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With so many amazing places around the world, we’ve all lost time experiencing them due to COVID-19. When we can finally break free from quarantine and travel internationally again, where should you go? After realizing that time is quickly slipping away, many of us will want to book that trip we’ve been putting off for years and finally make it happen. These dream destinations can all provide that ultimate bucket list experience.
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The scenic Lofoten archipelago lies within the Arctic Circle and while it may no longer be a best-kept secret, it’s a place everyone should experience at least once. Thanks to the Gulf Stream, the area isn’t as chilly as you might think and you’ll find idyllic fishing villages that are nestled in the fjords and a rugged coastline with dramatic peaks rising straight out of the sea. One of the most scenic destinations in Norway, the best way to enjoy it all is to stay in one of the cozy red fisherman’s cabins, built along the seashore or over stilts, surrounded by calm sapphire waters. Under the Midnight Sun of summer, you’ll be able to gaze out at the beauty throughout the day.
The Dead Sea is the world’s lowest spot at 1,312 feet below sea level, containing 10 times more saline than seawater, which is why it makes humans float like corks. It’s also filled with naturally therapeutic sea minerals – even Cleopatra and her Egyptian friends used to come here to slather themselves with the nutrient-rich mud, enjoying all sorts of health benefits, but experts believe it could totally disappear within the next half-century. It’s sunk more than 80 feet, reduced by a third over the last 40 years. While it borders both Jordan and Israel, from the Israel side you can easily visit the ancient Masada fortress and the cool water hiking trails in Ein Gedi National Park, while Jerusalem is just a short drive away.
Iceland is a bucket-list country for many travelers despite being relatively unknown to tourists just a decade or so ago. Its breathtaking scenery with everything from black sand beaches and countless waterfalls to glaciers and volcanic mountains was revealed to the world in a number of films like “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.” It offers a wide range of outdoor adventures too, including hiking, climbing, caving, horseback riding, mountain biking, sea kayaking, surfing and skiing, just to name a few. And, these days, flights from the U.S. to the Icelandic capital are fairly cheap.
While Bali is a long-haul trip, once you arrive you’ll be able to enjoy luxury accommodation and mouthwatering cuisine at budget-friendly prices. It offers something for everyone, whether you want partying and nightlife, surfing, secluded beaches and romance, abundant wildlife, waterfalls, or all of the above. Once you’re there, you can take advantage of short, cheap flights to reach one of the less-visited islands, like Sumba. Under an hour’s flight from Bali, it’s wild, remote, and you’ll see few other tourists. Hike to waterfalls, enjoy snorkeling or surfing off the shores of idyllic beaches and explore local villages home to some of the friendliest people on the planet.
Chiang Mai offers a much more laid-back option as compared to busy Bangkok, with only about an eighth of its population, meaning none of the smog or chaos. As it sits at a higher altitude, it’s also cooler and less humid. But visitors will find just as much history and culture to explore – the city is over 700 years old and is home to more than 300 temples that date all the way back to the 13th century. It’s also home to the Elephant Nature Park, a sanctuary where you can spend the day feeding, bathing and playing with elephants.
South Africa offers exotic wildlife, gorgeous scenery, lots of thrilling recreational activities, world-class cuisine, intriguing history and much more. It’s an ideal safari destination, home to one of the best wildlife watching places in the world: Kruger National Park. There you can spot the famous Big 5, lions, leopards, buffaloes, and rhinos, along with many other creatures like giraffes and wildebeest. The landscapes are spectacular and diverse with everything from vast stretches of desert to subtropical coast and towering mountains. From Cape Town, you’ll be just a short drive from the famous wine country region, the Cape Winelands, and the penguin colony at Boulders Beach on the Cape Peninsula.
Often ranked as one of the best islands in the world, Santorini is famous for its breathtaking sunsets and dramatic landscapes. The village of Oia with its whitewashed buildings and blue-domed churches spilling over the cliffs is considered the prime spot for sunset-watching over the caldera, but there’s lots more to see, like the ancient settlement of Akrotiri that was preserved under ash following the massive volcanic eruption that occurred some 3,500 years ago. Like Pompeii, it remains frozen in time. The island is also home to colorful beaches like Red beach, natural hot springs and vineyards.
The beautiful medieval walled city of Dubrovnik has lots to offer with its historic center filled with winding streets paved in marble, impressive Renaissance palaces and one of the oldest pharmacies in Europe, founded in 1317 as an in-house pharmacy for Franciscan friars. It’s also become famous as one of the most captivating “Game of Thrones” filming sites. You’ll find idyllic beaches framed by crystal-clear blue water along with plenty of intriguing day trips for hiking in the mountains or discovering the many islands nearby like the sparsely populated islands of Kolocep, Lopud or Sipan.
The Maldives is the lowest-lying country in the world, with its highest elevation less than eight feet. If climate change continues to melt the ice caps and raise sea levels, it’s nearly 1,200 small islands and atolls in the Indian Ocean will disappear, something expected to occur within 20 to 50 years, which means you’ll want to visit well before it’s too late. Enjoy snorkeling or diving among vibrant coral reefs home to tropical fish and roughly 250 manta rays, and basking on powdery white sand beaches. There are hundreds of postcard-perfect islands to choose from and plenty of resorts, many offering accommodations in beach huts or overwater bungalows.
The Amazon Rainforest, the world’s largest tropical rainforest is spread over Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, French Guiana, Guyana, Peru, Suriname, Venezuela and Ecuador. It’s home to roughly 20 percent of the bird species on Earth and 427 mammals. As massive as it is, forestation, climate change and other factors mean that it could be gone within 50 years. Ecuador is one of the best places to experience it with multiple parks and reserves that have been established to protect the fragile ecosystem, each offering its own unique attractions.
A one-of-a-kind destination situated 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands are a microcosm of evolution that provides some of the most incredible up-close-wildlife encounters in the world. Many of the animals have never learned to fear humans, which means you can snorkel right alongside iguanas and sea lions and walk quietly among the Galapagos giant tortoise. Galapagos penguins, blue-footed boobies and flightless cormorants can all be seen too.
The Antarctic Peninsula is the most-visited region of the Antarctica continent, one of the world’s last remaining true frontiers. Jagged mountain peaks with glaciers flow down to the sea while the skies are vast and the icebergs are enormous, but this land is also slowly disappearing, with 40 percent less sea ice than it used to contain, and in just 20 to 40 years, there may be no ice at all. The ice acts as a nursery for krill which serves as the food for whales, the Weddell seal and Adelie penguin populations. Most people visit via a small ship cruise from Ushuaia, a town in Argentina’s Tierra del Fuego archipelago.
The Emerald Isle is a magical place that everyone should visit at least once. Viewing that quintessential scenery with brilliant green rolling hills dotted with sheep and divided by stone fences is far more impressive in person than what you see in photos. You’ll also find fairytale-like castles to explore, and even spend the night in, soaring mountains to hike and sparkling lakes to paddle across. Spend your evenings enjoying the famous craic with live tunes in the pubs where the Guinness is always flowing, and, anywhere you go here you’ll have the chance to meet some of the friendliest people on the planet.
Cinque Terre is made up of five towns that lie along the Ligurian coast in northern Italy. Each one is just as stunning as the other, like Manarola with its brightly painted home carved right into an impenetrable wall of stone. As there are no cars here you’ll enjoy total tranquility while sipping the region’s famously tasty wine paired with equally delicious cuisine while gazing out at the scenery.