50 Ultimate Travel Bucket List Ideas

13 Sep 2018

Looking for bucket list inspiration? Look no further. We asked Flight Centre’s most knowledgeable Destination Experts to give us the lowdown on their favourite travel must-sees, the sights and activities they think you, the traveller should add to your travel bucket list.

And here it is: our top 50 travel experiences. How many have you done?

1. Visit Australia’s Great Barrier Reef

Stealing the number one spot on Flight Centre’s Travel Bucket List is the Great Barrier Reef. The largest living organism in the world, the Great Barrier Reef can be explored in a multitude of ways. Choose from diving and snorkelling, boat trips, cruises, submarine excursions, helicopter and seaplane flights and even staying overnight on it.

2. Soar above the Grand Canyon in a helicopter, USA

At around six million years old, the Grand Canyon is one the Seven Wonders of the Natural World. Stretching for 277 miles, this vast canyon offers a diverse range of activities. But surely the best way to see it is from a helicopter, soaring high above the mile-deep chasm and even landing in it for a picnic lunch.

3. Look out for elephants in Thailand’s Khao Sok National Park

For a good chance of spotting an Asian elephant, head deep into the misty jungles of Khao Sok National Park. Or better yet, spend a night or two at Elephant Hills luxury jungle eco-camp, where rescued elephants are given a second chance at life. Help feed and wash the elephants while staying in a floating tents on a tranquil lake.

4. Cruise New Zealand’s Fjords

Take a trip to New Zealand’s Fiordland and prepare to be wowed by the magnificent mountain and ocean scenery. The best way to explore is by boat, as this allows you to view the outer reaches of Doubtful or Milford Sound, the two most popular spots, and to get so close to the waterfalls that dot the cliff edges that you can feel the spray.

5. Ride the Rocky Mountaineer train across Canada

One of the best railway journeys in the world, the Rocky Mountaineer winds its way through snow-dusted mountains and past glittering lakes from Vancouver to Jasper, Banff, Calgary or Lake Louise. Every twist and turn along the route offers jaw-dropping vistas of dramatic gorges and canyons, as well as the chance to spot moose, eagles and bighorn sheep.

6. Watch the sun rise over Angkor Wat, Cambodia

The temples of Angkor are one of the world’s most impressive sights, and the main reason to visit Cambodia. Although there are plenty of temples to explore, each one different, it is Angkor Wat itself that makes the most impressive sunrise-watching spot. Observe as the sun’s rays slowly reveal its corridors and carvings, and the spires come to life in the morning light.

7. Spot the Big Five in South Africa’s Kruger National Park

If you’ve always dreamed of going on safari, then South Africa’s Kruger National Park is the place to do it. Home to lions, cheetahs, leopards, giraffes, hippos, rhinos and buffalo, as well as vast herds of elephants, the park well and truly ticks off the Big Five list. So, set your alarm early, grab your camera and binoculars, head out into the bush and see what you can find.

8. Cruise emerald green waters of Vietnam’s Ha Long Bay

Ha Long Bay, whose name means ‘Bay of Descending Dragons’, is one of the world’s most beautiful natural wonders, and a World Heritage site. Sail among the picturesque karst peaks and craggy ocean rocks that rise skywards from the emerald waters of the Gulf of Tonkin and explore the many grottoes, either by kayak or by boat.

9. Gaze up at the Taj Mahal, India

The ultimate monument to love, the smooth white marble and semi-precious stones of the Taj Mahal make it one of the world’s most magnificent buildings. Remarkably, the Taj’s changes colour with the sun; come at sunrise for soft pinks and purples, or sunset for glowing orange. It’s every bit as spectacular as you imagine.

10. Set sail on a cruise around the Galapagos Islands

Out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, around 563 miles west of Ecuador, lie the Galapagos Islands, an archipelago of 13 islands stuffed full of rare wildlife and the inspiration for Charles Darwin’s Theory of Natural Selection. Cruise the waters and keep an eye out for giant tortoises, exotic birds, penguins, sea lions and marine iguanas.

11. Hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, Peru

Follow in the footsteps of an ancient civilisation on the world-famous Inca Trail, a 26-mile stone pathway through the Andes leading to the mountaintop settlement of Machu Picchu. Taking around four days to complete, the route reaches altitudes of 4,200m and is tough in sections, but it’s worth it for the Inca ruins, dramatic peaks and the sight of Machu Picchu itself.

12. Walk along the Great Wall of China

Accessed from Beijing, The Great Wall of China snakes its way over 13,000 miles, stretching from Jiayuguan in the west to Old Dragon’s Head in the east, where it plunges dramatically into the ocean. Take a walk on the sections near Badaling and Juyongguan, both easy day trips from the capital, and soak up the mountain views.

