30 incredible Bucket List vacations

A man standing on top of a mountain taking a photograph

The world is wide and filled to bursting with incredible experiences. But there are some places which are extra special, and invite a wistful longing to experience them. These places make their way onto many travel bucket lists. Many are once-in-a-lifetime adventures to see the best-of-the-best that the world has to offer. We’ve rounded up 30 vacations that belong on any bucket list.

Nature lovers’ Bucket list vacation ideas 

Iguazu Falls, Argentina and Brazil

The Iguazu Falls

On the border of both Brazil and Argentina, are the magnificent Iguazu Falls in South America. They are the largest waterfalls in the world, and one of the most incredible natural wonders on Earth. Witnessing, hearing, and feeling the thunderous crashing of millions of liters of water tumbling down sheer rock faces is one of the most thrilling experiences that a traveler can have. The Iguazu Falls are spread over 2 miles of the Iguazu River, with over 275 separate cascades. During the rainy season (from November to March), the falls are at their most incredible, with torrents of water roaring into the river. However, for an all-around comfortable adventure, the best time to visit Iguazu Falls is in the Spring or Fall. The weather is mild, not too wet, but not so dry that the water levels have dropped too far.

There are several ways to visit the Brazil Iguazu Falls and the Iguazu Falls in Argentina. From the Brazilian side, the Devil’s Throat (Garganta del Diablo) is the most spectacular vantage point. 14 cascades fall 350 feet, causing a plume of spray over 100 feet high, creating a breathtaking curtain of water. From the Argentinian side, there are a series of walkways taking you to the best viewpoints from which to admire the Devil’s Gorge. 

Great Barrier Reef, Australia

The Great Barrier Reef

Perhaps the most iconic watery wonder on Earth, the Great Barrier Reef is a spectacular haven for wildlife off of Australia’s Gold Coast. The precious ecosystem is home to over 9000 species of animals, including fish, coral, sharks, and crustaceans. Unsurprisingly, it’s one of the greatest places to snorkel and scuba dive in the world. It has also become the poster child for raising awareness around the effects of Global Warming. The sight of bleached corals along much of the 1429 miles of the reef is a stark and timely reminder of our need to act to protect our planet. 

Given the state of decline of the Great Barrier Reef, it is important to visit it in an ecologically sustainable way. Most visitors take a day trip out to the reef from either Cairns or the Whitsunday Islands, so choosing a location somewhere else in Queensland will minimize your overall impact. If you are based in Cairns, check out Reef Teach, which runs thrice-weekly educational talks about life on the reef and how we can protect it. Little things such as ensuring that you use an eco-friendly sunblock will also make a big difference. By ensuring that we protect the Great Barrier Reef today, it can hopefully mean that this remarkable natural structure is saved for tomorrow, and many years to come.

The Dead Sea, Israel

2 women floating the Dead Sea

The lowest point of Earth is an indisputable high point of any bucket list adventure. The Dead Sea, in Southern Israel, is a natural wonderland with a unique ecosystem, astonishing views of the surrounding desert, and intriguing mineral qualities. The Dead Sea gets its name from the fact that it is devoid of life. The high salt content makes sustaining living things impossible.

The famous thing to do in The Dead Sea is to simply float. The high concentration of salt makes the water far denser than average, meaning that things that would normally sink float. This makes swimming in the Dead Sea a bit of a challenge, which is why most people choose to just lie back and relax. Historically, the minerals in The Dead Sea lured visitors as far back as the time of King Herod. It was the world’s first health resort! To this day, the healing properties of Dead Sea mud and minerals are lauded in spas around the world.

Visiting the Dead Sea is one of the most popular things to do in the Israel-Jordan area. Due to the desert environment, the weather is warm year-round. It gets particularly busy in the winter, which is peak season, as people flock to the shores to experience winter warmth and minerals. Visiting during the Spring or Autumn will give you pleasant temperatures and more space to soak in all that Dead Sea goodness.

Stargazing in the Atacama Desert, Chile

The Milky Way over the Atacama Desert

In the North of Chile is the second driest place on Earth, the Atacama Desert. There have been periods of 4 years without a drop of rainfall. It’s believed that some areas of the desert have never even seen rain. The reason for this is because the Atacama is between two mountain ranges, The Andes and The Chilean Coast Range. The dryness makes it a barren wasteland where almost no vegetation grows. While this might not sound like the most hospitable place to spend a vacation, there is something very special about the Atacama Desert that should secure it a position on anyone’s bucket list; it is the best place on Earth for stargazing.

