If you're hoping to fit in an outdoor adventure before the year is out, here's our guide to some of the most exciting places to hike, cycle, climb and ski towards the end of the year.
SIMIEN MOUNTAINS, ETHIOPIA
The Simien mountains in northern Ethiopia are a spectacular landscape of jagged peaks, deep valleys and precipices, forged through millions of years of erosion. A walking trail follows the ridge of the mountains and while challenging (you’ll spend most of it at between 3000m and 4,500m), it's not technical.
Expect to see plenty of wildlife, including troops of Gelada Baboons, Walia Ibex and Ethiopian wolves. Combine your visit with a trip to Lalibela, a complex of 11 churches carved from bedrock in the 11th and 12th centuries. Like the Simien National Park, it’s a UNESCO World Heritage site. Wild Frontiers runs organised tours in October and February.
LAKE COMO, ITALY
If you’re not afraid of a little rain, there are definite advantages to visiting Lake Como region in autumn. It’s far quieter than the summer months, when traffic on the main roads around the lake can be bumper-to-bumper.
Stay in the area around Lecco, on the east side of the Lake, for easy access to great climbing and hiking. Margherita Ragg of The Crowded Planet recommends tackling Placchette di San Martino, a crag with amazing views of the city and lake. “With single and multi-pitch routes of various levels, it is the ideal place to go climbing in October, when the summer heat is not too strong,” she said.
There are several agriturismos dotted around the countryside around Lecco, such as Crotto di Somana, which is built around a natural cave and has a spa with sauna and aromatherapy shower to ease tired muscles at the end of the day. It’s also within easy reach of the Grigne Massif, which has challenging but spectacular trails. Lake Como Adventures can arrange tailor-made tours with professional mountain guides.
LOS GLACIARES & TORRES DEL PAINE, PATAGONIA
‘Otherworldly’ is a word often used to describe the jagged granite monoliths, shaped by glacial ice, which draw visitors to Los Glaciares and Torres del Paine National Parks on the Chile/Argentina border.
The Torres del Paine are a group of three spectacular rock formations, which loom over a small lake. They are one of five stops on the popular ‘W’ hiking route (so-called because the route forms a 'W').
In the north of Los Glaciares National Park, which also boasts the world's largest continental ice expanse after Antarctica, is the iconic Mount Fitzroy. While it's less than half the height of Everest, it's a far more technical climb thanks to its sheer granite face and Patagonia's inclement weather conditions.
The Perito Moreno Glacier is another dramatic feature of Los Glaciares, its 5km front towering 60m above the surrounding water. Tour companies offer both basic and more challenging ice treks on the glacier, which can be completed in a day.
TOUBKAL NATIONAL PARK, MOROCCO
Leave the bustling chaos of Marrakech after breakfast and by the afternoon you can be in Toubkal National Park, beginning the ascent of Mount Toubkal - at 4,167m the highest peak in the Atlas range.
By November snow will have settled on Toubkal, so you’ll need crampons and ice axes to reach the top. Most climbers start in Imlil, a large village surrounded by walnut groves, then spend the night at Toubkal Refuge. Your reward at the summit the next day is a stunning view over the surrounding Atlas Mountains and out to the Sahara Desert.
Although you can tick this trip off in a weekend, it’s worth extending your trip by a few days to take the ‘scenic route’, trekking through valleys and remote Berber villages
CYCLING SAFARI, TANZANIA
Forget jeeps, two wheels is a better way to explore the lakes and plains of East Africa. Exodus Travel offers a 13 day safari, passing through plantations and grasslands on the way to Lake Natron and the active volcano Ol Doinyo Lengai.
The trip is mostly off-road by bicycle on rolling dirt roads and tracks, but includes a two day drive through the Serengeti and a trip into the Ngorongoro Crater, a natural sanctuary for elephants, lion and buffalo.
ICEFIELDS PARKWAY, ALBERTA, CANADA
By visiting in November, you’ll avoid the crowds and can combine your trip with a spot of skiing or snowboarding at Banff - the season usually starts by the middle of the month. But be aware that in winter, the Icefields Parkway isn’t for the faint-hearted. The parkway isn’t salted in winter, but is left as a compact snow road - so you’ll need to be well equipped and have experience of driving on snow, ice and slush.
Stay at the Rampart Creek Wilderness Hostel, halfway along the parkway, a haven of civilisation with wifi, a sauna and access to 150 ice climbs within 30 minutes’ drive.
AL HAJAR MOUNTAINS, OMAN
It’s always hot in Oman, but by December temperatures drop to a more bearable average of 27C - and it’s therefore a good time to to trek the Al Hajar mountains. The range runs the length of Oman's northern coastline, rising to a height of 3,000 metres.
KE Adventure Travel runs 10 day trekking tours which begin in the Western Hajar, passing through mountain villages, date palm groves and terraced fields. After a night camping on the Sharaf al Alamayn Plateau, there’s a chance to explore the forts and markets in the former capital of Nizwa, once the crossroads of caravan routes linking Oman’s interior with the port at Muscat.
The trek continues on through the Eastern Hajar Mountains and ends with a night camping on the beach, in view of the Indian Ocean. There's also an option to visit the Wadi Shab, a narrow mountain ravine with a natural swimming pool.
Aconcagua is 6962m, making it the highest peak in the Southern Hemisphere. If you do make it to the summit, you’ll be rewarded with a 360-degree view over the Andes you’ll never forget.
While a non-technical climb, it is extremely tough and you will need to be an experienced climber to scale it, fit enough to endure extreme cold, high winds and altitude. A guide is a must.
If the weather turns, be prepared there is a very good chance you’ll be unable to reach the summit at all. Allow at least three weeks for this once-in-a-lifetime adventure.
GRAND CANYON, USA
In winter, snow-capped buttes and mesas can make this natural wonder look all the more wonderful.
You’ll face the extra challenges of hiking in cold, wind and snow, but if you’re a hardy soul the icy serenity will enhance your enjoyment as you descend deep into the Earth’s geology.
Macs Adventure runs five-day guided treks which take the South Kaibab Trail into the canyon. After spending two nights at Phantom Ranch, a historic lodge at the bottom of the canyon, you’ll climb the Bright Angel Trail back to the South Rim.
If you’d prefer to strike it out on your own, check the National Parks Service website for advice. One option for winter is to spend a night or two in a wood stove-heated yurt, a ten minute ski from the North Kaibab Trailhead.