For those of us who love to travel, but don't have the time or energy to spend on figuring out complicated logistics, booking a trip through an adventure travel company can save hours of frustration and help you have a fantastic experience.
There are hundreds of adventure travel companies operating all over the world, from Andorra to Zimbabwe, that cater to a wide range of different travel styles and preferences.
So how do you narrow down the options?
To help you out, we’ve created the ultimate list to the best adventure tour operators so you can find the perfect trip for your next holiday.
We’ve taken a systematic approach to ranking these tour operators, taking into account everything from popularity, to online reviews, sustainability commitments, and the company’s breadth of trip offerings, so you can be confident that you’ve found the operator that’s right for you.
Let’s get to it!
Contact us and we will review your company.
G Adventures is one of the world’s largest travel companies, with over 700 different trip offerings around the globe. Although they take over 200,000 travellers out on adventures each year, they’re actually best known as a small group travel operator with a high focus on sustainability and authenticity.
Instead of shuttling travellers from tourist attraction to tourist attraction, G Adventures takes small groups of guests off the beaten path and give them the chance to have quality interactions with local people. Since G Adventures eschews fancy hotels and western-style meals for more local options, their tours are best suited for the traveller that’s interested in stepping outside their comfort zone for a more authentic travel experience.
Audley Travel believes that the best way to see the world is to explore it in your own way. That's why they specialise in creating travel experiences that are tailored to the individual needs and desires of any given traveller. Instead of selling you a pre-packaged experience, anyone travelling with Audley Travel starts their journey with a conversation with a specialist, who will figure out what your budget is, where you'd like to go, and how you want to travel, so you end up with an experience that's perfect for you.
This top-of-the-line service means that guests adventuring with Audley Travel can expect luxury accommodation and itineraries crafted just for them. Of course, this type of service doesn’t come cheap, but if you’re looking for custom luxury travel, Audley Travel might be for you.
Exodus Travel offers an amazing range of different travel experiences that focus on active adventure and education about a country's culture and environment. Each of their 500 different trips builds in a variety of outdoor activities, whether that be hiking and biking or winter sports.
Exodus takes guests to more than 90 countries on all seven continents, so they've got something for everyone. Plus, they've made a commitment to travelling responsibly, with respect to both the environment and other cultures, when bringing guests to some of the world's most fascinating places.
Intrepid Travel was founded nearly three decades ago by two Australian friends who set off for a journey around Africa, where they eschewed traditional Western comforts for an authentic travel experience like no other. This same ethos that started Intrepid lives within the company to this day, as they continue to take over 100,000s of travellers on over 800 different trips on every continent in the world.
These days, Intrepid specialises in small group travel to some of the world's most remote places. As their name suggests, they focus on out-there adventures that are off the beaten path, yet committed to sustainability. They run trips to suit a wide range of different travellers and travel styles, but everyone travelling with Intrepid should be ready for an adventure like no other!
The name ‘National Geographic’ is synonymous with amazing photography and ground-breaking scientific research. Nat Geo brings the same quality found in their magazines to their adventure travel trips. Each Nat Geo trip is designed for people of a specific interest group, whether that be food, culture, wildlife, or active adventure, so there’s a Nat Geo tour for pretty much everyone.
What sets Nat Geo apart from other tour operators is their commitment to hiring only true experts to run their trips. So, when you book on an African safari, you’ll be accompanied by an actual researcher that’s dedicated their life to studying the very animals you’ll see.
Sometimes, the best adventures happen in the heart of a city. Although the idea of “adventure travel” usually conjures up imagines of high mountain peaks or vast desert landscapes, Urban Adventures firmly believes that there’s a lot to explore and learn from inside some of the world’s greatest cities.
Urban Adventures has a trip for everyone, whether you’re a foodie or an active traveller. They’ve got shopping tours, beer tours, and multi-city tours, so it’s not difficult to find a trip that piques your interest. They’ll also create a custom itinerary just for you, so you can be sure that you’re getting the city adventure you’ve always dreamed of.
World Expeditions wants to take you to some of the world’s most amazing places via the path less travelled. They’re committed to providing high-quality travel experiences that focus on responsible tourism and supporting local communities. World Expeditions brings travellers to every continent but leaves behind the touristy areas for some seldom seen places.
They focus on cultural immersion and active adventures, but they cater their trips to travellers of all different ages and different activity levels so you can find a trip that's right for you. Plus, if you have a dream trip in mind, they'll even help you craft an entirely custom made itinerary and make it happen.