Being so vast and barren, the night skies in the Atacama Desert are not washed out by light pollution from cities or towns. The high altitude means that it is one of the few places on Earth which sees over 300 clear nights every year, giving observers unlimited views of the cosmos. In fact, the astronomy here is so good that the Atacama has recently become home to the largest ground telescope in the world; the ALMA. There is a visitors center at the observatory which allows you to get up close and personal with stars, planets, nebulae, and globular clusters with state-of-the-art telescopes.

Try and plan your visit to coincide with a new moon, or when the Moon is a waxing or waning crescent. This will give you darker skies, and a greater chance of seeing something wonderful, such as the Milky Way arching overhead. The best place to base yourself for a spot of Atacama stargazing is in San Pedro de Atacama, a small town from which you can take nighttime excursions into the desert.

Elephant sanctuaries in Thailand

Elephants in Chiang Mai

Elephants are synonymous with Thailand, and in recent years, there has been an increase in awareness around the treatment of these beautiful animals in the tourism industry. This has led to more ethical elephant sanctuaries, prioritizing education over entertainment and rehabilitation over profit. These amazing, gentle animals are given space to roam and visitors are encouraged to learn about their care and protection. The practice of riding elephants in Thailand, at one time a favorite tourist attraction, is thankfully now rejected in many parts of Thailand. The focus instead is on rescue and rehabilitation.

Some of the best ethical elephant sanctuaries in Thailand are The Elephant Nature Park near Chiang Mai and The Friends of the Asian Elephant Hospital in the northwest of the country. To find out more about wildlife-friendly vacations around the world, take a look at our guide to vacations for nature lovers.

Once-in-a-lifetime experiences

See a solar eclipse

A total solar eclipse

You don’t have to be an astronomer to appreciate the spine-tingling feeling of witnessing a total solar eclipse. A total solar eclipse is when the Moon momentarily blocks out the light of the Sun. It’s a truly mystical experience, watching in awe as day turns to night. The shadow of the Moon slides across the surface of the Sun, plunging the world into darkness. There are so many seemingly impossible cosmic coincidences that have had to happen over billions of years to enable us to see this happen. Our planet is the only place in our solar system from which absolute totality is visible.

The next total solar eclipse will take place on December 4th, 2021. It will be visible in all its glory from Antarctica. After that, the next total solar eclipse will be on April 8th, 2024, and totality will be visible from the US, Canada, and Mexico.

Nature spotting in the Galapagos Islands

Galapagos sea lions on the beach

Off the coast of South America lies one of the most enigmatic wildlife destinations on Earth. No nature lover’s bucket list is complete without mentioning the Galapagos Islands, Darwin’s haven of scientific discovery. These remote islands off of Ecuador are home to unique species including the Marine Iguanas, Giant Tortoises, Sea lions, and Blue-footed boobies. Some of these beautiful creatures can’t be seen wild anywhere else in the world. The beautiful tortoises are the star residents of the Galapagos Islands, and live to be some of the oldest animals on Earth. For more amazing reptile encounters, check out our guide to vacations for reptile lovers.

Galapagos Islands travel is also a bucket list item for many divers, photographers, and naturalists because of the unique conditions and animals. There are plenty of ways to visit while ensuring the protection of this remarkable landscape for future generations and the wildlife that lives there. You can take public ferries and explore the islands independently rather than on a large group tour. Conserve water while there and pay the animal inhabitants due care and respect by not feeding, touching, or approaching them.

The wet season in the Galapagos Islands is between January and June when the temperatures are also the hottest. Visiting during the dry season is far more comfortable, but is also the most popular time to visit. The shoulder seasons are ideal for decent weather, lower crowds, and a more eco-friendly visit. 

Ride the Rocky Mountaineer train through Canada

Train tracks through the Canadian Rockies

All aboard one of the world’s most awe-inspiring trains for an unforgettable trip through the Rocky Mountains. Canada’s majestic luxury train journey is one of those ‘must do’ bucket list items for nature lovers, train enthusiasts, and travel addicts alike. The onboard experience is a world-class example of luxury travel. The incredible glass-domed carriages give guests a front-row seat to one of nature’s greatest shows. There are 4 different routes to choose from; 

  • The First Passage to the West – from Vancouver to Banff
  • Journey Through the Clouds – from Vancouver to Jasper via Kamloops
  • Rainforest to Goldrush – from Vancouver to Jasper via Whistler
  • Rockies to the Red Rocks – from Moab to Denver

If you can’t choose just one Rocky Mountaineer train trip (and we wouldn’t blame you) you can combine 2 tours and create a ‘Circle trip’. Whatever route you opt for, you’re going to have a wonderful wilderness experience on the Rocky Mountaineer. The journey is stunning at any time of year, but especially wonderous during the Fall, when the leaves turn into a russet rainbow of reds, oranges, yellows, and golds. 

