a diploma to prove you nailed the rigorous journey. April through September.

Scuba Diving in Little Cayman, Cayman Islands 

If you want to take the plunge and learn to scuba dive on your next holiday, where better than in Little Cayman, a diver’s mecca? To make the most of your time in the sun, take your confined water (i.e., pool) and classroom training at home, followed by the required open-water dives at a scuba resort. At longestablished Pirates Point Resort, trainees receive personal instruction from one of five dive instructors. Before you know it—with a shiny new certification card under your weight belt—you’ll be exploring Bloody Bay Wall, dubbed by the late Philippe Cousteau as one of the world’s finest dive areas.