It wasn’t that long ago that ‘Bucket list’ had a very specific meaning. It was everything you wanted to do before kicking the bucket, shuffling off this mortal coil and entering the eternal slumber. These days it simply means a list of things you want to do before a certain, and less morbid, deadline (pun somewhat intended). And as far as deadlines go, 30’s a biggie.
A lot of people see it as the tipping point of being young and carefree and adult and responsible. That’s why this new bucket list exists. 49 sights to see and things to do before you celebrate your 30th birthday, and if you manage even a handful, you’ll be winning at life. In your twenties the world’s your oyster. It is probably the best time of your life to travel. Later on, there may be kids, mortgages, jobs; later on, you might have lost that fearlessness, other people might rely on you, or maybe you’ll just be too old…..
For the over 30s, never fear. Life goes on and adding a few of these to your bucket list will prove you’ve still got some life left in you ;)
We know that to achieve some of these you have to travel to the four corners of the earth, but some of them are just a short trip away, and other are virtually on your doorstep.
There is a famous quote, from the mother of British author H. Jackson Brown, that we’ve all heard a million times, but in this context, it really starts to make sense:
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did.”
★ 49 Tips for Your Bucket List ★
1. Debauchery in the desert: Burning Man
Travel to the Nevada desert and join the Burning Man Festival in ‘Black Rock City’, smack bang “in the middle of nowhere”. Throw yourself into the art, the music and the atmosphere of this pop-up community of 70,000 people (populated heavily by freaks and weirdoes in the best way possible; you know that anything goes here). By the way: The festival is absolutely amazing, fun and adventurous no matter what your state. The being-off-your-face and the I-had-no-idea-there-was-sex in the “orgy dome” excuses aren’t needed at all. You can count on it.
Visiting a mega festival pretty much guarantees zero sleep – but you can sleep when you’re dead, and this is an experience you’ll remember for life. Head stateside for the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in California (one of the biggest festivals in the world, and the best – whether you’re talking line-up, outfits or the party) or stay local and hit up one of the muddiest, in true English style (the Isle of Wight Festival or Glastonbury are both true contenders).
If you wanna get in from the get go, head to Tomorrowland in Boom, Belgium, a three-day Electronic music festival that had its first year in 2016. Go this year and say you were one of the first (well, of about 180,000 people anyway.)
3. Iceland and a slightly different kind of pool party
If you’re already in Iceland for the Airwaves Festival why not take a swim in the Blue Lagoon of Reykjavik? Well, we say swim. What we really mean is a super-chill pool party at a geothermal spa in the middle of a lava field.
If you’ve seen one you’ve seen them all. Try saying that after riding the Royal Flush, we dare you. Just head to Waco, Texas (USA), take a ride, and then we’ll have a chat about your blasé attitude (and bruises).
You’ve jumped from the 10-meter tower at the local the pool, so what’s next? Let’s go wild and primal and jump into a volcano. The place: To Sua Ocean Trench in Samoa, deep in the South Pacific. The details: A 30-meter deep crater (inactive, don’t fret) in the jungle, surrounded by dense foliage, but not far from the main road on the south side of the island. The water: turquoise and warm; great for swimming. The faint-of-heart can descend to the water via a ladder – but the more courageous can take the plunge, literally.
6. Journey to the centre of the earth: Enter a volcano in Iceland
In southern Iceland, you can enter the spent magma chamber of the Thrihnukagigur volcano. An elevator/crane lets you down into the dormant heart to a depth of 198 meters, where the rising heat from the earth’s core turns the minerals in the rock into a most colourful mosaic.
7. India: Perfect for a completely incomparable journey
The subcontinent of India is synonymous with the word journey. Begin your spiritual journey and let the journey take you. The first of the four Indian laws of spirituality is, “The person who comes is the right person.” You can’t lose.
The Salar de Uyuni is the largest salt lake on the planet. The extent of the prehistoric lake, which dried out aeons ago and whose crystalline surface sometimes completely ices over, is more than 10,000 square kilometres.
This exceedingly dry desert is about 15 million years old and extends over a distance of roughly 1,000 kilometres along South America’s Pacific Coastline. It is so arid and alien that NASA tests tools here for future missions to Mars. However, to ground yourself firmly on Earth you need simply look up, above the snow-capped mountain ranges, where you will find the clearest sky you can imagine. Traverse the Devil’s Throat and ride through the archaeological ruins. Stopping is going to be the hardest part.
10. Tunisia: On a ship of the desert through the Sahara
Join a band of Berber nomads and navigate the dunes of the Grand Erg Oriental in the Tunisian Sahara. All on the back of a dromedary. By night you lie under the open sky, in a sleeping bag, watching the stars and satellites, hoping to catch a glimpse of the football field size ISS. Everything amplified due to the complete lack of interfering city lights. Just watch out for the occasional scorpion.
