Last Updated June 29, 2021 6/29/2021

16 Dream Vacation Destinations

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Many of us are itching to travel, and after staying home for so long there’s a new appreciation for the ability to enjoy those dream vacations. There’s an old but very true saying – you’ll be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did. If you’re ready to stop procrastinating and finally book that bucket list-worthy trip, the options can be overwhelming but these destinations are sure to provide a getaway of a lifetime.

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Lofoten Islands, Norway
Aerial view of Reine, Lofoten islands, Norway

Lofoten Islands, Norway

One of the most scenic regions of Norway, the Lofoten Islands sit within the Arctic Circle yet enjoy warmer temperatures due to the Gulf Stream. The archipelago is filled with postcard-perfect fishing villages nestled in fjords with soaring peaks rising straight out of the sea. The breathtaking village of Reine on the island of Moskenesøya is characterized by red and white fishermen’s huts that dot the shoreline, some of which serve as vacation rentals. They’re surrounded by peaks of granite, earning Reine the reputation as the most beautiful spot in the world.

Japan
Beautiful garden in historic village of Shirakawa-go.

Japan

Japan may be well known for its bustling cities like Tokyo where towering modern skyscrapers stand next to ancient temples, but visiting its small, traditional villages can be even more memorable. Shirakawa-go and neighboring Gokayama are found in the Shogawa River Valley in the remote mountains that span from the Gifu to Toyama Prefectures. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, they’re known for their traditional gassho-zukuri farmhouses, some of which are more than 250 years old. From here it’s easy to reach hiking trails that bring views of waterfalls and impressive mountain peaks.

Croatia
View of Old Town Dubrovnik from the side of the historic harbor

Croatia

Croatia offers hundreds of beautiful islands and more than a thousand miles of coastline making it ideal for beach and water lovers, with plenty of opportunities for secluded swims in turquoise waters. The country is also renowned for its centuries-old villages and cities like medieval Dubrovnik with its walled Old City being especially alluring. One can explore landmarks like Gothic Rector’s Palace, now a history museum, and one of Europe’s oldest still active pharmacies which dates back to 1317. It’s also possible to walk atop the defensive stone walls, taking in views of the red-tiled roofs in the historic center on one side with the sea and nearby islands on the other. Other top spots to visit include ancient Split, the islands of Hvar and Korcula, Plitvice National Park and hilltop towns like Motovun.

South Island, New Zealand
Above Queenstown, the Adventure Capital of the World, New Zealand

South Island, New Zealand

The South Island of New Zealand has the market cornered when it comes to stunning natural wonders. Glaciers, volcanoes, national parks, and “Lord of the Rings” filming sites, you’ll discover it all here. Queenstown is the world’s adventure capital with opportunities to bungee jump, parasail, take a jet boat ride, hike, bike, and much more. If you’re into wine, head to the sauvignon blanc vineyards of Marlborough. The west coast of the South Island is where you might spot little blue penguins and can marvel at the Pancake Rocks, a geological wonder where the ocean bursts through vertical blowholes during high tide like geysers.

Bali, Indonesia
Ubud, Bali

Bali, Indonesia

Bali is known for its magnificent UNESCO-listed temples, lush forested mountains with waterfalls and lakes, and sun-kissed shores with long stretches of gorgeous beaches. In recent years, it’s become known for its many Instagrammable swings where one can swing above the enchanting beauty. There’s lots of wildlife to encounter on land and in the water with everything from monkeys in Ubud’s Sacred Monkey Forest to tropical fish and sea turtles off Menjangan Island, one of the best destinations for snorkeling and diving.

South Africa
Penguins on Boulders Beach, South Africa

South Africa

If you’re looking for a mix of beach, outdoor adventure, wildlife, and wine, South Africa should top your list of dream vacation destinations. This southernmost country on the African continent offers everything from the Big Five (lion, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant and Cape buffalo) in Kruger National Park and penguins on Boulders Beach, to the rolling wine country of Stellenbosch. When it comes to the outdoors, one can hike the Drakensberg Mountains, surf Jeffreys Bay, dive at Sodwana Bay and whitewater raft on the Orange River. At Hermanus, you can even dive (protected by a cage) with great white sharks.

Patagonia, Chile and Argentina
Torres del Paine, Patagonia, Chile

Patagonia, Chile and Argentina

Patagonia is a dream, ideal for hiking, climbing, wildlife watching, and more. It stretches across Argentina and Chile at South America’s southernmost tip as one of the most remote wilderness destinations on the planet. The granite pillars of Torres del Paine on the Chile side soar for more than 6,500 feet, with miles of hiking trails that deliver breathtaking views. They wind through emerald forests, pass turquoise-hued lakes, rushing rivers, and even a glistening blue glacier. Keep an eye out for flamingos, Andean condors, the ostrich-like rhea, and guanacos, a relative of the camel.

