6 unique and affordable bucket list ideas from around the world

Havana car

If you are looking for something a bit out of the ordinary but achievable budget-wise for your bucket list ideas compendium, then look no further.

From viewing living Nepalese goddesses to exploring inside ancient Icelandic glaciers, here are a few of my favourites, levered into an awkward alphabet format in a desperate attempt to rein in the endless possibilities the world has to offer. 

I’ve swept through A – F by way of flower-filled Amsterdam and the bat caves in Borneo in my first Bucket List Destinations post, and today I give you G..

Contents hide

Letter G

G - Watch a lightning storm over the Grand canyon

The letter G is brought to you from the too-large-to-comprehend and grandest of canyons, with billions of  years of history and impossibly orange rock.

Things you might not know about The Grand Canyon

How big is the Grand Canyon? This one is crying out for some numbers to appreciate its magnitude. It is not the longest, deepest or widest but it is pretty darned impressive nonetheless,  averaging 10 miles across, 1 mile deep (when do you ever see that far down?) and stretching 277 miles along its length.  

Hyperbole: It graduated from just plain “Big” to “Grand” in 1869, having been touted as such by the one-armed war veteran-turned-explorer, John Wesley.

Unexplored caves: Only 335 off its estimated 1000 caves have even been recorded. And it’s not like no one knows it’s there. 

The worlds oldest bottom? The river worked very hard over 6 million years carving the canyon through rock older than the dinosaurs themselves, to its 2 billion year old bottom.

Death Valley: The canyon is considered a gateway to the afterlife by the Hopi tribe.

Critters: The Grand Canyon is home to its very own pink rattle snake.

Hot as fire: Not only is it crazy hot in summer, it can often be found in flames – a good thing for the eco-system,  not so good for views (hazy).

Law and order: The good news is that it is illegal to refuse someone a glass of water in Arizona, which makes sense for the survival of the local human race. For reasons that are more obscure, it is also illegal to keep a donkey in your bathtub. Perhaps this interferes with distribution of said water.

Which rim?

So being pretty vast, you have to pick a side in advance for your Canyon-top peering, as it’s a 5 hour drive to the other rim if you change your mind.

90% of visitors go south, with its museums, cliff edge accommodation,  shuttle buses and paved trails.

But if it is lightning you are after, the north is the side to back. Viewing is in a more rustic, wooded and isolated setting. And at 1000 feet higher, it is 7 degrees colder and subjected to more rain, snow and general erosion, making the crags even more dramatic.

Canyon views from both sides

Weather warnings

Arriving in a lightning storm is a double edged viewing sword. It is obviously very exciting watching (and repeatedly failing to capture on film) the white forks stabbing the orange rocks, but it is worth remembering that it is a potentially lethal activity and you don’t want to actually kick that bucket.

The national parks website informs me that lightning strikes the canyon over 25,000 a year, with a heat intensity 5 times hotter than the surface of the sun (did not know this!).  Signs have been erected along the rim advising visitors quite strongly to stay in their vehicles to avoid becoming  human lightning conductors.

So, stay in the car, with its rubberised wheels, wind the window down and use one of those modern cameras that take a thousand stills at a time. Or, thinking about it (which I clearly didn’t)  just using video mode will do.

Grand canyon lightning Photo by Tim Trad on Unsplash
Grand canyon lightning by Tim Trad on Unsplash (a better photographer than me)

Bonus bucket list ideas for Grand Canyon

Being miles long, deep and wide, it is understandably quite hard to take in all at once. Stroll along the rim for a while (but not too long in summer as I say, it is HOT.)

On the south side try the glass sky walkway over the Canyon if you are a bit of a daredevil with heights and see-through floors.

For those with even more of an appetite for adventure and the budget to match you can take a helicopter ride, hike down into the canyon or kayak the Colorado. Horse riding is also thing. Go wild, tick off dozens of bucket list ideas while you are here!

