Get Planning: the Ultimate Bucket List Destinations to Visit

Hikers on the South Kiabab trail, South Rim, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
Hikers on the South Kiabab trail, South Rim, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona | © Whit Richardson / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Josephine Platt
Commissioning Editor31 March 2021

With the rules around international travel changing on a daily basis, the next few months are full of uncertainty. But don’t let that stop you forward planning – stay curious with our ultimate round-up of places to go.

Victoria Falls, Zambia

Do go chasing waterfalls – all the way to Zambia. Victoria Falls, on the Zambezi River, is one of the seven natural wonders of the world, and at 1,708m (5,604ft) wide, it’s also the world’s largest sheet of falling water. It might not be the tallest – Angel Falls in Venezuela nabs that accolade – but it is one of the most dramatic waterfalls in the world.

Victoria Falls is one of the seven natural wonders of the world | © dbimages / Alamy Stock Photo

Uyuni Salt Flat, Bolivia

Ask anyone who’s been to South America for their highlight – and you’ll be told about the Uyuni Salt Flat. This natural formation, in Bolivia, is the world’s largest salt flat at 11,000sqm (118,400sq ft). Iin prehistoric times, it was actually a saltwater lake. Time your visit during the wet season that runs from January to April.

Salar de Uyuni, in Bolivia, is the world’s largest salt flat | © Stefano Paterna / Alamy Stock Photo

Denali National Park, Alaska

Snow-capped mountains, glaciers, alpine trees and freshwater lakes – Alaska is the ultimate destination to clear the cobwebs and take some time to “find” yourself. Denali National Park and Preserve is especially beautiful, as it’s home to North America’s tallest mountain peak. Polish up your hiking boots, pack light and spend a few days adventuring.

Denali National Park is the perfect antidote to a hectic life | © Westend61 GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo

Table Mountain, Cape Town

Wonderful natural formations with vantage points are a theme of bucket-list destinations. At an elevation of more than 1,000m (3,280ft), Table Mountain in Cape Town fits the bill. Here, you’ll see views of South Africa’s capital, and you can reach it on foot or via a five-minute cable car.

Table Mountain is a must-visit destination in Cape Town | © PAUL MARSHALL / Alamy Stock Photo

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

The Grand Canyon is a classic bucket list destination. Each year for the last seven years, it has seen its visitor count increase by about two million – all with the same idea of seeing first-hand what millions of years of geology look like. The best time to plan your trip around? Sunrise or sunset throughout the year, but avoid high summer when it gets particularly busy .

The Grand Canyon is a classic bucket-list destination | © Pere Sanz / Alamy Stock Photo

Coober Pedy, Australia

Australia is 70 percent outback – and Coober Pedy, in South Australia, is one such place to experience it. This small town has been dubbed the “world’s strangest town” – with much of life happening underground, it is where most of the world’s opal comes from. Learn all about it the Umoona Opal Mine & Museum, before spending the night in a modern dugout.

Coober Pedy has been dubbed the ‘world’s strangest town’ | © Bella Falk / Alamy Stock Photo

Lake Bled, Slovenia

Lake Bled, in the Julian Alps, about 55km (34mi) from Slovenia’s capital of Ljubljana, is about as picture-perfect as it gets, and it doesn’t matter what angle you look at it from, it sits in the most dramatic, utterly unspoilt scenery – perfect for any amateur photographers out there. It’s like something out of a fairytale.

Lake Bled, in Slovenia, is a picture-perfect destination | © Mint Images Limited / Alamy Stock Photo

Sintra, Portugal

Another fairytale location, Sintra, on the Portuguese Riviera near Lisbon, is a beautiful town frozen in time. Romanticist architecture dominates, with the Unesco-protected 19th-century Pena Palace – considered one of Portugal’s seven wonders – the visual highlight of visiting. On a clear day, you can see Libson from the palace.