Watch the dance of the Aurora Borealis

Aurora Borealis over a Scandinavian forest

Aurora Borealis, or the Northern Lights as they’re commonly called, are one of the most beautiful examples of science in action that we can see on Earth. These dancing lights in the sky are caused by collisions between highly charged particles from the Sun and gases in the Earth’s atmosphere. What we see is the Earth’s atmosphere shielding us from the punishing solar winds that careen through space. The aurora can appear as curtains, shards, or waves of light, and shows up as many colors. Most commonly, green is observed. This happens when the gas interacting with the solar particle is oxygen. Other colors that appear are pink, yellow, and occasionally, red.

The aurora borealis, and its southern cousin, the aurora australis, are concentrated most strongly around the polar poles. Therefore, your best chance of seeing them is to get near the Arctic or Antarctic. Great vacation destinations for seeing the Aurora Borealis include Canada, Iceland, Norway, Finland, and Sweden. You also need to remember to pack your thermals, because you have a far better chance of seeing the elusive lights during the cold winter months. It just doesn’t get dark enough during the summer to have a good view.

Spotting the Aurora requires a good deal of patience too. You want to be somewhere dark, away from the light pollution of towns and cities. The other important ingredient is luck. The appearance of the aurora depends on many things beyond our control, but there are ways to improve your chances. Check the aurora forecasts online, choose a clear, cloudless night, and settle in somewhere dark. By doing these things, you give yourself a great chance of spotting the world’s most magnificent light show.

Sail into New York

Manhattan harbor

Experience a taste of travel from a by-gone era with a glamorous cruise into Manhattan harbor. In the days of ocean liners, the Trans-Atlantic crossing from England to New York was the ultimate in sea-faring luxury. To this day, it remains a pinnacle of travel. Cruising into Manhattan harbor, past the Statue of Liberty herself, is one of those unforgettable moments to be remembered forever. This experience belongs at the top of your USA bucket list.

If a Transatlantic cruise is out of reach, you can also jump on a harbor cruise that circles the Manhattan harbor, revealing the classic New York skyline from the water. Going at sunrise or sunset is an extremely romantic way to see the city. There are several companies offering short cruises in and out of New York harbor. Circle Line, which offers daytime and evening tours, is one of the most popular.

Bucket list places to visit for history buffs

Petra, Jordan

A woman looks at the Treasury in Petra

Grab your fedoras and leather jackets, because you’re about to have an adventure worthy of Indiana Jones himself. The astonishing ancient city of Petra in Jordan may have been made famous by Indy’s escapades in ‘The Last Crusade’, but no matter how many times you’ve seen it on screen, there’s nothing that can compare to your first view of Petra’s rose red Treasury building, carved into the side of a desert gorge.

Also known as the Al Khazna, the incredible structure stands over 40 feet high. It is adorned with intricate carvings revealing a snapshot of life in 1 BC when the city was built. The Treasury is the most famous building in Petra. It’s where many tourists stop to get the iconic shot, but there are many more incredible sights to see. There are several tombs, an amphitheater, and beautiful temples to admire, as well as a museum charting the history of Petra. 

Visiting Petra

Visiting Petra has become pretty easy recently. The designation of the city as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985 brought international recognition and attention, and it was duly added to many bucket lists. There is definitely the best time to visit Petra in terms of getting great weather. That is in the Spring or Autumn months. Petra is in a desert, so the summer temperatures are stiflingly hot. Even in the cooler months, you need to ensure you stay well hydrated during the hottest parts of the day.

For our money, the best way to see Petra is to get up at the crack of dawn and get to the site as it opens, at 5 am. This may seem like madness, you are on vacation after all, but once you see that this amazing historical treasure is yours to explore in peace, quiet, and comfort, you might judge that it’s worth the early alarm call. If you can, try and visit Petra on a Monday, Wednesday, or Thursday. On these days, you can experience Petra at night. The trails and buildings are lit by the glow of thousands of tiny candles, in what is probably one of the most ethereal and enchanting light displays on Earth.

