© Rosa Friend
101 of the world's most mindblowing adventures to add to your bucket list
Hold on to your passports, people. Here's all the global adventure inspiration you'll ever need, from huge sandwiches and massive mountains to old railroads and flaming infernos. Just add you.
If you're anything like us, you're forever fighting the urge to quit your day job, become an 'influencer' and fly around the world whilst getting paid. But the truth is, you don't need to be a professional selfie-taker in order to live an adventurous life. You just have to go out and live one.
Want to dive down to the wreck of the Titanic in a submarine? Sure thing. Herd reindeer in Siberia? No problem. Surf a Nicaraguan volcano? Right this way. Hands on passports, people, because here are 101 of the greatest travel experiences to add to your bucket list in 2018.
1. Taste a real Reuben in Katz's Delicatessen, New York
You may have heard of the Reuben sandwich, New York's most famous culinary export – layers of sliced corn beef or pastrami, tangy sauerkraut, grilled Swiss cheese, rye bread and a sweet dill pickle – but you may not know where to get it. For the true experience, it has to be Katz's Delicatessen, the iconic restaurant from the movie When Harry Met Sally, and the self-proclaimed home of 'the world's greatest pastrami sandwich'.
Where: New York. Just head to East Houston St. on the Lower East Side and follow the hungry crowds.
How: Just open wide and dive straight in. Serving suggestion: a cherry coke and a good digestive tablet.
When: Katz's is always busy. Get there as early as you can to beat the rush.
2. Step inside Arizona's Upper Antelope Canyon
When you think 'American canyon', there’s usually just one that springs to mind. But for something completely different, Upper Antelope Canyon is the place to go. It's a narrow slot canyon, a petrified Arizona sand dune, that's been carved by wind and water over millennia into a legitimate natural wonder. Take a Navajo-led tour in the morning and the rocks come alive with bright beams of light spearing in from above.
Where: Arizona, USA. You'll find Upper Antelope Canyon on a Navajo reservation a few miles east of Page.
When: Navajo guides run tours about seven times a day, but you get the best light in the early morning sessions.
How: Bring your best camera – Upper Antelope is a photographer's dream.
3. Drive Montana and Wyoming's ridiculously cinematic Beartooth Highway
It's been called the most beautiful drive in America, but most travellers aren’t even aware it exists. Beartooth is an All-American road that traces a series of steep switchbacks along the Montana-Wyoming border. It's the kind of drive where you can't go more than 300m without stopping and gawking at an epic mountain view. For those looking to travel into Yellowstone National Park, do yourself a favour and take the scenic route.
Where: Beartooth is the section of US Route 212 between Red Lodge and Cook City, Montana.
When: Due to high altitudes and snowfall, Beartooth is only open a few months of the year, usually from mid-May to mid-October.
How: Take your time and drive safe, and make sure to stop regularly to take a few photos.
4. Dance beneath the world's largest video screen in Las Vegas
Leave it to Las Vegas to create the world's biggest video screen and then turn it into a giant tunnel/disco. The Fremont Light Tunnel is 460m long – that's about five football fields for those playing at home – and at 6pm each night it comes alive with a crazy sound and light show. The program changes daily, but there's a very good chance you'll find yourself swept up in the world's coolest LED block party.
Where: The Light Tunnel is in downtown Las Vegas, USA, stretching over the westernmost blocks of Fremont Street.
When: The party kicks off at 6pm daily and runs each hour until midnight. Come on New Year's Eve for the world's biggest LED fireworks display.
How: Bring your dancing shoes. Themed shows (think Queen or KISS) are common and a whole lot of fun.
5. Drink beers and throw axes in Louisville, Kentucky
While most establishments settle for a dart board, Louisville's Flying Axes didn't. Located inside a big warehouse, the facility features a fully-stocked bar and a whole heap of cages in which punters throw axes at a dartboard-like board (albeit bigger and made of wood).
Safety, for obvious reasons, is a priority, so axe-throwers are supervised and there's a strict 'no drunk people' policy. Still, it's an incredibly cathartic (and fun) way to spend a couple of hours. And since you're in Louisville, you might as well check out the Muhammad Ali Centre, grab an Old Fashioned and some fried chicken, and then hit the racing at Churchill Downs.
Where: 146 N. Clay Street, Louisville, Kentucky, USA. A mere axe throw from the town's centre.
When: Any time's a good time for axe throwin'.
How: Grab a group and take on teams or just head along as a couple if you want to settle a personal vendetta one-on-one.
6. Dive the actual Titanic wreck in a submarine
Okay, so this is one of the more aspirational trips. Hopping in a submarine and diving 12,000ft to view the wreck of the Titanic is now an actual thing, thanks to uber-luxe UK tour operator Blue Marble Private. The 2018 voyage is already sold out, despite tickets costing upwards of $100,000/£71,000/€81,300pp. It's time-sensitive too: experts reckon extremophile bacteria will have completely eaten what's left of the great ocean liner within 15 years.
Where: Passengers depart from Newfoundland in Canada, and spend eight days assisting scientists and diving the wreck.
When: The 2018 voyage is fully booked, but if you’ve got a spare $100k, get booking for 2019.
How: Blue Marble Private is the only operator offering the tour at the moment. You can get more info here.
7. Sing-along with Reverend Al Green in Memphis
If you've always loved the idea of attending a gospel service, where a spirited preacher brings the house (of the Lord) down with their enormous voice, this is your chance to see the world's best. Most Sundays, Al Green (now Bishop A. L. Green) – the '70s soul singer famous for hits Let's Stay Together, Take Me To The River and Love And Happiness – shares the good word at his Full Gospel Tabernacle in Memphis. Visitors are welcome, just be respectful of the fact that this is a real service, not one set up for tourists. Leave your selfie sticks at the hotel.
Where: 787 Hale Road, Memphis, Tennessee, USA.
When: Green is present most Sundays. Check his website for details.
How: Just remember this is a real service, not a cabaret show.
8. Helicopter over the Na Pali coast in Hawaii
In Hawaiian, Na Pali means simply 'The Cliffs'. It's a pretty understated name for miles of sheer volcanic ridges that plunge thousands of feet into the aquamarine waters of the Pacific Ocean, but locals know that the landscape here sells itself. Na Pali can be found on the north-western coast of Kauai, The Garden Island, and is pretty much inaccessible to anyone without a kayak or a helicopter (you'll understand why when you see the photos). Fly now, thank us later.
Where: The northern shore of Kauai Island in Hawaii.
When: Heli tours run year round, but are subject to weather conditions.
How: There are a few local operators running tours, and you can easily book online. Oh, and don't forget your camera.
9. Soak up the surrounds of Idaho's Bruneau Dunes State Park
While the majority of Winnebago-driving, bivouac-sleeping, shower-optional campers head to famous US spots like Jackson’s Hole, Yosemite and Yellowstone, no one seems to have heard of Idaho's Bruneau Dunes State Park. We're not sure why: it's got 120m dunes that rival the Sahara, a gorgeous lake for fishing and swimming, plus world-class stargazing at the state's largest public observatory.
Where: Bruneau is tucked away in the southwestern corner of Idaho, USA, just south of Mountain Home.
When: Camping in Bruneau is available pretty much year-round, but you'll get the best stargazing on clear summer nights.
