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8 immersive bucket list experiences to try this year

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Iconic Aztec ruins in Mexico, underwater treasures in the Philippines, ancient forests in Japan… there’s so much out there to discover – so where do you even begin pinning down your next great escape?

From hearty gastronomy tours to humbling back-to-nature activities, we’ve rounded up a few of our most immersive experiences to help get you started. They’re perfect for deep-diving into local landscapes, histories and communities, getting to know what lies beneath the surface and helping you see the world in entirely new ways. Have a read through our recommendations, and speak to one of our local experts for help putting together the trip of a lifetime.

Take a hot air balloon tour over Aztec ruins

Reach new heights and feel weightless in Mexico as you soak up the sunrise by hot air balloon over Teotihuacán, a vast archaeological complex and unforgettable sight to witness from above. Located northeast of Mexico City, this UNESCO-listed Aztec site was once the largest settlement on the American continent, and measures out at more than 20 sq km. While its origins are a mystery to historians, it remains significant for understanding the religious and anthropological ways of the Teotihuacanos. Take in views of the Pyramids of the Sun and Moon, the Avenue of the Dead which connects them, and other important structures as you glide peacefully in your hot air balloon – a mode of transport which is in itself bucket list-worthy, no matter where in the world you are.

Hot air balloons over Teotihuacán, Mexico

Plant a tree in Mognori Eco-Village

Journey to West Africa to pay a visit to Mognori, a farming eco-village close to the protected Mole National Park in northern Ghana. Although remote and not straightforward to reach, its particular dedication to environmental conservation makes it a fascinating place to explore. On a humbling and eye-opening tour, learn the ways of the locals; how they’re able to live in harmony with both the land that sustains them, and the wildlife and biodiversity of the nearby National Park. You could even leave a positive mark from your visit by planting a tree in the name of a loved one, through our on-the-ground expert’s CSR Tree Planting Project.

Mole National Park, Ghana

Snorkel and dive to new depths in Coron Bay

If you’re a sea life enthusiast and itching to gear up for a wonderful day out, make a beeline for captivating Coron. Located in the Philippines’ Palawan, this municipality is a chart-topper thanks to its breath-taking diving sites and sheer wealth of marine life to explore – and yet, it’s not as buzzed-about as the reefs of El Nido, so you can expect a less crowded (and therefore more pleasant) experience. A collection of wreck sites awaits keen divers, who can take their pick from a dozen sunken wartime ships, and the vibrant coral reefs and biodiversity to be found off Coron Bay are simply spectacular – look out for batfish, turtles, mandarinfish, seahorses, rays, and much more.

Coron Bay, Philippines

Follow your taste buds around Lithuania

Swap Europe’s culinary big-hitters for a visit to this Baltic gem: when it comes to foodie breaks, Lithuania is a worthy, if surprising contender – and a gastronomic self-drive tour will take you on a flavorful journey filled with history, intrigue and comfort. Taste fried bread and cepelinai potato dumplings in Vilnius, before visiting the country’s former capital, Trakai to savor meaty kibinai pastries – a speciality of the Karaite Jewish ethnic minority. Sample a slice of the famous tree cake, cooked on a rotating spit over an open fire, and travel back in time with a tasting session by hand at Kaunas Castle. Combining its cuisine with spectacular nature, vibrant cities and a rich heritage, this underrated destination is giving you every reason to plan a trip.

Trakai Island Castle, Lithuania

Learn the ways of Bedouin desert tribes in Oman

As far as engaging travel experiences go, few can rival the opportunity to visit local communities and learn about their deep-rooted practices and customs. When done respectfully and responsibly, a tour of this nature is both educational and inspiring. One of our favorites is to see Oman‘s orange-red Wahiba Sands through the eyes of a Bedouin tribe member: find out how they’ve survived for centuries across this tough and testing terrain, uncover their day-to-day routines as farmers and shepherds, and visit a local house to witness traditional handcrafting and home-making traditions. You’ll feel worlds away from your daily life as you soak up the Bedouin hospitality, fully immersed in the surreal desert landscape.

Wahiba Sands, Oman

Enjoy pure escapism in Yakushima’s primaeval forest

If you’re a lover of the great outdoors and in search of remote bliss, lace up your boots and make for Japan‘s subtropical Yakushima Island. Nobody can quite prepare for the deeply spiritual and moving connection they’ll find with nature here. Its primaeval rainforest is a protected UNESCO-listed marvel, and a hike across its grounds will soon reveal why: once a victim of substantial logging practices, it’s now a lush and incredibly ethereal, moss-covered national park, filled with ancient cedar trees – some of the oldest in the country at more than 1,000 years of age (some are even believed to be more than 7,000 years old).

Yakushima Island, Japan

Observe the rare desert elephants of Namibia

Found in only Namibia and Mali, the desert-adapted elephant is a very special creature to observe in its natural habitat. While it is an African bush elephant and not its own species, it has learned to thrive in the arid conditions of the Damaraland region’s Ugab Wilderness Area. Following a history of poaching and hunting, these elephants have sadly declined in numbers, and getting to observe the herds as they roam the sandy terrain now remains a rare and unique experience. For the best chance at spotting them, enlist the help of one of our local experts, who will guide you (or help you arrange a self-drive) to one of the main riverbeds as part of a responsible wilderness tour.

Desert elephant of Namibia

Cruise along the vast shores of Indonesia’s Lake Toba

Feel the silence that surrounds you as you stand on the shore of Lake Toba, the largest volcanic crater lake in the world. Located in North Sumatra, Indonesia, this UNESCO-listed giant was formed as the result of large volcanic eruptions more than 70,000 years ago – and today its 100 km-long, 30 km-wide expanse is both a mystical and entrancing sight to behold. Feel yourself embraced by its clear, far-reaching waters, soak up views of the Barisan Mountains which surround it, and if you wish to explore the lake from a different vantage point, hop on a ferry to Samosir – a sizeable island at its heart, where amongst many other things, you could enjoy beachfront relaxation, bathing in hot springs, hiking across invigorating trails, and touring traditional villages to learn about age-old customs.

Lake Toba, Indonesia

Make it happen

If any of the above experiences has you dreaming of a bucket-list vacation this year, chat to one of our local experts today – they’re on hand to help you make the most of your trip.

  1. Mexico
  2. Ghana
  3. Philippines
  4. Lithuania
  5. Oman
  6. Japan
  7. Namibia
  8. Indonesia

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