25. Aurora Borealis, Alaska
Not all destinations are physical. While you can certainly marvel at photographs, nothing beats heading north to catch this spectacular display coloring the night skies. Avoid the hassle of international travel by taking a plane to Alaska where this remote and wild location is sure to offer a stunning array of lights.
Because most tourists search for tropical locales or sites steeped in history, few have ever set foot on the icy continent. Antarctica has been described as nature untouched, and there are no five-star hotels or fine dining opportunities there. Charter a spot on an icebreaker, and carve your own path through a region others have never traveled to.
23. Ryoan-ji, Japan
Located in Kyoto, this Zen garden is considered the paragon of its form, and the temple is a World Heritage Site. The garden is carefully tended to each day by the monks and serves as the ideal spot for all of life’s contemplations.
22. Angkor Wat, Cambodia
As the largest religious monument in the world, this temple is surely fit for a God. The site is a prime example of blending cultures with its Khmer and Dravidian architectural styles and its progression from a Hindu temple to a Buddhist one.
21. Galápagos Islands
Where else can you see iguanas basking beside sea lions and giant tortoises? With a number of threatened species, visitors should tread lightly in the land that inspired Charles Darwin. While many places are protected, be wary of your footprint in this haven of biological diversity.
20. Mesa Verde, Colorado
You don’t need to go abroad to tour history. While a number of looters have absconded with this locale’s artefacts, the structures at Mesa Verde in Colorado carve out a rich and varied history of the Anasazi.
19. The Great Wall of China
Once built to keep out roving hordes, the site now attracts more hordes than it repels. An impressive feat of engineering in any time, the fact that parts of this wall were constructed as early as 7th century BCE is sure to inspire wonder.
18. Masai Mara, Kenya
Named for the Maasai people of Kenya, this reserve is notable for its healthy population of large cats and for serving as the site for the Great Migration. Go between July and October to catch these enormous herds of giraffes, zebras and gazelles, or watch one of the 470 species of birds there in flight.
17. Machu Picchu, Peru
Located in Peru, this site is often called the City of the Incas. Built around 1450 CE, the city was abandoned when the Spaniards arrived and has been a World Heritage Site since 1983.
16. The Blue Lagoon, Iceland
Iceland may sound frigid, but this geothermal spa stems from a lava formation. Located near Reykjavík, the water is a toasty 98 degrees Fahrenheit. Be prepared to shower in the communal area before and after your swim.
15. The Maldives
For those who prefer a traditional beach holiday, few places can conjure the perfect image like the Maldives. With pristine, white beaches set against sparkling turquoise, all you need is a hammock and a gentle breeze.
14. Trans-Siberian Railway, Russia, China, Mongolia and Korea
For those longing for a charming way to travel, hop aboard the Trans-Siberian Railway. Beginning in Moscow, the line terminates in Pyongyang, connecting Russia with China, Mongolia and Korea.
13. Route 66, USA
If it was good enough to inspire hopeful immigrants during the Dust Bowl, why shouldn’t you also get your kicks on Route 66? Named the Mother Road of America, you can drive the revitalized road for weeks and not see everything along the way.
12. Fallingwater, USA
A testament to the vision of Frank Lloyd Wright, the home in Pennsylvania was lauded by Time as his best work. Its integration with nature is a talking point among the architectural elite.
11. Amazon Rainforest, Brazil
With 1.7 billion acres to explore, you could spend your whole life in this one location. The forest spans nine nations and is home to a level of biodiversity that is unsurpassed.
10. Bagan, Burma
This ancient city of Burma once held over 10,000 temples, over 2000 of which remain. While the temples highlight the syncretic culture of the region, they remain faithful to many Buddhist traditions.
9. Yosemite, USA
This World Heritage Site sees millions of visitors each year for good reason. With 10 million years of geological diversity on display, Yosemite has something to offer any outdoorsy traveler.
8. Petra, Jordan
This ancient part of Jordan is famed for its architecture, carved right out of the mountain. Described as “a rose-red city half as old as time,” the location serves as a testament of the accomplishments of its former inhabitants.
7. Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, Uganda
Come face to face with something familiar in Uganda’s Impenetrable Forest. As one of the most diverse places on Earth, nearly 50% of the critically endangered mountain gorillas reside there.
6. Great Barrier Reef, Australia
Widely regarded as Australia’s most beautiful natural attraction, the Great Barrier Reef is home to a stunning array of marine life. It’s the largest coral reef in the world. You can venture out in a glass bottomed boat, go snorkelling and scuba diving or even view this magnificent reef from the air.
5. Golden Temple, India
A Sikh monument, the temple was constructed for all people to worship as equals and remains a popular site of worship today. The temple takes its name from its façade, which is overlaid with gold.
4. Venice, Italy
A truly remarkable city built on tiny islands (118 of them). When you first arrive in Venice, you’re immediately struck by how hard it must have been to construct. Make sure you take a ride on a gondola and bring along a bottle of wine to enjoy, too.
3. Angel Falls, USA
As the world’s highest waterfall, this impressive natural wonder must be seen to be believed. Because the falls are in a remote location, be prepared to travel by boat and by foot to visit.
2. Pyramids of Giza, Egypt
With a history that is equal parts fact and fiction, the mysterious pyramids serve as the final resting places of great rulers. While these structures have long since been picked over by looters, the stories they tell continue to fascinate travelers.
1. Grand Canyon, USA
The immensity of this site, visible from outer space, cannot be conveyed. With nearly 280 miles of winding paths, you can explore billions of years of geological history to your heart’s content.