Adventure travel is expanding its boundaries. Gone are the days when active and adventurous experiences were reserved for wild places and rural communities. An increasing number of city tours offer an opportunity to move your body or catch a thrill, all while diving into the culture and history beneath the urban buzz. Here are 10 of our favorites.
Explore Ho Chi Minh City's street food scene by motorcycle with XO Tours — Photo courtesy of Ming Lai, XO Tours
Ride motorcycles and sample street food - Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
With almost 9 million residents and something like 8 million motorbikes, Ho Chi Minh City is home to an epic street food culture. But navigating the stalls, many of which specialize in a single dish, can be as daunting as darting across the swarming roads.
XO Tours’ Foodie Tour gets into that traffic on the back of a motorcycle to sample some of the city’s best bites beyond District 1 and bánh mì. The featured food stalls and open-air restaurants serve up bún bò huế noodle soup, grilled okra, barbecued frog, mung bean pancakes, crab with chili salt and more.
Artists make colorful political statements on Bethlehem's separation wall — Photo courtesy of Rami Rishmawi, Siraj Center
Pedal past ancient sites and contemporary art - Bethlehem, West Bank
Millions of tourists and Christian pilgrims flock to Bethlehem each year to visit the Church of the Nativity (the presumed site of Jesus's birth), Manger Square and other sites of religious significance.
For active types who want to ditch the tour bus while still covering substantial ground, guided electric bike tours cruise through the winding Ottoman-era stone streets and zip easily over the hills to check out the streetside murals and traditional artisan shops in Beit Sahour or the ruins in Beit Jala. The tours, coordinated through Siraj Center or Walk Palestine, leave from the Bank of Jordan at Bab Zukak every Friday at 9 a.m. or on request for large groups.
Rio is home to one of the world's largest urban jungles — Photo courtesy of Jungle Me Rio
Hike through urban wilderness - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Covering nearly 10,000 acres, Brazil’s Tijuca Forest National Park encompasses 3.5% of Rio de Janeiro’s land area and is one of the world’s largest urban forests. In the 1800s, much of the original rainforest was cleared to make way for coffee plantations, destroying wildlife habitats and diminishing the rivers that fed Rio’s population, prompting a reforestation effort starting in 1861.
Jungle Me Rio runs guided hikes that take in Tijuca’s rewilded landscapes. The Tijuca Adventure Circuit traces a 5.6-mile loop that takes in off-the-beaten-path waterfalls, rivers, mountains, caves and ruins of the old coffee farms.
Cycling Delhi is an exhilarating introduction to the city — Photo courtesy of Delhi By Cycle
Cycle around iconic architecture and bustling bazaars - Delhi, India
From Asia’s largest spice market to a network of bustling 17th-century alleys, Old Delhi pulses with human activity, past and present. Since 2009, Delhi By Cycle has been leading tours that show off the city’s gems, from the vermillion glory of the Old Delhi Railway Station and the Red Fort to the best spots to sip a roadside chai.
On the Shahjahan tour, travelers watch the city come to life while getting their hearts and adrenaline pumping as they navigate the web of streets packed with merchants, rickshaws, cars and cows.
Paddling Naples' Bourbon Tunnel — Photo courtesy of Galleria Borbonica
Raft underground tunnels - Naples, Italy
In 1853, fearing a rebellion, King Ferdinand II of Bourbon began building an escape route beneath the city of Naples. The tunnel joins up with 15th-century aqueducts and underground cisterns, but it was left unfinished and forgotten for almost 100 years. During World War II, it served as an air raid shelter and military hospital, and it later became a police impound lot and a dumping ground for wartime rubble before again falling from the public eye.
Starting in the 2000s, this “Bourbon Tunnel” was rediscovered and restored. Three days per week (Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays) and on holidays, historic walking tours, as well as more adventurous caving and rafting tours, showcase the aqueducts, cisterns and artifacts – from vintage cars to children’s toys – left behind by the people who have used them over the years. English adventure tours should be booked in advance.
These are the 10 best places in North America to go paddling in the city
These are the 10 best places in North America to go paddling in the city
Step back in time as you explore this urban park by horseback — Photo courtesy of VisitCOS.com
Embrace cowboy culture - Colorado Springs, Colorado
On the western edge of Colorado Springs, red and white sandstone spires jut from forests of juniper and piñon pine trees. Encompassing 1,367 acres, Garden of the Gods Park has become an icon for the city of Colorado Springs and the state of Colorado.
Academy Riding Stables’ one- and two-hour horseback adventures explore the landscape with a dose of Wild West fun. From their elevated perch in the saddle, riders get a fresh perspective on the scenery while knowledgeable guides share information about the park’s history, flora and fauna, and unique geology.
Touring Marrakech via motorcycle and sidecar — Photo courtesy of Abdelhak Acim
See the city from a vintage sidecar - Marrakech, Morocco
Founded in 1070 C.E., Marrakech has been a cultural, political and economic center for much of its existence. While most visitors come to experience the ever-lively Djemaa El Fna and to see Koutoubia Mosque's 250-foot minaret, Marrakech Insiders’ “Secret Ride” introduces travelers to lesser-known sites within the ancient walls of the Medina and scattered across the newer French Quarter.
Just hop onto the back of a vintage motorcycle – or into the attached sidecar – and get ready to learn about flea markets, secret gardens, art deco buildings or khettaras (old irrigation systems) in the palm grove.
The Ottawa River, named for the Odawa people, has long been a key trade route — Photo courtesy of Rabaska Canada
Paddle the Ottawa River - Ottawa, Ontario
Though the city of Ottawa was established in 1855 on unceded Algonquin, Anishinabek territory, people have been living in the area for an estimated 8,500 years. Groups looking for a window into the city and country’s rich past can book a Museum and Canoe Experience with Indigenous Experiences.
The tour starts with a guided 60-minute visit to the Canadian Museum of History. Guests and an interpreter (costumed as an 18th-century French Canadian fur trader, or voyageur) then climb aboard a Montréal canoe for a 90-minute out-and-back expedition on the Ottawa River.
Much of Santiago's downtown is adorned with murals — Photo courtesy of La Bicicleta Verde
Bike parks and markets - Santiago, Chile
This capital city, tucked in the Central Valley between the Andes Mountains and the Chilean Coastal Range, remains a worthwhile destination and among South America’s safest for travelers. La Bicicleta Verde harnesses the green power of bicycles to introduce visitors to Santiago’s bustling tree-lined streets, colorful markets and modern businesses.
Guests pedal through mural-adorned alleys and leafy parks, pausing to sample local eats – whether sopaipillas from a streetside kiosk or gelato at a hip cafe – while chatting about everyday life and history.
The 45-foot tall, 350-foot long "Hollywood" sign stands on Mount Lee in the Hollywood Hills — Photo courtesy of Bikes and Hikes LA
Hike the Hollywood Hills - Los Angeles, California
Visitors to Los Angeles tend to think of strolling the boardwalks in Santa Monica and Venice Beach or joining a studio tour for a behind-the-scenes look at Hollywood in the making. But California’s largest city is also home to one of the largest municipal parks in the United States. Sprawling over more than 4,210 acres of wilderness and landscaped nature, Griffith Park is home to miles of hiking trails, as well as the famed Griffith Park Observatory.
Active travelers seeking a different view of the city can join Bikes and Hikes Experience LA for a roughly 2.5-hour hike to the top of Mount Hollywood. Knowledgeable guides – many of whom are actors or comedians – fill you in about Hollywood history, film trivia and their favorite L.A. haunts. The experience culminates with Instagrammable photo sessions of the city skyline, the Hollywood sign and an insider highlights tour of the observatory.