50 bucket-list travel experiences

updated 3/28/2021
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From the latest edition of Make the Most of Your Time on Earth (2019)

, we’ve picked 50 unforgettable experiences for your bucket list. Granted, travel has been limited in 2020 and 2021, but there’s nothing to stop you from planning and there are no travel restrictions on your imagination. Whether it’s adrenaline based adventures or sampling a unique local delicacy for the first time, these experiences will – when you can see the world again – give you unforgettable memories and stories to return home with.

Read through our ultimate travel bucket list, with not just the top places to see, but the unique experiences that you can have when you visit these amazing locations around the world.

If you're travelling with kids, you might also want to discover magical places to visit with children before they grow up.

1. Get lost for words at the Grand Canyon

After pondering the Grand Canyon

for the first time most visitors are stunned into silence. The problem isn’t lack of words. It’s just that the canyon is so vast and so deep, that the vista stretches so far across your line of vision. The facts are similarly mind-boggling: it is around 277 miles long and one mile deep. Think of it this way: the Grand Canyon is like a mountain range upside down. The abruptness of the drop is bizarre and unnerving. But this is what makes it one the top places to see. Once you return, you’ll never see scenes like it ever again.

Where to stay

Best for great value and location to the Grand Canyon:Red Canyon Cabins

Situated in Kanab, Red Canyon Cabins features accommodation with free WiFi, barbecue facilities and mountain views.

Best for a 5 star outdoor camping experience:Arizona Luxury Expeditions – Grand Canyon

Set 1,950 feet from Mather Campground and 1.7 miles from Bright Angel Trail, Arizona Luxury Expeditions – Grand Canyon offers accommodation in Tusayan set in the heart of Grand Canyon National Park.

The Grand Canyon is like that: it picks you up and takes you out of your comfort zone, dropping you back just that little bit changed.

2. Walk the Siq to Petra, Jordan

Tucked away between parallel rocky ranges in southern Jordan, the fabled site of Petra

is simply awe-inspiring. Popular but rarely crowded, this rock-carved Nabataean city has entranced travellers for centuries with its ornate facades and classical architecture. Perhaps the most magical view lies at the end of the Siq, a dramatic natural gorge that’s still the main entrance. Here, you emerge from the bizarrely eroded cliffs onto an extraordinary view: the famous facade of Petra’s Treasury looming before you. Carved directly into the cliff face and standing 40m tall, it’s no wonder that this UNESCO World Heritage site is a must-see on any Middle Eastern bucket list.

When travel is possible again see Petra’s Treasury for yourself, with a privately guided day tour to Petra or connect with our local expert in Amman, to plan and book your full trip to Jordan


3. Relish the cheap seats at Shakespeare's Globe

It’s standing-room only in ‘the pit’ at Shakespeare’s Globe. This London institution is an open-air reconstruction of the original theatre a few hundred metres away, where Shakespeare’s theatre company performed in 1599. Here in “this wooden O”, as Henry V calls it, hard wooden seats encircle the ‘thrust’ stage. But it’s in the pit, standing in the footsteps of Elizabethan and Jacobean ‘groundlings’ who paid a penny apiece, where you get the best atmosphere. This close up, Shakespeare cannot be dusty or distant. The performances are energized, physical and exhilarating. This is a participatory, democratic theatre experience. There’s a terrific camaraderie between actors and audience, and a real intimacy in those iconic moments when Shakespeare lays bare the inner sinews of human emotion.

Where to stay

Best for modern architecture and river views: Sea Containers

This huge modern hotel is located on the banks of the River Thames, close to the Tate Modern and Shakespeare’s Globe.

Best for value: YHA London St Paul’s

Just a 5-minute walk from St Paul’s Cathedral, this youth hostel offers great value rooms in a historic building, set in the beating heart of the city.

Only here do you have the chance to eyeball Hamlet as he contemplates 'self-slaughter', or Lady Macbeth as she tries to wash the imagined blood from her hands.

4. Get blown away by the Great Wall of China

Snaking across the dusty hills of northeast China

, the Great Wall is an unforgettable sight. It’s impossible not to be blown away by this 7m-high, 7m-thick fortification. Take at least a day to walk between its battlements, shunning hawkers and tourists for less-visited sections where you clamber up unrestored stairs and through crumbling towers. Yet even after you’ve seen, touched and walked the wall, it’s still hard to believe this was built by simple human endeavour.

Where to stay

Best for great value and location to surrounding activities: Delight Inn

Delight Inn features free bikes, seasonal outdoor swimming pool, a garden and bar in Yanqing.

Best for being on a budget: Beijing Badaling Leo Great Wall Hostel

Located next to a very quiet part of the Great Wall of China, Beijing Leo Great Wall Hostel offers a peaceful retreat away from the city.

What to do

Follow the Great Wall through the mountains, lakes, and ancient villages in our Beijing and The Great Wall of China trip

. If you're looking for a day tour from Beijing instead, check out this day tour including pick-up and skip-the-line access.

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5. Sail the Whitsundays, Australia

There’s a distinct feeling of déjà vu cruising in a sailboat among the Whitsunday Islands

. Presently it comes to you: you’ve been here many times, in your lottery fantasies. This tropical idyll of turquoise seas lapping ivory sands against a backdrop of dense green foliage is ingrained in our imagination. Life on board here becomes simple. A shower is as easy as diving into the surrounding water, and your bed is the deck of the boat or the sand on the beach.

Where to stay

Best for views of the ocean: Freedom Shores

Freedom Shores has a restaurant, outdoor swimming pool, a garden and bar in Cannon Valley. Among the various facilities are a private beach area and a terrace with a sea view.

Best for staying on your own island: Daydream Island Resort

This stylish and tranquil retreat is located in the heart of Queensland’s Whitsunday Islands. The resort features modern rooms, outdoor pools and three bars and restaurants.