13. Drive the Pacific Coast Highway, USA

Stretching along California’s Pacific Coast from San Francisco to San Diego, the Pacific Coast Highway is an epic drive. Follow the open road and cruise the twists and turns of this glorious coastline, including rugged cliffs, pretty villages and various wine growing regions. It takes 10 hours to drive in one go, but take a few days to ensure you have time to stop and explore.

14. Gaze across Lake Louise in Banff National Park, Canada

Deep in the heart of Banff National Park, Alberta’s Lake Louise is more than just a sparkling, glacial-fed mountain basin. Cradled by vast unspoiled mountain peaks and 4,200 acres of the world’s finest skiing and snowboarding, as well as being home to bears, elk and wolves, this lake is the perfect outdoor adventure and photography hub.

15. See Japan’s cherry blossom in full bloom, Tokyo

Visit Japan between the end of March and mid-April and you’ll be treated to the beautiful sight of the country’s cherry blossom trees in full bloom, carpeting the cities in various shades of pinks and creams. It’s a wonderful time to visit: for the best of the blossom head for Ueno or Kitanomaru Parks, and be sure to bring your camera!

16. Go whale watching in Kaikoura, New Zealand

Nothing quite prepares you for your first sight of a sperm whale, its tail protruding from the waves, spray shooting far into the air. Kaikoura is a great place to spot these 70-tonne cetaceans, and they’ll likely swim pretty close to your boat. While you’re at it, keep an eye out for humpbacks, pilot whales, southern right whales and dolphins too.

17. Cruise the Mekong Delta, Vietnam

A vast watery network of canals and rivers, lined with traditional villages and dotted with fishing boats, the Mekong Delta offers a rare glimpse of rural life in Vietnam. Set sail and soak up the endless vistas of the green rice paddies, the floating markets, the temples and the pagodas, and be sure to stop off at a village or two.

18. Take a bite of the Big Apple in New York, USA

Bold, brash and bright New York is one of the world's most visited cities, and with good reason. Whether you're exploring Manhattan, crossing Brooklyn Bridge, heading north to the Bronx, checking out Queens or sailing around Staten Island, make sure you experience it all in the world's most exciting city.

19. Ascend Rio de Janeiro’s Sugarloaf Mountain, Brazil

Let the cable car at Rio de Janeiro’s Sugarloaf Mountain whisk you 396m above the ocean, treating you to panoramic views of the beaches and backstreets of Rio below you. Look out for Copacabana Beach and Guanabara Bay among the forests, and the majestic statue of Christ the Redeemer peeking through the distant mists.

20. Drive Australia’s Great Ocean Road

Hire a car and set off on an epic road trip along Australia’s Great Ocean Road, 150 miles of rugged cliffs and sandy coves, with the famous limestone stacks of the Twelve Apostles along its route. Give yourself a few days at least, so that you can make detours inland, stopping at the rainforests and wildlife-rich parks you pass along the way.

21. Admire the views in Yosemite National Park, USA

Glittering proudly in America’s National Parks crown, Yosemite is a vast wilderness of plunging waterfalls, deep valleys, majestic meadows, ancient giant sequoias and jaw dropping natural spectacles. Give yourself plenty of time to explore, as you’ll want to stop often for photos of the truly spectacular vistas.

22. Kayak New Zealand’s Abel Tasman National Park

With sparkling turquoise seas, varied walking tracks following the rugged coastline and myriad birds and marine life, Abel Tasman is undoubtedly one of New Zealand’s most beautiful national parks. The best way to explore is by boat or kayak, stopping to explore the rainforests on foot, flop on the beaches and look out for seals in the bays.

23. Dive the crystal clear waters of the Philippines

With underwater visibility sometimes reaching 20 metres or more, and a plethora of marine life to discover, the Philippines is ones of the best places in the world to dive. Suitable for both beginners and experienced scuba divers, the country’s 7,107 islands offer whale sharks, turtles, sea snakes and a number of sunken World War II ships and planes to explore.

24. Watch the Northern Lights dance in Canada’s Yukon

Canada’s Yukon is a wild, remote region, home to few people but plenty of bears, wolves and moose. It’s also where you’ll find the mysterious and somewhat elusive Aurora Borealis, otherwise known as the Northern Lights, which shine brightly in its inky darkness. Come between September and April to watch the blues, greens and reds shimmer across the night sky.

25. Watch the changing colours of Uluru at sunset, Australia

Uluru, or Ayers Rock, a massive sandstone monolith jutting from the barren earth in Australia’s Red Centre, is a magical place. Come at sunset and watch the colours change across its surface, from red, to gold to purple and pink, before it disappears into the night. Better yet, enjoy a Sound of Silence Dinner, and watch the shades shift over a sumptuous meal.

