People often call them bucket-list trips or dream vacations, but no matter what they’re called, these journeys are the kind of voyage that travelers will do only once in their lifetime — or that people may wait a lifetime to do.
What each person wants to tick off his or her bucket list is highly personal. Some want to go on safari in Africa to see the “big five”: lions, leopards, rhinoceroses, elephants and Cape buffaloes. Others want to see whales and puffins and icebergs in the northern Atlantic. Some want to cruise through Europe on one of its great rivers, and others want to take a helicopter tour that lands on a glacier in Alaska.
Check out these Travel Alliance Partners itineraries for your group’s next bucket list adventure.
Circle Newfoundland and Labrador
Atlantic Tours and Travel
In Newfoundland and Labrador, visitors will find quaint communities, family-owned accommodations and fresh local fare. And in Newfoundland and Labrador, “you’ll never meet more friendly people,” said Chris Rose, product and sales manager for Atlantic Tours and Travel.
People sign up for the Circle Newfoundland and Labrador itinerary for abundant wildlife, expansive scenery and unique culture, but the itinerary offers plenty of history as well. There are four UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Newfoundland, “and we’ve got three of them,” Rose said.
L’Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site is a Viking or Norse settlement dating to A.D. 1000 where visitors can see original Viking mounds and watch for passing icebergs and moose. There, costumed actors dress as Vikings, and “you can actually see impressions in the ground where their huts were,” he said.
Gros Morne National Park is one of the few places in the world where the Earth’s mantle is exposed. In the park, travelers can choose between two boat tours: one on Bonne Bay or another on Western Brook Pond.
Red Bay National Historic Site is the location of a 16th-century Basque whaling station on Labrador’s southern coast. Visitors can wander through the former whaling town that dates to the 1500s and explore the whalers’ cemetery.
Summer is the best time of year for whale watching and puffin-sighting, and June through early July is prime iceberg season.
“It would be very rare not to see a humpback breach on the boat tour in St. Anthony,” Rose said.
Throughout the trip, the group stops in a number of quaint fishing villages and cozy inlets, like Port au Choix to learn about the area’s earliest settlers and the scenic outport of Twillingate, where they’ll visit Long Point Lighthouse.
The itinerary wraps up in St. John’s, a bustling seaport with colorful row houses lining steep streets. At Cape Spear National Historic Site, travelers can stand on the easternmost point of North America.
Southwest Adventure Tours
Alaska is the proverbial final frontier of American adventure.
“Alaska is a place where you can drive for hours at a time and there’s nobody around,” said Jason Murray, owner, founder and guide at Southwest Adventure Tours. “Alaska is still very much what it was 100 or 1,000 years ago; you can just disappear and not see people for hours and days at a time.”
That sense of exploration draws people to the Magnificent Alaska itinerary, which is capped at 10 passengers to ensure a small-group experience as travelers explore a vast array of wildlife and wilderness.
In Seward, the group visits Exit Glacier, where they can hike the Harding Icefield trail. Travelers can also take an optional helicopter flight-seeing tour of Godwin Glacier that lands at a dog camp. There, they visit the kennel, meet the mushers and take a dog sled ride on the glacier.
“They get that iconic Alaska frontier experience,” Murray said.
Those who don’t do the optional excursion will visit a kennel in Seward and go dog-sledding in a wheeled cart. Travelers can also go deep-sea fishing with “whales right next to you.” In Homer, a seaplane takes the group to Katmai National Park, where they’ll be 100 yards from bears fishing in the river for salmon and fighting each other for the best fishing spot. Also in Homer, travelers will take a sea taxi to Kachemak Bay State Park, where they’ll hike to a glacier-fed lake to kayak at the base of a glacier.
A scenic Alaska Railroad GoldStar Dome train ride takes the group back to Anchorage for the northern half of the itinerary. The group will stop in Talkeetna for a two-hour narrated river float before heading to Denali National Park. A bus tour takes the group to the park’s visitor center, and travelers can explore on their own from there.
