Top 10 unusual vacations

It’s always good to break away from the mainstream, and this is exactly what we’re doing with this guide to the top ten unusual vacations – we’re not going to give you just the run of the mill top ten, but instead show you some options that are way off-radar. There are, of course, unusual vacations the world over, but these are just a few of our most quirkilicious. Think camels, canyons and camping on a glacier, and you start to get the picture of what we think can be classified as unusual.

1. Lionfish spearing in Belize

Killing sealife may seem counterintuitive when it comes to marine conservation – but this invasive, non-native species poses one of the greatest threats to reefs up and down the Caribbean. With no natural predators, they have spread rapidly – and donning your scuba gear to spear them underwater is thrilling, educational – and incredibly beneficial.

When to go: September to May
Our top selling trip: Lionfish spearing marine conservation in Belize
See all our trips: Marine conservation vacations
Read more: Lionfish spearing marine conservation and Belize travel guide

2. Swimming with wild dolphins in the Azores

The Azores have some of the most abundant dolphin sightings, with seven species commonly seen alongside sperm whales and orcas. This is one of the best places to swim with dolphins too, with expert guides and boat drivers who can monitor the behaviour of each species. Week-long trips offer the chance to build your confidence in the open water and use a snorkel.

When to go: July and August
Our top selling trip: Swimming with wild dolphins in the Azores
See all our trips: Swim with whales and dolphins vacations
Read more: Swimming with whales and wild dolphins and Azores Travel Guide

3. Sea kayaking in Croatia

Say 'archipelago' to any paddler and their eyes light up. With over 1,000 islands along Croatia's coasts, you've a lot to choose from, and kayaking from one to another really is the most blissful way to visit this extraordinary country. Only a handful of islands are populated, and many have green interiors, so each time you come across one it is like finding another Adriatic jewel.

When to go: June to September
Our top selling trip: Sea kayaking vacation in Croatia
See all our trips: Sea kayaking vacations
Read more: Sea kayaking vacations in Croatia and Croatia travel guide

4. Self drive tuk tuk tours in Thailand

For mainstream, do Phuket. For unusual, go on a self drive tuk tuk tour of Northern Thailand. After a couple of days’ training, you’ll whizz through the mountainous landscapes of Chiang Mai and Mae Hong Son in your own tuk tuk. Don’t worry, though – you won’t spend your whole time behind the wheel. Treks through national parks, river rafting and a visit to an elephant sanctuary where you can meet these gentle beasts on their terms break up the drives.

When to go: year-round
Our top selling trip: Thailand self drive tuk tuk adventure vacation
See all our trips: Adventurous self drive vacations
Read more: Self drive tuk tuk tour guide

5. Petra & Wadi Rum by bike

Avoid the coachloads of tick box tourists in Jordan by arriving in the UNESCO city of Petra by bike. The coaches won’t be going near the olive groves and hilltop villages of the north either, nor into the small desert, nomadic communities further south where, with the help of guides, you will find unmarked goat tracks and farmers’ paths that MTB’ers go mad for.

When to go: February to April
Our top selling trip: Petra and Wadi Rum by bike, Jordan
See all our trips: Cycling vacations in Jordan
Read more: Jordan cycling vacations travel guide and Petra and Wadi Rum travel guide

6. Homestays in Kerala

We offer a variety of homestays, most of them on small working farms. Keralites are generous hosts, who’ll make you feel at home almost instantly and teach you about real Kerala cuisine too, using their own organic ingredients. Don’t be shy and hide behind the comfort blanket of an international hotel. These homes will wrap you in warmth and a genuine welcome.

When to go: September to May
Our top selling trip: Kerala homestay tour, India
See all our trips: Kerala vacations
Read more: Kerala travel guide and India cultural vacations guide

7. Genghis Khan warrior training

Come on, who doesn’t want to be a Mongol warrior? Led by Genghis Khan, the Mongols are the strongest and most stealth military force in history and you can be one, if only for a few days. Try your hand at archery and lassoing, pick up riding skills and learn the secrets behind their battle strategies, all the while dressed in traditional ‘deel’ clothing.

When to go: May to September
Our top selling trip: Ghengis Khan warrior training in Mongolia
See all our trips: Vacations in Mongolia
Read more: Mongolia travel guide and Adventure vacations travel guide

8. Montenegro’s lakes & mountains

The unusual story behind Montenegro is that it's so much more about mountains than beaches. Yes, there are beaches, but in this tiny country, there are 63 peaks reaching heights over 1,800m, all protected by five national parks. And with mountains come waterfalls, wine producers, white water rafting and lakes. Lake Skadar is a 400km² natural playground for kayaking, swimming and wildlife.

When to go: May to September
Our top selling trip: Activity vacation in Montenegro
See all our trips: Montenegro multi activity vacations
Read more: Montenegro multi activity vacations guide and Montenegro travel guide

9. Learn Spanish & love the land

Combined language and activity vacations mean you can make the most of Spain’s language and culture – horse riding, walking the Camino, rock climbing or dancing flamenco – learning the language as you go. Daily classes help you get by with more than just the basics, and learning in situ means you get to talk it all day. Hit the Picos de Europa to really walk the talk.

When to go: year-round
Our top selling trip: Spanish course and walking vacation, Picos de Europa
See all our trips: Special interest vacations in Spain
Read more: Spain travel guide and Picos de Europa travel guide

10. Galapagos land based activity vacation

For those who want to explore the wildlife wonders of the Galapagos Islands, but would also like to get off the boat, meet local people and have a few adventures beyond their binoculars, welcome to island idyll. You’ll swim with sea lions, hike to volcanic craters and snorkel among sea turtles.

When to go: December to June
Our top selling trip: Galapagos land based adventure vacation
See all our trips: Galapagos land based vacations
Read more: Galapagos land based travel guide and Galapagos travel guide
Written by Nana Luckham
Photo credits: [Page banner: Paul Vinten] [1. Lionfish spearing in Belize: Alexander Vasenin] [4. Galapagos land based activity vacation: shalamov] [7. Genghis Khan warrior training : Pioneer Expeditions] [10. Self drive tuk tuk tours in Thailand: Ravi Sharma]