25 bucket list holidays for 2024 (2024)

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By Mark Hodson
Sunday Times Travel Writer

You’re never too old – or too young – to start thinking about your travel bucket list. What are the destinations, the experiences, the great hotels that you want to tick off before your time is up?

The point about a bucket list is that it should be personal. You don’t want to simply copy and paste a list of travel cliches. Perhaps you have a deep yearning to see the Northern Lights, or witness a solar eclipse. On the other hand, those natural wonders might leave you cold. Instead, you dream of dancing the tango in Buenos Aires, or taking a canoe safari down the Zambezi River.

Drawing up your own personal bucket list of travel ideas and destinations is surprisingly difficult. It may take you a long time, and you’ll doubtless make some changes over the years. So here are some ideas to get you started. Follow the links below and you can find out how to do them, and what they’ll cost.

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Natural wonders of Planet Earth

One of the highlights of travel is experiencing genuine awe – and there’s nothing quite like witnessing natural phenomena to give you those once-in-a-lifetime chills. The most accessible of these from our shores is the Northern Lights. You may see them in the UK if you’re lucky, but you’ll increase your chances by heading toTromsoin Norway orReykjavik in Iceland. For added wow factor, spend a night at the ICEHOTELin Sweden or aGlass Igloo in Finnish Lapland.

A magnificent sunrise or sunset can be all the more special if you witness it at a unique location, such as Angkor Wat in Cambodia or sitting at a rooftop cafe overlooking the Jemaa el-Fnaa in Marrakech. Or perhaps on a white-sand beach in the Maldives.

No amount of David Attenborough documentaries could prepare you for the natural wonders of a polar expedition. Join an Antarctic cruise and you will witness eye-popping sights, from vast icebergs and some of the world’s largest glaciers to mountains and waterfalls dazzling under a Midnight Sun.

You can also witness the weird and wonderful sight of the Midnight Sun in Scandinavia in the summer months. Some of the most stunning locations include Norway’s Lofoten Islands, Iceland and the Faroe Islands.

You’ll never forget the experience of hiking high trails in the Himalayas on a trip to the weird magical kingdom of Bhutan. Design your own tailor-made private holiday to include some of the finest, most secluded hotels and most spectacular hikes. This Luxury Bhutan itinerary hits all the best spots, or combine Bhutan with Oman orDarjeeling.

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Spine-tingling wildlife encounters

An encounter with a wild animal can be a truly awesome, life-changing experience. You might chance upon a giant turtle while swimming in the Seychelles (as I’ve done) or find yourself face to face with a hippo on safari in Botswana. Sometimes you just get lucky. But to increase your chances, it’s best to pick the right time and the right place.

You can go gorilla trekking in Uganda and get thrillingly close to these huge fascinating creatures. In Borneo, you can see orangutans, along with Proboscis monkeys, turtles and pygmy elephants. You could witness the migration of the wildebeest in Kenya and perhaps even see it from a hot air balloon. That’s not something you’ll forget in a hurry.

In Sri Lanka you are guaranteed a sighting of wild elephants, and if you’re lucky you might spot leopards to langur monkeys. Costa Rica has an incredibly rich bird life – I was entranced by the hummingbirds at Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. For wildlife aficionados, Madagascar ranks among the bucket list staples: 80% of its wildlife and flora exist nowhere else on Earth, and it’s famed for the many varieties of lemur.

You can see the mightiest creatures of the sea closer to home. The Portuguese islands of the Azores are among the best places in Europe for whale watching (go between April and October). In Scotland you cansail the Hebrides on a small boat, exploring islands and sea lochs, and view dolphins, porpoises, basking sharks, otters and sea eagles.

In the Brazilian Pantanal, you can spot jaguar and caiman, and fish for piranha. Stay on a working cattle ranch and take private wildlife safaris by jeep, boat or horseback. See more about this and more travel ideas in Brazil.

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Cities ancient and modern

Ever since humans left the savannah and gathered together in large numbers, we’ve been fascinated by cities – the commerce, the magnificent buildings, the religious centres … the food. Maybe you love the modern – the neon future scapes of Tokyo, maybe – or the ancient capitals such as Cairo.

We are spoilt for choice in Europe – tourists fly across the world for a glimpse of Barcelona, Venice and Seville. Almost every European capital is packed with riches, from Vienna to Istanbul. And there are many smaller cities that will dazzle and delight you, from Verona to Porto.

It’s only a three-hour flight to Morocco where Marrakechand Fes are deeply alluring, atmospheric cities. Or maybe you’re more attracted to the glitz and glamour of Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

Some cities are so fizzing with energy that they make your feel more alive – I’m thinking of the likes of New York, Rio de Janeiro, Istanbul, Hong Kong and Bangkok. But there are also ancient abandoned ruined cities built by ancient civilisations that will knock you sideways with their eerie beauty and mystery.

Chinaoffers a spectacular combination of ancient culture, natural beauty and ultra-modern neon-lit cities. Its gleaming new high-speed rail network has also made overland travel much easier, so you can see the iconic sights – including the Forbidden City, the Terracotta Warriors, the Yangtse River, the Great Wall, the Giant Pandas at Chongqing and the city of Shanghai in just two weeks. Check out this 14-night Wonders of China tour, or this three-week China by Rail adventure.

A lot of people’s bucket lists are going to feature Machu Picchu in Peru, Angkor in Cambodia andPetra in Jordan. And there are particularly wonderful ways to experience these places: you can approach Machu Picchu on a luxury train or a tough hike, you can experience Angkor Wat at sunrise, and you can take a horseback safari to Petra.

Modern cities too offer spectacular entrances. You can arrive in Venice on the Orient-Express or in New York on a transatlantic cruise.

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Luxury hotels and resorts

The word “luxury” is arguably the most overused in travel marketing. What does it really mean? There are many places where you can book a massive suite, experience fine dining and have a coterie of flunkies catering to your every whim. And that is undeniably very appealing!

But when it comes to bucket lists, we should perhaps be a bit more discerning. There are classic hotels laden with history and glamour where you’ll get goosebumps just crossing the threshold. Staying at the Cipriani in Venice, the George V in Paris, or the Oriental in Bangkok will elevate an enjoyable visit into something truly memorable and life-affirming.

In the Med, you could stay at the Grand Hotel Excelsior Vittoria on Italy’s Amalfi Coast, Forte Village Resort in Sardinia or the Mandarin Oriental Bodrum in Turkey.

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The world’s greatest festivals

Sometimes it’s about being in the right place at the right time.

If you love a dash of drama, you could take part in the Carnival of Venice in February, or join the party in Brazil – Carnival is not just celebrated in Rio, but across the country with one of the most exuberant celebrations in Bahia. Back in Italy, you could head to Verona during the summer Opera Festival when performances are held in ancient arenas lit by thousands of candles.

In Japan you might aim to visit during hanami, when the whole country goes weak at the knees at the emergence of the magnificent cherry blossom. In Thailand, you could join in the water festival of Songkran when everybody gets soaking wet. In Europe you can visit some of the great Christmas markets in Cologne,Munich or Prague.

Really, there’s no end to the number of festivals held around the world – wherever humans live, festivals are celebrated. It’s just a question of picking which most appeal to you.

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25 amazing bucket list holidays

The world is packed with thrilling, beautiful things to see and do. Here is a personal selection of 25 bucket list holiday ideas – how many of these have you already ticked off? Ultimately a bucket list is a personal thing – you’ll need to think what truly inspires you.

1. Venice Carnival

2. Gorilla trekking in Uganda

3. Angkor Wat at sunrise, Cambodia

4. Easter Island, Chile

5. Migration of the Wildebeest, Kenya and Tanzania

6. Stay at the George V in Paris

7. An expedition cruise in the Antarctic

8. View the Northern Lights

9. Whale watching in the Azores

10. A cruise around the Galapagos Islands

11. Arrive at Machu Picchu by luxury train

12. Visit the Pyramids at Giza

13. Stay at a luxury island resort in the Maldives

14. Visit the Taj Mahal at dusk

15. Swim with manta rays in Indonesia

16. Walk across the Brooklyn Bridge to Manhattan

17. Take the Star Ferry from Kowloon to Hong Kong Island

18. Drive the Pacific Coast Highway in California

19. Visit Uluru (Ayers Rock) in Australia

20. Attend an open-air opera in Verona

21. Dance the tango in Buenos Aires

22. Join a polar bear safari in Canada

23. Experience the Midnight Sun in Scandinavia

24. Stay at a traditional ryokan in Japan

25. Visit Petra in Jordan by candlelight

You’ll find more suggestions in my article about the best holiday of a lifetime. And if you’re travelling solo, see our recommendations for the best singles bucket list holidays.

Last updated: 5 April 2024

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25 bucket list holidays for 2024 (2024)


What are the top holiday destinations for 2024? ›

Trending holiday destinations in Indian Ocean and Asia

But so do bustling cities and jungles for miles. From the Maldives to Thailand to Seychelles to Bali, it takes top spot for long-haul holidays. But there are A LOT more places to explore that are cementing themselves on the holiday map for 2024.

What is a bucket list trip? ›

The term 'bucket list' is derived from the phrase 'kick the bucket', which is an English expression for dying. A travel bucket list is your personal list of destinations and experiences you want to of visiting and accomplish in your lifetime.

What is the best city to visit in 2024? ›

NAIROBI, Kenya — Nairobi, Kenya's capital, has been named the world's best city to visit in 2024 by Lonely Planet, a leading travel company. The French capital, Paris, takes second place, while Montreal in Canada takes third place.

Where is the cheapest place to travel for Christmas? ›

Mexico offers great weather during the winter months, along with great beaches and inexpensive food options. Cheap flights are often available during the winter months. Just shop around, and you should be able to put together a fairly inexpensive holiday.

What does a bucket list look like? ›

A bucket list, also called a life list, is a list of things you want to experience or accomplish before you die. We all have some idea about the things we want to do in life, but compiling them into a concrete list can be crucial in making them a reality.

How can I make a bucket list? ›

To create a bucket list, start by setting aside some dedicated time to think about what you want to achieve or experience in your lifetime. Consider your passions, interests, and things that you have always wanted to do. You can also draw inspiration from others' bucket lists or browse online for ideas.

What is a lifetime bucket list? ›

The focus of a bucket list is to live a life with hopes and aspirations. Making a bucket list allows us to reflect on our values and goals, and identify important milestones and experiences that we want to have in our lifetime.

Is a bucket list a good idea? ›

There are many reasons why creating a bucket list is a great idea. Above all else, writing down your heart's desires somehow makes them feel more achievable, and may even make you more likely to go out and do the things you really want to. What's more, the act of writing your bucket list can be therapeutic in itself.

What is a bucket list wish? ›

A bucket list is a collection of experiences a person wishes to have before they die. On my list, for example, I have places I want to visit, things I want to do, experiences I want to have, and items I want to buy.

Why do people call it a bucket list? ›

Amory: So this movie. So this movie, The Bucket List, was written by a screenwriter named Justin Zackham. And it was inspired by his very own, what he called List of Things to do Before I Kick the Bucket, which he later shortened to Justin's Bucket List.

Can I book holiday for 2024? ›

We've got everything you need for your getaway, ready for an unforgettable experience! We have curated a fantastic selection of hotels and holiday deals to cater to all your needs. Whether you're planning an 2024 Easter break, a summer getaway, or even looking ahead for some winter sun, we've got you covered.


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