What to do

For a different angle on the Whitsundays, think about taking a scenic flight from Airlie Beach. If you prefer sailing adventures, there are many one-day to multi-day catamaran trips available to explore the azure waters.

6. Visit the Taj Mahal by moonlight, India

When it comes to visiting the Taj Mahal, there’s no such thing as an unflattering angle or wrong kind of weather. The world’s most romantic building, commissioned by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan as a memorial to his beloved wife, makes frequent appearances on travel bucket lists. But the love and sadness embodied by the Taj are never more palpable than during the full moon, when the complex is opened at night. At this time, visitors are hushed into silence by the building’s ethereal form, rising melancholically from the riverbank yet seemingly shimmering with life.

What to do

Explore the Golden Triangle and beyond with one of our Rough Guides Tailor-Made Trips, like the Essential Golden Triangle

trip. As with all of our trips - they're 100% customisable in collaboration with your local expert.

If you prefer to organise and book yourself, consider taking a private Taj Mahal tour from Agra - your private guide will take you to explore the Taj Mahal and Agra Fort.

6. See the floral wave of cherry blossoms, Japan

In Japan

, spring sees the country gradually coated in a light pink shade, soft petals slowly clustering on their branches as if puffed through by some benevolent underground spirit. The sakura-zensen, or cherry blossom front, flushes like a floral wave that laps the country from south to north and is followed ardently by the Japanese. Among the best places to see it are Kiyomizu-dera in Kyoto , Tokyo ’s Ueno Park or the castles in Osaka or Himeji, all of which are lent a dreamlike air by the arrival of the blossom each spring.

Where to stay

Best for great value in the heart of Kyoto: Sotetsu Fresa Inn Kyoto-Shijokarasuma

Nishiki Market is a 10-minute stroll away, while Nijo Castle is a 15-minute bus ride away. Popular with travellers interested in temples, sightseeing and history.

Best for staying in Osaka: Hotel Felice Shinsaibashi By Relief

Set in Osaka and within 1,650 feet of Shinsaibashi Shopping Arcade. Chuo Ward is a great choice for travellers interested in shopping, street food and shopping for food.

Best for location to Ueno Park: Nohga Hotel Ueno

Situated in Tokyo, 1,650 feet from Choen-ji Temple. Nearby Taito City is a great choice for travellers interested in temples, city trips and city walks.

A lesson about fragile beauty that must be treasured and contemplated.

8. Traverse the Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

The immaculate white expanse of the Salar de Uyuni

is one of Bolivia ’s most extraordinary attractions. This is the largest salt lake in the world, capped by a thick, hard crust of salt, easily capable of supporting the weight of a car. It’s perhaps best seen after a heavy rainfall, when the Salar transforms into an immense mirror, reflecting the sky and the surrounding snowcapped peaks so pristinely that at times the horizon disappears and the mountains seem like islands floating in the sky.

Where to stay

Best for value and location: Casa de Sal - Salt Hotel

Set in Uyuni's city centre, rooms at Casa de Sal - Salt Hotel are built with salt blocks and feature details of Andean décor.

Best for 5 star salt treatment: Hotel Palacio de Sal

Built out of salt bricks and also featuring salt furniture, Palacio de Sal offers guests accommodation with free WiFi and a complimentary buffet breakfast in Potosí.

What to do

Take a day-tour to explore the Salar de Uyuni before enjoying a Bolivian wine tasting at sunset. Or head out in the middle of the night, for a stargazing tour of this unique landscape.

9. Explore the Galápagos Islands, Ecuador

The utter indifference that most of the animals of the Galápagos Islands

show to humans suggests that they knew all along they’d be the ones to change humanity’s perception of itself for ever. It was, after all, this famous menagerie that started the cogs turning in Charles Darwin’s mind . With each island, new animal oddities reveal themselves – giant tortoises, canoodling waved albatrosses, lumbering land iguanas and Darwin’s finches, to name but a few – each a key player in the world’s most celebrated workshop of evolution.

Where to stay

Best for staying on Isla Isabela: Hotel La Jungla

Located in Puerto Villamil, Hotel La Jungla features a garden, bar, shared lounge and great views. The area is popular for snorkelling, and bike hire is available at the hotel.

Best for a luxurious stay: Royal Palm Galapagos

Boasting an outdoor swimming pool and impressive lava tunnels inside the property, Royal Palm offers chic rooms in Santa Cruz, Galápagos Island.

You feel like a privileged gatecrasher, one who’s allowed an up-close look at a long-kept secret: the mechanics of life on Earth.

Tailor-made trips

Explore the islands on a 6-day trip Galápagos Islands Explored

or go on an Amazon adventure first before heading out to the islands . As with all of our tailor-made trips, these itineraries are just showcase samples and 100% modifiable to your taste and preferences.

10. Take a train journey through the Scottish Highlands

Even in a country as beautiful as Scotland

, you might not expect to combine train travel with classic highland views. The scenery along the West Highland Railway is both epic in its breadth and compelling in its imagery. Travel from the centre of Glasgow, all the way to Mallaig, through famous sites such as the 21-arch viaduct at Glenfinnan (of Harry Potter fame) and the mighty Ben Nevis mountain. Whilst you might have to crane your neck to get the full view, you won’t have to worry about keeping your eyes on the road.

Where to stay

Best for views of the Lochs and visiting Ben Nevis: Cruachan Hotel

Situated 5 minutes from Fort William, the Cruachan Hotel offers bedroom views of Loch Linnhe and easy access to Britain’s highest mountain, Ben Nevis.

Best for visiting the Glenfinnian viaduct: The Prince’s House Hotel

This traditional Scottish hotel is an easy walk from the iconic Glenfinnian viaduct and the train station.