Machu Picchu, Peru

Machu Picchu

For history buffs, is there anywhere more alluring than Machu Picchu, the ‘Lost City of the Incas’. Built in 1450, this incredible citadel is one of the finest archeological sites on Earth. It is a designated New Wonder of the World. There is some debate over the original purpose of Machu Picchu. Some scholars believe that it was a King’s palace, others, a sacred place of worship, or an agricultural center. Whatever the reason for its construction, Machu Picchu remains one of the most enigmatic and awe-inspiring bucket list destinations, over 700 years after its construction.

How to visit Machu Picchu

Traveling to Machu Picchu and the mountains around it need a bit of forward planning. Visitor numbers are limited each day, and you must book your guided tour tickets in advance. You can pre-book tickets on the official website. You‘ll need to take your tickets and your passport with you to the ruins. You will be refused entry without these documents. There are a few ways of reaching Machu Picchu. The most famous way is to hike from the nearby town Aguas Calientes. The trek takes around 90 minutes through dense rainforest and is reasonably strenuous due to the altitude and steep elevation.

You can also hop aboard a shuttle bus, which takes around 25 minutes to reach Machu Picchu. There is a limit to how much stuff you can take with you to the site. The ruins have been standing for seven centuries, so stray backpacks and heavy bags pose a threat to the more delicate parts of the structure. You are allowed a small backpack, and lockers are provided for large items.

Make sure that you eat plenty and use the restrooms before entering the city, as these are not available inside. (also keep some spare tissue on you, many restrooms in Peru don’t have toilet paper.) Our final tip is to get yourself up early to beat the crowds. Machu Picchu opens at 6:00 am. It’s worth the early start to see the first rays of morning sunlight stream across the mountain tops, bathing the ancient Incan citadel in the warm glow of a new day.

Pompeii and Herculaneum, Italy

The ruins of Pompeii

On the beautiful Amalfi Coast, not far from the vacation hotspot Sorrento, lie 2 of the most infamous historical sites in Italy. The preserved Roman towns Pompeii and Herculaneum were first discovered in 1599, and then rediscovered in 1748, and excavations have continued on the sites ever since. What makes Pompeii and Herculaneum so special, is the eerie snapshot they give us of life in 79AD.

On the fateful morning of August 24th 79AD, the ordinary lives of the Roman citizens in the towns were dramatically cut short. Nearby Mount Vesuvius erupted, spewing molten lava and tidal waves of thick ash into the Bay of Napoli. Pompeii and Herculaneum were blanketed in the volcano’s pyroclastic surges. It buried their buildings, and their doomed citizens for centuries to come. When the towns were excavated, they revealed the towns in a grisly time capsule, perfectly preserved beneath the solidified rock. 

Visiting Pompeii and Heracleum

You can visit both towns easily on a day trip from the Amalfi Coast. Pompeii is the most famous and recognizable site, but Herculaneum is better preserved. The buildings in Herculaneum still have upper stories intact and colorful frescoes and mosaics still visible on walls. At Pompeii, you can see the Roman amphitheater, the Villa of the Mysteries, and the Roman Baths. At Herculaneum, the whole town stands in a state of magnificent preservation.

During the summer months, both Pompeii and Heracleum get very busy. It is worth booking your tickets ahead of your visit. You can get them online from the Pompeii Sites website. Visiting in the Spring or Autumn will keep the crowd levels lower. Also, the weather will be milder, with temperatures much more comfortable for exploring. Whenever you visit the Amalfi Coast, a visit to Pompeii and Heracleum is a must-do to get a glimpse of the terrifying destructive power of Mother Nature, and a sobering reminder of the precariousness of humanity.

Uluru, Australia

Uluru in the sunset

Known for a long time as Ayers Rock, this incredible Australian monolith is the most sacred site to the Aboriginal Anangu people of Australia. Uluru is an incredible natural site, but it also holds an immense spirituality and plays a vital role in Aboriginal beliefs and storytelling. Uluru is instantly recognizable, standing 348 meters high and towering over the arid landscape of the Australian Outback. It is made of sandstone, which gives it the shifting russet and orange color. One of the most important things to consider when taking a trip to Uluru is to understand and appreciate the importance of the rock to the Anangu people. They have lived on the land for many generations, and have a deep spiritual appreciation for it. You can visit the Uluru-Kata Tjuta Culture Centre to get more insight into the cultural importance of Uluru.

What can I do at Uluru?

