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Our round-up of the best of the best:

Last updated: 23 February, 2023

If you’re wanting to do something special this year – and not the classic big hitters like the Grand Canyon or Taj Mahal – take a look at these recommendations. From the thousands of bucket list experiences on our site, we’ve picked our favourites that offer something unique and compelling in 2023.

Table of Contents

Climb a waterfall

Wanaka, South Island, New Zealand

There are not many places in the world you can climb a waterfall – and at 450m, this also happens to be the highest. Set on the shores of stunning Lake Wanaka, the via Ferrata-esque course has 3 levels to suit varying abilities. The full 5-7 hour climb to the top also goes behind the waterfall, and helicopters you back down from the top.

Best for ages: 10+ | £110 | 3-7 hours

Dine under the stars at Uluru

Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, Northern Territory, Australia

For an unforgettable dinner in the desert under a carpet of a billion twinkling stars – that includes a fascinating lesson in astronomy – head for the ‘Sounds of Silence’ experience at Australia’s Uluru. While you’re there, walk around this magnificent, enigmatic ochre monolith (or fly over it by helicopter), try some ‘bush tucker’ and stay the night in a luxury tent at the incredible Longitude 131.

Best for ages: 8+ | £165

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Dive or snorkel in a natural sinkhole


Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula is like a pumice stone, riddles with holes, caves, caverns and water-filled sinkholes. These natural wonders, every one uniquely shaped and decorated with hanging vines, glassy water, stalactites and stalagmites, offer spectacular swimming, snorkelling and diving. Explore beyond the usual tourist-magnets, and you can sometimes have them all to yourself.

Best for ages: 4+ | Free | 1+ hours

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Drive the Malt Whisky trail

Speyside, Scotland, United Kingdom (UK)

The lush countryside of Speyside is home to more than half of Scotland’s malt whisky distilleries, and the only malt whisky trail in the world. There are eight famous distilleries on the trail, each offering tastings and insights into each distillery’s unique blend. There’s also the Speyside Cooperage, where you can watch the ancient art of barrel-making.

Best for ages: 18+ | Free

Experience a temazcal ceremony


This ancient Mayan purification ceremony is designed to cause intense physical, emotional and mental release – and a transformative feeling of rebirth by cleansing and reuniting the physical, mental and spiritual forms. The ceremony, led by a shaman, takes place in a small, circular ‘steam house’, made of rocks and mud.

Best for ages: 13+ | £80 | 3 hours

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Go inside a real volcano

Hafnarfjordur, Iceland

A once-in-a-lifetime experience: the chance to travel down inside the dormant Thrihnukagigur volcano, the only place in the world where it’s possible to do so. Tours last 4-5 hours, and see visitors descend by lift into the massive, hollow cone.

Best for ages: 8+ | £260 | 4-5 hours

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Go truffle hunting in Tuscany

San Miniato, Tuscany, Italy

Learn about these extraordinary tubers – the most highly prized of Tuscany’s rich food harvest – on an expert-led truffle hunt in traditional Tuscan countryside. Hunts are often combined with truffle-based lunches or cooking lessons with truffles.

Best for ages: 13+ | Free

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Hike the Aradena gorge

Crete, Greek Islands, Greece

The 7.5-km trail takes you from the ghost village of Aradena, along very old, cobbled mule tracks (called kalderimia), criss-crossing the riverbed and climbing up and down the sheer cliffs. The route ends at the pebble cove of Marmara, home to a fantastic authentic Greek taverna where you can lunch overlooking the beach.

Best for ages: 13+ | Free | 2-3 hours

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woman's face sticking out of hot black sand

Hot sand onsen

Ibusuki, Kyushu, Japan

The world’s only natural sand bath sees participants buried up to their neck in the black sands of Ibusuki Beach for 15 minutes. Naturally occurring, geothermally-heated spring water flows under the beach, infusing the sand with 55°C steam. Benefits include improved blood circulation, elimination of toxins, reduced respiratory problems and relief from rheumatism.

