Rising to 5,895m above sea level, Mount Kilimanjaro is the world’s tallest free-standing mountain and the highest point in Africa – that’s nearly five times taller than the UK’s largest mountain Ben Nevis.
Typically, treks up the mountain take about 10 days, with the first few days used to acclimatise to the altitude, and temperature extremes – which can vary from 45 degrees C to -25 degrees C.
Although the climb is popular, it is tough, with about 40 per cent of people who take it on not making it to the summit.
Trek to Machu Picchu
Another challenge that will test your endurance and mettle at altitude, is a trek to the ancient pre-Columbian Inca ruins of Machu Picchu in the Peruvian Andes, nestled between two mountain peaks at 2,430 metres above sea level.
The most common trekking route takes the Inca Trail, visiting Inca temples and settlements on the way, before an early-morning trek to the Sun Gate, which gives the iconic view down on the ruins themselves.
Walk the Great Wall of China
Stretching 6000km across China and built about 2,500 years ago, China’s Great Wall is now a fascinating if physically demanding charity challenge destination in incredible scenery.
A 10-day trek involves negotiating all kinds of terrain and conditions as you walk sections of the Wall in its various states of disrepair and restoration.
Be prepared for lots of climbing and descending, as the wall contours the steep slopes of the mountainous scenery north of Beijing.
With over-night stays in local villages and visits to markets, there’s also plenty of opportunity to experience local rural Chinese culture.
Paddle the Zambezi
Using traditional African wooden dug-out canoes, inflatable kayaks and rafts, you will paddle down over 100kms of Africa’s fourth longest river – the Zambezi, passing along Zambia’s border with Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe.
As you navigate downriver towards Victoria Falls – ‘The Smoke that Thunders’ as it is called locally – you will spot hippo, crocodiles and all manner of eastern African wildlife in the river and on its banks.
There will also be wild camping on the riverbank before a final, frantic paddle negotiating the thrilling white-water rapids of the Batoka gorge below the famous falls themselves.
Bike to Angkor Wat
This 400km, 10-day bike trek starts in Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh City and finishes at the world famous Khmer temple site of Angkor Wat in Cambodia.
Built between 897 and 1191AD by Columbia’s Khmer civilisation, the temple is the largest religious monument in the world, its perimeter wall enclosing a complex that spans 203 acres.
Treks typically include 8 days riding through beautiful rural scenery next to streams, rivers and paddy fields, with picturesque mountains behind.
Daily distances range from 50 to 100 kms and there is plenty of opportunity to discover the local Khmer culture.
Cycle London to Paris
There are many charities that offer this popular multi-day cycling challenge, from Action Medical Research (action.org.uk) to the British Heart Foundation (bhf.org.uk) and Help for Heroes (helpforheroes.org.uk).
Most are on-road events, which take between three or four days to ride the 300-odd kilometres, via a variety of routes.
For the ultimate challenge, however, check out Action Medical Research’s new-for-2014 24 hour challenge, where soloists or teams of two have to ride the English and French legs of the whole journey in less than 24 hours. Night riding confidence is a must! london2paris24.com.
actionchallenge.com runs a similar event for the charity Scope, which saw over 200 riders take on the challenge in 2013.
If you fancy doing the journey off-road, the BHF have got that option covered too.
Hike the Canadian Rockies
You’ll be raising money for Marie Curie Cancer Care on this nine-day adventure, with five days of trekking through Canada’s Rocky Mountains.
Crossing the continental divide at 2,300m, you’ll hike into the stunning Mt. Assinboine National Park, and spend a night in the town of Banff, in Alberta’s Banff National Park.
After a day trekking on the Columbia Icefield – a 300m thick, 325km2 sheet of ice, which feeds eight major glaciers – you’ll walk alongside the sparkling emerald waters of Lake Louise, and see the tall, needle-like rock formations of Sentinel Pass from Larch Valley.
Climb the Three Peaks
Summiting the three highest peaks in the UK is a time-honoured charity challenge and one that any self-respecting UK outdoor enthusiast should notch up.
The Three Peaks Challenge, which is organised by the Breast Cancer Campaign (breastcancercampaign.org) is an attempt to climb Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Snowdon – the highest peaks in Scotland, England and Wales respectively – ‘in one go' and in that order.
Constituting an epic weekend’s work, you will travel to Fort William on the Friday, beginning the challenge with Ben Nevis on the Saturday morning, climb Scafell Pike that night and complete Snowdon on Sunday in Wales!
You will be aiming to complete the mountains in a total climbing time of 13 hours – Ben Nevis in 5 hours, Scafell Pike in 4 hours and Snowdon in 4 hours. The overall trip takes longer than 13 hours, of course, as you need to transfer by road to each mountain along the way – expect some pretty spectacular snoring on the bus!
Climb Mount Etna
For a charity challenge that’s outside the UK but not the other side of the world, Sicily has short but sharp five-day challenge with three days of trekking.
You’ll be taking on 3,350m summit of Europe’s highest and most active volcano Mount Etna, which towers over the autonomous Italian island province of Sicily and erupted as recently as January 2014.
The trek will take you from the fertile lower slopes of Taormina, past the scars of previous eruptions, and beyond the snowline to Mount Etna’s peak.
Along the way you’ll sample Sicilian food as well as learn about the history, geology, and activity of the volcano.
The 8km trek up the volcanic slopes gives breath-taking views of the towns below and Etna’s live volcanic vents.
After a 2000 m descent to your refuge your challenge will be rounded off with a celebratory meal of local Sicilian fare in Palermo!
Trek through the jungle
Raising funds for the Sumatran Orangutan Society, this 11-day jungle trekking challenge takes place in the mountainous Gunung Leuser National Park in Sumatra, one of the only places in the world where you can still see orangutans in the wild.
And that’s not all: Gibbons, elephants, hornbills, Thomas leaf monkeys, macaques, sunbears and the elusive Sumatran tiger are just a handful of the thousands of other animal and plant species you might be lucky enough to see.
During the trek, you’ll also be taught many rainforest skills, track wildlife, visit local communities, and sleep under a canopy of trees in the depths of prime rainforest.
Need to know…
Training and fitness are required for most challenges, but anyone who leads a fairly active and moderately healthy lifestyle should be okay on most, as long as they train regularly over a period of at least three months leading up to the expedition.
Don’t forget that the temperature and altitude may be different from the UK, and you may be walking, cycling, paddling – or whatever activity you choose – constantly for days on end. For this reason, while strength is important, endurance training should be your primary focus for most.
Raising money for good causes is a fundamental part of charity challenges and will mean planning your trip months in advance. With most challenges you have to make a deposit when booking the trip, then, if self-funded you typically need to pay the balance about eight weeks before the departure date and raise as much money to recoup your costs.
Alternatively, you typically need to raise 80% of the trip’s minimum sponsorship target and send it to your chosen charity 10 weeks before the trip, and then the final 20% four weeks after getting back. It sounds daunting, but that’s why these trips are called challenges!
You might also find the following fundraising sites useful: