What do you want to experience in your lifetime? If money was no object, travelling more would top a great many bucket lists. But strip away the excuses, and how many of us actually do it?
One reason for this might be that with so much to see and do in the world, it’s hard to know where to start. The bright lights of New York City and sprawling Great Wall of China feature on a great many to-do lists, but there’s so much to see and experience that some absolutely must-see gems go largely unacknowledged.
We’ve narrowed down ten ultimate bucket list destinations, so here they are:
Witness the Northern Lights
Nature’s own magnificent light show, the aurora borealis, is a treasure best experienced from the northerly coast of Norway.
Set against a backdrop of snow-capped mountains, there’s no more humbling or mysterious sight than the gently twisting multi-coloured display.
And as Senior NASA Scientists predict the current period of solar maximum activity will reach a new peak in December 2013, there’s no better time than this winter to witness this brilliant spectacle.
Safari on Elephant-back
Set in the shadow of the magnificent Himalayan Mountains, and home to eight of the world’s ten highest peaks, Nepal is a trekker’s heaven.
But it’s also home to subtropical lowlands; rich areas of forestry accommodating spectacular wildlife, from spotted dear and rare birds to rhinos, leopards and tigers. Chitwan National Park runs elephant-back jungle safaris where travellers have the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get up close and personal with these phenomenal jungle creatures.
Fiddle, Feast, Dance & Drink
“Fiddling, feasting, dancing, drinking, masking, and other things which may be had for asking” so Lord Byron described it. The annual Carnevale di Venezia is an extravaganza of Venetian culture played out over seventeen days.
A celebration of local historical tradition, the festival harks back to the 12th century and is characterised by fantastical masks and costumes, adopted to allow the Venetian people to assume a different persona.
Most events take place in Piazza San Marco, from concerts to large masked balls building up to the grand dance on the carnival’s final evening.
Be Part of the Shibuya Scramble
Probably one of the most iconic images in East Asia, the Shibuya crossing is a must-see for anyone visiting Japan.
Once you’ve experienced the Shibuya ‘scramble’ as traffic turns to a mass of pedestrians when the lights change, there are a plethora of shops stocking cutting-edge Tokyo fashion, or head into the bustling Food Show for an array of Japanese gourmet treats.
Get Your Kicks
There’s only one way to travel across America in the ultimate style. Route 66 – which runs from Chicago to LA – is a veritable hotbed of American culture. From the ‘Heartland’ Midwest right through to Hollywood, the length of time you choose to spend meandering the Mother Road is variable; end to end it’s a 4-day straight trip but to get the full experience you’ll need at least double this.
For the road-trip-of-a-lifetime, take at least two weeks, factoring in the opportunity for side trips to the Grand Canyon, Las Vegas and Santa Fe Loop, to name but a few…
Deep-Sea Dive in the Maldives
The idyllic Maldivian Islands are set in the crystal clear depths of the Laccadive Sea. The perfect place to go deep-sea diving, this tropical paradise is home to over a thousand species of fish and underwater creatures, and where over 3,000 coral reefs have formed.
Explore the Son Doong
It’s difficult to imagine that until 2009, the world’s largest cave could go unnoticed by the civilised world. Vietnam’s 5.5 mile treasure trove, the Son Doong, is about to go public for the first time since its discovery. Visitors can take guided tours to witness magnificent 250ft stalagmites and gigantic rimstone pools.
Only around 20,000 people per year get to experience the enchanting Antarctic Circle in all its pristine glory. It’s a unique privilege to tour such an unspoilt landscape inhabited by a plethora of extraordinary wildlife, including five seal species, massive penguin rookeries, and seabirds from albatross to skuas.
Follow the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu
Deemed the ‘Lost Cities’, the Incan built structure of Machu Picchu in the Cusco region of Peru, remained undiscovered to the outside world until 1911.
Abandoned in the Spanish Conquest 500 years ago, many who have witnessed this 550-year-old archaeological site have described the experience as magical. But with concern over the pressures of too many tourists building, it’s prime time to experience this enchanting settlement before restrictions are placed.
Become a Spaceman
Last but by no means least, outer space has to be the ultimate in bucket list destinations. At $250,000, Virgin Galactic’s seats to space don’t come cheap, so if an inter-galactic mission is on your hit list it’s probably time to get saving.
So whether you want to be under the sea or blasted into space, the world holds a wealth of wonders for the keen traveller. What do you think? Have we covered the top ten bucket list destinations or have we missed off some simply unmissable treasures?
About the author: Laura Moulden is a travel writer for IFE Services. When she’s not travelling to or blogging about far-flung destinations, you can usually find her reading fantasy novels or watching consecutive box-sets of American TV.