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Incredible Bucket List Destinations for Once in a Lifetime Trips

Are you looking for special bucket list destinations? As inspiration for a once in a lifetime trip? Then check out the list of places below!

“If you could only pick one destination, what would be your absolute favorite must-visit place anywhere in the world?”

That is what I asked a number of seasoned travelers to create a list of unique, once in a lifetime trip destinations.

And this is the result: 16 incredible places all over the world you should try to visit at least once in your life!

Read all about these bucket list destinations below or first check out this video of the top 10



16 Bucket List Destinations for Once in a Lifetime Trips

1. Meteora, Greece

A bucket list destination: Meteora, Greece
A bucket list destination: Meteora, Greece

By: Romy from Brunetteatsunset.com

“Meteora is an incredible phenomenon. A landscape where the wonders of nature and man meet.

Rock formations make up this landscape and monasteries were built on top of them. Monks had to climb the rocks to reach them as there were no stairs then.

Even when you’re there it is hard to believe this place is real.

Meteora is a bucket list destination for several reasons. It has an incredibly rich history. Once there were a whopping 24 monasteries sitting on top of these impressive rock formations. Only 6 of them are left standing, and they are well worth visiting.

I would recommend spending two days here to see all the monasteries instead of rushing to see everything in one day.

The entrance fee for the monasteries is only 3 euro per person so there’s no reason not to go and see them all! What makes it even more appealing to go is that it is not overrun by tourists yet.

The fact that the area is really cheap and easy to visit on a budget is just the cherry on top!”

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2. Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

Galapagos Islands for a once in a lifetime trip
Galapagos Islands – a once in a lifetime trip

By: Carly from Flightoftheeducator.com

“I think everyone will agree this is an absolute bucket list destination!

The Galapagos Islands have always held an air of mystery for me. They were the islands made famous by Charles Darwin, his finches, and the tortoises!

When I finally went to the Galapagos Islands, so much was a surprise.

The Galapagos are fascinating because nothing is native to it! The islands are made solely by volcanoes, and all the flora and fauna just ended up there by air or sea by accident!

Because of this interesting fact, the animals that ended up there are mostly birds and reptiles. I don’t think I saw a single mammal!

What’s even crazier is to be on an island that boasts both flamingos and penguins! The landscape was more barren than I had anticipated, but when you realize it’s made from cooled lava, it’s really amazing it has any plants at all!

If you love animals, nature, and exotic places, the Galapagos makes for one of the best once in a lifetime trips!”

3. Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyzstan - an ultimate bucket list destination

By: Katherine from Thetravelators.com

“Kyrgyzstan is a nature-lover’s paradise, and it is one of our favorite destinations for a trip of a lifetime.

We trekked for two days to Song Kul Lake during our visit through beautiful grassy hills and nomadic yurt camps.

One of the highlights of our trip was staying for a few nights in a family’s yurt (traditional tent). Every night the family would light a cow dung fire in our small yurt stove to keep us warm during the chilly nights.

We loved getting to know our host family through hilarious sign language and some very limited Russian. We felt like family despite the communication barriers. They even let us loose on the steppe with their horses for a day!

A really memorable experience that we highly recommend and an absolute bucket list destination.”

4. Gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda

Rwanda - an ultimate bucket list destination

By: Nina from Safarijunkie.com

“Rwanda is my top pick among favorite destinations for once in a lifetime trips, for several reasons.

Small in size which makes it an easy country for first-time (solo) travelers in Africa, but it has it all: a rich culture, ever green nature, beautiful Lake Kivu…

But the main attraction is Volcanoes National Park near Musanze, former Rughengeri, known for gorilla trekking.

The park is known for sustainable and responsible tourism practices, with strict rules about how many people can visit per day, which comes with a price tag of 700 USD and probably makes it the most expensive hour in Africa.  

It’s an hour spent in the depths of a tropical forest surrounded by volcanoes, seeing gorilla families in their daily routine, which is mainly eating bamboo and silly but also very human-like interactions between the gorillas.

Along with the fact that there are only around 800 gorillas left in the world, it feels like a big privilege to encounter all this in person!”

Also read: The Best Time to See Gorillas in Africa

5. Sailing Around the San Blas Islands, Panama

one of the San Blas Islands

If you’re looking for a once in a lifetime trip and love unspoilt tropical islands, then the San Blas Islands should be on your bucket list.