There are a number of bucket-list-worthy experiences you can have at Uluru, which are also culturally appropriate. Walking around the base of the monolith is a fantastic way to get a sense of its sheer size and scale, and feel the spiritual energy that is contained within. Visitors are asked not to climb on Uluru itself, and this is deemed disrespectful by the Anangu people.

A classic bucket list experience is to see Uluru at sunrise or sunset. Outback sunrises are some of the most stunning on Earth. The way the golden light shifts and swirls across the cracks and crevices of the red rock is nothing short of spectacular. Once you’ve seen the majesty of Uluru during the day, you need to see it at night. This icon of Australia takes on a particularly magical quality under a canopy of sparkling stars. You can dine with a view of Uluru lit by shimmering stars and listen to tales from the amazing storytellers of the Anangu.

The Acropolis, Athens

The Acropolis

The stunning Acropolis is the jewel in the crown of Greek historical sights. Instantly recognizable, the Acropolis sits proudly atop a tall hill overlooking Athens. The most famous part of the site is the magnificent Parthenon. The building’s gleaming columns have become a timeless symbol of Greek mythology and culture. Although the Parthenon is in a state of poor repair, having been used to store gunpowder during the Morean War (with exactly the outcome that you would expect), it is still one of the most spectacular historic sites in all of Greece, and in the world.

Visiting the Acropolis is a must-do when in Athens, so, unsurprisingly, it gets pretty busy. The best thing to do is get up early and explore the area first thing in the morning. You can buy your tickets in advance, from the official website, which lets you skip the line. Even better, you can buy a multi-attraction ticket giving you access to other fantastic sites in Athens, including the Ancient Agora and Aristotle’s School. For more tips on planning a fantastic Greek vacation, take a look at our guide to the Best Time to Visit Greece.

Bucket list destinations with architectural marvels 

Great Wall of China

The Great Wall of China

The Great Wall China is, as the name suggests, pretty great. It is the largest man-made fortification in the world and is far more than just a wall. Long stretches of fortified stone are interspersed with towers, barracks, and fortresses. The structure winds and coils across the landscape of China like a sleeping dragon. It stretches across 13170 miles of mountain, desert, and forest. The most well-preserved parts of the wall were built during the Ming Dynasty. They are the most popular sections to visit. Most people visit the Great Wall on a trip from Beijing. The popular Badaling and Mutianyu sections are within easy reach of the city and throng with crowds of excited day-trippers. You can get an organized tour, or jump on an early morning bus from Beijing and explore the sections independently. 

Pyramids of Giza, Egypt

The Great Pyramid and the Sphinx

Is there any greater testament to the power of human ingenuity than the Pyramids of Giza? The three structures are instantly recognizable and have fascinated humans for as long as we have known they are there. You’ve seen them on T.V, but no amount of photographs or television appearances can prepare you for the experience of seeing them in reality. The three famous pyramids, Cheops (The Great Pyramid), Chephren, and Mycerinus, are just a few of the total number found in Egypt, but it is the importance of this particular archaeological site that makes it stand out above the rest. They are the oldest remaining Wonder of the Ancient World. It’s estimated that over 2 million stones were used in the construction of The Great Pyramid.

Along with another icon of Egyptian architecture, the mighty Sphynx, the pyramids are on the Western bank of the River Nile. This is because, in ancient Egypt, it was believed that the night was the realm of the Dead. Therefore, the pyramids were built in the west to catch the last rays of the setting sun. The night is still a special time in Giza, and visitors in the evening can enjoy a nightly sound and light show, where images are projected onto the pyramids. 

The Pyramids are easily visited on an organized trip from the Egyptian capital Cairo. You can also visit the site independently. Just make sure you familiarize yourself with the latest rules and regulations about visiting the pyramids, so you don’t get caught out by the unscrupulous sellers who try to make a quick buck out of unsuspecting tourists. Entry will cost you around $9 (200 EGP), plus extra for entering the pyramids themselves. 

Burj Khalifa, Dubai

The Burj Khalifa at sunrise

Taking the crown of the tallest building on Earth, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai stands at an astonishing 828 meters high. It took 6 years to finish construction, and the building has now become a symbol of Dubai’s futuristic skyline. Not content with just one world record, the Burj Khalifa is also the tallest freestanding structure in the world, has the highest outdoor observation deck, and the longest distance elevator. As for floors, the Burj Khalifa has 163 of them, including the highest occupied room in the world.

