35 of the world’s greatest travel experiences, picked by Rough Guides’ expert team

To celebrate 35 years of global adventures, Rough Guides’ travel experts tell us their 35 greatest travel experiences, from trekking in Colombia to meeting humpbacks in Norway

8 mins


1: Following the Río San Juan in Nicaragua

Boat on Río San Juan (Dreamstime)

An epic boat journey through pristine jungle wilderness. In the overgrown colonial graveyard of Greytown, I caught a glimpse of a jaguar skulking between the headstones. (Edward Aves)


2: Climbing Adam's Peak at night, Sri Lanka

A pilgrimage up a holy mountain in Sri Lanka. I climbed 5500 steps by torchlight to join the Buddhist monks at the top and waited for the sunrise to cast the peak’s inexplicably triangular shadow. (Georgia Stephens) 


3: Exploring Kyōto's café culture

Forget temples, geisha and zen gardens. To get the measure of Kyōto today, try out its myriad tiny, independent cafés, housed in old public baths, teahouses or what feels like someone's front room. (Rebecca Hallett)


4: Riding motorbikes from Cusco to Machu Picchu

The most dangerous ride of my life. On one side, lush greenery and thick foliage, and on the other, sheer drops of hundreds of metres. It turned out that the road wasn't finished yet, but we'd come too far to turn back. We drove straight through the road block, the motorbikes wobbling over earth and rocks. (Helen Abramson)


5: Summiting Stac Pollaidh, Scotland

Stac Pollaidh (Dreamstime)

It's neither the highest nor most challenging peak in Assynt, but I was there for the view. The surrounding sugarloaf mountains could have dropped from the sky, like the rain that would soon fall. (Greg Dickinson)


6: Trekking the Valle de Cócora, Colombia

A steep five-hour trek through cloudforest leads up to this moment. As you descend, the landscape you've been promised comes into view: an almost-prehistoric valley sprinkled with soaring wax palms. (Olivia Rawes)


7: Meeting humpbacks off "Whale Island", Tromsø, Norway

Humpback's fluke, Tromso (Dreamstime)

Sailing headlong into freezing waves in the murk of Norway’s polar night and watching pods of humpback whales diving under the tiny dinghy, a thrilling introduction to the Arctic. (Georgia Stephens)


8: Flying between two mountains in Italy's remote Basilicata

Love Italy but tired of its tourist-packed cities? Head south to the remote region of Basilicata for rock caves dating back to prehistoric times in UNESCO-listed Matera, which you can sleep in, and 'The Flight of the Angels', one of the world's highest and fastest ziplines, travelling at 120km/h up at 1000m high. (Coralie Modschiedler)


9: Cycling through the Saxon heartlands of Transylvania

One of Europe's most unspoilt corners. Pedalling in Transylvania between Sighișoara to Sibiu, through isolated villages unchanged for centuries then abandoned after Ceausescu's fall, you feel like you've entered a pre-industrial time warp. (Edward Aves)


10: Snorkelling in the Ningaloo Reef, Australia

Ningaloo Reef Coast (Dreamstime)

It’s a frenetic maelstrom of slivery, rainbow flashes. Being at the centre of a feeding frenzy, you get a fish’s eye view of life on Australia’s second-largest reef. (Ros Walford)


11: Jumping back in time on the Isle of Sark, Channel Islands, UK

No paved roads, no street lights. Cars are outlawed. The Channel Island of Sark is like a post-apocalyptic utopia, with its own democratic parliament and a single pub serving the 600 residents. (Greg Dickinson)


12: Surfing in Kuta Lombok, Indonesia

Escaping the Bali hoards, this is where I landed: wild countryside, chilled-out beach bars, great food, welcoming people and great surf. (Helen Abramson)


13: Tapas bar-hopping in San Sebastián, Spain

In the pintxos bars of San Sebastián, culinary magic is created every evening. The artistic showmanship can’t fail to impress as you eat your way joyfully from bar to bar. (Ros Walford)


14: Watching the sunrise over the Sahara, Morocco

Travellers climbing dunes in the Sahara (Dreamstime)

Climbing the giant Erg Chebbi dune by starlight and watch for the first pinkish rays to catch the vast, rippling sands that stretch more than a 1000 miles to Timbuktu. (Ros Walford)


15: Taking part in a Bolivian parade

Weeks spent learning the art of waving a flag before being dressed in beaded finery and let loose to dance in a nine-hour pisco-fuelled parade through the streets of Sucre. (Ros Walford)


16: Island-hopping the Palawan coast, Philippines

Boat in waters off Coron, Palawan (Dreamstime)

We sailed from one impossibly stunning island paradise to the next, sleeping under the stars and eating fish freshly caught off the back of the boat. Life became beautifully simple, if only for five days. (Helen Abramson)


17: Sliding down Volcan Villarrica, Pucón, Chile

A four-hour slog up a near-vertical slope to the brim of a smouldering crater, then a 20-minute descent on your backside: one of life’s silliest exhilarating moments. (Ros Walford)


18: Learning to kitesurf, Rameshwaram, India

In the centre of Rameshwaram, pilgrims flocked to the temple, but out in the sparkling, lagoon-like shallow water, there was no one but me and nothing but the wind. (Helen Abramson)


19: Swimming with dolphins, Kaikoura, New Zealand

School of dolphins, Kaikoura (Dreamstime)

