Traveling is an irreplaceable experience that we carry with us for the rest of our lives, so let’s make it count. Steering away from touristy locations, these 13 bucket-list worthy once-in-a-lifetime trips are perfect for the sojourner seeking to immerse in a road-less-traveled experience. Satisfy the wanderlust in you and start adding these bucket-list worthy destinations to your itineraries.
1. Russia: Trans-Siberian Railway
The Trans-Siberian Railway is the longest railway line in the world. It starts at Russia’s capital city of Moscow and stretches all the way to the far east of the country, to the port city of Vladivostok. Spanning eight different time zones, featuring extraordinary landscapes, and holding a rich past truly makes this a journey of a lifetime.
There are two other lines that branch off from the Trans-Siberian: the Trans-Manchurian and the Trans-Mongolian. The Trans-Manchurian branches out to the Chinese cities of Harbin and Changchun while the Trans-Mongolian passes through Mongolian border towns and Mongolia’s capital, Ulaanbaatar. If you are into dramatic changes in scenery, the Trans-Mongolian might be the ideal route for you. Starting in Moscow, passing through Ulaanbaatar, and finally ending in Beijing, the drastically beautiful changes in scenery makes for a very alluring train ride – and a truly unforgettable experience.
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2. Philippines: Thresher Sharks in Malapascua, Cebu
Wellness Workations are becoming more and more popular in the Philippines as the Department of Tourism (DOT) is supporting its wellness, spa, health, and medical tourism industries in regaining consumer confidence and in promoting the Philippines as an excellent, healthy and safe destination. The perfect workation, however, is to combine work, wellness and adventure, so choosing a destination, such as Boracay or Cebu for example, where you can indulge in adventurous activities post-work is an absolute must, think snorkeling or scuba diving with rare shark species. Just off the coast of Malapascua Island, the Monad Shoal is the Philippines‘ unspoiled, not-yet-hot spot for scuba divers and one of the only places in the world where majestic Thresher sharks can be seen nearly every day. Known for their unique tail and interesting hunting habits, Threshers are frequent visitors to Malapascua Island, using the Monad Shoal dive site as a cleaning station.
See also: 7 Places to Swim with Sharks
3. Chile (Patagonia): Torres del Paine National Park
Clear turquoise waters, immense glaciers, colossal icebergs, and towering granite horns – an otherworldly panorama awaits you at the Torres del Paine National Park. The best way to explore the jaw-dropping landscapes of this UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve is by trekking, so pack your bags and put on your most comfortable pair of walking shoes as you hike, sail, and kayak around this incredibly fascinating part of the world.
4. Ecuador: Galapagos Islands
If the thought of being at the birthplace of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution does not make a trip to this once-in-a-lifetime place enough for you, maybe it being a wildlife haven and nature lover’s paradise will. The protected Galapaogs Islands is full of friendly and fearless animals, making it one of the only places in the world where you can get really close to wild animals. Close animal encounters include sailing with killer whales, swimming with sea lions, and observing giant tortoises and marine iguanas in their natural habitat. Besides immersing yourself in the rich wildlife, count trekking in the Sierra Negra volcano as a uniquely memorable activity to be experienced here.
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5. Iceland: Northern Lights
Witnessing the Northern Lights may be an iconic tick off the bucket list when in Iceland, but that’s not the only spectacular experience this captivating country has to offer. Known for its otherworldly landscape on land, underground, and under the sea, Iceland is a place for travelers looking for a one-of-a-kind adventure. Hike on glaciers, visit crystal ice caves and fascinating underground caves, and snorkel in the Silfra rift, which is an underwater lava field located in the historical Thingvellir National Park – the activities here for the thrill-seeking explorer are aplenty.
6. Tanzania (Serengeti): Great Migration Safari
To be seeing it with your own eyes and not just on television, The Great Migration is truly an experience of a lifetime. Considered the most thrilling spectacle in the animal kingdom, this year-round Great Migration is a must-see African wildlife spectacle you surely have to add to your travel bucket list. An annual mass migration with over 1.5 million wildebeest, 400,000 zebra, 300,000 Grant’s and Thompson’s gazelle, and 12,000 eland in attendance – this is a breathtaking, mind-boggling experience you cannot miss.