Best for ages: 10+ | £7 | 30 minutes

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Hot-air balloon flight over Cappadocia

Goreme, Central Anatolia, Turkey

One of the world’s great hot-air balloon flights, over a moonscape-esque landscape of arches, caverns, striking spires and eye-popping, giant protuberances resembling gigantic mushrooms.

Best for ages: 10+ | £75 | 4 hours

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Ride the Presidential Train

Porto, Norte, Portugal

Portugal’s only current tourist train, the ‘El Presidente’ uses 19th-century historic vehicles of exceptional quality to transport passengers through the Douro Valley for a gastronomic lunch and port and wine tasting at a family-owned private lodge.

Best for ages: 18+ | £475 | 10 hours

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Road trip around Iceland

Circumnavigate Iceland on Route 1, which links all of the top bucket list experiences together. In our expert’s action-packed 13-day itinerary, you’ll snowmobile and/or hike on glaciers, delve into ice caves and lava tunnels, ride Icelandic horse, marvel at mega-waterfalls, relax in thermal baths, soak up incredible scenery, and, if you’re lucky, see the Northern Lights.

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Sleep in a UFO

Harads, Norrbotten County, Sweden

The ‘UFO’ is just one of the brilliantly unique treehouses you sleep in at this designer hotel in a Swedish Lapland pine forest. Other options include a bird’s nest or a biosphere. You may see the Northern Lights from bed.

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Stay in a snowcastle

Kemi, Lapland, Finland

Every year, this extraordinary real-life ‘ice castle’ in northern Lapland is rebuilt using giant blocks of ice cut from a nearby frozen sea. Guests sleep in icy rooms, buried beneath reindeer furs, and can dine in the icy restaurant. The next day, take a cruise on the nearby Sampo Icebreaker, transferring by snowmobile.

Best for ages: 13+ | £350

Stay in Octopussy's Indian Palace

Udaipur, Rajasthan, India

Built in 1746, this stunning marble palace (and famous Octopussy cult hideout) was the winter palace of Maharana Jagat Singh II of the royal dynasty of Mewar. Mesmerising from the outside, inside it houses a peacock-filled central garden, with fountains, pillared terraces and shady courtyards. It’s now a five star hotel, under the Taj Hotels brand. If that’s too far, why not stay in one of these other 14 great palaces?

Best for ages: 18+ | £700

Blue Whale underwater

Swim with blue whales

Mirissa, Southern Province, Sri Lanka

The world’s largest mammal is surprisingly difficult to see – except here, on Sir Lanka’s southern coast. It’s the best, most accessible and most reliable place in the world to see – and snorkel – with the big blues. Tours depart from Galle and Mirissa between February and mid-March, when the whales feed on giant shoals of krill.

Best for ages: 10+ | £270 | 3 hours

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Swim with wild crocodiles

Xcalak, Quintana Roo, Mexico

Swim (cage-free) with American crocodiles in glassy-clear water in a pristine biosphere reserve on these 3-day adventures. Crocs aside, this wreck-scattered atoll on Mexico’s Mayan Riviera teems with sea life – so superb diving and snorkelling too.

Best for ages: 16+ | £850 | 3 days

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Take a cicchetti crawl

Venice, Veneto, Italy

Cicchetti are Venetian tapas, traditionally served in a bacaro (wine bar), and often eaten by the Venetians before lunch or dinner. Take a cicchetti tour – guided or independent –  and sample these weird and wonderful dishes.

Best for ages: 13+ | £0

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Walk the El Caminito del Rey

Malaga, Andalusia, Spain

The ‘World’s Most Dangerous Walkway’ is this vertiginous walkway, pinned 100m above ground to the walls of the narrow gorge in Malaga’s mountains. The 1.5 km-long boardwalk hike promises thrills, chills and hopefully no spills.

Best for ages: 18+ | £25 | 3-4 hours