How: Ride horses, swim, fish, ski (in winter) or rent a sand board from the visitor's centre and try your hand at dune surfing.
10. Take a ride on Colorado's Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad
All aboard history. For over 120 years, a little engine that could has been puffing its way through the canyons of Colorado come rain, hail or the invention of electricity. You don't have to be a trainspotter to enjoy the steamy nostalgia or jaw-dropping views of the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. It's one of America's last remaining steam engines and still runs from Durango to the town of Silverton in the San Juan Mountains, just like it did back in 1882.
Where: The line begins in Durango, near the Colorado-New Mexico border, just south of the San Juan National Forest.
When: The train runs year-round, usually with one or two departures from Durango each day. Check the website for specific times.
How: There are plenty of carriage classes available, depending on how much you want to spend. The ride takes about three and a half hours each way.
11. Eat the best ribs in America at Pappy's Smokehouse, St Louis
Voted the best ribs in America by the Food Network, Pappy's Smokehouse in St. Louis, Missouri, is proof that not all barbecue joints are created equal. Owner and competitive barbecuer Skip Steele has mastered a recipe so delicious that they sell nearly 3,000kg of ribs every single day.
There are two main types of ribs in the US: dry or wet. Pappy's specialises in the former, believing that any barbecue outlet that smothers their ribs in sauce is trying to hide something. Ribs, he reckons, should be soft and flavoursome, without the need to dress them up. Having tasted Pappy's ribs ourselves, we can't help but concur.
Where: 3106 Olive St, St. Louis, Missouri, USA.
When: Any day is a good day for barbecue. And Pappy's Smokehouse is open on most of them.
How: With your hands – and a whole lot of kitchen roll.
12. Kayak with orcas in Canada's Johnstone Strait
If Willy really did leap to freedom, chances are he would have headed for Johnstone Straight on Vancouver Island, Canada. It's the world’s best place to view orcas in their natural habitat. They even built a Killer Whale research facility out here. And kayaking really is the best way to explore this wilderness: you slowly work your way along the coast, accompanied by a flotilla of curious orca, dolphins, seals and minke whales (if you're lucky).
Where: Johnstone Strait is a 110km channel along the north shore of Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada.
When: Peak orca-spotting season is mid-year, when the weather is milder, usually from May to September.
How: There are a range of kayak tours available, from day tours to four-day journeys, plus a number of great campsites along the coast.
13. Try an organic tipple in Mendocino, San Francisco
There are plenty of big name wine regions to try in the United States, but for something a little different, head about 90 miles north of San Francisco to the Mendocino region. Sandwiched between Mayacamas Mountains and the Coastal Mountain Range, it grows some of the best (and greenest) wine in the country. A lot of the vineyards out this way grow all-organic grapes, so you know your drop is as good for the earth as it is for you.
Where: Drive north from San Francisco on the Shoreline Highway. When you reach Van Damme State Park you're nearly there.
When: Autumn is a gorgeous time to visit Mendocino, especially around harvest season in September and October.
How: Try Parducci Wine Cellars if you're looking for a good Chardonnay. They were America's first carbon neutral winery.
14. Cross New River Gorge Bridge in West Virginia
When it opened in 1977, New River Gorge Bridge was the highest navigable bridge in the world. But time moves on and bridges get higher. It may not be the highest anymore, but it's still a darn impressive sight. The bridge’s enormous steel beams sit nearly 300m above the New River below, but it's hard to appreciate the sheer scale of the construction until you're standing directly beneath it.
Where: New River Gorge is one of the most beautiful spots in the Appalachians. You'll find the bridge near Fayatteville, West Virginia, USA.
When: The bridge takes traffic all day every day, but try and visit around dawn for some great photo opportunities from the nearby cliffs.
How: Once you've driven across, make your way down to the riverbed. You'll get a better sense of scale from beneath the bridge.
15. Mountain bike in Crested Butte, Colorado
In the winter, Crested Butte is a snow-white powder haven. But in the summertime, when the frost thaws, pink and yellow wildflowers take over the slopes, the skiers leave and the mountains transform into one of America's best mountain biking areas. In fact, Crested Butte claims to have invented the sport. There's a range of trails through the mountains for beginners and experts alike. BYO GoPro.
Where: You'll find the town of Crested Butte in Gunnison County, northern Colorado, USA.
When: You can technically ride year-round, but many of the tracks will be snow covered in winter. Visit in spring and summer for long, warm days and beautiful wildflowers.
How: Don't worry about gear. Crested Butte has enough bike hire stores to keep an army of pedal pushers happy for months.
16. Stand before Turkmenistan's 'Door to Hell'
With a name like that, you know they're not messing about. Here's what happened: in 1971 a team of Soviet scientists accidentally drilled into a huge pocket of natural gas. They decided to set fire to it. After all, how long could it burn? Well, that was 46 years ago, and the pit shows no signs of slowing down. You can check it out in the middle of Turkmenistan's vast Karakum Desert, which is another spot that doesn't show up on many tourist itineraries.
Where: The Door to Hell is near near Derweze in the Karakum Desert, Turkmenistan.
When: The pit burns all day long (that's kind of the point), but it looks best at twilight.
How: We probably don't need to mention this, but don't peer over the edge.
17. Camp with Nenet reindeer herders in Siberia
Far above the Arctic Circle, on Siberia's windswept Yamal Peninsula, you'll find the Nenet – a nomadic tribe of reindeer herders who've lived here for centuries. 2018 marks the first time they've ever invited travellers into their lands. Not that it's easy to get to. You've got to take a train, bus and amphibious Trekol just to reach the village of Labrovaya on the tundra. If there's a place with a better claim to 'End of the World', we'd like to see it.
Where: The Nenet live a nomadic life near Lake Horomdo, deep in the Siberian wilderness.
When: There's no high season in Siberia, per se. You travel when it's the least freezing. August is good.
How: Labrovaya is run by educator and author Anna Pavlovna Nerkagi, who started the settlement to teach local Nenet children.
18. Sleep with locals in a yurt on the plains of Kyrgyzstan
If you're a semi-nomadic Kyrgyzstan tribesman who still enjoys the odd game of polo (using the body of a headless goat), it doesn't make sense to own a campervan. The yurt is still the king of accommodation out here. It's light, strong, weatherproof and, most importantly, portable. In Mongolia they're known as gers, and they're a common site across central Asia, usually dotting some vast grassy steppe. Many tour companies offer a night's yurt accommodation, but try and snag a spot near the plains above Sun Kul Lake.
Where: Time to bust out the atlas. Kyrgyzstan sits between China, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan.
When: Kyrgyzstan is pretty seasonal. You want to stick to the warmer months, between May and October.
How: Intrepid Travel runs a bunch of trips through Kyrgyzstan, and they all come with at least a few nights in a yurt.
19. Venture beneath Istanbul in the Basilica Sistern
Cistern basically means drain, but Istanbul's Basilica Cistern is to drains what the Sistine Chapel is to roofs. It was commissioned and built by Emperor Justinian in 532, and it's the largest surviving Byzantine cistern in Istanbul: 336 columns in perfect symmetry, able to store up to 80,000 cubic metres of water. While the Blue Mosque and the Grand Bazaar are more obvious attractions in town, neither has the subterranean drama of the Basilica Cistern.
Where: You can find it next to the Topkapi Palace in western shore of the city.
