Bucketlist Travels logo

Travel bucket list ideas:

55 Breathtaking natural wonders of the world

  • Multiple countries

Last updated: 25 June, 2024

From wildlife migrations to waterfalls, caves to canyons, nature never fails to captivate and amaze us. So we asked former travel editor of BBC Wildlife Magazine James Fair to round-up the earth’s greatest natural wonders, which will literally take your breath away.

Table of Contents
  • Arizona, United States of America (USA)

Grand Canyon

Destination guide

Grand Canyon

The 277-mile-long Grand Canyon, with a max width of 18 miles and a maximum depth of (only) over a mile, is not the deepest canyon – both Colca Canyon in Peru and Kali Gandaki Gorge in Nepal are more than twice as deep. But the drama of the landscape and the multi-coloured geology of this extraordinary geological phenomenon is unsurpassed.

The gorge, cut over 2 billion years by the Colorado River, resides within the 1.2-million-acre Grand Canyon National Park – the US’s second most visited park.

Helicopter flights are a thrilling way to see it, but other great ways to experience the canyon are viewing platforms, self-driving routes, white-water rafting on the Colorado River and hiking one of the many superb trails.

  • Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

front view of a giant tortoise

Bucket List Experience

Galapagos Islands

A visit to the Galapagos is a life-changing experience. You’ll see wildlife that exists nowhere else on earth, from prehistoric-looking iguanas to Galapagos penguins, as well as sea lions, blue-footed boobies, giant tortoises and sharks.

What’s incredible is that because the animals have no predators, they have no fear of man. Marine life abounds in the clear, deep water and graceful sea turtles will glide right past you. Penguins may pop up as you’re snorkelling.

These extraordinary wildlife encounters take place against a backdrop of ancient volcanoes, jagged lava rocks, cacti and beaches ranging from powdery white to glittering olive. Visit by ship and you’ll see a real contrast of settings, as a week-long voyage typically stops at around 12 different spots.

Cruises depart from Baltra, Puerto Ayora or Puerto Baquerizo Moreno and follow set ‘loops’, each one taking in different anchorages and all including incredible wildlife encounters.

You’ll spend the whole week out in the wild, usually with just one day in port. Days are spent hiking, kayaking, exploring by skiff and snorkelling, led by highly qualified Ecuadorian guides.

Adult price: £Varies

Good for age: 13+

Duration: Min 7 days

  • Antarctica, Argentina

Guests observing South Goergia's Risting Glacier from the deck.

Bucket List Experience

Antarctica

To many, Antarctica is the ultimate cruise prize, for the wildlife, the incredible scenery and the sheer remoteness. You’ll be surrounded by mountains, some of them 8,000 feet high, their peaks and ridges softened by snow.

On fine days, the sky is an unfiltered cobalt blue. Vast, blue-white icebergs in dramatic shapes are strewn across the freezing sea. Penguins bustle about their business, seals bask on the rocks and whales feed in plankton-rich waters.

Stepping ashore is an incredible feeling, as is kayaking slowly through the ice. Some companies allow camping on the ice and even skiing, while others offer underwater drones and even tethered hot air balloons.

More immersive itineraries also visit South Georgia to see the enormous colonies of king penguins and follow in the footsteps of Shackleton, while others visit the Falklands, for its concentration of wildlife and military history.

Adult price: £Varies

Good for age: 13+

Duration: Min 10 days

Zhangjiajie National Forest Park

  • Zhangjiajie National Forest Park, Hunan Province, China

Landscape of dramatic stone pillars rising from the mist

Bucket List Experience

This incredible landscape, inspiration for the film Avatar, sees strikingly tall sandstone pillars rise up through the fog, creating an appearance of floating above the valley floor. The highest, Doupeng Mountain, soars 1,890m. Ride the Bailong Elevator from peak to valley floor, or (dare to) cross the glass skywalk bridge.

Good for age: 13+

Giant Redwood Trees

  • Sequoia National Park, California, United States of America (USA)

close up of the base of giant redwoods trees in Sequoia National Park

Bucket List Experience

Giant Redwood (sequoia) trees only grow on the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada, and the Sequoia National Park is home to the largest of them; the Giant Forest boasts five of the world’s tallest trees. The must-see is General Sherman, the planet’s largest tree, 83m tall and 11m wide.

Good for age: 4+

  • Potosi Department, Bolivia

Salar de Uyuni Salt Flats

Bucket List Experience

Salar de Uyuni Salt Flats

Bolivia’s giant 10,000 sq km salt pan, the largest in the world, is a landscape of stark and dazzling beauty. It’s as close as anything on the planet to a landscape resembling the moon – a pure white, crystalline surface stretching into the distance and set against the deep blue Andean sky.

It was formed when several prehistoric lakes dried up around forty thousand years ago, leaving a salt crust several metres thick. It’s remarkably flat – the elevation varies by less than a metre.

Though inhospitable to most life forms and largely devoid of wildlife, it is home to vast flocks of flamingos. Three different species live on the fiery-red waters of Laguna Colorada.

Good for age: 18+

  • Iguazu National Park, Argentina

Aerial view over Iguazu Falls from helicopter

Bucket List Experience

Iguazu Falls

Recently voted one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, the Iguazu Falls stretch for nearly 3km, emptying 46 million litres of water over an 80m drop every second.

