Travel bucket list on a budget: 11 of the best experiences

Here are some of the top experiences found on every traveller’s bucket list and the best places to check them off without breaking the bank.

When people compare their travel bucket lists, there are a few once-in-a lifetime experiences that come up time and time again. We’re not talking about destinations or sites that can only be found in an obscure corner of the world. We’re talking about those do-before-you-die travel experiences where what you do comes first. Whether it’s catching the best sunrise, getting your adrenaline rushing or seeing a majestic site, many of the top experiences on your travel bucket list can be had without travelling far at all, which means you can do a whole lot more for a whole lot less.

Which of these travel bucket list experiences do you most want to tick off?

1. Watch the sunrise

Where to do it: Cappadocia, Turkey

Catch the sunrise from the skies above Cappadocia, Turkey.
Catch the sunrise from the skies above Cappadocia, Turkey. © Roman Jøe/unsplash.com

You’ll have to get up pretty early to check off everything on your travel bucket list, so it makes sense to kick things off at sunrise. Head to a place that many consider the best in the world to watch the sunrise; Cappadocia, Turkey. Situated between three ancient volcanoes, winds have eroded the volcanic rock valley into a landscape of chimney-like rock formations, colloquially called “fairy chimneys”. The best place to catch the sunrise here is from up above in a hot air balloon, where you’ll get panoramic views of the colorful sky, the jagged landscape, and hundreds of colourful hot air balloons in the air all around you. Book a sunrise tour with friends to share the experience and keep the cost down.

2. See the Northern Lights:

Where to do it: Tromsø, Norway

Watch the Northern Lights brighten up the dark landscape in Tromsø, Norway
Watch the Northern Lights brighten up the dark landscape in Tromsø, Norway. © Grant Yip/eyeem.com

Any self-respecting traveller has the Northern Lights on their bucket list. Located above the Arctic Circle, Tromsø is one of your best chances to see the Northern Lights. A cultural hub for the region with a beautiful Old Town, Tromsø is also bang in the middle of the Northern Lights Oval – the area with the highest probability of seeing the Northern Lights.

3. Take a hike

Where to do it: West Highland Way, Scotland

Get out into nature with a hike on Scotland's West Highland Way.
Get out into nature with a hike on Scotland’s West Highland Way. © Alan Kraft/shutterstock.com

Whether you’re tramping solo or in a group, there’s no better way to appreciate the majesty of nature than by navigating a beautiful landscape on foot. Luckily, one of the most stunning hikes in the the world can be found in Scotland. Featuring stunning mountain ranges, peaceful lochs and dramatic views, you’ll want to put aside 7-8 days to complete the West Highland Way hike. The sense of achievement will be massive and the memories, lifelong. Plus, the costs are very friendly on the wallet, making this a top bucket list experience for a budget traveller.

4. Go bungee jumping

Where to do it: Ticino, Switzerland

Get your heart racing with a long fall while bungee jumping in Switzerland.
Get your heart racing with a long fall while bungee jumping in Switzerland. © IMAGEMORE Co, Ltd./gettyimages.com

Bungee Jumping is the ultimate adrenaline rush for many people, and throwing yourself into thin air attached to an elastic cord should be on every adventure seeker’s bucket list. Especially when you can do it like James Bond. This most British of jumps can be had at the Verzasca Dam in Ticino, Switzerland, where the opening sequence of “Goldeneye” was filmed. Why head as far as New Zealand when you can tick bungee jumping off of your list in this hemisphere, and in the style of 007, no less?

5. Experience a piece of history

Where to do it: Pompeii, Italy

See a civilization preserved in stone in Pompeii, Italy.
See a civilization preserved in stone in Pompeii, Italy. © Paolo Cordoni/eyeem.com

Experiencing an ancient civilization is something everyone should do at least once in their lifetime, which is why exploring Pompeii is a travel bucket list must. After paying a nominal entrance fee, step back in time to the ruins of an ancient Roman city, preserved in volcanic rock erupted from Mt Vesuvius. Even on its busiest days, the weight of history feels ever present and you’re likely to forget that there’s anyone else there.

