50 once-in-a-lifetime journeys you must consider

The Canadian online travel agency FlightNetwork has just released The World's Best Once-in-a-Lifetime Journeys for 2018. Many of them should be on your bucket list if they aren’t already.

This isn’t another list dreamed up by folks sitting around an office, fantasizing about places they’d like to visit. FlightNetwork worked with more than 500 of what it terms “The world’s leading travel journalists, agencies, bloggers, and editors,” including TheTravelPro to assemble the list that was released this morning.

Participants were asked to submit their personal top three once-in-a-lifetime journeys along with a brief description of why they are so eager to visit or return to those locations, or jump into or reprise those activities. Then, Flight Network’s in-house travel experts analyzed and categorized the results, and created the official list of 50 journeys, ranking them based on the number of votes they received.

With TheTravelPro's focus is on upmarket travel, the journeys I recommended offered the opportunity to experience a bit of luxury. Other traveler experts preferred what Bounder of Adventure* referred to as "adventure holidays." Given the diversity of possibilities, there are some places on this list that you would expect, along with several that might surprise you. Some you'll want to add; others you won't.

The most popular journeys were by motor vehicle, with 15 routes to be explored by car or motorcycle. The next most popular mode of transportation was cruising (14 destinations) followed by hiking, trekking or safaris (13 recommendations). Six train trips made the list along with two adventure holidays.

The No. 1 journey, according to the survey: An expedition to Antarctica.

Its other-worldly beauty is, of course, undeniable but the travel season is short: November to March. An expedition cruise is the best way to experience the least-visited continent. And getting to the departure port is an adventure in itself. As most ships bound for Antarctica leave from Ushuaia, Argentina, travelers will need to fly into Buenos Aires, then take a connecting flight to Ushuaia’s Malvinas Argentinas Airport (USH) followed by a ground trip to the departure port.

For my part, I would probably enjoy such an expedition, but there are so many other places to visit and trips to take, Antarctica is not very high on my personal list.

The No. 5 journey is something I have already accomplished over the years, though not in one fell swoop: Drive the Pacific Coast Highway from San Francisco to San Diego.

Big Sur as seen from Hwy. 1, the Pacific Coast Highway

Travelers pass through 10 of California’s most beautiful and iconic cities including San Francisco, Santa Cruz, Monterey and Big Sur, San Luis Obispo, and the central California wine country which offers a multitude of wineries like this one which I recently visited. Santa Barbara, Los Angeles and San Diego round out the itinerary.

Having done several portions of that stretch several times, I believe it is purposeless to estimate the time it takes to drive from north to south. After all, driving straight through would miss the point rather dramatically. Stop and smell the roses, sip some wine, drink in the scenery, dip your toes in the Pacific. And above all, relax.

Wineries in every direction along Hwy. 101

Other driving trips include Drive Iceland’s Ring Road (No. 6), Driving the Dalmatian Coast of Croatia (No. 10), a Road Trip on Route 66 (No. 11), Explore the Italian Countryside (No. 14), Drive the Amalfi Coast (No. 16), Drive the Great Ocean Road in Australia (No. 19), Travel India’s Golden Traingle (No. 21), a Roadtrip in the Australian Outback (No. 28), Motorcycling from Ho Chi Minh to Hanoi (No. 36), driving the Road to Hana (No. 38), Drive the Wild Atlantic Way in Ireland (No. 39), Drive the Sea to Sky Highway in British Columbia (No. 46), Ride the Death Road of Bolivia (No. 47), and Motorcycling Madagascar Coast to Coast (No. 49).

My wife and I love our road trips and have done three of those above, in addition to the California coast.

Route 66 is worthwhile but for those of a certain vintage, we’re over it. More interesting discoveries can be made and less clichéd small towns visited by traveling U.S. Highway 50 from Sacramento to Ocean City, Maryland; Interstate 80 from San Francisco to New York; or Interstate 90 from Seattle through Chicago to Boston.

We highly recommend the Sea to Sky Highway in British Columbia. The drive from Vancouver to Whistler is beautiful any time of year, though the weather is more manageable outside of winter. It’s not a terribly long drive, and there are beautiful destinations with much to do on both ends of the road.

Inuksuk along British Columbia's Sea to Sky Highway

The Road to Hana begs one question: Why?

Google Maps says it will take two hours to travel the 45 miles from Paia to Hana; locals say three is more reasonable. The road is full of switchbacks, making the drive more like work than a pleasant outing, there is very little in the way of snacks or beverages along the way, and only slightly more than that to see once you make it to Hana.

Cruising in one iteration or another was the second most frequently mentioned once-in-a-lifetime journey activity. A total of 14 cruises, sailings, and other related activities made the list, from an around-the-world epic to one I would recommend without hesitation: a Cruise to Alaska (No. 7).

Glacier in Endicott Arm with small boat approaching, center right

My wife and I took our first Alaska cruise in 2016, which you can read about here. The scenery is beautiful, the small towns quaint and historic, and we felt the time spent in each port was more than sufficient to get a pretty good overview of each city.

I expect the same could be said of another recommended journey: a Fjord Cruise in Norway (No. 12). I would anticipate beautiful scenery, small towns in small doses, and your comfy cabin to welcome you back on board.

Of the journeys on the list, more than one fourth are in what I call the hike/trek/safari category. The only one that remotely appeals is the hike along Cinque Terre, a string of five seaside towns of Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, and Monterosso. A hike through the towns with views of stunning landscapes as well as the towns themselves, can be completed in about six hours, or travelers can spread that hike into a more extended stay.

Surprisingly, there were only six trips by train that made the list and, more surprisingly, the Orient Express was not among them!

Inter-City Express (ICE) train in München

Those that made the list range from Travel the Trans-Siberian Railway at No. 3 to the general Explore Europe by Train (No. 25) to a Trip on the Shinkansen Bullet Train (No. 41). Others included Travel the Canadian Rockies by Train (No. 29), the Andean Explorer (No. 32), and Travel the Glacier Express (No. 33).

Rounding out the list were two adventure holidays. Traveling the Silk Road (No. 15) is an 80-day trip by train, jeep, buses and boats that starts in China and ends in Turkey. Near the end of the list at No. 48, travelers can Follow the Wildebeest Migration through Serengeti National Park.

The complete list is available here.

Pick those that appeal to you, add them to your travel itinerary, and go!

Bon voyage!

(* - Bonus points if you can identify the reference WITHOUT Googling it.)

Visit my main page at TheTravelPro.us for more news, reviews, and personal observations on the world of upmarket travel.

Photos by Carl Dombek
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