Cross off items from your travel bucket list by embarking on one of these once-in-a-lifetime experiences. From spectacular natural wonders to ancient cities, there are plenty of unforgettable destinations to discover around the world.
Sail down stunning fjords in New Zealand. Paddle towards the southernmost tip of the Americas on a canoe. Marvel at gigantic glaciers from up close in Alaska. Explore the world’s famous ruins, like the mystical city of Machu Picchu, the magnificent Colosseum in Rome, and the enduring exterior of the Parthenon in Athens.
If you’re looking for an extraordinary journey, look no further than this list of 13 once-in-a-lifetime adventures.
Experience Alaska’s Glaciers
On a trip to the Last Frontier, you’ll have a chance to get up close and personal with one of Alaska’s impressive glaciers found throughout the state, such as Hubbard Glacier, the largest tidewater glacier in North America, which is also nicknamed “the galloping glacier.”
Witness the beauty of Hubbard’s glistening blue ice, and stare in awe at its 7-mile-long and 400-foot face. Experience what it’s like to watch a calving display, which is when a large chunk of ice detaches from the glacier and crashes into the ocean, creating a roaring sound that is often referred to as “white thunder.”
Journey into Tongass National Forest and hike to the face of Mendenhall Glacier, or admire it from the viewing center in Juneau. Board a helicopter in Skagway and fly over snowy mountains and rivers before landing on top of Denver Glacier, where you can go on a dog sledding adventure across its icy surface.
Sail Down the New Zealand Fjords
Discover the spectacular fjords of New Zealand, one of the most beautiful natural sights you’ll ever see. These narrow inlets of water were carved thousands of years ago by receding glaciers that left stunning rivers of water surrounded by dramatic cliffs and lush rainforests in their wake.
Sail through Fiordland National Park, an eco-wonderland where you’ll find New Zealand’s most fascinating fjords, including Milford Sound, Dusky Sound, and Doubtful Sound. Keep an eye out for waterfalls, and marvel at the wildlife you’ll find in the area, including fur seals, bottlenose dolphins, alpine parrots, and the rare Fiordland Crested Penguin.
Find out why Milford Sound was once described as “the eighth wonder of the world” by the author of The Jungle Book. Cruise through Dusky Sound and watch humpback whales breaching out of the water. Allow the serene environment of Doubtful Sound, often referred to as the “sound of silence,” to soothe you into a blissful, meditative state.
Wander Ancient Ruins in Rome
Follow in the footsteps of gladiators and emperors by touring some of the ancient ruins found scattered around Rome. Go inside the magnificent Colosseum, one of Italy’s most famous landmarks. Tour the sprawling amphitheater, built in AD 80, where deadly gladiator fights, executions, and other bloody forms of entertainment were held.
Visit the Pantheon, an impeccably preserved monument of ancient Rome that once served as a temple to worship the gods. An architectural masterpiece, the Pantheon has been endlessly imitated around the world, and once you see it’s geometric exterior and interior, you’ll understand why.
Other ancient ruins you can visit in Rome include the Roman Forum, the former center of religion and politics; Palantine Hill, the official residence of several emperors; and the Baths of Diocletian, the largest public baths in Ancient Rome.
Discover the Hidden City of Machu Picchu
Discover an ancient world frozen in time at Machu Picchu, one of the most impeccably preserved archaeological ruins in the world.
Nestled within the mountains outside of Cuzco, Peru, Machu Picchu is a sprawling former Incan city that lies almost 8,000 feet above sea level and features over 200 buildings, including houses, temples, and baths made out of stone.
After the Incans abandoned the city during the Spanish conquest of the sixteenth century, Machu Picchu remained hidden for thousands of years until it was discovered by archeologist Hiram Bingham in 1911.
Today, you can walk amongst the impressive remains and experience the area’s mysticism first hand. Marvel at the intricate city and structures that were built well before the invention of the wheel, like Intihuatana Rock, which may have been used as a former sundial or astronomical observatory. Once you step foot in this mysterious city, you’ll understand why Machu Picchu was named one of the Seven Wonders of the World.
Meet the Unique Animals of The Galapagos
Seeing the fascinating Galapagos wildlife is an incredible once-in-a-lifetime experience that can’t be had anywhere else on Earth.
Ever since Charles Darwin devised his theories of evolution and natural selection after spending time around the islands in the nineteenth century, environmentalists and animal lovers have been drawn to the Galapagos.
Discover endemic flora and fauna that are found nowhere else on Earth, like the Española lava lizard, the giant Galapagos tortoise, the blue-footed booby, and a large colony of frigate birds.
Snorkel in its warm and diverse waters and see Galapagos fur seals lounging in the distance, swim with sea turtles, and spot colorful schools of fish.
Hike on hills made up of hardened black lava, and dip your toes in black-sand beaches and green-tinted shores. Take a stroll through a white Palo Santo forest and admire the arid volcanic landscapes of this untouched natural paradise.
Take a Gondola Ride in Venice
Take your loved one on an unforgettable gondola ride through the canals of Venice, one of the most romantic cities in the world.
Explore La Serenissima while aboard one of these unique wooden boats that have been winding their way through Venice’s intricate network of canals for decades.