Pena Palace makes Sintra a fairytale destination | © John Baran / Alamy Stock Photo

Easter Island, Chile

A tiny speck in the Pacific Ocean, Easter Island, known as Rapa Nui by the indigenous population, is really a trip you’ll only make once in your lifetime. This Chilean territory takes about two days to reach, with flights from the Chilean capital of Santiago only. Once here, you’ll be able to discover the largest group of upright moai – some 900 monumental statues created from the 13th to the 16th centuries.

There are some 900 moai statues on Easter Island, off Chile | © Rachel Kramer / Alamy Stock Photo

Mount Fuji, Japan

If you haven’t been to Japan, we’ll hedge our bets that it’s near the top of your bucket list. And we don’t blame you. When in the country, travel about 100km (62mi) southwest of Tokyo to its tallest peak, Mount Fuji. This sacred mountain is a beautiful sight, which can be hiked in about five to seven hours.

Mount Fuji dominates the Japanese landscape southwest of Tokyo | © Chris Bull / Alamy Stock Photo

Greek Islands, Greece

It’s hard to pick just one island to visit, so we’ve gone for all of them instead! Call us greedy, but why would you travel to this idyllic collection of Greek gems and not try to sample a little bit of everything? You can tailor your trip to focus on the cultural side of things, or take it easy and sample some of the best food in the world. Film lovers continue to visit in search of the ultimate Mama Mia! experience, but in reality you’ll be hearing a summer soundtrack play in your head everywhere you go.

The picturesque harbour of Loggos on Paxos, The Ionian Islands, The Greek Islands | © Ellen Rooney / Alamy Stock Photo

Tulum, Mexico

The coast of Mexico has a dreamlike quality that marks it out as a bucket list destination for many travellers. Tulum is a compact ancient city that offers something a little different from the rest of the touristy surrounding. It’s a short ride to Cancún if you want to experience a more conventional beach holiday, but combining the two makes for a once-in-a-lifetime holiday you’ll never forget.

Sacred Cenote, tulum, yucatan, Mexico | © directphoto.bz / Alamy Stock Photo

Upstate New York, USA

The city life is not for everyone, but there’s certainly something to be said for the thrill of visiting the Big Apple. A lesser-known experience here, and one we highly recommend, is taking time away from the skyscrapers to head upstate. There are quiet towns, cute places to stay and more history than you can shake a hotdog at! Visit in fall and the overwhelming burst of comforting colours will simply blow you away.

Swimming Beach, Lake George, NY | © Phil Degginger / Alamy Stock Photo

San Juan, Puerto Rico

Eat some of the best street food you’ve ever tasted, delve into the country’s history under Spanish rule and relax on the stunning El Escambrón beach. The Puerto Rican capital is full of wonderful things to do – just make sure you bring your camera to snap up all the cobblestone streets, stunning ocean views and colonial grandeur. You’ll have visit to see it for yourself.

San Juan, Puerto Rico | © Michael Dwyer / Alamy Stock Photo

Istanbul, Turkey

Foodies are in for a treat. The Turkish capital is full of world-class restaurants and delectable street food. Indulge in juicy doner meat, rummage through shops for the best Turkish delight, and bite into borek – a savoury baked snack. The history behind the city is staggering, also. Must-dos include visits to the Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace, Hagia Sophia and the Grand Bazaar.

Shops on Eakmakcilar Yokusu, a street near the University and Grand Bazaar, Istanbul, Turkey | © Ian Dagnall Commercial Collection / Alamy Stock Photo

Queenstown, New Zealand

Strap yourselves in for a trip to the “adventure capital of the world”, a party destination with tonnes of heart-racing outdoor experiences – from mountain biking to bungee jumping off the Kawarau Bridge. That’s not to say it’s all high-octane in Queenstown though. Be sure to check out the often-overlooked markets, restaurants and gardens of the town, and whatever you do, make sure you grab a Fergburger while you’re there – just prepare for the queue.

Queenstown, New Zealand | © Gin / Alamy Stock Photo

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