Climb to Machu Picchu, Peru
No travel bucket list is complete without Macchu Picchu, an Incan citadel located in the Andes. While the site can be accessed via bus ride, more adventurous travelers can take the five-day trek along the entire 26-mile-long Inca Trail. Or, thanks to local tour operator Sam Travel Peru, you can get dropped at kilometer marker 104 and do the whole experience in 24 hours.
Hunt for glaciers in Greenland
Greenland is relatively expensive and tricky to get to, but well-worth the effort—especially since it’s one of the most untouched landscapes on the planet. Exhibit A: the hundred-year-old icebergs and glaciers floating off the mainland, which you can get up close and personal with during a cruise excursion.
Hot air balloon over Cappadocia, Turkey
A hot air balloon ride over central Turkey’s Cappadocia region provides 360-degree views of the famous limestone spires and “fairy chimneys”—something you can’t get at the ground level. We recommend booking with Kapadokya Balloons.
Swim the Great Barrier Reef
Divers and snorkelers everywhere need to move the Great Barrier Reef to the very top of their bucket lists. Not only does the site have more than 400 different types of coral and 1,500 species of fish, but the natural wonder has been rapidly eroding, thanks to coral bleaching and global warming. In other words? Visit this one while you can.
Climb Mount Everest
Mount Everest looms large, known around the world by hikers and non-hikers alike. But this is one behemoth that is best left to truly experienced travelers. According to alpinist Adrian Ballinger, who attempted the climb in 2016, “You need to climb at least three 20,000 peaks, one 23,000 peak, and one 26,000 peak before considering Everest.” But hey, if you’re one of the lucky few who has the experience, time, and funds needed to reach Everest’s summit, then by all means, do it.
Dogsled in Siberia
Siberia in the winter may not sound like the most relaxing of vacations, but the appeal increases exponentially when you add in husky dogs, who can take you on sled rides around across frozen Lake Baikal and endless white masses of land. Sure you can always take a Trans-Siberian train ride, but that’s simply not as adorable.
Trek the Great Wall of China
Everyone knows and loves the Great Wall of China, as witnessed by the masses of selfie-taking tourists swarming the landmark each day. Different sections of the wall offer different experiences, whether you’re looking for a strenuous hike or an uncrowded place to take photographs. The Great Wall Adventure Club offers excursions up to 12 days long, giving you the chance to walk around 50 miles and camp overnight in the structure’s watchtowers. For a different type of once-in-a-lifetime experience, take a day trip with Opposite House Beijing, a hotel that offers guided tours specifically of the Wall’s uncrowded stretches. Walking from tower to tower with no one else around you? Sign us up.
Go on a canoe safari in the Okavango Delta, Botswana
Going on safari in Africa is a bucket list no-brainer, but where exactly do you start? Botswana’s Okavango Delta is a must for first-timers and experienced safari-goers alike, thanks to its wealth of wildlife and topographical diversity. Hop on a mokoro canoe for the best, most intimate look at the roaming elephants, antelope, and cheetahs, among others.
Sleep under the Northern Lights
Ah, the elusive Northern Lights. So many factors are at play when it comes to seeing the technicolor phenomenon—location, time of year, weather conditions—but you can’t lose with an excursion to Finnish Lapland. The arctic area is one of the planet’s best for lights viewing, especially if you get to sleep in an igloo hotel or mobile Aurora Bubble Sled.
Boat under the Iguazú Falls
South America’s Iguazú Falls, located on the border of Brazil and Argentina, make all other waterfalls look like mere trickles. The system of more than 200 cascades (reaching heights of around 270 feet) can be viewed from surrounding walkways and catwalks, but we’re fans of the more adventurous vantage-point—hopping on an Iguazú Jungle inflatable raft and going directly under the exhilarating, high-pressure falls.