What to do

If you prefer cars over trains, check out this self-drive itinerary through the Scottish Highlands

with our local expert in Scotland. A train journey can of course be added to your personalised trip!

11. Bed down in an igloo, Canada

This might not be the most common contender on a travel bucket list, but it’s certainly a one-of-a-kind experience to have. Tucked away between rolling hills and vast stretches of tundra in northern Québec

lies a series of igloos. These domed shelters were built by Inuit elders, who carved snowblocks from windswept snowdrifts, using skills passed on from their ancestors. Today, they continue to safeguard hunters as well as welcome adventure seekers. Visitors can feast on caribou stew and frozen Arctic char before falling asleep to the sounds of kids throat-singing and the gentle flicker of the seal-blubber-fuelled qulliq (lamp).

Where to stay

Best for ice hotel experience: Hotel de Glace

Guests will sleep in rooms at a temperature between -3 and -5ºC. Rooms come with a warm sleeping bag and pillows, and guests will be greeted with a cocktail in an ice glass.

Best for grand heritage: Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac

Situated in Old Quebec in a beautiful European chateau. This Unesco heritage property boasts great views of the St. Lawrence River and city.

What to do

Best for families: Whale watching from Quebec

Best for wellness: Nordic Spa Thermal Experience from Old Quebec

12. Climb Mont St-Michel, France

Wondrously unique yet as recognizable as the Eiffel Tower, Mont St-Michel

, with its harmonious blend of natural and man-made beauty, has been drawing tourists and pilgrims alike to the Normandy coast for centuries. Soaring some 80m up from the bay that bears its name, this glowering granite islet has an entire commune clinging improbably to its steep boulders, its tiers of buildings topped by a magnificent Benedictine abbey. It’s an aesthetic delight yet also a place of serenity: less than a third of the 3.5 million tourists that flock here each year actually climb all the way up.

Where to stay

Best for location on Mont St-Michel:Les Terrasses Poulard

Composed of 2 different buildings, Les Terrasses Poulard is a historical property in the heart of Mont Saint-Michel and offers views of the bay, the village and the street.

Best for views of Mont St-Michel:Le Relais Saint Michel

This hotel faces the bay of Mont Saint-Michel. All guest rooms ( except Twin Room Saint-Michel with interior view) offer a private terrace and some have panoramic views of Mont Saint-Michel.

Looking out from Mont St-Michel, the tides rolling in around its base, is a panorama to be savoured.

13. Rage wine war in La Rioja, Spain

Each year several villages in La Rioja

spend an entire day soaking each other in red wine. One of the truly great events of the Spanish summer, the Wine War (La Batalla del Vino) is a wine-fight of epic – and historic – proportions. In theory, the townsfolk of Haro are battling it out with those of neighbouring Miranda de Ebro, but in the good-humoured but frantic battle that rages, there are no obvious sides, and no winners or losers. Instead, the object is perfectly straightforward: to squirt, hose, blast or throw some 25,000 litres over as many people as possible.

Where to stay

Best for Haro Wine Festival: Hotel Plaza De La Paz

The hotel offers a terrace and views of the plaza. Great location for hiking, skiing and cycling.

Best on a budget: Tinto Dreams Hostel

The accommodation features a private room, shared kitchen, a shared lounge and organises tours for guests.

Tailor-made trips

Best for a luxurious trip: A journey through the Vineyards of La Rioja

Best for a weekend trip: The Lands of Wine from Madrid

You won’t be spared as a spectator, so you may as well join in.

14. Spot puffins in the Faroes

On the unspoilt Faroe Islands, about 300km north of Scotland in the windswept, weather-tossed North Atlantic, heavy waves batter tall, chalky cliffs. But there’s more than just geological beauty here. Come spring, pairs of puffins, their feathers ruffled from the raging sea, wash up on the island, standing proud and rubbing their beaks together in displays of matrimony. The show has just begun. For the next four months, these curious seabirds will mate, nest and raise their offspring – all of which makes for great viewing.

Where to stay

Best for views of the beach and ocean: Boat house in Hósvik

A great location in the centre of the Faroe Islands (Hósvik) providing a perfect base to explore all the islands. This beachfront property offers access to a patio with stunning views.

Best for Puffin watching: The View

The View is set in Bøur. Located on the beach front and close to the Island Mykines, renowned for high volume of Atlantic Puffins in breeding season.

15. Solve the mysteries of Pompeii, Italy


was famously buried by Vesuvius in 79 AD, and the result is perhaps the best-preserved Roman town anywhere, with a street plan that is easy to discern – not to mention wander – and a number of palatial villas that are still largely intact. While crowded, not surprisingly, it's a large site, and it’s quite possible to escape the hordes and experience the strangely still quality of Pompeii, sitting around ancient swimming pools, peering at frescoes and mosaics still standing behind the counters of ancient shops. The city’s story still speaks loud and clear.

Where to stay

Best for great value and location to Pompeii: Hotel del Sole

Located right in front of the Pompeii archeological site. Some of the rooms come with a panoramic balcony.

Best for a little luxury: Hotel Forum

Opposite the entrance to the Pompeii excavations, this hotel is situated in the heart of the town, just a 5-minute walk away from the main Piazza.

What to do

Explore Southern Italy on a tailor-made trip: Rome, Naples (including a day trip to Pompeii), Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast

await. If you prefer to plan and book on your own, don't forget to get your skip-the-line tickets to save some time upon arrival in Pompeii.

16. Get in high spirits on the Bourbon trail, USA

Bourbon is the United States

’ sole native spirit. And while bourbon can be produced elsewhere, the spirit of the spirit resides in Kentucky, which is not only home to the finest distilleries, but also, according to local legend, its birthplace. The best place to find out more is along the Bourbon Trail, a meandering route through the rolling hills of central Kentucky that links several distilleries and historic towns. Book a tasting tour ahead of time to learn the master craft of Kentucky Bourbon.

