The thing that makes travel so unique is to experience once-in-a-lifetime adventures. Sure, you want to go to Paris and see the Eiffel Tower. Of course, you do and I make it my own mission to see as much of the world as possible. But often, the travel adventures that stick with us and are the first we want to share, are those unique travel experiences that only happen once in a lifetime.
You need luck, skill, and determination to realize those travel dreams. This is a collaboration of myself with my fellow travel blogger bosses and we share our unique travel experiences chasing our travel dreams. What is your ultimate travel dream?
I paid for everything in full myself. I was not paid or sponsored. All my opinions and experiences are my own.
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Chasing the lights
The magic lights in the northern hemisphere paint the sky in vermillion colors, waving across the night’s black canvas. You can only see it in the winter months and you have to be between latitudes 65 to 72degrees north to see it.
But traveling up north is not a guarantee that you’ll see the northern lights. You have to be lucky that the sky is clear from pollution and clouds.
Northern Lights in Iceland by Stacey from Wandering Bajans
A year ago my boyfriend and I traveled to Iceland for our birthdays in October. We spent months planning and dreaming about seeing the Northern lights which is another reason why we chose October.
We hired a campervan because of the freedom to get around to try and find the lights and immediately left Reykjavik and headed off on our 12-day adventure.
But the first 4 days consisted of non-stop rain and wind. There was absolutely no chance of seeing the lights because of our terrible weather. On the fourth night, the clouds started to clear we crossed our fingers and waited… Nothing.
We were blessed with sunshine and clear days for the next few days as we made our way up north. Finally, on Jason’s birthday, we arrived at Lake Myvatn. We checked the northern lights forecast which predicted about an activity of 2 which wasn’t crazy high, but we were hopeful because it was clear.
The temperatures dipped closer to zero that evening chasing us into our campervan waiting patiently. By about 10 pm I was exhausted and grumpy but still determined to see these lights.
We sat in silence for about another 30 mins until I heard Jason sit up and then he said “they’re here!”.
Well from that moment on it was a complete blur because of the adrenaline and excitement. I screamed so loud (sorry neighbors) and jumped out of our campervan in nothing but a t-shirt, sweat pants, and socks.
I grabbed my camera and my tripod and set it up and started snapping pictures. It was one of the most magical experiences of our lives. Standing there in the cold watching these green and purple lights dancing across the sky in complete silence.
It was nowhere near as strong as we hoped it would be but it was still beautiful and we were so lucky to get to experience it. Follow Stacey as she continues to chase her travel dreams on Instagram.
Northern Lights in Russia by Penny from Globe Trove
An amazing and yet crazy experience we had was in a city called Murmansk, located in the Northern half of Russia and it’s very close to the border of Norway and Finland. It is so high up that you can actually catch the Northern lights when you drive a few kilometers outside the city.
We arrived in the city and got caught in a snowstorm. With all the planning that we had done days in advance, the snow was certainly making our life difficult. For those of you who don’t know it, in order to see the Northern lights you need to have a good aurora forecast and a clear sky. With that in hand, you then have to stand for a long time in the freezing cold and cross your fingers hoping to see one.
Well with the forecast being okay on one day, we set out with a group hoping for a clear sky. We spent four hours in the dead of the night searching for a hole in the sky.
When we finally did catch a glimpse it wasn’t the awe-inspiring Northern lights that the pictures show but a faint glimmer in the sky. We were happy that we saw something after two days of running around.
The kicker was that we spent five days in Murmansk. On the day that we left and reach St. Petersburg, we got a message. That was the day they witnessed one of the best auroras ever!
We missed it by one day! Oh well… All the reasons why we should go back again! Follow Penny on Facebook for more travel adventures.
Unique Travel Experiences chasing Nature’s Phenomenons
If you don’t happen to be in the high north in winter, you can always experience a unique travel adventure by going out to see the midnight sun in summer. When the sun doesn’t set, nature behaves differently than you’re used to and celebrating the midnight sun is a travel dream come true.
Midnight Sun in Norway by Eva from Electric Blue Food
In my mind, I was dreaming of endless summer days, with the sun never falling behind the horizon and the sky filled with its orange light.
I wanted to see the midnight sun, the most prominent feature of the Arctic summer and the main reason that drove me to the Lofoten islands in northern Norway at the end of May.
Locations that lay above the Arctic Circle experience the midnight sun for a length of time that goes from three weeks to 6 months, depending on how close they lay to the pole. The Lofoten Islands have the midnight sun from the end of May until mid-July.