Fringed by lush rainforest and often framed by rainbows rising from the mist, they are majestic – whether flowing in a single curtain – when the river is full or dropping over some 275 separate falls at low water.

The falls span the border between Argentina and Brazil and to see them in their full glory you should walk the extensive panoramic jungle trails on both sides and take one of the myriad adventure excursions on offer.

Good for age: 8+

  • Tulum, Quintana Roo, Mexico

Cenote Dos Ojos

Bucket List Experience

Cenote Dos Ojos

These twin cenotes are spectacular: marking the entrance to one of the longest underground rivers in the world – filled with water as clear as ocean air, passing through submerged caverns covered with spectacular cave formations and teeming with strange cave fish, crustaceans and bats. The cenotes are a premium cave-diving location and were used as locations for The Cave movie and the BBC’s Planet Earth documentary.

You don’t need to be a cave diver to visit. Some of the most beautiful caverns are accessible to snorkellers. PADI open water divers can go further and designated cave divers can explore the deeper caverns. Any diving requires advanced booking.

Adult price: £12

Good for age: 8+

  • Arequipa Region, Peru

Mountains in Colca Canyon

Bucket List Experience

Colca Canyon

Two kilometres deep, surrounded by steaming volcanoes, and with condors soaring on the thermals, Colca Canyon is one of Peru’s great natural wonders. It’s twice the depth of the Grand Canyon, far wilder and has wonderful views at every turn.

Day-trippers come to peer over the rim and spot condors. Trekkers hike the rugged trails, stopping to soak in the hot springs or swim in the icy Colca River, which ribbons the canyon floor. And farmers still till the soil on the ancient valley terraces cut long before the Spanish arrived.

Good for age: 13+

  • Puno Region, Peru

Small islands in Lake Titicaca

Bucket List Experience

Lake Titicaca

Straddling the borders of Peru and Bolivia, Lake Titicaca is South America’s largest lake by water volume. According to Andean lore, the lake was venerated as the birthplace of the Sun God; located at a staggering 3,830m above sea level, it’s not hard to see why it would inspire such beliefs – and the sunsets are glorious.

The lake is also the cradle of the Incas and the ancient Tiwanaku Empire: archaeological sites litter its shores.

Adult price: £3

Good for age: 13+

  • Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, Northern Territory, Australia

The large red flat mountain at sunset.

Bucket List Experience

Uluru [Ayers Rock]

Rising up from the silent desert floor like a gargantuan monolith, ochre-hued Uluru is one of the world’s most bewitching sights – more so, as its colour and appearance constantly change depending on the season and time of day.

Formed more than 600 million years ago, and reaching a height of 348 metres, it overlooks wild and desolate desert landscapes, home for millennia to the Aboriginal people. The area is steeped in their legends and traditions; combined with the scenery, Uluru has an intense, unforgettable atmosphere. The thing has presence.

Climbing Uluru was banned in 2019, but there are still myriad ways to see and experience Australia’s most sacred site. Walking trails encircle the rock allowing you to get close to see the many fissures, gorges and galleries in to the sandstone, some containing centuries-old rock art, whilst learning about its mysteries and legends from local Aboriginal guides.

Those looking for a speedier or less strenuous introduction can opt for a Segway tour or a camel tour. Meanwhile, helicopter and scenic flights are the best way to truly appreciate the scale and strangeness of this geological anomaly sticking out from miles of flat landscape.

Good for age: 8+

  • Queensland, Australia

scuba diver with fish and coral on the great barrier reef

Bucket List Experience

Great Barrier Reef

This vast coral reef system, comprising almost 3,000 individual reefs and 900 islands, stretches for over 1,600 miles off Australia’s eastern coast – it’s so vast it can be seen from outer space.

It supports an astonishingly rich biodiversity, including 30 species of whale and dolphin, 1,500 species of fish, 125 species of shark and ray, and six species of sea turtle.

Shark, Holmes and Osprey reefs regularly rank among the world’s greatest dive spots. All three are accessible from Port Douglas on liveaboards – but they’re too far away for day trips.

The majority of the reef’s treasures, though, are found just a couple of metres below the surface, meaning this magical underwater world is accessible to snorkellers and glass-bottomed boats as well as divers.

Adult price: £140

Min age 4

Good for age: 8+

Duration: 1 day

  • Daintree Rainforest, Queensland, Australia

Eucalyptus trees and ferns in misty forest

Bucket List Experience

Daintree Rainforest

At 180 million years old, this remarkable biodiversity hotspot is home to many ancient and primitive plant forms found nowhere else.

Its wildlife is extraordinarily diverse. Among the critters that call the Daintree home are 430 species of bird, 90% of Australia’s bat and butterfly species, and over 12,000 different insects. The scenery is equally impressive – a landscape of rugged peaks and gorges, spectacular waterfalls, white sandy beaches, mangrove swamps and extensive vistas of pristine tropical forest.

To visit the Daintree to experience millions of years of natural history; the forest is a treasure trove of rare fauna and flora, much of it found nowhere else. David Attenborough called it ‘the most extraordinary place on earth.’

Nearby is Cape Tribulation – where the Daintree meets the Great Barrier Reef. Aside from pristine sand beaches, it’s famed for being the spot where Captain Cook first ‘discovered’ Australian in 1770, and where European settlers first arrived.

