Image: Australia
Courtesy of Black Tomato
Traverse Australia from urban to remote. Start in Sydney with an Opera House tour and a flight to a secret lunch location. Follow a night in the Blue Mountains with a wine tasting in Hunter Valley, then a plush bush-camp stay in Jervis Bay. Finally, hole up at the Capella Lodge on Lord Howe Island, for diving and spa treatments.
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updated 12/2/2010 9:45:21 AM ET 2010-12-02T14:45:21

A flight to the bottom of the world. A private expedition to see emperor penguins. A kite-skiing excursion across an icy horizon. A luxury tent camp atop a 200-foot icefall. This isn’t your average vacation. This is the trip of a lifetime.

Slideshow: Best life-changing trips

While any trip to Antarctica is extraordinary, this one from Kensington Tours includes truly unique experiences. That’s because it — and 21 other dream trips — was crafted exclusively for Travel + Leisure by one of the world’s top outfitters. So whether you’re ready to plan your own dream trip or just looking for inspiration, these itineraries can’t help but inspire.

And more than ever, travelers are looking to be inspired by unique experiences, says travel agent Bonnie Brayham. People want trips that “expand horizons, remove you from your comfort zone, and prompt you to reevaluate what’s important in life.”

Sometimes, inspiration comes from the behind-the-scenes access that only a great tour operator can provide. On its trip to Kenya, for example, Micato Safaris introduces travelers to the current generation of the famous Leakey family studying the roots of civilization. Working alongside the Leakeys, visitors will spend the night in a research station where 3.5-million-year-old hominid fossils were recently discovered, then do their own digging in search of human origins.

For other travelers, the trip of a lifetime may be about experiencing a familiar location in a new way. On Butterfield & Robinson’s cycling tour of France’s Loire Valley, travelers bike past acres of the valley’s sunflower fields, dine at the home of renowned local chef Jean-Claude Rigollet, and overnight at the 15th-century Châteaux du Rivau, an estate where Joan of Arc was once a guest.

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Since all 22 of our trips were planned exclusively for Travel + Leisure, they’re brimming with the kind of destinations and access that are next to impossible to find on the typical vacation itinerary. “For a trip of a lifetime, I always try to incorporate something unexpected,” says travel agent Peter Lloyd. “These are the moments that people love and remember.”

So whether you’re dreaming of food, philanthropy, culture, or adventure, read on: your trip of a lifetime awaits.

Copyright © 2012 American Express Publishing Corporation

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