When: Opening hours are 9am to 6pm all year round.
How: Entry costs about TL20. You can walk through the Cistern on raised wooden platforms, passing between columns and dark pools filled with ghostly carp.
20. Learn to make khinkali dumplings in Georgia
Over-tourism in Europe means people are searching for something a little different this year. And they don't come much more different than Georgia. The best way to travel Caucasia? On your stomach. Tuck into khinkali dumplings, make your own vine-wrapped tolma, taste the legendary Georgian vino and pair it with cheese at a local winery. Trust us – this isn't your typical cooking class.
Where: You can't miss foodie hotspots like Tblisi, Yerevan and Sighnaghi.
When: The balmy months of September and October are an ideal time to visit.
How: Taste Georgia run a range of tours in the region.
21. Snack on free pineapple cakes in Tokyo
Tucked down a backstreet in Tokyo's trendy Aoyama district is a very strange building. From the outside it looks like a giant game of pickup sticks, or maybe a timber termite mound. It's actually SunnyHills cake shop – a cult foodie destination that most guidebooks never mention. This place only makes a certain kind of pineapple cake, and they give away free samples to anyone who strolls inside. If you're a fan of cutting edge contemporary architecture (or free cake), add it to your Tokyo itinerary.
Where: You can't miss it. Just head to Chome–10–20 Minamiaoyama in Aoyama. Tokyo.
When: SunnyHills is open seven days a week, 11am to 7pm.
How: Just walk inside and sit down. The staff will bring you pineapple cake and tea. If you like the cake, you can buy a few to take home.
22. Challenge yourself with Matt Prior's Adventure Academy
Matt Prior is an adventurer, pilot, photographer and World Record holder. He's been to over 100 countries on numerous unsupported expeditions and ascended various famous peaks across five continents. He began the Adventure Academy in 2015, in a bid to get regular punters outside of their comfort zone and to help them plan and tackle big expeditions on their own.
The idea goes thus: you pay your money, turn up in Indonesia, and Prior whisks you and up to three others off on a week-long adventure involving a variety of transport, challenges (mental and physical) and local interaction. Remember: the goal is to get you out of your comfort zone, so expect the unexpected. That's half the fun.
Where: Somewhere in Indonesia – Prior keeps the exact location under wraps.
When: Courses run for seven days between May and October.
How: Visit the website and book.
23. Take a morning stroll through Koya San's Okunoin cemetery in Japan
Not a lot of tourists make it to Koya San, a tiny mountain village in the foothills near Osaka, Japan. Probably because it takes about four trains, a cable car and a bus to get there. But one reason people do make the trek is the Okunoin Cemetary: a collection of 200,000 ancient tombs and moss-covered headstones, scattered throughout a giant cedar forest. Get up early and walk through to the mausoleum of Kobo-Daishi, where the sun spears through the trees like something out of a Kill Bill movie.
Where: Koya San is a mountain town just southeast of Osaka, Japan.
When: Year-round is good. Autumn for amber foliage, spring for the cherry blossoms or winter for snow-covered tombs.
How: The walk to the mausoleum takes about 30 minutes. You can do it in the afternoon, but the angle of the sun is less impressive.
24. Ride camels through Nepal's Nubra Valley
No one has massive expectations when they visit Ladakh, a tiny kingdom in the Himalayas, which probably suits Ladakh just fine. It makes the Nubra Valley even more impressive when you see it: a vast, sandy expanse, surrounded by boulders and jagged mountain peaks. There are a couple of companies that offer Bactrian camel rides through the valley, leading you past tiny settlements and crystal clear mountain streams. In short, you're gonna need a bigger camera.
Where: Nubra sits in the high passes of Ladakh, just north of Leh.
When: You probably want to visit Ladakh during the mild summer season, which is June to September.
How: Riding a camel is just like riding a bike – if your bike has eight knees and spits at you.
25. Join the Great Wall Marathon in China
This is what bucket lists were built for: a marathon run along the Great Wall of China. Beginners can start with a 10km course or there's a half and full marathons if you're a little more hardcore. This is the only Chinese-supported marathon in the country, and it attracts some top international talent. You have to keep your wits about you though: the course rambles up trails and over ancient, crumbling steps. Might be worth booking a few extra nights in Beijing to recuperate. Reflexology foot massage anyone?
Where: The marathon runs along either the Huangyaguan or Huangya Pass Tianjin section of the Great Wall.
When: The race runs every April, and it usually pays to book in advance.
26. Eat raw fugu in Osaka, Japan
It's not hard to find a fugu restaurant in Osaka’s Shinsekai district – just look for the giant papier-mâché fish hanging over the door. Fugu is a kind of puffer fish with a lethal dose of tetrodotoxin inside. Not what you'd expect on the menu, but it's become a bit of a cult Osaka delicacy, especially with a certain breed of macho Western traveller. Fugu's flesh is grey and the texture is vaguely chewy, which, combined with the whole possibility of death thing, probably explains its lack of international appeal.
Where: Head straight for Osaka's Shinsekai district.
When: You can eat fugu pretty much year round.
How: Fugu is generally served as sashimi (raw) or chirinabe (a Japanese hot pot). Just make sure they've removed the liver, ovaries and eyes – they're the toxic bits.
27. Drive the Karakoram Highway through Pakistan
In the 1960s and '70s, workmen blasted a highway through 1200km of the most rugged and inhospitable terrain on earth: the high mountain passes between Pakistan and China. Today, it's one of the world's truly great drives and is regarded as (one of) the eighth wonders of the world. The Karakoram Highway is basically the asphalt version of a time machine. As you drive along, you're really retracing the movement of Buddhism into China, the worn donkey tracks of ancient caravans and the path of the old Silk Road.
Where: Strike north from Islamabad, Pakistan and you'll pick up the highway at Hasan Abdal.
When: As the highest paved road in the world, The Karakoram Highway is weather dependant. Visit in spring or summer when the weather is milder.
How: The highway is paved, so it's a relatively smooth drive. The route's highlight is the 4,730m Khunjerab Pass.
28. Survey the abandoned streets of Japan's Hashima Island
In the James Bond movie Skyfall, Hashima Island made an excellent villain's lair, but most people don't know that it's a real place in Nagasaki Bay that you can actually visit. The island was basically the tip of an enormous undersea coal mine, which closed down in 1974. Now, nothing remains but the ghostlike apartment buildings and weed-choked pavements. Spooky, but culturally significant.
Where: Nagasaki Bay on the south-west tip of Japan.
When: Tours run most days and cost about 4,000 Yen.
How: Tourists can't walk through the whole city, but there's a special walkway around the outside of the island.
29. Drive through rainbow danxia in Zhangye, China
What is a danxia? Good question. Danxia are basically a type of petrographic geomorphology (crazy sandstone to you and me) arranged into technicolour slopes and rocky plateaus. As far as phenomenon like erosion and strata go, they're pretty sexy. To see them you'll have to head to China, as a weird quirk in geology means that the vast majority of these land formations are only found there. There are a few spots to choose from, but Zhangye Danxia National Geological Park is probably the most popular.
Where: The Danxia National Geological Park is just outside the city of Zhangye in China's northwestern Gansu province.
When: Early autumn (September and October) is a great time to travel in China. The weather is relatively warm and rain is rare.
