We haven’t been everywhere… yet. But, we have been to over 60 countries over the course of 7 years, and we’ve been able to check quite a few adventures off our massive combined bucket list (plus a few extras).
So we’ve compiled a list of our 15 favorite epic and awe-inspiring around-the-world adventures that you must add to your bucket list in 2023!
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The Best Bucket List Trips in the World
1. Myanmar: Bike through the Temples of Bagan
Bagan is an ancient city located in the Mandalay region of Myanmar (the country formerly known as Burma). It is home to the remains of over 2,000 surviving temples and pagodas during the height of the kingdom between the 11th and 13th centuries. But, it’s estimated that there were over 10,000 in the region!
You can view the amazing landscape of the region from the sky in an air balloon, by renting a bicycle from one of the many shops in town, or directly from your hotel. Cruise around on your bike through the lush greenery of the unspoiled region and then hop off at the pagodas that pique your interest to explore inside.
Head for higher ground to get spectacular views during sunrise and sunset. It will be an amazingly adventurous bucket list trip that you’ll never forget!
2. Turkey: Float in a Hot Air Balloon in Cappadocia
Sure, you can take a hot air balloon ride pretty much anywhere in the world. But generally, you’re just a solo balloon floating above the clouds in awe of the beautiful scenery below. In the Cappadocia region of Turkey, there are hundreds of colorful balloons that take to the sky just before sunrise.
You’ll sail high above the otherworldly landscape, get close enough to the “fairy chimneys” to touch, and then dip low into the valleys to get an up-close view of the cave houses. All while being surrounded by hundreds of other balloons, which makes the already epic scenery appear to be something out of a fairy tale.
You’ve never seen anything like it before and you won’t find an experience like it anywhere else!
3. Egypt: Stand in Awe Beneath the Pyramids of Giza
If you are an ancient history buff, a visit to Egypt is an absolute must! Just outside of Cairo in the city of Giza, you’ll find the oldest of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World – the Great Pyramid of Giza.
Three pyramids make up the Giza pyramid complex and all are quite spectacular to see in person. The ancient Egyptian pharaohs believed that upon their death, they needed assistance in reaching the afterlife. So they had elaborate mummification processes and massive tombs filled with jewelry, treasures, and even a full-sized boat that you can see on display in the Khufu Boat Museum in the complex.
The Great Pyramid was the tallest man-made structure in the world for over 3,800 years. And as you get close to it, you realize that all of the stones fit together perfectly, with a mean opening of the joints of only 0.5 millimeters. How they managed such precision remains a mystery to this day.
4. USA: Swim beneath Havasu Falls in Arizona
Havasu Falls is in an area of northern Arizona near the Grand Canyon that is managed by the Havasupai Native American tribe. Permits to visit the area go on sale on February 1st each year and sell out almost immediately as this is arguably one of the most spectacular waterfalls in the entire USA!
But ticking this one off of your bucket list isn’t exactly easy. You’ll need to trek 10 miles through the dusty canyon from the parking lot with all of your food, gear, and supplies, and then set up camp along the river. After all of that hard work, you’ll be ready for a dip in the crystal clear blue water that flows down the five awe-inspiring waterfalls.
Every day will offer a new adventure – whether it’s swimming underneath the iconic Havasu Falls, lounging in the tide pools above, or hiking down the slightly treacherous path to Mooney and Beaver Falls – you’ll never get bored in this pristine wonderland!
5. Peru: Hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu
Most of the hundreds of tourists that visit Machu Picchu each day opt to sleep in, take the train to the ruins, walk around for a few hours, and then head back to town for an early dinner. But that’s not the way the Incas did it, so why should you?
Take the 26-mile road less traveled and choose a three, four, or five-day trek on the Inca Trail to really experience the wonder, magic, and history of the area!
You’ll marvel at the beautiful mountain scenery that rises above and the lush forests below. And you’ll walk across the original paving stones of the Incas while seeing other less-preserved ruins along the way. By the time you finally reach the Sun Gate on your last morning with spectacular views of Machu Picchu far below, you’ll know that you’ve really earned it!
6. Indonesia: Summit Mount Rinjani
Mount Rinjani is an active volcano rising 12,254 feet above the island of Lombok in Indonesia. There is a caldera on the volcano that is filled by the crater lake known as Segara Anak and also fed by a hot spring. The water mixing between the two creates the perfect temperature for an afternoon dip along with the three-day, 21-mile trek.