Trailfinders offers a variety of different tours that have garnered them a worldwide reputation. While they have a selection of pre-packaged trips, where Trailfinders really shines is in creating tailor-made travel itineraries because they know there’s nothing better than a bespoke travel adventure.
Trailfinders is known for its fantastic customer service, from actual travel experts who have actually been to the places they sell tours for, so you can be confident that you're getting an itinerary that's right for your needs. They offer everything from a weekend getaway to months-long holidays and everything in between, so there's really something for everyone with TrailFinders.
If eco-friendly small group travel sounds like your kind of adventure, then look no further than International Expeditions. The company is committed to sustainable tourism and conservation efforts both in their offices and on their trips. They create award-winning travel experiences to over 20 different countries, placing a focus on authentic interactions with local people and cultures.
On an International Expeditions trip, you’ll be accompanied by an expert naturalist and expedition leader who are local to the area you’re travelling to. This means that with International Expeditions, you’ll get information and service that you could never find in a guidebook.
Kuoni is a world leader in luxury custom travel that's designed specifically to meet your needs. Whether you're looking for a guided small-group tour or a carefully designed experience, Kuoni is there to make your dreams a reality.
Where Kuoni really shines is in its customer service. For travellers from the United Kingdom, they have several different offices, where you can come in, have a chat with one of their destination experts, and plan the trip of a lifetime. If you're someone who wants to plan a trip and a pre-packaged tour won't cut it, Kuoni's adventures just might be for you.
Are you between the ages of 30 and 49? Do you frequently travel alone but wish you had adventure companions like you? If you answered yes to both of those questions, then Flashpack just might be the adventure travel company for you.
Unlike other tour operators, which place people on a trip together simply because they wanted to go to the same place at the same time, Flashpack specialises in connecting travellers in their 30s and 40s with other like-minded adventure enthusiasts, so you can explore the world in style without having to go about it alone.
Wild Frontiers was founded by renowned travel writer Jonny Bealby with a mission to bring travellers to amazing places and introduce them to the fantastic people and cultures that make these locations so special. The company specialises in small-group travel that is organised by regional experts that have been to the places you’ll journey to.
Wild Frontiers offers a wide variety of different tours to some truly remote places, but they’re also happy to tailor-make an itinerary, just for you. On a Wild Frontiers trip, you’ll stay active and experience some of the world’s most remote places like a local.
North America is home to some incredibly diverse landscapes, from the deserts and canyons of the Southwestern United States to the jagged, snow-covered peaks of the Canadian Rockies. There's so much to see and do in the USA and Canada and one of the best ways to experience it all is on a Trek America tour.
Trek America offers road trips in the USA and Canada for young international travellers who want to see the big cities, stunning national parks, and everything in between on their next North American holiday. With tours lasting from just three days to three months, Trek America has something for every active young traveller looking for an adventure holiday in North America.
KE Adventure Travel started out as the premier adventure tour operator in the remote Karakoram Mountains of Pakistan. Since then, they’ve expanded their range of offerings to include trips to popular destinations such as the Himalaya, Mount Kilimanjaro, and the European Alps, where you can hike, bike, climb, and adventure to your heart’s content.
KE Adventures specialises in organising active travel holidays to nearly 90 countries. On a KE Adventures tour, you'll head off the popular trails toward hidden valleys and isolated villages and immerse yourself in the culture of the local people for an authentic travel experience.
Although they may be called “classic,” Classic Journeys' tours are anything but standard. Classic Journeys is dedicated toward making sure that every traveller on their trip has the experience of a lifetime. Most Classic Journeys' trips go to popular locations, like France, New Zealand, and the Galapagos, but they give you a chance to see these places in a different way.
Whether you want to hike, bike, or drink and eat, Classic Journeys’ itineraries give you a unique perspective on some of the world’s most popular travel destinations. Classic Journeys' high-end trip offerings include options for families and solo travellers, too, so there’s really something for everyone.
Family-owned and operated, Austin Adventures is a pioneer in small group active holiday adventures around the world. Austin Adventures prides itself on hiring only the highest-quality tour guides and all of their trip itineraries have been fine-tuned with specific attention to detail, so you know you’re always getting the best.
The best part about Austin Adventures? Their trips are priced at an all-inclusive rate, so you don’t have to worry about shelling out more money after you arrive at your destination. Plus, every trip booked with Austin Adventures is guaranteed to depart, so you don’t ever have to worry about last-minute cancellations due to low enrollment.