26. Take a road trip along South Africa’s Garden Route

One of the world’s greatest road trips, the Garden Route is a 125-mile portion of South Africa’s N2 Highway, stretching between Mossel Bay and Storms River. However, most people begin in Cape Town, from where you can wind down the windows and watch as you pass by lagoons, mountains, national parks, cliffs and the ocean, and where if you’re lucky you might spot a whale.

27. Look for orangutans in Borneo, Malaysia

Not many people can say they’ve seen an orangutan in its natural habitat. But head to the island of Borneo and you’ve every chance of spotting one, perhaps at the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre for orphaned and injured orangutans in Sabah or, if you’re really lucky, swinging through the treetops along the Kinabatangan River.

28. Learn to cook pad Thai in Chiang Mai, Thailand

What could be better than feasting on deliciously fresh Thai food? How about cooking deliciously fresh Thai food? If you’ve always wanted to whip up your very own pad Thai, then Chiang Mai is the place to do it. Stuffed full of cookery school and with classes to suit all levels of ability and all tastes, Chiang Mai is cookery class central. Go on, sign up and give it a go!

29. Spot bears in British Columbia, Canada

Wild bears are somewhat elusive, but to increase your chances to glimpsing one, head to Canada. Here, the forests and rivers of British Columbia are home to grizzly and black bears, while polar bears frequent the Arctic North, and Klemtu offers the chance to see the incredibly rare spirit bear, famous for its fluffy white coat.

30. Hike the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, New Zealand

Popular with Lord of the Rings fans in search of Mordor, Tongariro National Park is known for its 12-mile tramping track, the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. Don your walking boots, grab your walking poles and set off on adventure through glaciated landscapes, lava flows, hot springs and craters, before finishing, seven to nine hours later, among the dark forests.

31. Browse Bangkok’s floating markets, Thailand

Bangkok’s legendary floating markets are quite a sight to behold. Picture longboats, crammed with piles of exotic fruit or freshly fried noodles, floating gently up and down the river, behatted vendors shouting for business, while punters haggle for bargains and tourists look on, entranced. This is one Krung Thep tradition you don’t want to miss.

32. Chill out in Key West, Florida, USA

There’s more than just a touch of Caribbean flavour in Key West, the southernmost point of the USA. Here, the flowers bloom brightly, the palm trees sway in the warm breeze, the streets throng with colour and the bars and cafes bustle by day and night. Come to relax on the sands, watch the sunset or cycle among the historic architecture.

33. Ascend Table Mountain, Cape Town, South Africa

At 1,085m, the flat-topped Table Mountain towers over Cape Town and the ocean beyond. When the famous tablecloth (a stubborn cloud that cloaks the summit) is absent, view-seekers can take the rotating cable car to the top, and some even walk. Once you’ve soaked up the panoramas, why not abseil back down again?

34. Come face to face with Xi’an’s Terracotta Army, China

The Terracotta Warriors, a stern-faced army of 8,000 clay soldiers, 130 chariots and 520 horses, were built 2,200 years ago to guard the entrance to the tomb of Emperor Qin Shi Huang, who died in 210 BC. The figures are Xi’an’s number one draw, so take your time to explore them, or perhaps hire a local guide to learn more about their history.

35. Climb Sydney Harbour Bridge, Australia

Conquer your fear of heights with a climb up the 1,332 steps of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Involving ladders, ramps and catwalks, some perilously close to the edge and the cars rushing by below, this is a heart-in-your-mouth hike you won’t forget in a hurry. And the reward for all this? Spectacular views of Sydney Harbour and the Opera House of course!

36. Feel the spray of Niagara Falls, Canada

Plummeting 50 vertical metres from Lake Ontario (Canada) into Lake Erie (US), Niagara Falls’ thunderous smash of height and volume commands attention. Stand and stare at it from the viewpoints, feel the spray up close on a cruise, or don your waterproofs and venture behind the cascade on a Journey Behind the Falls boat trip.

37. Explore the ancient Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza, Mexico

An ancient archaeological site, Chichen Itza was one of the largest Mayan cities in existence. Covering approximately six square miles, the city consisted of numerous structures that are now in various states of preservation and restoration, including El Castillo, the Temple of the Warriors and the Great Ball Court. Come to soak up the history and mystery of the place.

38. Take in New England’s fall colours, USA

In autumn, or fall as they call it across the pond, New England is simply charming. Think snuggly fireside chats, strolls among the sun-dappled trees, and the gorgeous golds and russets of the autumn leaves. For the best of the fall colours, head for Boston, Acadia National Park in Maine or New Hampshire’s White Mountains.