Where to stay?

North Rim

The North Rim Grand Canyon Lodge, next to the visitor centre is a national historic landmark in its own right and has views to die for (but not yet) straight over the canyon. Guests  stay in cabins in the grounds.

South Rim

There are more option here.

Budget:  The Bright Angel lodge is an historic cabin, perched right on the canyon rim. Made of log and stone with its own history room, it’s Lonely Planet’s no 1 choice. I am sad I have not booked this for my return visit this summer. (Watch out though, as only the red house suite had aircon!)

Luxury: El Tovar, built in 1902 also right on the canyon edge, provides more luxurious accommodation, in an olde-worlde, moose-head style.

Off site: As an alternative , we are staying at Lake Powell Resort, stopping for a snap of the magnificent Horse Shoe Bend (from my own bucket list),  doing a South Rim fly-by day trip before heading down to Sedona for the night. We’ll see how bonkers that actually looks on the ground in terms of drive time and let you know! Here’s our ridiculously over ambitious schedule if you want to laugh at us openly.

Bucket list ideas future - G

As for the future,  I would love to visit ice-wrapped Greenland, like Iceland but with more ice.

letter h, a to z bucket list holiday

H - Sip a Mojito in the National Hotel in Havana, Cuba

The letter H is brought to you from the crumbly, colonial streets or Havana, home of cigars, rum and mojitos. This time capsule of a city is only 100 miles, but 100 years from Florida. 

Things you might not know about Havana

Home to half of Christopher Columbus: The bones of Christopher Columbus, (who “discovered” Cuba for Spain) were interred in Havana Cathedral until 1898.  Only half a skeleton turned up when they were moved to Seville, so other half is generally presumed to still be here.

Real pirates of the Caribbean: Havana’s  Castillo de la Real Fuerza, was built in 1577 to protect the city from the original pirates of the Caribbean.

House of Bacardi: When the  Bacardi family fled the city in the aftermath of the Cuban Revolution, they kindly left their 1930’s Art Deco Bacardi building behind.

See a Beatle: Having banned the Beatles’ music in the 1960’s, Fidel Castro mellowed in 2000, seeing John Lennon as more of a fellow revolutionary, and named a park after him. You can see him in bronze form lounging on a bench. Apparently people keep stealing his glasses.

Streets cobbled with wood: To avoid horses keeping Captains’ wives awake at night, the less usual wood was used for cobbling.

Odds and ends:

  • Monopoly is banned as a capitalist anathema.
  • A museum displays one of Napoleon’s teeth. 
  • Christmas was abolished between 1969 and 1997, Castro’s communist government declaring it an atheist state.  

#1 Bucket list ideas in Havana

This bucket list involves 2 of my favourite things – rum and sunshine. Can I tempt you to sip a mojito in its home town on the lawn of a historic hotel ?

The Mojito story - medicine, pirates and magic

Originally a Cuban medicinal drink, pirates upgraded its moonshine alcohol content to rum. No lesser pirate than Sir Francis Drake (known as Pirate Drake in these parts/those days) popped in on his circumnavigation of the globe and employed the early  Mojito to prevent his crew from succumbing to scurvy.   It was even called  “El Draque” for a while.

Cuba’s historical links to slavery have over time lead to a name change, Mojo being an African word for magic.

Goes well with a Cuban Cigar, for the full immersive experience.

The perfect setting - Prohibition, chandeliers and The Mob

The perfect location for your afternoon tipple would be on the lawn at the elegant Hotel Nacional de Cuba, itself a national monument, and embodiment of Cuba’s recent history.

National Hotel Cuba timeline

Colonial era:  The hotel was built in Art Deco style in the 1930’s and decorated with a nod towards its Colonial past, lit by sparking chandeliers and its interior cloaked in dark wood. On the lawn looking out to sea, you may find yourself sitting next to a 19th century coastal gun.