The scenery along the Mount Rinjani trek changes dramatically each day, and you’ll continuously be in awe of the amazing landscape of this massive volcano.
While it’s possible to trek Mount Rinjani on your own, most hikers choose to go with a tour group since they’ll provide you with the trekking gear you’ll need to make it to the top. Plus they’ll cook for you and wake your exhausted butt up at 3 am to push for the summit.
Once at the top, you’ll be rewarded with breathtaking sunrise views of the entire island below. It’s difficult, but an incredibly rewarding and bucket-list-worthy journey!
7. Argentina: Walk on the Perito Moreno Glacier
The Perito Moreno Glacier is located in Los Glaciares National Park in the Argentinian Patagonia region. The glacier is 97 square miles (19 miles in length, 3.1 miles in width, with an average height of 240 feet above the surface of the water), and is the third-largest reserve of fresh water in the world.
You can view this massive act of mother nature in a number of ways. You can see it from the large viewing area across the lake. You can hop on a boat to get a close-up view of the massive chunks calving off. Or, for a real bucket list hike, you can strap on a pair of crampons and trek across a portion of the mammoth piece of ice.
There are two trekking options; a “mini-trek” that takes about an hour and a half, or a “big ice trek” that takes about five hours. Both are rewarded with spectacular views of the ice formations of the glacier and with an ice-cold glass of whiskey (literally, your whiskey is chilled by a tiny chunk of the glacier).
Your photos from this trip won’t even look real!
8. Bolivia: Drive across the Salar de Uyuni
Covering an area of more than 4,000 square miles, the Salar de Uyuni (aka Salt Flats of Uyuni) is the largest salt flat in the world! It is estimated to contain approximately 10 billion tons of salt, of which less than 25,000 tons is extracted annually.
The region has an extraordinary flatness with elevation variations within only one meter over the entire area, which makes depth perception in photos nearly impossible to gauge.
To visit this area, you can join a tour group and see all of the standard sights including the train cemetery and a cactus island in the middle of the flats. Or, better yet, hire a private driver for several days and stay in a salt hotel where everything from the dining tables to the walls to the bed you sleep in is made out of salt (we licked them all, just to be sure). The private driver offers you the freedom to cruise around the giant flats and make as many stops as you want along the way!
You’ll never forget your salty bucket list adventure, and you’ll have hilarious photos to document the fun!
9. India: Fall in Love with the Taj Mahal
The Taj Mahal is a marble mausoleum in the city of Agra in Northern India. The Mughal emperor Shah Jahan commissioned the 42 acre complex to house the tomb of one of his wives (his favorite wife), Mumtaz Mahal, whose name means “Jewel of the Palace”. She died during complications while giving birth to their 14th child, and while on her deathbed, Shah Jahan promised her that he would never remarry and would build the richest mausoleum over her grave.
The Taj Mahal took 22 years and 22,000 workers to construct. Now one of the Seven Wonders of the World, English poet Sir Edwin Arnold described it as “not a piece of architecture, as other buildings are, but the proud passion of an emperor’s love wrought in living stones.” The beauty that you see in photos can’t even begin to compare with seeing this wonder in person.
10. Jordan: Explore ‘The Lost City’ of Petra
Petra is known as “The Rose City” due to the rose-colored stone that it is carved from and “The Lost City” because it was, well, lost for hundreds of years. It is also one of the “New” Seven Wonders of the World and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Dating back to the third century BC, Petra was nothing but an arid desert and mounds of sandstone before the Nabataean people descended on the area. Creating a virtual oasis with their inventive water collection techniques and carving impressive facades at the entrance of cave dwellings, Petra became home to some 20,000 Nabataeans at its peak.
The ruins of Petra are a majestic archaeological wonder to behold – not just because of their massive size and intricate designs – but also to consider exactly how they were carved. You can see small etch markings lining the sheer rock face of the Treasury. Imagine men precariously perched 120 feet up, painstakingly scratching away at the sandstone!
Site excavations have been ongoing since the early 1900s, and over 800 monuments have been identified and listed. But surprisingly, archaeologists have explored less than half of the site to date!