Abercrombie and Kent have been guiding guests on luxury adventure tours for over 50 years, so it’s no surprise that they’ve made it onto our list of the best adventure tour operators. Abercrombie and Kent will take you quite literally anywhere you want to go in the world. You can choose from one of their pre-set luxury small group tours or ask about a custom itinerary and tour to be made, just for you.
The defining feature of any Abercrombie and Kent tour is luxury, so when you book a trip, you can rest assured that you'll be staying at the best hotels and travelling in the most comfortable way possible.
Butterfield and Robinson offer prescheduled journeys in dozens of countries on nearly every continent.
Their trips focus on hiking, biking, and other outdoor pursuits during the day, but ensure that you still get to enjoy the comforts you expect from a luxury travel company. Butterfield and Robinson even offer a bespoke travel service, so they can design a luxurious active holiday that’s just right for you.
UTracks' tours are all about exploring Europe in your own way. Dedicated to leading the industry as an active European holiday tour operator, UTracks offers over 400 different small group tours for the adventurous traveller in nearly 50 countries.
Plus, they have a range of self-guided tour options, so you can skip the hassle of planning logistics and just worry about having an amazing time on your trip. All of UTracks’ trips focus on either walking, cycling, boating, or winter sports, so they’ve got a little bit of something to please everyone.
Natural Habitat Adventures specialises in nature travel, bringing visitors to some of the world’s most remote places, so you can see first-hand the beauty of the natural world. Natural Habitats even partners with the World Wildlife Fund to design sustainability and conservation-focused tours for their guests.
Natural Habitats itineraries are wholly unique, and their expedition leaders are some of the most experienced guides out there. Plus, their trips have very small group sizes, with an average of just nine guests per tour, so you can spend more time enjoying nature and less time avoiding tourist crowds.
Explore! has been guiding visitors around the world for nearly 40 years. In that time, they’ve grown from offering just six tours to their current selection of over 600 tours, which range from your classic group excursions to active family adventures. They offer trips in over 130 countries, each of which gives you the chance to learn more about the unique culture and environment in the region you choose to visit.
On every Explore! tour, you'll be guided by locals, who can provide you with information and service that you just can't get from a travel blog or guidebook. Explore! has been fine-tuning their itineraries for nearly four decades, so they have the skills and expertise necessary to create some fantastic active holidays.
Peregrine Adventures is the premium small group adventure travel section of the better known Intrepid Travel Company. Like Intrepid, Peregrine is dedicated to offering travellers an off-the-beaten-path experience, so you can get an authentic feel for a place during your holiday.
Where Peregrine stands apart, however, is that their maximum tour size is just 12 people, so you'll get a much more in-depth experience. Peregrine hires experienced local guides, hand-picks their accommodation, and travels in smaller, private vehicles, so they're the perfect operator for anyone looking for that authentic, small group adventure travel experience.
With over three decades of experience under their belt, Tucan Travel is no newcomer to the adventure travel game. Tucan Travel offers first-time travellers and seasoned globetrotters a choice of over 200 different tours in 70 countries, so it's easy to find a trip that fits your needs.
Tucan Travel also caters specifically to solo travellers, who make up over half of their total clientele. Plus, Tucan Travel is committed to offering affordable active holidays that are focused on sustainable and responsible travel.
If you like to hike, Kandoo might be the adventure tour operator for you. Kandoo pitches themselves as a world expert in adventure trekking, and with trekking tours to places such as Aconcagua, Bhutan, Kilimanjaro, Machu Picchu, and Nepal, there’s no doubting that they know what they’re talking about.
Kandoo's trips are specifically designed to bring small groups of hikers to some of the world's most remote and famous high-altitude trekking destinations, so they're perfect for the adventure traveller with a bucket list. The team at Kandoo is also committed to responsible travel, so when you book with them, you can be confident that your local guides and support team are all adequately compensated and respected.
Adventure Alternative was founded almost thirty years ago by Gavin Bate, a mountaineer and International Mountain Leader with decades of personal climbing, trekking, and international travelling experience under his belt. These days, they focus on providing the highest quality adventure travel experience to their guests, whether that be on a trip to the jungle, the desert, or the Arctic.
All of the Adventure Alternative’s trips have a focus on hiking, so they’re best for anyone looking to stay active and off the beaten path on their holiday. They’re also more than happy to help you plan a private expedition whatever your personal trekking challenge.
