Once In A Lifetime Journeys

30 December 2016
Read Time: 9.1 mins

Are you ready for a life-changing holiday? From sailing the Kimberley to Carnival in Rio, whet your wanderlust appetite with one of these enviable and far-flung trips in 2017. 

Join in the celebrations in the party city of Rio for Carnival. (Image: Getty)

01 Celebrate Carnival In Rio

Brazilians sure know how to throw a party. Carnival in Rio – a five-day festival held before Lent, which usually takes place in February – remains the world’s most joyous celebration, with locals dancing all night to samba rhythms. You can join in the fun with Tucan Travel, which runs several trips that coincide with Carnival. Try the 15-day Brazilian coast itinerary. It takes in some of the country’s loveliest towns – from the charming Olinda to the African-influenced Salvador de Bahia, considered Brazil’s party capital – as well as letting you clock up some chill time on the beach.

Want to keep partying? Then try:

Holi festival in India

Every March, Holi unleashes a carnival of colours, with people chasing each other – and strangers – with coloured water and coloured powders. The celebrations are biggest in North India, so try Peregrine Adventures’ 12-day Spirit of India trip, which takes in the best of the region including Delhi, Jaipur and the Taj Mahal.

Full moon party in Thailand

Ready to dance away the night by the light of the moon? Then head for the monthly Full Moon Party in southern Thailand. Geckos Adventures nine-day Super South Thailand itinerary includes plenty of other memorable experiences, from beautiful beaches to waterfalls deep in the jungle and hidden lagoons.

Sunrise at Angkor Wat is definitely a once in a lifetime experience not to be missed. (Image: Getty)

02 Admire Cambodia’s Angkor Wat

Is this the most spectacular sight in Southeast Asia? The mighty Khmer temple of Angkor Wat, with its carved walls, towers and moats, has stood for a thousand years, and welcomed both Hindu and Buddhist worshippers. However, Angkor is just the icing on the cake: the area around Siem Reap is home to hundreds of temples that you can explore. Each one has its own charms, from Bayon, with its giant carved faces, to the romantic, jungle-smothered Ta Prohm. Geckos Adventures 12-day Essential Cambodia gives you several days to explore the area, as well as including a village homestay and some beach time in Sihanoukville. 

Ready for more sacred sights? Then try:

Bagan, Burma

Talk about astonishing building booms: 10,000 temples were built outside the city of Bagan between the 11th and 13th centuries. Although most of them have disappeared, that still leaves more than 2,000 temples to check out. Some are tiny, little more than an ornately decorated box; others are imposing. The sight of so many spires jutting out of the plain is something you will never forget. Try On the Go Tours’ eight-day Essential Burma, which also includes visits to Inle Lake and Mandalay.

Kyoto, Japan

The former imperial capital is home to some of Japan’s most remarkable temples, including the serene Kinkaku-ji, or Golden Pavilion, and the sprawling Nanzen-ji Temple. See them all on a two-day Kyoto package from JTB Sunrise Tours.

The untouched landscapes of Antarctica are awe-inspiring. (Image: Getty)

03 Explore Antarctica

The world’s last great wilderness is like nowhere else on earth, a world of ice and snow dominated by glaciers and icebergs. A cruise along the Antarctic Peninsula takes you on a journey into the unexpected, where every day brings a different experience. You might spend the morning whale watching or gaping at a tide of blue icebergs pouring out of a narrow channel in the ice, before venturing ashore to visit a vast penguin colony. Peregrine Adventures’ 14-day Crossing the Circle tour, which takes in the South Shetland Islands, also lets your try adventurous options such as kayaking and ice camping.

Ready for more of the big freeze? Then try:


Frozen waterfalls, glacier walks, natural ice sculptures and snowshoeing are just a few reasons to visit Iceland in winter. You may even spot the Northern Lights blazing high overhead. Try Bentours’ six-day Hidden Powers & Northern Lights itinerary.


Ever spotted wolf tracks, or made your way through waist-deep snow? These experiences are just some of the unforgettable activities you may enjoy on World Expeditions’ seven-day Classic Canada Winter Adventure, along with the opportunity to mush your own team of huskies.


