5 lavish adventure destinations that easily meet bucket-list criteria
Custom parkas for your Arctic jaunt or catered picnics in a pirate’s cove
Forbes will tell you (as will any number of studies) that putting stock in objects won't make you happy. At least not for long. Once we're fed, clothed and sheltered, we don't actually want fine objects, we want fine memories. With maybe one exception: a passport.
Financial analysts and psychologists agree that buying an experience is a proper investment. A luxury SUV, less so. Travel almost always enriches lives and memories always outshine stuff.
In the interest of inspiring your next epic experience, we've made a list of 5 incredible destinations that are worth investing in right now; vacations of such unparalleled luxury and adventure, you may not have even thought to put them on your bucket list. Yet.
The Arctic (yes, it's accessible and beautiful)
As a brag-worthy adventure destination, you'd be hard pressed to find a rival to the arctic sea.
With summer solstice midnight suns that never set and expansive, constantly shifting ice shelves of gleaming white, "summering" in the Arctic is a must-try.
It's home to some of the most impressive wildlife in the world like polar bear, walrus, arctic fox, reindeer, wolf and many other natural wonders. One way to navigate the region and catch these wonders is aboard the extravagant Scenic Eclipse, The World's First Discovery Yacht. Those who long to peek below the oceanic ice are joined by whales the likes of orca, humpback, beluga and narwhal (the "unicorn of the sea") all of which can be spotted popping up and swimming these waters. And yes, submarine explorations of these waters are available with select Scenic Eclipse expedition rates. So, should your inner explorer need satisfying, head north, luxuriously.
Your first glimpse of glaciers towering over the ocean is sure to burn itself into your mind's eye forever — the sheer size of these wonders might even offer up some perspective regarding your place in the world. If planning an arctic trek is beyond the scope of your administrative capabilities, fret not; Scenic Eclipse's lavish tours will sort you out down to your boots, quite literally, they'll even suit you up in a custom parka.
Trek to and through Nepal, in luxury
Though a trek through Nepal might sound industrious, it can be done in comfort and style. The Himalayas, the alluring draw of Mount Everest and the country's impressive cultural heritage beckons both travellers with 10,000 miles on their hiking boots as well as those with the tags still on. Naturalists will want to see Chitwan National Park, rich with populations of single-horned Asian rhino, basking crocodiles, wild boar, delicate deer species like the diminutive red muntjac or the sambar all cradled by the lush vegetation of the Himalayan foothills.
The cacophony and local colour of Kathmandu, Nepal's capital, is actually best enjoyed by rented Vespa, though those more intent on contemplative immersion into Nepalese culture can easily head to Boudhanath Stupa, one of the largest meditative monuments in the world. Spiritual trekkers may appreciate a retreat at the numerous Tibetan Buddhist monasteries: also nestled into the Himalayan foothills, they provide a truly phenomenal experience if not a transcendent one.
Of course, there is no shortage of genuine trekking tours available should mere foothills fail to satisfy. Scaled from "gentle", where guided walks are leisurely and nights are spent in the most luxurious tea houses (aka lodges) the region has to offer, to "demanding" for those who want to set their compasses toward Mount Everest base camp (or beyond), the hiking options are categorically bespoke. But if trekking isn't for you but breakfast at Yeti Mountain Home at the foot of Everest seems ideal, you can take a helicopter there. And you'll need to: it's one of the highest mountain lodges on the planet. Backdrops for unrivaled photo ops too (or opportunities to drink in one's humble place in the world), are plentiful. Pikey Peak has the best views in the region. For travel memories, it'd prove challenging to top Nepal.
Everything in or near the Caribbean Sea
The popularity of the Caribbean as a travel hub is easily justified: the wealth of cultural and natural wonders it boasts are categorically epic. The weather system in that part of the world alone is worth the price of passage but from Miami to the Panama Canal, from Barbados to Belize the richness of experience is almost infinite.
For coffee connoisseurs and foodies alike, Miami (like much of the Florida Keys) offers no shortage of singular cubanito sandwiches and java to toss back, each tweaked in accordance with every shop's spin. Cuba's influence is profound and rightly so. Havana's cultural legacy rolls up rum, tobacco and literary giant, Hemingway, into a irreplicable history worthy of first hand exploration. Scenic Eclipse can take you right into the heart and history of Havana in a 50's era ride along complete with vintage car courtesy of one their culturally rich People-to-People excursions.
