• 28 September 2018

If rare travel experiences make you feel alive, you’re in luck. Our team of travel experts have found nineteen cool and unusual experiences to tack onto your bucket list. You better get your passport ready, because this is bound to induce a serious case of wanderlust…

1. Chase the fire in Azerbaijan

Baku Ateshgah (also called the Fire Temple of Baku)

Azerbaijan is known as the ‘Land of Fire’ thanks to historic texts that refer to several perpetual fires (or eternal flames) that were noted by explorers like Marco Polo over the centuries. Yanar Dag (‘burning mountain’) is a modern day remnant of these gas fires that have been burning since the 1950s according to local lore. It is the result of the steady seepage of gas from below ground. As you can imagine, eternal flames lie at the heart of mythological and religious tales. These days, Baku Ateshgah (also called the Fire Temple of Baku) commemorates these legends. Originally built as a sacrificial space over a natural gas vent, it’s eternal flame burned out in the 1960s. Today visitors can explore the grounds of the 17th century temple and view a stand-in flame that is kept alight by piped-in gas.

RELATED: Spend 12 days exploring the Caucasus region

2. Plummet in paradise on the Garden Route

Bungee from over 200m above the Bloukrans River along South Africa’s Garden Route

If you’ve ever dreamt of giving your adrenal glands a run for their money in one of the most scenic regions on earth, we’ve got good news – it’s totally possible! Travel to South Africa and make your way to the Bloukrans Bridge. Officially logged as the highest commercial bungy jump destination in the world, it also happens to be smack dab in the middle of the Garden Route. South Africa isn’t known as a forest destination, but it does have one small corner of lush woodland on its southern shoreline that is beautiful beyond measure. This is where you’ll find Bloukrans, as well as a range of artisan villages to visit and explore.

RELATED: Explore the diverse landscape in South Africa

3. Discover 1000-year-old monasteries in Armenia

The Geghard Monastery is the best depiction of Armenian medieval architecture

Did you know Armenia is one of the oldest countries in the world? In 301 AD, more than 17 centuries ago, it also happened to be the first territory to declare Christianity as its state religion. These days, the country is home to 4000+ churches and monasteries that play testament to its devout past. If 1000-year-old religious havens situated in the midst of picturesque landscapes is your idea of heaven, put Armenia at the top of your travel list.

RELATED: Explore the Caucasus beauties of Azerbaijan, Georgia & Armenia

4. Brave the spray at Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls refers to the three different waterfalls that act as an international border between the USA & Canada.

If John Steinbeck mentions a landmark in a travel memoir, you’d better know it’s a classic. Niagara Falls is one of those age-old bucket list items that have been gracing travel brochures since the time when travel by steamboat was the height of sophistication. These days, you can approach this mammoth waterfall on the USA/Canada border on a specially tailored boat to experience its singular splendour up close.

5. Tick off epic landmarks in Moscow

Russia’s capital is filled with spellbinding architecture and landmarks

The Moscow Kremlin. The Red Square. Saint Basil’s Cathedral. Lenin’s Mausoleum. Moscow is crammed to the rafters with some of the most iconic and historic sights you can imagine. There is literally a photo opportunity around every corner. So if you want to enjoy some serious ‘hey mom, look at me!’ bang for your buck on your travels, this is where you need to go.

RELATED: Choose the right tour to help you tick off the sights of Moscow

6. Ride a culinary wave in Vietnam

Vietnam is currently emerging as one of the hottest foodie destinations

When you think of Vietnam, do you envision endless rice paddies and sweaty train rides? Guess again! Vietnam is currently emerging as one of the hottest foodie destinations for 2019. No kidding! Far from having a standard approach to Asian food, this always-surprising destination dishes up a variety of regional cuisines that change as subtly as the landscape from one area to the next. Sip Chinese-inspired soups in the north, mingle at markets with locals along the coastline, and get ready for some spice in the south. It’s a taste sensation from start to finish.

