Everyone has their own unique travel bucket list. It could be to see family in Australia that you’ve never visited, or walk around a city that you’ve only ever seen through a television screen. However, there are some places in the world that simply cannot be missed. Here are 21 places that you must see- feel free to add your own in the comments section.
Northern Lights, Iceland
Forget Blackpool Illuminations, this is the world’s most beautiful light show, and it’s all completely natural. It happens when solar wind particles collide with air molecules, transferring energy into light. You can see them in Sweden, Finland, Norway and even Canada but our favourite place to go is Iceland. It’s a beautiful volcanic island and it is very affordable for visitors to travel to with Easyjet. You can stay in cosmopolitan Reykjavik, before heading out on a trip to see the lights.
So many unique creatures call the Galápagos Islands home. Located in Ecuador, you won’t find the majority of the creatures anywhere else in the world. However, the islands are no tropical paradise- the terrain is more moon-like than beachy. You can get there via daily boat trips from Islas Santa Cruz. Between June and December is when you will see the most active sea mammals and land birds.
Machu Picchu is one of the world’s most important sites. The ruins that we see today were once palaces and temples, built by the Inca people in the early 16th Century. We have no written record of why it was created, which makes visiting the area even more astounding. The city sits on a high peak and it can get very busy, so try to visit early in the morning to beat the crowds. Day trips are available from across Peru.
You’re probably thinking: huh? But it’s true, New England is a place you have to visit. If you choose one time of year to go, make it Autumn/Fall. The leaves turn a crisp shade of red and the area becomes an autumnal wonderland. New England is made up of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont. Visit around Thanksgiving to experience Turkey Day in the finest environment.
The Amazon river streams through eight countries; Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana and Suriname. It’s home to 30,000 plant species, 1,300 bird species, 311 mammals and 1,800 fish. It is possible to organise a trip to the Amazon yourself, but weather and flight cancellations can cause chaos, so it may be easier to book through a UK tour operator. May to June is an ideal time to visit to sail through the flooded forest, but the drier months are ideal for hikers.
Angkor Wat, Cambodia
Angkor Wat is an iconic temple in Cambodia and a UNESCO World Heritage site. The temple faces West, which has led some historians to believe that it was formerly a tomb. It has over 3000 heavenly nymphs carved into the walls, which are in the process of being restored after years of bat urine wore away the finish. The dimensions of the temple are designed to replicate classic Hindu thought, so a visitor who walks from the causeway, through the courtyards and to the main tower is travelling back (metaphorically) to the creation of the universe.
Serengeti Migration, Tanzania
In 1972, when United Nations delegates came together to decide World Heritage Sites, the Serengeti came top of the list and it’s still a magnificent national park today. The area is famous for lions but is better known for the yearly migration, where wildebeest (1.5 million of them) are accompanied by 20,000 zebras on a race across the park. The cycle begins between January and March when the calves are born, but when the land dries in May the herd heads for the Maasai Mara, before making their way back to the Serengeti in October. It’s a truly spectacular sight that cannot be missed- the herd faces incredible danger from lions to crocodiles, so the journey is by no means simple.
Whale watching in Norway
There are many great places around the world to see whales, but Norway is a particular highlight. Between November and January is a good time to see orcas and humpbacks following the migrating herring. You’ll be able to see other types of whales around the year, but this is the best time as you will see them hunting naturally. Lots of tour operators have ‘whale safaris’ where you can follow the whales. One tip: don’t get too caught up in taking the perfect photo, or you may just miss the best moments.
The Taj Mahal
The Taj Mahal is possibly the world’s most romantic building. It was built in the 16th Century by Shah Jahan, the Mughal emperor, as a tomb for his favourite wife. The building is made of stunning white marble and is considered to be a world heritage masterpiece. It can be found in the bustling Indian city of Agra, making it a peaceful place to escape and gather your thoughts, no doubt as Shah Jahan did himself.