Good for age: 13+

  • Te Anua, South Island, New Zealand

Famous Mitre Peak rising from the Milford Sound fiord. Fiordland national park, New Zealand

Bucket List Experience

Milford Sound

This gorgeous 22km long fjord – one of New Zealand’s most accessible – is hallmarked by beautiful upland scenery, crowned by the Mitre Peak. Despite the crowds, it remains an awe-inspiring landscape of snow-capped mountains, dense forests and spectacular waterfalls.

There are several bucket list ways you can get out into the wilderness and appreciate it in all its natural glory.

The most popular way is on a pleasure cruise along the Milford Sound waterway – justifiably ranked as one of New Zealand’s signature experiences. A range of cruises are available, from thrill rides on jetboats to gentle two-hour tours on historic steamboats. You can also take an overnight cruise along the entire fjord to the Tasman Sea.

You could take it all in from the water on a kayak, soar over Mitre Peak on a helicopter or spend 4-days hiking the world-renowned Milford Track around it, through pristine, fern-filled rainforest.

Adult price: £10

Good for age: 4+

Duration: -

  • Beirut, Mount Lebanon Governorate, Lebanon

View through stalactite-crusted cave

Bucket List Experience

Jeita Grotto

These interconnected, cathedral-like limestone caverns at Jeita form one of the most beautiful cave systems in the world, spanning 9km within the Nahr al-Kalb valley.

There are two grottos – an upper and lower. The upper grotto is explored on foot via a manmade walkway; it’s home to the world’s largest known stalactite, an 8.2m behemoth that dangles precariously above the cave floor.

The lower grotto can only be visited by boat as it channels an underground river. It’s especially breathtaking, as if you were sailing into a cathedral built by Mother Nature herself.

Adult price: £30

Good for age: 4+

Old Faithful

  • Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, United States of America (USA)

Tourists watching the Old Faithful erupting in Yellowstone National Park, USA

Bucket List Experience

Yellowstone’s cone geyser is the world’s most famous – and most reliable. Old Faithful gets its name from the regularity of its eruptions. Since the year 2000, the geyser has erupted at least once every two hours, sending a plume of boiling water shooting 50m into the air.

Eruptions are caused by hot molten magma heating water below ground, which becomes trapped as steam in underground chambers. Eventually, the pressure of the steam becomes too much, and boom, it explodes upwards, taking cooler water nearer the surface with it.

Adult price: £30

Good for age: 4+

  • Aeolian Islands, Sicily, Italy

Night eruption volcano Stromboli Glowing rocks falling down

Bucket List Experience

Stromboli

Northernmost of Sicily’s eight Aeolian Islands Stromboli stands out as one of the world’s most active volcanoes – and one of the best to see up close.

Since 1932 it has been belching fire and ash every ten to fifteen minutes – so regularly that its nickname is the ‘Lighthouse of the Mediterranean’.

Around 500 people live under the 925m (3038ft) smoking peak – because it always erupts to the northwest, down the lava and ash-scarred Sciara del Fuoco.

There are several ways you can see one of nature’s most spectacular pyrotechnics show – from the sea, on a boat tour, or from the crater itself, on a guided hike to the summit. The hike up the 400m cone is a relative breeze, given the spectacle that awaits at the top.

Halfway up the slope you’ll find Osservatorio, a pizzeria, where you can also stop to see the show from their terrace. Where else in the world can you watch a volcano erupt while eating pizza?

Good for age: 13+

  • Western Norway, Norway

large cruise ship going down Gerainger Fjord

Bucket List Experience

Norway's Fjordland

Endless skies, snow-capped mountains, sheer-sided fjords, ribbon-like waterfalls and emerald green meadows ablaze with wildflowers – all combine to make Norway’s Fjordland one of the world’s most beautiful and serene cruising routes. And the water is one of the best vantage points from which to admire the view from.

Dozens of ships sail here in summer, visiting a selection of fjords, each one different. On a typical cruise, you might visit the Sognefjord, which twists and turns deep into the mountains, dotted with tiny villages, while the narrow Geirangerfjord is one of the most dramatic. At each stop, there’s an enticing menu of bucket list adventures on offer (see recommendations below) – like the long hike from Stavanger to the high granite block of Pulpit Rock, soaring nearly 2,000 feet over Lysefjord. In the autumn and spring, you may get to see the Northern Lights.

Any lover of the outdoors would appreciate the beauty and serenity of a Norwegian fjords voyage. The joy is that you can be as active as you like – or simply enjoy the scenery from the ship.

Adult price: £Varies

Good for age: 13+

Duration: 3-5 days

  • Iceland

View down a long lava tunnel

Bucket List Experience

Lava Tunnels

Volcanoes aren’t just about the craters: sometimes, there’s even more to see underground.

Iceland is one of the few places on the planet where it’s possible to venture down into ‘lava tubes’. These tunnels of volcanic rock are formed around molten lava flows, usually close to eruption points. As the flows peter out, the rock surrounding them cools, leaving behind hollow tubes that can be 15m wide and hundreds of metres long.

Hiking into these subterranean structures is a seriously spooky experience: dark, cold and lined with peculiar rock formations, it feels like venturing into the lair of some gigantic, monstrous worm.

Most lava tubes can only be visited on a guided tour. Access is variable: some of the more accessible caves have walkways built into them, while others involve scrambling, sliding and uneven footing.

Adult price: £40

Min age 3

Good for age: 8+

Duration: 2+ hours

  • Vis, Dalmatia, Croatia

Inside the dark cave with bright blue illuminated water

Bucket List Experience

Blue Cave

On the unspoilt islet of Bisevo, take a boat that passes through a narrow tunnel into a vast chamber, illuminated an amazing shade of luminescent blue – the so-called Modra Spilja (Blue Cave).

