If you’re like the majority of full-time professionals, you probably only have a few weeks of vacation to spare each year. At first glance, that doesn’t seem like a lot of time. However, you can do a LOT of cool stuff with just one week of vacation. Don’t believe me? Get the facts below with these 15 iconic trips you can take with 1 week of vacation (or less!).
1. Go Trekking in Patagonia
If you’ve seen any desktop photo or screensaver ever, you’ve probably run into photographs of the spectacular mountains in Patagonia at least once. Patagonia is a region spanning parts of southern Chile and Argentina, and is home to jaw-dropping parks and trails unlike anywhere else in the world. Chile’s Torres del Paine National Park is home to the famed W trek, which takes 5 days to complete. Nearby El Chalten is also a breathtaking experience. In Argentina, hiking to the world-famous Mount Fitzroy and visiting the Perito Moreno glacier is also a feasible adventure for a week or less.
2. Learn to Surf
Unless you’re a water sports rock star with incredible balance, you probably can’t learn to surf (well) in just one day. However, if you have one week to learn, you can definitely get your bearings while riding the waves. There are several places around the United States that offer surf schools, like Los Angeles, Florida, and Hawaii. However, if you’re looking for a more tropical adventure, try El Salvador, Indonesia, the Philippines, Brazil, or Portugal.
3. Experience Incredible Wildlife on a Safari
If you live in an urban area with very little wildlife, or you simply enjoy learning about animals, a safari might be a fantastic adventure for you. While parts of Africa, such as Kenya, Tanzania, and South Africa, are the most famous areas for safaris, there are also several other wildlife tours around the world. It would literally be impossible to list them all here.
A friend of mine recently went on a week-long tour to Churchill, Canada to see some polar bears in the wild. Definitely not your average safari, but it’s an incredible adventure of a lifetime!
4. Party Hard at Carnaval
Maybe outdoors and wildlife isn’t your thing, and instead you’d rather have your own wild life. That’s totally cool. If your jam is to party until the sun comes up (as per tradition), head to Trinidad, Brazil, New Orleans, or Italy for Carnaval/Mardi Gras celebrations. With dazzling parades, costumes, and festivities galore, these parties are a once-in-a-lifetime experience for any and all who dare to go all-out.
5. Drive Iceland’s Ring Road
The Ring Road in Iceland is one of the most famous road trips in the world, and for good reason. It’s full of beautiful mountains, glaciers, volcanoes, beaches, canyons and more. An outdoor lover’s paradise, Iceland is basically a playground full of trails and hikes to enjoy. You can even camp around all of Iceland if you want to spend even more time outdoors. If you decide to drive it in the fall, winter, or spring, you might get extra lucky and catch the northern lights.
6. Ride a Hot Air Balloon Over A Gorgeous Landscape
Traveling somewhere far for a hot air balloon ride might seem a little…weird. But hear me out. If you’ve never been on a balloon before, it’s such a strange and surreal experience to float through the air, seemingly weightless. Sure, you could take a hot air balloon in a single day, but perhaps not in some of the most iconic hot air balloon spots in the world. Plus, while you’re in a truly stunning new place, it’s worth checking out from above AND below. Although I’m partial to Cappadocia, Turkey (I mean LOOK at the photo above – gorgeous, right?!), you can find epic balloon rides in Bagan, Myanmar and Albuquerque, New Mexico, too.
7. Learn to Cook Your Favorite Cuisine
Ever wanted to learn how to make pasta in Italy? Or pad thai in Thailand? Or ramen in Japan? With a week of vacation, you can absolutely learn these things (and more!)…right from the source. Many large tour companies offer pre-planned cooking and food-focused tours, but if that’s not your thing, try Airbnb experiences or local cooking classes to see what options are available. Cooking classes are available literally anywhere in the world…but if you need some ideas, I’ve heard Tuscany, Bangkok, Istanbul, and Oaxaca have some really amazing food options!
8. Hike to Machu Picchu
There are few bucket lists that exist without Machu Picchu somewhere on them. This iconic Inca landmark is famous around the world for its stunning location in the Andes, and its unique set of ruins from an era long ago. With just one week of vacation, you can do one of the many treks to Machu Picchu, including the Salkantay, Lares, and of course, the famous Inca Trail. Don’t forget that if you do want to attempt to get a permit for the Inca trail, you have to reserve several months in advance!
