There are tours, and then there are TOURS!
Trips-of-a-lifetime are called so for a reason and we’ve compiled the 10 best bucket list tours on the planet. You only live once and you can’t take it with you, so dive in and take one or all the tours below for a truly life-changing experience you’ll never forget.
There are few places left in the world that humans haven’t pillaged, leaving wildlife weary and the ecosystem altered from its natural state. Ecuador’s remote Galapagos Islands are one of those lucky, lonely places.
It’s safe to say there’s nowhere like it in the world. In its current protected state, the archipelago is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a biosphere and marine reserve, as well as a whale sanctuary. The Charles Darwin Research Station ensures the islands maintain their native species while keeping others out.
Nowhere else can you glide alongside marine iguanas, marvel at the wingspan of an albatross, or gawk at the grandeur of a Galapagos tortoise. Lacking natural land predators, endemic penguins and sea lions are unafraid, even curious of visitors, and everyone loves to pose for a photograph. If exotic, exclusive wildlife encounters are your thing, you can’t do better than the Galapagos Islands.
Bucket list tour: G Adventures – Complete Galapagos, 17 Days (Marine Tour aboard the 16-passenger ship, The Eden)
Between November and March, state-of-the-art polar vessels penetrate the icy waters of the White Continent, expanding man’s reach to where few have dared to go mere decades ago.
It’s hard not to feel small here. The exhilaration of setting foot on Antarctica’s pristine terrain can only be matched by catching a breaching blue whale, touching an ancient iceberg or stripping down for the frostiest dip you’re ever likely to take – all of which are on the agenda.
Antarctica’s remoteness lets the soul breathe, to disconnect from everything waiting for you back home (no phone coverage = no choice), and to enjoy quiet moments of solitude, interacting only with those on the same jaw-dropping adventure – and millions of penguins, of course.
Bucket list tour: Intrepid Travel – Antarctic Peninsula, Falkland Islands & South Georgia from Buenos Aires, 20 Days (Polar marine tour aboard the Ocean Endeavour)
Wake up to an orchestra of jungle life in one of the most species-dense environments on the planet, and stay tuned. The vast Amazon may be dwindling in size but it’s still wild enough to house tribes that have never known anything else.
There may not be a better way to experience the Amazon River than aboard The Amatista. Maxing out at 30 passengers, the perfect jungle riverboat adds some comfort to what is otherwise a pretty prickly adventure. Trek to visit local communities, hang out with a shaman, and if you’re lucky, spot a pod of pink dolphins, too.
If the thought of exploring untouched nature, remote societies and one of the wildest places on Earth drive you to travel, the Amazon Jungle is waiting.
Bucket list tour: G Adventures – Amazon Riverboat Adventure in Depth, 9 days (Marine Tour aboard the 30-passenger Amatista). This tour is part of the Jane Goodall Collection of tours.
There isn’t a more contested piece of earth on our planet. The Holy Land, generally considered to include Israel and the Palestinian territories, Lebanon, southwestern Syria and western Jordan, is probably on more travel bucket-lists than any other region.
The religious significance of Jerusalem to three of the world’s main religions has made it a holy place of pilgrimage, where physical manifestations of each faith are front and centre. Visit the first-century city of Magdala, cruise the Sea of Galilee and float on the salty Dead Sea. See ancient scriptures come to life at every amazing turn. There is never a good or bad time to visit the Holy Land – you just go.
Bucket list tour: Globus – Journey Through the Holy Land, 9 days (motor coach tour)
From the beachy spoils of Zanzibar and the lush foothills of Mt Kilimanjaro to the Serengeti and the majestic mountain gorillas of Uganda, an African safari should be on everyone’s adventure travel radar.
While it isn’t hard to find a luxury lodge to base your game viewing from, nothing beats setting up a tent and camping in Africa. Using quality local guides, cook and driver, traversing the spectacular landscapes in a comfortable off-road vehicle is pure adventure. And elephants are pretty cool, too.
Bucket list tour: On the Go Tours – Gorilla Trek & Tanzania Northbound, 25 days (overland camping safari)
A seemingly never-ending sea of sand against a fiery sky, both day and night. The mighty Sahara Desert, the world’s largest stretch of sand, is truly a sight to behold.
Morocco is the ultimate gateway and a perfect place to start. Browse the busy souks of Marrakech, find a moment of peace in its sacred mosques, and marvel at its posh palaces. Tour beautiful Casablanca, the ancient city of Fes and the lively capital, Rabat. Lounge on the spectacular beaches of Essaouira before crossing the Atlas Mountain range into the dry oblivion of Berbers, camel-back.
Bucket list tour: On the Go Tours – Camels, Souks & Kasbahs, 15 days
Don’t let the cold concrete of capital Ulaanbaatar fool you. In a Mongolian-minute you’ll be amongst the most dramatic landscapes and wide open spaces not only in Eurasia but the planet.
The mostly Buddhist people are warm and hearty folk – they have to be. Nearly a third of the population is still nomadic, evident by the countless portable Gers that dot the grassy steppe. Stumble upon a herd of wild horses in Khustain Nuruu National Park, soak in a natural hot spring and gaze at the biggest sky you’re ever likely to see. Raw, magical Mongolia is a place lost in time, just waiting to be discovered.
Bucket list tour: Intrepid Travel – Wild Mongolia, 15 days OR Trans-Mongolian Experience, from St. Petersburg to Beijing, 20 days
From the modern metropolis that is Perth, it’s hard to imagine the stunning natural beauty you are in for, just a short drive or ferry away.
With dozens of beaches and pristine off-shore islands along the Coral Coast, you don’t have to go far to have a beach all to yourself. Gorgeous Rottnest Island is a must, as is the wine region of Margaret River and the tiny Fairy Penguins of, well, Penguin Island. Romantically remote, Western Australia will quickly have you wondering why everyone flocks to the east.
Bucket list tour: Intrepid Travel – Perth to Broome Overland, 10 days (camping, maximum group size: 20)
If the islands themselves could speak, they’d certainly be content to be flown over and forgotten. That’s not to say they’re unfriendly, rather just happier with their limited crowds.
Forever green, the Portuguese Azores are the Islands of Hawaii in the Atlantic, only cooler. Whale watching? Some of the best in the world. Hiking? More trails than you can shake a walking stick at. Surfing and volcanoes? You betcha. They are also a lesson in landscaping, showcasing some of the world’s prettiest gardens and fertile farmland. From Sao Miguel to Pico and Faial, the Azores are blindingly beautiful, leaving one to wonder where they’ve been all along.
Bucket list tour: Intrepid Travel – Highlights of the Azores, 7 days
National Geographic Journeys
Exclusive to G Adventures, this collection of sanctioned, small-group escorted tours adhere to the quality associated with the iconic National Geographic brand.
National Geographic Journeys delve deeper, teaching through onboard historians, marine biologists, naturalists, photographers, chefs, and others, to help guests better understand the cultures and habitats of some of the world’s most sensitive and sought-after destinations.
All designated tours support the National Geographic Society’s non-profit work in conservation, research and education.
Bucket list tour: G Adventures – tours available is North, Central & South America, Europe and the Middle East, Asia, Africa and Oceania.