1930’s – Site of its own battle: The hotel needed a spot of work doing following its role as the site of a bloody siege between army chiefs fighting for and against Batista in the Battle of the Hotel Nacional in 1933.

1940’s – Celebrity guests : During Prohibition, Cuba turned into America’s local bar and the Mojito became as famous as the hotel’s clientele. Frank Sinatra was a regular.

and the Mob: In 1946 the hotel’s casino played host to the Havana Conference, with delegates drawn from the American criminal underworld and the Sicilian mafia, in a scene which gets at shout out in The Godfather.

1950’s – Segregation : 1956 Nat King Cole was booked to play but not allowed to book a room for the night, under the Hotel’s segregation policy. 

….and communism: In 1959 the hotel casinos were closed as the agents of capitalism by the new head honcho in town, Mr Castro.

1960’s missile crisis: During the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, Soviet anti-aircraft guns were set up in the hotel grounds.

Today: Despite a US ban on travel to Cuba, celebrities still manage to swing by including Steven Spielberg, Leonardo DiCaprio and Paris Hilton. 

 So it’s fair to say, if you are looking for a sense of history, this is the place to be!

Bonus Bucket list ideas in Havana

Strolling with minstrels

Share the streets of Havana with real live strolling minstrels. Wandering down the pretty cobbled lanes of the city you are guaranteed at some point to be following guitar strumming/ double base toting musicians filling the air with the sound of music. 

Groups of musicians set up in the street and pop into cafes and restaurants to serenade diners and passers by. It’s like being in a Disney musical where anyone can burst into song at any point.

Cuban cigar rolling

Discover how the Cohiba cigar you will be having with your Mojito later is made. Head to the historic Partagas Factory where the set up appears to have been unchanged for centuries. This photo is not taken from a Geography textbook but in this century, by my own clearly quite dated camera.

See if you agree that the “Taster” (literally an old man in the corner smoking the world’s best cigars) has possibly the best job? 

Vintage car hunting

Why the vintage cars? After Fidel came to power in 1959 and banned foreign imports of cars made y its American foe.  Locals had to keep their old Chevys, Fords and Buicks going for as long as they could, which turns out to be quite a long time! 

Lucky tourists get to wander through what feels like a 1950’s film set. You can even hire one for the afternoon. Bucket list idea? I think so!

Where to stay in Havana

Stay in old colonial palaces where the rooms overlook palm fringed atriums in Havana Vieja. We found the Hotel Florida Habana, which was beautiful but only for those who can take a fan over aircon.

Other historic hotels to consider include, for Graham Greene fans, Hotel Sevilla or Hotel Palacio Cueto for those who like their hotels Art Nouveau. Or check out the mobster funded Hotel Capri and Hotel Riviera. 

Bucket list ideas future - H

Horseshoe bend near the Grand Canyon is on this summer’s bucket list. Looks like there is life on Mars after all.

Letter i, a to z bucket list holiday

I - Explore inside a glacier, Iceland

Iceland – land of both ice and fire, blue lagoons and kamikaze puffins. A bucket list dream town.

Things you might not know about Iceland

Viking verbal trickery: Why have Greenland and Iceland got the wrong names? Like Bob Holness, Vikings like to say what they see. Greenland was greener in 800AD when they stumbled across it, and it was snowing in Iceland when they arrived. There are also rumours it was a trick to keep foes away from Iceland where they really planned to settle. 

Believe in fairies: The Vikings brought a still widely held belief in elves and trolls. Hidden people are thought to live in the lava fields, and the sea stacks at Reynisfjara are said do be petrified trolls. Icelanders build very cute elf houses in their gardens.

Crazy overachievers: 1/10 Icelanders will publish a book.

Land of fire and ice: 10% of surface is covered with glaciers and there are 130 volcanoes, 30 of which are active and at least 3 of which always seem overdue an explosion.