The unique blue glow inside this cave is caused by a partial submarine hole in the cave entrance, which lets in direct sunlight at certain times of day. From inside the cave, the light seems to emanate from the water itself, which casts an aquamarine glow on the walls, while objects in the water appear to be silver.

It’s an unearthly, magical sight.

Adult price: £25

Good for age: 8+

  • Kyoto, Kansai, Japan

Walkway through blossom

Bucket List Experience

Cherry Blossoms

Every spring Japan goes into sakura (cherry blossom) frenzy. The subject of everything from traditional haiku verse and woodblock prints to apps that track its flowering, sakura is deeply woven into Japanese culture.

Sakura are the blossoms of ornamental cherry trees – although found across Asia, Japan has historically been home to especially large varieties which were subsequently cultivated into today’s impressive displays. Reflecting both its aesthetic and its importance to Japanese culture, cherry blossom became the national flower of Japan.

When the blossoms briefly reach peak bloom in late March or early April, nothing is as Japanese as heading out to enjoy a spot of hanami (cherry blossom viewing). Whether you find blossoms in a park heaving with picnickers or a quiet stretch of petal-strewn riverbank, hanami is accessible to all. Just get a picnic sheet, a few drinks and something to snack on – then chill under the sakura’s shade.

Good for age: 13+

Duration: 2 months

When: March & April

  • Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

View of the mountain range from an opposing island

Bucket List Experience

Table Mountain

Cape Town’s iconic flat-topped mountain is 1,085m (3,559ft) above sea level at its highest point, Maclear’s Beacon. One of the ‘New 7 Wonders of Nature’, its name also derives from the thin layer of wind-blown cloud that forms over the flat summit before dropping dramatically over the edge like a tablecloth.

It’s now part of the Table Mountain National Park, set up to protect the landmark but also the rare fynbos vegetation. The site is now a UNESCO Cape Floral Region World Heritage Site.

Ride up in the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway to enjoy spectacular 360-degree views of the city, and wander the fynbos-fringed footpaths that criss-cross the serene and beautiful flat-topped sum

If you’re reasonably fit, and a little adventurous, you can hike up to the summit rather than take the cable car. There are a number of different trails that you can do independently or with a guide. You can also abseil down from the summit.

Adult price: £18

Good for age: 8+

  • Zimbabwe

Water tumbling down from the Victoria Falls waterfall

Bucket List Experience

Victoria Falls Waterfall

Straddling the border of Zambia & Zimbabwe, Victoria Falls is the world’s largest sheet of falling water – an incredible spectacle that sees the entire 1.7km span of the great Zambezi River tumble off a vertical ridge, sending clouds of mist into the surrounding forest.

First ‘discovered’ by David Livingstone in 1855, Victoria Falls – at a whopping 108m high – it is one of the largest waterfalls on the planet.

From the raw power of summer floods to the delicate cataracts of the dry season, it’s impossible not to be awed and humbled by Mosi-Oa-Tunya, the ‘smoke that thunders’.

Good for age: 4+

  • La Teste-de-Buch, Nouvelle-Aquitaine, France

A large dune with greenery on one side and the sea on the other

Bucket List Experience

Dune of Pilat

Europe’s biggest sand pile, the Dune du Pilat (or ‘du Pyla’) towers near the mouth of Arcachon Bay.

Standing 107m high, stretching 6km in length and with a volume of 20 million cubic metres of sand, it’s an extraordinary sight.

The view from the top is breathtaking, too – on a clear day you can see all the way to the Pyrenees. After, cool off on Pyla-sur-Mer’s golden-sand beach.

Good for age: 4+

  • Bushmills, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom (UK)

Coast with hexangular rocks

Bucket List Experience

Giant’s Causeway

With its roots in both Irish mythology and ancient geology, the Giant’s Causeway is an astonishing rock formation that’s become an icon of Northern Irish tourism.

Tumbling towards the sea on the country’s northernmost section of coast, this collection of around 40,000 naturally hexagonal basalt columns is constantly battered by the Atlantic, and at its most atmospheric when framed by glowering skies.

Theories differ on how the neatly-shaped columns and stones came to look this way – some believe they were placed by the giant Finn McCool, on his way to battle in Scotland; others concede the formation was more likely due to volcanic activity (though not when they’re within earshot of the local storytellers).

Either way, a blustery stroll among these impressive hexagons is a must-do while in Northern Ireland.

Good for age: 6+

  • Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada

Aerial close up view

Bucket List Experience

Niagara Falls Waterfall

You hear the Falls long before you see them: the roaring cascade of water plummeting down a 50m gorge at a rate of millions of litres per second. The world’s second-largest – but arguably most famous – waterfall is jaw-dropping in its scale and intensity.

They were formed around 12,000 years ago, at the end of the Ice Age, when large torrents of water were suddenly released from the melting ice. The water plunged over the edge of the Niagara Escarpment, draining into the Niagara River. There are three separately identifiable waterfalls, from largest to smallest: the Horseshoe Falls (also known as the Canadian Falls), the American Falls and the Bridal Veil Falls.

