Planning your first trip around the world can be daunting. There’s an awful lot to discover out there, from retina-burning white beaches tapering off into gin-clear waters to mountain ranges hiding echo-bending canyons and fascinating wildlife.
To celebrate publication of the new edition of the Rough Guide to First-Time Around the World, packed with tips and insights for your first big trip, here are 20 ideas to kick-start your inspiration.
Whether you’re dreaming of kicking back on a white-sand beach, partying until dawn or leaving the tourist trail behind, read on…
1. Participate in a festival
There’s a world of opportunities to celebrate out there. Get covered in coloured dye at Holi, hurl oranges in Italy, take part in Spain’s biggest food fight or don a costume and join a Brazilian samba school.
2. Learn a language
Private and group lessons are a bargain in many countries, and are a great way to gain a greater understanding of your destination. Think about learning Spanish in South America or even try to break the ice with a few words of Mongolian.
3. Be awed by nature
Whether you want to tick the seven wonders of the world of your bucket list or get off the beaten track, there are some stupendous sights to discover. The unfathomably stunning Grand Canyon, for instance, is even still deepening at the rate of 15m per million years.
4. Take a cookery course
5. Shop at a local market
Practice your language skills, meet locals and get a good price all at the same time by exploring local markets. You could hit the bazaars of Fez and Marrakesh in Morocco, where you’ll find more than 10,000 fascinating alleys to explore, or join the crowds at Belgium’s oldest Christmas market.
6. Take a literary journey
Connecting the sites from your favourite foreign book or following in the footsteps of an author is a great way to see another side of a country. Get started with our 10 great literary journeys or try one of these 20 breaks for bookworms.
7. Find your own dream beach
There’s nothing like finding a hammock with your name on it and staying still until you’ve recharged your wanderlust. Thailand doesn’t have a monopoly on Southeast Asia’s great beaches, but many travellers simply can’t seem to return home without an obligatory white-sand sizzle on one of its palm-tufted strands.
8. Attend a sporting event
9. Try the street food
Street food meals may be the most memorable of your entire trip. We’ve picked 20 of the best street foods around the world to whet your appetite.
10. Climb a mountain
Start slow by taking on a classic trekking route or take a mountaineering course and scale a more intimidating peak. Tanzania’s Mount Kilimanjaro is a popular first challenge: the storybook mountain silhouette you first learn to draw in primary school, it’s typically hiked in five or six days.
11. Sample the local firewater
Leave the backpacker bar behind at least once to try something new. It could be an unusual beer in the Czech Republic, a daiquiri in Havana or gintonic in Barcelona. You could even making learning about the local drinking culture the focus of part of your trip on one of these 20 boozy breaks.
12. Try out a new sport
13. Spend a few days in the jungle
Whether it’s in Costa Rica, Peru or Indonesia, you’ll learn a lot by spending at least a few days in the jungle. Just be sure to go with a guide who can both tell you about the indigenous animals and plants – and help you find your way back.
14. Sleep somewhere unusual
15. See a performance
Tickets for plays and concerts might be pricy, but the experience is one you’ll never forget. Even at Australia’s famous Sydney Opera House, seats are readily available for many performances.
16. Get to grips with ancient history
From Bagan to Tikal, the opportunities to get lost in your own historical adventure are endless. No round-the-world trip would be complete without spending some time discovering an ancient civilisation or lost city.
17. Marvel at some of the world’s finest architecture
Architectural wonders abound, although few match the splendour of Agra’s Taj Mahal in India. Built in 1632–1653 by Emperor Shah Jahan in loving memory of his second wife, Mumtaz Mahal,
the Taj is an architectural marvel that has been crafted down to the most minute detail.
18. Go on a great journey
19. Book a safari
But make sure you also get out of the minivan and view the wildlife on foot, or even from a canoe. The Maasai Mara in Kenya is one of the most fantastic destinations for wildlife-spotting, stretching for 3000 square kilometres and home to elephants, lions, zebras, giraffes among numerous other photogenic species.
20. Spend some time in the world’s great museums
The Louvre could eat most sports stadiums for breakfast and still have plenty of room left over, London’s British Museum houses an astonishing 70,000 exhibits, and New York’s Met is home to a whopping 2 million artworks.
Plan more of your first trip around the world with the Rough Guide to First-Time Around the World.