Feel the earth move beneath your feet:  Taking papering over the cracks to a new level, a shopping centre has been built over the meeting place of 2 tectonic plates. Having discovered this half way through the build, they played it safe and only built one storey (!). You can see into the Earth’s core through a glass floor in the mall.

Eco friendly: No need to burn fossil fuels (good job as there are no trees) simply heat your home with geo-thermal energy from the volcanically heated water.

Things you will find in Iceland: The world’s oldest parliament, Northern lights or midnight sun, puffins and fermented shark as a delicacy, a volcanic eruption every 4 years, a town called Bjork, a campsite (!) and a smartphone app that lets Icelanders check if they are related or not.

And things you won’t: An army, navy or air force, trains, surnames, strip clubs, Mc Donald’s, trees, mosquitos, guns, crime. They do now have bee, but only from 1989.

It costs the earth: A bunch of grapes can set you back £10, a bottle of rum £80, a woollen jumper £300 and anorak £600. Playing guess the price can be quite entertaining, but shopping for souvenirs or even food could bankrupt you. 

#1 Bucket list idea in Iceland - explore inside a glacier

Excitingly,  descending into a glacier is not only for professional ice cavers, but that is suitable and free for children, with an Into the Glacier Tour at Langjokull. Book as soon as you have your flights to secure your place.

Participants are picked up by a semi-rugged vehicle, and transported across wild and desolate scenery (looking not unlike a killer whale) to base camp, the kind of porta-cabin you expect to see in a documentary on the Antarctic. 

Here you kit up in a fully waterproof body suit and clamber into dream vehicle number 2, a monster truck with semi-inflated wheels to enable it to drive over the ice itself.

After the drive of your life, you pop out on the middle of a glacier and step into the highest winds you may ever have experienced, as there is very little to break their journey across the ice savannah.

Heading into a small, blessedly horizontal entrance,  you will find yourself inside the centuries old glacier itself. The final preparation is putting  ice spikes on to your boots. Bending in your fly suit not that easy. It acts like a taut elastic band, keen to keep you vertical.

Pathways and tunnels have been carved into the ice and bizarre blue lights set into the walls,  illuminating the frozen corridors. It’s like being in a photo negative of a cave, surrounded by a shimmering world of white. It feels very Christmassy for July. There is even a chapel here for those looking for wedding themed bucket list ideas.

For families, the trick to making this a budget bucket list experience is to take your children before they turn 12 (free) , reducing the cost a more reasonable £75 per head. Check out our family trip here.

I have added the same company’s “Into a Volcano” tour to my own personal bucket list. I’m not sure if lava is involved but crater abseiling seems to be a feature.

Bonus Bucket list ideas in Iceland

Watch baby puffins learn to fly

While you are here, there are few other bucket list ideas you may wish to tick off. First up, for July arrivals, is to head Vik, where the icy waters lap sizzling black volcanic sands. Baby puffins launch themselves at head height from cliffs at the end of the beach, flapping their tiny wings madly in the first attempts at flight, before a safe water-based landing.

Bathe in a blue lagoon

Swim in blue lagoons, heated by the volcanic activity broiling below. 

You will be offered natural silica, spooned from jars by ladies sporting 1960’s flowery swim hats (who clearly got the memo that the silica transforms hair to haystacks). White gloop is applied to the face for soft skin and ghostly photos.

If it’s winter get a mad frozen hair shot for the album.

For all out luxury, grab a drink from the swim up bar.

Watch jetting Geysirs and explore rift valleys

See the original geyser at “Geysir” and peer into other worldly pink and blue volcanic pools. The gurgling geysers shoot into the sky at regular intervals for a classic bucket list photo.

Or head over to Pingvellir, one of only 2 places in the world where you can to see the meeting of tectonic plates above sea level (next to the world’s first parliament – it’s just showing off now). Try not lose a small child down a 400m fissure in the Earth’s crust.