Where to stay

Best for Wild Turkey Distillery: Best Western Lawrenceburg Inn

Guests staying at this Lawrenceburg hotel are within 4 minutes’ drive of the local Bourbon distilleries Wild Turkey Distillery and Four Roses Distillery.

Best for basing yourself in Louisville: Aloft Louisville Downtown

Located on the historic Whiskey Row, Aloft Louisville Downtown offers great views of Ohio River and a good value location to visit nearby Whiskey distilleries.

17. Come eye-to-eye with Africa’s mountain gorillas, Rwanda

A face-to-face encounter with a mountain gorilla in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park is one of the most exciting wildlife experiences Africa has to offer. And locating the apes in their tangled and misty forest home is part of the thrill. A close-up encounter is practically guaranteed, but be warned – it can get tough. Any exhaustion dissipates immediately, however, when you look into the liquid brown eyes of one of the magnificent bamboo-munching beasts – these are the archetypal “gentle giants”.

Where to stay

Best for being in the centre of the park: Davinci Gorilla Lodge

A terrace with mountain views is offered in each unit and guests can also relax in the shared lounge area with great views.

Best for gateway to Volcanoes National Park: Ingagi Park View Lodge

Set in Kinigi, 1.1 miles from Gorillas Nest, Ingagi Park View Lodge has a number of amenities including a garden, a bar and cycle hire.

Tailor-made trips

Combine Rwanda with neighboring Uganda and Tanzania

to make the most of your adventure in East Africa.

18. Follow the oyster trail in Galway, Ireland

The Galway

International Oyster Festival is Ireland ’s longest-running and greatest gourmet extravaganza, celebrating the new oyster season in the finest way possible: a three-day furore of drinking, dancing and crustacean guzzling. The traditional objective is to down a pint and a couple of oysters in every pub along the Oyster Trail over three days – that’s around thirty pints and up to a hundred oysters. If you can do this and still make it down for breakfast on the Sunday morning, you need never prove yourself again.

Where to stay

Best for being in the heart of Galway: Skeffington Arms Hotel

Overlooking Eyre Square in the heart of Galway, The Skeffington Arms offers bright, modern rooms, a vibrant bar and restaurant, and Galway's largest cocktail bar.

Best for a little luxury: Salthill Hotel

Overlooking the famous Salthill Promenade, Galway Bay and the Clare Hills. The Hotel is just 0.6 miles from Galway city centre, set in Galway’s beautiful countryside on the scenic route to Connemara National Park. It has a swimming pool and gym.

Tailor-made trips

Best for a weekend getaway: A 4-day trip to Galway

, the Cliffs of Moher and the Burren National Park

Best for longer trips: 8 days all over Ireland

: from Dublin to Killarney National Park and further on to the Southwest coast.

19. Meet sun bears in Borneo, Malaysia

Though it easily rivals the panda in the cuteness stakes, little is known about the world’s smallest bear, named for the distinctive white mark on its chest that resembles the sun. Seriously endangered, sun bears live throughout Asia, but Borneo is their last stronghold. See them at the Borneo Sun Bear Conservation Centre

in Sepilok , the first of its kind, which aims to educate people about these wonderful animals. There can be no doubt that the efforts directed towards their survival are more crucial than ever.

Where to stay

Best for location to the Sun Bear Conservation Centre: Sepilok B&B

Clean and simple accommodation situated close to Rainforest Discovery Centre and The Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre.

Best for including some beach time: Four Points by Sheraton Sandakan

The property overlooks the Sandakan Bay and Sulu Sea and has an infinity pool. Sandakan Heritage Museum is 1,950 feet away, while Sam Sing Gong Temple is 0.6 miles.

Tailor-made trips

Experience Sabah, a true nature's paradise on this 7-day trip

from Kota Kinabalu. Remember, as with all of our trips, this itinerary is fully customisable.

20. See the Blackpool illuminations, England

When autumn knocks, the temperature drops and other resorts have shut up shop, one seaside town switches on. From the end of August until early November, the Blackpool

Illuminations light up the seafront – and if you’ve a penchant for gaudy, nostalgic, none-too-highbrow fun, you should get your coat on and come. Comprising around a million lights, the glittering display stretches six miles – and amazingly, the whole experience is free. All you’ll need to buy is a tram ticket, a bag of chips and a novelty stick of rock. And never mind if it rains – the lights look even more gorgeous shimmering in the puddles.

Where to stay

Best for location to the illuminations: Ruskin Hotel

The Ruskin Hotel offers central accommodation in Blackpool and is situated close to the Blackpool Tower.

Best for great value by the sea: Lyndene Hotel

This a great seafront location on Blackpool's sea promenade. Hotel Lyndene is a 15-minute walk from the famous Pleasure Beach and just 1,650 feet from Blackpool Stadium.

21. Down a stein at Oktoberfest, Germany

The world’s largest public festival, the Munich Oktoberfest

, kicks off on the penultimate Saturday in September and keeps pumping for a full two weeks. An unadulterated celebration of beer and Bavarian life, it attracts almost six million visitors and sees as many million litres of beer disappear in sixteen days. At the heart of the festival are fourteen enormous beer tents where boisterous crowds sit at long benches draining one huge litre-capacity glass or stein after another. If you’re up for annihilation, head to the Hofbrau tent, go for the ten-stein challenge and join in with the thousands of young bloods braying for beer. Prost! And if you happen to be in town outside of Oktoberfest season, fear not. There's plenty of breweries to discover, like the world-famous Hofbräuhaus on this guided tour.

Where to stay

Best on a budget: MEININGER Hotel

This hotel is a great affordable option, with clean dorm and private rooms and a lovely social space complete with table football and pool.

