There are certain experiences and places in the world that deserve a visit from any avid traveler. From road tripping in the US and camping under the stars to trekking through the Himalayas and climbing Mt Kilimanjaro, these unique bucket list ideas will have something to appeal to everyone.
If you’re dreaming of your next trip, the following 40 bucket list ideas will help inspire you to start planning where to go next.
1. Road trip across the US
Before you think about heading off somewhere more exotic, consider exploring North America. The diverse and beautiful landscapes of North America are best appreciated at your own pace on a road trip.
Most people initially think of top bucket list destinations in the United States as being New York or the Grand Canyon, but it’s the journey of traveling around the country that is just as rewarding as visiting these popular places.
Whether you have a few days or two weeks, there are road trip itineraries in the United States for everyone.
2. Climb Mt Kilimanjaro
Climbing Mt Kilimanjaro is often one of the first things to appear on any adventurous bucket list. As Africa’s highest mountain and one of the seven summits of the world, climbing Mt Kilimanjaro is an experience you’ll never forget.
The dormant volcano stands at 5895m (19,341-feet) in Northern Tanzania with its national park stretching to the Kenyan border. There are five summit routes to choose from and although none are technical climbs, it requires a decent level of fitness and determination to succeed.
For all the challenges of high altitude, the incredible fauna and flora you see along the way and the view from the ‘roof of Africa’ makes it all worthwhile.
3. Swim with sea lions in the Galapagos
The Galapagos Islands, sitting 1000km off the coast of Ecuador, is one of the world’s most incredible wildlife havens. The isolated archipelago is known for its diverse plants and animals, many of which are found nowhere else in the world.
The most common native animal you’ll see in the Galapagos are sea lions and for the ultimate bucket list experience, you really need to get up close to these friendly mammals by going for a swim with them.
Out of all the islands in the Galapagos, San Cristobal has the largest colony of sea lions and offers the best opportunity to spend time with these impressive animals.
4. Go sailing in Croatia
Croatia’s stunning Adriatic coastline and unspoiled Mediterranean islands have made the country one of the most sought after destinations in Europe. The best way to truly experience this part of Croatia is by island hopping on board a sailing boat.
Sailing the clear waters past picturesque coastal towns and islands is a truly dreamy escape and has to be one of the best bucket list ideas for summer.
5. Try scuba diving
There’s no better way to explore the rich underwater sea life than scuba diving. Whether you’re a seasoned diver or have never done it before, it’s an activity that should always find a spot amongst your top bucket list items.
There are so many places in the world to go diving, from the Caribbean to the Great Barrier Reef. However, some of our favourite diving experiences have been in Indonesia. You can dive in Bali, North Sulawesi, Raja Ampat and Komodo National Park, and each destination offers some of the most magnificent underwater experiences in the world.
6. See the Northern Lights
The natural light display known as the Northern Lights is one of the most elusive and desirable travel bucket list ideas. There’s something so special about watching the dancing lights in the world’s most isolated places.
Some of the best countries to catch a glimpse of the aurora are Iceland, Norway, Finland, Sweden and Canada. But you’ll have to do your research to know the best time of year and the right place to be.
7. Go on an African safari
Most traveler’s agree that an African safari is a once in a lifetime experience. There’s no other continent like it with its vast national parks brimming with rare and endangered wildlife. The thrill of spotting a leopard in the scrub or watching a herd of elephants walking through the savannah is a heart-stopping moment.
The best countries for the ultimate safari experience include Tanzania, Kenya, South Africa, Botswana and Namibia. No matter which destination you choose though, an African safari is one of the best bucket list adventures you can possibly have.
8. Walk on the Great Wall of China
No world travel bucket list would be complete without the Great Wall of China. This series of fortifications built 500 years ago is one of the greatest sites in the world. You only have to explore a small section of it to be impressed by the incredible scale of this grand structure.
The Great Wall is a huge attraction in China and definitely one of the best things to do on any trip there. It’s also incredibly accessible and you can even visit it on a day trip from Beijing.
9. Hike to Machu Picchu in Cuzco, Peru
No matter how many photos you’ve seen of Machu Picchu, nothing will compare to seeing it with your own eyes. The incredible Inca ruins in the Sacred Valley of Peru are one of South America’s biggest drawcards.