Sailing around these islands is probably one of the most unique things I’ve ever done.

Located on the Caribbean coast of Panama, the San Blas Islands still haven’t been discovered by mass tourism.

The islands offer a unique blend of breathtaking natural beauty, vibrant indigenous culture, and untouched paradise.

There are more than 300 islands to choose from, with pristine white-sand beaches, crystal-clear turquoise waters, and vibrant coral reefs teeming with marine life. Snorkeling here is beautiful, and something I highly recommend.

Sailing through these secluded islands offers a rare chance to disconnect from modern life and immerse yourself in the tranquility of untouched nature.

The islands are home to the Kuna Yala indigenous community. On some of the inhabited islands you’ll find a single Kuna family living, on others you’ll find a small community. They are all very welcoming and happy to share their rich traditions, art, and cuisine.

The absence of large-scale tourism preserves the islands’ authenticity. And these days there aren’t many places left in the world that can say the same!

I struggle to put into words how unique the San Blas Islands are, and why this is one of those trips of a lifetime.

sitting in a hammock in Panama

sailing the San Blas Islands
Sailing around the San Blas Islands

It’s the remote, deserted islands we’ve all seen in pictures but are very hard to find in real life. It’s sitting on an empty beach with a fresh coconut in your hand given to you by the local Kuna family. And it’s the beautiful sunsets admired from a sailboat.

It’s just, well, a once-in-a-lifetime experience!

To go to the San Blas Islands, you can rent a private boat with a captain, or book one of these San Blas Islands tours. Some tours take you on a sailboat around the islands, others arrange accommodation on a different island each day.

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6. Phu Quoc, Vietnam

Phu Quoc: a bucket list destination

By: Melissa from Thriftyfamilytravels.com

“Phu Quoc is the ideal beach holiday. Located south of Cambodia but part of Vietnam, Phu Quoc is best accessed via a short flight from Ho Chi Minh City.

Most of the accommodation is found along Long Beach where you can stay in a wide range of places, from basic bungalows right by the beach to luxury resorts.

Wake up late, stroll down to breakfast on the beach, and then spend the rest of the day lazying in a beach chair or cooling off in the calm, shallow water.

For lunch head to one of the beach cafes, and then have a massage right on the beach.

Towards the end of the day find a trendy beach bar, grab a cocktail and sit back and watch one of the most gorgeous sunsets you have ever seen.

Check out other popular beaches such as Sao Bai and Ong Lang Beach. These beaches are accessible by taxi or better yet hire a motorbike for some real adventure!

Ride down dirt roads and explore amazing little villages, getting a glimpse into Vietnamese island life.

Book a boat trip to go snorkeling or take the longest sea cable car in the world for a gorgeous view of Phu Quoc from the air and a visit to a water park on a neighboring island.

There are more and more massive resorts being built on Phu Quoc, so it won’t be a sleepy little beach destination for long – Therefore, get there as soon as you can!

Also Read: What Not to Miss in Da Nang, Vietnam

7. Hawaii, USA

hawaii - a once in a lifetime trip

By: Justine from Wandereroftheworld.co.uk

“If you dream of turquoise waters, white, sandy beaches and dramatic landscapes then Hawaii should definitely be one of your bucket list destinations.

I had envisioned all of these things when planning my trip to these beautiful islands but I also found so much more!

Having traveled around two of the Hawaiian islands – O’ahu and The Big Island, I was able to spend relaxing moments on the beach and snorkeling in the warm water but adventure also found me.

We hiked through volcanic craters, watched active volcanoes erupt, gazed at the stars from 9,000 ft up Mauna Kea mountain, and explored tranquil Buddhist temples.

Hawaii offers something special for the beach babe, the adventurer and the romantic, so if you ever have the chance to explore this mesmerizing place then I urge you to do it!

I hope to find myself back on these islands so “a hui hou” (until we meet again) Hawaii…”

Also Read: Cheap & Free Things to Do in Maui, Hawaii

8. Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya

Maasai Mara Kenya - an ultimate bucket list destination

By: Ella from Wide-eyedwanderer.com

“Africa is a continent that we probably don’t explore enough of.

Visiting Africa for the first time, I knew that going on a safari was a must for me. And since I was going to Kenya in particular, I knew that I had to do a safari in the Maasai Mara National Park.