9. Explore the Amazon
The Amazon is the longest river in South America. It is also home to the world’s largest rainforest that houses an incredibly diverse ecosystem of plants and wildlife. Because of its size, the Amazon and its tributaries wind their way through Peru, Bolivia, Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, and Brazil. In a week of vacation, there are several ways you can explore the Amazon. If you enjoy boats, hop on a cruise of the river. Alternatively, you can stay in a lodge in the rainforest to learn about the vast plant and wildlife in the region.
10. …Or the Galapagos
If you’d prefer a wildlife-focused vacation that’s more in the ballpark of ocean and marine life, the Galapagos is a fantastic alternative to the Amazon. (Or, just do both!) Here, you can witness bird, mammal, and fish species that are unique to this set of islands.
11. Island Hop in the Azores
The Azores are often known as Europe’s best kept secret, though this striking archipelago smack dab in the middle of the Atlantic is quickly coming into the spotlight. On the largest island of São Miguel, visit an abandoned hotel, swim with dolphins, or drive through fields of hydrangeas. Once you’ve explored São Miguel, head to some of the smaller islands, like Pico, Terceira, or Faial, which boast craggy coastlines and unbelievable landscapes. With one week of vacation, you can visit a few of these beautiful islands in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.
12. Stay in an Ice Hotel
Yes, this is a real thing. In cold winter areas, the climate is frigid enough to build entire structures out of ice, including full-service hotels! Because these are only open during the coldest months of the year, it’s crucial to book in advance to reserve your night (or nights, if you’re brave). There are ice hotels around the world, but many of them are located in Canada or Scandinavia. I wouldn’t recommend staying in an ice hotel for an entire week, but traveling throughout the region you’re visiting for a few days is worth it if you’ve already made the trek to get there in the first place.
13. Road Trip Through the Canadian Rockies
Thanks to Instagram and other social media, the Canadian Rockies have become a hotspot for tourists. These stark mountains run through parts of Alberta and British Columbia, Canada and are some of the most stunning places on Earth.
I had the immense pleasure of exploring many parts of the Canadian Rockies while I was stationed in Calgary for work a few years ago. Banff National Park offers amazing, accessible hiking and kayaking, but if you have a whole week, take some time to drive all the way up to Jasper National Park, and around the Yoho National Park too. The highway that connects Banff and Jasper, the Icefields Parkway, is one of the world’s most beautiful drives, featuring breathtaking glacier views and staggering peaks. If you have even more time, a trip down south to Waterton Lakes, which sits on the US border, is definitely worth the effort.
14. Dive the Great Barrier Reef
Diving is an incredible and addicting sport, so it’s no wonder people take weeks of time off simply to dive in the world’s most amazing reefs. The Great Barrier Reef is among the largest and most spectacular in the world. Located off the coast of Australia, this reef is home to many species of marine life, coral, and more. Because diving requires a wait time before flying, it’s difficult to do it with just a weekend’s worth of time. However, if you have a week, get your wetsuit on and start exploring the underwater universe.
15. Chase the Northern Lights
This is an obvious one, but I had to save the best for last. I’d be totally crazy if this wasn’t on a list of epic adventures. If you have a week off in the winter, chasing the northern lights is one of the most awe-inspiring and spectacular adventures you can embark on. While there are many places around the world you can see the northern lights, they’re dependent on a few different factors, including solar activity and cloud cover. That’s why I highly recommend taking a week to try and see them – you might get unlucky for a few days, but increasing your time also increases the chances you have to see them. Having just returned from a trip to Tromsø, Norway and seen the lights 3 nights in a row, I’d recommend going there to chase the auroras. However, there are also places in Alaska, Canada, Iceland, Finland, Sweden, and Russia where you can see them too. The aurora borealis was truly one of the most spectacular sights I’ve ever seen, and yes, I only took a week of vacation.
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Have you ever tried any of these adventures? If not, what’s your favorite one-week trip you’ve ever been on?
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