Maldives
Dreamy island Eriyadu North Male atoll

Maldives

This island chain made up of around 1,200 tiny islands and coral atolls in the Indian Ocean are especially popular among honeymooners. The Maldives offers an enticing mix of seclusion, powdery white sand beaches, and opportunities to explore a spectacular underwater world. Snorkel or dive among a wealth of colorful fish species, sea turtles, rays, dolphins, and even whales. There are many private island resorts providing luxurious accommodation and world-class dining too.

The Greek Islands, Greece
Shipwreck Beach, Zakynthos, Greece

The Greek Islands, Greece

The Greek Islands are on just about everyone’s travel bucket list and with hundreds to choose from, you might want to consider an island-hopping excursion, starting or ending with a day in Athens, the birthplace of western civilization. While Santorini and Mykonos are some of the most popular islands, there are some fantastic less-visited options like Naxos with its gorgeous beaches, clear blue waters for swimming and mountains for hiking. Zante is a favorite, home to the famous Shipwreck Beach, while Crete offers a little bit of everything, including an amazing food and wine scene.

Iceland
Blue Lagoon near Reykjavik, Iceland

Iceland

Iceland has become one of the world’s hottest travel destinations in recent years, and for good reason. It’s a paradise for those who love the outdoors while boasting some of the most fantastical scenery on Earth. There are countless jaw-dropping waterfalls to marvel at, mountains and volcanoes to climb, lava tubes to explore, glaciers to hike on, Icelandic horses to ride, and hot springs to soak in. You can even snorkel or dive in a crack between the American and Eurasian continents at Silfra in Thingvellir National Park.

Loire Valley, France
Loire Valley

Loire Valley, France

Paris may be the quintessential city for romance, but France’s Loire Valley is renowned for its historic villages, magnificent chateaus, and picturesque vineyards that make it popular for wine touring and tasting. Stretching 175 miles along the Loire River, Chateau de Chambord is a highlight with over 400 rooms, while Chateau Chinon was the place where Joan of Arc begged the Dauphin to fight the English during the 100-Year War. Leonardo da Vinci is buried at Chateau at Amboise and his nearby former home Clos Luce contains models of some of his inventions.

Scottish Highlands
Hiking in the Highlands of Scotland

Scottish Highlands

If you’ve ever watched the television series “Outlander” you already know what awaits in the Scottish Highlands, breathtaking mountain and lake scenery along with romantic and historic castles. It’s a place where you can simply immerse yourself in beauty, hike scenic trails, or discover rich history. If it gets chilly out, a shot of whisky is never far away to warm you up.

Ireland
scenic drive on the Dingle Peninsula

Ireland

The Emerald Isle is a place many dream of with its lush mountain and wind-swept Atlantic coast views. There are castles and castle hotels that can be found throughout, along with lively pubs where one enjoy a pint of Guinness while listening to traditional music or mingling with the locals. It boasts a burgeoning foraged food movement too, something that’s been attracting many from across the globe.

Kauai, Hawaii
Na Pali Coast, Kauai

Kauai, Hawaii

Kauai, the ‘Garden Island,’ is known for its many gardens and waterfalls, as well as its colorful rugged stretch of coastline called the Nāpali Coast. One of the world’s most breathtaking natural wonders, it can’t be reached by car, but one can hike an ancient 11-mile trail that reveals the sight of the sheer cliffs that plunge down to the Pacific. If you’re not up for the challenge, it can be viewed on a boat trip or flightseeing excursion.

Banff National Park - Alberta, Canada
Moraine Lake, Banff National Park, Alberta

Banff National Park - Alberta, Canada

One of the most stunning national parks in Canada, Banff is known for its jewel-like lakes, with Lake Moraine a standout featuring an extraordinary shade of blue and a backdrop of dramatic mountain peaks. One can enjoy it all while taking part in outdoor activities like hiking and biking or watch for wildlife with everything from caribou and elk to black and grizzly bears. In town, the main thoroughfare is lined with boutiques, souvenir shops, restaurants and château-style hotels.

Amalfi Coast, Italy
Positano

Amalfi Coast, Italy

Italy’s Amalfi Coast is known for its clifftop villages, luxury hotels, postcard-perfect beaches, and idyllic islands like Capri. One can visit Roman ruins like Villa Romana which dates to the 1st century BC, take a boat trip to the Blue Grotto, and haggle for bottles of limoncello in Sorrento’s Old Town, famous for producing the product from Sorrento lemons. Don’t miss pretty Positano, built on the face of a cliff, it features colorful pastel homes and fabulous medieval architecture.

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