Remember the first five bucket list activities we highlighted? Those were only the beginning. Here are five more dynamite must-dos, with a little bit of exciting history to convince you that they really are experiences of a lifetime. What are you waiting for? Dig in:
6: Go parasailing in Hawaii.
For as long as we can remember, Hawaii has represented the ultimate in self-indulgence and relaxation. Pristine, white beaches; shimmering oceans; verdant landscapes; and plenty of good food and drink make it an impossibly perfect destination for anyone who enjoys the combo of sun and water. While there’s certainly nothing wrong with enjoying these treats on the ground, there’s another experience we highly recommend: parasailing. Not only can you take off and land on terra firma, ensuring you aren’t soaked, but the views from hundreds of feet in the air are breathtaking. Savor the undulating, lush green terrain weaving together with the cityscapes of Honolulu and Kahului; the towering volcanos juxtaposed with the calm, crystal blue of the ocean that stretches out farther than the eye can see; and the bustle of hundreds of beach bodies relishing the islands’ tropical allure. When it’s time to come down to earth, you can enjoy many of the magical, on-the-ground experiences Hawaii offers – from luau pig roasts to lei-studded dances. We haven’t ever experienced anything quite like this; it’s definitely a bucket-list must.
Parasailing in Hawaii is offered in several locations and costs between $30 and $100, depending on the length of your “flight” and what’s included. Check out the best parasailing options in advance of your trip so you know what’s right for you.
7: Meditate at Angkor Wat.
Much further afield, in the heart of Cambodia, lies an old, dilapidated Buddhist temple complex known as Angkor Wat (which roughly translates to “City of Temples”). Originally constructed for then king Suryavarman II of the Khmer people in the early 12th century and dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu, it was later sacked by invaders and converted to a Buddhist temple ground. Much later, in the 20th century, western explorers and missionaries happened across the complex, finding its composition to be altogether strange. It lacked, they noted, the remnants of regular dwellings or the common tools one would need for daily living; all that was left were larger monuments. Just the same, they were astounded by the complex’s beauty and, eventually, the country invested in the preservation of the temple grounds. To this day, it remains an astoundingly impressive showcase of Khmer architecture, encompassing some 200 acres. Within the complex walls, countless galleries and pavilions, libraries, a palace, temples, courtyards, reliefs, and statues shape this ancient wonder.
All visitors to Angkor Wat are required to have a permit; a one-day permit costs just under $40, though you can get one that stretches as long as seven days (which will run you $72). Many Angkor Wat tours are available as well, and run from about $50 for a short, few-hour tour in a single day to several hundred dollars for multi-day tours. All of them are worth it – it just depends on how in-depth you want your experience to be.
8: Gaze at the Aurora Borealis.
Once upon a time, we shared our favorite spots for hot springs soaking in Iceland. While the near-Zen experience of letting the natural minerals and heat of the water soothe you is unquestionably its own must, there’s an added bonus if you enjoy those waters while spying the stars at the right time of year. We’re talking about seeing the Aurora Borealis, otherwise known as the northern lights. Caused by disturbances in the magnetosphere (yep, that’s a thing), the northern lights are actually a disruption of charged particles. These particles, excited by their disruption, emit light of various colors – hence the breathtaking strokes of greens, reds, and blues. Galileo was the first to use the term “aurora borealis” in 1619 – inspired by Aurora, the Roman goddess of the dawn – though we’ve learned a thing or two about the phenomenon since then; scientists have now grouped the various manifestations of the northern lights (and other auroras) into four main categories: mild glows, usually near the horizon; patches that look like clouds; arcs across the sky; and coronas that cover most of the visible sky.
Fortunately for aurora-gazers, you don’t need a ticket to see this natural wonder. It is recommended, however, that you pay a visit to a Scandinavian country between April and August for the best viewing. (And pro tip: A hot springs-and-northern lights experience may sound lovely, but make sure the springs you’re visiting are open late enough to make the lights visible; many close before dusk.)
9: Eat a pizza in front of the Coliseum.
A colossal monument to the engineering prowess and architectural know-how of the Ancient Romans, the Coliseum has stood in the center of Rome for more than 2,000 years. And yes, it once hosted deadly battles that served as entertainment for the masses (not civilization’s high point), but it was also used as a hospital and religious center. Made of more than 3.5 million cubic feet of stone and standing 157 feet high, it is a truly remarkable construction – made even more remarkable by the fact that it took fewer than 10 years to build. In its heyday, as many as 80,000 spectators would watch from the stands as gladiators fought, sea battles waged, dramas unfolded, and animal hunts scattered lions and panthers every which way.
You can easily grab a €16 single-day ticket to see the Coliseum, which also gets you access to the nearby Roman Forum and Palantine Hill. Or, you can grab a pizze at Li Rioni a Santiquattro and amble by the massive edifice, enjoying the juxtaposition of old and new. Either way, you will kill two birds with one stone: a visit to the Coliseum and a meal featuring Italy’s world-famous ‘za.
10: Float on the Dead Sea.
Long the stuff of legend, the Dead Sea is an anchor of the Middle East, bordered by Jordan to the east and Israel and the West Bank to the west. It sits an astounding 1,400 feet below sea level and runs 1,000 feet deep (at its deepest point). What most find so incredible about this body of water, however, is its salinity; it is nearly 10 times saltier than the ocean, making it impossible for plant or animal life to exist within. For humans, however, the experience is less dangerous than mind-boggling; swimming in the ultra-dense Dead Sea is like wading through mud, given the sheer amount of salt in the water. While there are a few theories as to why the sea is so saline, one posits that the combination of the sea’s formation – as an ancient extension of the Red Sea rift; rock salt deposits that accumulated over time; and climate change precipitated the formation of an extremely low-lying, salty sea body. Over the centuries, the sea has been used as a trade route, a locus for spa-like health treatments, and the centerpiece for various biblical cultures and events. Famously, the BCE Essene sect – who practiced an offshoot of Judaism – lived in caves surrounding the seas and purportedly wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls, offering a new perspective on Jewish and biblical history. Unfortunately, however, the sea is receding, though conservation efforts spearheaded by Jordan are currently underway to preserve what remains of the Dead Sea.
There are several public beaches on the Dead Sea that you can visit free of charge, including the popular Ein Gedi beach. There are also a number of resort beaches that are private and/or require entrance fees. Be sure to scope out the area in advance of your visit to see where you want to land and how much beach access will cost. Also, consider a guided Dead Sea Day Trip, complete with a mud soak, a float on the sea, and transportation to and from your hotel.
Still craving around-the-world musts? Stay tuned for one more installment of our bucket list activities roundup – there’s definitely more you need to experience.