Most New Year’s Resolutions don’t last. So maybe instead of “going to the gym” or “reading a few more classics” you should put something completely new and life-altering on your list–a resolution that’s easy to keep because you’ll want to keep it. Something like “treat yourself to the trip of a lifetime.”
From rafting the Grand Canyon to trekking in the Himalayas, the world is filled with true once-in-a-lifetime adventures and destinations. Some are expensive, some are moderate, others can be surprisingly affordable, but all will pay you back with experiences you’ll treasure the rest of your life.
Trips to Take That Will Change Your Life
Raft the Grand Canyon
Few adventures earn the moniker “Trip of a lifetime” as regularly as a whitewater descent of the Grand Canyon, America’s most famous natural landmark. Ironically, millions of people go to see the Canyon each year, but few really see much more than an broad overview – to appreciate the Canyon you have to go into it, and that means getting on the Colorado River. This trip is especially popular with families and offers plenty of “unplugged” time, resulting in an unforgettable and often life-changing experience for all ages. Spend your adrenaline-filled days enjoying the exhilaration of the rapids, while nights mean camping under the ultra-clear skies and swapping stories around the campfire. Arizona River Runners has operated since 1970 as an authorized concessioner of Grand Canyon National Park, and its seasoned staff takes hundreds of travelers through the Canyon each year, offering a variety of experiences, from 3-day samplers to 15-day descents of the entire 225-mile Canyon. From $1,175 to $3,195 for the 15-day trip.
Easter Island, Chile
No one knows for sure why an ancient people built the towering statues known as Moai, why they eventually turned on the Moai and tried to destroy them, or why their entire civilization became extinct. But the history they left behind is simply awe inspiring, with hundreds of Moai all over the remote island, and other amazing sights like the ”factory” quarry where they were made – abandoned in the middle of frantic construction, plus elaborate stone carvings, caves, and a perfect volcanic crater filled with an iridescent lake. Easter Island is the remotest community on earth – the inhabited place furthest from any other inhabited place – yet it is relatively easy to get to on daily LAN Chile flights from Santiago, also a wonderful tourist destination. The Posada de Mike Rapu lodge is easily the island’s best, an environmentally-friendly resort from Chile’s award-winning Explora eco-tourism company. The lodge has the best guides and a vast schedule of more than 15 excursions allowing you to explore Easter Island on foot, bike, or even by boat. All inclusive rates with all meals and tours run $7-800 per day, much less for those under 18.
Tiger Safari By Chartered Plane
There are few places on earth where you can see tigers in the wild, the biggest of all cats, and to many observers the most beautiful, and India is probably the top destination. Terra Incognita Ecotours offers a trip that any tiger enthusiast will leap at: what is known in the industry as ‘winged’ safari uses private charter flights to visit two of the world’s top tiger sites. Travelers will tour Corbett National Park, the only park in India where visitors can actually stay inside the park boundaries and the only one that allows walking in certain areas. Corbett currently has the highest density of tigers in the wild on earth. You’ll fly to Bandhavgarh National Park, with another very high concentration of tigers, containing the jungles described in Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book. This 11-day India tour also gives travelers an opportunity to explore the parks’ historic sites including carvings, temples, and a fort, while the planes eliminate long and uncomfortable drives, with the bonus of amazing views of India from the sky. There is also a tour of the historic sites and points of interest in Delhi, gourmet Indian cuisine, and a unique elephant-back safari. Terra Incognita Ecotours donates a portion of the proceeds to the World Wildlife Fund in India. $8,249.
It was one hundred years ago this month that Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen became the first man to reach 90 Degrees South - the South Pole. While early Antarctic explorers risked life and limb to reach this Holy Grail by wooden ship and on foot, you can take the same trip by plane. Polar Explorers, which has guided polar explorations for nearly 20 years, has made it their mission to make the planet’s poles more accessible. The company provides a variety of tour options, from a straightforward fly in to the Pole experience (with plenty of sightseeing along the way) to a trip that lets you cross country ski the last 20 kilometers (13.4 miles) to a full on, 60 day ski recreation of the original Norwegian expedition. This is a highly professional company that maintains fuel caches on the ice and since they began in 1993, Polar Explorers has maintained an impeccable safety record – no client has ever suffered a serious injury or even severe frostbite. Weeklong packages run around $40,000.
Trekking in Bhutan
The Land of the Thunder Dragon, Bhutan is the only Buddhist kingdom on earth, and a country that measures its success not by GNP, but by its national “happiness” quotient. It also intentionally limits tourism so as to not be despoiled, and is one of the only countries with minimum spending rules to acquire a visa, and usually requires that all travel arrangements be pre-booked and pre-paid before letting anyone in. Once you get there, stunning monasteries carved into high mountains await, as well as some of the tallest and most imposing mountains on earth, the Himalayas. It is not an easy trip to plan on your own, which is where experiential tour operator Myths and Mountains comes in. Their new 12-day trek is not a cushy luxury trip, but rather a high-altitude hiking adventure and a cultural adventure, since guests spend their nights camping in tents or staying in the homes of local villagers, including the semi-nomadic Merak people, who hold deep animist beliefs and make their living herding sheep. They also offer trips across Bhutan by vintage motorcycle, volunteerism trips paired with charitable groups, and much more. From $4,195.
In Pictures: Trips to Take That Will Change Your Life