The roadside viewpoints offer prime viewing, but there are several other great ways to experience the Falls. Boat trips take you right up to the torrent, and into the foaming spray. Spectacular short helicopter flights offer a unique panoramic view of the scale and surrounding scenery (nervous flyers should head to the top of the nearby Skylon Tower instead).

You can also descend down via old tunnels to extraordinary viewpoints and caves behind the Falls themselves.

Good for age: 4+

  • Draa-Tafilalet, Morocco

Sand dune in the Sahara desert

Bucket List Experience

Sahara Desert

Over 9.2 million sq km (larger than either the US or China) of nothing but vast, shifting sand dunes, the world’s largest hot desert covers most of Northern Africa. Average daily temperatures can reach 47°C – only Death Valley can rival it.

Mute and empty, beneath flawless blue skies, the Sahara Desert is like nowhere else in Morocco (or indeed the world).

But don’t let that put you off. Joining a safari into the desert is an evocative, unearthly and sometimes surreal experience, and the chance to sleep and wake in one of the world’s most extreme and beautiful landscapes.

At 450 kilometres from Marrakech, reaching the edge of the Sahara Desert takes at least 10 hours by car, and is an adventure in itself. Once in the desert, the journey continues by camel to a comfortable camp (some camps offer 4×4 transfers if preferred).

Sunset camel treks are a must-do, with the sky flaming pink and purple before fading into inky darkness. Piping hot tajines appear at mealtimes, with many camps offering fireside musical entertainment before guests retreat to a luxury tent, complete with en suite bathrooms and proper beds.

Adult price: £100

Good for age: 13+

  • Sweimeh, Balqa Governorate, Jordan

woman floating in the Dead Sea

Experience

The Dead Sea

At 423m below sea level, the Dead Sea marks the Earth’s lowest elevation on land. The sea is a natural collection point for salts and minerals, with salinity up to ten times that of ocean water – so dense that swimmers float on its surface, while animals and plants struggle to flourish (hence the name).

The sea’s mineral-laden waters ease discomfort from arthritis, soothe fiery skin conditions like acne and eczema, heal allergies and boost circulation so helping with detoxing.

They’ve been revered for their magic healing properties for thousands of years – King Solomon, the Queen of Sheba, Cleopatra and King Herod all came to bathe here. No surprise then that the Dead Sea is home to some world-class spas today.

Adult price: £60

Good for age: 8+

Duration: 30 mins

  • Everglades National Park, Florida, United States of America (USA)

group of international tourists riding an airboat. The Everglades are a natural region of wetlands in the southern portion of the U.S. state of Florida.

Bucket List Experience

The Everglades

This 1.5-million-acre park, dubbed the ‘river of grass’, is the US’s largest subtropical wilderness. Alligators, endangered mammals like the Florida panther and more than 360 bird species all dwell here.

Happily, excursions into all that raw nature can be as adventurous or tame as you’d like, from strolls on boardwalk paths to kayaking trips and boat tours into the thick of things.

The most thrilling means to explore is on one of the famous airboats – they don’t damage underwater vegetation with props, and can glide over otherwise inaccessibly shallow areas.

Dive in.

Adult price: £25

Good for age: 6+

  • Amazon, Peru

Three tiny amazon milk frog on branch, Panda Bear Tree Frog

Destination guide

Amazon Rainforest

The Amazon Basin covers an area half as big again as India and with as great a variety. And like the Himalayas or the Sahara, it is the landscapes which overwhelm – huge waterfalls tumbling off table-top mountains, black, coffee-with-milk and blue rivers so wide you cannot see the far bank, fragrant cloud forests covered in wispy moss. While the Amazon is fabulous for bird life, it is not a safari destination. Larger animals are almost impossible to see in the dense forests.

Visits vary enormously – from stays in jungle lodges as easy and comfortable as a Southeast Asian beach hotel, to full-on expeditions – depending on the hub location you choose. The Amazon is suitable for all ages and all levels of fitness, though in general, any visit will involve some adventurous activity – short hikes, swimming in rivers or lakes and sitting in launches – often on hard seats.

  • Masai Mara National Park, Kenya

the herd congregating at the edge of the river

Bucket List Experience

Great Wildebeest Migration

This remarkable natural phenomenon sees an annual circular trek of around two million creatures – wildebeest, Thomson’s gazelle and zebra – from the southern Serengeti to the wooded grasslands of Kenya’s Maasai Mara, and back again.

The numbers are terrific, as are the snorting and ‘gnu’ sounds that permeate the air, and the predators that follow this moving feast – from lions and great crocodiles, to scavenging vultures. Possibly the greatest wildlife spectacle on Earth.

Good for age: 13+

Duration: Ongoing

When: All year round

  • Cocos Islands, Puntarenas Province, Costa Rica

Schooling of Hammerhead Sharks

Bucket List Experience

Schooling of Hammerhead Sharks

Cocos Island, in the deep Pacific, some 550km off the Costa Rican coast, is one of the top dive destinations in the Americas and together with the Galapagos one of the best destinations for marine wildlife in the Eastern Pacific.

It’s also the site of one of the great underwater spectacles – the mass schooling of hundreds of hammerhead sharks.

Each year, from June through October, they gather in uncountable numbers, attracted by high concentrations of prey. Cocos Island sits at a convergence of swirling, nutrient-rich currents, attracting vast schools of fish on which the hammerheads feed.

Whale sharks are also regular visitors to the waters around Cocos, making it a popular location for wildlife filmmakers.

Are hammerhead sharks dangerous?