This park is the epitome of a quintessential African wildlife reserve and is home to a variety of impressive wildlife.

The Maasai Mara National Park is perhaps most famous for The Great Migration, when hundreds of thousands of animals flock to and from there each year.

This safari is still one of my favorite travel memories and one of the best experiences I’ve ever had.

Being so close to the wild animals in their natural habitat was exhilarating, mesmerizing and humbling and has left me in awe ever since. My safari experience at the Maasai Mara National Park has me even more convinced that nature and animals are amazing and should be respected.

If you are looking for unique bucket list trips of a lifetime, going on a safari in the Maasai Mara National Park and having a go at spotting the Big Five, is an experience I highly recommend!”

Also Read: The 3 Best Things to Experience on a Safari in Africa

9. Hoi An, Vietnam

a once in a lifetime trip to Hoi An

By: Heesun from Mewanttravel.com

“Visiting Vietnam in general was a once in a lifetime trip for me, but if I’d have to pick one place I’d pick Hoi An.

Hoi An is most famous for its ancient town, but it is also located on a beautiful coast with gorgeous beaches.

The warm waters of the beach entice you in for another dip, the perfect sand inviting you to take off your shoes and relax.

You stand in line to eat some banh mi, the third time you’ve been there in 2 days because it’s just THAT good and because Anthony Bourdain said so.

The kayak beckons you inside, as you paddle on the Thu Bon River, sweat glistening on your brow as you take in the nearby thatched roofs.

You chug a bottle of water, because it’s Vietnam and let’s be real, it’s humid.

You visit one of the countless tailors and dress stalls and decide to purchase one because you’re on vacation and it’s awesome in that it’s a souvenir that you can wear. Treat yourself.

As you go to bed, you smile, knowing that even though you’re a foreigner here in Hoi An, Vietnam, it’s starting to feel a little bit more like home.”

Editor’s Note: Hoi An’s ancient town is a World Heritage Site that’s especially beautiful just after sunset. That’s when you can go on a local boat, lit with lanterns, to see Hoi An’s beautiful streets from the water. A romantic thing to do and probably one of the reasons why it was voted the second-best honeymoon destination in the world by Tripadvisor in 2024.

Also Read: 2 Days in Da Nang, Vietnam – Things to Do & Where to Stay

10. Torres del Paine National Park, Chile

an aerial view of Torres del Paine National Park

By: Julianna from Thediscoveriesof.com

“Torres del Paine should be on every adventure traveler and outdoor lover’s bucket list.

Nestled in Chilean Patagonia, it’s brimming with breathtaking sceneries for you to explore on two feet.

I traveled to Torres del Paine last year to hike the W Trek (so called because the route is in the shape of a W) and it was one of the most memorable hikes I’ve undertaken in my life.

The variety of scenery is impressive – icy blue lakes change to craggy mountains and then to scrub-filled savannahs in the course of a few miles. Each day’s trek is completely different from the day before, so every day you wake up with the excitement of what you’ll see next.

A trip to the Torres del Paine takes some organization – you can choose to camp (and carry your camping kit with you) or stay in the low-key refugios along the way. Whichever you choose, you’ll need to book in advance and ensure you know what you need to bring with you.

That said, it’s well worth the effort – as the Torres’ increasing popularity shows. Just don’t forget your camera!”

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11. Queenstown and the Southern Lakes, New Zealand

Queenstown - a bucket list destination

By: Emily from Emdashed.com

“Queenstown has exactly the kind of breath-taking scenery one expects to find on New Zealand’s South Island. The town sits at the edge of a sparkling lake, flanked by rows of craggy mountains as far as the eye can see.

But a town needs more than just jaw-dropping scenery to stand out in New Zealand’s parade of non-stop beauty.

Luckily, Queenstown’s got plenty more to offer. There’s an activity there for pretty much anyone – whether you’re into heart-racing bungy jumps, hitting the ski slopes, or barbecuing on the beach.

You can dance the night away or relax with a glass of local wine; you can climb a mountain or ride the Skyline Gondola to the top. Either way, the views are spectacular.

Of course, you might find Queenstown too busy or touristy. That’s when you hop in a rental car and head to mellow Wanaka, quiet and rugged Glenorchy, or quaint little Arrowtown.

