The ultimate travel ‘bucket list’ for 2023 (2024)

You can probably blame Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson. It was, after all, the velvet-toned voiceover specialist and the guy from The Shining respectively who starred in 2007 buddy movie The Bucket List, helping to popularise the use of a term that seems, subsequently, to have become as ubiquitous as it is mildly irritating. After all, who wants to think about death when they are contemplating their major ambitions? Ambitions are meant to be aspirational, life-affirming – a source of hope, happiness and self-fulfilment.

But here we are, stuck with this stubborn piece of shorthand for “things you really want to achieve before you – to use the old euphemism – kick the bucket”. And as with so many concepts that, in this modern era, often come with a hashtag, it extends to the world of travel. What was once a random bunch of desirable destinations and tours, percolating in your head, is now The Travel Bucket List – a series of adventures you should be getting through before Old Man Time comes wandering up the drive, wanting a word in your ear.

What should be on it? Well, obviously, such matters are subjective – but you might want to include a dalliance or three with some of the planet’s great capital cities, a glimpse of ancient Egypt, a meeting or two with Uncle Sam, perhaps an odyssey into the high places and Inca legacies of South America, and a long cruise to somewhere distant and special. Antarctica? The Pyramids? Machu Picchu? St Petersburg? Route 66? Yes, that’s the idea.

But wait. Times change, moods swing, and what tended to be viable even a few years ago can suddenly be obsolete. For all the globe’s A-list landmarks and must-see places, the Travel Bucket List is not necessarily a permanent record, carved in stone. And amid the turbulence of our current century, what once seemed to be certainties can melt away as fast as polar sheet-ice. Overtourism, climate crisis, war in Europe, instability in the Middle East – each of these has affected the “classic” travel bucket list in the last decade, and that’s before fashions, trends and the always-turning whirlpool of public opinion is taken into account.

Out: The Trans-Siberian Railway

In: The Glacier Express

The ultimate travel ‘bucket list’ for 2023 (1)

So what should be on the Travel Bucket List in 2023? Is it New York out, Newcastle in? Maybe not – but the following suggestions should all be food for thought. And holidays.

There is little question that Russia’s foremost railway line is also the planet’s greatest possible endeavour by train. Though not necessarily the most luxurious of journeys down the tracks, the Trans-Siberian has no equal in either length or scope, chalking up 5,772 miles (and the best part of two continents) as an epic linking of Moscow and Vladivostok.

Alas, for obvious, war-related reasons, Russia is an impossible destination at present – and it may remain so for some time. How to enjoy that same sense of rail-scale in a more affable country? Switzerland may be the answer. The Glacier Express will not carry you to the Far East, but it is quite the odyssey all the same; a 181-mile feat of engineering that takes in 291 bridges and 91 tunnels (including the 10-mile Furka Tunnel), and gazes at mountains as mighty as the Matterhorn and Piz Bernina, on its route between Zermatt and St Moritz. Better still, you can ski at the end of it, at any time of year – thanks to the “Matterhorn Glacier Paradise” that awaits at the western buffers (

How to do it

Great Rail Journeys (01904 521 936; offers “Classic Glacier Express”, a regular group break that takes its time over the journey (nine days, with the whole trip from London conducted by train). From £2,395 per person; 35 tours this year.

Out: Opera in Russia

In: Opera in Austria

The ultimate travel ‘bucket list’ for 2023 (2)

It is not just the Trans-Siberian that has fallen off the travel agenda with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and its vanishing behind an invisible Iron Curtain of its own making. Russian culture – of which there is much, and much of it great – is also lost to western tourists for the foreseeable future (understandably, Foreign Office advice currently has the entire map of Russia coloured in do-not-go red). This includes two of the most celebrated bastions of opera and ballet – Moscow and the Bolshoi Theatre; St Petersburg and the Mariinsky. A shame – and yet, not an insurmountable one. Vienna also has significant operatic heritage at its grand Staatsoper – and is a considerably more hospitable city in the current climate.

How to do it

Pettitts Travel (01892 515 966; sells four-day opera trips to Vienna from £780 a head, including flights, four-star hotel, transfers and tickets to the Staatsoper.