Although officially tagged as a ‘man-eater’, hammerheads are shy of humans and attacks are extremely rare. They hunt on the ocean floor at night, feeding on stingrays (their favourite food), squid, mackerel, sardines and octopus.

Why do they have a strange-shaped head?

Their strange hammer-shaped head contains hundreds of small electrical sensors that they use to detect the faint electromagnetic fields generated by their prey hiding beneath the sand.

Adult price: £3500

Min age 16

Good for age: 18+

Duration: 11 days

  • Palau

Person swimming amidst thousands of golden jellyfish in the lake

Bucket List Experience

Jellyfish Lake

An unobtrusive, ordinary-looking lake, buried deep in the Tarzan-esque junglescape of Palau’s Rock Islands, is the setting for one of nature’s wonders.

Jellyfish lake, as it is known, is home to stingless golden jellyfish – millions of them – that migrate across the lake and back daily, following the path of the sun.

It’s thought the lake was formed around 12,000 years ago, when rising sea levels filled the lake, before receding. The stranded jellyfish, lacking natural predators, were then able to profilerate and evolve to the lake’s unique conditions.

Scuba diving is banned for safety reasons, but local tour operators run daily snorkelling trips.

Adult price: £150

Good for age: 13+

Duration: 5-8 hours

  • Watarrka National Park, Northern Territory, Australia

An overview of a red canyon

Bucket List Experience

Kings Canyon

The 100m-deep Kings Canyon gorge epitomises the raw desert beauty of Central Australia. A dramatic sandstone rock formation, formed more than 400 million years ago, it has a long indigenous history, stretching back some 20,000 years. Located in the protected Watarrka National Park, it is also home to more than 600 species of native wildlife.

Most visitors come here to hike. There are two main trails to choose from. The 6km Kings Canyon Rim Walk along the top of the canyon takes 3-4 hours and includes a stop at the ‘garden of Eden’ waterhole. The shorter Kings Creek Walk is 2km (return) and takes about an hour, and tracks along the bottom of the gorge.

Other great ways to experience the area are camel rides, quad bike safaris and helicopter flights are also popular – as is dining under the stars.

Good for age: 13+

Mount Kilimanjaro

  • Kilimanjaro Region, Tanzania

Mount Kilimanjaro

Bucket List Experience

The world’s largest free-standing mountain (5,895m) is also one of its most iconic natural sights – a picture-book peak rising from the primordial plains of Tanzania and topped by a conical hat of snow. The mountain’s relatively even elevations make it one of the greatest non-technical climbs.

Adult price: £1250

Min age 18

Good for age: 18+

Duration: 5-9 days

  • Mount Everest, East Region, Nepal

Mount Everest

Bucket List Experience

Mount Everest

Reaching Everest Base Camp is one of the world’s great trekking achievements.

The classic two-week trail follows in the footsteps of famous Everest summiteers, and takes in Buddhist temples and stupas, the bustling town of Namche Bazaar and numerous poignant memorials to climbers who’ve never returned.

You’ll be able to stand where the summit expeditions start, looking across to the terrifying Khumbu Icefall, but don’t expect to see the top of Everest from Base Camp. Don’t come expecting mountain solitude though – this will always be a busy yet beautiful trail.

It’s exhausting yet totally exhilarating, and the reward is the awe-inspiring view of the world’s highest mountain from the relatively small (5,545m) peak of Kala Pattar.

Adult price: £2500

Min age 18

Good for age: 18+

Duration: 15+ days

The Northern Lights

  • Yellowknife, Yukon, Canada

Small tepee village with people sitting outside tents staring up at Northern Lights

Bucket List Experience

Centred under the so-called ‘Aurora Oval’ – the area of the atmosphere with the highest geomagnetic activity – the Yukon is North America’s Northern Lights capital, offering the most colourful and frequent light displays anywhere. Its remoteness, though, means getting there is a challenge – if you make it, camp out in an Indian teepee at the Aurora Village at Yellowknife.

Good for age: 4+

Duration: Any

When: Any

  • Okavango Delta, Botswana

Okavango Delta

Destination guide

Okavango Delta

The Okavango is the largest inland delta in the world: a maze of grasslands, indigenous forests, islands, channels and lakes covering 17,000 square kilometres that teems with all the big game and spectacular birdlife (more than 400 species). Even if you’re not a twitcher, the feathered creatures here are captivating.

The variety of ecosystems in the Okavango make it a fascinating place to safari; one might spot an elephant swimming, see a malachite kingfisher diving, or bump into a lioness.

Thanks to the Botswana government policy of high-revenue, low-volume tourism, there are very few camps or tourists. Nearly all are based near water, on the mainland – in private concessions or in the Moremi National Park – or on islands, and the real draw of the Okavango is the unique water-based safari opportunities it provides: mokoro (dugout canoe) or speedboat excursions through channels and papyrus reedbeds.

Walking (a real treat near water) and night safaris (when cats mostly hunt and nocturnal creatures come out) are only permitted in private concessions – so not the Moremi National Park.

Even flying into the Okavango on a small plane is one of the best things about the holiday; the views over the vast areas of water are breathtaking.

  • Namib-Naukluft National Park, Erongo Region, Namibia

Great Sand Dunes of Sossusvlei

Bucket List Experience

Great Sand Dunes of Sossusvlei

The ancient dunes of Sossusvlei are amongst the highest in the world. These towering mountains of shifting ochre sand attract adventurous travellers from the world over, keen to climb the dunes – notably the lofty heights of ‘Big Daddy’ or Dune 45.