11. Bali: Practice escaping potential lava flows, by bike
Boot down the side of a volcano on a mountain bike in Northern Bali. The most popular island in Indonesia is known for its beaches and magical atmosphere and is also considered a spiritual wonderland. But, let’s leave that behind for now and get our sport on. Travel with resourceful guides, by means of pick-up truck, up the (sometimes still active) volcanoes, then get on your bike and hit the incredibly adrenalising trails heading ever downwards. You can relax at the bottom.
If you want to test your nerves and challenge your acrophobia, Huà Shān, China is an unexpected thrill ride due to its vertigo-inspiring bridges and paths. Try the narrow, treacherous hiking trails of Huà Shān, one of the five sacred mountains in the province of Shaanxi, often called ‘the most dangerous hike of all time’.
Grab your backpack and head for Alaska. If you want to feel like ‘Into the Wild’, document your (outer and inner) journey with a bunch of selfies (do make sure we get a happy ending this time, though).
Get your motor running and head out on the highway, on a classic Harley or Indian, cruising across the scenic byways of the US state of Colorado. Every corner you turn makes you feel like you’re in the film ‘Easyrider’, but the stretches of road are so empty that every view of the cinematic landscapes belongs just to you.
You couldn’t get more classic than this – travelling cross country from the east to the west coast of the USA, or vice versa. Pick up a used car to call your own, a motorcycle, a bike, hire a car, take the train, an overland bus, hitchhike or, each to their own, take it in increments on foot. There’s no other way to realise how beautiful, vast and immense this land really is.
Dotted along the Croatian coast are dozens of lighthouses. And some of them are available to sleep in overnight. Although, when you’re up there after dark with the crash of the sea below the last thing you really want to do is sleep. Alternatively, Germany. A Berlin couple have created three designer towers, where you can turn the music up loud, enjoy 360-degree views and drink bubbles in the jacuzzi. You can grab a lighthouse on the Baltic or the North Sea, or a water tower in just outside of Berlin (photo).
If you want great parties that bring you back to nature, be a nouveau hippie and mix the old with the new by hanging in some contemporary tree houses situated close to some ruins from around 100 BC. That’s what you’ll find along a riverbed in Olympos. This small Turkish village, close to Cirali, also has its own beach. Close by and cheap, why are you still here?
In the desert, at the foot of the Mohave Mountains is a lake, on which you can jet ski. What a crazy landscape contrast. Lake Havasu is a reservoir on the border of the US states of California and Arizona, and every October the jet ski world finals take place here. As you’d expect, hiring a jet ski, by the hour or the day, is easy as can be here.
Dakhla is situated in the south of Morocco, on the border of Mauritania, and at the limit of what you can imagine. Die-hard board riders are convinced that the divine powers had a hand in creating this place, which provides unbeatable conditions for kitesurfers, windsurfers and surfers alike.
Insider tip: You can find more surfing destinations here.
20. Flyboarding on Mallorca
Mallorca – popular amongst Brits for as many, but bucket list wise there’s only one thing to look out for: Flyboarding. Jetting out of the water on one of these babies is the closest you will ever get to being Tony Stark, AKA. Ironman.
Take a walking safari in the Serengeti (use the fearlessness we’re supposed to have in our twenties). Taking photos from the safety of 4-wheel drive is fine for the old fogeys, but if you hit the ground with a ranger, you will see the wilderness of the Serengeti up close and personal. Let’s just hope those lions ate recently.
22. The Aaaaaaaahhhhh experience at Victoria Falls
The aptly named Devil’s Pool, Victoria Falls, is a natural infinity pool. You can swim of course, but you can also venture right to the lip of the waterfall. And that would be a good 100 meters straight down from the edge. But don’t worry, you can also splash around and check the sights from a distance.
Dance the night away at THE full moon party on Koh Phangan, Thailand. This monthly knees-up right on Haad Rin Beach, in the south-east of the island, supposedly began as a birthday party during the middle of the eighties.
Spring Break – Miami. A firsthand view of what the term ‘Party’ really means in Ol’ the US of A, and what shade of red Americans use when they paint the town. Picture the wildest, non-stop, summer party you can think of. Got that firmly in your head? Yeah, sorry, totally innocent and harmless when compared to the real thing.
Or – closer to home and much cheaper – in Croatia. A number of top travel agencies have been specialising in this area for a good while now. Party all night long, but with the best programme already sorted for you ;-)
Want to try something even more notable than Springbreak? Check out the Sunday Funday Pool Crawl in San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua. Channelling the idea of a pub crawl and a pool party in one, this pool party takes place across three “stations”, massive pool parks with buses ferrying the more-and-more raucous party crowd from location to location.
Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam; the five elements of the perfect backpacking trip. Cultures, landscapes, religions, people, food, temples, rivers, fragrances, odours, fun, adventure, parties, hostels, homestays, train rides, tuk-tuks, markets………. and still affordable as it ever was.
Skiing or boarding, but at the extreme end of the spectrum. This is only for experienced skiers/boarders, but you can’t get much more daredevil than facing the ‘Swiss Wall’ in the French-Swiss ski resort Les Portes du Soleil. The terrain is amazing. Littered with moguls, the slope passes through a natural half pipe, hits inclinations of 40°, and those moguls? Well, some of them get as big as a small car after some good snow. An endorphin and adrenaline cocktail, please. Shaken, not stirred.
29th Carnival in Rio, the most colourful party in the world
This Brazilian festival is a way of life; the pure joy, the infectious music, incredible costumes and a whole lot of naked skin – if you don’t get swept away by carnival fever you may need to get your thermometer tested.
Forget everything you’ve ever read or heard about rope slides, from flying foxes to Zip-Lines. A really extreme experience is offered to you in Sun City, South Africa. Here your zip-line is going to take you to speeds of up to 160 km per hour. Slightly better than the school playground.
Find the best route for you. There is a number to choose from, ranging in big differences in difficulty. The Umbwe route is the most challenging but most spectacular, and also, most direct route to the summit of Kilimanjaro. On the other side of the spectrum is the Marangu route or ‘Coca Cola’ route – easy and cheap – more the ‘less-experienced climbers. Don’t let the name fool you, though; it’s still a hard slog, but you already know all the effort is going to paid back tenfold once you hit that summit.
Snorkel at the indescribably beautiful Barrier Reef. Pro: The largest coral reef in the world stretches over 2300 kilometres along the east coast of Australia and is one of the most important tourist attractions on the continent. Con: Due to the coral bleaching in the past months it is ecologically proven that the reef is dying. Hope: The government has provided two billion Australian dollars (about 1.4 billion euros) to reverse this process and try and save the reef.
Insider tip: You’re a big dive fan? Here we have more great diving destinations for you.
33. On the Way of St. James
Walk the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage; alone, only me-myself-and-I or with a good group of friends. The main reason – not the hike, but self-awareness and spiritual calmness – is ongoing and can’t be achieved immediately. The Way of St. James is indeed about the journey and not the destination. All sorts of people make their way to the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, and the under-30s are well represented. Us millennials aren’t just about the material goods after all.
A hike to the base of the Grand Canyon can be exhausting, more so depending on the time of the year and what time of day. Even the American National Park Service warns against trying to do it as a casual day trip. But, hey, ‘The Canyon’ is also one of the great natural wonders of this earth. The huge ravine is about 450 kilometres long and hosts a lot of hiking trails, but none are as exhilarating as going ‘top to bottom’.
Explore the Amazon River in a small, dug-out canoe. Alright, most of this popular, low-cost tour takes place on a small, two-storey ship. They’re not big on room, but offer great views from the upper sun deck. You’ll probably sleep in a hammock at night. Of course, you can rent a cabin with air conditioning, shower and a toilet, but that’s not really keeping in spirit is it? Let’s look back to the beginning of this section, though. The best adventures are to be had as you set out from your temporary home, in a canoe.
If you are in New Zealand, you MUST take a hike on the Milford Track (South Island). It’s only New Zealand’s most famous hiking trail. You’ve seen LOTR; the whole country is stunning and if this trail is the most famous, well…. it traverses suspension bridges, valleys and a mountain pass. The 53-kilometer trek begins at the top of Lake Te Anau and lasts five days and four nights. You can snap some postcard-perfect photos here on a sunny day that’ll make your friends drool. But when the rain comes in and a mist settles over the peaks is when this landscape truly comes to life.
Welcome in the New Year at Times Square in Manhattan. Sure, this place is a New York City hotspot every day, but on New Year’s Eve something special happens and you only know one thing: This is the place to be.
38. At night in the outback – the last one makes the fire
Spend a night in Australia’s outback, sleeping in front of a campfire. Enter the Red Center – an inconceivably beautiful arid vista of red sand – through the gateway of the isolated town of Alice Springs. For the Aussies, the Outback is synonymous with their country as it covers nearly three-quarters of Australia.
