20. Innsbruck: Mountain biking
The Nordkette (North Chain) Single Trail isn’t your typical bike park: It starts at 6,000 feet above sea level in the Austrian Alps, is extremely steep (with gradients of up to 36°) and hellishly difficult (with sharp turns, twists and promontories). This is a course that was designed by nature and has only been slightly adapted to make it navigable. It’s easy to get to the start, at least—just take the cable car from down in the valley.
PLUS: In winter, the top station of Hafelekar (7,400 feet above sea level) is the starting point for an incomparable freeskiing experience, with views over the capital of the Tyrol.
19. cape town: Kiteboarding
Cape Town’s famous southeasterly wind blows almost every day during the South African summer, attracting kiteboarding enthusiasts from around the world to its shores. The calm waters of Langebaan are a draw for weekenders and downwind lovers, and if you want to challenge yourself to some big air, head to Milnerton and Bloubergstrand. The latter has an added advantage: The wind blows parallel to the beach, so you can play with the shorebreaks. No surprise, then, that the Red Bull King of the Air is held here every February.
PLUS: Put on your hiking shoes and explore Table Mountain—either with or without the cable car.
18. RIO de Janeiro: Hang gliding
The city that’s home to Sugarloaf Mountain is a hang-gliding hot spot. Your best bet as a beginner is to book a tandem flight and take off from a ramp near the top of Pedra Bonita (“Beautiful Rock”), 1,700 feet above sea level. From here, you can enjoy one of the world’s most glorious views as you glide over the Tijuca Forest—the planet’s largest urban wood—the postcard-perfect beaches and the lush hills. You land at Pepino Beach on the Atlantic coast—the ideal place to cool off after your flight.
PLUS: Brazil has a rich surfing history— if you’re a beginner, we recommend Macumba Beach. If it’s action you’re after, head for Grumari Beach.
17. Hamburg: Bungee Jumping
Adrenaline junkies who climb Big Blue —a huge, 250-ton crane in Hamburg— are rewarded at the very top with a magnificent view of the German port. Then it’s down to business: a 165-foot freefall toward the river Elbe. You can sign up and jump on the same day, and the preparations take no longer than 90 minutes, which makes it perfect for that spur-of-the-moment decision.
PLUS: The Alster, Hamburg’s second most important river, is a wonderful place for water sports in the city center. Hire an SUP board and explore the numerous lakes and tributaries.
16. Melbourne: Superbike racing
Phillip Island, just a two-hour drive south of Melbourne, is one of the world’s best-known motor-racing circuits. Moto GP stars Casey Stoner and Valentino Rossi count the Australian circuit among their favorites, and now we mere mortals can experience what it feels like to be a racing driver, too. At the California Superbike School, you’ll get a technical introduction to the 200 hp BMW bikes and the main sections of the course, and then go hell for leather on the hilly 2.5-mile track.
PLUS: Hire a 570 hp Ferrari 458 Italia from supercar specialists Prancing Horse and cruise your way to lunch in the wine- growing region of the Yarra Valley.
15. Annecy: Paragliding
The upwinds in this Alpine town in the east of France make it perfect paragliding country. Beginners fly around Lake Annecy, whereas professionals can head straight to Mont Blanc or Grenoble.
PLUS: Visit “lifestyle” burger joint the Roster and order the Patriot, a hearty cheeseburger.
14. San Carlos: sailing
This town in northwest Mexico offers ample opportunities for the keen sailor. Beginners will enjoy the calm conditions of the Gulf of California (known locally as the Sea of Cortez), and there are the open waters of the Pacific Ocean for those who like things a little rougher. Remember to keep a lookout while you’re onboard; the sea off the coast of San Carlos is home to all manner of marine mammals, including gray whales, dolphins and sea lions. The cinematic sunsets, which turn the ocean shades of pink and orange, are particularly spectacular.
PLUS: If you’re into salsa dancing, look in on La Salsa Beach Bar one evening —and be sure to try the seafood.
13. Seattle: urban hiking
The Pacific Northwest’s star city has many strings to its bow, including pristine lakes, wonderful nature and skiing just a 45-minute drive away. The 1.3-square-mile Discovery Park—a former military outpost—is a walker’s paradise. From a simple 2.8-mile loop to extended tours around Washington’s beautiful Puget Sound, options are plentiful. Sunset over the Olympic Mountains is a highlight.
PLUS: A must for all Nirvana fans is the exhibition on the band at the EMP, one of America’s best museums dedicated to popular culture.
12. Ohakune: volcano skiing
Have you ever skied on an active volcano? The 9,200-foot Mt. Ruapehu, close to the small town of Ohakune on New Zealand’s North Island, last erupted in 2007. It’s popular with visitors from Auckland and Wellington, and from June to October you have 14 ski lifts at your disposal.
PLUS: Snowmelt from the Kaimanawa Ranges makes the Rangitikei River a Grade 5 whitewater-rafting challenge.
11. Bend: Trail Running
In Bend, Oregon, you have over 50 miles of running trails at your disposal, from the streets of the charming downtown area to the narrow paths that crisscross the Cascade Mountains, from the banks of the Deschutes River to the rambling expanses of the surrounding steppe. With more than 300 days of sunshine per year, too, little wonder that various magazines have named Bend one of the top 10 best cities to live in America.
PLUS: Don’t miss the Bend Ale Trail, a tour that takes you around 14 of the city’s craft breweries.