Where to stay in Iceland

An Airbnb lodge near the Golden Circle is the most cost effective and scenic place to stay up to see your midnight sun. A hot tub on the tundra is an added bonus. 

Bucket list ideas future - I

Ice Bar – sadly the one in London has not survived the pandemic. I hear there is one in Egypt (how does it not melt?). This one is in Norway: 

Letter j, a to z bucket list holiday

J - Crocodile safari, Jamaica

Jamaica is a text book bucket list destination with its jewelled waters, swaying palms, reggae beats and surprise crocodiles. Where to start?

Things you might not know about Jamaica

Invaders: Christopher Columbus, having been tipped off by the Cubans, “discovered” Jamaica for Spain in 1494. It then came under English rule in 1655 before gaining independence in 1962.

Pirates and rum: Captain Morgan is not only a brand of rum, but also the pirate-turned-Governor of Jamaica, after whom it was named.

Snakes alive (not): In 1872 the mongoose was imported to Jamaica to wipe out rats in the cane fields, and while it was at it, decimated Jamaica’s snake population.

Rastafarianism: This religious and political movement , which began in Jamaica in the 1930’s, is named after the Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia whose pre-coronation name was Ras Tafari. 

Reggae: You can visit Bob Marley’s house In Kingston, which has now been turned into a  museum.

Coffee: Blue mountain coffee is some of the most expensive in the world – don’t leave it unused in your hotel room.

007: Ian Fleming wrote all 14 James Bond books here, borrowing the name Bond from the English ornithologist author of “Field Guide of Birds of the West Indies”, which he was perusing at the time.

Stormy waters: Hurricane season overlaps with summer holidays in August. Beware.

Miscellany: It really does have a bob sled team, and the densest concentration of churches and rum bars in the world.

#1 Bucket List idea Jamaica - crocodile safari

Book your safari for an affordable $20 per head at the very laid-back J Charles Swaby’s office on the banks of the Black River.

Avoiding any stray crocs on the boardwalk, hop on board your open-air safari boat and spend the afternoon drifting along the river, peering into the dense mangroves for signs of life.

Look for crocodiles pretending to be pieces of wood, lying along the root systems. Others will sidle beady-eyed, right up alongside the boat. It feels very much like being in a nature documentary.

Bonus bucket list ideas for Jamaica

Waterfall climbing

Dunn Falls appear to be stolen straight from a Hollywood jungle film set. White water tumbles over huge pale boulders under a rainforest canopy.

Clambering up the waterfall and shooting down mini natural slides is as bucket-listy as it sounds.

It is more fun if you ignore your guide’s instructions to hold hands with the people either side of you. One hand will be required for self-steadying over the smooth rocks if you are to avoid a sort of comedy human dominoes moment. 

Swimming with dolphin

Hop into turquoise waters and tread water until it is, quite unbelievably, your turn for a dolphin to swim up to greet you and offer up its fin, before taking you for a white water ride in the ocean. Top tip: use straight arms or drown trying.

Totally a bucket list activity. 

Where to stay in Jamaica

For an easy life, opt for one of the all-inclusive luxury resorts. You can get surprisingly reasonable rates using comparison sites. Check out our Rose Hall Hilton trip here.

For the more off-the-beaten track traveller, there are some uber-cool laid back beach side options. Head to one of the family run hotel in Negril, where you can find the best beaches in the country.

Or for a bit of literary history, why not stay at The Fleming Villa in Ocho Rios, where the former occupant wrote all 14 James Bond books? Designed by Fleming himself, this villa for 10 comes with a private beach, pool and butler and is sited on the very Bondy-y GoldenEye resort.

Bucket list ideas future - J

for a Jamaica bucket list future activity, I vote for a phosphorescence – illuminated night swim with in Montego Bay. Taking sleepy fledgling swimmers ruled this out for us.

And for a new bucket list idea destination, I choose Jordan, where churches appear to be petrified in the rocks at Petra.

