We’re taking you way off the beaten path this summer with our epic summer vacation guide to the locations and events which never cross the minds of lesser men. With experiences like these, expect life-changing events and at least a year’s worth of stories.
Moscow is not on many lists for a summer getaway, but this mad city is home to more than 11 million of the hardest drinkers and partiers in the world. Banish images of cold Mother Russia from your mind—the summers are hot and steamy in the capital and the warm weather is the fuel that powers their out-of-control club scene. Most bars are open 24 hours and there’s true variety, from dancing with hundreds all night on Fabrique's DJ-driven dance floor to the cool live jazz of Forte, to partying it up at the former chocolate factory Red October, a gigantic island complex of art galleries, restaurants, discotheques and bars.
Your once-in-a-lifetime experience: This nightlife is just the warm-up to the real event: flying a MiG jet fighter. You’ll be breaking the sound barrier, flying 70,000 feet to the edge of space and pulling off barrel rolls in the jet featured in Top Gun. And yes, you actually take the stick! All of this is set up by tour company Incredible Adventures, which also organizes your five-day stay in Moscow with a city tour and accommodations in the luxe historic Hotel Metropol.
Balancing tranquility and conquering the elements, this camping trip is a perfect mix of chilling in nature and overcoming it. Camping on a raft in a Belgian nature reserve is a one-of-a-kind adventure. Located on a broad waterway in a national park in the province of Limburg, your tethered raft site is accessible via provided canoe. Each 129-square-foot raft is built on top of sturdy barrels and wood.
Your once-in-a-lifetime experience: Expect no electricity or plumbing on this trip, and unlike other getaways on our list you’re responsible for most of your supplies and creature comforts. You can fish from your bedroom, swim, explore the river with your canoe and go ashore and hike into the wilderness. The rafts are distant from one another so you have peace and isolation. If you’re yearning to get away from it all and perhaps test your mettle and self-reliance, this is your summer camping trip.
Rolling your eyes now that you’ve come across a Vegas entry on this list? Don’t worry—we promised you an unconventional summer vacation guide, so we’re not sending you to the usual casinos and gentlemen’s clubs; any gambling or womanizing you do will be an added bonus. You may not realize there are a number of companies in Las Vegas that allow you to live out some other, less salacious secret fantasies like racing sports cars or playing basketball with a 15-ton excavator.
Your once-in-a-lifetime experience: Hit the Las Vegas Motor Speedway in a F430 GT racing Ferrari and tear up the track with Dream Racing, a company which sets you up with all you need to live as a high speed pro for a whole afternoon. Once you’ve fulfilled your fantasy to be a racing ace, go hit the strip for a night of debauchery, but don’t overindulge—you’re going to need a clear head to operate the heavy machinery at DigThisVegas. Tear, dig, rip, claw and grind on the abandoned construction lot they’ve set up for chaotic fun. Build and ride a giant “teeter-totter” for bulldozers or sink some hoops with the aforementioned excavators.
The hot weather’s not for you? Can’t take the simmering heat of the summer? Follow in the steps of the great explorers of the past who were called to adventure in the arctic. Thanks to the Norway Arctic Cruise: Polar Bears & the Midnight Sun cruise from Abercrombie & Kent, you can balance thrills and decadent comfort. Their 12-day journey spoils you in luxury accommodations on their cold-water expedition ship. Le Boreal not only contains opulent quarters, she’s also equipped with a movie theater and spa, and the crew serves up world-class gourmet meals.
Your once-in-a-lifetime experience: Joining you onboard is a team of scientists, authors, historians, naturalists and Zodiac drivers who’ll both enlighten you with lectures and guide you on land outings. Your journey begins in Oslo, where you explore remote polar islands which few have ever seen: seven full days are spent exploring the Svalbard Islands, the so-called wondrous archipelago where you’ll hike the tundra, see massive glaciers, witness polar bears (from a safe distance, naturally) and discover bubbling geothermal springs all under the northern summer sun which lights the sky for almost 24 hours a day.
Now this is a whole other level of guilt-free vacationing! Join one of Roadmonkey’s small group expeditions to Peru and white-water raft down the Apurímac River, camp at the edge of the forest, conquer the Andean peaks and encounter Inca ruins up close. This trip is tourism without the clichés and adventure that feeds the curiosity and soul. And that’s only the first half of the trip!Your once-in-a-lifetime experience: The last three days is your chance to give back and do some good for the community as every Roadmonkey tour includes an organized volunteer opportunity. For instance, one of the Peru expedition’s “give backs” is three days of helping to bring sustainable good to an indigenous Quechua community in the Andean highlands. This is the ultimate combination of tourism, testing your limits and making the world a better place.