If you need more inspiration to add the Burj Khalifa to your bucket list, there’s the magnificent At.Mosphere restaurant. This is fine dining with a view! Guests enjoy exquisite food with an amazing view over Dubai from the world’s tallest restaurant. It’s up on the 122nd floor of the Burj Khalifa, giving unbeatable vistas over the city.

You can visit the Burj Khalifa observation deck, lounge, bars, and restaurant. It’s best to book your tickets in advance, particularly if you want to go up at sunrise or sunset. Visiting the official website is the easiest way to secure tickets.

Taj Mahal, Agra, India

The Taj Mahal

The Taj Mahal might be the most famous and recognizable building on Earth. Visiting the gleaming marble domes and pillars has been one of the world’s top bucket list items for as long as people have been traveling. Millions of people make the journey to Agra every year to see it for themselves. The Taj Mahal has become one of the most romantic symbols of love in the world. It was built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his third wife, Mumtaz Mahal. It was created in pristine white marble so that the changing light reflects her changing moods. Early morning visitors experience the building bathed in a rosy pink hue, while during the day, the walls are sparkling white. Under a moonlit sky, the Taj Mahal appears to glow gold.

It’s little wonder that this incredible site is so popular with tourists. To get the best experience at the Taj Mahal, it’s a great idea to arrive as early as you can. The ticket booth (Shilp Gram U.P. Tourism), opens at 6 am, but queues start forming generally at around 5:15 am. It’s worth the early start. Not only will you have a far more peaceful experience exploring the site, but you’ll also escape the intense heat that starts to build around 9 am. There’s a significant list of things that you can’t take inside the Taj Mahal, including food, tripods, and selfie sticks. The government website for the Taj Mahal has a detailed list of rules and regulations. It’s also a great site to visit for tips for getting the most out of your visit.

Fushimi Inari, Kyoto, Japan

Fushimi Inari shrine

The Fushimi Inari shrine (伏見稲荷大社) is the most important site dedicated to Inari, the Shinto God of Rice. It is famous for its rows of beautiful vermillion gates forming covered trails through the forest. The shrine is not far from Kyoto, and goes back hundreds of years, predating even the city itself. It was constructed before 794 and has been a site of pilgrimage and adoration ever since. 

The main reason that Fushimi Inari is on many people’s Japan bucket list is that it is a fantastic place to explore the trails and experience ancient Japanese culture. The walk through the gates up the mountain takes 2-3 hours. It is a stunning trail offering breathtaking views over Kyoto. The shrine is open daily and has free admission, so is also a superb budget-friendly activity to do on your Japan vacation. 

Travel bucket list ideas for Adventure seekers

Mount Everest Base Camp, Nepal

Everest

If you asked an adventurous traveler what sits atop their bucket list, there’s a good chance that many of them will answer ‘Everest Base Camp’. The trek to the foot of the world’s tallest mountain is an incredible achievement for any traveler. At 5600 meters above sea level, it is no Sunday afternoon walk in the park but is a more achievable taste of the high life than the notoriously dangerous trek to the mountain’s peak. The trek is regarded as one of the most spectacular in the world. The scenery en route is breathtaking – literally, as the high altitude can make for some tough stretches. 

There are a few different ways to tackle the trek to Everest Base Camp. You can go it alone, on the well-marked and planned route, or hire a local guide. With this option, you support local people and get a beautiful insight into the culture of Nepal and its people. The trek is at its best from March to May, just before monsoon season. There may be some wet days, but the mountain flowers will be in full bloom. This carpet of color gives you the most wondrous views as you ascend.

The world’s longest train journey, Russia

A train passing Lake Baikal in Russia

There’s something rather special about train travel. It might not always be as glamorous as it was in the heydays of luxurious European locomotives, but it is still a wonderful way to experience the landscape of a place. One of the most iconic train trips on the planet deserves a place on your bucket list. The Trans-Siberian Railway offers three routes traversing Russia, and one of them is the longest train journey on Earth. It is an adventure travel stalwart, and as the Trans-Siberian is not primarily a tourist train, it’s a genuinely authentic travel experience. The three routes of the Trans-Siberian are;

  • Moscow to Vladivostok; the longest train journey on Earth, takes 8 nights
  • From Moscow to Beijing via Mongolia; a great option for travelers who want to experience three different and beautiful cultures, takes 6 nights
  • Moscow to Beijing via Manchuria; takes 6 days

Each train offers different classes of cabins. The most popular is 2nd class 4-berth (kupé), which is where you get the most for your money. The 1st class 2-berth (spalny vagon) is more luxurious, but twice the price of the 2nd class cabin. On the other end of the scale, you have 3rd class (platskartny open-plan bunks). Most Western travelers will find 3rd class a bit basic, with little privacy to be found. It is also not available on every train. Ticket prices vary depending on the time of year, which route you take and whether you book a direct journey or choose to break your trip up by staying in places en route. You also need to factor in the cost of visas for Russia and China. Ensure that you’ve got these in the bag before you set off.

