Recent studies are showing that people are placing more value on experiences over things. We’re seeing the same at my travel company, Classic Journeys. Every day, travelers share their dreams with us. From all of these thousands of conversations with travelers, we’ve crowd-sourced the top 10 bucket list experiences for 2018 and the way to create the trip that will get you to there.
#1 CAMP LIKE A SHEIKH IN THE SAHARA
Head to Morocco to sway into the red sand dunes on a camel. Native Berbers lead you to a luxury encampment. You sup on kebabs grilled on an open fire and refill your wine glass to watch the desert sky puts on a star show like you’ve never witnessed. Make it the literal high point of an itinerary that winds from Fes to Marrakesh.
#2 SEE SEA LIONS UP CLOSE
I’m talking very close, as in eye-to-eye in the Galápagos. That mission is easy to accomplish on the north shore of San Cristóbal Island. You slip out of your kayak into a quiet cove. And the sea lions swim up to check you out and blow your mind just like you hoped they would. Give yourself a week, and skip the ship logistical issues and limitations by staying at boutique hotels on San Cristobal, Isabella and Santa Cruz islands.
#3 CATCH DAWN AT THE GRAND CANYON
Sip a coffee and watch the show. The mind boggles at how the rising sun can tint the Grand Canyon so many shades of red, orange, and purple. It’s a real spectacle as the edge of day slides across the plain and down into the canyon. You’ve never seen anything like it. Build it in to a week-long extravaganza of national parks, including Zion and Bryce.
#4 TASTE PORT IN PORTUGAL
For 20 or 30 years, that port wine has rested in a barrel, getting ready for you. Of all of Portugal’s charms — regal cities, posh family estate-hotels, the Douro River — sipping port in the vineyards where it’s grown with the food it was born to accompany is more than you imagined.
#5 CRUNCH ONTO A GLACIER
As rivers of ice inch back up their valleys, Norway’s Austdalsbreen Glacier is one of the finest places to still experience this force of nature. Crampons on your boots and an expert guide in the lead, you step onto the eerily blue icescape that is one of the world’s greatest spectacles. Tie this into an itinerary with Oslo and Bergen (to see the fjords) and you’ve hit all of the Norwegian bucket list must see’s.
#6 SNORKEL THE BAY OF PIGS
Your friends won’t believe it, but you know it’s for real. The collision of familiar history and undisturbed nature — the bay has a thriving coral reef — is amazing. And it’s a major bonus to see the invasion from the Cuban perspective at the small museum. You can make this a perfect stop midday on your way from Havana to Cienfuegos. Include colonial Trinidad for the complete Cuba experience.
#7 SLIP INTO STONEHENGE AFTER HOURS
You’ve waited so long, so why should you share? With the right connections, it’s possible to wander Stonehenge when the hordes are prohibited. It’s just you and the stones on the vast Salisbury Plain. What a happy shock to have the circle to yourself. Pairs great with London and the nearby Cotswolds.
#8 GLIDE IN A VENETIAN GONDOLA
Fun? Absolutely. But a gondola ride is also an amazing way to slip away from the Venice bustle into the real world of everyday life. Schoolchildren skip across tiny footbridges. Your canal laps at the secret steps to palazzos. It’s as timeless as you always hoped it would be. An extra bonus is that Venice is a great entry point to neighboring Croatia and its Istrian Peninsula, where Roman emperors used to summer.
#9 FEEL THE SPIRIT OF ANGKOR WAT
Prepare to shiver in Cambodia’s tropic warmth. Angkor Wat does that to you, especially as the sun sinks into the jungle. That’s the moment when the temple stops being a magnificent relic of Khmer history and inspires the sort of spiritual wonder that we get to feel all too rarely. My recommendation is that if you are going that far, spend a few extra days and combine it with explorations of Vietnam and must see Laos.
#10 LIGHT UP YOUR NIGHT IN ICELAND
What must the first Vikings have thought of Iceland? They found the original geyser hurtling boiling water 200 feet into the sky. Great streams of lava…glaciers…fjords teeming with whales. A visit there is great any time. But if you can make it from mid — August through the end of April, you have the chance for an extra bonus: the northern lights. The visual result of solar particles entering the earth’s magnetic field at high atmosphere and ionizing, they appear as dancing lights high in the sky, varying in color from green to purple, red, pink, orange and blue.