How: A wooden boardwalk runs through the Danxia Park. It's a pretty spectacular place for a stroll.
30. Catch a hip hop gig in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia
Hip hop in Mongolia? Yep, it's a thing. Tucked among the post-Soviet concrete streets of Ulaanbaatar you'll find a thriving urban subculture, driven by cultural history, political radicalism, and breakbeats. Artists here usually rap in Khalkha, the traditional Mongol dialect, and use their lyrics as a vehicle for social change or to remember traditional Mongolian folk stories. It's a world away from the streets of New York, but you can't deny that it sounds great.
Where: New Mass Club in Ulaanbaatar often features some great live hip-hop performances from local artists like Gennie and Quiza.
When: Check club schedules for upcoming performances or (if you're on a group tour) ask your tour leader about what's good around town.
How: Don't speak Mongolian? Just enjoy the beat.
31. Cycle around Sun Moon Lake in Taiwan
Taroko Gorge is probably Taiwan's most famous natural wonder, but coming in a close second is the stunning Sun Moon Lake. The location is epic – nestled high up in Taiwan's central mountain range, and surrounded by jungle-covered slopes. But the real magic takes place at dawn. The sun turns the waters from blue to gold, and fisherman emerge to cast nets in silhouette. No wonder CNN ranked the cycle track around the lake as one of the best in the world.
Where: Sun Moon Lake is bang in the middle of Nantou County. Just follow the highway down from Taroko Gorge.
When: Try September through to November. The nights are balmy and mild, and you get off-peak prices. Score.
How: There are a bunch of hotels around the lake, mostly in Shueishe Village. You can hire bikes year-round.
32. Sail Burma's Myeik Archipelago
Mergui (or Myeik as it's also known) is the kind of place you dream of finding. Cut off from the outside world, it was literally off-limits to travellers since the late 1940s, it's an idyllic archipelago populated by semi-nomadic, free-diving sea gypsies. Tourism here is still finding its feet, but there are a couple of companies that run sustainable sailing trips through the islands. There’s no infrastructure here yet (and long may that last), just the friendly Moken people, blue water and a few hundred undiscovered jungle-topped islands.
Where: You'll need to do a bit of sleuthing for this one. Mergui is off the coast of southern Burma, just south of the town of Myeik.
When: Avoid the wet season, travel in the dry season are equatorial words to live by. Visit from October to February and you'll be fine.
How: Burma Boating run sailing tours through Mergui.
33. Crew a paraw in the Philippine archipelago
If you've been a bit lax with your Filipino boat taxonomy, a paraw is a traditional tri-maran that's been cruising the waters of the Philippines for hundreds of years. And we know where you can race them. Yes, you and your team join a crew of local sailors to race other travellers from island to island. Sailing skills aren't necessary, just a sense of adventure, and maybe a strong stomach. You can meet locals, pick up some nautical wisdom, complete challenges and relax on some of the best beaches we've ever seen. It's like Castaway, but without the terror and loneliness.
Where: The Philippines Sailing Challenge runs in a loop from Boracay, south of Manila.
When: Weather's crucial for this one (a paraw is not where you want to be when a storm hits), so these trips run in April and November, when the seas are calm.
How: The big question. Large Minority run this epic adventure, and there are still spots open for 2018.
34. Grab your super soaker for the Songkran Water Festival
Technically this is a celebration of New Year in Thailand. Un-technically it's the world’s biggest water fight. It actually began as a peaceful ceremony, where young Thais seek the blessing of their elders by gently pouring water over their hands. Somewhere along the way someone decided to bring a super soaker, and the rest is history. Thousands of people take to the streets, and tourists are definitely fair game. Bring a poncho.
Where: Chiang Mai is probably the wildest Songkran Festival in town, but if you're after something a little milder, try Lamphun.
When: Songkran usually runs from April 13–15.
How: There's no real way of avoiding the chaos if you're out and about on the streets. Best just to grab some water bombs and join in.
35. Sail the southern beaches of Sri Lanka
Most Sri Lanka tours run a loop of the spice island, usually with an inland jaunt to the misty tea fields of Kandy. But you'll get a different view from the canopy of your own catamaran, clipping through the waves off the coast of Galle and Kudawella. Theravada Buddhism is more prevalent down here, among the palm trees, white sands and little fishing villages. Snorkel the waters near Welipatanvila by day, and then kick back on the beach with a seafood BBQ at sunset. Pray for crab, it's crazy good here.
Where: Sri Lanka's southern coast is dotted with white sand beaches. The best run from Galle to Welipatanvila.
When: Just avoid the monsoon. You'll be fine from February to April, and November to December.
How: Don’t worry, you don't need your own catamaran. Tour operators like G Adventures run regular departures during peak season.
36. Climb to the Tiger's Nest in Bhutan
We're calling it: Taktshang, or Tiger's Nest, is the most beautiful temple going. It also happens to be found in one of our favourite countries: the gross-domestic-happiness-measuring, phallus-drawing mountain kingdom of Bhutan, a land that definitely marches to the beat of its own drum. The white walls of Tiger's Nest were destroyed by fire in 1998 and rebuilt at serious expense. Today it's looking more beautiful than ever, and trust us – photos don't do this place justice.
Where: Deep in the Paro Valley, west Bhutan.
When: Spring is a beautiful time to visit Bhutan, but if you're looking for solitude, avoid early April. The Paro Tshechu festival draws big crowds then.
How: The only way to reach Tiger's Nest is to hike. There's talk of building a proper highway through the mountains, but the site wouldn't be the same without the pilgrimage.
37. Drive a rickshaw through Cambodia
Travelling through Cambodia is already a joy, but racing through it behind the handlebars of your own three-wheeled rickshaw is even better. You and your team start in Siem Reap and work your way through checkpoints on the way to Phonm Penh, dodging potholes and completing challenges along the way. It's a new form of independent group travel from tour operator Large Minority.
Where: The rickshaw challenge passes through Beng Mealea, Preah Vihear and Koh Trong in central Cambodia.
When: The next Cambo Challenge kicks off in October, which happens to be a great time if you want to dodge some crowds.
How: No rickshaw experience necessary – the trip comes with a full driver training day in Siem Reap.
38. Venture beneath the earth at Hang Son Doong Cave, Vietnam
It's hard to put the sheer size of Hang Son Doong Cave into perspective, but we'll give it a try. It's the biggest cave in the world: over 8.8km long, home to it's own jungle and river, and could fit a 40-storey skyscraper inside without breaking a sweat. The weird thing, though, is that no one knew this until about 2009, when British cavers stumbled on it and had to search their bags for wide-angled camera lenses to fit it all in.
Where: You'll find the cave in the middle of Quảng Bình Province in central Vietnam.
When: Tours of the cave book up well in advance and are date-sensitive. You'll have to plan it about a year in advance.
How: Not only can you explore this mammoth subterranean structure, but you can camp out in it too. Just ask for a OxalisBYO cave helmet with flashlight on top.
39. Get down and dirty at the Boryeong Mud Festival in South Korea
Every year the sleepy coastal town of Boryeong swells from a population of about 100,000 people to several million. Why? Mud. Glorious mud. Grey, gloopy, cosmetically useful mud. The mud plains near Daecheon are full of good things like Germanium and Bentonite, and the festival features a variety of mud massages, huge inflatable mud slides, live music, mud wrestling, mud fireworks (yes, really) and marine style mud combat training. If it's mud-based and madness, it's here.
