The world is a treasure trove of natural beauty, unique history and ultimate adventure. Whether you are watching the sunrise over the Taj Mahal, cruising past elephants in the Okavango Delta or marvelling at the breathtaking northern lights, an amazing travel experience will stay with you for years to come, if not your lifetime! In celebration of Tucan Travel turning 32 years old we have compiled a list of the 32 top travel experiences we believe everyone should have in their lifetime.
Hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu
Nestled amongst the clouds in the Andes, the archaeological site of Machu Picchu holds many secrets of the Inca Empire. The breathtaking ruins are the final reward for completing the Inca Trail, a 43 km trek through lush Peruvian scenery, passing remote villages, grazing llamas and varying terrain throughout. A challenge, yes, but the sense of achievement will stay with you forever.
Go on an African Safari
The earth is home to an abundance of beautiful animals, many of which can be viewed on an African safari. Witness elephants splash in the watering holes, lions on the hunt for their next kill and if you time it right; the great wildebeest migration. There are few experiences that throw you right into the heart of nature like an African safari. As a result, you will soon realise the strength, perseverance and pure beauty of these animals.
Experience the Taj Mahal at Sunrise
The exquisite Taj Mahal was built between 1632 and 1648 by Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his favourite wife. A UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the new seven wonders of the world, the Taj Mahal is a jewel of India and one of the world’s most admired buildings. Sunrise is ultimately the best time to experience it in all its glory – watch as the dusky pink sky illuminates, turning the gorgeous white domes into a golden hue.
Walk along the Great Wall of China
With a history dating back centuries, the Great Wall is one of the most impressive structures the world has seen. Snaking over rugged landscape and steep mountains, the wall spans an impressive 13,170 miles long. The structure we know today was built by the Ming dynasty, making it around 500 years old. While a hugely impressive structure and good deterrent, the wall is said to never have stopped an invasion!
Stand below the Northern Lights
What can only be described as one of the most magical sights in the sky, the Aurora Borealis can be seen from Finland, Sweden, Norway, Greenland, Canada, Scotland and of course Iceland. The lure of the mesmerising colours bouncing around the sky is a sight to see, with the best time to see the lights being between October and March when the nights come early. While the northern lights are unpredictable, those who are lucky enough to stand below the dancing colours won’t be forgetting it anytime soon! Seeing the northern lights truly is one of the top travel experiences you can have!
See the Great Pyramid of Giza
The oldest and largest of the three pyramids, the Great Pyramid of Giza now also holds the title of the oldest structure in the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Archaeologists believe it was built as a tomb, and was made using over 2 million stone blocks. While it is certainly the most famous, there have been around 130 pyramids found in Egypt.
Bike around the Temples of Bagan in Myanmar
Myanmar is still relatively new to tourism and a fantastic country for getting off the beaten track. Bagan is one of the world’s greatest archaeological sites with temples scattered across the stunning landscape. Built by the kings of Bagan between the 11th and 13th centuries, Bagan was once the canvas for over 10,000 Buddhist temples and pagodas. Today, around 2000 still remain making Bagan the perfect place to cycle around.
Train Hop around Europe
Europe is a blend of natural beauty, culture, history, great sights and even greater food. A must do for any avid traveller is to train hop through these wonderful countries. Eat macaroons in France, sip wine in Italy and dance the night away in Berlin. Europe is home to some of the world’s most iconic structures and some of the oldest history, from the Romans to the Greeks. A trip around Europe is sure to leave your mind satisfied and your belly full.
Take a Hot Air Balloon Ride in Cappadocia
The scene of Cappadocia is iconic – a rugged, fairytale-esque landscape scattered with colourful hot air balloons. Due to its rocky formation it was the perfect hiding place, and Cappadocia is even home to an ancient underground city where some 6000 people once lived. Turkey is filled with UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and Cappadocia is just one of the beautiful places in the country that will take your breath away.
Hike in Patagonia
There are few top travel experiences for adventure lovers better than Patagonia. Sprawling across Argentina and Chile, Patagonia is a slice of nature’s heaven. Crystal lakes, dramatic mountain peaks and crashing glaciers, the region attracts adventure seekers from all over the world. From Torres del Paine National Park to the giant Perito Moreno Glacier, visitors can also step onto the ends of the earth in Ushuaia, the southernmost tip of South America.