However, the journey of hiking to Machu Picchu is just as worthy of being a bucket list experience as the ruins themselves. Most people know of the popular Inca Trail, an ancient hiking trail that leads to Machu Picchu. However, there are also alternative options to choose from which are far less crowded but just as beautiful and historically important.
10. Go sky diving
The thrill of skydiving is the ultimate adrenaline rush. Jumping out of a plane rattles even the most daring. But the incredible feeling of flying down to earth is what makes it one of the top experiences on any adventure bucket list.
Australia is one of the best destinations to go skydiving, with incredible vast landscapes and some of the most picturesque coastlines in the world. There are plenty of things to do on the east coast of Australia, but skydiving should definitely be at the top of your east coast bucket list for your next trip down under.
11. Go ziplining
Zip lining is one of the best thrill seeking activities in the world. Soaring over tree canopies, waterfalls and near volcanoes are just some of the popular places you’ll find zip lines around the world.
However, the best zip lining can be found arguably in Costa Rica, where the first line opened to tourists back in 1997. If you’re looking for the ultimate zip lining bucket list experience, it has to be at Monteverde in Costa Rica which has the longest zip line in Latin America at 1590 metres long.
12. Swim with whale sharks
Whale sharks are mesmerizing creatures and spending time with the ocean’s biggest fish is an unforgettable experience. You might think that you have to travel to a faraway exotic country to find them, but in fact, one of the best places to go swimming with whale sharks is in Western Australia.
Between April and July each year, around 1000 sharks migrate along the West Coast of Australia, around Ningaloo Reef, making this one of the best places to swim with these gentle giants in a safe and responsible environment.
13. Learn to surf
Learning to surf is a popular bucket list item for many. Whether it be a childhood dream or a deep desire to spend more time in the ocean, learning to surf is one of the most fun things to put on a bucket list.
One of the best places to surf in the world for both experienced and new surfers, is Costa Rica. This year-round surfing destination offers perfect swells and conditions for all skill levels. There are numerous surf schools and resorts around the country, making it a great place to tick off this bucket list dream.
14. Swim in the Devil’s Pool at Victoria Falls
The mighty Victoria Falls is the biggest waterfall in the world. It also offers one of Africa’s best bucket list travel adventures if you dare to swim on the edge of the tumbling water in what’s called a “Devil’s Pool”.
Devil’s Pool is a natural infinity pool at the edge of the falls on the Zambian side. For a few months of the year when the water levels of the Zambezi River are low, this calm pool of water becomes accessible to daring visitors. If there’s one experience in Victoria Falls that’s worth your time, it’s this!
15. Sleep in a desert
Any ultimate travel bucket list has to include sleeping in a desert. The vast bare landscape of endless sand dunes is one of the world’s natural wonders and sleeping out amongst it with bright stars above your head is an epic life experience.
Whether you go for the world’s largest desert, the Sahara, in Morocco or you prefer something more otherworldly like Wadi Rum in Jordan, it will be a completely unique adventure!
16. Work Abroad
For many, the idea of moving to a foreign country and working for a short time or even longer, can be both exciting and scary at the same time. However, working abroad can be one of the most rewarding experiences and allows you to fully immerse yourself in another country and culture.
Whether you want to work as a scuba diving instructor or as a freelance writer or on a rural farm, there’s really an option for everyone and it’s something we recommend to everyone to try once in your life.
17. Camp under the stars
This might be one of the most simple bucket list ideas on the list, but sleeping under the stars is one of the most incredible experiences to reconnect with nature.
You don’t even need to travel too far away to lie under the stars, with many national parks in North America and within Australia being perfect places to find pitch darkness. It’s amazing how mesmerizing staring up at the night sky can be and the further you are away from civilization the more bright the sky will shine.
18. Stay in an ultra luxury hotel
Everyone can agree that a bit of luxury is a special treat every once in a while. It’s a great way to celebrate a special birthday, anniversary or a honeymoon. Staying in an ultra luxury hotel should be a part of all couple bucket list ideas, even if it means breaking your trip budget.
Trips like safaris and overnight desert trips are sometimes perfect examples of when spending a bit more can make your experience so much more memorable. Our stay at Singita Sweni Safari Lodge in Kruger National Park is a perfect example of this.
19. Volunteer abroad
Volunteering abroad is one of the best ways to give back to the communities and countries that you travel to. It can also be a great way to immerse yourself in a local village or small community and get to know the friendly locals and understand the culture a bit more.