Easter Island, Chile

The moai on Easter Island

Adventurous spirits have long been drawn to the mysterious Easter Island, adrift in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. The beautifully barren landscape is famous for the moai statues, silent sentinels standing guard over the land and sea. Easter Island is called Isla de Pascua in Spanish or Rapa Nui in the local language. It is officially part of Chile but is a world away from the bustling cities of South America. 

The main draw is, of course, the aforementioned moai. These enigmatic monoliths were carved between 1250 AD and 1500 AD in the likeness of humans. Each statue has a fascinating story to tell. Easter Island is best visited with a local guide who can unlock some of the mysteries for you. Learning a little bit of Spanish goes a long way when communicating with locals on Easter Island, and showing genuine respect, interest, and appreciation for the island’s history will mark you out as a conscientious tourist. The best and most logical way to get to Easter Island is on a flight from Santiago, Chile. The flight takes around 6 hours. They leave 3 times a day in the high season and up to 2 times a day in the low season.

Ijen volcano, Indonesia

The 'blue flames' of Ijun volcano

You’re probably wondering; ‘what’s so special about a volcano?’. It’s a familiar concept, a mountain of igneous rock which sometimes, awakened by the tremors of the Earth, spews forth ashes, lava, and smoke, wreaking destruction on the surrounding land. That’s pretty impressive in itself, but what is we told you, that in Java, Indonesia, there is a volcano which gushes rivers of blue fire? This amazing phenomenon takes place in the Kawah Ijen crater of the Ijen volcano. It’s a result of some pretty funky chemistry. The glowing blue ‘lava’ is not lava at all, but light created from the combustion of sulphuric gasses at high temperatures. When they hit the cooler air outside of the volcano, the gasses condense into liquid sulfur, which glows blue as it cascades down the mountainside.

How to see Ijun’s ‘blue flames’

This incredible sight is only visible at night, so witnessing it requires a very early start. The easiest way to see the ‘blue flames’ of Ijen is to depart on an organized tour from Banyuwangi. Tours generally leave between midnight and 1 am. This gives groups enough time to summit the volcano, see the blue flames, and witness an incredible Indonesian sunrise. You can also book private tours, which give you more control over your departure time and speed of ascent.

Many tours will also include the hire of a gas mask. If your tour doesn’t, you’ll need to rent one at the start of the hike. Sulphuric gas is a nasty business, so you need to protect yourself when getting up close and personal with it. The climb to the summit of Mount Ijen generally takes between 90 and 120 minutes. It will be mainly in the dark, so make sure that you stick close to the group and have a torch handy. This may seem like a lot of trouble to go to, but for the chance to see one of the most incredible natural phenomena on Earth, it’s certainly worth it!

Route 66, America

Route 66

When anyone utters the words ‘road trip’, there’s likely one route that springs to mind. Route 66 is iconic amongst car fans and travelers the world over and has cemented its place as the pinnacle of road trips. Historic Route 66 cruises across over 2400 miles of the American landscape. It crosses 8 states in total, from Chicago Illinois to the glorious Pacific coast of California. The route has been referenced in countless songs, movies, and stories, which has amplified the romantic appeal of this particular open road. 

The actual Route 66 was decommissioned in 1985, and the majority of the official signage was removed, but you can still travel the route easily using maps and Sat-Nav guidance. People are attracted to Route 66 for the history, nostalgia, and adventure of the drive. It remains firmly lodged at the top of many bucket lists, even 16 years after it officially ceased to be. For more road trip inspiration in the USA, check out our guide to epic road trips across America.

Bucket list Family fun vacations

Grand Canyon, Arizona

The Grand Canyon

Visiting the Grand Canyon National State Park is one of those iconic American adventures that the whole family will love. It belongs on any self-respecting USA bucket list. Located in beautiful Arizona, this stunning natural gorge is a staggering sight, at 1 mile deep and 18 miles wide. Visiting the Grand Canyon is like taking a journey back through the history of the Earth, as colorful bands of rock reveal the geological story of our planet. 

