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hot air balloons floating in the air at sunset in cappadocia turkey

Craving an unforgettable trip? Check out these 9 adventures of a lifetime

Feb 03, 2023 by The Go Ahead Tours Team

As travel lovers, we know that not all trips are the same. There are those that we take over and over again, learning something new each time. Then there are adventures we may spend years saving for, or ones we’ve always dreamt of taking but just never had the time. Are you longing to finally see the pyramids in Egypt or walk with penguins in Patagonia? We may call these bucket list trips or trips of a lifetime, but regardless of how we categorize them, one thing we know is that we can’t wait to go.

These adventure-filled trips are often to destinations farther away from home and require multiple legs of travel. Maybe they’re the ones that push us to our limits and teach us more about the world and ourselves. These are the adventures of a lifetime that might ask us to take more risks so that we may reap the reward of fulfilling a lifelong dream. We want your next trip to be just that. And to provide inspiration, we’ve rounded up nine tours to bucket-list destinations full of once-in-a-lifetime experiences you’ll never forget.

Tigers Nest monastery built into the side of a mountain in Bhutan

1. Bhutan

Hike the trails less traveled

If a trip to Bhutan has been on your mind lately, you’re not the only one. That’s because the 250-mile Trans Bhutan Trail, which has been closed for 60 years, was finally restored and reopened in 2022. But the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan offers much more than an historic pathway. Even before reopening, countless travelers dreamt of exploring this mountainous country’s lush landscapes and reveling in its rich and mysterious culture. Verdant peaks shrouded in low-lying clouds and centuries-old monastic fortresses only hint at the treasures that await in Bhutan. Fun fact: In the Dzongkha language, Bhutan is called Druk Yul, which, translated to English, means the Land of the Thunder Dragon.

The focus of this brand-new, 13-day Bhutan Adventure: The Trans Bhutan Trail tour is hiking on a historic trail that was once part of the legendary Silk Road. Because it was closed for 60 years, the Trans Bhutan Trail is high on the bucket lists of hikers, who will get to travel through most of the width of the country. You will weave in and out of tranquil countrysides, Himalayan pathways, historic temples, and bustling villages. There will be plenty of cultural moments too, which will connect you to the Bhutanese community. Those include a visit to the Gagyel Lhundrup Weaving Centre to see how traditional textiles are made, and a stop at the National Institute for Zorig Chusum, where you’ll take an interactive art class with local students. It won’t take long for you to get a sense of just why Bhutan is often named the happiest country on Earth.

In a country that only opened to travelers in 1974, getting to hike the Trans Bhutan Trail is truly the adventure of a lifetime.

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Hiker traversing an open field in New Zealand, looking out towards moutains and a body of water

2. New Zealand: Untamed Landscapes

Get a glimpse of unbelievable natural beauty

What makes the country of New Zealand a must-visit destination of a lifetime is its wild landscapes. If you’ve ever watched The Lord of the Rings movies, most of which were filmed in New Zealand, you’ve gotten a glimpse of the natural beauty of this island nation. Sharp, snow-topped mountain ranges, glistening lakes, and dramatic fjords are just some of the postcard-perfect scenes that await you on your tour of New Zealand.

When you’re on our 16-day New Zealand: Untamed Landscapes tour every moment is going to feel like you’re on a bucket-list trip of a lifetime. Whether you’re scanning the water for dolphins, penguins, seals, and whales in Milford Sound, exploring natural blowholes and caves formed by sea erosion in the Abel Tasman region, or breaking bread with a traditional Maori community in Rotorua, every moment of this two-week adventure is more unforgettable than the last. But it’s not all rugged beauty here—on your free day in Auckland, end the trip by visiting a vineyard on Waiheke Island and raising a glass to one of the great trips of your life.

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crowds surrounding the Sydney Opera House

3. Australia

Take your pick of unforgettable adventures Down Under

When adventure planning in Australia, prepare to be spoiled with choices. What makes this enormous country such an exciting trip of a lifetime is the variety it offers. If you’re looking for relaxing beaches, out-of-this-world wildlife, exciting cities, inspiring natural landscapes, or ancient cultures, a trip to Australia will combine all of these, and more. It makes the long travel time from North America worth it!

