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14 Thrilling Bucket List Adventures Every Serious Travel Lover Should Take In This Lifetime

What's the best bucket list trip you've ever taken?

There are endless ways to travel. Whether you're seeking a rejuvenating tropical getaway, a cultural urban escape, or an off-the-beaten path adventure, there are a million places you can choose to go.

A traveler waiting to board at the airport
Anucha Songsap / Getty Images/EyeEm

And there are a handful of travel adventures that you might even call life-changing. Here are 14 once-in-a-lifetime bucket list experiences ‚ÄĒ from all over the globe ‚ÄĒ that are absolutely worth taking.

1. Explore miles and miles of wrecked ships on Namibia's skeleton coast.

Namibia's skeleton coast.
Ryan Green / Getty Images

Lions stalk seals along a gorgeous white stretch of sand, and among the towering sand dunes, there's nothing but shipwrecks for a hundred miles in each direction. This is Namibia's "Skeleton Coast." Stretching for 500 kilometers between the Angolan border and the city of Swakopmund, it's a virtually uninhabited coastline named for the hundreds of wrecked ships and centuries-old animal bones that line its shores. Travelers can scuba dive around the shipwrecks, explore the coastline, and even spend the night in a shipwreck-shaped cabin. 

2. Admire the beauty of Angkor Wat in Cambodia.

Angkor Wat in Cambodia
Pakawat Thongcharoen / Getty Images

Located in northwestern Cambodia, Angkor is a UNESCO world heritage site and one of the most impressive archeological sites in Southeast Asia, if not the world. Once the capital of the Cambodian Empire and the epicenter of the Khmer dynasty, the huge complex extends for 400 square kilometers ‚ÄĒ and it encompasses temples like the Bayon, Angkor Wat (the most famous), Ta Prohm, and Preah Khan. Nearly every square foot of each structure is covered in intricate hand carvings.

3. Go on a safari in Kenya.

Kenyan safari
Pierre-yves Babelon / Getty Images

Kenya is a safari destination that offers incredible natural beauty and thrilling encounters with wildlife. Many of the country's safari options are also environmentally conscious; they combat poaching and protect animals in their natural environments by giving would-be poachers employment opportunities as rangers. They also educate local tribes on how they can support themselves through eco-tourism rather than traditional hunting methods. 

Travelers can visit Amboseli National Park to spot elephant herds, gaze at the  Mount Kilimanjaro scenery, and see mega-herds of wildebeest trampling through Maasai Mara. From Kenya, make your way to neighboring Rwanda or Uganda for the chance to go gorilla-trekking. 

4. Celebrate Día de los Muertos in Mexico.

dia de los muertos shrine
Rob Tilley / Getty Images

Día de los Muertos is one of Mexico's most important religious and cultural holidays. Celebrated on November 1, the day honors deceased family and friends not by mourning their passing, but by celebrating the joy of life with vibrant processions and offerings. 

This acknowledgement of the continuity of life traces its roots back to ancient Maya, Olmec, and Zapotec cultures. Celebrations in the ancient highland town of P√°tzcuaro and the colonial city of Oaxaca are particularly popular, so book early if you're looking to experience the holiday there.

5. Hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu.

Machu Picchu
Kelly Cheng Travel Photography / Getty Images

Located 50 miles from the city of Cusco and built into a ridge of the Andes Mountains is Machu Picchu. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, and one of the New Seven Wonders of the Modern World, a visit to this ancient Incan city is even more awe-inspiring than you might imagine. 

At 7,000-plus feet above sea level, the ruins are surrounded by clouds and are made up of hundreds of ancient homes, bathhouses, temples, bridges, walls, and terraces. The easiest way to reach Machu Picchu is a 3.5-hour scenic train ride from Aguas Calientes. More adventurous travelers can choose to hike the Inca Trail with a licensed tour operator. 

6. Float in a hot air balloon in Cappadocia, Turkey.

Floating in a hot air balloon in Cappadocia, Turkey.
Gabriela Bianchini / Getty Images/EyeEm

The Turkish city of Cappadocia basically looks like a scene from a fairy tale. The rocky landscape was originally formed by erosion and volcanic eruptions, and over thousands of years it was transformed into a breathtaking web of tunnels and underground chambers.

The best way to see Cappadocia with its river valleys, cliffs, chimneys, and pillars is from the air. Book a hot air balloon to look down upon the cone-shaped rock formations, Ihlara Canyon, and a network of impressive underground cities. Make sure to book ahead, and check the weather ‚ÄĒ the clearest skies and lightest winds are from April through October.¬†

7. Explore the ice caves in Vatnajökull National Park, Iceland.

Vatnajökull National Park man in glacier
Sam Spicer / Getty Images

Iceland has a hugely diverse landscape that includes everything from active volcanoes and waterfalls to glaciers and geysers. It's also home to some pretty spectacular ice caves. Within Vatnajökull National Park is where you'll find two of the largest glaciers, Skaftafellsjökull and Svínafellsjökull. Skaftafell has trails leading to the Svartifoss waterfall, which cascades over Kristínartindar Mountain. The whole national park a must-see for outdoor adventurers thanks to its ice-capped volcanoes and elfish woodlands. 