6. Go scuba diving

Where to do it: Karpathos, Greece

Image Caption: Underwater adventure is closer than you think in Karpathos, Greece.
Underwater adventure is closer than you think in Karpathos, Greece. © Aarón Martín/eyeem.com

Karpathos is world-famous for its diving, and exploring an underwater kingdom should be a priority on every sea lover’s travel bucket list. The fact that Karpathos is a Greek island and not some far-flung destination makes living this lifetime experience much more affordable, and you’ll even get to hang out on a Greek Island after your dive. If scuba diving is outside of your comfort zone, the snorkelling here is quite amazing, too.

7. Go whale watching

Where to do it: Azores, Portugal

Whale watching is just one of the bucket-list experiences you'll have in the Azores.
Whale watching is just one of the bucket-list experiences you’ll have in the Azores. © Linus Strandholm/eyeem.com

A whale watching trip is the holiday of a lifetime for many people, and the Azores is one of the best places in the world to have the experience. While you can see sperm whales year-round, head to the Azores from April-May for the chance to see blue, fin, and sei whales as well. The Azores are an outdoor enthusiast’s dream, and with a bit of planning you could knock a whole bunch of once-in-a-lifetime experiences off your travel bucket list. Once you’ve caught sight of the giants of the sea, continue your trip with a dip in a natural geothermal pool, a hike up Pico Mountain, and by catching the breathtaking views at Sete Cidades Lake.

8. Go paragliding:

Where to do it: Budva, Montenegro

 Get a whole new perspective in Montenegro.
Get a whole new perspective in Montenegro. © Linus Strandholm/eyeem.com

While Montenegro is fast becoming a top trending destination for a multitude of reasons, the incredible, adrenaline-fueled 760m-above-sea-level jump will give you a whole new perspective. Prices for this activity are suprisingly cost-effective, so it’s a great way to get your heart racing and see the world from a new perspective.

9. Climb an active volcano

Where to do it: Mt Etna, Catania, Italy

No bucket list is complete without at least one active volcano.
No bucket list is complete without at least one active volcano. © vuk8691/istockphoto.com

A bucket-list experience should be filled with all sorts of feelings – awe, wonder, excitement and perhaps a little bit of fear. Mt Etna is a UNESCO Place of Outstanding Universal Value, and also an active volcano. If you aren’t an experienced hiker, it’s best to hike the volcano with a guide. Be warned, it’s a hard slog, but oh so worth it. The landscape changes as you ascend, from citrus groves through beech forest and eventually rocky craters and lava caves. From there it’s full-on volcano action; the highest points, including areas where bubbling lava is visible, are only accessible by vehicles.

10. Explore a cave:

Where to do it: Postojna, Slovenia

Go underground at Postojna Cave Park.
Go underground at Postojna Cave Park. © Khlongwangchao/istockphoto.com

Located in southwest Slovenia, the Postojna Cave Park features a host of attractions, but the two main draws are Predjama Castle (built into the rock face and connected by a warren of tunnels to the caves it guards) and Postojna Cave itself. You can explore the magnificent halls and staggering natural formations on a guided tour, but more adventurous travellers can delve deeper into the cave system with an “adventure tour,” which will lead you through parts of the caves not open for regular tours. There are three levels of difficulty, so you can choose the one that’s right for you.

11. Watch the sunset

Where to do it: Peak District National Park, United Kingdom

The ultimate affordable bucket-list experience is closer than you think.
The ultimate affordable bucket-list experience is closer than you think. © Duncan Andison/shutterstock.com

Nothing is cheaper than free, and no travel bucket list is complete without a sunset. To combine a spot of travelling with this lifetime experience while staying local, head to Peak District National Park, where, weather permitting, you can enjoy some of the most spectacular sunsets in the whole world.

Note: These rates are based on the most recent data pulled from KAYAK.co.uk, the cheapest prices are always displayed first, regardless of specific dates mentioned. The prices are quoted in GBP. Flight prices are based on results for a return economy flight search. Hotel prices are for double occupancy, are per night and include taxes and fees. Prices are subject to change, may vary, or no longer be available

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