REI Adventures is the adventure travel subsidiary of Recreational Equipment, Inc., one of the largest and most popular outdoor gear stores in the United States. REI’s mission is to get people outdoors, so they’ve dedicated themselves to providing over 150 different trips to every continent to help their guests have the experience of a lifetime.
REI trips are active adventure expeditions that bring guests to some of the remote places in the world. They’re led by top-notch guides, many of whom are local to the places you’ll be travelling in. The emphasis at REI Adventures is on environmentalism and authentic experiences, so you won’t find any cookie cutter trips with this company.
To rank the adventure travel companies on our list we used 5 main criteria, as follows:
We researched the web traffic statistics as measured by SimilarWeb.com and social media audiences as measured by followers on Facebook and Instagram, and subscribers on Youtube. We created a popularity score for 1. Web Traffic and 2. Social Media presence on a scale of 1-3. Total available points: 6. Weighting: 5%
Social Media Presence
Big (>500k monthly visitors): 3 Points
Big (>500k followers / subscribers): 3 Points
Scaling (100k-500k monthly visitors): 2 Points
Scaling (100k-500k monthly visitors): 2 Points
Still Growing (<100k monthly visitors): 1 Point
Still Growing (<100k monthly visitors): 1 Point
We analysed the public review profiles of each of the travel companies focusing on the major independent 3rd party review platforms like Trustpilot, Tourradar, Stride, Tripadvisor, Feefo and Facebook. We divided our review score into two parts: 1. Size of Review Profile, and 2. Overall Quality of Reviews. Each part was scored on a scale of 1-3. Total available points: 6. Weighting: 80%
# of Reviews
Performance of Reviews
Big (1000+ Reviews): 3 Points
Almost all positive (>4.5/5 or >9/10): 3 Points
Scaling (100-1000 Reviews): 2 Points
Mostly positive (>4/5 or 8/10): 2 Points
Still growing (<100 Reviews): 1 Point
Average (>3.5/5 or 7/10): 1 Point
We reviewed each travel operator's website and read their statements about responsible travel / ethics / sustainability. We then scored each operator on a scale of 1-3. Total available points: 3. Weighting: 5%
Evidence of Sustainability / Responsible Travel Practices
Main USP: 3 Points
Strong Evidence: 2 Points
Some Evidence: 1 Point
We explored each travel operator's website to uncover evidence of accreditations like ABTA, ATOL, ATTA and AITO (among others), and official awards / recognitions from the travel industry. We then scored each operator on a scale of 1-3. Total available points: 3. Weighting: 5%
Evidence of Awards and Accreditations
Many awards / accreditations: 3 Points
Some awards / accreditations: 2 Points
Not many awards / accreditations: 1 Point
We analysed the breadth and scale of each operator's tour offerings, focusing on the number of tours offered, countries covered and number of activities. We then scored each operator on a scale of 1-3. Total available points: 3. Weighting: 5%
Breadth of Offering
Huge breadth in countries / tours / activities (collectively > 100 offers): 3 Points
Medium breadth in countries / tours / activities (collectively 50-100 offers): 2 Points
Niche offering (collectively <50 offers): 1 Point
We recognise that smaller travel companies would struggle to compete on some of the criteria above.
For example, a small tour operator would most likely have significantly less web traffic and a smaller social presence than a big travel operator. Equally, they would likely have a smaller scale and breadth of offering.
To provide a level playing field, we therefore weighted our overall score heavily towards 3rd party reviews - a criteria that all operators can fairly compete on.
The total review score counts 80% towards the overall score, with the rest of the criteria accounting for 20%.
Below is the raw data we captured for each adventure travel company during our analysis. Please note, metrics like traffic, social media followers and reviews are dynamic and change overtime. The data below is a snapshot of these metrics as of April / May 2019.
We will revise these numbers annually.
Web Traffic (Monthly)
Review Source #1
Review Source #2
Review Source #3
Awards & Accreditations
Breadth of Offering
Best Small Group Operator
Best Tailor-made Operator
National Geographic Expeditions
25,300,000 (Main NatGeo Site), 18,500 UK dedicated site
Best City Adventures
Best Adventure Travel Agency
Best Eco Travel Operator
Abercrombie & Kent
156,000 (UK + US)
Butterfield & Robinson
Natural Habitat Adventures
Not a lot
Not a lot
19,800,000 (Main REI site)
Mark has trekked extensively in Asia, Europe, South America and Africa. He founded Mountain IQ in 2014 with the sole aim to be the best online information portal to some of the most popular mountain destinations around the world. When not writing for Mountain IQ, Mark is out exploring the outdoors with his wife!
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