Even on days doomed by thick clouds and bad weather, a pretty regular condition on the Atlantic coast, one can still perceive that it never gets properly dark at night. It’s what we felt on the first day, when over the clouds the twilight seemed to last forever and then it was suddenly day again.
But on the second day, we were lucky enough to have no clouds and we could admire the midnight sun in all its glory. It was there, hanging above the horizon at midnight, never disappearing from the sky.
After midnight we saw it rise again, the orange tones of the twilight turning to daylight blue, and by 3 am it was full day again. It felt strange and magical to witness days with no nights.
The midnight sun can be considered the summertime counterpart to the northern lights. Solar storms that cause the aurora borealis actually happen year-round, but the phenomenon is only visible when it’s dark, between late fall and early spring. It is the midnight sun to “blame” for the lack of northern lights sightings during the summer months.
See more images on Eva’s Instagram.
Finding Lavender Fields in the Provence by Naomi Probe around the Globe
As we drove through the heart of the Provence, looking for blooming lavender fields my mood shifted from light to dark. We hardly saw any fields at all, only some sad empty bushed by the side of the road.
As we found a field, with lavender just being cut the day before, the bushing left to dry in the field, I wondered if we traveled all the way to the South of France for nothing?!
We went on a whirlwind tour of the Provence. Flying in on Saturday morning, flying out Sunday evening. Our only goal was to see the blooming lavender fields. I wanted fields of purple!
After exploring the small towns of the Luberon region, we looked at the map to find a place for diner. I suggested heading to Sault, THE lavender capital of France to see if there was any lavender there and we’d probably get a good meal too.
As we drove higher and higher, all we saw were empty fields. Green rows of freshly cut lavender bushes. I could almost cry. As we passed the top of the mountain range, we descended into the valley around Sault.
I opened a window.
The air heavy with the thick smell of lavender. We turned a corner and there it was!!
Fields and fields of flourishing lavender! Nothing but purple, row after row after row. Thick bushed surrounded by a million buzzing bees.
I was ecstatic! Finally! We came for nothing!
Another lights spectacle recently was the 2017 complete solar eclipse, visible from the northern US continent. Although a solar eclipse happens every few years, a full solar eclipse is rarer and it’s been a while since it was above US territory.
Solar Eclipse in Oregon (WA) US by Lisa from The Hot Flash Packer
I was 5 when the 1979 eclipse went through my hometown with just over 90% totality but I have no recollection of that day. In 2017, the total eclipse would pass a few hours away and there was no way I would miss it – I started planning months ahead.
The hype leading up to the 2017 eclipse was like no other. Many people were traveling to Oregon, specifically the Salem and Madras areas. My friends and I decided to go away from the crowds and head to the more remote area near Spray, Oregon to avoid traffic.
We also chose this spot because it had more than 90% chance of sun. We camped on the John Day river for a couple of days until the big event. On that day we woke up to a sunny, beautiful day.
Honestly, the partial eclipse was pretty slow. One of my friends equated it to “watching paint dry”. But soon it got better… The sky got darker, the air was cooler. At 90% totality, we could see the crescent-shaped sun dapples shining through the tree leaves. At 95% totality, a strange hue fell over us.
Finally, at 99%, we saw shadow bands waving on the top of a white car, and then it began.
The sky immediately changed when the total eclipse started. We took off our eclipse glasses. People started to hoot. I felt strangely emotional. Looking up, the sky was black with the white corona glowing at us. At ground level was dusk at 360 degrees around us.
It was actually lighter out than I had imagined. After a very fast 1 minute and 50 seconds, the sun started to shine through in a diamond ring shape and we put our glasses back on.
It was AMAZING! I’ve never seen anything like it. This unique travel experience has made a new “Eclipse Chaser”. Stay in the loop, follow Lisa on Facebook.
Follow your travel dreams to find unique wildlife experiences
Now nature has more to offer than just lights or the disappearing of lights. An encounter with wild animals is really a once-in-a-lifetime unique travel experience.
Tracking Rhinos on Foot in Zimbabwe with Emma from Wheres that to Blog
I have to admit that I was actually unaware that walking with rhinos was a possibility – but the overland company I traveled from Cape Town to Victoria Falls with came up trumps with this experience.