Best for good clean fun: Aloft Munich

Situated right next to the train station for convenience, and has excellent, comfortable rooms and a great courtyard.

22. Explore the land of the fairy chimneys, Turkey

An expanse of undulating, cave-pocked, tunnel-riddled rock at the centre of Turkey, Cappadocia

is a landscape like no other. It’s one of those rare places that can draw quality snaps from even the most slapdash photographer, with a rocky palette that shifts from terracotta through pink and honey to dazzling white, the orange fires of sunrise and sunset adding their own hues to the mix. From Uçhisar’s castle to the cliff-hewn churches of Çavusin, there are heavenly views at every turn.

Where to stay

Best for views of the landscape: Zen Cappadocia

Offering a garden and a terrace with a bar, Zen Cappadocia Boutique Hotel is set in Nevsehir, 9.9 miles from the Urgup Museum.

Best for an historical stay: Monte Cappa Cave House

Monte Cappa Cave House is situated in a beautifully restored historical building made of stone masonry. It offers a terrace with stunning views and friendly staff who can provide local information.

What to do

Take a hot air balloon ride or a sunset ATV ride to take in the spectacular scenery.

23. Marvel at the pyramids of Giza, Egypt

The Pyramids at Giza

were built at the very beginning of recorded human history, and for nearly five millennia they have stood on the edge of the desert plateau in magnificent communion with the sky. The overwhelming impression is due not only to the magnitude of their age and size but also to their elemental form, their simple but compelling triangular silhouettes. Seen at prime times – dawn, sunset and after dark – they form as much a part of the natural order as the sun, the moon and the stars.

Where to stay

Best for views of the Giza Pyramids: Hayat Pyramids View Hotel

Giza Pyramids are 350 feet from the accommodation, while Great Sphinx is less than 0.6 miles from the property.

Best for resort style travel: Le Meridien Pyramids Hotel & Spa

Le Méridien Pyramids Hotel & Spa boasts unparalleled views of the majestic Giza Pyramids, located only 0.6 miles away and direct from the pool.

What to do

Marvel at the pyramids from your own Quad - a one-hour quad ride through the desert is an exciting way to explore the Valley Temple and pyramids. If you prefer to learn more about the Egyptian culture, we recommend a private tour to go inside the pyramids and visit the Mummies room.

24. Take a hot air balloon over the savannah, Kenya

With the sun breaking over the horizon and warming chilly faces, the perfect serenity of this mode of transport is hard to beat. Below, hippos cavort in the muddy river and vervet monkeys watch the balloon’s passage from their treetop vantage points. Once it’s over the plain

, the balloon is ignored by the grazing herds of zebra and gazelle – but they flee its shadow and the whoosh of the burner when it flies too low. For wildlife photography, a balloon safari can’t equal patient observation on the ground, but few experiences can match this one for sheer unforgettability.

Where to stay

Best for getting close to nature: Mara Intrepids Tented Camp

Facing the Talek River, Mara offers elegantly furnished tents on raised platforms, and a terrace with a bar for spotting animals.

Best for the luxury camping experience: Fairmont Mara Safari Club

Overlooking the Mara River, home to hippos and crocodiles, all tents at Fairmont Mara have a private veranda for viewing wildlife.

Tailor-made trips

Best for families: The Kenya Family Trip

with plenty of game drives and fun activities for the whole family.

Best for combination trips: A Tanzanian/Kenyan adventure

visiting the Serengeti and the Maasai Mara.

Both trips can be modified to include a hot air balloon ride as well as any other changes or modifications you'd like to make.

25. Climb Table Mountain, South Africa

If the skies are clear on your first day in Cape Town

, drop everything and head straight for Table Mountain. It’s an ecological marvel, and a powerful icon for the entire African continent. What’s more, the views from the top are unmissable – as long as the celebrated “tablecloth” of cloud stays away. The obvious, and most popular, route to the top is to take the aerial cableway, but if you’d rather work a little harder, you can tackle one of the hiking trails that snake their way up the cliffs.

Where to stay

Best for travelling on a budget: Mojo Hotel/Hostel & Market

The Mojo Hotel is located in the suburb of Sea Point, just 3.1 miles from Cape Town's city centre. The beach and Sea Point Promenade is 350 feet away.

Best for views of the ocean: 52 De Wet Luxury Boutique Hotel

52 De Wet Luxury Boutique Hotel is situated in Bantry Bay and most of the rooms feature large windows with panoramic views of the ocean.

Gaze out over the city to the ocean beyond and you’ll feel like you’re standing on top of the world.

What to do

Hike the table mountain along one of the most popular paths in the Platteklip Gorge, as a half day tour from Cape Town. For more ideas what to do in Cape Town, check out our tailor-made itinerary Complete Cape Town: wildlife, wines, and whales


26. Eat barbecue in Texas Hill Country, USA

If you think barbecue is a sloppy pulled-pork sandwich or a platter of ribs drowned in a sticky, sweet sauce, a Texan will happily correct you. In the rolling hills around Austin

– where pecan trees provide shade, pick-up trucks rule the road and the radio is devoted to Waylon, Willie and Merle – you’ll find barbecue as it should be: nothing but pure, succulent, unadulterated meat, smoked for hours over a low wood fire. Thankfully, this austerity applies only to the substance – not the quantity – of the meat. Gut-busting excess is what makes barbecue truly American , after all.

What to do

Explore the music scene in Austin, discover the wineries of Texas Hill Country or go on a craft beer tour.

Don’t ever forget: it’s all about the meat.

27. Explore mystical Sintra

One of Europe’s finest UNESCO World Heritage sites, Sintra

, the former summer retreat of Portugal's monarchs, is dotted with palaces and surrounded by a series of shaded wooded ravines. It has been a centre for cult worship for centuries: the early Celts named it Mountain of the Moon after one of their gods, and the hills are scattered with ley lines, mysterious tombs and house-sized boulders that litter the landscape as if thrown by giants.