Letter k, a to z bucket list holiday

K - See a living goddess, Kathmandu, Nepal

Kathmandu: A chaotic and colourful city, where painted eyes gaze down at you from exotic temples and brightly coloured prayer flags dance in the wind above the heads of painted yogis.

Things you might not know about Kathmandu

Ceiling of the world: Not just home to Everest, the Nepalese Himalayas contain 8 out of 10 of the worlds’ highest peaks in its youngest mountain range (that’s why it is so pointy). The Nepali name for Everest means “The heaven’s forehead”. It might want to pop a hat on.

Fantastic wildlife: Home to the greater one-horned rhino, snow leopard, Bengal Tiger and, possibly, the Yeti (Edmund Hillary was convinced enough to lead an expedition to find one in 1958.) Nepal is also the official elephant polo headquarters.

Back to the future: Although known as a living museum, with its dense concentration of world heritage sites, Kathmandu is actually ahead of its time, its calendar being 57 years in the future.

Home of the Gods: Buddha was born in Nepalese village of Lumbini in 623 BC, and according to Hindu mythology, Nepal is home to Lord Shiva, the destroyer of the universe.

Earth, wind and fire: The colours of the ubiquitous prayer flags symbolise each of the elements. As the wind passes over the flags, the prayers are activated and the blessings  carried out into the world.

The Temples have eyes: These are the all-seeing eyes of Buddha.

Shangri-La: Kathmandu Valley was the inspiration for the fictional mountain paradise, Shangri-La in Lost Horizon.

Self-isolation: Following a defeat in battle with China, Nepal cut itself off from all foreign contact for a 100 years, only reopening its borders in 1951.

Lady in red: Nepalese women wear red, a symbol for purity, dignity and honour for the first time on their wedding day.

The opposite of a people carrier? In the 1940’s, as there were no roads to Kathmandu, a car gifted to the King by Adolf Hitler was carried to the city over the mountains by hand. As was all the petrol.

Amsterdam of Asia: Kathmandu’s Freak Street was born in the 60’s and 70’s when the international hippie crowd discovered that hash here was legal.

#1 Bucket list idea in Kathmandu

The Royal Kumari, a living embodiment of a demon-slaying Hindu goddess, lives in Kathmandu’s Durbar Square. Swing by between 9 and 11am when she appears the window, for a blessing from the gods.

How do you become a goddess?

There is a rigorous selection process, involving a physical examination to establish that you have the correct physical attributes  – sufficiently black hair, all your own teeth and eye lashes like a cow.

You then spend a night in a room with the severed heads of 108 buffalo and goats that have been sacrificed in your honour. If you remain serene, you pass the test and your feet literally will not touch the ground until you become a teenager, as you will be carried everywhere you go.

You will be allowed friends but they all have to do as you say until you reach puberty and pass the goddess baton to the next incumbent.

Where can you see a living goddess?

The goddess’s home is in the Kumari Bahal, a spectacular 3 storey-courtyard built in 1775, at the corner of Durbar and Basantapur squares. Join throngs of locals in front of the temple hoping for a glimpse of the goddess. 

Bonus bucket list ideas in Nepal

Wander the temples in palace square

Durbar Square: The Goddess’s home is not the only building you will want to visit in Durbar square. The whole pagoda-filled place will quite literally take your breath away.

There are 50 temples, carved with monkeys and demon destroying gods, strung with prayer bells and strewn with flowers. Clouds of incense hang in the air and hundreds of candle flames dance in dark interiors. It is a full assault on all the senses.

Kings were crowned and ruled here in palaces dating from the 4th Century. You will find the royal palace, temples, monastic courtyards, divine sculptures and historic museums. The entire square was designated a Unesco World Heritage Site in 1979.

Out of town temples

Monkey temple: The centuries old Swayambhu, reached by 300 stone steps, is white domed, golden-topped and mobbed with monkeys. Set on a hill 3km west of the centre, its 4 pairs of eyes look with you over the Kathmandu Valley below.