Where: Daecheon swimming beach in Boryeong, South Korea
When: Every July.
How: It probably goes without saying, but keep the good clothes, watches and glasses at home. You'll get muddy.
40. Check out the new elevated Skypark in Seoul, South Korea
You might have heard of New York's High Line – a decommissioned rail line-turned park that rides high above the streets below. As of last year, Seoul has its own version – the Seoullo 7017 or Skypark. It's about a kilometre in length, home to over 24,00 plants, not to mention cafes, art exhibitions, kids' playgrounds, live music and galleries. You can even stand above giant glass potholes, which give you a great view to the ground, a dizzying 17m below.
Where: Seoullo 7017 runs between Myeong-dong and Jung-gu in Seoul, South Korea. Just look for the giant park-covered walkway thing.
When: The park is open every day, and the city even provides free walking tours for travellers. Best time to visit? March to May or September to November.
How: Try to swing by on the weekends. Musicians take over the Skypark and the whole thing turns into one big party. One Day Korea can help with planning.
41. Stand beneath Maletsunyane Falls in Lesotho
Everyone’s got a favourite waterfall, but we’re going to throw a curve ball into the mix. You’ve probably never heard of it, but one glance at a picture and you’ll be booking your ticket to the tiny African nation of Lesotho. Maletsunyane is one of those vistas straight out of National Geographic: a 192m free-flowing waterfall, caught between two basalt cliffs and surrounded by rolling green valley. Like Angel Falls in Venezuela, the drop is so high that the water vaporizes before it hits the bottom, rising as mist and giving the site its name: Semonkong, The Place of Smoke.
Where: Maletsunyane sits just outside the town of Semonkong in Lesotho.
When: Late summer is the perfect time to visit Lesotho. Come in March and Maletsunyane should be running full from the big February rains.
42. Sail a dhow past the Swahili isle of Lamu
A few hundred clicks north of Mombasa, off the Kenyan Coast, you’ll find the Lamu Archipelago. Lamu town is a bewitching mix of mosques and houses, built from coral and stone, women in bui-bui and groups of smiling kids. But people come here for one reason: the water. Hire a traditional dhow (there are plenty floating on the bay) and sail the old trade winds.
Where: Lamu is an island in the Lamu Archipelago, off the coast of Kenya.
When: Try to visit during the slightly cooler winter months (July and August).
How: Most hotels on Lamu can organise dhow trips to the nearby ruins of Takwa.
43. Hike the northern reaches of South Africa’s Kruger National Park
Kruger National Park is one of the jewels in Africa’s safari crown. But only a fraction of the 1.5 million annual visitors get to see the park’s northern reaches, cut off from the main game trails. The only way to see this wilderness is on foot: hiking the Pafuri Walking Trails through the Limpopo River Valley, Crooks Corner, Hutwini and the Luvuvhu fever tree forest. Keep an eye out for cheetah, elephant and eland, plus the iconic bird species of Kruger. Bonus points if you spot a mottled spinetail.
Where: Kruger National Park lies about five hours north-east from Johannesburg in South Africa.
When: Mid-year is generally the best time for game-viewing, from July to September.
How: There aren’t many foot safaris through the north of Kruger, but we managed to track one down.
44. Ski in Iran’s Alborz Mountains
Describing the Alborz as the best powder in the Middle East might be a bit like advertising Chile’s Atacama Desert as a top-notch swim spot, but this is a side of Iran that most visitors never get to see. Alborz is all about glitz and glamour – well-to-do Iranians cutting lose and enjoying the slopes, free from the constraints of the theocracy, if only for a little while. The occasional gleam off the roof of a Shia shrine is the only clue you’re not carving it up in the Swiss Alps. And the tourists? Forget about it.
Where: The Alborz ski fields lie just to the north east of Iran’s capital city, Tehran.
When: You'll probably want to avoid an Iranian winter (they can be pretty severe). Go in September or October for clear skies and good snow.
How: There are a few ski resorts on the mountain. Dizen and Shemshak are probably the most popular.
45. Meet endangered sea turtles in Ras al-Jinz, Oman
Green turtles, Hawksbill turtles, Loggerhead turtles – they all drag themselves over the sand in their hundreds to beaches like Ras al-Jinz and Daymaniyat Island, where they dig holes in the sand and lay their eggs. The Ras al-Jinz turtle sanctuary is one of the best places to view the action. They even have scientists who teach you about local conservation efforts.
Where: Turtles migrate every year from the shores of the Arabian gulf to lay their eggs on the beaches of Oman.
When: July to October is peak turtle viewing season.
How: G Adventures includes a stop at Ras al-Jinz on their Highlights of Oman group tour.
46. Capture the sand dunes of Namibia on film
Sossusvlei has to be Namibia’s most photogenic place. It’s made up of a series of sand dunes carved by the wind into towering peaks of gold and black. The name translates roughly into ‘dead end marsh’, which probably doesn't make its way into a lot of Namibian tourism brochures. The sands here are over five million years old, swept down from the Kalahari desert over millennia by the Orange River.
Where: Sossusvlei is in the southern part of the Namib Desert, in Namibia’s Namib-Naukluft National Park.
When: Visit Sossusvlei any time between March and May when the clear skies and mild winds give you the best conditions for photography.
How: If you want the best shots, come at dusk when the sun turns the dunes into two-sided red and black wonders.
47. Spot leopards on a walking safari in Zambia’s Luangwa National Park
When it comes to Africa’s national parks, Luangwa, in Zambia, doesn’t crack most people’s top 10. Which is a shame, really, because this is where you’ll got your best chance at spotting the most elusive of the big five: the leopard. Luangwa is also one of the few parks that offers genuine walking safaris. It’s the best way to get up close and see the local wildlife, and the guides here are known as some of the best in the business.
Where: Luangwa sprawls across central eastern Zambia, near the city of Mfuwe.
When: The game viewing here is seasonal, like most national parks. Generally, you want to come in late June, when dry conditions force animals towards reliable water holes.
How: On foot with a company like Track and Trail River Camp.
48. Snorkel with whale sharks in Djibouti
Tiny Djibouti on the Horn of Africa isn’t exactly overflowing with tourists, but that’s kind of how we like it. You can hike through the Day Forest National Park, sleep belles étoiles (under the stars) at Allouli and kick back on the white sands of Plage des Sables Blancs without ever spotting a fellow traveller. It’s on the coast that you’ll find another Djibouti secret: whale sharks. Plankton blooms cover the Bay of Ghoubbet from October to February, which attract whale sharks by the dozen. Ningaloo Coast, eat your heart out.
Where: Ghoubbet al-Kharab (aka the Bay of Ghoubbet) is surrounded by cliffs and volcanoes, on the Djibouti coast.
When: Whale shark season runs as long as the plankton keeps blooming – usually from October to February.
How: There are plenty of local operators to pester for your whale shark fix.
49. Check out the pink waters of Lake Retba in Senegal
More lakes should look like milkshakes. That was presumably the divine thinking behind the creation of Lake Retba in Senegal. Unlike regular milkshakes though, this one has a salt content of about 40 percent and is full of pink Dunaliella salina algae (yum). Workers collect the salt from the lake, protecting their skin with shea butter, but there are fish that live here too. They’re a lot smaller than regular fish, but at least they come pre-seasoned.