The capstone of the trip is either a high-altitude flight around Denali, formerly Mount McKinley, or a glacier-landing experience on one of Denali’s glaciers.
Going “on safari” conjures images of trekking through rugged terrain, sweating under a beating sun and batting away unimaginable bugs. But five-star lodges, tented camps and Land Rovers provide plenty of comfort during Sun Tours’ Tanzania-Serengeti Adventure.
Travelers visit during migration season to experience as much wildlife as possible at several national parks.
“We’ll see thousands of zebras and tens of thousands of wildebeest and hundreds of giraffes and elephants and lions,” said owner Frank Fine.
The group travels in land cruisers that seat six passengers, and each vehicle features a pop-top roof for unobstructed — and safe — views. It’s common to have elephants or lions walk by within 10 feet of the vehicles, Fine said.
The itinerary includes game drives in Arusha National Park and Tarangire National Park, where wildlife gathers at the area’s only permanent river. Serengeti National Park is home to the greatest concentration of large mammals in the world, including migratory herds of wildebeest, zebras and gazelles.
Tanzania’s highly trained, college-educated guides are extremely knowledgeable about the animals, the culture, the flora and the fauna, Fine said, and Sun Tours’ guides adjust each day’s route depending on where they know the animals are.
“One day, we got up at 4 in the morning to go see the hippos,” he said. “It was an extraordinary experience.”
The group visits Ngorongoro Crater, a 100-square-mile crater that’s home to elephants, lions, leopards, buffaloes and rare black rhinos. Travelers will also see Olduvai Gorge, where the prehistoric skeleton known as Lucy was discovered.
But the trip is not wholly focused on nature; the group will also get to learn about and experience Tanzanian culture. Travelers will visit a market where residents shop for their daily needs, a local art collective and an authentic Maasai village, one that’s not staged for tourists.
“It’s a very personal experience,” Fine said. “They take us to their homes, and you really get to see how they live. It is the real thing.”
Rhine Getaway Christmas Markets
Grand View Tour and Travel
The European tradition of Christmas markets dates to the late Middle Ages in the German-speaking part of Europe and the eastern regions of France. Today, these holiday street markets are held in nearly every city, town and village across Europe; they range in size from a handful of humble stalls to massive, annual festivals.
Each has its own personality, but at every market, visitors will find holiday treats like cookies, cakes and other local specialties along with French chocolate chaud, Rüdesheim coffee or Glühwein, the German mulled wine. Hundreds of stalls showcase handmade items, from toys and trinkets to ornaments and ornate artwork, along with traditional folkcraft like nutcrackers, prune dolls and German smokers, wooden-figurine incense burners.
“It’s where the spirit and romance of Christmas comes alive,” said Denise Hay, owner of Grand View Tour and Travel. “And the best way to move from one market to the next is the rivers.”
Grand View will take travelers on a Viking Cruise to explore cities and their Christkindlmarkts along the Rhine River. The December 2021 itinerary includes the Netherlands, Germany, France and Switzerland. The cruise begins in Amsterdam, sailing south on the Rhine to Basel, Switzerland.
The cruise stops in Cologne and Koblenz before arriving in Rüdesheim, which boasts one of the best Christmas markets on the trip, Hay said. The picturesque medieval town welcomes over 120 vendors who set up stalls throughout the famous Old Quarter and pedestrian-only Drosselgasse area. A local favorite is Rüdesheim coffee, made with locally distilled Asbach Uralt Brandy, whipped cream and sugar and served in a special coffee cup.
The market in Strasbourg, France, is another highlight, Day said. Located on the Grande Ile near Strasbourg Cathedral and Place Kléber, the market draws some 2 million visitors each year, and many vendors feature traditional Alsatian goods.
The trip offers plenty of Christmas cheer but also delivers classic European history with tours of churches and castles. Travelers can tour the Dom, Germany’s largest cathedral, as well as Ehrenbreitstein Fortress and the 700-year-old Marksburg Castle.