Allow a gondolier, clad in a traditional striped shirt and straw hat, point out some of the city’s most famous landmarks, such as the Rialto Bridge—the oldest bridge in Venice—and the Bridge of Sighs. Legend says if you kiss your sweetheart under the awning of the Bridge of Sighs as the bells of St. Mark’s toll, you’ll stay together forever.
Soak In the Healing Minerals of the Blue Lagoon in Iceland
It’s easy to see why over a million people flock to this mineral-rich lagoon in Iceland every year. The heated lagoon glows with milky blue water and is surrounded by stunning black lava formations that heighten the landscape’s allure.
The man-made lagoon is sourced by silica-rich water from a nearby geothermal power plant. In the 1980s, locals discovered the healing and skin-purifying properties of the lagoon, and it quickly became a popular swimming hole. Today, it’s been transformed into a world-class spa with a nearby resort, restaurant, and shop, where you can buy skin products featuring the Blue Lagoon’s nourishing minerals.
Marvel at La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona
Admire one of the world’s most renowned architectural masterpieces in Barcelona, where the four unique towers of La Sagrada Familia await. The striking Catholic basilica, designed by superstar architect Antoni Gaudí, has been in construction for more than 130 years and is scheduled for completion within the next ten years.
Take your time admiring the building’s intricate Gothic facade and religious symbols, many of which depict the life of Christ, from his birth to his resurrection. Step inside and marvel at the smooth white columns and glass-stained windows. Head up the winding staircases and make your way to the top of one of La Sagrada Familia’s iconic towers for an unbeatable view of Barcelona’s cityscape.
Embark on a Canoe at the End of the World
Journey to “the end of the world” in Ushuaia, the gateway to Tierra del Fuego, an archipelago located at the southernmost tip of South America. Tierra del Fuego National Park is a spectacular 150,000-acre natural haven that contains towering glaciers, untouched forests, and snow-capped mountains.
For a truly once-in-a-lifetime adventure, hop on a canoe and paddle through the serene lakes and glacier-fed rivers of Tierra del Fuego, where you’ll feel like you have all of Mother Nature’s bounty to yourself.
Make your way to Laguna Verde, a beautiful green lagoon with ample opportunities to spot rare birds including condors, albatross, and sea petrels. Finish off your trip to the end of the world with a stop at the Pan-American Road, a highway that extends from North America all the way to the tip of Ushuaia.
Walk Around The Acropolis in Athens
History lovers can walk through one of the most important ancient ruins of the world during a visit to the Acropolis in Greece. Perched above a hill in Athens, the Acropolis (which means “high city”) was a center of worship that dates back to the Bronze Age.
Many of the buildings and temples within the Acropolis were built during the fifth century, the golden age of Athens. A number of structures are dedicated to the goddess Athena, including its crowning achievement: the Parthenon.
The Parthenon is a breathtaking example of Classical Greek architecture and continues to serve as a lasting symbol of Ancient Greece, democracy, and Western culture. Today, it is by far the most visited landmark in all of Athens. Most of its white marble exterior remains intact thanks to massive restoration efforts by the government.
Discover the Icy Paradise of Antarctica
For a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience, explore the frozen wonderland of Antarctica, the southernmost continent in the world. Breathe in the fresh, icy air as you sail through icebergs and frozen bays, see humpback and minke whales making their way through its frigid waters, and take photos of lazy elephant seals lounging on top of rocks.
Enjoy spectacular snowy mountain views of Rojas Peak and Bryde Peak. Stare in awe at the glimmering blue facade of the Petzval Glacier. Witness the vastness of the snow-covered South Pole while crossing the Schollart Channel, a scenic waterway with even more photo opportunities.
In Paradise Bay and Elephant Island, watch playful penguins waddle on the icy terrain before diving into the water for food.
See Masterpieces of the Renaissance in Tuscany
Go museum-hopping and see some truly spectacular art during a visit to Florence, the birthplace of the Renaissance movement.
Aside from indulging in authentic Tuscan food and cones of gelato to your heart’s content, one of the best things to do in this Italian gem is to marvel at some of the world’s greatest masterpieces.
Stop by the Galleria dell’Accademia, where Michelangelo’s Statue of David stands 17 feet tall. Marvel at the perfection of this marble statue and its impeccable details that were created at the beginning of the sixteenth century with only a hammer and chisel.
At the Uffizi Gallery, you’ll find “The Birth of Venus,” one of Sandro Botticelli’s most ethereal paintings, which depicts the goddess of love and beauty. Roam the museum’s halls and discover other Renaissance masterpieces by Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, and Caravaggio.
Admire the Stunning Iguazu Falls
Experience the thrill of visiting Iguazu Falls, the world’s largest collection of waterfalls. Located on the border between Argentina and Brazil, Iguazu Falls is made up of 275 waterfalls that span almost two miles and vary in size and potency.
Get up close to this powerful display of nature, and allow its thunderous noise and breathtaking beauty to win you over. You can spot the falls from a number of lush trails and scenic observatories nearby, but don’t miss walking on the footbridge that takes you right above the Devil’s Throat, the site’s highest cascade, where you’ll be enveloped by a refreshing cool mist that rises from the base of the falls.
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