It’s worth the climb to admire the eye-watering views of this sandy sea stretching away to the Atlantic.

Good for age: 13+

Duration: 1-4 hours

Dean's Blue Hole

  • Long Island, Bahamas

Aerial view of a small dive boat by Dean's Blue Hole in Long Island, Bahamas

Bucket List Experience

Dean’s Blue Hole off Long Island, Bahamas, is a stunning, submarine sinkhole – a cave that imploded long ago to form a deep and perfectly round depression in the reef.

Plunging 202m into the inky blue darkness, this is the world’s deepest known blue hole, and one of the world’s best dive sites too.

Adult price: £200

Min age 18

Good for age: 18+

  • Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Tanzania

  • Official star rating:

Ngorongoro Crater

Place to Stay

Ngorongoro Crater

This unique blend of sumptuous stately home, Baroque style and African chic is designed for sheer indulgence. This, and immaculate service, earn Crater Lodge a place amongst the world’s most luxurious safari camps.

What makes this camp most special is its unrivalled location – perched on the rim of Tanzania’s remarkable Ngorongoro Crater, and affording knock-out, uninterrupted views from all of its suites to the crater floor 600m below.

Average £2000

Extra beds

Pool

2+ bedrooms

Beach

Kids menu

Fitness center

Kids club

  • Denizli, Aegean Region, Turkey

Pamukkale

Bucket List Experience

Pamukkale

This ancient hilltop spa centre is home to extraordinary scallop-shaped, cotton-white travertine formations that dazzle the eye with their shiny white brilliance.

The terraces form when warm natural springs of water, containing high concentrations of dissolved calcium bicarbonate, cascade over the edge of the cliff. As the water cools, calcium forms and deposits harden creating an unusual series of terraced shelves and ridges – and between them, natural spa baths.

Soak away.

Adult price: £8

Good for age: 8+

  • Inner Hebrides, Scotland, United Kingdom (UK)

Fingal's Cave

Bucket List Experience

Fingal's Cave

This eye-catching cathedral-like cave, rising 70m over the sea on the island of Staffa, is made up of hexagonal columns of volcanic basalt that look as if they could have been moulded in a foundry.

The cave was formed at the same time (about 60 million years ago) and from the same lava flow as the Giant’s Causeway across the water in Northern Ireland.

There’s a natural walkway which allows you to wander inside at low tide and experience the acoustics – the sound of waves crashing inside inspired the German composer Mendelssohn to write his Hebrides Overture.

Good for age: 4+

Duration: 1 night

  • Siberia Region, Russia

Lake Baikal

Bucket List Experience

Lake Baikal

The world’s largest freshwater lake by volume, Lake Baikal is also the deepest (max depth 1.6km) and the oldest (25-30 million years). On any reasonable assessment it’s immense – more than 30,000sq km, covering as large an area as Belgium, and holding 22% of the world’s surface freshwater.

Water visibility and oxygen levels are exceptional, even at depths, making it a haven for wildlife. Indeed, it’s famed for its rich biodiversity and endemic wildlife, including the planet’s only freshwater seal.

It also hides a secret every bit as mysterious as the Loch Ness Monster – the Lusad-Khan, or water dragon master, said to resemble a giant sturgeon and depicted in Stone Age carvings on the cliffs that rise above the lake.

Good for age: 13+

Elephant Rock

  • Westman Islands, Iceland

Close up of Elephant rock

Experience

The Westman Islands, off the south coast of Iceland, were formed from volcanic eruptions, and there are many extraordinary rock formations.

None more so than the Elephant Rock. the overhang that forms the eye, the grey basalt rock resembling wrinkled skin and the upper section of the trunk all create the image of an uncannily life-like pachyderm.

Good for age: 4+

  • Komodo National Park, Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia

Komodo Island

Bucket List Experience

Komodo Island

Komodo Island is famous for one reason – the monstrous 3m-long, 70kg Komodo dragons, the world’s largest living lizards.

With their long, deeply forked tongues and toxic bite, and a sprightly top running speed of 20km/h, these are dragons are every bit as menacing as the mythical beasts, capable of eating 80 percent of their body weight in one sitting.

The national park where they reside comprises 29 volcanic islands, with a unique menagerie of land and sea creatures besides the star attractions.

Good for age: 8+

Duration: 1 night

  • Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve, Michoacan, Mexico

Monarch Butterfly Migration

Bucket List Experience

Monarch Butterfly Migration

Between January and March each year, an estimated 60 million monarch butterflies overwinter in the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve, making it one of the biggest congregations of a single species anywhere in the world.

The entire population squeezes into less than 3 hectares. They cluster on the trees in numbers so dense, the blaze of their wings turns the dark green foliage of the forest fir orange.

The migration starts in September and October when they journey south from across the USA and southern Canada, to escape the North American winter.

The migration north to south, and then back again in spring, is continuous. No single butterfly completes the full circuit in their short lifetime – it’s estimated four generations are required.

Adult price: £4

Good for age: 8+

Duration: 3 months

When: Jan-Mar

  • Guilin, Guangxi, China

Reed Flute Cave

Bucket List Experience

Reed Flute Cave

This exceptional cave in the southern province of Guangxi is one of China’s most remarkable natural wonders.