Climb Mount Fuji
Solitary Mount Fuji is probably Japan’s most iconic natural wonder, rising 12,388 feet above villages and reflecting on lakes’ surfaces. You can get views of the landmark from many places, like Lake Kawaguchi in Fujikawaguchiko and the Park Hyatt Tokyo, but it’s the views from the mountain that give you the most bragging rights. Visit from early July to mid-September to take advantage of the official climbing season, when the designated trails and paved roads are free from snow.
Swim through Mexico’s cenotes
Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula features a wealth of unique natural beauty, particularly when it comes to its cavernous cenotes. Floating in one of these natural sinkholes is an incredible experience, as is diving through the underground cave systems. When in Tulum, visit Dos Ojos (“Two Eyes”) to view one of the planet’s most beautiful underwater sites (bonus points for water visibility), or Gran Cenote for rock formations that resemble Gothic architecture.
Sand surf in the Sahara
The dunes of the Sahara are colossal, untouched, and tailor-made for extreme sports. The desert’s rows of barchans (meaning “crescent-shaped dunes” in Turkic) have ideal shapes for sand surfing (descending the slopes on a surfboard) and sandboarding (descending the slopes on a snowboard)—and those views don’t hurt, either.
Paraglide over the Blue Lagoon in Oludeniz, Turkey
Oludeniz has one of the most beautiful beaches in Turkey, with pebble shores and a “blue lagoon” of aquamarine hues. The beach also happens to be one of the world’s best places to paraglide, thanks to stable weather and gorgeous panoramic views. The launch site for most companies is from Babadağ mountain, with jumping-off points reaching 6,000 feet above sea level.
Spot a spirit bear in the Great Bear Rainforest
Canada’s Great Bear Rainforest is the largest intact temperate rainforest in the world—and one of the most magical, with elusive species like sea wolves and spirit bears roaming its 21 million acres. Outer Shores Expeditions will take you on a nine-day excursion aboard a schooner, departing from British Columbia’s aboriginal First Nations community of Bella Bella and stopping for sea kayaking along the way.
Snorkel between continents at Thingvellir National Park
Iceland is one of the best countries in the world for adventure travel, with opportunities for everything from glacier hiking to snorkeling and diving. For the latter, head straight to Thingvellir National Park along the country’s Golden Circle route, where two tectonic plates slowly pull apart at the rate of about two centimeters per year. The phenomenon results in the Silfra fissure, a stunning rift valley where travelers can snorkel or dive in impossibly clear (and cold) waters. Tour company DIVE.IS offers awesome tours for divers and every level of snorkeler (including those with zero experience), and will snap an underwater photo of you touching two continents at the same time.
Road trip through America’s National Parks
There’s perhaps no better way to explore America than with a good old-fashioned road trip. Many of the country’s national parks are perfect for a multi-day drive, like Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park and Alaska’s Denali National Park. But if we had to pick just one itinerary, we’d go with the Mighty Five, the cluster of Utah’s national parks that include Zion, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, Arches, and Canyonlands. The Mars-like landscapes here must be seen to be believed, and the journey can start anywhere from Salt Lake City to Las Vegas.
Heli-ski in Switzerland
Any winter sports enthusiast has either tried or wants to try heli-skiing—off-trail skiing that it accessed by helicopter as opposed to a ski lift. Switzerland offers some of the best off-trail skiing in the world in Alpine villages like Grimentz and Zermatt, which are as charming as they are epic.
Float along the Amazon
Some remote destinations are best seen from the deck of a boat, and that includes the upper Amazon River. Aqua Expeditions’ luxury cruises through the Peruvian stretch of the river tour the area’s wildlife and culture at a delightful, leisurely pace. Looking for something a little less luxe? Amazon Adventures offers kayaking trips along some Amazon tributaries, where you can fish for piranhas and camp out in the jungle.
Go “volcano boarding” on Cerro Negro
If you’re looking for action sports and adventure, we recommend booking a flight to Nicaragua right now. Here you can kayak, surf, zipline through the jungle, and even sled down the side of an active volcano. Intrepid travelers love to climb up the 2,388-foot Cerro Negro and then “volcano board” back down (an activity where you sit or stand on a piece of plywood and slide your way down the slopes). Definitely go with a guided group tour with this one. Bigfoot Hostels is one of many companies available—for $30, you get transportation to the volcano, boards, safety equipment, snacks, and your speed clocked by a radar gun.