8. Gaze at the Pyramids of Giza in Egypt.

pyramids of giza, camel riders
Hadynyah / Getty Images

The Pyramids of Giza are the oldest of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World,  built by Egyptian pharaohs about 4,500 years ago. The construction of the first pyramid began circa 2550 BC, and at 481 feet tall it towers above the desert. It's made of 2.3 million stone blocks that each weigh 2.5 to 15 tons. Of course, each pyramid is only one part of an enormous complex. The most iconic part of Giza, though, is the famous Sphinx, a limestone monument featuring the body of a lion and the head of a pharaoh to stand guard over his tomb during the afterlife.

9. Explore the Pharaoh's Treasury at Petra, Jordan.

The Treasury in Petra
George Pachantouris / Getty Images

Directly carved into colorful sandstone cliffs, Petra is a prehistoric Jordanian city that was, until recently, lost to the Western world. Burrowed into the mountains and desert canyons in the Southwestern corner of the Jordan, parts of Petra are still being uncovered today. The most famous structure is "Khazneh al-Fira'un" (Pharaoh's Treasury), which was named by Bedouins, who believed it to be the site of an Egyptian pharaoh's hidden treasures. For one of the most memorable experiences, consider visiting Petra after dark, which is accompanied by a candlelit musical ceremony.

10. Walk the storied Via Francigena path from Canterbury to Rome.

Along the Via Francigena Path
I Just Try To Tell My Emotions A / Getty Images

Walk the ancient pilgrimage route of Via Francigena, which extends from Canterbury to Rome through rural Italy. You'll pass rustic landscapes, quaint towns, and old-world piazzas along the way. 

Some highlights of the the pilgrimage trail include Great St. Bernard Pass, which leads across the Swiss Alps into the Aosta Valley. As you make the trek, you can fill up on world-famous cured meats and cheese in Parma and drink Sangiovese in Tuscany with its medieval towns, rolling hilltops, and lush vineyards.

11. Swim with sea turtles in the Gal√°pagos Islands.

Gal√°pagos sea turtles
By Wildestanimal / Getty Images

You might remember the Galapagos Islands from high school biology. You know, the place where Charles Darwin famously came up with his theory of evolution? The Galapagos Islands, an Ecuadorian archipelago in the Pacific, is known for its incredible and diverse wildlife and in particular, the Galapagos green turtle.  Weighing up to 700 pounds, it's one of the largest sea turtles in the world. With their heart-shaped shells and graceful heads, they swim alongside snorkelers and other marine life in the cerulean Galapagos waters.


12. Go heli-hiking in the Canadian Rockies.

heli hiking in canada
Alison Wright / Getty Images

Southern British Columbia is covered by miles and miles of remote mountain area, where you'd be hard-pressed to find other hikers, marked trails, or even signs of civilization. For dedicated outdoorsmen, you can be whisked into the wild by helicopter. Heli-hiking allows trekkers to save their energy for the hike ahead and grants access to the most untouched areas of the wilderness. 

Heli-hiking trips in Canada are offered late June to early September, so book a late-July excursion to find foraging pikas and marmots along with fields of wildflowers in full bloom. 

13. Trek the rugged Kimberley region in Australia.

Mitchell falls in the kimberly
David Ramadge / Getty Images

Three times the size of England and with a population of under 40,000, the Kimberley region spreads over the entire northwestern corner of Australia. In fact, it's one of the world's last unspoiled wilderness frontiers. Visitors can hike stunning canyons, spot tons of wildlife, dive into freshwater swimming holes, and sleep under the stars.

Some must-visit spots include Kununurra (home to Purnululu National Park), the Gibb River Road (a road-tripper's dream route), and Broome, one of Australia's more romantic and remote beach towns.

14. Experience Burning Man in the desert.

burning man dancers
Mike Nelson / AFP via Getty Images

Every year, free spirits and creative souls from around the world congregate in Nevada's Black Rock Desert, where they transform a remote stretch of sand and rocks into a temporary haven of music, art, community, and ‚ÄĒ as the name implies ‚ÄĒ fire.¬†

What started as a San Francisco beach fire ceremony in 1986 has since moved to the Nevada desert. Burning Man is based on 10 basic principles, including radical self-expression, communal effort, and radical inclusion. The idea is that for nine days, attendees become the most free-spirited, communal versions of themselves in a spiritually cleansing party of pop-up discos, flame-belching sculptures, and carnival-themed bars. 

What's the most memorable bucket list adventure you've been on? Share in the comments below!

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