It’s home to dramatic rock formations, stalagmites and stalactites. Some are said to resemble mythological creatures; another, the Statue of Liberty.

It markets itself as ‘Nature’s Art Palace’ – the whole scene is (artificially) illuminated by coloured lighting, creating a riot of colours and shapes.

Inscriptions dating back to AD 792 suggest it was an attraction more than 1,200 years ago, though it was only rediscovered in the 1940s when refugees stumbled across it while fleeing from Japanese soldiers.

The cave’s name derives from a type of reed growing outside that can be made into a flute – nothing to do with what’s inside…

Adult price: £3

Good for age: 4+

Duration: 1 night

  • Puerto Princesa, Palawan, Philippines

The world’s longest subterranean river, in the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park, was recently voted one of the ‘New 7 Wonders of Nature’ – though it seems every natural wonder claims the title these days.

The flooded cave system stretches for 24km under the St. Paul Mountain Range on the island of Palawan; visitors can access the caverns above the water line by boat from the sea.

It’s a biodiversity hotspot too, with a rare full mountain-to-sea ecosystem. Giant spiders, crabs and snakes inhabit the cave, though in the near darkness all you are likely to see are bats. Highlights also include a 20 million-year-old fossil of a manatee.

Adult price: £110

Good for age: 4+

Duration: 1 night

  • Rotorua, North Island, New Zealand

Pohutu Geyser

Bucket List Experience

Pohutu Geyser

The world-famous volcanic town of Rotorua, on New Zealand’s North Island, is a hellish paradise of mud pools, hot springs and geysers spouting scalding water into the air.

And the Pohotu Geyser is its star attraction.

The largest geyser in the southern hemisphere, it reliably ‘erupts’ up to twenty times per day, sending hissing (and rather smelly) jets of sulphurous steam and dirt up to 30m (100 feet) into the air.

The Te Puia reserve is also home to 500-plus hot springs and over 50 other geysers.

Adult price: £35

Good for age: 4+

Duration: 1 night

  • Waitomo, North Island, New Zealand

Waitomo Caves

Bucket List Experience

Waitomo Caves

The prevailing limestone rock in this famous cavern system, just south of Auckland on New Zealand’s northern island, formed 30 million years ago when it was under the surface of the ocean. The subsequent caves were carved out by the action of water once it had been forced above the water line.

Today the caves are famously home to thousands and thousands of glow worms – actually a species of fungus gnat.

They attach themselves to the cave ceiling, dangling on sticky spider-like threads to capture any passing critters.

To attract prey, they produce bright blue-green bioluminescence that shines in an otherwise inky blackness. The mesmerising effect is a glittering sky of coloured stars.

Adult price: £30

Good for age: 4+

Duration: 1 night

  • Yemen

Socotra Island

Bucket List Experience

Socotra Island

Sitting off the coast of Yemen in the Arabian Sea, Socotra Island is to the Indian Ocean what the Galapagos are to the Pacific – a natural, open-air laboratory where more than 700 species of plants and animals have evolved that are found nowhere else on Earth.

The umbrella-shaped dragon’s blood trees – so called because of their red sap – are the most distinctive endemics, but there are a host of birds and reptiles that are also unique.

Adult price: £Varies

Good for age: 13+

Duration: 1 night

  • Divaca, Littoral, Slovenia

Skocjan Caves

Bucket List Experience

Skocjan Caves

The limestone karst landscape of south-west Slovenia is said to have more than 10,000 registered caves, but the best ones to visit are either those at Postojnska or Skocjan.

Skocjan was carved out by the action of the Reka River, and consists of a series of subterranean chambers 6km long that include those called ‘Paradise’, ‘The Great Hall’ and ‘The Murmuring and Silent’ Caves. The latter is home to giant stalagmites called the ‘Giants’ and ‘The Pipe Organ’.

Adult price: £5

Good for age: 4+

Duration: 1 night

  • Umkomass, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

dolphin underwater on reef background looking at you inside a school of sardine fish

Bucket List Experience

Sardine Run

Made famous by the Blue Planet tv series, this extraordinary natural spectacle sees billions of sardines migrate up South Africa’s Eastern Coast.

Every year between February and August, the gigantic fish shoals – up to 7km long, 1.5km wide and 30m deep – spawn in the cool waters of the Aghulas Bank off the coast of Cape Town, before riding the current northwards to the Aliwoal Shoals.

They’re followed by almost every denizen of the deep. Bryde’s and humpback whales, sailfish, blacktip sharks and thousands of dolphins amongst others gorge themselves in a vast feeding frenzy unlike anything else witnessed on Earth.

The migration even rivals, in terms of biomass, the wildebeest migration, another extraordinary wildlife migration spectacle.

Min age 18

Good for age: 18+

Duration: 7 months

When: February-August

Bats of Bracken Cave

  • San Antonio, Texas, United States of America (USA)

Exterior of Bracken Cave - a cave mouth sunk into the earth

Experience

Hidden inside the unassuming entrance to Bracken Cave are millions upon millions of bats – up to 15 million Mexican free-tailed bats, in fact, making it one of the largest concentrations of any mammals on Earth.

Every evening during the breeding season, they emerge in seemingly infinite swarms, and you can watch this gargantuan exodus nightly between May and September.

The cave and surrounding land is owned by Bat Conservation International, which runs nightly trips to watch the spectacle.

Good for age: 8+

Duration: Daily

When: May-Sept