We woke just after dawn to head out for our trek before the mid-day African sun would be much less pleasant to walk in. Our guide grew up in the Bulawayo area and has dedicated his life to the protection of his beloved rhinos. Our guide showcased an extensive knowledge of the animals, flora, and fauna of Zimbabwe.
This rhino trek had strict rules – both to prevent the animals from feeling intimidated and to try and limit the chances of anybody get hurt. After we signed a form to say we understood the risks and the safety briefing, we were off.
The park spans 424 square kilometers, but our guide was able to locate a family of rhino within half an hour (very impressive!). We left the jeep and ducked under branches, clambered over a stream, and dodged lots of spiky bushes before finding ourselves about 20 meters from a mother and her calves.
We slowly edged forward and adopted a crouching position, so as not to scare the animals. The rule was that we were not allowed to go any closer than 10 meters and it would be up to the rhino to approach us if they wanted to and didn’t feel intimidated.
Let me tell you that being 10 meters away from a huge rhino easily wakes you up! My heart was beating fast, but I wouldn’t say I was afraid – although the whole experience was rather bonkers.
If you too want the unique travel experiences of seeing rhinos in the wild then now is as good a time as any. As unfortunately, their numbers are rapidly decreasing as they are targeted by poachers for their horns.
They are such gentle giants and I cannot imagine a better way to get up close and personal than taking a trip with a guide to finding them. See more great images from Emma chasing her travel dreams on Instagram.
Swimming with Mantas in the Maldives by Julz from Wandering Expat Family
I lived in the Maldives for a while and I did a few awesome things – I mean just living in the Maldives is awesome in itself, but these unique travel experiences I walked away with are really some of the best I have had.
However, if someone asks me about the most awesome travel experience I had while I was there, it has to be snorkeling with Manta Rays in Hanifaru Bay. The bay is one of the known feeding stations for the Mantas during the months of May to October – it is a UNESCO biosphere reserve where human presence and behavior are monitored by guards.
I lived on an island in Baa Atoll and I couldn’t wait for the manta season to start. I peaked in at the dive center every single day for news.
The beginning of May arrived and there was good news; a few Manta Rays made their appearance at Hanifaru Bay. Departure was scheduled for the next day, they make it coincide with the tides and we jumped on the speedboat at 1:45 pm.
As we arrive on-site, I can feel my heart pounding at the thought of these gentle giants. The boat slowly enters the reserve, we jump, swim for maybe 100m to get into the middle of the bay and suddenly we are surrounded.
There are 60-70 Mantas dancing for us, chain feeding, and just ignoring us very casually. We don’t even have to swim, they are so close I could touch them (but that wouldn’t be very respectful), but one brushes me with a wing though.
To be so close to these magnificent animals is the most magical moment for the diver in me. I dived with Manta Rays more than once and brought my oldest daughter.
At that time she was still only 5 years old and that experience has brought her much. Most significantly a true understanding of how important it is to protect our beautiful world and nature. Follow Julz and her family on Instagram for more unique travel experiences.
Elephant Gathering Sri Lanka by Florence from Yoga Wine Travel
Once a year, the Asian elephants of Minneriya and Kaudulla National Parks congregate for what is known as “The Gathering”. It is believed to be the largest gathering of Asian elephants in the world. And it takes place during the dry season from June/July to September when the rivers dry up and the elephants are forced to travel to large lakes in Minneriya and Kaudulla to bathe, find drinking water and graze on fresh grass.
Once a year you can venture into the national parks and watch as herds of elephants drink, play, socialize and eat. I found out about The Gathering last minute when I was in Sri Lanka at the end of August. So I jumped at the chance to witness the event before the dry season ended in September.
After rescheduling all of my travel plans, I hopped in a van for 7 hours and embarked on the long road from the Southern Province to Sigiriya.
The next afternoon, the safari jeep arrived at my hotel to take me to Minneriya National Park, a 30-minute drive away. Imagine my surprise when the guides told me that I should be heading to Kaudulla National Park instead, as many of the elephants had crossed the “elephant corridor” between the two parks and made their way to Kaudulla.
I reluctantly agreed to the change of plans and we headed to Kaudulla National Park instead.
The park was an additional 30-minute ride and we entered the park at approximately 1 PM. As we drove in, my heart sank as we drove around for half an hour with just one lone elephant by the lake!
The guides reassured me that the elephants tend to emerge later in the afternoon to cool down from the hot mid-day sun. Lo and behold, 3 PM hit and we heard rustling from the dense jungle…Then one elephant made her way out. Followed by another, and another, and another.