Where: The Cape Verde Peninsula, north-east of Dakar in Senegal. Fun fact: it used to be the end of the famous Dakar Rally.
When: The lake is at its pinkest during the dry season, November to June.
How: A number of companies run tours around the lake, including quad bike tours through the surrounding hinterland.
50. Raft beneath Victoria Falls in Zambia
Like Iguazu Falls, Victoria straddles a border, so there are two ways to tackle it. The Zimbabwean side has usually been the more popular of the two, but if you like fewer crowds try the Zambian approach. For up close views of the Eastern Cataract, hop on the mist-soaked footbridge and walk to the aptly named Knife’s Edge. But for the real adrenaline junkies, nothing beats jumping in a raft and paddling through the rapids at the base of the falls.
Where: On the western tip of Zimbabwe, right on the Zambian border.
When: The best time to see Victoria is between February and May, right after the big summer rains.
How: Take your pick: raft, abseil, bungee, jet boat or fly over the falls in a chopper.
51. Stargaze at the Sahara Observatory in Morocco
Grab your Bedouin robe and your telescope, we’re going stargazing. At the edge of the Moroccan Sahara, surrounded by nothing but dunes and a small tent settlement, is a desert observatory come hotel come genuine Kasbah fortress. The clear skies, absence of light pollution and complete isolation makes the stargazing here some of the best in the world. Morocco’s southerly latitude means you can even pick up constellations from both hemispheres. Did we mention they run astronomy classes on the roof?
Where: Near the southern border of Morocco, on the edge of the Saharan Desert.
When: Check your celestial calendar for major events, but generally the cooler months from October to April are a great time to visit Morocco.
How: Easy. Morocco Desert Stargazing runs trips at Erg Chebbi in Morocco.
52. Try kitesurfing at Essaouira, Morocco
Essaouira (pronounced essa-weera, if you’re interested) isn’t really a ‘beachy’ beach. There aren’t people sunning themselves and drinking cocktails with little umbrellas in them. The city’s location on the Atlantic coast, combined with local swells and winds sweeping down from the north, mean white caps, sea spray, and an ever-present wind. Basically, perfect conditions for kite-surfers. Seriously, kite pros come from all over Africa (and the world) to enjoy these breezes. There’s a reason they call it the Windy City (sorry, Chicago – it’s not just you).
Where: Essaouira clings to the coast, about two hours out of Marrakesh on Morocco’s Atlantic coast.
When: For low rainfall, try and visit between March and October. The wind is pretty constant year-round.
How: The conditions suit experienced surfers, but there are heaps of companies running beginner classes on the city’s wide, southern beaches.
53. Play a game of Awari in Ghana
We’re going to bet good money you’ve never heard of Awari. It’s one of the oldest known games of intellectual skill, and a favourite for locals on the streets of Accra. Oware (Awari is the English name) has dozens of variants, but most of them involve a series of 12 holes in a wooden board, and 48 seeds that are moved from house to house. Beating a Ghana local is a long shot (unless you’re some sort of undiscovered Awari prodigy), but it’s a lot of fun, even when you don’t know the rules.
Where: Awari is played all over Africa, but in Ghana they call it the national game.
When: It’s usually best to visit Ghana around July/August, but of course you can find a game of Awari year-round.
How: The best bit about Awari? Participation is encouraged! It’s a social game, so if you see a few locals playing, go up and introduce yourself.
54. Swim in the shallow waters of Bazaruto, Mozambique
Bazaruto is one of those islands that could be submerged in a high tide. Its sandy fringes are a gorgeous network of foot-deep sky blue water – a windswept wonderland for kite surfers and paragliders who catch serious air from the gales blowing in from the Indian Ocean. And for nature lovers? Dolphins crest in the shallow waters offshore, leatherback and loggerhead turtles nest in the dunes and there’s even dugongs cruising the sea-grass meadows.
Where: Bazaruto is a thin strip of sand about 80km south east of the mouth of the Save River in Mozambique.
When: For perfect beach vibes, head to Bazaruto between May and November.
How: Vilanculos and Inhassoro on the coast are the gateways to Bazaruto, and there are a few upmarket hotels on the island itself.
55. Drive South Africa’s Panorama Route
Any road confident enough to shotgun the name Panorama Route must be beautiful, right? Luckily South Africa’s most famous driving route has the views to back up its title. Carving through the clouds above the spectacular Blyde River Canyon, it’s an endless parade of mountain vistas with names like ‘God’s Window’ and ‘Wonder View’. What it lacks in modesty it makes up for in drama, with waterfalls cascading past the road and eagles circling on thermals overhead. Road trip anyone?
Where: The Panorama Route passes through Mpumalanga province, east of Johannesburg.
When: May to September is a great time to visit South Africa, with excellent game viewing on show at the nearby Kruger National Park.
How: Head to the small town of Graskop, otherwise known as the gateway to the Panorama Route, then drive towards Blyde River Canyon.
56. Meet the tribes of Ethiopia’s Omo Valley
While the modern world encroaches a little further each year, many of the Omo Valley’s dozen ethnic tribes still cling to traditional ways of life. Daasanach villages still herd goats on the dry savannah scrub, Hamer people still perform the famous Jumping of the Bulls ceremony and Mursi warriors still stretch their jaws with enormous lip plates. Tribes gather on market days to trade and barter goods. For any budding anthropologist, it’s an opportunity not to be missed.
Where: The Omo Valley is tucked away in the south of Ethiopia, on the banks of the Omo River.
When: For a real cultural insight, the best time to visit is January to April, when a lot of the tribes host celebrations and initiation ceremonies.
How: Omo Valley Tours run tours of the Omo Valley, funnily enough.
57. Hike Namibia’s Fish River Canyon
Trekkers fly from all over the world to hike this route. It’s probably the best trail in southern Africa, and it’ll certainly get you the best photos. Fish River Canon is a 160km scar on the rocky arid landscape of southern Namibia. At some points it’s over 500m deep, and the hike through its winding ravines takes about five days of arduous toil. But the rewards are worth it: raw, untamed views, sulphuric hot springs, and the knowledge you’ve conquered one of Africa’s true natural wonders.
Where: Fish River flows through the Karas Region of southern Namibia, near the South African border.
When: April and May are lovely times to visit Namibia, with clear air and little dust on the wind.
How: The trail starts from the carpark west of Hobas and descends down to some sulphur hot springs.
58. Paddle kayaks on Lake Malawi
Tiny Malawi is often dismissed as Africa for beginners, but we prefer its other nickname: the warm heart of Africa. It’s home to Lake Malawi, one of the world’s biggest, deepest and prettiest lakes: 570km of clear water, deserted sandy islands and colourful cichlid fish. There are more fish species here than any other lake in the world, and you can see most of them from the saddle of a kayak.
Where: Lake Malawi lies in a valley at the beginning of the East African Rift, on the borders of Malawi and Mozambique.
When: Winter is actually the perfect time to visit Lake Malawi. Come between May and late October for sunny days and clear skies.
How: Plenty of operators hire kayaks out for day trips. Paddle to one of the lake’s deserted islands, open a good book and laze the day away.
