After spending over a decade exploring 6 continents and 52 countries, I compiled this list of my favorite places and activities around the world that I highly recommend you add to your travel bucket list.
Whether you enjoy road trips, hiking and backpacking, visiting national parks, encountering exotic animals in their natural habitats, sampling foreign dishes, wandering through colorful cities, ancient ruins, and off-the-beaten-path or you’re an adrenaline junkie who likes white water rafting, paragliding, and scuba diving– these epic adventures will inspire you, change you, and they might even make you want to give up your day job to travel full time.
Here are 44 Big and Small Adventures for the Ultimate Travel Bucket list:
1. Marvel at the Impressive Victoria Falls (Zambia & Zimbabwe)
There are many well-known waterfalls around the world, but none can be experienced quite like Victoria Falls— the world’s largest waterfall! Whether you decide to jump into the Angel and Devil plunge pools on the edge of the 108-meter drop-off of the powerful falls, fly over them in a microlight, or just simply admire them from the many viewpoints in Victora Falls Park–these impressive waterfalls will not disappoint you.
If you want to learn more, check out my blog post for a guide to Visiting Victoria Falls.
2. Hike the Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu (Peru)
Visiting the ancient world wonder of Machu Picchu should not take much convincing, because anyone with eyes can see how stunning the sturdy Incan ruins are amongst the bright green backdrop of steep hills that jet out of equally impressive valleys.
However, as a means to get to the world heritage site, the Salkantay Trek might need a little bit more of a shout-out (I highly recommend this trek over the heavily trafficked Inca Trail).
This is a moderate to challenging 46-mile trek that will have you admiring the tropical flowers of the rainforest, leave you speechless as you take in the Huamantay and Salkantay glaciers, then relaxing as you soak in hot springs, before eventually arriving at Machu Picchu.
Learn more about the Salkantay Trek.
3. Climb Mount Kilimanjaro (Tanzania)
For those who are always seeking a taller mountain to climb, look no further than Tanzania’s beautiful Mount Kilimanjaro. The vibrant scenery as you trek through every vegetation zone on Earth, and the sunrise of epic proportions that cheers you on during your summit hike, make this experience one for the books. Plus there is nothing that can make you feel quite as infinite as using your own two feet to make your way to the top of the tallest mountain peak in Africa.
Check out my guide to Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro.
4. Go on an Overnight Safari in the Serengeti & Ngorongoro Crater (Tanzania)
Tanzania is home to the Serengeti and the luscious Ngorongoro Crater, which makes for a unique safari experience. Ngorongoro is the world’s largest inactive, unbroken and unfilled volcanic caldera. The crater, when combined with the Serengeti will ensure a wildly memorable encounter of all the beloved characters from The Lion King.
After zooming by zebras, antelopes and gazelles, absolutely nothing can compare to the first moment you spot a heard of elephants marching through the tall grass. As you go further into your journey, the shapes of giraffes stretching, lions lounging, monkeys swinging, and hippos soaking will come into focus. If you’re lucky, you might even witness a scene straight out of animal planet when you catch a cheetah dining on a gazelle or a leopard perched on a tree scanning the horizon for prey.
I’ve been on over 10 safaris in various parks across East and Southern Africa, and the safari I did combining these two parks was my favorite.
5. Go White Water Rafting Down the Nile River (Uganda)
The Nile River is one of the longest rivers in the world, shorter only to the Amazon and it stretches from Jinja, Uganda, through Egypt.
If you are an adrenaline junkie, then rafting through the Grade 4 and 5 rapids along the fertile shores of the Nile River is the adventure you are meant to have. It is one of the best ways to soak up Uganda’s landscapes. The thrill of sharing the river with hippos and crocodiles as you conquer exhilarating waves will have you grinning as you surface through each rapid.
6. Visit the Quaint Town of Kaikoura (New Zealand)
Kaikoura is a stunning and cozy coastal town on the South Island of New Zealand that needs to be added to your travel bucket list if you love animals. If the serenely beautiful shorelines, black sand beaches, local fur seal colony, sperm whale population off the coast, and friendly demeanor of the New Zealanders is not enough to fill you with happiness, then swimming alongside dusky dolphins will certainly do the trick. Of all the animal encounters and places to have them, this place will instantly become your favorite.
Check out my New Zealand Itinerary.
7. Drive down the Great Ocean Road (Australia)
The Great Ocean Road is 243km of roadway that stretches along the south-eastern coastline of Australia and is a National Heritage site.