And aside from being steeped in enchanting pirate lore with landmarks for notorious sugar ship and settlement raiders like Captain Henry Morgan, a common catered picnic spot of Scenic Eclipse's onshore excursions, the beaches and marine life of the Caribbean are arguably unparalleled. Explore the pristine sands of the San Blas Islands, enjoy a refined chocolate tasting in Cartagena and a truly once in a lifetime navigation through the Panama Canal.
The Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System, the largest in the Northern hemisphere, is teeming with otherworldly aquatic life that almost defy the colour spectrum. If you're going to snorkel in your lifetime, do it here. But the reef's Great Blue Hole, an ancient underwater sinkhole 1,043 feet wide and 407 feet deep, is one of the top ten places on the planet to scuba dive — or sky dive. If you're more the type to behold from afar, the water is so clear you can see the submarined pit from a helicopter.
The mesmerizing Mekong Delta
Bustling markets, riverscapes weaving through lush forests and some of the most impressive sites of worship in the world make Southeast Asian countries must-have stamps on your passport. Taking in a visual history steeped in Hindu, Buddhist and French-colonial influence that informs everything from its culture to its architecture makes drifting down the Mekong river in complete comfort is the way to go. Unsurprisingly, Scenic can get you here too.
Pushing off from Vietnam on the Scenic Spirit sets the best tone, plus you can step off momentarily to slide along in a sampan for a true taste of the local culture. Expect a feast for the totality of your senses, particularly at the world famous Cai Be floating market of Sa Dec where vendors paddle and peddle stunning flowers, abundant produce and the freshest fruit. It'd be a pity not to indulge.
The Cambodian answer to taxis are tuk tuks, of which there are no shortage. Hop on for some sightseeing on your way to a regal rest; thirsty travellers can take in all the pageantry of a high tea ceremony at the Raffles, Hotel Le Royal. Stronger drinks are easily acquired at the luxury hotel's Elephant Bar. A smooth sail over to Cambodia's bustling capital, Phnom Penh, lets tour goers enjoy cultural highlights like the tiered, bright beauty of the lauded Silver Pagoda nestled in the glittering Royal Palace.
Those with a hankering to hike to holier places can visit with a monastic order in training atop a hill in Kampong Cham. The colourful hilltop monastery of Wat Hanchey is an experience worth the walk, but a car service via Scenic is available if an easy ride is preferred, of course. No visit to the area would be complete without lingering in style for a few days in Siem Reap, where the humbling, monumental Angkor Wat temple has stood since the 12th century, when it was commissioned by Khmer King Suryavarman II. You'll have plenty of time to enjoy the rich Khmer history and ancient flare of the city with a three-night repose in one of Siem Reap's finer hotels. For spectacular scenery, venerable traditions and fresh culinary delights, floating through the waterways of the Mekong and Southeast Asia are hard to top, especially if spoiling yourself is also on your bucket list.
Hawaii, and not just the honeymoon version
The Polynesian gem of the United States isn't all leis and luaus — although given the 50th state's deep indigenous roots, those festive traditions are categorical musts on your to-do list. Still, made up of over 1,500 islands there are adventure and leisurely pursuits enough for every level of explorer in Hawaii.
Case in point, if you'd rather be upright than reclining in the sand, learn to surf — this is the place. Hawaii's surf legacy is woven into the culture and is as much a lifestyle as a pastime for many. Just avoid Oahu's North Shore unless you're content to be a spectator. It's where the pros compete in some of the world's most daunting swells on Banzai and Sunset beach, respectively. If you're still getting your surf legs, stick to the South Shore or Big Island's Kahalu'u Bay in Kona. There'll be no shortage of instructors to get you paddling out and up in no time (okay, a little time).
If bobbing about below sea level is more your speed, grab a ride on an outrigger canoe and get to Molokini. Shaped like a crescent moon, the tiny island is actually the partially submerged remnant of a volcanic crater. It's also a snorkeler's sanctuary, rich with protected reefs and well over 250 vibrant marine species like green sea turtles, starfish, manta rays, small reef shark and colourful moray eels. The waters off the coast of Molokini are so clear that one popular outing is a day paddle in a see-through kayak.
Whale watching trips also abound with pods of Humpback a mainstay in Pacific waters - they typically migrate to coastal waters off Maui to give birth. If hoping for a sight of baby whales entering the ocean for the first time isn't for you, consider watching molten lava from an active volcano slip into the salty sea from Hawaii Volcanoes National Park instead. Kilauea, one of the world's most active volcanoes, has been erupting consistently since the early 80s, spilling its magma into the pacific. You can get a safe seat from the Chain of Craters Road that runs all the way to the coast. Couple that distinct geology with Hawaii's idyllic fauna, flora and culture and it's an easy sell for your next escape.
This is paid content produced on behalf of Scenic.