Buddhist Bouddhanath Stupa: One of the largest Buddhist temples in the world it is said to entomb one of the ancient Buddhas.

Pashupatinath Hindu temple complex: Only Hindus may enter, but others can gaze upon it from across the river, for a glimpse of its sprawling collection of over 500 temples, ashrams and monuments-

Step back in time to medieval Bhaktapur

Be transported an hour by bus, but back to the medieval times in the village of Bhaktapur. The half-timbered buildings and car-free cobbled street in this Himalayan city are strangely reminiscent of Shakespearian England. But the similarities end there as you wander this ancient town’s temple-filled main square.

Hike the foothills of Everest

A a trip to Nepal would not be complete without a 30 minute plane trip to Pokhara where you can hike in the foothills of Everest,  240 kilometres east of Kathmandu.

Hire a guide to pre-book your mountainside accommodation, and lead the way to the heavens. Bucket list views don’t get more bucket list than this.

Where to stay in Kathmandu

You might just have to stay at the 5 star Hotel Yak and Yeti, not only for the brilliant name but also because it is in a 100 year old palace minutes’ walk from Durbar Square.

Budget  bucket listers should head for Freak Street, Thamel and Jhamel for cheaper downtown accommodation near shops and eateries.

Bucket list ideas future - K

My personal Nepal bucket list idea is a Rhino safari at the Chitwan grasslands. Apparently you need a dart-gun toting guide in case they charge. High-octane stuff.

For destinations new, how magical would it be to see the cherry blossom on Kyoto in Spring? And maybe have tea in a pagoda teahouse? Child one is demanding this moves to the top of the family’s bucket list ideas checklist. I’m working on my American Express airmiles, which so far will get us to about Exeter.

Letter l, a to z bucket list holiday

L - Sky walk, London, England

London – where you can walk through time from Roman ruins to metallic urban jungles, and even amongst the clouds in the sky.

Things you might not know about London

Time travel: London holds the key to the start of time at the Greenwich meridian line. You can actually stand on it for the UK’s version of an equator photo.

Murder and Celebrity Site of executions and celebrity imprisonment, the Tower of London has witnessed murders of princes and queens. The last execution was of a German spy in 1940’s and its last prisoner was a Kray twin in 1952.

Dead heads: Traitors’ heads were impaled on spikes on London Bridge to serve as a warning to others to watch their step/neck.

The Bard’s bad luck (fire and brimstone): Shakespeare’s Globe theatre was destroyed 14 years after being built by a fire started by a cannon during a performance. (Its replacement was then demolished in 1644 when all plays were banned by Puritans).

We’re all going to the zoo: After the King’s menagerie of wild animals moved from the Tower of London to London Zoo,  you could secure free entry if you brought a cat or dog for the lion’s supper. Later, AA Milne would bring his son, Christopher Robin, to the zoo to see his favourite animal, a small bear called Winnie.

Frozen: In colder times an annual frost fair was held on the frozen River Thames, complete with pubs, games and dancing (tempting fate?). 

Beer Tsunami: In 1814 an exploding vat of beer unleashed an alcoholic tsunami down the Tottenham Court Road.

A flying bus: 1952 a bus effected a 6ft leap of faith over a slowly opening Tower Bridge. At 12mph, it was more than a little lucky to make this.

Home sweet home: London has been called home by Ho Chi Minh, Mahatma Gandhi and Hitler’s brother.

#1 Bucket list idea in London - Sky walk

For about £30 step into a small glass bubble and let the London Eye rotate you into the sky, overlooking a plethora of London landmarks, and ideally a golden sunset over the Houses of Parliament.

The ride is surprising in many ways –  the bubbles are larger, the speed of rotation slower and the final elevation higher than you might expect. 