Roadtrips are always a good way to tune out to inspirational lyrics, catch up on podcasts, bond with friends, and embark on spontaneous adventures, but they are the most memorable when they come with beautiful coastal views and countless wild animal sightings. If you want a truly worthwhile drive with epic pullouts and a chance to witness koalas and kangaroos in their natural habitats, then this is the perfect road trip destination for you!
Check out my post on Visiting The Great Ocean Road & Melbourne for more info.
8. Visit the Great Barrier Reef (Australia)
We’ve all heard of the vibrant coral reefs that live off the coast of Northern Australia, but if you manage to make your way all the way there, you might as well splurge a little to experience them without any discomfort.
I did the discovery dive (a 15-minute “dive” where you link arms with a group) before I eventually became a certified diver and honestly, it was a waste of money and an unpleasant experience. Instead, I recommend getting a snorkel/ helicopter tour package for the best views and general comfort. Unless you are already a certified diver, in which case I would definitely scuba dive.
The hour-and-a-half ferry ride from Cairns to the reef can be quite rough even for those with the strongest stomachs, but if you get the helicopter package, you only have to endure the journey one way. You’ll ride the ferry out to the reef, enjoy snorkeling through the ecosystems, and then meet your helicopter on a floating barge to get a bird’s eye view of the Great Barrier reef from the sky.
9. Hike to Havasupai Falls (USA)
Havasupai Falls are located on Havasupai tribal lands in Northern Arizona inside the Grand Canyon.
You may have seen a rising number of photographs circling the internet of the shockingly beautiful Havasu Falls. However, the beauty and experience of hiking through Supai Village to all 4 waterfalls cannot be captured in any photograph. Camping beside the glowing turquoise creeks that feed into the unique waterfalls, is an experience that is only enhanced by the ten-mile hike through the red rocks of the Grand Canyon, alongside mules and wild horses.
Please note that you need to make a reservation almost a year in advance, and permits typically sell out the first day they open (February 1st).
For more information about planning a trip to Havasupai, get my free Northern Arizona Road Trip Guide by signing up for my newsletter below.
10. Explore Easter Island (Chile)
Rapa Nui (a.k.a. Easter Island) is notorious for its mysterious statues of heads (historically known as “Moai”, or as seen in Night at the Museum as the statue that likes bubble gum).
Either way, the island itself has a lot to offer in the way of beautiful views, clear water, hidden caves, friendly locals and intriguing history. If you want a unique, less crowded island getaway, this small destination is right off the coast of Chile and can be reached by plane or by boat departing from Santiago.
Check out these 6 Must-See Highlights of Easter Island.
11. Discover the Dramatic Scenery and Unique Creatures in Patagonia (Chile & Argentina)
Patagonia stretches across Chile and Argentina at the southern tip of South America and offers unforgettable snow-capped mountains, fjords, forests, icebergs, glaciers, and so much more.
If you’ve dreamt of seeing glaciers up close, animals out of a Dr. Seuss book, reflections of snow-capped peaks into every shade of blue lakes, and even King Penguins in the wild, then Torres del Paine and Tierra del Fuego are must-visit destinations for your travel bucket list.
Learn more about visiting Patagonia in Chile.
12. Soak up the Greenery and Wildlife in Tasmania (Australia)
Tasmania is a small but captivating island off the southern coast of Australia full of exotic animals and mystical rainforests. It’s a place where you can set off for a hike in sunlight, get briefly caught in snow or rain and end in sunshine. You can enjoy a walk through Cradle Mountain without bumping into many people, and be assured to encounter a Kangaroo, wallaby or wombat. Depending on the time of year, you might also catch a glimpse of the southern lights in the night sky!
Check out my post on Visiting Tasmania.
13. Explore the Colorful City of Valparaíso (Chile)
Valparaíso is a city located on the coast of Chile. It’s one of those aesthetically pleasing places that you see from a far, and then fall deeper in love with every time you turn a corner. Each street comes with its own story that can be experienced through the many murals that line the alleyways, homes, and buildings. But even if the Latin vibes, colorful architecture, and artistic flair aren’t enough to draw you in, the fresh ceviche and Chilean wine will entice your pallet.
Check out my guide to visiting Valparaíso.
14. Take in the Andes in Mendoza (Argentina)
Mendoza, Argentina is home to a range of cool adventure opportunities, diverse scenery, and delicious wine. You can go paragliding, paddleboarding, repelling, climbing, rafting, and mountain biking (or skiing in the winter). You can even try a new kind of wine tasting and bicycle your way to various vineyards with views of llamas grazing at the base of the snow-capped Andes.
Check out other places to visit in Argentina.
