'Stop dreaming about your bucket list and make sh•t happen' said a wise old turtle...
Alright, so that last quote was actually Annette White (loosely). But when you’re lucky enough to make people’s dream holidays a reality as your job, you get pretty used to hearing about travel bucket lists. You know what I’m talking about… the snowy mountain ranges, the iconic UNESCO World Heritage sites, the picture-perfect islands. Those dizzying, panoramic views that literally stop you in your tracks…
…And make all those stairs you climbed to get to the top worthwhile! Everyone’s bucket list of must-see destinations is different, but some landmarks get mentioned a lot more than others. We’ve put together the ultimate travel list of unmissable experiences around the world – reckon you know which takes top spot?
Let the countdown begin… or rather, let the bucket list build…
15. Go island hopping in Raja Ampat
Those who have travelled South East Asia come back brimming with stories – usually involving Raja Ampat at some point or another. Why visit one island when you could visit an archipelago? In other words, a stunning natural cluster of tiny islands – over 1,500 in the case of Raja Ampat!
The tropical climate here rarely falls below 25 C, meaning there’s an abundance of coral reefs and a kaleidoscope of colourful fish swimming in the ocean. Island hopping and a spot of scuba?
14. Trek to Everest Base Camp
Don’t look down! Mt Everest in the Himalayas is the world’s highest mountain, towering at 8,849 metres, 5 and a half miles above sea level. Only around 4,000 people throughout history have climbed to the peak… but don’t worry, you don’t need to reach the top for an exhilarating trek.
Everest Base Camp is around 5,000 metres high, with some steep sections, but totally walkable without fancy equipment or tip-top physical fitness. After a week or two of training, you should be in great form for the trek.
What, you didn’t think you’d have to put in some work for your travel bucket list? *sighs* No, there isn’t a cab you can catch to the top… but maybe someone can give you a piggy-back? I really don’t have time for this – onto the next destination!
13. Glide by cable car over Cape Town
The Table Mountain Aerial Cableway is a bit of a mouthful to say, but the view speaks for itself. If you’ve decided you’re not going to climb Everest because, fair enough, it’s a trek-and-a-half, then head to Cape Town and take the 1,000 metre-high cable car. You get to sit down, plus it takes you over Table Mountain, one of the New 7Wonders of Nature!
The mountain range was given the award due to its unique range of plants and flowers, plus the architecturally-stunning cableway that showcases ocean views. After you tick this one off your bucket list, you’ll feel like you’ve won the award yourself!
12. Have a picnic by the Eiffel Tower
Yeah, Paris is a short day trip for most Europeans – but a much-dreamt-of experience for many elsewhere across the world! There probably isn’t anything that says ‘I stan Paris!’ like taking a picnic of baguette, cheese, and fine wine to the lush lawns by the Eiffel Tower.
And if we’re talking travel bucket lists, you’ve got to climb to the top right? The view will have you humming ‘Les Champs-Elysées’ all the way back home, to the annoyance of everyone around you. Isn’t France a dream?
11. Take a road-trip of the United States
What better way to see the USA than ‘getting your kicks on Route 66?’ Even though it’s no longer possible to drive USA’s most famous road uninterrupted, you can still experience most of the route and all the adventures that come with it. Plus, it’s still kinda fun to sing the famous song while you’re cruising the most iconic North American highways.
Plan a road trip and don’t miss the sprawling Great River Road that traces the Mississippi or the 50-mile marvel, Going-To-The-Sun Road. Instead of actually leading you to that big ball of fire and melting everything Icarus-style, this route actually ends at Glacier National Park, Montana. The only thing that’ll be melting is the snowflakes on your tongue, trust.
10. Watch the summer solstice at Stonehenge
For thousands of years, people have walked to Stonehenge in England to catch the summer solstice. The sunsets and sunrises at this time are glorious across Salisbury Plain, with orange light reflecting off those ancient stones.
Some people visit for spiritual reasons, some visit to be closer to nature as the seasons change. And yeah, a discreet but determined few head to the summer solstice at Stonehenge to party, in the footsteps of cave people and druids from long ago. Take your pick!
9. Feel blessed at Angkor Wat in Cambodia
Wats that over there? Oh, thank heavens, it’s just Angkor Wat – thought to be the largest religious building in the world and one of the most beautiful for sure. It was built over 900 years ago by Suryavarman II, during a time when Cambodian rulers were constantly trying to up the ante and build an even bigger temple.
The result was Anghor Wat, an architect’s dream that functions perfectly to this day as a tourist attraction and Hindu temple. Look out for locks of hair scattered around the temple grounds, left in gratitude to the gods by soon-to-be-wed couples and travellers alike.
8. Get dizzy at the Grand Canyon’s Skywalk Bridge
A natural phenomenon, the Grand Canyon will be on countless travel bucket lists. After all, it’s one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. But what about Skywalk Bridge? If you ever wondered what it would be like to fly over the Grand Canyon like a bald eagle (because who hasn’t?) then this horseshoe-shaped viewing point will take you pretty close.