When you take a once-in-a-lifetime trip, you want to have it all. That’s exactly what our 12-day Highlights of Australia: The Great Barrier Reef to Sydney tour provides. All the bucket list Australian destinations you may have already heard of are part of this immersive experience. You’ll start in the thrilling city of Sydney to soak in the atmosphere at iconic Bondi Beach and Sydney Opera House before making your way to the Great Barrier Reef. Accompanied by a marine biologist, you’ll spend a whole day discovering the eye-opening ecosystem that calls this natural wonder home. Then you’ll move on to cosmopolitan Melbourne, a city bursting with great food, cool art, and colorful gardens. You can even add an excursion to Phillip Island to watch adorable penguins make their daily parade home.

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a yellow and orange colored Marine iguana resting on a rock in the Galapagos islands

4. Ecuador

Take a closer look at the animal kingdom

For animal lovers, there is no bigger adventure of a lifetime than a tour of Ecuador. This unforgettable destination is home to the world famous Galápagos Islands, where Charles Darwin developed his theory of evolution. But this rich South American country is about more than just the natural diversity of the Galápagos. There’s the beautiful capital of Quito, where Baroque churches compete for attention with the stunning volcanoes that surround the city.

For 10 days during our Ecuador & Galápagos Islands Cruise, you’ll see exactly why Ecuador has captured the imagination of explorers and travelers for many, many years. Starting in the capital of Quito, you’ll marvel at the drama of a high-altitude city, which has a history that’s been shaped by centuries of Spanish culture. Pick your favorite between the striking gargoyles of the neo-Gothic Basilica of the National Vow or the gold-leaf interior of the Church of La Compañía, the city’s Baroque masterpiece. You’ll see both on this adventure.

From Quito, it’s a week of island hopping and cruising in the Galápagos. Adventure planning in this region revolves around the abundance of indigenous wildlife that you won’t see anywhere else, but your itinerary will include much more than spotting blue-footed boobies, yellow-crowned night herons, and marine iguanas. You’ll get to snorkel in Baltra, explore lava flows on Santiago Island, and trek through the humid rainforest of the Santa Cruz highlands. If this doesn’t sound like a once-in-a-lifetime trip, we don’t know what does!

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icey water leading to a boulder covered partially with ice and grass in Kenai Fjords in Alaska

5. Alaska

Have a once-in-a-lifetime wilderness adventure

Sometimes, a trip of a lifetime can feel like you’re trekking to the ends of the world, and that’s exactly why we can’t get enough of traveling to Alaska, fittingly nicknamed the Last Frontier. When you’re soaking in its magnificent peaks and staring at the vastness of its craggy landscape, it might feel like you’re exploring a place that has yet to be visited by others. Its remote and untamed grandeur, visible everywhere you go, is what makes Alaska a bucket list trip of a lifetime.

Because there is so much to see in a state so big, adventure planning in Alaska can be a bit overwhelming. That’s why our 10-day Alaska’s National Parks: Denali & the Kenai Fjords tour, highlights two of its gorgeous national parks: Denali and Kenai Fjords, both unbelievably stunning in very different ways. Jagged, snow-crowned Denali is North America’s tallest mountain, and when you’re there it might be impossible to tear your gaze away. But once you do, sign up for the optional Denali Wilderness Walking Tour, where you’ll hopefully spot wolves, caribou, moose, and much more while learning about the geological history of the area.

In Kenai Fjords, your boat will weave in and out of jutting rock formations to give you the very best views of stunning waterfalls and ancient glaciers. Keep your eyes peeled, there may be friendly whales in your midst.

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a pack of llamas on a hill in the Chilean region of Patagonia

6. Chile

Explore Torres del Paine National Park

Just like going to Alaska, a trip to Chile can feel like you’re heading to the very ends of the Earth. Prepare for some of the most striking landscapes on the planet. There’s the alien-like starkness of the Atacama Desert in the north and the wild ruggedness of Patagonia in the south. As far as adventures of a lifetime go, any of our tours to Chile fit the bill.

The first half of our 12-day Chile to Argentina: Santiago, Patagonia & Buenos Aires tour is all about long and slender Chile, which is bordered by the Pacific Ocean to the west and the Andes Mountains and Atacama Desert to the east. All of these unique natural features combine to create one of the most exceptional geographic landscapes in the world. It’s no surprise that going to Chile has become one of the top trips of a lifetime for many travelers.

On your journey with us, you’ll start in the historic capital of Santiago. (Day 2 is all yours, so you may want to consider the additional excursion to the coastal city of Valparaíso for some street art and a wine tasting!) Then, you'll head farther south to marvel at the unforgettable beauty of Patagonia. Chile’s portion of this famous region is full of glacial fjords, thick rainforests, and, of course, mountains topped with the pointiest peaks you have ever seen. Most of this you’ll see in Torres del Paine National Park, where you’ll also get to learn about Patagonia’s ranching industry, pop into caves to peek at prehistoric fossils, and, if you wish, visit a penguin colony on an added excursion.