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7. Romania: Transylvania
The charm of rural Transylvania, with its medieval citadels and revered traditions, will whisk you away into a real-life fantasy. In this historical region, discover fairytale castles and fortified churches, get to know the blacksmiths, truffle-hunters, beekeepers, and botanists who keep the local traditions alive, and go on an enchanting horseback adventure in the forests and woods. For animal lovers, you might also opt to explore the Carpathians to have worthwhile encounters with European wildlife.
8. China (Yunnan): Shangri-La
Shangri-La, a Tibetan part in Yunnan, is the perfect destination for the explorer who is seeking to disconnect from civilization and discover the true art of traveling. Camp in the holy mountains and hike through a vast range of landscapes – from awe-inspiring forests to snowy peaks, and visit the mountain of Khawa Karpo, which is considered to be one of the most sacred for Tibetan Buddhism. Experience an adventure and pilgrimage of a lifetime in this land of mystery, tranquility, and matchless beauty.
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9. Oman: Arabian Adventure
With its mesmerizing Arabian charm and absolutely dreamy landscapes, a trip to Oman is an experience like no other. The perfect balance of modern and old Arabia makes this place vacation-friendly yet culturally rich. High-rises are nowhere to be seen in the city center, only traditional buildings – allowing Oman’s ancient past of being a key trading post to be kept alive. Make it a point to explore the beautiful outskirts as well; hire a local expert guide to seek out hidden waterfalls, picturesque canyons, and a turquoise oasis in the desert valley. Other thrill-inducing bucket-list activities here include: sand surfing, camel riding, camping under the stars, and kayaking with the magnificent humpback whales.
10. Uganda: Gorilla Trekking
To get up close and personal with gorillas – the majestic giants of the African forest – what could be more unforgettable than that? In Uganda, you’ll be able to do just that. Gorilla families are not the only beautiful animals you’ll have the opportunity to track, spot, and meet up close, but chimpanzees plus the rest of the African wildlife roaming in the savannah as well. Paying a visit to Lake Victoria is also a must-do while in this country; this lake being the largest in the continent as well as the birthplace of the longest river in the world, the Nile River.
11. Papua New Guinea: Native Tribes
Papua New Guinea is the island nation of your dreams. With a colorful coastal culture, rich biodiversity, amazing diving and surfing spots, and a heavenly island remoteness, this tropical gem needs to head straight to your travel bucket list now. Experience meeting friendly native tribes, swimming in crystal clear waters teeming with fish and coral, and going on a once-in-a-lifetime hike up the second highest mountain in Oceania, Mt. Giluwe. Only 4 hours away by plane from Sydney, this destination is abounding in culture, adventure, and a tranquil beauty like no other.
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12. Bhutan: Monasteries
For those looking for an impactful spiritual travel experience, Bhutan might be your best bet. Reconnect with nature as you journey through the mystical valleys of Bhutan, go on an enlightening hike to the iconic cliff-clinging Tiger’s Nest monastery, and immerse yourself in authentic Bhutanese culture. Sitting on the Himalayas’ eastern edge, this otherworldly South Asian country is where you can behold soul-stirring monasteries, fortresses or dzongs, and spectacular landscapes.
13. Norway: Norwegian Fjords/Fjords Cruise
Considered to have some of the most picturesque landscapes in the world, the Norwegian Fjords is a mix of breathtaking mountains, bright blue waters, and traditional Norwegian villages. Some cruises offer guided tours, like hiking up cliffs that give way to spectacular 360-degree views or exploring small Norwegian villages that will give you a taste of traditional Norwegian living. Depending on the season and the exact cruise you take, you will also get the chance to see this country’s majestic wildlife, such as sperm whales, moose, elk, and sea eagles. And on rare occasions, you might even get to witness the elusive Midnight Sun or enjoy the captivating Northern Lights.
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