Explore the Souks of Marrakech
Morocco is a tantalising blend of colours, spices, sounds and smells, with Marrakech being one of the most popular destinations in the country. The souks of Marrakech are world-renowned for being some of the most exotic and charming marketplaces to browse and pick up some unique finds. Enjoy a sensory overload as you wonder the narrow walkways and end the day with a satisfying pot of tagine.
Go Back in Time at Angkor Wat
One of the largest religious monuments in the world, Angkor Wat is the soul of Cambodia and home to stunning carvings throughout the complex. The city itself was built in the 12th century and was dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu. It wasn’t until the 14th century it was converted into a Buddhist temple and today remains a highlight of any trip to southeast Asia. Lose yourself as you wander under tree vines and through the beautiful ruins of this incredible archaeological site.
Zipline in Costa Rica
Costa Rica may be small in size but its landscape, national parks, beaches and wildlife make it the ultimate holiday destination. Home to the Monteverde Cloud Forest and Manuel Antonio National Park, the tropical atmosphere makes it perfect for spotting sloths, monkeys and various bird life. Zip-lining through the lush jungle is one of the most adrenaline pumping ways of experiencing the beauty of this fantastic country.
Meet Mountain Gorillas in Uganda
Nestled deep in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in Uganda, small families of the endangered mountain gorilla roam freely. Trekking through the lush foliage in search of these majestic beasts is a highlight of any Ugandan holiday and definitely a once in a lifetime experience.
Travel the length of Vietnam
Hugging the coast of southeast Asia lies the fascinating country of Vietnam. With a history dating back thousands of years and an infamous war leaving much of the country in pieces, it has prospered in recent years to become one of the most loved places on the continent. From the picture perfect Halong Bay to the bustling city of Hanoi, the charming town of Hoi An to the floating markets in the Mekong Delta, the country is full to the brim of exciting and once in a lifetime experiences waiting to be had.
Bungee Jump in New Zealand
New Zealand is considered the adventure capital of the world – and with good reason. The rugged and mountainous landscape provide the base for some of the most adrenaline pumping sports in the world, from bungee jumping to skydiving, white-water rafting to jet boating. Besides, the feeling of teetering over the edge of a gorge before you throw yourself off is an experience you will remember forever!
Experience the Galapagos Islands
The birthplace of Darwin’s Theory of Evolution, the Galapagos Islands are home to the most unique wildlife in the world. A cruise around the archipelagos is the ultimate experience to get up close and personal to sea lions, turtles, iguanas and blue footed boobies. Snorkel in the bio-diverse waters and learn all about the species that inhabit this exclusive destination.
Party the night away at Rio Carnival
Rio Carnival is possibly the biggest party in the world. It welcomes thousands of people to Brazil each year ready to shake their feathers and dance the night away. A celebration of the colourful culture of Brazil, the event is centred around the impressive sambadrome. There are various street parties taking place all over Rio until the early hours where you can dance the night away!
Take a Sushi Making Class in Japan
Japan is a mix-match of ancient history and modern technology all wrapped into one, delicious sushi roll. A country where past meets present, Japan is home to stunning lakes, a generous scattering of cherry blossom and of course the impressive snow-capped Mount Fuji. While Japan is known for having some quirky fads and a questionable obsession with Hello Kitty, Japanese cuisine is some of the best in the world. Sushi has made its mark around the globe – but for an authentic and unforgettable experience learn the secrets behind the famous roll in the country where it all began.
Get a Glimpse of the Past at the Ancient City of Petra
The city of Petra is an iconic image of the Middle East! The treasury holds many secrets to Jordan’s long and unique history. Furthermore, it is a haven for archaeologists! The city was carved out of stone and dates back to around 312 BC. Unknown to the West until 1812, the “Rose City” is said to house 800 tombs. Standing below the stunning architecture will surely take your breath away!
Swim in a cenote in Mexico
From taking a hot air balloon over the huge pyramids at Teotihuacan to sampling the traditional mole poblano, Mexico is no stranger to bucket-list experiences. One of our favourite activities is to swim in the underground freshwater pools, otherwise known as cenotes.