Out: Cruise to St Petersburg

In: Cruise to Tallinn

The ultimate travel ‘bucket list’ for 2023 (3)

St Petersburg is one of the planet’s most elegant cities; a midnight-sun cornucopia of cafes, cathedrals and canals where the Hermitage holds court as arguably the globe’s most important art museum. Its absence is particularly visible on cruise itineraries, where ships no longer venture all the way to the end of the Baltic Sea’s easternmost cul-de-sac.

On the other hand, St Petersburg is not the sea’s only major port of call. And while the waterfront capitals of the Baltic states – Tallinn in Estonia; Riga in Latvia – cannot match Russia’s second city for size, their cobbled centres and Art Nouveau echoes can be just as pretty. Equally, any lengthy Baltic cruise will also drop anchor in Stockholm and Helsinki – the kingpins of Sweden and Finland respectively, where metropolitan fun always awaits.

How to do it

Saga (0808 258 0796; has a “Scandinavian Explorer” voyage due to set off from Dover on June 5; a 14-night odyssey that will pause in Copenhagen and Gothenburg – as well as in Tallinn, Stockholm and Helsinki. From £3,307 per person.

Out: Machu Picchu

In: San Agustin

The ultimate travel ‘bucket list’ for 2023 (4)

There is no doubting the glory of Peru’s most famous landmark. Machu Pichu is ranked as one of the “new” Seven Wonders of the World. It lives up to its billing on its Andean summit; a former royal estate that has lost none of its majesty. But access to it is increasingly patchy. Worried about overtourism, the Peruvian authorities have controlled the level of footfall on the “Inca Trail” to the citadel since 2002 (via a pass system). Covid shut it for eight months. And while the site is currently open, January and February brought a 25-day closure, as Peru was wracked by civil unrest.

Time to find a substitute until the journey is more reliable; the irony being that Colombia, so long a symbol of instability, may be the answer. Certainly, it has as much Andean heritage. And mystery. High up in the mountains of the Huila department, San Agustin Archaeological Park is a giant question mark. The carved statues here – tomb guardians with the features of jaguars, snakes and birds – were the creations of a civilisation which had vanished before the Spanish invaded. Their artistry is wonderful, even in anonymity.

How to do it

Journey Latin America (020 3131 7624; offers San Agustin as a core part of its “Off the Beaten Track Colombia” holiday – a 13-day odyssey which also devotes time to the Amazon. From £3,130 per person – not including flights.

Out: The US road trip

The ultimate travel ‘bucket list’ for 2023 (5)

The fly-drive tour is arguably the most iconic of any American holiday; a grand adventure through an ever-changing landscape of peaks and plains, cities and canyons, beachfront and backwoods. But such wanderings don’t tend to be the most environmentally friendly of getaways. Route 66 is a full 2,488 miles of petrol consumption – and that’s before you factor in those carbon-spewing flights out to Chicago, and home again from Los Angeles.

So is the road trip dead to anyone with an eco-conscience? Not at all. How about a leisurely ride down through France, heading south from the capital, picking up the Rhone Valley, then aiming for the Cote D’Azur? It’s a return journey of around 1,000 miles, but means little in the way of emissions if you take a train to Paris and pick up an electric car.

How to do it

Luxury vehicle specialist Billion Rent (0039 33 9146 1303; hires out electric cars – including the Tesla Model 3, which can manage 215 miles per charge. One week’s rental – in and out of Paris in the week of July 9 – costs from €1,400 in total.

Out: Skiing in the Alps

In: Skiing in Colorado

The ultimate travel ‘bucket list’ for 2023 (6)

The first weeks of 2023 have been a warning shot fired at the European ski industry – especially some of the lower-altitude resorts in the French Alps, where snowfall has been thin on the ground, and the spectre of climate change hangs on the (warm) breeze. Whether now or in the future, there is a slippery safety in crossing the Atlantic to the American Rockies, where the major resorts generally haunt higher slopes. The likes of Aspen, Telluride and Breckenridge all sit at an icy elevation of 2,400m (7,875ft) or up.

How to do it

Trailfinders (020 7084 6500; offers a 12-day “Aspen Snowmass Ski Holiday” from £4,120 per person – including international flights and resort lift pass.