I never expected there to be so many, but there were hundreds. Round and round the dolphins swam, and I followed, in ever tighter and faster circles, in a game I didn't want to end. (Helen Abramson)


20: Cycling Key West's Old Town, Florida Keys, USA

I peddled the broad lanes of Key West’s most historic neighbourhood, where pastel-coloured homes behind white picket fences merge with the tin-roofed former cigar factories of the Bahama Village. (Georgia Stephens)


22: Visiting the Moesgård Museum (MOMU), Åarhus, Denmark

In Denmark in summer, you can picnic on the sloped, grassy roof of the museum. In winter, you can sled down it. In any season, you can enjoy the startling architecture and fascinating archaeology exhibitions. (Rebecca Hallett)


23: Hike in Mount Rainier National Park, USA

It may not top lists of American national parks but as the mist clears over cloud-covered Mount Rainier, you can’t help but feel entranced by the so-called Mother of Mountains. (Freya Godfrey)


24: Exploring Ghadames, Libya

Mosque in Ghadames (Dreamstime)

Clambering around the eerie, abandoned medina of Ghadames, a desert oasis town on the Libyan/Algerian border. Sadly, it's completely off limits now. (Edward Aves)


25: Dance on the street in Havana Vieja, Cuba

Cuba sways to a seductive salsa beat and, stumbling across a live band on the timeworn streets of Havana Vieja, you just can't help but join in the fiesta. (Freya Godfrey)


26: Night out in Bandra, Mumbai, India

A million miles from the India I'd experienced so far: a 'hard rock pub' playing cheesy pop, a shiny new bar with a horse and carriage in the courtyard, and a club with customers in tuxedos busting moves on an LED dancefloor. (Helen Abramson)


27: Visiting wineries in Margaret River, Australia

Winery upon winery upon winery. Wander through sun-scorched vineyards in Margaret River and taste some of Western Australia's best wines, spotting kangaroos and wallabies along the way. (Freya Godfrey)


28: Join the traders at Pushkar Camel Fair, India

Camels and traders at Pushkar (Dreamstime)

This is not your average traders' fair. It's a chance to show off. Glimpse camels strutting proudly, intricately shorn or bedecked in jangling bells, colourful necklaces and mirrored shawls. (Freya Godfrey)


28: Steak in Buenos Aires, Argentina

I was disoriented by Buenos Aires, with its jigsaw of European grandeur and South American fieriness, but that first Argentinian steak had me half-sobbing, half-laughing. (Neil McQuillian)


29: Taking a dip in the Islands Brygge harbour pool, Copenhagen, Denmark

Open-air swimming, eye-catching Scandi design and views of the Copenhagen skyline, all perfect for a break from sightseeing. Brave the water on a chilly day and you might just be mistaken for a local. (Monica Woods) 


30: First experience of Manhattan, USA

“Steam actually comes out of the pavement” was all I could think, and then Manhattan proceeded to satisfy every cinematic and literary preconception I'd brought along with me. (Neil McQuillian) 


31: Seeking falafel heaven in Jerusalem

I was expecting the pious pilgrims and soldiers but not the sheer joy of Jerusalem's food. Black figs, kubbeh soup, crunchy falafel and perfect hummus make this a heavenly gastro destination. (Andy Turner)


32: Swimming with manta rays in the Indian Ocean, Maldives

Manta ray silhouette (Dreamstime)

Huge black shapes surround you, languidly waving their 20-foot wingspan through turquoise waters. Then, as fast as they arrived, the school has gone, a dark mass just visible in the sun-filtered water. (Freya Godfrey)


33: Husky-sledding through Algonquin National Park, Canada

Algonquin is a veritable winter wonderland from December through to February. Chugging through the snow-blanketed forests and across frozen lakes, led by a team of six huskies, is the perfect way to experience it. (Jacqui Agate)


34: Kayaking with seals in the Abel Tasman National Park, New Zealand

I paddled between Abel Tasman’s craggy islands and secluded bays, accompanied by groups of petrels wheeling overhead and a chubby fur seal pup, resting on the back of my kayak. (Georgia Stephens)


35: Watching the sun rise over two oceans from Volcán Barú, Panama

The conditions were dire (torrential rain and steep, treacherous terrain don't mix well) but the sense of achievement I felt when I reached the summit of Panama's highest peak after six gruelling hours and the spectacular and rare sight of the sun rising over two oceans made it all worth it. (Coralie Modschiedler)


This May, travel publisher Rough Guides (www.roughguides.com) celebrates its 35th anniversary. Rough Guides are currently offering 35 per cent off all ebooks, using the code 'RG35YEARS' on the website. Offer valid until May 14, 2017.  

This list of 35 great travel experiences was put together by Rough Guides’ expert team, including Edward Aves (Managing Editor), Greg Dickinson (Senior Editor), Helen Abramson (Senior Editor), Ros Walford (Senior Editor), Georgia Stephens (Travel Editor), Olivia Rawes (Travel Editor), Rebecca Hallett (Travel Editor), Freya Godfrey (Travel Editor), Neil McQuillian (Senior Editor), Andy Turner (Managing Editor), Jacqui Agate (Web Editor) and Coralie Modschiedler (Senior Web Editor). 

Main image: Dolphin in Kaikoura, New Zealand (Dreamstime)

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