The Grand Canyon
They don’t call it the ‘Grand’ Canyon for nothing. It’s so big that only a small bit of the canyon’s 277 miles can be seen. At the bottom, there are rocks that have been laid there for 1.8 billion years. Almost five million people travel here each year, but you don’t need to be part of a tour. There is a mobile phone audio guide, with a phone number to call at various points for an audio description of what you are looking at.
The area of the Himalayas is most well known for Mount Everest, the largest and most daunting mountain in the world. However, in Sanskrit, the snowy peaks serve a different purpose; they’re home to varied species of wildlife including the rare snow leopard. The Himalayas begin in Pakistan and stretch all the way across to China in the East. There are several entry points including Kathmandu, Delhi and Islamabad, with the latter being a less safe option due to unrest in Pakistan.
Great Barrier Reef, Australia
The Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest coral reef, containing 3000 individual reef systems and thousands of marine life. There are many different ways to enjoy the reef; snorkelling, cruise ship tours, glass bottomed boats or swimming with dolphins. It’s also the only living thing on Earth that you can see from space. If that doesn’t make you want to visit, what will?
Antarctica contains 90% of the world’s ice within an area which is just one and a half times bigger than the United States. So it’s cold. There’s no vegetation, no signs of human life (besides the small amount of people based at research stations) and just penguins, whales, seals and fish to keep you company. The lowest temperature in the world (-89.6 degrees celsius) was recorded here.
When you think of Japan, you think of Tokyo, but the truth is that Japan has so much more to offer than that. To see all of the things that you find symbolic of the country, such as cherry blossom trees, temples and geishas, head to Kyoto, a peaceful region where traditional Japanese culture has been left untouched, unlike much of Tokyo.
USA Road Trip
OK, less of a place to see and more places, plural. There is no better place for a road trip than the open roads of the USA, whether you find yourself cruising down the Pacific Coast Highway or following the old Route 66 towards the South. Remember to make plenty of stops along the way and not just for the main tourist sights- the more off the beaten track you go, the more unusual things you are likely to see.
Great Wall of China
This piece of ancient architecture is the longest wall in the world. It’s also so much more than that- it takes in the amazing scenery along the way from stunning mountains to rugged countryside. It has a history of over 2000 years and it was built by many dedicated workers, some of whom sadly died for their craft. Today, you can join the wall from Beijing, but be warned around 70,000 people visit each day.
Great Ocean Road
The Great Ocean Road is considered to be one of the greatest drives in the world. When you drive on it, you’ll pass surfing spots, seaside towns and canopies filled with koalas. You can access the waves of the Ocean whilst enjoying the countryside as you pass through dairy farms- it’s a true eclectic mixture. It’s a good place to go if you love adventure, as you can stop off for many daring activities such as kayaking, hiking and scuba diving.
The holiest city in the world, Jerusalem has an air of mystery about it to the rest of the world. It’s only once you step inside the city and you feel the history whispering to you from the walls that you understand the significance of the area. It’s both a religious and spiritual experience. When you visit, you’ll hear the story of a city which is still loved by people all over the world, despite its mysterious aura.
French Polynesia is so picture-perfect that it’s not at all surprising why it has become so popular with honeymooners; it’s just so damn Instagrammable. But when you step away from the camera, the area has so much more to offer. The crisp white/pink beaches are the entrance to the sparkling blue lagoons, just waiting to be explored. Bora Bora is the signature island, closely followed by Tahiti, but head to family-run lodges for a budget stay.
The second longest river in America helps to tell the country’s history. Sit in a boat and cruise along it, and you’ll understand how Mark Twain got the inspiration for Huckleberry Finn. In its time, it’s been a commercial hub as well as the neighbour of some of the country’s best farmland. Truly not one to miss.
Nothing says Christmas quite like Lapland, it is Father Christmas’ home after all. It makes an incredible holiday destination for families and couples alike. Visit reindeer, go husky sledging and pay a visit to the big man himself. I dare you to try and escape the magic of the place.