The very lively Khao San Road street in Bangkok is considered the ‘centre of the backpacking universe’, well according to Alex Garland’s award winning book ‘The Beach’. It’s a big claim, but it may just be true. The number of great pubs and bars, cheap accommodation and market stalls seems infinite, and all crammed into a confined space. Most importantly, there are backpackers from literally all over the world; the only group of people you won’t see much of are the Thai.
At Ariel’s Point, in the north of the Panay Island (Philippines), you can take a 15-meter cliff jump. Or from a platform of eight metres. Or five. Or you can just watch the adrenaline junkies pull double somersaults from the top.
Comparisons often let us down, but we’re going to give one a go anyway. The ‘Single Fin’ in Bali is like the ‘Café del Mar’ in Ibiza. To be honest, you’re going to have to discover this for yourself, but this mix of hangout, surf shop, cafe and bar is worth doing exactly that. The terrace is great, the food is sublime, the DJs are excellent and the sunsets, well, the sunsets…..
Cave diving in Croatia, that’s what’s up, or down. Of course, diving in enclosed spaces isn’t without its dangers, but the caves of Mljet, Vis, Lastovo or Korčula (all islands of the southern Adriatic) are too beautiful not to.
Take a toboggan ride on Madeira. Okay, it’s a pretty well-known tourist attraction, but the emphasis here is on fun. The toboggan in question is a laundry basket on wooden runners, literally. Jump in the basket and zip along the route from Monte to Funchal, on this beautiful Portuguese island. Don’t worry; you won’t be alone. Carreiros, which are the official basket-sled drivers, wearing leather boots with thick rubber soles will steer your sledge as it speeds down slopes and careens around corners. Hopefully, they’ll remember to slow down in time.
Ice skating in Central Park in New York, Need we say more? Plus it’s a lovely mix of both tourists and in-the-flesh New Yorkers. The backdrop is awesome. You can try this out on the Wollman Rink (Eastside, near the Central Park Zoo) or the Lasker Rink (between 106th and 108th streets) – If it all sounds a bit too chilly, you can swim here in summer.
When you see it, you’d think it should surely fall from the side of the mountain. The legend states that Kyaiktiyo, the golden rock in Myanmar, with the pagoda on top, is attached to the rock face by two of Buddha’s hairs, which protect it from falling. Unfortunately, only men are allowed to touch the gold rock, but even just a glimpse of it is worth the effort. The Kyaiktiyo, along with the Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon and the Mahamuni statue of Mandalay, are some of the most revered sites in the country. It is, therefore, a place of pilgrimage (especially from November to March) for Buddhists, but anyone is going to be moved when visiting this holy trinity.
In the daily grind, we often forget to just stop and watch the sun go down. Why don’t you do it properly at Mauna Kea? Stand on the peak of this dormant volcano in Hawaii for the sunset of your life. You can reach the top of 4207-metre high Mauna Kea within 2 hours by car (4WD). A feast for your eyes, a sunset up here is phenomenal and the stargazing even more so. The air is clear, and every star shines bright. It is, of course, no coincidence that the renowned Mauna Kea Observatory is located here on this solitary peak with 13 telescopes operated by 11 different nations.
It starts at dusk in the still of the morning. From Cua Dai (just north of Hoi An, in the centre of Vietnam) you can travel off the coast with a small motorboat and greet the fishing returning after a night spent at sea. At the centre of an 180-degree sunrise. As the first rays play across the water, the fishing nets look like sculptures of surrealist art. For you, it’s an unforgettable morning, for the Vietnamese fisherman, the end of a working day.
At the right time of year, you can head to Pfronten, Allgäu, deep in Southern Germany to check out a particular kind of high-ropes course. At the Waldseilgarten Höllschlucht (try saying that three times fast) you can practice all of your rope skills, tightrope between trees, and even get in a bit of archery on the side, Katniss style. But it’s at the end of a weary day that this place really becomes special. Sleep in the trees: you have choices of where to lay your weary body, either on a platform or in a floating bed – either way hanging in the trees. For an even more extreme experience sleep on the rocks: stay overnight in a bivouac, swinging free, suspended on a vertical or even overhanging rock face. Sleep well.
49. Oh what fun it is to ride in a husky-drawn sleigh
Ok, they’re a given. But how does one actually get to the Northern Lights? By Husky of course. In Northern Norway, there are guides who will lead you, on a sleigh pulled by huskies, into this expanse of winter to experience this unreal spectacle of colour in the sky.
So, those are our suggestions. Did we miss anything? Please feel free to let us know below. In the meantime, think on that quote “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do……..”
Note: These rates are based on search queries made on KAYAK.co.uk on January 16th, 2017. The prices are quoted in GBP. Flight prices are based on results for a return economy flight search. Hotel prices are for double occupancy at base price. Prices are subject to change, may vary, or no longer be available.