The fairy-tale Palácio da Pena on the heights above town, with its dizzy views over the surrounding woodlands, looks like something from Shrek, complete with domes and drawbridges.

Tailor-made trips

Best for sea-lovers: Coastal Portugal

, from Porto to Lisbon passing Sintra, Estoril and many other towns along the way.

Best for foodies: Portugal's cuisine and culture

, hilltop palaces and exquisite cuisine and wines await.

28. Hike the Pennine Way, England & Scotland

The Pennine Way, Britain’s oldest and longest long-distance footpath, meanders 270 miles through some of England’s most beautiful and least crowded countryside. This is Brontë country, grim on a dank, misty day but bleakly inspiring when the cloud lifts.
 In between walking the wilds, you can stay in pretty villages along the way. Again and again you’ll find yourself transported back to a bygone rural idyll of village shops, church bells and, of course, pubs.

What to do

If day-long hikes aren't your thing, try a day tour from Manchester to the Peak District and Derbyshire. Or take a hired car and explore the countryside on a self-drive trip, like this one including England's Historical Highlights.

29. Have a beer in Brussels, Belgium

If you just ask for a beer in Belgium

, your request will be met with a blank stare. Because no one produces such a wide range of beers as they do here: there are lagers, wheat beers, dark amber ales and strong beers brewed by Trappist monks. Brussels is the best place to try them all, including its own beery speciality, Lambic, a flattish concoction not much changed from the stuff they drank in Bruegel’s time. A few glasses is enough to have you behaving like one of the peasants in his paintings.

What to do

To make the most of your time in Brussels, join a guided beer tasting tour. Sample a selection of 6 different beers and learn about the history behind. If you're more of a sweet tooth, consider taking a Belgian chocolate making workshop.

30. Eat gelato in Rome

This is definitely one for the foodie bucket list. A quiet revolution in that time-honoured Italian favourite – ice cream – has taken place in Rome

over the last few years. Gelaterias have upped their game, ordering the finest ingredients – lemons from Amalfi, pistachios from Sicily – and vying to create the city’s tastiest ices, in the most outlandish flavours. Order a suitably kooky combo – wasabi and chocolate, say, or basil, walnuts and honey– and hit the streets for the passeggiata. When in Rome…

If you can' get enough of the delicious treat, consider taking an ice cream making workshop. Learn from a true gelato master in a small group and take the recipes back home to impress your family and friends.

31. Feel the heat in a Finnish sauna

There are two million saunas in Finland

– that’s 4 for every ten Finns – and they have played an integral part in Finnish life for centuries. Finns believe the sauna to be an exorcism of all ills, and there’s certainly nothing quite like it for inducing a feeling of serenity. Traditionally, Finns end their sauna by mercilessly plunging straight into the nearest lake or, in winter, by rolling in the icy snow outside – the intense searing cold that follows the sweltering heat creating a compelling, addictive rush at the boundary of pleasure and pain.

Ever heard of a sauna cruise? Talk to our local expert in Finland and check out our sample itinerary to explore Helsinki, Rovaniemi (the Santa village) and beyond


32. Brave the Devil's Throat at Iguazú, Argentina and Brazil

Every year, tens of thousands of visitors from around the world try to evaluate the sheer dimension of this natural miracle – around 275 individual cascades, the highest with a drop of over 80m – and usually fail. However you spell it – Iguazú, Iguaçu or Iguassu – there’s little doubt that these are the most spectacular falls in the world. Get right into the heart of the action on a boat trip up to the ominously named Devil’s Throat, one of the most impressive cascades.

No matter if you decide to visit from the Argentinean side

or the Brazilian one , our tailor-made trips experts are at your fingertips to help you with your ideal trip.

33. Paint the town red at La Tomatina, Spain

If you want to indulge your childhood fantasies, there’s only one place to go. On the last Wednesday in August, tomato-throwing madness takes over the tiny town of Buñol

. This enormous public tomato fight sees 130,000 kilos of over-ripe tomatoes hurled until the streets are ankle deep in squishy red fruit. All in all, it only lasts about an hour, but it’ll go down in memory as one of the messiest, most fun days you’ll ever have.

If you're in town any other time, check out our weekend getaway to Valencia

to explore the town.

34. Kayak Milford Sound, New Zealand

Dwarfed beneath the forest-clad mountains that soar to either side, it’s hard to comprehend just how tiny you are in comparison to the sheer size of Milford Sound

. That the fiord makes even the most cumbersome and colossal cruise ship look small is an indication of just how impressive the scale is here. But only getting out on the water will give you a true sense of its majestic beauty – to really get up close, and access spots that no cruise ship could ever reach, head out on a kayak.

If you prefer to just sit back and relax, consider taking a small group cruise instead to explore the fiord.

There’s something undeniably exhilarating about exploring somewhere so immense from so close to the water.

35. Celebrate the Loy Krathong Festival of Light, Thailand

In the days leading up to Thailand

’s annual Loy Krathong Festival of Light , pretty little baskets fashioned from banana leaves and filled with orchids, marigolds, candles and incense sticks begin to appear at market stalls across the country. On festival night, these are lit and set afloat with prayers of thanks to the water goddess, in whose honour this festival is held. The sight of hundreds of bobbing lights drifting away on the breeze, taking with them any bad luck accrued over the past year, is beautiful.

Thailand is always worth a visit, so even if you're visiting outside of Loy Krathong, Northern Thailand

and the islands make for a spectacular holiday any time of the year. Check our sample itineraries linked or contact our local experts today to create your own personalised trip.