That was the vision that fueled the creation of the $30 million Skywalk Bridge, completed in 2007 to much cheer from thrill-seekers across the world. Mind you, tickets don’t come cheap… and looking down into the abyss that is the Grand Canyon might make you want to throw up a little…
But it’s a milestone experience if I ever saw one and unforgettable for sure! So… you first?😬
7. Eat seafood pasta at Cinque Terre
Is it true that travellers head to Cinque Terre every year just to sample the seafood? Perhaps. Fresh linguine with juicy prawn and mussels at a local trattoria is most definitely something to write home about (perhaps on a glossy postcard showcasing the Cinque Terre’s iconic cliffside homes?)
But if you don’t like seafood, don’t worry, there’s plenty more fish in the sea. Simply head for an evening boat ride on the Ligurian Sea and watch the pink and orange apartments float away as you sail.
6. Ride a camel by the Pyramids of Giza
Seeing the pyramids is often near the top of traveller bucket lists. The Pyramids of Giza are the ones you’ll have seen in the films, which served as mausoleums for three different pharaohs. The largest, The Great Pyramid, was built for pharaoh Khufu and will leave you a little speechless on your camel ride, probably. It’s cool, camels aren’t much conversationalists, anyway.
When people ask you ‘how was the pyramids’, just say they were great. Because that’s kinda accurate, right? Also look out for the Great Sphinx (see a common theme going here), it’s the one with the broken nose. Oh, and The Solar Boat Museum, home to one of the oldest ships ever.
5. Take a helicopter ride over the Statue of Liberty
The Statue of Liberty was built on New York Harbor, but there are also smaller statues of the same name in France (plus 100’s more across the world). That’s because the one in the USA was a gift from France, all the way back in 1886 as a symbol of unity and to commemorate the end of the French Revolution.
There are boat trips, bungee jumps, and even skydives available in eyesight of the Statue of Liberty. But for the ultimate travel bucket list, we reckon only a helicopter ride will suffice. Gurl, the 360 view of New York from the heavens will make you feel like a movie star!
4. Make a splash in Bora Bora
I once met a guy who only had one thing on his travel bucket list: go swimming with the sea turtles in Bora Bora. He really loved sea turtles, and who can blame him? They live for centuries and are probably really wise.
Wise enough to swim in Bora Bora’s warm, unspoilt patch of South Pacific ocean, that’s for sure. It’s not rare to come across a loggerhead, green, or hawksbill sea turtle in the ocean, but they’re also conserved at the Bora Bora Turtle Centre. Hope that guy went there in the end…
Anyway, enough about turtles! The bungalows in Bora Bora will light your Instagram feed up with gorgeousness, plus there’s loads to do here, from jet-skiing and paddle boarding to submarine rides (yes, really).
3. Ski the Austrian Alps
I wanted to have a skiing experience here, even though I’m terrified of doing it myself. But it’s a bucket list, it should make you quake in your boots a little. Tyrol is a skiing town nestled in the Austrian Alps, with the world-famous slopes you can whiz down like a crazy person and iconic landmarks to visit like Bridge to the Middle Ages.
Plus, Tyrol is full of toasty chalets and parties where you can sample Austrian wine, while famous DJs from around the world sample the decks. Oh, and Contiki has their own chalet here – it has a sauna and super-cool bar. You should check it out for sure.
2. Gawk at the Northern Lights in Iceland
This one is a real life moment. Seeing the Northern Lights in Iceland is partly so magical because it’s totally unpredictable – you might never see it on your trip, you might get treated to the natural phenomenon every night. Just like that unreliable ex-boyfriend you probably dated back in high school… just way cooler.
The best way to see the Northern Lights could be the Blue Lagoon, where you can take a warm dip and stargaze. This geothermal, natural masterpiece will have you ‘oohing’ and ‘ahhing’ even if the wizardry of the Northern Lights doesn’t show it’s face that night.
1. Scuba the Great Barrier Reef
One of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, the Great Barrier Reef spans over 400,000 kilometres of the Pacific Ocean and is as close to a scuba’s paradise as you can get. If you’ve followed the news recently, it might be no surprise that The Great Barrier Reef is my ultimate travel bucket list experience. Not to do with me, specifically, but because of climate change.
The corals are bleaching due to warmer temperature, which causes them and all the sea life around, to die. Efforts have been taken for years to restore dead areas of the Great Barrier Reef, but experts are now saying that to save it, we have to fix climate change. So, when you travel here, do it responsibly and book a carbon neutral trip!
Swimming with sharks (under the careful eye of trained instructors), snorkelling, and sky diving are all excursions you can pursue off the Australian coast on your stay. But visiting the location of Finding Nemo (2002) in real life? Now, that’s bucket list material with bells on it.
Spend more time adding destinations to your travel bucket list than actually visiting them? Let’s make it happen this year! Head to www.contiki.com/ and plan your next adventure ✈️