Bucketlist Travels logo

Recommended journeys:

Journeys stopping off in Istanbul

  • Istanbul, Marmara Region, Turkey

Last updated: 20 June, 2023
Expert travel writer: Dana Facaros
  • Multiple countries

giant man and woman sculpture facing each other with clouds behind

Bucket List Experience

Cruise the Black Sea

Layers of history, majestic old port cities and above all, glimpses into a world once closed to the outside, are all reasons for the revival of the Black Sea as a culture-packed cruise destination.

You’ll usually embark in Istanbul for the scenic sailing along the narrow Bosphorus to the mouth of the Black Sea. Other highlights include the grand, baroque boulevards of Odessa and pretty Nessebar in Bulgaria, peppered with medieval orthodox churches and clinging to a rocky island connected to the mainland by an isthmus.

The Georgian port of Batumi, with its waterfront of futuristic glass towers, lies against a backdrop of the hazy, green Caucasus mountains. From Sochi, you can visit Stalin’s dacha, the holiday home where the dictator would summer, eerily preserved as it was until his death in 1953.

Some cruises also incorporate the Sea of Marmara, calling at Canakkale for Troy, or Mudanya for trips to Bursa, the original Ottoman capital.

Editor: despite Russia’s illegal and heinous invasion of Ukraine, we’ve left Russian content in our guides. There’s no reason you can’t add Russia to your travel bucket list for future visits. The war, and Putin, won’t last forever, and then we hope you go back. There are many innocent Russian people, whose livelihoods depend on tourism, suffering greatly too from the actions of this evil man and his cronies.

Adult price: £Varies

Good for age: 18+

Duration: Min 7 days

  • Multiple countries

View through white walls to Santorini's caldera, with cruise ship in distance

Bucket List Experience

Cruise the Mediterranean Sea

Cruising and the Mediterranean are the perfect match, thanks to gorgeous beaches, glamorous ports and cultural thrills galore, all packed into a relatively manageable area.

You could be basking on the beach in Mykonos one day and watching a fiery sunset over Santorini the next. Or cycling round the medieval walls of Lucca, or tucking into sweet cannoli with your cappuccino in Taormina.

Every kind of cruise ship criss-crosses the Mediterranean, from sailing ships around the Greek islands to luxury vessels along the Cote d’Azur or swish yachts exploring the pine-clad islands of the Croatian coastline. Take time to choose the right experience, whether a grand tour or a voyage that focuses in more depth on a smaller area, like the Balearics, or the Peloponnese.

You could opt for a fully-rigged, tall ship, or ‘clipper’. These authentic ships, modelled on the original ‘greyhounds of the sea’ from the early 20th century, fly over the water with no sound but the waves, wind and creak of the lines. There are few seagoing experiences as romantic as this.

Adult price: £Varies

Good for age: 13+

Duration: 4 days +

  • Western Europe, Multiple countries

Venice Simplon-Orient Express

Bucket List Experience

Venice Simplon-Orient Express

The Orient Express is the most iconic, romantic and historic of tourist trains – and a sumptuous way to combine visits to Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam, Verona and Venice.

The original began its service between Paris and Istanbul in 1883 and ran that route for nearly a century before changing its final destination to Vienna. The last service ran in 2007. Today the name has become synonymous with the luxury private operator, whose services and routes hark back to the original line.

The superbly restored period carriages offer an authentic experience of inter-war rail travel at its best. Indeed, it’s the quality of the decor that distinguishes the Orient Express from the competition: exquisite art deco marquetry and glass panels, and generous armchair seats in the three dining cars.

Known for its exceptional onboard cuisine, the food is to Michelin-star standard. The supremely elegant dining experience with silverware, crystal glass and starched napery is the highlight of the train for many guests.

Adult price: £1700

Min age 18

Good for age: 25+

Duration: 2-5 days