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Best triathlons in the world: Top 10 bucket list races

From the toughest challenges, to the most epic scenery and the best finish line parties. We give you the low down on some of the world’s best bucket list-worthy triathlons. How many have you ticked off already?

Writer & Long Course Triathlete
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Redefining triathlon

There are some pretty incredible triathlon races out there. Whether you’re looking for spectacular scenery, a next-level challenge, or a race day atmosphere that makes dragging yourself through miles of swim-bike-run feel like a party. But if you tried to do them all, you’d probably need to crack the time-space continuum… or develop super powers.

With that in mind, we’ve pulled together a list of the best triathlon races in the world to add to your bucket list. From the legendary classics, to the new races on the scene that have caught our attention. It’s been a tough job to whittle it down, and there’s certainly plenty of other races that could easily have made the cut. But in our opinion, these are the ultimate triathlons to tick off so you can say you’ve been there and got the finisher shirt.

Challenge Roth

Location: Roth, Germany
Distances: 3.8km swim / 180km bike / 42km run
Why it makes the bucket list: Setting the stage for multiple world records over the years, Roth takes race day atmosphere to a whole other level

Daniela Ryf fist pump finish line Challenge Roth 2023
Daniela Ryf celebrates her amazing new record time [Photo credit: Challenge Roth]

With 40 years of triathlon history, Roth has set the stage for multiple long distance world records. From those set by legends in the sport such as Paula Newby-Fraser, Chris McCormack, Chrissie Wellington and Jan Frodeno. To the most recent double-record breaking performances from Magnus Ditlev and Daniela Ryf in 2023.

Every year, thousands of triathlon fans line the streets of this small Bavarian town to cheer on PROs and age-groupers alike as they make their way through 140.6 km of swim-bike-run. Famous for the roaring crowds who’s energy will sweep you up solar hill, Roth is a race that’s on almost every long course triathlete’s bucket list. Entries usually sell out within seconds of going live, as triathletes the world over clamour to come and be a part of the Roth race day party.

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Lake Las Vegas T100

Location: Las Vegas, USA
Distances: 2km swim / 80km bike / 18km run
Why it makes the bucket list: Race hard, party harder with the world’s entertainment capital just 30 minutes away from the race venue.

T100 Las Vegas race location
Lake Las Vegas is a short drive away from the famous neon lights of the main Vegas strip.

Lake Las Vegas T100 is a new addition to the race calendar. But a trip to Las Vegas is bucket list-worthy in its own right. So put some swim-bike-run action on the table, with the opportunity to explore some of the striking desert landscapes of Nevada before heading towards the dazzling neon lights of Vegas. And this starts to sound like the trip of a lifetime.

The race itself is set to take place at Lake Las Vegas, a 3,600 acre resort with a 320-acre lake located a short drive away from the famous Las Vegas strip. Lake Las Vegas T100 is likely to attract a strong pro field, meaning age-groupers will have the chance to race the same course as the PROs – then watch the elites battle it out. And USA long distance PRO Sam Long is already thinking about the post-race celebrations, stating when the race was announced: “I plan on preparing to win because that will make my post-race bachelor party that much more epic!”

With the opportunity to race hard, then party harder Lake Las Vegas T100 might just be the ultimate race-cation.


Norseman Xtreme Triathlon

Location: Eidfjord, Norway
Distances: 3.8km swim / 180 km bike / 42km run
Why it makes the bucket list: Norseman is a true endurance sport adventure, that will push you to your limits.

Sebastian Kienle Norseman Triathlon 2023 Finish
German great Sebastian Kienle finished second at the Norseman Triathlon in 2023 (Photo by Alexander Koerner/Zalaris Norseman).

Given the Norseman’s main tag line is: “this is not for you”, you might wonder why every year thousands of triathletes clamour to get one of just a couple of hundred places to take part. But with its icy cold plunge from the back of a ferry, the Norseman has earned itself a legendary status in the triathlon world.

Set against the striking backdrop of Norway’s Fjordland, after a bone chilling swim athletes tackle a quad busting amount of climbing on the bike before finishing with a gruelling mountain top run. And it’s only a select few who even get the opportunity to attempt to clamber all the way to the finish line.