Camp in Antarctica
Antarctica is truly the final frontier when it comes to adventure travel, providing untouched landscapes, unique wildlife, and more activities than you’ll know what to do with (cruising, caving, and thermal spring soaking—oh my!). If you can get yourself to Punta Arenas, Chile, Antarctic Logistics & Expeditions will fly you to Antarctica for three days of skiing and hiking before setting you up for a South Pole sleepover.
Walk the Chadar Trek frozen river in India
The Chadar Trek is an approximately 50-mile journey across the Zanskar River when it freezes solid during the January and February. Travel company Big Planet offers nine-day treks out of Leh, with trip that include hiking, guided tours, and overnight camping on the ice.
Surf “The Pipeline” in Oahu
Oahu’s Banzai Pipeline (commonly referred to as “The Pipeline”) is easily one of the most sought-after surfing spots in the world. Located off the coast of the island’s north shore in Ehukai Beach Park, the surf reef break averages waves measuring nine feet high. Pro tip: This activity is definitely not for beginners, but even non-surfers will get a thrill out of the watching the many surf competitions that take place at The Pipeline—all from the safety of a sunny beach.
Zip line over Niagara Falls
The 2,200-foot MistRider opened in Ontario in the summer of 2016, and has been attracting daring travelers ever since. The ride goes from the top of the Niagara Gorge to nearly the bottom, with four ziplines reaching speeds more than 40 miles per hour.
Bungee jump above the Kawarau River, New Zealand
New Zealand practically invented adventure sports when the Kawarau Bridge Bungy opened in 1988. Here you join 38,000 annual visitors to take the 140-foot jump from the South Island’s historic, steel-framed Kawarau Bridge.
Dive Belize’s Great Blue Hole
Known for its circular shape and strikingly deep blue color, the Great Blue Hole is a 1,000-foot-wide sinkhole in the middle of Belize’s Lighthouse Reef. While an aerial shot is enough to convince anyone of its beauty, scuba divers are the ones who get to experience the wonders that lie beneath—massive, 40-foot limestone stalactites and stalagmites that formed during the last glacial period.
Soak in Devil’s Pool at Victoria Falls
Located on the border of Zimbabwe and Zambia, Victoria Falls attracts thousands of tourists each year. One of the biggest draws here is the Devil’s Pool, a naturally formed eddy sitting at the very edge of the falls, where daring swimmers can splash around between August and January (depending on water levels). Given that a slippery rock barrier is the only thing separating you from going over the edge, this site is easily the planet’s most extreme infinity pool.
Swim with wild dolphins in the Azores
We can’t get enough of the Azores, a group of nine islands located some 900 miles off the coast of Lisbon. The incredibly scenic archipelago is the perfect getaway for adventurers, letting travelers go canyoning on steep cliff walls, paraglide over vineyards, and swim with both migrating and native dolphins. And thanks to Delta’s new direct flights from the U.S. to the island cluster in 2018, there’s never been a better time to plan a visit.
Float in Darwin Lake, Galápagos Islands
The Galápagos Islands, off the coast of Ecuador, are one of the world’s most famous bucket list destinations, thanks to their melange of unique wildlife and otherworldly landscapes. The chain of 19 islands offers many once-in-a-lifetime activities, from hiking on volcanos to relaxing in the saline Darwin Lake with nearby tortoises and iguanas.
Scale Half Dome at Yosemite National Park
The Half Dome trail through Yosemite may be one of the most intense hikes you’ll ever take, stretching for 16 miles and ascending more than 5,500 feet. The final 400 feet are the trickiest—hikers must climb up the steep slope with two steel cables as their only support—but the breathtaking views from the top make the effort (and terror) worth it.