Come face to face with an iguana in the Galapagos. (Image: Getty)

04 Eco Warrior In The Galapagos

A cluster of 18 islands home to some of the world’s rarest animal species roaming freely, the Galápagos archipelago is where every wildlife lover longs to visit. A trip here allows you to experience close-up encounters with the likes of fur seals, sea lions, marine iguanas, flightless cormorants and giant tortoises. Watch hawks circle the skies above, swim with turtles in pristine waters and get snap happy walking in Darwin’s footsteps. It doesn’t have to break the bank either; Geckos’ 10-day Best of Galápagos tour is an affordable way to see what all the fuss is about.

For more eco adventures, try…

The Amazon

Fishing for piraña and spotting caimán… yep the Amazon is an eco warrior’s dream destination. Discover it firsthand on Tucan Travel’s eight-day Amazon & Incas tour, which takes you deep into the jungle.


It was as early as 1974 when the tiny, remote kingdom of Bhutan in the eastern Himalayas opened up to tourists. Cliff-top monasteries, temples, scenic hikes and Bhutanese architecture abound and you can get a taste for it all with On The Go Tours’ seven-day Bhutan Breakaway tour.

Sit back and take in the changing landscapes of the Trans-Siberian journey. (Image: Getty)

05 Ride The Trans-Siberian Railway

It is one of the world’s great journeys: riding the rails from the far shores of Asia into the heart of Mother Russia. An express trip on the Trans-Siberian takes a week; most travellers, however, choose to break their journey in various places to go exploring. The railway passes through some of the world’s most memorable landscapes, from the Mongolian steppes to the Siberian taiga. One must-visit is the enormous Lake Baikal, which contains about one fifth of the world’s fresh water. Sundowners Overland offers a range of itineraries, including the 21-day Trans Mongolian Discovery.

Ready for more rail action? Then try:

Rovos Rail, Africa

Relive the Golden Age of Rail on the luxurious Victorian-era Rovos Rail. Bench International offers a 15-day journey from Cape Town to Dar es Salaam, including gourmet meals, game drives and a visit to Victoria Falls. 

The Silk Road

Like the idea of travelling by train, but not so keen on organised itineraries? Vodkatrain ditches the set activities and lets you do things at your pace, with a staffer in each city to help you with the essentials. Their 25-day Silk Road route takes in the ancient cities of Tashkent and Samarkand.

The dramatic landscapes of the Kimberley are unlike any others in the world. (Image: David Noton)

06 Discover The Kimberley

The rugged Kimberley is Australia’s last frontier. Few travellers make it to this remote north-western corner of the continent, where the nearest thing to a city is the pearling port of Broome. Those who do come are enchanted by the dramatic gorges and plunging waterfalls, by the sight of crocodiles sunning themselves on rust-coloured rocks and by ancient Aboriginal rock art. APT Touring’s 11-day Kimberley Coast Cruise, aboard the MS Caledonian Sky, takes in many of the Kimberley’s most dramatic locations, from the spectacular Hunter River to magnificent Wandjina art at Raft Point to the rich birdlife of the untouched Lacepede Islands.

Set for more sailing? Then try:


There are many ways to explore the Caribbean’s most intriguing island, but it is hard to go beyond a yacht trip. Explore colonial cities and snorkel coral reefs on Intrepid Travel’s nine-day Cuba Sailing Adventure.


Sailing the Nile remains the best way to see many of the country’s amazing sights, including the ancient temples of Luxor and Aswan. On the Go’s 10-day Jewel of the Nile tour includes four days afloat.

The gorgeous Duoro Valley in northern Portugal is one of Europe's best kept secrets. (Image: Getty)

07 Become a Latin lover

It’s the next best thing to time travel. If you are prepared to head off Europe’s well-worn tourist trails and explore the untouched landscapes and Latin cultures of Spain and Portugal, you will discover soaring mountains, lush valleys and ancient villages that have remained largely unchanged over the centuries. Among the loveliest is Portugal’s Douro Valley, home to some of the country’s best wineries. U-Tracks’ seven-day Douro Rambler offers plenty of gentle day walks through pine forests and vine-laced terraces, as well as options for boat rides and wine tasting.

Ready for more Latin life? Try these:

Northern Spain

From Alpine peaks to sandy beaches, northern Spain’s diverse charms offer plenty to explore. Back-Roads Travel’s nine-day Highlights of Northern Spain takes in everything from the wine region of La Rioja to the Camino de Santiago pilgrim trail.