36. Down caipirinhas in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

What could be simpler than a caipirinha? Made with just cachaça (a rum-like spirit distilled from fermented sugar-cane juice), fresh lime, sugar and ice, the caipirinha (literally “little peasant girl”) is served at nearly every bar and restaurant in Brazil

. Neither insipidly sweet nor jarringly alcoholic, it’s one of the easiest and most pleasant cocktails to drink. And on a hot, sticky night in Rio , the perfection of a caipirinha is undebatable.

Where to stay

Best for families: Emiliano Rio

Best for nightlife fans: YOO2 Rio

What to do

Best for sunset lovers: Enjoy your Caipirinha on a sunset cruise.

Best for adventure fans: Go on a hang gliding tandem flight to see Rio from a bird's eye view.

Tailor-made trips

As with all of our tailor-made trips, these itineraries can be modified to fit your preferences and tastes. Five Star Brazil

includes top hotels across the country, while the Brazilian Beaches itinerary includes Iguassu and the beaches of Rio.

37. Climb Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

The statistics are impressive. Measuring some 40km across and rising 5895m above sea level, Kilimanjaro is easily Africa’s highest mountain. But such bald facts fail to capture the thrill of actually climbing it: the days spent tramping from muggy montane forest to snowy summit. It’s hard to match the exhilaration of watching the sunrise from the Roof of Africa, with an entire continent seemingly spread out beneath you. The sense of fulfilment will stay with you, long after you’ve finally said goodbye to Kili.

Add a Kili trekking to any of our Tanzania trips: The Big 5 & Beaches on Zanzibar

or the Classic Serengeti . Contact our local expert to tailor your perfect trip today.

38. Spend the day at Tivoli, Denmark

Not many cities have a roller coaster, a pirate ship and an 80m-high carousel slap bang in their centre, but Copenhagen

is home to Tivoli – probably the best fairground in the world. The famous pleasure gardens have dished out fun and thrills to a bewitched public since 1843. But the rides are just the icing on the cake – there are forty or so restaurants, jazz bandstands and, in the weeks around Christmas, spectacular lighting displays and a Christmas Market. Even if fairs usually leave you cold, you can’t fail to be won over by the innocent pleasures of Tivoli.

Where to stay

Best Boutique Hotel close to Tivoli: Nimb Hotel

Best Family Hotel close to Tivoli: Absalon Hotel

What to do

Save yourself the time and skip the lines at Tivoli so you can use the remainder of the day cruising the canals of Copenhagen.

On a fine summer’s night it’s nothing short of magical.

39. Crank up the volume on King's Day, the Netherlands

You’ll find enough beer-chugging, pill-popping and red-hot partying to satisfy the most voracious of appetites.

At the end of April each year, Amsterdam

, a city famed for its easy-going, fun-loving population, manages to crank the party volume a few notches higher in a street party that blasts away for a full 24 hours. On King’s Day, there are only two rules: you must dress as ridiculously as possible, preferably in orange, the Dutch national colour, which adorns virtually every building, boat and body on the day; and you must drink enough beer not to care.

If you're planning to travel to the next King's Day, book cheap flights to Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

40. Marvel at Gaudí’s Sagrada Família, Spain

Antoni Gaudí i Cornet’s pièce de résistance is famously still under construction more than a century after he took the project on: “My client is not in a hurry” was his jocular riposte to the epic timescale. Conceived as a riposte to secular radicalism, the Temple Expiatiori de la Sagrada Família consumed the final decade and a half of a life that had become increasingly reclusive. Gaudí couldn’t have imagined that a new millennium would find his creation feted as a wonder of the postmodern world, symbolic of a Barcelona

reborn and the single most popular tourist attraction in Spain .

Where to stay

Best for families: Gaudi Sagrada Familia

Best budget stay: Hostemplo Sagrada Familia

What to do

Best for the ones short on time: Skip-the-line priority access to the Sagrada Familia

Best for the active ones: Small group bike tour through Barcelona, passing the Sagrada Familia from the outside

Tailor-made trips

Best for city explorers: Madrid & Barcelona - the tale of two cities

Best for two weeks: Iconic cities of Spain

41. Float down Norway's Geirangerfjord

Everything about the Geirangerfjord

is dramatic, even the approach: zigzagging up through the mountains from Åndalsnes before throwing yourself round a series of hair-raising bends as you descend the aptly named Ørnevegen, or Eagle’s Highway, the fjord glittering like a precious gem below. A great slice of deep blue carved into the crystalline rock walls and snaking out in an “S” shape as it weaves west, it might be one of the region’s smallest fjords, but it’s undoubtedly one of its most beautiful.

Where to stay

Best hotel and spa: Hotel Union Geiranger Bad and Spa

Best view: Hotel Utsikten - by Classic Norway Hotels

42. Hike Half Dome in Yosemite, USA

Half Dome’s looming, truncated form (“like it had been sliced with a knife”) makes it one of the most iconic mountains in North America. It’s also an exhilarating hike. From the top, nearly 9000ft up, the dramatic views of Yosemite National Park will render you speechless. Those who dare can edge toward Half Dome’s lip and dangle their feet over the side, while the very brave (or very foolish) may inch out along a projecting finger of rock for a vertiginous look straight down the near-vertical face.

Where to stay

Best Autocamp: AutoCamp Yosemite

Best located hotel: The Ahwahnee

Sit back, take a deep breath and enjoy the view.

43. Relive the Wild West at the Calgary Stampede, Canada

Every July the “Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth” – the Calgary Stampede – causes a usually conservative city to go wild. Everything suddenly becomes, well, more western – which for Calgary

means shifting gears into serious cowboy overdrive – expect white Stetsons, blue jeans, bolo ties and handmade leather boots. For those who live on isolated farms or in small communities, this is their chance to bring the cowboy culture into the big city and really let rip. For the half-million visitors, it’s a chance to join in the ultimate Wild West carnival, often given the accolade of North America’s roughest rodeo.