Over the years Norseman has attracted some of the best names in ‘mainstream’ triathlon, including 2 x Kona champion Tim DeBoom, multiple Iron-distance winner Lucy Gossage. And most recently Sebastien Kienle, who in the build up said: “I definitely am a little scared of the race, I think even the best athletes in the world look at this and say, ‘this is a little crazy’. For me it is the ultimate challenge…”

The Norseman is part triathlon, part reckoning. The ultimate adventure to find out what you’re made of. And for those that can take on the Norseman and defeat it? They’ll probably feel like they can take on the world. If daring to take on one of the world’s toughest triathlons gets your pulse racing, the Norseman should sit firmly on your triathlon bucket list.

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Challenge St Pölten

Location: St Pölten, Austria
Distances: 1.9km swim / 90km bike / 21km run
Why it makes the bucket list: Unique two-lake swim course and UNESCO World Heritage listed scenery makes this one of the most beautiful middle distance races going.

Challenge St. Pölten 2023 - Photo Credit José Luis Hourcade
Swim, bike and run your way through spectacular Austrian scenery.

Challenge St. Pölten is one of Europe’s oldest middle distance triathlons, with 20 years of history. But it makes the bucket list for its uniquely beautiful race course.

You’ll start your day with a swim in not one – but two – crystal clear lakes, with a short 200m run across the bridge of the Traisen river connecting the two. The scenery only gets better, as the bike course takes you through winding vineyards and the UNESCO World Heritage Center Wachau – a stretch of the Danube valley often referred to as one of the most beautiful river valleys in Europe.


Escape from Alcatraz

Location: San Francisco, USA
Distances: 1.5 mile swim / 0.5 mile ‘warm up’ run / 18 mile bike / 8 mile run
Why it makes the bucket list: a gruelling challenge that’ll earn you some serious kudos with fellow triathletes.

Ben Kanute Escape from Alcatraz 2021
Ben Kanute [Photo credit: Escape from Alcatraz]

While the distances might not sound that taxing. Escape from Alcatraz – as you might guess from its jail break-inspired name – is notoriously tough. Athletes start their day by plunging off the back of a passenger ferry into 55 degree Fahrenheit (just under 13 degree Celsius) waters, before battling against extremely strong currents to try and make their way back to shore.

The reward? A half mile ‘warm up’ run before they have to mount their bikes and take on a brutally hilly bike course. Last on the agenda is an 8 mile, multi terrain run. Leg-sapping sections along the beach are backed up by the infamous ‘sand ladder’ cliff steps.

That might all sound pretty horrendous. But by virtue of being one of triathlon’s toughest races, Escape from Alcatraz has earned itself a spot on many-a triathlete’s bucket list. So much so that amateur athletes have to enter a lottery draw to have a hope of getting a spot.

And now that Alcatraz is a stop on the T100 World Tour, those making their Escape can expect to see some seriously cool PRO racing action – as well as earning themselves some serious kudos for taking on this next-level test of toughness.

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Alpe d’Huez Triathlon

Location: Bourg d’Oisans, France
Distances (long distance race): 2.2km swim / 118km bike / 20km run
Why it makes the bucket list: Test your limits as you scale the famous 21 bends of Alpe d’Huez

Leon Chevalier at Alpe D’Huez in 2021

Continuing on with the extreme triathlon theme – because triathletes are, if nothing else, a glutton for self-punishment. Alpe d’Huez triathlon is one of the most iconic races in Europe. Mainly thanks to the opportunity to ride up the famous 21 bends of Alpe d’Huez – and prove you’re made of tougher stuff by celebrating with challengingly hilly mixed terrain run. Add in the altitude, and this is a seriously challenging race.

The difficulty is only outweighed by the spectacular beauty. With the race starting in the heart of the Alps, you can expect plenty of amazing scenery to distract you from quite how much your legs are burning.


Noosa Triathlon

Location: Noosa, Queensland, Australia
Distances: 1.5km swim / 40km bike / 10km run
Why it makes the bucket list: A trip to Australia’s sunshine coast to experience the atmosphere at the world’s biggest Olympic triathlon.

Ashleigh Gentle winning her 10th Garmin Noosa Triathlon title in 2023
Ashleigh Gentle wins her 10th Noosa Tri Crown [Photo Credit – Korupt Vision]

Taking place on the sunshine coast of Australia, Noosa Triathlon has boomed in popularity since its inception in 1983 and now holds claim to the title of the world’s biggest Olympic distance triathlon.