Top tips: Book a sunset slot of the most dramatic skyline views. And take a battery charger for potentially excessive phone photo usage.

Other places to touch the sky

Tower Bridge Glass floor

Your London skywalk dreams can come true for a bargain £10 ticket to Tower Bridge where you climb up the iconic tower before emerging on to a floor made of glass. Test your bravery by standing on apparently thin air. Maybe even try a little sit down/ jump depending on the kind of person you are.

Views of London are not only below you but can be found by looking out on both sides and in reflections in the mirrored ceiling above you. Play spot the landmark as you survey the Thames, the comically bendy Walkie Talkie tower and the blindingly white Tower of London beneath you. Check out our trip here

For those who want to get even closer to the clouds book on a bridge climbing tour and see the bridge and city views from the outside too.

Garden in the sky

For a totally free alternative, book a slot at the Sky Garden at the top of the Walkie Talkie building, where you stroll through a mini-jungle, sipping a optional cocktail (a welcome addition to any bucket list scenario I say), before heading out on to the roof terrace for more magnificent views over the city. 

Bonus bucket list ideas in London

Royal palace hunting

If bucket lists don’t call for the opulence of palaces, then I don’t know what does. And London has more than you might imagine (Google says it’s eleven). You may quite like to find them all but in the meantime here are some hot picks to get you started:

Palace of Westminster: hiding in the Houses of Parliament for 900 years. 

Tower of London: home to monarchs for centuries, starting with old William himself.

Buckingham Palace:  do a tour (summer months only) or swing by for a bit of pomp and ceremony at the daily changing of the guard.

History and bling all covered. 

Catch a West End Show

See a world class show in the West End. The theatres themselves are as ornate as stately homes (except for School of Rock, which is literally an old powerplant). 

Sit in the bar under crystal chandeliers and cherubic plaster work and order a sparkly drink for full effect. Check out our palaces and show visit here.

Where to stay in London

If you are going bucket list, opt for the iconic Renaissance Hotel at St Pancras station. Glamour is it’s middle name. Walk through the restaurant if you can’t afford a room for a glimpse of the high life.

Another magnificent hotel for the budget-free traveller is Rubens by Buckingham Palace. With its top hatted doormen and red carpets, it looks like Christmas all year round.

For an affordable yet still bucket list option  choose a Novotel, maybe one with a pool at Blackfriars or Paddington or a  terrace overlooking the Thames at the Excel.

Bucket list ideas future - L

It has always been a bucket list dream to ride a husky drawn sledge (or reindeer – not fussy) through snowy Lapland.  I’d be happy with a side order of igloo or a bubble hotel under the stars. And if the Northern Lights could just pop out, that’d be great.

Summary of Bucket List ideas

So, what is stopping you (pandemic aside) from getting out there, meeting that goddess or heading down into the Icelandic ice? Hopefully some of your bucket list ideas can be ticked off when the world reopens soon. If you missed them, and are looking for more inspiration head over to letters A to G here.

Key an eye out for the next section of alphabet around the world bucket list ideas, coming soon. In the meantime, I would love to hear about your personal top bucket list goals in the comments.

For an exclusive downloadable pdf summary of these Bucket List ideas, activities and places to stay  – click to subscribe to Holiday from Hels here!

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Bucket List Ideas
Unique and affordable
Unique and affordable bucket list ideas

10 thoughts on “6 unique and affordable bucket list ideas from around the world”

  1. I love a good storm myself but I do enjoy it more when I am inside rather than out! Walking on the glass floor in Tower Bridge looks amazing – that must be knew, it wasn’t there when I visited so I will add it to my bucket list for when I get back there.

  2. I adore Havana. We had fun roaming the streets, doing a cigar factory tour and seeing all the classic cars! Iceland is way up on my bucket list – I can’t wait to visit some day soon!

  3. What a fun list! I love all of the ideas. But if I had to puck one, the lightning storm over Grand Canyon sounds superb.

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