Travelling may be tricky right now, but hopefully we’ll be jetting off again in the not too abysmally distant future.
When we can, those with itchy feet may be tempted by the bucket list-topping trips they’ve been thinking about doing for years. And now is the perfect time to think about planning these as many take months or longer to put together.
If you’re tempted by a once-in-a-lifetime adventure but aren’t sure where to start, here are 10 stand-out options to inspire.
If summiting Snowdon or scrambling to the top of Scafell Pike doesn’t do it for you, consider climbing Mount Everest. You’ll need to allow at least a couple of months to do it (Adventure Alternative’s £46,000 package lasts 65 days), and that’s excluding the recommended year of pre-trip training, which should focus on strength, cardiovascular and flexibility training. In other words? Taking the stairs instead of the elevator simply won’t cut it.
The upside? You’ll (hopefully) get to stand on top of the world’s highest mountain, 8,848m above sea level. We’d recommend increasing your chances by doing it sooner rather than later – tectonic movement means that it’s now 40cm taller than it was when Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay climbed it in 1953.
Take part in the Clipper Round the World Race
Fancy sailing around the world but nervous about going solo? Sign up for the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race, a biennial event which allows amateur sailors to join one of eight legs (or the entire length) of a 40,000-nautical mile race around the world.
It doesn’t matter if your only seafaring experience is a lap around the local lake on a swan-shaped pedalo – past participants range from total novices (including vicars, taxi drivers and students) to seasoned yachtsmen and women. However, you will need some basic training – Clipper’s pre-race training lasts for 26 days and you’ll have to have a good level of fitness and can of course swim.
Prices for the next race, which will take place in 2022/2023, have yet to be announced, but expect to pay a minimum of £6,500 per leg.
Visit South America’s most remote eco-lodge
Prefer primates over people? Head for Peru’s Tambopata Research Center, South America’s most remote eco-lodge. To get there, you’ll need to fly from Cusco to Puerto Maldonado, then spend at least a day heading downriver. But it’s worth it – this remote lodge, in Peru’s Tambopata National Reserve, doubles as a base for wildlife researchers who come to study the area’s flora and fauna, which includes 1,000 butterfly species, 100 mammal species and 600 bird species. Among them are the potoo bird, a boggle-eyed creature that looks like the lovechild of an owl and an iguana, and the squirrel-sized dusky titi monkey, known for its yodel-like call.
See the Northern Lights from a hot air balloon
Let’s face it. Spotting the Northern Lights simply isn’t that hard these days. For example, in 2016 they were seen over Oxfordshire and a year later they were spotted by amateur stargazers in Newcastle. However, due to northern Europe’s wonderfully dark, clear skies, Norway, Finland, Sweden and Iceland are the most popular destinations for aurora hunters, and for the best seats in the house, what could be better than an aurora-themed hot air balloon ride in Swedish Lapland?
Off the Map is one of the few companies to offer this excursion, and it’s the highlight of a three-day package (from £2,275pp) which includes a snowmobile excursion and a session in a floating sauna deep inside the Arctic Circle.
Watch the wildebeest migration in Tanzania
The wildebeest migration, which takes place between January and April, is a showstopping, earth-shaking spectacle which makes pigeons’ homing skills look positively tame. Our top tip? Time your visit to coincide with calving season in February, when 8,000 surprisingly cute wildebeests are born every day. Amazingly, they’re able to run as quickly as their parents within a matter of hours, although having a lion staring at you while licking its lips would surely encourage the laziest of animals to get a move on. Mwiba Lodge’s close proximity to Southern Serengeti’s wide-open plains makes it a brilliant base for wildebeest watching.
Scuba dive in the Galapagos islands
Bath-warm water and tropical fish are overrated. If a Padi scuba diving certification is on your bucket list, reduce the risk of a flipper to the face by avoiding overcrowded underwater hot spots such as the Great Barrier Reef, and head to Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands. The islands have plenty of Padi dive schools offering certification, and the region’s unmissable dive sites include Roca Redonda, where there’s an underwater volcano to explore; Isabela Island, where you can swim with seals and sealions; and Academy Bay, where divers regularly spot hammerhead sharks, eagle sharks and manta rays.
Take part in the Iditarod
Put the man’s best friend theory to the test by spending 15 days with a team of canine companions, mushing your way across Alaska. The 1,000-mile Iditarod race takes place every March. All participants must have completed a number of qualifying races (finishing in the top 75 per cent) and the winner can expect to take home around £37,000. The prize money fluctuates depending on the number of competitors who make it to the finish line. In other words, competitors who notice that a fellow competitor has ploughed into a snowdrift should probably think twice before helping him or her out.
Sail around the Antarctic
If you’ve ever considered booking an Antarctic cruise, it’s worth choosing your cruise line carefully. All too many cruises allow you to spend merely a day or two in the region, after setting sail from South American cities for convoluted voyages that involve just a quick dip into Antarctica itself.
Book a cruise with Holland America and you’ll spend four days (more time than any other cruise line) sailing around the Antarctic Peninsula. Highlights include Cuverville Island, which has the world’s largest gentoo penguin colony, and a crossing of the Drake Passage, which separates South America from Antarctica.
Join marine conservationists on a research dive in Indonesia
Raja Ampat is regarded as one of the world’s best diving destinations, and it’s also one of the most remote. This beautiful Indonesian archipelago in West Papua is famous for its colourful corals and the diversity of its marine life. Ever dreamed of spotting a wobbegong, golden sea squirt or Indonesian speckled carpet shark? Then Raja Ampat is the place for you.
Base yourself at the Misool Eco Resort and all proceeds go to the Misool Foundation, a marine conservation project which helps to protect the surrounding area – and guests can join the foundation’s conservationists on research dives.
Complete the North Pole Marathon
Regular marathon runners often cite London and New York as the most spectacular settings for the famous race, but for a truly awe-inspiring endurance event, sign up for the North Pole Marathon, which takes place every April and has been certified by Guinness World Records as the Northernmost Marathon on Earth.
The one downside? Despite the spectacular backdrop, be prepared for a little deja vu – the route consists of 10 laps of a 2.62-mile circuit, simply because the risks which come with the territory (polar bears and sub-zero temperatures, to name a few) means a point-to-point route isn’t possible. You’ll also need a fair few sponsors – prices start from around £14,000 for a package which includes flights from Svalbard to the North Pole, race entry and accommodation.