Beauty is literally around every corner in the Southern Lakes, and the drive itself is worth any journey.”

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12. Stromboli, Italy

Stromboli - a bucket list destination

By: Nam from Laughtraveleat.com

“Watching the red hot magma erupt from a volcano crater at a distance in the dark is one of the most surreal experiences I have ever had.

While some volcano eruptions are dangerous, others are mild enough that you can see them for yourself in close(ish) proximity, and Stromboli Island, part of the Aeolian Islands in Sicily, Italy is one of those locations.

We hiked up the sandy, steep mountainside in the cool evening air, reaching one of the craters just as the sun was setting, revealing a glorious view. We all settled in a comfortable spot, our eyes fixated on the crater, waiting for an eruption.

That night we witnessed no less than five eruptions before descending in the dark with only our head torches.

I had originally been skeptical about the experience, but the scene of the eruptions have now been forever etched in my mind and it is therefore my top recommendation for a once in a lifetime adventure!”

Also Read: The Most Beautiful Places in Sicily to Visit

13. Thailand

thailand - a bucket list destination

By: Hannah & Adam from Gettingstamped.com

“If I could pick one place in the world I think you have to visit it would hands down be Thailand.

Not only is the Thai food amazing, it tastes even better when you are on an island with your toes in the sand looking out at the turquoise waters.

Everyone should go on a Thailand island hopping adventure once in their lifetime.

My first visit was on my Thailand honeymoon in 2012 and I have since gotten 26 Thailand stamps in my passport!

Thailand is super budget-friendly and it’s easy to spend less than US$50 a day and still have an epic trip.

I always suggest starting a trip to Thailand with 3 days in Bangkok, then heading down to the islands before making your way up north to Chiang Mai for some nature & culture.

But, no matter where you go in Thailand you’ll have a trip of a lifetime!”

Also Read: Things to Know About Traveling to Thailand as a Woman

14. Brooklyn, USA

Brooklyn - a bucket list destination

By: Katie from Realworldrunaway.com

“Just across the river from the bright lights of Manhattan lies my favorite place in the world, Brooklyn.

Set away from the tourist trap of the big city, Brooklyn is the perfect place to take in the ‘real New York’.

Packed full of independent cafes, restaurants, and bars offering some of the best food you’ll ever find, you’re never far from a hidden gem. The atmosphere is relaxed and friendly and you’ll be sure to encounter more locals than tourists.

The up-and-coming neighborhood of Williamsburg, with its outdoor food extravaganza Smorgasburg, is not to be missed, as well as a trip to the funfair at Coney Island.

New York is one of the most magical cities on Earth and Brooklyn really makes it feel like a home (and the view isn’t half bad either).”

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15. Seeing the Northern Lights in Lapland

northern lights above pine trees surrounded by snow with a cottage in the background

For most of us, seeing the northern lights is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

And not many places in the world are more magical and more perfect to watch the northern lights than Finnish Lapland.

Picture yourself bundled up in your coziest gear, surrounded by the serene beauty of snowy landscapes. You’re on the lookout for nature’s greatest light show. And when those elusive lights decide to make an appearance, it’s pure magic.

The sky becomes a canvas painted with surreal hues of green, pink, and purple, swirling and dancing above you. Sure, it might take a bit of patience and some luck, but when those shimmering ribbons of light reveal themselves, it’s a jaw-dropping moment that makes every chilly minute worth it.

There’s something awe-inspiring about being a tiny speck under the grandeur of the aurora borealis—it’s a bucket list experience for sure!

If you ever want to go to Lapland to see the northern lights, read this article about the best place and time to see the northern lights in Lapland.

16. Antibes, France

Antibes, France - a bucket list destination

By: Darcy from Sparkleinhersuitcase.com

“My absolute favorite place in the world is Antibes, France.

The French Riviera has so much to offer, from food to art to celebrity sightings, and Antibes is my favorite town in this sun-soaked region.

While a French friend once told me that only old ladies like Antibes, I couldn’t be happier there. (Perhaps this makes me an old lady.)

At once small enough to feel cozy and large enough to walk around for hours. With the history of the old town mixed with the more modern section of town, Antibes feels balanced.

It’s easy to see why Picasso was inspired here, and why he had his studio here, which you can now visit as a museum.