What to do

For first-timers in Calgary: An introductory walking tour

For foodies: Guided fine dining in Calgary

44. Watch the sunrise at Tikal, Guatemala

Tikal was arguably the greatest of all Guatemala

’s Maya cities, controlling an empire of vassal states and trade routes between the southern highlands and the Caribbean. And the symbols of its dominance – six great temples – still stand. Impressive at any time of day, Tikal shows itself to full advantage in the hours around sunrise. As the ruins of this Maya city come to life around you, and the forest’s denizens gradually begin to emerge from their night-time resting places, dawn is a magical time.

What to do

Take a tailor-made trip to Guatemala, like this sample itinerary off-the-beaten track in Guatemala and Belize


If you prefer day tours, check out this guided day tour from Flores to Tikal.

45. Fall under the spell of Luang Prabang, Laos

The pace of life is deliciously slow in Luang Prabang

. Though it has the air of a rather grand village, this is the ancient Lao capital, the most cultured town in Laos and one of the best preserved in Southeast Asia. You’ll find a captivating scene whichever way you turn: saffron-robed monks emerging from their temple-monasteries to collect alms, temple roofs peeping out from the groves and streets still lined with wood-shuttered shophouses and French-colonial mansions.

Where to stay

Best for luxury: Avani+ Luang Prabang Hotel

Best Boutique Riverview: The Belle Rive Boutique Hotel

What to do

Best for foodies: Vegetarian foodie tour on scooter

Best for the creative artists: Take a watercolor painting workshop

Tailor-made trips

Best for history buffs: Historical Laos

Best for a combination with Vietnam and Cambodia: Indochina's unique UNESCO treasures

46. Get away from it all in the Gilis, Indonesia

Collectively referred to as the Gilis

, the trio of Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno and Gili Air each has its own characteristic charm. The smallest and most tranquil of the three, Gili Meno, is perhaps the most picturesque, with pure white-sand beaches framed against the warm turquoise waters, while Trawangan, the largest, is well known for its party atmosphere. A bit of both can be found on Gili Air. All three offer powdery beaches, snorkelling and diving opportunities and unlimited time under the tropical sun. What are you waiting for?

Where to stay

Best for a romantic getaway: Samata Village Gili Air

Best for Instagram shootings: Flamingo in Gili Trawangan

Tailor-made trips

Explore Bali & Lombok before heading to the Gilis or go even further to the island paradise of Flores and Sumba


47. Take the polar plunge, Antarctica

A cruise to the Antarctic Peninsula throws up more giddying thrills than you could hope to count. What with the glaciers and the whales, the mountains and the million-strong penguin colonies, the scale and beauty of the place can be genuinely overwhelming. Literally the most breathtaking tradition of all, however, has to be the opportunity to dunk yourself into the Southern Ocean. If you’ve never taken a dip in sub-zero Antarctic waters, rest assured that it’s a bracing experience, not so much about rising to a challenge as giving yourself a short, sharp shock that enables you to appreciate the fullness of your surroundings.

You’ll have new respect for the hardy penguins that dart around beneath the chilly waves all day.

48. Hit the streets for Notting Hill Carnival, England

In August, the familiar streets of Notting Hill are transformed into a wash of colour, sound, movement and pure, unadulterated joy. This huge street festival is the highlight of London’s party calendar. Fragrant smoke wafts from jerk chicken stalls, bass lines tremble through the air, streets lined by mansion blocks become canyons of sound, and all you can see is a moving sea of people, jumping and blowing whistles as wave after wave of music ripples through the air.

Where to stay in Notting Hill

Best for families: Blue Bells Hotel

Best hostel: Hostel One Notting Hill

For two days, the only thing that matters is the delicious, anarchic freedom of dancing on the London streets.

49. Drop in on the churches of Lalibela, Ethiopia


, in Ethiopia ’s highlands, is a quiet, rural place. Yet in the thirteenth century it was the capital of the great Zagwe dynasty, one of whose last rulers, King Lalibela, embarked on a quest to build a Holy Land on Ethiopian soil. Historians say he was inspired to build the town’s famous rock-hewn churches after a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, while the devout claim that he was instructed by angels during a poison-induced sleep. Whatever the real reason, the town of Lalibela, built as a “new Jerusalem”, leaves pilgrims and visitors alike humbled by the elegance of its churches.

Discover Ethiopia with a tailor-made trip

. Our local experts will plan, book and execute your ideal trip together with you.

50. Celebrate the Biennale in Venice, Italy

Several European cities hold major contemporary art fairs, but Venice

Biennale has more glamour, prestige and news value than any other cultural jamboree. The main site is in the Giardini Pubblici, where there are permanent pavilions for about 40 countries that participate at every festival. In addition, various sites host fringe exhibitions, installations and performances. With artists, critics and collectors swarming around the bars and restaurants, the art world buzz of the Biennale penetrates every corner of the city – it’s unforgettable.

Where to stay

Best budget option: Generator Venice

Best for a romantic getaway: Hotel Bucintoro

What to do

Best for a guided experience: 3-hour guided tour to visit St Mark's Basilica and Doge's Palace

Best walking tour: Hidden Venice

Or discover Italy on your own, private tailor-made trip


Discover more of the world’s best travel experiences with the third edition of Make the Most of Your Time on Earth

, out now. Every single one is a personal recommendation from a Rough Guides writer, chosen to inspire you to get away from established routes and to seek something that little bit more special and authentic. We hope that they truly inspire you to make the most of your time on Earth.

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updated 3/28/2021
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Helen worked as a Senior Travel Editor at Rough Guides and Insight Guides, based in the London office. Among her favourite projects to work on are inspirational guides like Make the most of your time on Earth, the ultimate travel bucket list.

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