The obvious draw is the sun, sea and beach vibes. But what makes Noosa so special is the festival of triathlon atmosphere which sees tens of thousands of spectators turn out in support. It’s no surprise that it’s an event consistently ranked in the global top 10 by triathletes. It’s a favourite with some of the world’s best PROs as well. Aussie star Ashleigh Gentle has taken the win every year since 2014, meanwhile Olympic hopeful Hayden Wilde took the win in 2023 and set a new course record while he was at it.

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Ibiza T100

Location: Ibiza, Balearic Islands
Distances: 2km swim / 80km bike / 18km run
Why it makes the bucket list: Swim, bike, run, relax. Part race, part vacation in a Balearic paradise.

Jan Frodeno / Kristian Blummenfelt PTO European Open 2023 Ibiza
Race, watch some of the world’s top PROs then relax on the beach. [Photo credit PTO / Darren Wheeler]

Part race, part vacation. Ibiza might have a reputation of being a destination reserved for those looking to rave all night, rather than swim-bike-run all day. But this beautiful Balearic Island has so much more to offer than just a lively party scene. Away from the pulsing night club scene of San Antonio, you’ll find a surprisingly serene Mediterranean vibe. The UNESCO-listed Ibiza old town is all cobbled streets, historic culture and boutique restaurants. Sun-soaked beaches and crystal-clear waters adorn the shoreline. And the T100 age group race is the ultimate way to really explore what Ibiza has to offer beyond the party scene. Swim, bike, run – then relax. Let the exciting 100km race format be the ultimate start to your island getaway.


IRONMAN Lanzarote

Location: Lanzarote, Canary Islands
Distances: 3.8km swim / 180km bike / 42km run
Why it makes the bucket list: Ticking off one of the hardest IRONMAN-branded races on the circuit says “I mean business.”

Lydia Dant wins IRONMAN Lanzarote 2023 [Photo credit: James Mitchell / Club La Santa IRONMAN Lanzarote]
Lydia Dant wins IRONMAN Lanzarote 2023 [Photo credit: James Mitchell / Club La Santa IRONMAN Lanzarote]

Lanzarote has become the ultimate training ground for triathletes. With punchy climbs, punishing wind and heat to contend with, it’s become the training camp destination of choice for PROs and age-groupers alike, looking to toughen up ready for race season.

It’s also the home to one of the longest-standing IRONMAN races in Europe, and it’s become an iconic feature in the race calendar with its lava fields and a UNESCO biosphere reserve. A brutally hilly bike course is made even tougher by the notorious cross winds. If Kona is your ultimate ambition – a finish at Lanzarote is the ultimate way to prepare. And the fun doesn’t stop on the run, with twists, turns and elevation to tackle as the sun beats down. But, as you take on this incredibly challenging M Dot race, you’ll have the support of the crowds who famously come out in droves to line the course.

A Lanzarote finisher shirt really does say: “I mean business.”

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Helvellyn Triathlon

Location: Lake District, UK
Distances: 1.5km swim / 59km bike / 15km run
Why it makes the bucket list: the UK’s toughest – and probably most scenic – triathlon, taking in the spectacular views and the spectacularly gruelling climbs of the Lake District.

Alistair Brownlee Helvellyn TRi photo Chris Sansom
Alistair Brownlee at the Helvellyn Tri in 2023 [Photo credit: Chris Sansom]

Taking place in the UK’s stunningly beautiful Lake District, Helvellyn Triathlon is a race which sits at the top of many triathletes’ bucket list. Starting with a swim in Ullswater, athletes will then go up against the infamous ‘Struggle’ climb on the bike and finish with a run up and down Helvellyn mountain. It’s a race that has attracted some of the top PROs over the years, including Joe Skipper, Nikki Bartlett, Lucy Gossage, recent Miami T100 champion India Lee, and Alistair Brownlee.

In fact, Brownlee has history with Helvellyn having won the race as a junior in 2007 – returning to take the win against as one of the world’s greatest elites in 2020. And now The Brownlee Foundation has taken over the race, competitors can participate knowing that any profit from the events will be used by the Foundation to help youngsters get into the triathlon.  

An epic challenge with incredible scenery and backed by a good cause makes Helvellyn Triathlon a definite bucket list race.


None of those capturing your imagination? You can check out our Let’s Race… guides to start working on your own triathlon bucket list.

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Jenny Lucas-Hill
Written by
Jenny Lucas-Hill
Jenny Lucas-Hill is a writer, content creator and communications professional. A long-distance triathlon enthusiast, she has three full Iron-distance finishes to date & also loves watching the sport.

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