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Not sure what to add to your growing bucket list? Travelers are always looking for the next big adventure, and bucket-list experiences are definitely the way to go for the perfect way to truly feel alive again. By taking part in any of these adventures, you’ll know that wait was worth it.
Dreaming of the Caribbean? St. Maarten may be a small island, but it’s jam-packed with things to do, including everything from relaxing on beautiful sands to hiking and flying on the world’s steepest zipline. Rainforest Adventure at Rockland Estate hosts The Flying Dutchman which will launch you down the mountain on a 2,800-foot flight line that plunges 1,050 feet in elevation. Not only will you be able to enjoy the tropical scenery and sunshine, but a thrill of a lifetime.
While you might have gotten into the water in a cage watching sharks swim around the outside, odds are you haven’t experienced the heart-pounding thrill minus the cage. For those seeking the company of sharks, the Shark Reef Marine Reserve off the coast of the island of Beqa in Fiji is the place to swim with as many as eight different shark species, including bull sharks who can grow up to 15 feet long and weigh hundreds of pounds. Despite their rather terrifying sharp teeth, human attacks are rare.
Alaska is one of the world’s top spots for watching the Northern Lights and Fairbanks is frequently ranked as the No. 1 place in the U.S. to see them. It’s also home to the Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks which provides forecasts on viewing conditions. For the best chance to marvel at the incredible colors splashed through the night’s sky, you’ll want to be away from the city lights. There are tours available for hunting them as well as resorts in remote areas that will let you know when they make an appearance.
The Cabo coast is stunning, but most people enjoy it from the beach while boating or taking part in other water sports. You’ll get the best view from above by booking an excursion with Cabo Sky Tours, soaring over the turquoise sea and rugged shoreline in a powered hang glider. During the winter, keep an eye out for humpback and gray whales, and any time of the year, leaping manta rays and sea lions. You’ll also fly over iconic Land’s End with its famous Arch, renowned surf breaks, mountains, hidden beaches, a lighthouse, and more.
Iceland is among the world’s top bucket-list destinations. The jaw-dropping scenery is worth the trip alone, but if you visit in the winter, you won’t want to miss the chance to explore an ice cave. Found in the Icelandic glaciers, they’re one of Mother Nature’s most mesmerizing wonders. Tours will bring you into the long, frozen chambers underneath a brilliant cathedral of translucent blue waves. The densely packed glacial ice glows blue due to the lack of air bubbles that normally spread colors of the spectrum as sunlight filters down from above. Many excursions, conveniently leaving from Reykjavik, also add visits to waterfalls and the famous glacier lagoon as well.
Snowboarding? That’s no longer the most extreme way to slide down a mountain slope. For extreme boarding, you’ve got to whiz down a live volcano at Cerro Negro in Nicaragua, reaching speeds of up to 50 mph. Run by Bigfoot Hostel in Leon, the day tour includes transportation, a boarding session, and beer.
New Zealand is the birthplace of the bungee with many places to try it across both the North and South islands. You can leap from cliffs, rail viaducts, and even rooftops, but the Nevis Bungy is a true experience in itself. You’ll hop into a Jeep for a scenic four-wheel drive through the backcountry outside of magnificent Queenstown before plunging 440 feet in just 8.5 seconds over the Nevis River.
Located at the STRAT Hotel, if you’re a fan of heart-pounding rides and have the stomach for it, Insanity will definitely test your sanity. It hovers over 866 feet above the ground, 64 feet over the edge of the SkyPod. You aren’t enclosed, you’ll be in a swing-like contraption that spins – the screams that come from riders can be heard by passersby on The Strip below.
Many hikers and climbers dream about summiting the world’s highest mountain, Mount Everest, which is over 29,000 feet high, but it takes months or even years to prepare for that adventure. How about skydiving it instead? A self-proclaimed “world’s most elite skydiving adventure” with Everest Skydive will allow you to leap from a plane at 29,500 feet, nearly 500 feet higher than the summit of Everest, floating back to base camp.
A motorcycle tax ride through Bangkok is a hair-raising experience, with the drivers building their reputations on providing fast service. “Fast” in this case means riding at breakneck speeds while weaving in and out of traffic just inches from others. Some say you haven’t really lived until you’ve been whisked through all the gridlock in the middle of a sea of madmen all of whom take slightly different routes to get around the cars. You’ll feel the hot, humid air while the sights and smells whiz by and your heart pounds the entire way.
While plunging into icy cold water may not sound like the most pleasant thing to do, it’s a fabulous way to truly feel alive. It’s more of an exhilarating thrill that’s momentarily shocking but leaves you with an incredible energy boost. The locals simply find a deep patch of frozen water, drill a hole, and plunge in. Afterward, do like the Finnish do and head to a sauna to warm up. Many recommend the Allas Sea Pool, an outdoor pool complex in the central harbor area in Helsinki. Open to the public, there are lifeguards along with heated pools and saunas to warm up after jumping into the cold sea pool.
One of the world’s most magnificent castles, Neuschwanstein is located in the Bavarian Alps of Germany and was said to have inspired Walt Disney castle in the classic, “Cinderella.” There may be no better way to see it than to embark on a tandem paragliding experience that combines the weightlessness of flying with the jaw-dropping natural scenery and the fairytale-like castle through Fly Royal Paragliding. Plus, while you’re in Bavaria you can enjoy endless tasty brews and many postcard-perfect towns like Rothenburg ob der Tauber, one of the best examples of a medieval German village.
How many people can say that they’ve not only looked a gray whale in the eye but gave it a pat on the head? While it may seem like an impossibility, you can do just that in Baja. There are multiple lagoons in the Sea of Cortez where the whales come to breed and have their calves. From mid-January through mid-March (February is the best time), the mothers often bring their babies right up to the pangas (boats) to introduce them to humans. Mother and calf seem to enjoy the interaction, including a gentle rub on the head. The number of pangas allowed out at any one time is strictly limited and watching the whales come directly to yours by choice is a thrill you’ll never forget. There are multiple outfitters to choose from, including Baja Sur Tours which offers pickups from La Paz or Cabo San Lucas.
A ride on the world’s highest and fastest zip line requires no skills, just courage and a sense of adventure. Head to South Africa’s Zip 2000 where you’ll soar for 1.25 miles at speeds of up to nearly 100 mph and heights of 919 feet above the ground – it’s one of the best ways to fly like a bird. And, you’ll be close to Pilanesberg National Park which sits inside the crater of an extinct volcano, providing a malaria-free Big 5 safari experience.
One of the most famous underwater destinations in the world, the Great Barrier Reef covers 134,000 square miles, about the size of Japan, and includes some 3,000 coral reefs. Environmental challenges have been steadily eroding it for years, and some say it will be gone within the next decade. While it’s still here you’ll be able to dive (or snorkel) among a remarkable array of marine life, including more than 1,600 species of tropical fish, dolphins, rays, turtles, sharks and giant clams. Plus you’ll have the opportunity to get up close to plenty of exotic land animals too, from kangaroos and koalas to dingoes, wombats, and wallabies.