There are some great volunteering initiatives around the world, but it pays to do your research into the most sustainable organizations and programs. Teaching english is one of the most common ways of volunteering abroad in countries around South East Asia, like the Philippines, China, or Cambodia but there are lots of other ways to contribute.
Read Next: Guide to Volunteering in Costa Rica
20. Visit an underground cave
Underground caves can be some of the most mysterious and awe-inspiring natural wonders. When you explore one of the world’s biggest caves it’s impossible not to be impressed by the incredible rock formations that have been carved over millions of years.
Our top picks for caves you need to add to your bucket lists include Skocjan Cave in Slovenia, Puerto-Princesa Subterranean River in the Philippines, both recognised by UNESCO as world heritage sites, and a series of caves inside the Gulu Mulu National Park in Malaysia
21. Go to Oktoberfest in Munich
Of all bucket list countries, you might not think of Germany as being very exotic. However, attending the annual Oktoberfest in Munich is certainly one of the most fun and memorable experiences in Europe.
This famous cultural celebration is now two centuries old and is celebrated over 17 days in September and October. It draws millions of people from all over the world and is certainly worth the trip!
22. Sleep in an Overwater Bungalow
For one of the most romantic bucket list ideas for couples is to stay in an overwater bungalow. These luxury chalets built out onto crystal clear blue water are the epitome of paradise.
Popular places to find some of the best overwater bungalows include the Maldives, Fiji, Belize and French Polynesia. Be prepared to splurge for this bucket list idea but it’ll be worth it when you can fall asleep with the sound of the ocean beneath you.
23. Go gorilla trekking
This is one of the ultimate bucket list experiences for animal lovers. Gorilla trekking in the small corner of east Africa is the only way to come face to face with the giant silverback mountain gorillas that are now seriously endangered.
You can join a guided trek into the impenetrable forest to find these beautiful animals in Uganda, Rwanda or Democratic Republic of the Congo. Steep permit fees deter some people, but the incredible experience is worth every cent.
24. Go white water rafting
You might be surprised to discover that while white water rafting is available in many parts of the world, the best white water rafting is actually found in Africa. The rapids of the Nile River in Uganda and the Zambezi River in Zimbabwe and Zambia are the two top places to jump into a raft and ride Class V rapids.
It’s one of the best things to do in Victoria Falls, the adventure capital of Africa, and is worth adding to the reasons that you need to visit the largest falls in the world.
25. Walk El Camino de Santiago
El Camino de Santiago is a large network of ancient pilgrim routes stretching across Europe all the way to northwestern Spain. There are now multiple routes that people take to arrive at the shrine of the apostle St James the Great but no matter which way you decide to go, the pilgrimage experience is often life changing.
The walk takes around 4-5 weeks staying in guest houses along the way and is fast becoming one of the most popular long distance hikes in the world.
26. Float in the Dead Sea
Floating in the lowest place on earth is a once in a lifetime experience and is a must-visit experience in Jordan or Israel. The Dead Sea sits on the border between the two countries and has a salt content of around 30%. Due to its high salt content, the waters of Dead Sea offer extreme buoyancy and plenty of health benefits.
By staying at one of the hotels on the shore, you can have access to a private beach where you can soak up the minerals in the water and mud in this bizarre landscape.
27. Visit Salt Flats in Bolivia
Bolivia might be one of the most unusual bucket list travel destinations, but the country’s otherworldly landscapes make for one of the most beautiful sights in South America. The Uyuni Salt Flats are the world’s largest and cover a huge area of 10, 500 sq km.
Whether you visit in the wet season when the flats create a stunning natural mirror or the dry season which makes the white crust seem to go forever, it’s impossible not to be blown away. You need to add a tour to the salt flats to your South America bucket list!
28. Ride a hot air balloon
This is one of the ultimate bucket list ideas for all travelers. Taking a sunrise ride in a hot air balloon is an incredible experience that allows for a unique viewpoint. It’s even more special when you do it in a beautiful place that gives you a whole other perspective of the landscape.
Famous hot air balloon rides that are worth adding to your bucket list include over the otherworldly landscape of Cappadocia in Turkey, the savannah of the Serengeti in Tanzania, and the temple strewn fields of Bagan in Myanmar.
29. Hike to an Active Volcano
You may think that this is one of the most crazy bucket list ideas, but it’s totally worth the thrill. Hiking to an active volcano and gazing down at the bubbling lava below in the crater will make you appreciate the power of nature more than anything.
