As you make your 2024 travel plans, think with your feet: marathons are a great way to experience the best of a destination while getting (or staying) fit and accomplishing a major life milestone. We’ve rounded up 15 destination marathons worldwide that offer a little something extra for everyone, whether they’re history buffs or safari adventurers, foodies or oenophiles, sunshine seekers or wheelchair racers. Not up for the full 42 kilometres? No shame in that game. Most of these destinations also host half marathons, 10Ks and 5Ks, either on or around the same day. 

For Ancient-World Obsessives

Journey back in time at this life-changing marathon that starts in the ancient city of Petra, Jordan. The race route takes you across seriously challenging desert terrain with plenty of sites to take your mind off the heat. Along the course, you’ll pass thousand-year-old mountain carvings, ancient tombs and a plethora of caves, as well as other-worldly desert scenery that feels more like running on Mars than on Planet Earth.

For The History Enthusiast

Retrace the steps that started it all. The Athens Authentic Marathon begins in the town of Marathon (Marathónas) and follows the approximate path to central Athens that messenger Pheidippides ran in 490 BC to report Greece’s defeat of the Persians. Poor Pheidippides dropped to the ground and died at his finish line, but a beloved sporting event was born. The route takes you through mountainous terrain, so be sure to train for hills. As per tradition, along the route children hand out olive stems in homage to crowns worn by the original Olympic athletes – and you will feel like one when you cross the line at the historic Panathenaic Stadium, sited on the same spot as the ancient Olympic stadium.

For The Eco-Conscious Runner

The Patagonian International Marathon takes place in and around Torres del Paine National Park, outside of the Patagonian capital, Puerto Natale. A designated nature reserve, the course offers stunning views of ice-capped peaks and glacier-formed terrain. High winds and hills make for a gruelling but unforgettable race. As part of an eco-friendly initiative, in place of a medal, marathon finishers will receive a tree planted in their name to aid in Patagonia’s reforestation project.

For Wildlife Enthusiasts

The Lewa Safari Marathon in Kenya has been supporting wildlife conservancy for more than 25 years. When you cross the finish line of this safari run, you can flaunt a true badge of honour. A UNESCO World Heritage site, Lewa Wildlife Conservancy protects a series of diverse and endangered ecosystems, including forests, woodlands and grasslands populated with protected species like the black and white rhino, and Grevy’s zebra – also known as the Imperial Zebra, the world’s largest wild equine creature with stunning fine stripes.

For Eternal Sunshine

The sun never sets on this Arctic adventure of a run. The world’s northernmost marathon takes place in Tromsø, Norway, located at around 350km north of the Arctic Circle. Sure, the race will be chilly and includes a notoriously challenging climb across the 1,036-metre-long Tromsø Bridge, but sea views and polar bear sightings (in the distance) more than make up for it. Gear up in every layer you’ve got, and don’t forget your shades.

For The Best Seaside And City Views

The sprawling city of Rio de Janeiro can be overwhelming to visit, but a marathon is the perfect way to take it all in, from the soul-stirring backdrop of the Serra do Mar Mountains to Rio’s beautiful and buzzy beachfront. Along the way you’ll pass through lively neighbourhoods including Ipanema, Copacabana, Flamengo and Botafogo. Plan to samba the night away – if you’ve got the energy left!

For The Bucket Lister

Check off two goals in one with China’s Great Wall Marathon. After all, if you’re up for trekking one of the eight wonders of the world, you may as well run it. The race begins in Huangyaguan and weaves through rural landscapes and charming villages filled with supporters, culminating in a 5,164-step climb to the top of the East Tower. This race is not for the weary, and while it’s known as one of the world’s most challenging, it’s also one of most rewarding. 

For the Reggae Lover

Winter got you down? Lift your spirits and get jammin’ at the Jamaican Reggae Marathon. Aim for the USD10,000 prize purse, or just take your ‘island time’. Either way, this marathon offers pure Caribbean vibes complete with stunning sea views. The race takes place in Negril, with a start and finish line along beautiful Long Bay. Take a celebratory dip post-run, and don’t miss the free entry Victory Beach Party and awards ceremony.

For The Off-Roader

Trail runners and trail blazers take note! This largely unpaved Australian Outback Marathon in Alice Springs combines natural wonders with rugged terrain. The race kicks off with a backdrop of Uluru, the famed jaw-dropping red sandstone formation with its own dedicated national park in the centre of Australia. Throughout the course, you’ll scale sand dunes with great views as motivation, and take in sections of the Kata Tjuṯa park. Do be aware that this race comes with higher fees with or without accommodation packages, to ensure a safe and a boutique-curated experience.

For The Wine Gourmand

Don’t tell Paris, but France’s Marathon du Médoc might be more popular. Food and wine lovers, especially Bordeaux connoisseurs, will get an extra kick out of the start line in Pauillac, the village with the most first-growth category AOCs. The course is also known as the “longest in the world” for its irresistible stops stocked with local food and wine along the way. Record-breakers take note: Médoc is not for you. On the other hand, if you’re in it for pleasurable pauses, you’ll enjoy multiple live orchestra performances, wine tastings throughout the scenic winery route, and a very motivating oyster tasting at Kilometre 38. Unsurprisingly, the Médoc marathon sells out like wildfire, so book tout de suite, as soon as registration opens.

For The Wine Lover

History, scenery and Sangiovese collide at the Chianti Classico Marathon. Early May is a great time to visit Italy before peak tourism season begins, and the weather in springtime Tuscany is practically guaranteed to deliver. At 47km, this race takes a little longer than a traditional marathon, but thankfully you’ll be carb-loading in the world’s pasta capital: the course passes through lush wine country between Florence and Siena. Along the way, you’ll sprint through charming mediaeval villages like Greve in Chianti and Montefioralle, as well as Verrazzano and Babbiano castles, the Badia a Passignano Abbey, and Cantina Antinori. Official registration includes a bottle, so plan to check a bag, or enjoy it with your supporters during the celebratory days that follow.

For Lovers Of Scotch and Scenery

Live your best Brigadoon life as you roam the verdant hills of the Scottish Highlands at this spectacular marathon. Set the mood with a start line in the misty moorlands, then test your luck at a Loch Ness monster sighting as you round the curves of the legendary lake. Wind through the Highlands and cross the River Ness into Inverness, the heart of the Scottish Highlands, which is speckled with distilleries. Stick around for food and drink fairs, live music and a free sports expo.

For The Record-Breakers

It’s tough to find a flatter course than the Chicago Marathon. If you’re looking to rack up fast-paced stats, keep the Windy City at your back. In fact, in 2023, Kelvin Kiptum set a new world record, and Sifan Hassan made headlines as the second-fastest female marathoner in history. Not everyone can be a winner, but you can certainly finish fast on the wide streets of a city known for stunning architecture, and cross a finish line at the gorgeous Grant Park on the banks of Lake Michigan.

For The Craft Beer Aficionado

Burn off your brewskies at this 25km race in Puurs, Belgium. The course begins and ends at Duvel Moortgat Brewery and passes through Antwerp, East Flanders and Flemish Brabant. Don’t forget to hydrate along the way – all racers receive a beer-filled basket upon crossing the finish line.

For Accessibility With A View

Missoula, Montana, a tiny hippie town at the base of five stunning mountain ranges, makes for a shockingly flat and notoriously organised and accessible racecourse. Hugely popular with the wheelchair and handcycle racers, Missoula may be a small town, but their marathon is big, and it can even set you up as a Boston Qualifier.

Opener image courtesy of Albatros Adventure Marathons™.

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