Under a big blue sky littered with white fluffy clouds, a giraffe crosses a track in front of a safari jeep in a Tanzanian savannah.

Once-in-a-lifetime experiences

The best bucket-list trips

Dreaming of adventure? From the Northern Lights to an African safari, here’s our insider guide to planning your trip of a lifetime.

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Fine dining and outdoor adventure 

When a chef on FX’s The Bear needs to learn the world’s deepest culinary secrets, for inspiration, he travels to the waterfront city of Copenhagen, Denmark, to eat and taste everything. You can do the same. The cultural capital’s many Michelin-star restaurants focus on local and sustainable ingredients, such as Noma’s ‘The hen and the egg’, where you cook the egg at your table (get in fast to experience it, as Noma closes at the end of 2024), or Geranium’s edible clam shells. None of this is cheap, but that’s why it’s on the bucket list—if savouring the best food in the world is wrong, we don’t want to be right. Be sure to also experience the city’s boundary-pushing style: from its trend-setting boutiques, to the local penchant for cold plunges at harbour-front swimming area, Kalvebod Bølge.

A sustainable safari in Tanzania

Your bucket-list trip can be a chance to give back. Across the Serengeti plains of Tanzania, safaris support local economies and conservation initiatives, which are now more crucial than ever. (Consider a safari camp or lodge that’s involved in a community development project, such as building schools or health clinics.) Double-check that your itinerary includes the Ngorongoro Crater, the grassy wildlife ecosystem teeming with lions, leopards, zebras, jackals and virtually every wild animal you should see at least once in your life.

The Northern Lights in Yellowknife

Timing is everything. This is never truer than when seeking the Northern Lights. And right now, the timing is excellent. The aurora borealis shines brightest at the peak of an 11-year solar cycle, and happily, scientists now expect this in 2024. You’ll find a good base of operations at Yellowknife, Canada, aka the ‘Aurora Capital of the World’, which has very little light pollution and boasts 240 nights a year where the show is visible.

The best party of your life at Rio Carnival 

At Rio Carnival, you can now party with a purpose. Yes, the world’s most iconic fiesta is still a bucket-list-worthy eruption of vibrant colours, costumes, parades, dancing, samba, dancing and more dancing. But a recent shift towards inclusivity and sustainability makes Carnival even more compelling, such as more prominent roles for Afro-Brazilian and LGBTQ+ performers. Support local communities by engaging in cultural tours, workshops and samba schools that focus on the history and significance of Carnival, offering deeper insights into the festival’s roots.

Wild colours in the Peruvian Amazon 

The Amazon is a vital ecosystem facing environmental peril. Visiting it (responsibly) can support conservation efforts, and the time to do it is now, given the risks of deforestation and species extinction. From the lush green rainforest canopy to scarlet macaws to pink river dolphins, you will find stunning biodiversity that (literally) does not exist anywhere else on the planet. The Peruvian port city of Iquitos makes an ideal hub for exploration, providing easy access to the rainforest via the Tamshiyacu Tahuayo Reserve.

Beauty and blossoms in Japan

A bucket list, at its core, is about squeezing the most out of life in the limited time we have. This matches the ethos of the Japanese cherry blossom—or sakura—season, which symbolises the fleeting beauty of life. Pay your respects to the Yasaka Shrine, deep in the historic district of Kyoto, where a large weeping cherry tree is dramatically illuminated at night. Then walk the Philosopher’s Path (lined with cherry trees) to reflect on where you’ve been, where you are and all the adventures you have still in store.

A nostalgia hit on Route 66

Road-tripping made a comeback in the wake of the pandemic, and Route 66—the 2,400-mile artery through the heart of Americana—is as bucket-list-worthy as it gets. Start in Chicago (skip pizza in favour of great Polish food), linger in Santa Fe (especially the sprawling Meow Wolf art installation) and get your kicks on a string of recently restored diners, gas stations and motels on the ‘Mother Road’ that snakes all the way to Santa Monica. It’s a journey that’s somehow both nostalgic and timely.

The Great Wall of China, made even greater

Obvious choice for a bucket list? Only if you follow the crowds. Have a more authentic Great Wall experience by skipping the touristy section of Badaling and instead exploring Jinshanling, 77 miles northeast of Beijing, which has recently been restored. There you’ll find architectural marvels (like a dense array of parapets and watchtowers), a challenging but rewarding hike (expect 12,000 steps) and scenic views of unspoilt forests—a dramatic backdrop whether lush in the summer or snow-laden in the winter.

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