59. Visit a voodoo market in Togo
At the popular Akodessewa Fetish Market you can find anything from human skulls, leopard heads and alligators to witchdoctor cures and curses. Vodun (or voodoo) is a religious rite with local tribes, so be prepared for the wonderful and the weird.
Where: You can find the Akodessewa Fetish Market in the city of Lome in Togo.
When: Check with your local guide for the next market date.
How: While vodun is a spiritual tradition in Togo, don’t support or pay for cruel practices that violate animal welfare. Stick to the more sustainable voodoo cures.
60. Camp overnight at the holy hermitage of Assekrem, Algeria
There aren’t many places like this left in the world: lonely, unspoiled, remote, with a topology that looks more like Mars than Earth. Welcome to Asskerem, in the warped mountains of Algeria’s Atakor peninsula. In 1911, French priest Charles de Foucauld built a small hermitage on the highest peak, Assekrem, and it’s still standing today. It means ‘The End of the World’ in the local Tuareg language, which is pretty damn appropriate. Not many companies run tours into Assekrem, but it’s still possible to camp out near the hermitage.
Where: Assekrem is in the Hoggar Mountains in southeast Algeria.
When: Shoulder months like March or September are perfect — the weather is mild and visitors are few.
How: Amenities are scarce up here, so camping is mandatory. Make sure you rise early for one of the truly great sunrises.
61. Party the night away in Trinidad’s Ayala Cave Disco
You know those trendy people who know all the underground clubs? Prepare to trump them with the literal thing. Disco Ayala in Trinidad is one of the coolest nights out in Central America: five dance floors (made of actual marble), three bars, thousands of party-goers, cabaret acts and all the awesomeness of being in a real-life underground cave system. It’s just like that dance scene in the second Matrix movie, but without the robots and Apocalyptic vibe.
Where: Look for the underground entrance by the Ermita Popa church (or just follow the weird underground bass vibrations)
When: The disco opens its… er cave entrance every night at 10pm and runs until 3am.
How: Admission is usually around CUC$10. Also, try to stick around until 1am, that’s when the firewalkers, snake handlers and glass eaters arrive.
62. Kill all the time in the world at Jericoacoara, Brazil
Forget Rio, Jericoacoara (or Jeri for short) is Brazil’s hidden coastal paradise. Its streets are paved with sand, its waters are shallow and warm, and it’s got some of the coolest sand dunes going around. The town’s most popular ritual is gathering each evening on ‘Sunset Dune’ (Por do Sol) west of the town for a cerveza (usually from some enterprising local with a cart), a few Afro/Brazilian beats and a glorious Atlantic sunset.
Where: On the northern tip of Brazil, just west of the city of Fortaleza.
When: The weather is pretty consistent year round in Jeri, but between July and February is considered optimal.
How: Head up to Por do Sol (just follow the crowds) grab a beer, kick back on the sands and wait for the sunset.
63. Paraglide over Chile’s Atacama Desert
Not many tourists make it to Iquique in north-western Chile, sandwiched between the endless blue of the Pacific and the huge red dunes of the Atacama. But it’s one of the best paragliding spots on the planet. You’re pretty much guaranteed good conditions too: Iquique gets about a day of rainfall each year. You just find a local operator, pick one of the hundred dunes surrounding the town, and hold on for dear life.
Where: Iquique clings to the coast of northern Chile, in the Tarapacá region.
When: To be honest, it doesn’t matter. This place is hot and dry 99 perfect of the time.
How: Local operators like Antofaya run some pretty epic tours. You’re in safe hands.
64. Ride dune buggies through the Atacama
Even by desert standards, Chile’s Atacama is a bit strange: it’s the driest desert on earth (if you don’t count Antarctica); the landscape is all volcanic saline lakes, empty saltpans and pink flamingos; a high volume of quartz and copper in the soil is said to give the locals positive energy; it’s home to the world’s most expensive telescope array; and it’s a killer spot for riding dune buggies through the sand. Not a bad resume for what is essentially a hot, barren wasteland.
Where: The Atacama sits high in northern Chile, between the Andes Mountains and the Pacific coast.
When: September through to March is generally considered the best time to visit the Atacama.
65. Search for lost spirits in Chiloé, Chile
A lot of places are described as ‘mystical’, but Chiloé is one spot that really earns the title. It’s a mist-shrouded island off the coast of southern Chile, but feels completely cut off from the rest of the country. Mornings begin in dense fog, fisherman live in multicoloured stilt houses called palafitos and the countryside is full of legends, myths, ghost ships and forest gnomes. You won’t have to fight the crowds either. Compared to nearby Patagonia, hardly any outsiders go here.
Where: Chiloé sits off the coast, just south of Puerto Mont. You can either fly in from Santiago or cross on the ferry.
When: The best time to visit the island is from December to March.
How: Brush up on your Spanish before you go. Not many Chilotes speak English. And make sure to check out the UNESCO churches that dot the island.
66. Try cutting-edge Nikkei fusion in Lima, Peru
The whole ‘fusion cuisine’ thing has become a little passé, but we know one culinary trend you need to try ASAP. It’s called Nikkei, a hybrid of Japanese and Peruvian gastronomy (which makes no sense, until you learn of the large Japanese immigration into Peru in the late 1800s). Think screwball concoctions like crispy chicken skin with pachikay ginger sauce, rice senbei (crackers) and roasted plantains. And the best place to try it? It’s got to be the famous Maido, from chef Mitsuhara Tsumura. Recently ranked the eighth best restaurant in the world.
Where: You’ll find Maido in Miraflores in Lima, a few streets back from the beach.
When: Book early, that’s all we’re saying. There’s a waiting list than can span for months.
How: Mitsuhara’s menu changes with the seasons, but expect the unexpected.
67. Cross the Bolivian Altiplano
Here’s how it goes: you spend a day taking novelty photos on the salt flats of Salar de Uyuni, then, when the other tourists hop in their big buses and drive home, you head straight over the wild Bolivian Altiplano. This is the largest high plateau anywhere on earth outside Tibet. Only a few tour companies make the journey across it, but that just means you get thousands of kilometres of volcanic lakes, flamingos, mountains and moonscapes all to yourself.
Where: The Altiplano actually spans a large area of the Central Andes, including northern Chile and Argentina, western Bolivia and southern Peru.
When: Stick to warm and mild months, usually December through to March.
How: Dragoman Overland is actually one of the few companies that offers this journey.
68. Hike the snowy slopes of a volcano in Chile
Active volcanoes are usually associated with people trying to get away from them at speed, not hike to their summit. Villarrica is the exception. It’s one of the few spots on earth you can see real Stromboli activity right up close (there’s often even a small lava lake waiting for you at the top). The hike up the slope is challenging, but breathtaking, with panoramic views over the lake below and the surrounding Andes Mountains.
Where: Villarrica looms over the town of the same name, about 750km south of Santiago, Chile.
When: Obviously, as one of the world’s most active volcanos, safety is paramount. Check with local operators about recent volcanic activity.
How: We won’t lie – it’s a tough hike to the top. If you’re after something a bit easier (and more expensive), there are a few helicopter tours that fly you right over the summit.
69. Play documentary maker in Argentina’s Valdes Peninsula
Galapagos is the rightful queen of South America's wildlife, but Argentina’s Valdes Peninsula is at least some kind of lesser earl or viscount. It’s got all the natural splendour of its more famous cousin (Magellanic penguins, orca, sea lions, southern right whales...) but fewer crowds. It’s a barren Patagonian peninsula – you don’t come here for lush scenery – but it’s one of the few places in the world you can spot killer whales picking seals off the beach.