Historic Barcelona

The flip side of Barcelona’s big-city buzz is its historic neighbourhoods. Explore Raval, one of the most atmospheric, with Urban Adventures’ evening Barcelona Tapas Tour.

Spot an elusive tiger in India. (Image: SM Images)

08 Go Tiger Spotting

Anyone who remembers reading The Jungle Book knows that India’s forests were once full of wildlife, including bears, wolves, elephants, monkeys and, most thrillingly of all, tigers. The man-eating Shere Khan is one of the book’s most memorable characters; to catch a glimpse of his modern-day counterparts, you will have to head to Ranthambore National Park. On the Go Tours’ nine-day Shere Khan itinerary lets you visit this lovely patch of wilderness, and also includes essential destinations such as Delhi, Jaipur and Agra.

Want more animal action? Then try:

Costa Rica

The jungles of Costa Rica are a wildlife lover’s paradise, where you may spot everything from playful monkey, tapirs and dangerous poison dart frogs to brightly coloured macaws and toucans. Tucan Travel’s nine-day Nature Trails itinerary lets you take in some of the country’s most verdant forests.


If you want to see plenty of panda bears, there is only one place to go: Chengdu in China.  Insider Journeys’ 15-day China Panorama tour takes in all the greatest hits of this vast country, from Beijing and Shanghai to Xian’s Terracotta Warriors, and includes a visit to the Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding.

The vibrant colours of Australia's red centre. (Image: Getty)

09 Make Tracks In The Red Centre

You have to wonder at the early explorers who described Australia’s interior as ‘empty’. The Red Centre is just packed with things to see. Beyond the unforgettable sight of Uluru, there are the captivating domes of Kata Tjuta, dramatic gorges such as Kings Canyon and Ormiston Gorge, ancient rock art sites and modern-day Aboriginal communities to visit. Adventure Tours Australia’s four-day Red Centre Safari includes all this and more.

Ready to discover more Aussie icons? Then try:

Kangaroo Island

Just a quick trip from Adelaide, Kangaroo Island offers some of Australia’s best wildlife spotting. Intrepid Travel’s two-day Kangaroo Island Explorer takes in the best of the island, from sea lions, echidnas and kangaroos (well, naturally) to hiking and kayaking.


There are plenty of spectacular hiking options in Tasmania, but World Expeditions’ four-day Bay of Fires Walk is hard to beat. Explore secluded coves, sandy beaches and pristine forests on this walk to remember.

The colourful facades are only one aspect of Stockholm you'll fall in love with. (Image: Getty)

10 Discover Scandinavia’s Buzzing Cities

There is more to Europe’s deep north than its pristine wildernesses. Visit its buzzing cities and you will find lively bars and restaurants, historic castles and a thriving design scene. The big question is, where to start? Romantic Copenhagen has the bustling Strøget street and Amalienborg Palace; Stockholm has the hip Sodermalm neighourbood and an amazing archipelago of islands; while Helsinki has the strollable Esplanadi boulevards and an amazing collection of Art Nouveau architecture. Or visit them all on Bentours’ 16 to 22-day Grand Nordic Coast and Capital tour, which also takes you north of the Arctic Circle.

Want more big cities? Try these:


There’s nowhere quite like Tokyo: a metropolis that veers from the neon-drenched streets of Shinjuku to the ancient elegance of The Imperial Palace. JTB’s Dynamic Tokyo tour is the ultimate one-day sampler, taking in everything from a traditional tea ceremony to Sensoji Temple and the view from the top of Tokyo Tower.


One of Europe’s most inspiring cities, Prague combines medieval majesty with a 21st century cool that is totally entrancing. Get the best of it on Urban Adventures’ one-day Prague Discovery, which lets you see the best of the city – from the Old Town and Charles Bridge to Prague Castle – while also making time for important stuff, like sampling genuine Czech beer.

This story first appeared in Travel Ideas magazine. 

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Ute Junker

There’s no such thing as a typical day for Ute Junker: it might begin with a snorkel through Tahiti’s translucent waters, or finish with a samba session in one of Rio’s best clubs. From hiking the Norwegian fjords to dining in Lima’s best restaurants, she travels the world in search of inspiring, informative stories.