15. Have a Photo Shoot at Salar De Uyuni (Bolivia)
Escape into a vast white desert mirage located in Southwest Bolivia. You can spend hours trying to master optical illusions at this bizarre stretch of salt flats and funky cacti that expand as far as the eye can see. Don’t forget to google photo ideas before hand and bring small props for the best photo opportunities.
Check out my Best things to do in Bolivia post for more info.
16. Get Lost on Isla Del Sol (Bolivia)
Have you ever dreamt of charting off to a foreign island? Isla del Sol is a carless island on Lake Titicaca in Bolivia. The colorful homes, donkeys pulling carts, ancient ruins, 360 views of piercing blue water, and delightful Bolivian dishes you’ll experience on this quaint floating village on Lake Titicaca are the perfect escape from reality.
Check out my Best things to do in Bolivia for more info.
17. Take in the Dramatic Landscapes at Death Valley (USA)
Death Valley National Park is located in eastern California and is the hottest, driest, lowest national park in the U.S. Its 3 million acres of wilderness contain sand dunes, salt flats, painted desert hills, and labyrinth canyons. This park offers some of the most dramatic views I’ve ever witnessed around the world inside of one park.
18. Witness the Impressive Wildlife and Geological Features at Yellowstone (USA)
Whether it’s hot springs, geysers, travertine terraces, fumaroles, or mud pots, there is no shortage of proof that you are walking on hot ground fueled by a super-volcano at Yellowstone National park. The park’s diverse ecosystems are also home to over 1,000 miles of hiking trails, and some impressive wildlife like bison, elk, grizzly and black bears, wolves, swans, and so much more.
Learn more about the best spots and views in my complete guide to Yellowstone & the Grand Tetons.
19. Feel Small Next to the Grand Tetons (USA)
The jagged peaks of the Teton Range, combined with the forests, sagebrush flats, meadows, lakes and rivers make for an unforgettable experience in the Grand Teton National Park. Bears, bison, moose, elk, Pronghorn, beavers, otters, pikas, hawks, and bald eagles also call the 310,000-acre park home.
Grand Teton is a much smaller park than its northern neighbor (Yellowstone), which makes it a little bit more accessible with a shorter amount of drive time to explore its marvels. I highly recommend combining these two parks on a road trip.
Check out my hiking trail, free camping spot suggestions, and more in my Guide to Grand Teton.
20. Do a Jungle Trek in Chaing Mai (Thailand)
If you are looking for an epic off-the-beaten-path backpacking adventure, that includes an elephant encounter, then trekking through the jungles of Chaing Mai, Thailand with a local guide needs to be added to your bucket list. Soak up the picturesque views, complete with banana trees, rickety bridges, buffalo grazing, bamboo groves for days, and roaring waterfalls by day, and eat and tell stories by campfires at night. Discover the nifty tricks that the various Thai plants and insects possess and the countless uses for bamboo as you watch your guides widdle bamboo into utensils, plates, pots, and even a raft for you to float down the river on. Then bathe with elephants in a stream as you take in the majesty of such beautiful creatures.
Learn more about jungle trekking in Thailand in this blog post.
21. Stay in an Eco Lodge in a Coastal Rainforest (Costa Rica)
There is no shortage of eco-lodges, nature resorts, and tree-house-style accommodations in Costa Rica. I can’t speak for all of them, but I highly recommend treating yourself to a night or two at Ojo Del Mar. This off-the-beaten-path ecolodge on the beach of Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula is run entirely on solar and their low-impact bungalows are built with local native plants. They also use their organic garden to help supply their small kitchen and partner with local women’s groups and conservation efforts.
Enjoy the duets performed by the scarlet macaws and howler monkeys and find clarity in the rhythm of the trees and ocean waves at this nature sanctuary.
22. Visit Actun Tunichil Muknal (the “ATM” Cave)- (Belize)
Actun Tunichil Muknal (the Cave of the Crystal Sepulchre), which is also commonly known as the ATM cave in Belize, is an extremely unique archaeological site with Mayan ceramics, stoneware, and skeleton remains. The cave can be easily visited via a guided tour from San Ignacio.
An ATM cave tour is a truly unforgettable experience with a combination of spelunking (you swim into and through parts of the cave), a jungle walk, and a unique peek into Mayan history and culture. The cave itself flaunts impressive chambers, tunnels and speleothem. Even more intriguing though, are the 1000-year-old skeletons inside. The most famous skeleton being “The Crystal Maiden” who is thought to be an adolescent sacrifice victim.
This is an epic adventure you will be thinking about for years to come.
