20 Surreal Experiences You Need on Your Bucket List
Throughout our lives, we’ll experience moments when we look around in a state of utter disbelief and awe. It’s those pinch-me-I’m-dreaming moments that we'll remember forever, and these 20 experiences are certainly unforgettable.
1. Crossing the Salt Flats in Bolivia
The Bolivia Salt Flats, or Salar de Uyuni, are a natural wonder and a photographer’s dream canvas. As a result from a thin film of water gathering on the surface, the vast plain transforms into the world’s largest natural mirror, creating a heavenly effect.
2. Diving the Great Blue Hole
Just off the cost of Belize lies the world’s largest underwater sinkhole. Despite its ominous dark blue color, seasoned divers flock to it for a chance to experience one of the world’s most eerie dive sites – think gloomy hues, enormous stalactites and silhouettes of reef sharks circling nearby.
3. Observing the multi-colored Danxia Landforms
China’s Danxia Landform Geological Park is known as “the eye candy of Zhangye” and understandably so. The technicolor mountain range was formed by the erosion of red sandstone, coupled with extreme desert conditions over the course of 24 million years. Today, viewers have the pleasure of witnessing the resulting rainbow effect, which is best experienced from June to September during dawn or dusk.
4. Swinging at the End of the World
If you like to live on the edge, then you’ll love swinging off of it (literally). The swing at the end of the world dangles people off the side of a cliff overlooking Ecuador’s Bellavista Cloud Forest. Safety note: There’s no harness so swing at your own risk.
5. Sledding down a volcano in Nicaragua
Volcano boarding may not be the most conventional of the “boarding” sports, but outside Leon, Nicaragua, it’s a common activity for thrill-seekers. Not for the faint of heart, volcano boarding requires an hour-long hike up Cerro Negro, followed by the “fun” part of speeding down 796 yards in just three minutes. The volcano is still active, but not to worry, it’s monitored regularly.
6. Jumping in the Devil's Pool
Victoria Falls is one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, so even a simple visit is considered bucket list-worthy. But the adventurous can go one step further: From mid-August to mid-January, when river levels drop, visitors can swim in a rock pool formed at the lip of the falls – but they first must wade through the Zambezi and take a daring leap into the naturally occurring pool.
7. Dining in the sky
Dinner in the Sky is an acclaimed dining experience that tours the world, and Brussels is the next city-stop on its itinerary. Each day, a crane hoists 22 diners into the air, where they'll enjoy a five-course tasting menu created by a rotating list of world-renowned chefs.
8. Smelling the lavender fields in Provence, France
Every summer from June to August, the fields of Provence, France bloom with fragrant lavender and transform into a sea of vibrant purple. Visit for the sweet aroma, array of lavender-infused products and the postcard-worthy photo-ops.
9. Lighting a lantern during the Yi Peng Festival in Thailand
The Yi Peng Festival takes place in Chiang Mai during the festival of lights, which pays homage to Buddha. The ceremonial lighting of sky lanterns represents the end of a person’s misfortune.
10. Hiking inside a glacier in Alaska
Just outside of Juneau, Alaska, sit the Mendenhall Glacier. While most tourists observe its beauty from afar, those that can endure a 4.5-mile hike have the unique opportunity to view the luminescent blue ice caves beneath the glacier.
11. Boating through Chile’s Capillas de Marmol caves
Cave photography doesn’t get better than capturing the blue and white marble swirls of Chile’s Capillas de Marmol. Located on South America’s second largest lake, Lago General Carrera, the caves were formed as a result of thousands of years of erosion. Today, boat rides to Capillas de Marmol depart daily and seat up to five passengers, making for an intimate experience.
12. Setting foot in the Harbin Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival
Each year Harbin, the capital city of the Heilongjiang province in China, hosts the world’s largest ice festival. It consists of four theme parks exhibiting full-size cities carved out of ice, making for an otherworldly experience that attracts hundreds of thousands of spectators annually.
13. Walking through the Tunnel of Love in Ukraine
The Tunnel of Love carries profound meaning for lovers, and rumor has it that if a couple makes a wish, their wish will come true if their love is sincere. But in actuality, the tunnel serves as a passageway for a private train, and over time, the train molded the tree-line, forming a natural archway.
14. Strolling Japan’s Sagano bamboo forest
Japan’s Sagano Forest has a permanent place on the list of the world’s most beautiful forests. Droves of tourists descend on the forest to capture the ethereal moment when the sunshine breaks through the towering stalks and the wind creates a natural chime. For a more peaceful experience, visit early morning or late evening during the week to avoid the masses.
15. Floating above Cappadocia, Turkey, in a hot air balloon
While most cities are best explored on foot or via bus and rail, the city of Cappadocia is best seen from a bird’s eye view. Beginning at sunrise, hot air balloons lift into the sky and drift over the picturesque landscape, but the most surreal part of the backdrop is the other hot air balloons filling the sky (upwards to 100 balloons on most days).
16. Swimming in the Sea of Stars on Vaadhoo Island
The Maldives top many travelers’ bucket lists, but the Vaadhoo Island, in particular, offers something extra special. At night, the tide glows with bio-luminescent phytoplankton giving off a star-like appearance.
17. Watching the sun rise over the ancient city of Bagan, Myanmar
There’s something remarkable about watching the night transition to day before our eyes. Now, pair that experience with a setting as beautiful as the ancient temples of Bagan, Myanmar. Accompanied by many other early-risers, you’ll watch as the sky tinges with yellow and orange and the sun reveals each detail of the temple silhouettes.
18. Climbing the Stairway to Heaven in Oahu
The Haiku Stairs is a steep hiking trail along Oahu’s Ko’olau mountain range. Despite the stairs undergoing repair in 2003, the trail remains a forbidden one; however, while we don't advocate trespassing, many hikers still attempt a visit for a chance to experience the panoramas that await at the top.
19. Trekking through Antelope Canyon
Located just outside of Page, Arizona, Antelope Canyon is one of the most photographed slot canyons in the world and also a scared site for the Navajo. Antelopes have been said to roam the canyon, but now, tourists pass through to view the wave-like rock interiors formed by free-flowing water.
20. Cage diving with great white sharks
Choosing to enter the water with the ocean's fiercest predator might seem crazy, but from personal experience, it's both exhilarating and surprisingly peaceful watching the sharks glide by with grace -- that is until they smell the bait and the feeding frenzy ensues. Travelzoo Tip: Book multiple trips since many are cancelled due to the slightest sign of inclement weather.