Out: Polar bears in Manitoba

In: Brown bears in Slovakia

The ultimate travel ‘bucket list’ for 2023 (7)

Climate change has not been kind to the polar bear, whose Arctic habitats are under threat. And it is unlikely to be of much help to the destinations which have built their tourism product around proximity to these great pale predators – such as the Canadian outpost of Churchill, where Manitoba grazes the chilly waters of Hudson Bay. Polar bears congregate here in October and November. Easier, perhaps – if you are not particular about your brand of bear – to keep to Europe, and the forests where paw prints abound.

How to do it

Walks Worldwide (01962 302 085; offers “Walking With Bears” – an eight-day escorted jaunt into the wilds of central Slovakia, where brown bears lope on the tree-lined slopes of the Carpathian Mountains. Three editions of the trip are slated for this year (May 17, September 17 and October 1) – from £1,295 a head, with flights.

Out: Antarctic cruise

In: Arctic cruise

The ultimate travel ‘bucket list’ for 2023 (8)

If you are sufficiently worried about climate change – and its impact on Antarctica – that you feel a visit to the frozen continent can no longer be justified (you generally have to fly at least as far as Argentina), it may be better to look north rather than south. While the Arctic may not have quite the same travel cachet, it still delivers the grandeur of a hard landscape under snow. And, better still, it can be admired without a journey to the airport.

How to do it

Ambassador Cruise Line (0808 102 8175; offers “Norway’s Land of the Northern Lights”; a 16-night voyage which traces the Norwegian coast all the way to Tromso and Alta, high above the Arctic Circle – and does so by casting off from, and returning to, Bristol and Tilbury. Their November 10 departure starts at £1,469 a head.

Out: Galapagos Islands

In: Koster Islands

The ultimate travel ‘bucket list’ for 2023 (9)

Conscientious tourists may also feel a pang of guilt about visiting Ecuador’s incomparable archipelago. The Galapagos Islands are wildlife oases where creatures like the giant tortoise, the flightless cormorant and the Albemarle lava lizard live in isolation.

They are also, by dint of their rare residents, a fragile ecosystem, vulnerable to the thud of overtourism. Is there a European alternative? No – “incomparable” is the correct term. And the Koster Islands, just off Sweden’s west coast, do not have the same sense of remoteness. But they have a variety of wildlife – seal colonies on outcrops, guillemots and terns on the air, mackerel teeming in the shallows – that merits inspection; the whole picture, car-free and protected as a national park, as photogenic as anything in the Pacific.

How to do it

Original Travel (020 3958 6120; calls on the islands with its six-day “Gothenburg & West Coast Sweden Road Trip”. From £765 a head (with flights).

Out: Paris

In: Lyon

The ultimate travel ‘bucket list’ for 2023 (10)

The French capital, it is surely fair to say, has been “done”. The second city, by contrast, is still oddly under-appreciated. Yet it has a back-story openly connected to antiquity in a glorious, still-functioning Roman theatre, a Notre Dame (de Fourviere) as splendid as its Parisian near-namesake, and a restaurant scene which – whisper it – eclipses the cafes and brasseries of Saint-Germain (the double Michelin-starred La Mere Brazier is especially acclaimed; Better still, it boasts two major rivers – the Rhone and the Saone meet just south of its medieval centre – to Paris’s one. A Lyon which roars.

How to do it

A three-night stay at the four-star Charlemagne Hotel, plus trains (leaving London on May 11), costs from £515 a head via Eurostar (0343 218 6186;

Out: Dubrovnik

In: Split

The ultimate travel ‘bucket list’ for 2023 (11)

The ascent of Croatia’s most eulogised city over the last decade has been near-vertical. Dubrovnik attracted some 600,000 visitors in 2011. By 2019, it was pulling in 1.5million. Game Of Thronesplayed a significant part in this of course, its dramatic lens making the city’s honeyed medieval walls as big a star of the hit series as any of the cast.