7. Trek the mountains in Morocco

Highest peak of the Atlas Mountains is Toubkal (over 4,000m high), found in Morocco’s Toubkal National Park

Morocco is a beautifully mountainous country that offers countless treks for travellers of all fitness levels. Whether you choose to amble along a forgiving road in the Atlas Mountains in summer, or prefer to have your mettle tested against steeper peaks in winter, there is an outdoor encounter waiting for you. Partner with a reputable activity provider and get ready to have your mind blown.

8. Take life with a pinch of salt in Bolivia

Salar de Yuyni is the world’s largest salt flat

Stark, sparse and awe-inspiring to the core, the Salar de Uyuni salt flats in Bolivia takes up more than 10 000 squared km. It was formed in the wake of the evaporation of a huge prehistoric lake, and has since become the world’s foremost source of lithium. This salty expanse combined with snowy mountains, bubbling hot springs and gaseous volcanoes make for one epic landscape. No wonder it draws more than 100 000 visitors every year!

9. Follow the stars in Boston

Countless award-winning series were filmed against the backdrop of the US city of Boston

New York and LA may be synonymous with the silver screen, but there are countless award-winning series that were filmed against the backdrop of the more gritty US city of Boston. Fringe, Boston Legal, Ally McBeal, and Sabrina the Teenage Witch were all filmed here, so there are plenty of ‘look at that’ moments to enjoy in between walking the Freedom Trail and visiting the Boston Public Garden.

10. Eat your heart out in Cape Town

A visit to South Africa is not complete without a wine-tasting or two, or three

If you’ve a foodie at heart, Cape Town should deserves a place of honour on your must-visit list. Forget about fine dining or streetside fare (although there is plenty of that as well!) – the Mother City is all about getting your hands dirty. Join chefs in their inner-city lofts, dine by candlelight in an artist’s studio, make your way into the forest to forage with a fungi expert, or go for a fynbos & wine pairing – the options are endless. Cape Town is home to a wide array of culinary artists who offer immersive experiences of all sorts. The challenge will actually lie in narrowing down your options…

RELATED: Sip on a glass of wine in the infamous winelands

11. Snorkel in the Red Sea

Blue Hole in Egypt is the ideal spot for snorkelling

Egypt may be best known for its wealth of pyramids and historical sites, but it has another, rather unexpected, attraction – snorkelling! The Red Sea is home to exceptional coral reefs, schools of colourful fish and even some friendly dolphins. Best of all, there are plenty of snorkelling spots that cater for beginners as well as full-blown enthusiasts. Conrad Beach near the resort town of Sharm El Sheikh is very popular with snorkelers, as well as Dahab with its laid-back atmosphere and Bedouin ambience. Lahami Bay near Hamata is renowned for its vast array of sea creatures, while Marsa Alam offers the shelter secluded bays at the the farthest point of the Red Sea Riviera.

RELATED: Experience the beauty of Egypt

12. Trace the Nazca Lines in Peru

Peru’s amazing landscape with the Nazca Lines (top left & right, bottom left) and Rainbow Mountain (bottom right)

The Nazca Lines in southern Peru is a fascinating phenomenon that is yet to be fully explained by science. Covering an area of over 1000 metres squared, these ancient geoglyphs (designs produced on the ground using elements of the landscape) depict 300+ figures of humans, animals and plants. Some of the 10 000+ lines used to produce these motifs are up to 30 m in width and more than 9 km in length! As such, you can imagine what a spectacle it is to encounter these images from a bird’s eye view. In previous centuries, this would only have been possible from nearby hilltops. These days visitors to Peru can board chartered planes or helicopters that fly over the area so adventurers may enjoy a view from above to appreciate the sheer scale of the extensive geoglyphs.

13. Explore the Big Apple ( NYC) by foot

The best way to explore the Big Apple is by foot – take the time to taste, smell and explore

If you’re wanting to experience all that New York City has to offer then the best way to explore is by foot! And NYC is perfectly geared for exactly that. Follow in the footsteps of the likes of Superman or Spiderman as you embark on a family-friendly Superhero Walking tour. Or you could visit all the historic sights around the city (of which there are many!). Why not taste your way through NYC, as you visit all the food stands? In short, New York City walking tours are the best way to go, and there is something for everyone…

RELATED: Explore New York and all that it has to offer! 