39. Dive Australia’s ‘other’ reef at Ningaloo

Forget the Great Barrier Reef, come to Western Australia’s Ningaloo Reef to snorkel or dive among the turtles, octopuses, sharks and rays or, if you are visiting between March and July, swim alongside enormous whale sharks, which grow to lengths of up to 14 metres, on a boat trip. Don’t worry though; these gentle giants are harmless to humans.

40. Island hop in Koh Phi Phi, Thailand

With sweeping powdery white beaches at the foot of towering limestone cliffs and impossibly clear waters of intense blue, the photogenic Phi Phi islands are one of the shimmering jewels of the Andaman Sea. Sail the turquoise seas between them by boat, stopping to snorkel in sandy coves and swim among colourful fish.

41. Cross the Outback on board the Ghan train, Australia

One of Australia’s legendary long-distance rail journeys, the Ghan Train whisks passengers 1,851 miles between Adelaide and Darwin via Alice Springs, crossing the Outback in around 54 hours. Watch the red sands pass by from your cabin and enjoy an intimate three-course dinner in the Queen Adelaide Restaurant carriage.

42. Drive the streets of Havana, Cuba in a classic car

There’s no better way to immerse yourself in Havana’s intoxicating salsa beats and soak up the vibrant architecture and distinct flavours of its crumbling streets than from the back of an open-top classic car, preferably one in a distinctive, eye-catching colour. Wind your way through the backstreets and feel the wind in your hair.

43. Tour the vineyards of Stellenbosch, South Africa

Stellenbosch is a delightful town filled with handsome Cape Dutch Architecture and some diverting museums and galleries. But forget all that; what you’re really here for is the wine. Head out to a mountain vineyard and spend an afternoon sampling fine wines and cheeses while overlooking row upon row of sun-drenched vines.

44. Drive Canada’s Icefields Parkway

Over 140 miles of snow-capped mountains, pine forests and creeping glaciers make up the Icefields Parkway, one of the world’s most beautiful drives. Also known as Highway 93, the route winds its way through the Rockies, travelling through Banff National Park, Jasper National Park and Lake Louise, offering endless opportunities for photo stops.

45. Scare yourself senseless in Queenstown, New Zealand

Adrenaline capital of New Zealand, if not the whole world, Queenstown is not only the birthplace of the bungee jump but also features the world’s highest swing, plus a list of adrenaline-inducing adventures as long as your arm. Choose from heli-skiing, jet boating, skydiving, parasailing, river boarding, horse riding, zip lining and many, many more.

46. Admire the Golden Pavilion in Kyoto, Japan

Glittering delightfully in the sunlight, the Golden Pavilion, or Kinkakuji, is one of Japan’s most impressive sights. Surrounded by beautifully manicured gardens and a serene reflecting pool, this World Heritage-listed temple dates back to 1397. Come in spring to see it framed by dusky pink cherry blossom, or autumn, to admire the golds and reds of the maple trees.

47. Unleash your inner cowboy on a ranch in Texas, USA

Let your cowboy dreams become a reality in Texas, the home of cowboy culture. The Lone Star state boasts a number of ranches where you can don a big white hat, cowboy boots and ride off into the sunset. Try it for yourself at the 1,500 acre Wildcatter Ranch and Resort, where wagon rides, shooting, archery and trail riding are all on offer.

48. Spot tigers in the wild in Ranthambore, India

The deep forests of rugged Ranthambore National Park are home to most regal of the big cats, the Bengal tiger. Set off on safari and see if you can catch a glimpse of one but, even if you don’t, fear not, as leopards, jaguars, jungle cats, crocodiles, antelope and a wide variety of birds can also be spotted here.

49. Taste the wine in South Australia

South Australia where you’ll find both the Barossa and Clare Valleys, two of Australia’s most celebrated wine regions. Come to sip on award-winning Semillons and Shirazes, relax among the vines, admire the magnificent views and indulge in a delicious meal in a boutique winery, perfectly matched to a chilled glass of your favourite.

50. Cruise the Mississippi in New Orleans, USA

One of the USA’s most historically and culturally rich cities, New Orleans is awash with European influences, Caribbean colours and Creole flair. Take it all in from the water with a relaxing cruise down the Mississippi on board a paddlewheel steamboat. Even better, do it at night, under the stars, accompanied by a lavish Creole dinner, with the sounds of jazz filling the air.

Angela Griffin

Born with a severe case of itchy feet, I’ve tried to appease my perpetual wanderlust by selling high-end safaris, dabbling in guidebook writing and more recently travel writing and blogging, but to no avail. A life-long lover of the great outdoors, I’m at my happiest when hiking up a mountain, or skiing down one.