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a rainbow over Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe

7. Zimbabwe

See the majesty of Victoria Falls

Most first-time travelers to Sub-Saharan Africa usually choose countries like South Africa and Tanzania. But why not veer off the beaten path and discover the impressive beauty of Zimbabwe instead? Home to one of the most powerful waterfalls in the world and plenty of opportunities for head-turning game drives, a trip to Zimbabwe is an inspiring glimpse at the majesty of Africa.

On our 12-day Botswana & Zimbabwe Wildlife Safari, you’ll never tire of watching elephants, lions, buffalo, and more going about their daily lives, whether that means grooming their young, playing around the watering hole, or, if you’re lucky, going on a dramatic hunt. This is usually what travelers want to see on a bucket list trip of a lifetime to this part of the world—and our itinerary delivers. What makes it extra special is the visit to Zimbabwe’s Victoria Falls National Park, where you’ll see just how mighty these rushing waters are from various vantage points. You’ll also learn about the indigenous flora and fauna that call Victoria Falls home. Get ready to spot rhinos, giraffes, and zebras!

Another educational moment of our tours to Zimbabwe is your conversation with an experienced anti-poaching activist, who will tell you about the critical work that’s being done to protect the wildlife that makes Southern Africa a destination of a lifetime.

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a man strolling through lines of colomns decorated with Egyptian hieroglyphics

8. Egypt

Go for ancient pyramids and mysterious mummies

This is a destination that has lived in our collective travel imagination for centuries, and we probably don’t need to sell you on why you should travel to Egypt. But in case you need a reminder: There will be lots of mummies! All jokes aside, Egypt’s enduring legacy—one that began over 5,000 years ago—makes it an unforgettable trip of a lifetime.

Our 12-day Egypt & Nile River Cruise tour is a best seller for a reason: It gives you a comprehensive look at the ancient wonders that have defined the fascinating culture and history of this country. You’ll get to check off important bucket list monuments like the Pyramids of Giza, the Great Sphinx, and the temples at Karnak and Luxor. What makes it even better is that you’ll be accompanied by an expert Egyptologist, who will provide thrilling insights about these iconic attractions. You’ll also get to sail along the storied Nile River for a few days. It’s the best way to access some of the temples and tombs located along the water, like the stunning Temple of Hatshepsut, dedicated to one of the few female pharaohs of Egypt.

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hot air baloons floating through a tree covered valley in between light beige colored mountainsCappadocia region in Turkey

9. Turkey

Take the a trip of a lifetime to Cappadocia

A trip to Turkey is a feast for the senses. You’ll be completely immersed in the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes of a country with thousands of years of culture and history. Whether you’re catching the call to prayer in Istanbul, tasting the honey-soaked delight of baklava, or learning about the ancient cultures that used to call these lands home, you’re in for an adventure of a lifetime when you travel on any of our tours to Turkey.

The best thing about our 15-day Grand Tour of Turkey is that you’ll cover a lot of ground, starting in the east-meets-west city of Istanbul. There, your Tour Director will lead you through some of the country’s most renowned UNESCO World Heritage sites, including the Hagia Sophia, which for 1,000 years was considered the world’s largest cathedral. Then, you’ll move on to farther-flung destinations like the ancient site of Troy, the white travertine terraces of Pamukkale, and the excavated remains of Ephesus. There you’ll step inside the home where, legend has it, the Virgin Mary spent her last days. Along the way, you’ll savor traditional Turkish cuisine and sip raki, the country’s famous anise-flavored liqueur.

Things only get grander when you arrive in the fairy-tale region of Cappadocia, a land covered with mysterious, chimney-shaped rock formations. You can hike through the valley to see this unique geography up close, but the must-do is to sign up for the early-morning hot air balloon ride and enjoy a bird's-eye view of the entire valley. From way up there, you’ll get a panorama of this magical part of the world. The rock formations—in shades of white and beige—have been eroded into alien-like shapes, but you’ll quickly realize there’s nothing otherworldly about them. Some have been carved with windows hinting at the past civilizations that used to call them home. The early morning wake-up call will be worth it!

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Ready to book your once-in-a-lifetime adventure? Explore our Adventure Tours and start checking trips off your bucket list!

About the author | The Go Ahead Tours Team
We’re a team of passionate travel experts, dedicated to helping people explore the world. From inspiring stories to tips for an amazing trip, the topics we cover are all about getting you out there and making discoveries.

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