Soon, the lush green plains surrounding the lake were filled with several herds of elephants – at least 40 to 50 beautiful, happy, wild, and free elephants! We even spotted the tiniest newborn baby elephant who couldn’t have been more than a few weeks old.
For anyone planning this unique travel experience of witnessing the Gathering, ask your guide which park is most appropriate for that particular day – it changes as the elephants do move between the parks. For more amazing pictures by Florence, make sure to follow her on Instagram.
Chasing mountains – Best travel dreams or nightmares?
Climbing mountains and see the view from above is an amazing addictive experience. But although the mountain will always be there, you have to have the weather on your side to really get the reward you’re climbing for.
Climbing Acatenango in Guatemala by Jasmin from Fairly Global
I’ve been climbing the volcano for ten minutes and I already feel like giving up. The sandy path keeps crumbling under my feet and I’m about to fall down. There are three liters of water in my backpack but there may as well be three hundred based on the weight.
I regret packing an extra pair of socks as every extra item in my bag is few extra grams that I have to carry to the top.
I can feel my heart beating like crazy and it’s getting hard to breathe and I haven’t adjusted to these altitudes. Even if I had I’ve never done such hard physical exercise in my life. It’s a six-hour walk to the top and it’s all uphill.
I’m well aware that I’m not physically fit enough to climb this volcano. The thing is, however, that I’m not climbing this volcano with muscle strength but willpower. I knew I had to chase my travel dreams the moment I saw those pictures taken on the top of the volcano.
The idea of being able to see the sunrise above the clouds and watch volcanoes erupting in distance is the reason I’m still climbing.
I’ve never been so tired and cold in my life when I get to the camp. I’m wearing every single piece of clothing I have and I’m wrapped in a thick sleeping bag but I’m so cold I can barely speak. I don’t think I sleep a second that night.
When the sun finally rises I can’t see a thing as the whole camp is being surrounded by thick fog. The clouds move for about two seconds so I can get a glimpse of the landscape but that’s it for me. I’m about to burst into tears. I’ve worked so hard to get here but it didn’t pay off.
Climbing Acatenango is the craziest thing I’ve done on my travels. It’s also a good reminder that you cannot control nature and sometimes you give it all and get nothing back. For more images and unique travel experiences, follow Jasmin on Instagram.
Sun set at Mt. Everest, Tibet – Naomi from Probe around the Globe
I’m no climber but when we got the chance to head to Mt. Everest Base Camp on our way from Tibet to Nepal, I immediately said yes.
We drove by 4×4 to the Base Camp where we would stay overnight. We had an opportunity to head out to the actual camp of the climbers and it was a grueling hike.
At 4,800 meters altitude, I was struggling and suffering. Thick white clouds covered the peak of the world’s highest mountain.
We waited and waited, almost blown away by the never prevailing winds. As we needed to head back because it was getting dark, I glanced over my shoulder one last time.
As if it was sheer magic, the harsh winds had blown all the cover of clouds away, showing us the peak of Mt. Everest in all its majestic glory.
The sky was painted in all hues of purple and pink, the sun was setting and we were heading back to camp. We didn’t see Mt Everest after that, as a thick fog rolled in and hid the peak for the remainder of the year (so I imagine).
We were very late in the season and extremely lucky to have at least one cloudless view of Mt. Everest.
Can’t get enough? Read more about realizing your travel dreams here.
What are your ultimate travel dreams? Do you chase them? Share your unique travel experiences in the comment section below.
I love how you captured the array of travel dreams from animal encounters to eclipse, to herbs and so on. Personally, the elephant and rhino experiences are now something to keep in mind when I travel to these parts because I love animals in the wild so much. Though I would surely want to make sure it’s in no way invasive. Lavender is also one of my favorite scents, and I have tons of photos saved of France’s endless fields for a future trip when they are in season.
All of these are so great. Our world is so many fun things to see and so and wonderful experiences. I’ve seen the northern lights, but have yet to get a really amazing picture of them. That’s my ultimate goal when I go to Iceland in two weeks. I saw and photographed what I could see of the eclipse too! but my biggest travel dream is to pack up and move to France and live there forever! haha. Maybe someday!
For me, chasing down wildlife is also a priority. I’ve seen the elephants in Sri Lanka and would recommend that experience to anyone who loves elephants. They also have leopards and a lot of bird life there.
This is such an awesome post! Thanks for the travel inspo 🙂