To go all out, hike up to one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world, Nyiragongo in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. A hike up to this erratic volcano is one of the most thrilling things you might ever do! Trust us, we speak from experience!
30. Visit the Amazon rainforest
The Amazon is one of South America’s biggest attractions, with travelers from all over the world wanting to explore this incredible ecosystem. It might be one of the most common bucket list items, but the world’s largest rainforest offers a variety of experiences accessed from different locations across the continent.
You can visit the Amazon from Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia, meaning it’s quite accessible no matter which country you’re travelling through.
31. Witness The Great Wildebeest Migration
This is one of the best things to put on your bucket list if you’re a keen outdoor photographer and wildlife enthusiast. The unbelievable annual wildebeest migration across Tanzania and Kenya attracts travelers from all around the world. It’s a heart stopping, breathtaking experience that’s often touted as the best wildlife show on the planet.
32. Hike in Patagonia
Chile’s Patagonia region in the far south of the country is an incredible playground for outdoor enthusiasts. Patagonia offers some of the greatest trekking trails in the world.
Most visitors head for the famous W trek in Torres Del Paine, however, there are also plenty of alternative treks in Patagonia that offer fantastic views and an insight into the local culture without the crowds.
33. Go whale watching
This is one of the more traditional experiences to be featured on bucket lists, but it’s still one of the most awe-inspiring wonders to witness. Seeing the giant underwater creatures thrashing around in the ocean is an incredible sight.
There are a number of countries where you can watch this spectacle at the right time of year. From Australia to South Africa, Canada, Costa Rica, and beyond, these beautiful animals favour the temperate waters.
34. Set foot in Antarctica
Antarctica has to be one of the most sought after bucket list places but it’s also one of the least visited. The uninhabited southernmost continent is not the easiest place to get to but the adventure is all part of the appeal.
Cruises set off from New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and Chile to various points on the Antarctic Peninsula. Setting foot on this incredibly fragile ecosystem and seeing penguins and whales in the surrounding waters, is a traveler’s dream. This is probably one of the most experience bucket list places to visit, so many travelers save up for years before visiting Antarctica.
35. Go on a road trip in another country
Going on road trips in other countries might seem like funny bucket list ideas, but it’s often the journey through foreign landscapes and traveling at your own pace that is very rewarding.
Large expansive countries with varied landscapes offer some of the best road trips in the world. You can drive around Australia for years without covering everything from the Great Ocean Road to an outback trip from Perth to Broome. South Africa is another country that is best seen on a self-drive trip, with coastal roads to mountains and self-drive safaris.
36. Trek through the Himalayas
Of all the adventure bucket list ideas, this is a classic one. Trekking in the Himalayas amongst the world’s tallest peaks is one of the ultimate adventures in the world.
Whether you go for a short trek in the Annapurnas or for the popular Everest Base Camp trek, there’s options for everyone. The incredible landscape and culture of Nepal will leave you wanting to return again and again.
37. Go sandboarding
One of the most enjoyable ways to have fun in the desert is to try sandboarding. Flying down the sand dunes is a thrilling activity and is fun for all ages. It’s a popular thing to do in many of the world’s great deserts from Namibia to Western Australia and even Peru.
The only downside is the hike up to the top of the dune takes twice as long and is twice as hard!
38. Stay in a ger in Mongolia
Mongolia is one of the most underrated adventure destinations. The vast landscapes offer a great off the beaten track experience and the best way to appreciate the nomadic life is to stay the night in a traditional tent known as a “ger”.
The circular homes of the nomads are incredibly fascinating and many of the families open their doors to visitors. Spending the night camping in a ger is definitely one of Asia’s most special bucket list ideas.
39. Visit Petra in Jordan
The famous Lost City of Petra is undoubtedly one of the true highlights of any Middle East trip. This former capital of the Nabataean Empire is one place everyone needs to see once in their life. The incredibly rugged sandstone cliffs have been carved out into impressive buildings like the Monastery and the Treasury.
It’s one of the must see places in Jordan and should be another addition to your great bucket list ideas.
40. Ride the Trans-Siberian railway
A travelers bucket list is not complete without the Trans-Siberian Railway. This epic train journey from Moscow to Beijing takes you across some of the most remote places in the world. There are plenty of stops to make along the way, but this trip is not about a destination, but the journey itself.