Lose yourself in the Mysteries of Easter Island
Few islands have baffled historians and archaeologists quite like that of Easter Island. Located some 2300 miles off the Chilean coast, the island is sprinkled with nearly 1000 statues depicting large heads, called Moai. The early inhabitants settled around 1200 AD, creating a thriving community with the resources the island provided. The population dropped during the 1700’s due to disease and emigration, and today is home to some 3000 people. A visit to the unique Easter Island is definitely one of the top travel experiences to have in South America!
Cruise through the Okavango Delta
A vast wetland located in Botswana, the Okavango Delta is home to various islands and a large amount of wildlife. Paddling through the landscape on a mokoro is the ultimate way to experience the beauty of this African gem. Keep your eyes peeled for elephants and hippos on the way!
Strike a Pose at the Bolivian Salt Flats
The largest salt flat in the world, this vast area provides some magical photos, especially when flooded! After rainfall, the flats turn into a huge mirror creating the perfect backdrop for some crazy optical illusion photos! These images are iconic to South America and make Bolivia one of the top travel destinations on the continent. Close by is the beautiful Laguna Colorada, famous for its dusting of pink flamingos on the red coloured lake; the ultimate place for photography lovers.
Feel the spray from Iguazu Falls
Iguazu Falls is the mother of all waterfalls, flowing from both Argentina and Brazil. The water here makes up the largest waterfall system in the world! Words cannot describe how it feels to stand in front of them, feeling the powerful spray on your face. So there is only one thing for it, get out and see them for yourself!
Ride the Trans-Siberian Railway
For many years eager travellers have hopped on board one of the most iconic rail journeys in the world. Snake through the wilderness as you traverse Russia, China and Mongolia on the world’s longest railway. Watch the diverse landscapes transform from your window before hopping off at certain points to explore the local towns. Half the fun of the journey is the interesting people you meet on the way!
Spend time in nature in the Amazon Jungle
What better way to fully enjoy nature than to travel to the heart of it all; the most bio-diverse place on earth! The Amazon Jungle spans across Brazil, Peru, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Guyana, Suriname, and French Guiana. Canoe down the waters, looking out for the various wildlife and even spend the night in an eco lodge where you can awake to the sounds of nature right outside your door. For nature lovers, this truly is a top travel experience in South America!
Drink beer at Oktoberfest in Munich
Oktoberfest is an iconic European festival, full of cheer, lederhosen and of course, beer. Held in Munich every September/October, the event draws people from all over the world who are after a true taste of Bavaria. It originally celebrated the 1810 wedding of the prince of Bavaria to Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen, and the rest is history!
Walk the Camino de Santiago
The Camino de Santiago is the most famous pilgrimage route in Spain, leading to the apostle Saint James the Great in northwest Spain. Travellers from all over the world flock to Spain to enjoy the tranquil walk. You pass through quaint Spanish villages and meet people from all over the globe in the process. With restaurants and guesthouses on route, you don’t need to camp or carry an excessive amount of food with you either!
Go trekking around foothills of Annapurna, Nepal
Annapurna is home to some of the most incredible scenery in Nepal and offers exhilarating treks. Whether you wish to trek the whole circuit or just dip your toes into the scenery of the foothills of Annapurna, the landscape is amazing. Dramatic mountains, crystal lakes and lush forest, you will leave feeling exhilarated and fresh faced.
Explore the World’s Driest Desert in Atacama, Chile
Imagine walking through an area that eerily resembles the surface of the moon. The Atacama Desert stretches over 1000 kilometres across Chile and receives less than 1 mm of rain per year. As a result it is without cities and is a wonderfully off the beaten track destination to visit. Experience high altitude geysers, watch the sunset over moon valley or spot flamingos in lagoon Chaxa.
And finally – get off the beaten track – anywhere!
Some of the best travel moments are the unexpected. Away from the crowds, far from iconic sites and completely out of your comfort zone; these special moments will last a lifetime. Whether it’s getting invited into a local home in a remote community in Mongolia, communicating via sign language and broken words, or sharing a tea with a stranger you met while getting lost in Cusco, the unexpected can leave you with lasting stories for years to come.
Emma is the Marketing Executive at Tucan Travel. She has travelled both solo and on group tours through Europe, Scandinavia, Southeast Asia and New Zealand. You can view her Linkedin here.