Where: Valdes Peninsula is on the southern coast of Argentina, just north-east of Chubut Province.
When: If you want to try and see an orca attack, high tide between February and April is the time. But don’t get your hopes up; it’s a pretty rare sight.
How: Most of the marine life is so common that sightings are almost guaranteed year round. You can get close, but remember: no touching.
70. Watch surfers on the Amazon River
It’s called Pororoca, a twice-yearly phenomenon where the waters of the Atlantic swell and surge up the Amazon, creating a perfect series of cresting waves. Only instead of riding them a few hundred yards into a beach, surfers ride them for miles and miles, cruising on endless 12ft-high Amazonian swells. Experience is essential: if you find boogie boarding a challenge, maybe sit this one out and watch from the banks. It’s quite a sight.
Where: The epicentre of Pororoca is São Domingos do Capim in northern Brazil.
When: The Pororoca usually occurs twice a year, between February and March. Listen out for a distant roar – that’s the wave approaching.
How: It has to be said, Pororoca is dangerous. The huge waves can wash trees, debris and even venomous snakes into the river. Better to just enjoy the spectacle.
71. Trek the tepuis of Venezuela
If you’ve seen the movie Up, you’ve seen a tepuis. They were the inspiration for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Lost World – huge rock-covered tabletop mountains, rising through the fog banks, fringed by waterfalls. Each tepuis is like a perfectly isolated ecosystem, home to a variety of lizards, frogs and spiders you don’t find anywhere else on the planet. Climbing one is tricky, but there are a bunch of companies that run treks around the base.
Where: You’ll find tepuis in the Guiana Highlands on the eastern edge of Venezuela.
When: The dry season here runs from October to April, but the tepuis are notoriously drizzly. Pack a poncho.
How: Most tepuis are out of reach to anyone that doesn’t own a helicopter, but there are trails leading to the summit of Auyan Tepui.
72. Sit ringside at a women’s wrestling match in Bolivia
It just makes so much sense: take the traditional costumes of the Andean people, and combine them with WWE-style smackdowns. They’re known as the Fighting Cholitas, a group of female lucha libre wrestlers in Bolivia, who perform scripted fights in front of thousands of spectators. Each fighter wears the indigenous dress of the Aymara and Quechua people: braided hair, bowler hats and long, multi-layered skirts. But they can do a flying body slam that’ll knock your socks off.
Where: Although they tour the surrounding towns, the best place to see the Fighting Cholitas is El Alto, Bolivia.
When: Performances usually run on Sunday nights at the city’s Multifunctional Centre.
How: Tickets cost about a dollar, but the experience is priceless. Come early to get a good seat.
73. Surf down a volcano in Nicaragua
You’re standing on the crest of an active volcano just outside Leon. Below you (far below), a mammoth slope of jet-black volcanic ash. That’s what faces the ‘ash boarders’ of Cerro Negro in Nicaragua. The sport of ‘volcano surfing’ was created in Vanuatu, but Cerro Negro is the most popular spot. Remember though: what goes down must first go up. You have to climb for about 45 minutes to the volcano’s crest, but the views are well worth it. Hold on tight!
Where: Cerro Negro volcano near Leon in Nicaragua.
When: Boarding sessions run every day, but December – April will give you the best conditions.
How: Don’t worry, if you can’t stand up on the board you can toboggan down. Use your feet to control your speed. You’ll be given protective goggles, gloves and a jumpsuit.
74. Stroll beneath the roof of Santuario de Las Lajas, Colombia
The little Colombian village of Las Lajas is the last place you’d expect to find a stark white, neo-gothic church above a gorge, but life’s full of surprises like that. It’s believed that the Virgin Mary appeared from the vertical rock face above the chapel in the mid 18th century, and now the church is a mecca for pilgrims and the vendors who sell to pilgrims. Miraculous or not, it’s a strangely beautiful sight.
Where: Las Lajas is right near the Columbia-Ecuador border, just southwest of the city of Pasto.
When: On the weekends, the church erupts with pilgrims. Come midweek and you could have it mostly to yourself.
How: Definitely explore the church itself, and the historical exhibitions on the lower levels. But for the best view, head to the waterfall on the far side of the canyon.
75. Go bonefishing in Los Roques, Venezuela
A lot of places claim to be sleepy fishing villages, but it’s quite a shock to find the real thing. Los Roques is a little community on the atolls north of Caracas. It’s got one tiny beachside airport, limited electricity and direct access to the best bonefishing in the world. Bonefish are some of the fastest animals in the sea, and they race through the shallow water like tiny grey bullets. Just hire a cracked and peeling old boat, load up the rods and go exploring.
Where: Bonefish are found all through the Los Roques archipelago. Just cast a line in any of the aquamarine shallows and wait for the action.
When: The best season for bonefish is February to October, when the weather is mild and the waters warm.
How: Don’t forget to preserve the fisheries – practise catch and release as much as possible.
76. Surf the coast of Ecuador at Montañita
It’s not one of the world’s most famous breaks, but locals know that the northern swells off Montañita are some of the best in the world. This place was a hippie surf mecca in the 1960s, and although its popularity has increased over the years, it’s still way less crowded than Ecuador’s other beachside hotspots, like Salinas. The waves here are strong and consistent, with breaks up to two metres recorded between January and March. The town is exactly what you’d expect: laid back, a lot of fun, and chock full of expats who left the 9–5 lifestyle waaaay behind.
Where: You’ll find Montañita on the Santa Elena peninsula, over two hours from the port town of Guayaquil.
When: Expect good surf and sunshine December – May, peak season for the area. There’ll be more rain July – August, but it’s a good time to learn how to surf.
How: You can bus to Montañita from Quito (with multiple changes along the way), or just join a coastal group tour.
77. Dive between continents at the Silfra Rift in Iceland
If coral reefs, shipwrecks and giant clams are starting to feel a bit tame, try swimming directly between two continental tectonic plates in Iceland. The Silfra Rift is one of the only spots in the world you can actually do this. The water here is crystal clear, fed by a nearby glacial lake, and visibility can stretch for an incredible 100m. Crazy underwater lava formations and the ability to actually touch two continents at once? Grab your wetsuit.
Where: Near Þingvellir Lake in the Þingvellir National Park in Iceland.
When: June to August is peak season for Iceland. Although once you’re below the waves, weather isn’t such a big factor.
How: PADI qualified dive masters run scuba tours in Silfra regularly. You’ll need your licence to take part though.
78. Try air-dried stockfish in the Lofoten islands
Just off the coast of Nordland in northern Norway, you’ll find the Lofoten Islands. Fresh produce isn’t exactly thick on the ground here, so when the locals catch cod, they like to preserve it. That’s why the shores are covered in wooden tepee-like structures, where the ‘stockfish’ are allowed to cure in the freezing air. They don’t look particularly appetising, but we promise they’re not that bad.
Where: Lofoten is a collection of islands off the northern coast of Norway.
When: Stockfish is necessarily weather dependent. Best to visit between February and May.
How: The cold, dry air protects the fish from bacteria growth, but too much frost will ruin the flesh. Yum.