14. Float in the Dead Sea in Jordan

Take part in a quintessential Dead Sea experience and float!

Floating in the Dead Sea is perhaps one of the most iconic Middle Eastern experiences you can enjoy. The Dead Sea is incredibly salty, which means the water is heavier (more dense) that regular sea water. Since the human body is less dense than water to begin with, humans tend to float in in the sea with relative ease, but the Dead Sea kick things up a notch. Additionally, the salty waters are said to have restorative, healing properties, so you might just walk away with some more spring in your step. Remember to ask a fellow traveller to take a picture of you floating in the water with the Jordanian Times to mark the occasion!

RELATED: Take the opportunity to have the quintessential experience in Jordan

15. Explore ancient villages on foot along the Italian Riviera

In Cinque Terre the only way to get around is by train or on foot

The Cinque Terre is a collection of five Medieval seaside villages that cling to the picturesque coastline of the Italian Riviera. Here, bright houses and verdant vineyards creep up terraced slopes, overlooking sleepy harbours with bobbing fishing boats and family trattorias that serve fresh seafood in cobbled courtyards. Best of all – it’s not passable for modern cars, so the only way to get around is by train or on foot. Hike from one town to the next along the Sentiero Azzurro cliffside hiking trail to experience this magical place in person.

REALTED: Unwind in the cobbled streets of Cinque Terre in Italy 

16. Visit the Bookstore of High Water in Venice

The floating city of Venice is home to the Libreria Acqua Alta (‘The Bookstore of High Water’) – a singular purveyor of reading material that holds a place of honour on the bucket lists of avid readers and bibliophiles the world over. Here, you’ll find a myriad of books, magazines and other literary treasures stacked in bathtubs, waterproof basins and even a life-size gondola – all to keep it safe from the canals that have a penchant for rising without fair warning. Browse around at leisure and be sure to keep an eye out for the rather unique ‘fire escape’ (a door that simply opens up directly onto the canal).

RELATED: Enjoy the delights and sights of Venice

17. Be amazed by obscure collections in Amsterdam

Nieuwe Spiegelstraat in the city of Amsterdam is a rambling avenue lined with antique shops, each of which is dedicated exclusively to an arcane collection. Think medical instruments, planetary accoutrement, and more! Just the thing if you want to delve into singular collectibles and take home a truly unique keepsake.

RELATED: The canals of Amsterdam are calling

18. Trek a hidden labyrinth in Barcelona

Labyrinths are just so intriguing, aren’t they? Defined as a maze with one pathway leading from the entrance to the centre, the origins of the labyrinth can be traced back more than four centuries. Barcelona’s Parc del Laberint d’Horta (Labyrinth Park of Horta) is the oldest garden in the city. Work on the labyrinth at the centre of the park started in the latter part of the 18th century and today it features 2000+ feet of twists and turns that takes you all over. If you don’t want to do any actual walking, you can simply appreciate the intricate design and its accompanying statues from the surrounding pavilions. There is an entrance fee, but if you go on a Wednesday or Sunday, you can get in for free if you’re one of the first 750 visitors.

RELATED: Spend a memorable holiday in Barcelona

19. Pause for good luck at the heart of Paris

If you’re the type of traveller who’d make their way to Blarney Castle in Ireland to kiss the Blarney Stone to get the gift of the gab, you’ll more than likely be interested in making good use of all the free-floating good luck that is clustered around the centre of Paris. Marked by a rather unobtrusive geographic brass plaque embedded in a public square at the geographic centre of the City of Love, this location nonetheless attracts a slew of travellers each year. It is said that if you spin around on the marker you’ll enjoy boundless good luck, and if you kiss your partner while standing on it, you’ll be bound together for life.

RELATED: Explore the City of Love

How awesome right? Best of all – there are countless other travel experiences waiting out there to blow your mind. If the notion of experiencing the unknown excites you beyond measure, it’s time to get out there. See it! Do it! Feel it! Life is short, do the stuff that makes you feel alive.

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