23. Spend the Night in a Capsule Hotel (Japan)
Sleeping in a capsule hotel is a unique experience that feels like you’re stepping into the future through your own personal time machine. I recommend Oakhostel Cabin in Tokyo (especially if you’re on a budget). As you walk in you’ll trade your shoes for slippers, which the hostel provides, along with a shoe locker near the entrance. You’ll then get a key to your floor and locker to store your luggage. Your spaceship time machine..I mean capsule, will be patiently waiting and comes complete with bedding, an American plug outlet, a light, a few hangers, a mirror, and a pull-down shade for privacy. Basically, it comes with all the essentials to make the most out of your galactic experience. You can find various types and styles of capsule hotels in other parts of Japan and Asia, I just happened to experience mine in Tokyo.
Check out my other Must-Experience Things to do in Tokyo.
24. Hike Acatenango Volcano (Guatemala)
Volcan Acatenango is a 13,041ft / 3,976m tall volcano located near Antigua, Guatemala. The hike to the top and back down is a difficult 8.6 miles climbing over 5,000ft in elevation.
Hiking Acatenango is a very cool experience in itself, but it also almost guarantees you the opportunity to witness an eruption from the nearby Fuego Volcano.
While it can technically be done in one day and unguided, I highly recommend choosing a guided overnight trek with a local company (this helps support the local community and ensures that you have a much richer experience). Staying overnight, also typically allows you to witness lava flowing from Fuego at night. I climbed with Aprode Guatemala (now known as V-Hiking tours) right after the infamous huge eruption of Fuego in 2018, so unfortunately I didn’t get to see Fuego erupting as most hikers do. You can watch my video to see what it’s like to hike and camp on Acatenango on YouTube.
25. Explore “The Blue City” of Jodhpur (India)
Jodhpur, India, also known as the “blue city” is located in the Thar Desert of the northwest Indian state of Rajasthan. The magic of this place will not disappoint as you wander through the bustling streets and narrow alleys to admire the colorful houses of the old city that surround the Mehrangarh Fort. The 15th-century fort that the city is built around is now a museum where you can see beautiful paintings, architecture, and artifacts as well as a great view of the city. Of all the places and cities I visited in “the Golden Triangle” of India (including the Taj Mahal), this was my favorite and a destination that I highly recommend adding to your travel bucket list.
26. Hike to Ice Lake Basin (USA)
This stunning series of alpine lakes located in the San Juan National Forest in Colorado will leave you speechless and inspired. The trail to Ice Lake Basin is 7 miles roundtrip and ascends 3,000 feet with a max elevation of 12,400. If you’d like to visit Island Lake too, then it will be an 8.4-mile roundtrip hike. I recommend backpacking to these lakes to give yourself more time to explore. Camping overnight will also allow you to take in all the beauty without sharing the view with all the day hikers. Visit in late July or August to witness the beautiful wildflowers in bloom.
27. Fall in Love with Red Rocks and Diné Culture in Navajo Nation (USA)
Navajo Nation stretches across northern Arizona and New Mexico, and southern Utah and is home to the Diné (Navajo tribe) with a population of over 175,000. It is the largest indigenous tribe in the U.S. with its population both on and off the reservation including over 300,000 registered tribal members.
The Diné have a rich culture and heritage that you should take the time to learn about through talking to locals, guides, and visiting their visitor centers. You can also buy native-made jewelry and crafts from any number of stands along the roads throughout the nation.
This Native American reservation is also home to some beautiful natural wonders like Antelope Canyon, Lake Powell, Canyon de Chelly, and Monument Valley. Additionally, Horseshoe Bend is only accessible through Navajo land, despite technically being a part of Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and operated by the National Park Service.
Fun pit stop: Keep an eye out for a “dinosaur tracks” sign along the AZ 160 East Highway. There are typically local guides there who will give you a quick tour (they work on tips).
Note: All Navajo Nation tribal Parks are currently closed due to COVID-19 (as of April 7, 2021). Please check their website for updates and park info.
28. Explore Temples Carved into Stone in Petra (Jordan)
Petra (also known as “Rose City”) is an archaeological site in Jordan that was built around 300 B.C. It was formerly the capital of the Nabatean Kingdom and inhabited by Arabs in ancient times. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is also one of the 7 New Wonders of the World. The site still contains tombs and temples carved into the pink sandstone cliffs of the desert. The most famous structure is The Treasury, a 45-meter tall temple with Greek columns. The famous city can be accessed through a very narrow canyon called Al Siq. I highly recommend hiking past the Treasury to see the other much less visited temples and tombs.