The kids will be enthralled by the wondrous views from The Grand Canyon, particularly from the famous glass walkway that juts out over the precipice. Adventurous families can also hike and paddle down the Colorado River, getting a totally different view of the canyon from ground level. The Grand Canyon, being an icon of America, is a very popular site and gets extremely busy. For an in-depth look at planning your family trip, check out our guide to the best time to visit the Grand Canyon.

Safari in South Africa

A cheetah in Kruger National Park

Gather your group of nature lovers for an expedition like no other – a trip to South Africa to spot the ‘Big 5’ in the wild. A South Africa safari is one of the most popular bucket list items in the world, and it’s little wonder as to why. There is nothing like spotting magnificent animals roaming wild and free in their beautiful natural habitats. South Africa is one of the very best places to tick some big names off of your wildlife checklist!


South Africa is home to many national parks, including the famous Kruger National Park. Here, you can see all of the Big 5 (lions, leopards, elephants, African buffalo, and rhinos). That’s not all; you could also see wild dogs, hornbills, and Baobab trees. It is one of the best places to take a family safari and see a wide range of animals. The Kruger National Park offers many wildlife-based activities, including designated walking trails, game drives, and cycling routes. Visitors to the park pay a daily conservation fee, which goes towards protecting wildlife and educating visitors about the environment.

Dracula’s Castle, Transylvania

Bran Castle

Arguably the most famous castle in the world, Bran Castle in Transylvania, Romania is best known by another name; Dracula’s Castle. Immortalized forever in Bram Stoker’s gothic novel, Dracula’s Castle is a wonderfully spooky place to visit for a taste of Romanian history. The castle itself is an exciting place to visit for young and old alike and is surrounded by some of the most stunning countrysides in the Brasov region. Its elevated position commands amazing views over the Romanian countryside, making it easy to pretend that you’re the King (or Queen) of the castle. The castle holds events throughout the year celebrating its literary and historical heritage and is a fun and educational bucket list experience for the whole family. Tickets can be booked in advance on the Bran Castle website.

Hobbiton, New Zealand

Hobbiton

‘In a hole in the ground, there lived a Hobbit’. So opens J.R.R Tolkien’s famous story. Thanks to a certain record-breaking movie series, the world of Bilbo, Frodo, Gandalf, and friends is no longer confined to our imaginations. In the green pastures of Matamata, not far from Auckland in New Zealand, stands the intricate and beautiful film set used in Peter Jackson’s Hobbit and Lord of the Rings trilogies. Fantasy fans young and old will be transported to the Shire. You can tour charming Hobbit holes, the Party Tree, and the Green Dragon Tavern, and even for a drink or two. The attention to detail and dedication that the crew put in to make Hobbiton come to life is astounding. You’ll soon feel a part of the Fellowship as you explore the nooks and crannies of the set. 

Visiting Hobbiton is one of New Zealand’s top attractions and a great bucket list trip for families. Tours can be organized from Auckland and other popular North Island destinations. There is also a Shire shuttle bus to take visitors to the set itself. You’ll be led on your adventure through The Shire by a passionate and dedicated guide, whose knowledge of all things hobbit could fill a book the size of The Silmarillion, and will bring your trip to life. You can also book special experiences through the official website, such as Evening Banquet Tours and Second Breakfast Tours. There are also events throughout the year, including the annual Hobbiton Beer Festival and Mid Summer and Winter festivals.

Orlando theme parks

The castle in the Magic Kingdom

There is no family vacation more iconic than the Orlando theme parks. Almost every family will be tempted to visit the magical worlds of Disneyland and Universal Studios on a Florida bucket list vacation. For sheer fun and enjoyment for all ages, they can’t be beaten. Orlando is the ultimate family bucket list destination because it’s where dreams become real, and favorite characters step off of the big screen and into your life. For young children, there’s character meet and greets and gentle rides. For older kids and adrenaline junkies there are exciting roller coasters and hair-raising experiences. If you prefer a more chilled vacation, there are fabulous restaurants, shows, and spectacular special events. 

Book with Top Villas

We offer a fantastic choice of luxurious villas and vacation rentals, in the world’s most beautiful destinations. Booking is easy, simply find your ideal vacation rental and check the availability using the on-page calendar. All that’s left to do then is book your stay. You can find more information about the booking process in our Help Center, or by contacting our brilliant team.

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