Yet there remains a feeling – one only paused by the pandemic – that such figures are too much for a city whose population is only 43,000. And if you wanted to help ease this pressure while still exploring a Croatia awash with history and Adriatic charm, you might look north-west. Some 150 miles north-west, in fact – to Split, where waterfront bars gaze at the Dalmatian island of Brac, and Diocletian’s Palace remembers the Roman emperor who called the city home, but without a crowd scene at every other street corner.

How to do it

A week’s stay at the four-star Dioklecijan Hotel, flying from Manchester on July 15, starts at £1,013 a head, with easyJet Holidays (0330 551 5165;

Out: Venice

In: Verona

The ultimate travel ‘bucket list’ for 2023 (12)

The city category of the “loved to death” club has no more prominent a member than La Serenissima – forever sinking under the weight of its own architectural magic and the expectations of 20 million tourists a year. But Venice is not the only beautiful city in Italy, and you can do it a favour by seeking one of its colleagues. Verona is one option. You have the same sense of medieval splendour in the 14th century Ponte Scaligero (over the River Adige) and the same religious pomp in the Basilica di San Zeno – but you can swap mean old Shakespearean villain Iago for lovelorn Romeo and Juliet. And if you fancy straying further afield, Lake Garda, just 15 miles to the west, is lovelier than the Adriatic.

How to do it

A three-night stay at the four-star Accademia hotel starts at £688 per person, with flights, transfers and breakfast, via Kirker Holidays (020 7593 2288;

Out: Barcelona

In: Valencia

The ultimate travel ‘bucket list’ for 2023 (13)

Is there anybody who hasn’t visited the Catalan capital since the 1992 Olympics kick-started its modern appeal? Perhaps, but those yet to pop in will be astounded at the weight of numbers on La Rambla, and around the Sagrada Familia. Better to aim further south-west, for Valencia. Spain’s third biggest city remains gloriously underrated. Even if you cannot find anything to love in La Lonja de la Seda (its Unesco-listed medieval silk hall) or the museums of the futuristic City of Arts and Sciences, you may fall for the sands of Playa de la Malvarrosa, or the madness of the annual Las Fallas festival (March 1-19) – where a host of garish papier-mache sculptures are burned on the wild last night.

How to do it

A four-night stay at five-star Westin Hotel Valencia, flying from Gatwick on May 24, starts at £874 a head, via British Airways (0344 493 0787;

Out: Amalfi

In: Calabria

The ultimate travel ‘bucket list’ for 2023 (14)

Is there any bigger a travel cliche than a villa “on the hill just above Positano” in August?

Maybe. Maybe not. But if you want to try a less venerated stretch of Italian shoreline, Calabria, some 250 miles to the south, has all the mountainous scenery and lavish summer weather of Amalfi, yet far fewer tourists, and less of the holiday one-upmanship.

How to do it

James Villas (0800 074 0122; offers Villa Eleonora, a four-bedroom property (ref 24822) at Tortora Marina on Calabria’s western flank. From £1,679 per week during August, from £829 per week at other times of year (not including flights).

Out: Provence

In: Extremadura

The ultimate travel ‘bucket list’ for 2023 (15)

For Amalfi in August, read France’s southern superstar in July; the lavender fields awash with colour and perfume. But A Year In Provence was published in 1989, and 34 years is surely long enough for another delightfully rustic region to come to the fore. Spain might be a good place to look for such an enclave – particularly the south-west of the country, where Extremadura rubs a shoulder against Portugal. Here is an agricultural wonderland where tomatoes grow on the banks of the Guadiana, and Iberian pigs get fat on acorns in oak groves. Yet few tourists seem to notice. Time for somebody else’s soft-hued memoir?

How to do it

Vrbo (020 8827 1971; offers a range of properties in the region. Such as Finca El Chorillo (ref: 6967094), a one-bedroom apartment on a farm 20 miles south of Caceres. A seven-night stay, arriving on July 15, costs from £525 in total – flights extra.

Out: Libya

In: Tunisia

The ultimate travel ‘bucket list’ for 2023 (16)

It has been a while now, admittedly – more than 10 years – since Libya collapsed into chaos. Indeed, there was only a short window – somewhere in the middle of the first decade of this century – when North Africa’s most troubled country was on the travel radar. But the closing off of two of Ancient Rome’s greatest footprints across the Mediterranean – the remarkable cities of Leptis Magna and Sabratha – is still a cause for sorrow among those who go abroad with archaeology in mind. When will they return? Who can say? In the meantime, neighbouring Tunisia is a more than adequate substitute.