Today Petra is one of the most visited tourist destinations in the world! It was also chosen by the Smithsonian Magazine as one of the “28 Places to See Before You Die” – how about that for your bucket list?
11. Namibia: Go on a Self-Drive Safari
Getting the opportunity to see wild animals from the comfort (and safety) of your vehicle is an adventure that is on most people’s bucket lists. But the exorbitant cost of a safari sways most until they are retired and finally have the funds to spend.
But Etosha National Park in Namibia allows you the opportunity to do a self-drive safari, which drastically reduces the cost and makes it more accessible to everyone.
Etosha National Park covers an area of 8,600 square miles and is home to a wide range of animal species. You may be lucky enough to spot wild elephants, rhinos, lions, giraffes, leopards, zebras, antelope, and loads of bird species. Plus you can do the tour at your own pace, spending as much time as you want to gaze at the amazing landscape.
A trip to Namibia is an epic adventure that you’ll never forget!
12. Morocco: Spend a Night in the Sahara
Imagine trekking out to the middle of the desert on a camel, to a tent where you will spend the night. You look around and all you see are miles and miles of sand dunes as far as the eye can see. And you have no idea where you came from or how to get back.
That’s exactly the kind of bucket list experience that you can have in the Sahara Desert in Morocco. You can hire a trusty guide and a camel to pack out your luggage in the small town of Merzouga. Your guide will take you several miles into the dunes to a desert camp where they’ll prepare an amazing dinner and you’ll sleep in a tent under the stars.
Be sure to wake up early in the desert – it will be one of the most spectacular sunrises you’ll ever get the opportunity to witness!
13. USA: Survive a Week at Burning Man
Burning Man is an annual event that takes place during the week before Labor Day every year. An enormous salt flat in Nevada is transformed into “Black Rock City” where people spend a week partying, and essentially surviving in this dusty wasteland.
Started in 1986 by a small group of friends who got together on a beach in San Francisco to “burn the man”, it has since amassed to over 70,000 who stand in awe as the 40-foot “man” burns at the end of the week.
The only things for sale at Burning Man are ice and coffee. Everything else is gifted by the kind-hearted souls that attend. And you must bring anything and everything you’ll need to survive for a week – food, water, shelter – everything.
You’ll meet some crazy, amazing people and have an awesome time rolling around on your bike, checking out the epic art installations. It’s truly a bucket list experience of a lifetime!
14. Ecuador: Swim with Sea Turtles in the Galápagos
The Galápagos Islands are an archipelago of volcanic islands in the Pacific Ocean, west of Ecuador. Having been described as a unique “living museum and showcase of evolution”, the islands were studied extensively by Charles Darwin due to their vast number of endemic species.
There are around 25,000 people that live on the islands, but they are far outnumbered by the animals that call it home. These 19 islands and the surrounding marine reserve are home to some of the highest levels of endemism (species found nowhere else on earth) anywhere on the planet. About 80% of the land birds, 97% of the reptiles and land mammals, 30% of the plants, and more than 20% of the marine species in the Galápagos are endemic.
Now a UNESCO World Heritage site with a focus on conservation, the Galápagos Islands are a popular tourist destination for spectacular wildlife viewing opportunities. And since the area is protected, the animals do not see humans as being a threat. So you’ll often share your personal space with lazy sea lions or snorkel alongside curious sea turtles.
You can’t see so many different species up-close-and-personal anywhere else in the world!
15. Iceland: Chase the Northern Lights
A visit to Iceland during the winter months will give you the best chance of seeing the Northern Lights! This natural astronomical phenomenon is on the bucket list of many, and Iceland is one of the few places where you can appreciate them.
Caused by solar particles colliding with the earth’s magnetic fields, the Northern Lights – or Aurora Borealis – is a spectacular nighttime light show. The light patterns are bright with faint green colors glowing and dancing in the sky.
Norse mythology suggests the Aurora Borealis were merely the reflections from the Valkyries’ shields and armor, or simply the Bifrost Bridge leading fallen Viking warriors to Valhalla.
For a better chance to experience them, go out to the wilderness and stay in the countryside. All you need to do is wait and see.
No matter what, you’ll simply love this marvel and your photos will be breathtaking!
So what are you waiting for? Get out there and start planning your bucket list adventures!
Planning an epic trip around the world? Check out our favorite books and travel guides.