This is not a place where you gobble up all the sightseeing you can, but where you linger at the table before you meander to the beach. See for yourself sometime – I’ll be the old lady in the chair next to you.”

Also Read: What to See & Do in Montpellier, France

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Author: Sanne Wesselman
A traveler, wanderer, digital nomad, and entrepreneur. I spend most of my time living and working abroad and visiting destinations all over the world. I use this website to share "the good, the bad and the ugly" of traveling and living abroad. Visit the About Me page for more info.

31 thoughts on “Incredible Bucket List Destinations for Once in a Lifetime Trips”

  1. This is quite a list of countries and cities some of which I will add to my list of future destinations. There are just so many beautiful places in the world that one will never lack a place to explore. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Wow, amazing list of wonderful places. This is a beautiful and truly inspiring article! Thanks so much for writing all of these destinations! I’m going to save it for our future plans 🙂

  3. Great bucket list. Galapagos is my next one. I would add Triglav national park in Slovenia. The 7 lakes valley, it’s awesome.

  4. This is is a crazy list! I’ve been wanting to go to Kyrgyzstan for so long it looks so incredible. Mind you everything on this list looks amazing!!

  5. So many gorgeous looking destinations on this list. I have been to only two, Brooklyn and Masaai Mara. I have been eyeing the Gorilla Trek for a while but it is too expensive for me right now. Kyrgyzstan looks ideal too

  6. Not only once in a lifetime but I’d love to do them many times over a lifetime. If I have to pick one from these I will pick the Gorilla Trek. Really, what can be better than that!

  7. The lust for Stromboli has exceeded beyond limits! Thailand and Hawaii makes me yearn for the feeling of waves washing my feet. The pictures of Vietnam is simply spectacular and hence, the ultimate bucket list has extended my travel bucket list.

  8. This was an awesome collection of places that I would like to visit. I have pinned the article as I want to refer to it again and again. Some pics are just marvelous.

  9. Nice list you have here for your travel bucket list! I have recently written one for myself and we have one item in common – Kyrgyztan! I am so looking forward to trek the mountains and waterfalls of that lovely country. By the way, Asian countries like Vietnam and Thailand are rightfully included in your list, but you might as well go to Philippines, too!

  10. I didn’t know that Kyrgyzstan was so famous for its nature. Will definitely add this one to the travel bucket list.
    And yes, Hawaii is so amazing 🙂 🙂 Love Maui!

  11. Hoi An should definitely be on everyone’s lists, it’s so beautiful! I also like how you included Brooklyn on there, it’s not a place many would think of ,but it’s so worth seeing! Great list 🙂

  12. with a slight amendment it will be my bucket list 🙂 i am heading to Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan this year. What have you covered from this list so far?

  13. This list looks really awesome. I need to visit Kyrgyzstan and the Galapagos islands. Would you be having any idea about the food at these places?

  14. Really amazing list. I think I would like to visit all of them. I am actually visiting Hoi An later this year though which is exciting! 🙂

  15. Aside from hawaii we haven’t been to any of these places. Hawaii was amazing indeed and you will love it. We are going to steal the rest of these for our bucket list.

  16. I don’t know what it would be, but this list has some places that I’d love to see. I now have some new places on my list!

  17. What an incredible list. You have highlighted so many places I wish I had visited and hope to someday soon. That picture of Vietnam is unbelievable. WOW!

  18. It is a wonderful list. I am confused which one should be on my list first. The most fascinating are Meteroa and Stromboli. You have visited Thailand 26 times in 4 years. That’s so cool. Loved all your pictures.

  19. Some absolutely stunning places on this list! These posts are always dangerous for me because it stretches my bucket list even farther lol

  20. Some wonderful list there. I like the idea of going to Galapagos the most. It is my dream to go to these virgin islands ever since I saw a documentary on the same.The island is so remote and perhaps that is why it is so well preserved.

  21. To be honest, I haven’t been to any of these yet. I will go back and revisit my travel plans now that you have shown me these wonderful destinations. I knew about some of these but not about others like Kazakhastan. Seems to be really interesting place

  22. Beautiful places. I have already seen a couple places from this list but I think my list just got a bit longer because of yours. haha.

  23. Kyrgyzstan and Rwanda are UP THERE for me! What awesome destinations! Now I’m all excited to get traveling – too bad I should be working 😉


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