How to do it

Jules Verne (020 3733 2694; sells a “Grand Tour of Tunisia”; a 10-night group trip that visits the magnificent amphitheatre of El Djem, and the ruins of Carthage – the ancient capital that Rome destroyed, then rebuilt in its own image. Four tours are planned for 2023 (May 13, September 16, October 7, November 4) – from £1,545 a head, with flights.

Out: Syria

In: Lebanon

The ultimate travel ‘bucket list’ for 2023 (17)

Like Libya, Syria spiralled into despair in 2011, and shows just as little sign of stabilising in the immediate future; a tragic state of affairs that has removed access to the ancient city of Palmyra (whose tawny temples and statues have been damaged in the turmoil) with it. But there is an obvious and comparable substitute next door. Lebanon has historic sites galore – the Phoenician citadels Byblos, Sidon and Tyre; the Greco-Roman majesty of Baalbek, where the Temple of Bacchus is a world wonder. And while Beirut cannot quite live with Damascus’s claim to be the oldest capital city in the world, its National Museum is a journey through the centuries – one with Mediterranean beaches as a bonus.

How to do it

Regent Holidays (0117 453 5253; will deliver the country’s past in detail with a nine-day “Lebanon Explorer Group Tour” scheduled for October 7-15. From £3,270 per person (including flights).

Out: Iran

In: Turkey

The ultimate travel ‘bucket list’ for 2023 (18)

The second largest country in the Middle East seems to have been absent from holiday bucket lists forever; damned by a notoriety that has cast its many treasures into a sepia purgatory. A generation of tourists once dreamed of hearing echoes of Persia in the temples of Persepolis and along the avenues of Tehran. But that dream is currently over.

How to replace it? Although there are significant cultural differences, there is a similar sense of scale and discovery to be found in Iran’s giant neighbour to the north-west. Not necessarily in those parts of Turkey, on the Aegean, so well known to sun-seekers, but in a north and east of the country – up on the Black Sea – which remain a mystery to many.

How to do it

Andante Travels (01722 671 081; offers an 11-day “North East Turkey” escorted tour which finds its feet on the Silk Road in Trabzon, tarries in the biblical shadow of Mount Ararat, and dips its toes into the deep waters of Lake Van. The next edition sets off on July 7 2024. From £4,695 per person, including flights.

Out: The Himalayas

In: The Andes

The ultimate travel ‘bucket list’ for 2023 (19)

The problem of overtourism is not confined to European cities and Inca citadels. The photo which emerged in 2019, capturing a queue of climbers waiting to reach the top of Mount Everest, showed that even the roof of the world has issues with demand trumping supply. But while the peaks of Nepal, China, India and Pakistan are rightly viewed as the foremost challenges for upwardly mobile adventurers – the vast majority of the planet’s 108 mountains with an elevation greater than 7,200m (23,622ft) are in the Himalayas or the adjacent (and pretty much contiguous) Karakoram range – alternative high-altitude tests are available. Not least on Latin soil. Not only is Aconcagua the tallest mountain in Argentina, the Andes and the whole of South America; at 6,961m (22,837ft), it is the tallest mountain outside Asia, but lacks the footfall endured by its Nepalese counterparts.

How to do it

Andean Trails (0131 467 7086; runs regular guided assaults on Aconcagua between November and February. From £4,301 a head (not including flights).

The ultimate travel ‘bucket list’ for 2023 (2024)


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Stevie Stamm

Last Updated:

Views: 5610

Rating: 5 / 5 (80 voted)

Reviews: 87% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Stevie Stamm

Birthday: 1996-06-22

Address: Apt. 419 4200 Sipes Estate, East Delmerview, WY 05617

Phone: +342332224300

Job: Future Advertising Analyst

Hobby: Leather crafting, Puzzles, Leather crafting, scrapbook, Urban exploration, Cabaret, Skateboarding

Introduction: My name is Stevie Stamm, I am a colorful, sparkling, splendid, vast, open, hilarious, tender person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.