Where to Get the Biggest Bang for Your Buck-et List
Knock out multiple bucket list items with a trip to these unforgettable destinations in the U.S. and around the world.
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If exploring the wilds of Africa is on your bucket list, then consider a trek to Tanzania. Located in eastern Africa on the Indian Ocean, Tanzania is home to the continent’s largest freshwater lake — Lake Victoria — and its highest mountain — Mount Kilimanjaro — plus the amazing ruins of Kilwa Kisiwani and Songo Mnara and Serengeti National Park. The Serengeti region — which encompasses the Serengeti National Park, the Ngorongoro Conservation Area and other controlled areas and reserves — is most famous for its yearly migration. Over a million wildebeest and about 200,000 zebras move south for the short rainy season in October and November and then back west and north in April, May and June. Take a safari through this region for the ride of your life.
In Iceland, you can see the stunning northern lights, which are most visible from October to March, when summer’s midnight sun gives way to fully dark nights again. But Iceland’s marvels aren’t limited to its colorful night sky. A slew of natural wonders awaits the traveler year-round, from lava fields and black sandy beaches to lagoons, three spectacular national parks, geysers and glaciers. These wonders include the Blue Lagoon, a geothermal pool that is used for spa and therapeutic treatments. Intrepid souls can even find adventure on their dinner plates. Try Hákarl, if you dare. Iceland’s traditional fermented shark dish is prepared by pressing and drying the Greenland shark, which when unprepared is toxic to humans.
Continual construction from the 3rd century B.C. to the 17th century A.D. created the more than 20,000 kilometers that make up the Great Wall of China. Built for China’s military defense along its border, travelers from all over the world journey to hike along the top of the Great Wall. Back in Beijing, the history of China’s capital stretches three millennia. Get your fill of the culture at Tiananmen Square pedestrian plaza or the National Museum of China. China also offers a variety of historical sites, including palaces and tombs of the Ming and Qing Dynasties.
France’s Eiffel Tower, the Louvre and Notre Dame Cathedral are traditional bucket list hotspots, but don’t forget to venture outside of Paris’ arrondissements. The Palace and Park of Versailles and the Decorated Cave of Pont d’Arc, which has the oldest known and best preserved figurative drawings in the world, should make the list too. Then head to the lavender fields of Provence, which bloom from June to August. From the Luberon region, follow the lavender up around Mont-Ventoux and into the areas of Sault and Valréas. While in Provence, tour Notre-Dame de Sénanque Abbey, a community of Cistercian Monks, where in the summer the lavender fields stretch up to the door.
Opt for the Oceania region to experience famous natural wonders, like The Great Barrier Reef, and extreme adventures. A journey Down Under also offers breathtaking scenery, unusual wildlife and surfing. Charming seaside towns can be visited along the Great Ocean Road. Tasmania’s Bay of Fires conservation area also offers beautiful scenery with over 50 kilometers of white sandy beaches and incredibly clear water from Binalong Bay in the South to Eddystone Point in the North.
If bungee jumping is on your to-do list, then take the plunge to New Zealand, the home of the original bungee jump off Kawarau Bridge near Queenstown in the southwestern part of the country’s South Island. While on the South Island, take a hike on the 71-kilometer Queen Charlotte Track along the northern coast or explore scenery in the Southern Alps that is straight out of the “Lord of the Rings” films. Head to the North Island to check out the colorful and bubbling Champagne Pool geothermal spring, rafting and even more “Lord of the Rings” locations.
The famous running of the bulls has drawn spectators and thrill-seekers to Spain for years. If witnessing the centuries-old tradition is on your list, head to Pamplona in early July. While you’re in the area, be sure to see the beautiful Gothic architecture at Burgos Cathedral in the city of Burgos, or journey to the Roman Walls of Lugo, the finest example of late Roman fortifications in western Europe.
Jordan and Israel
Partially built and partially carved into the rock, the ancient city of Petra in Jordan is one of the world's most famous archaeological sites. Blending ancient Eastern traditions and Hellenistic architecture, Petra is a must-see. From Petra, head north to the Dead Sea. With banks that sit more than 400 meters below sea level, the Dead Sea is famously salty, making floating easy. The water and mud are considered therapeutic, and the mud is often used for treatments at area resorts. West of the Dead Sea, cross into Israel and discover the ancient and holy city of Jerusalem, home of the Temple Mount, a sacred site for Christianity, Judaism and Islam.
Surrounded by diverse plants and animals, the Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu high in the mountains of Peru is an archaeological treasure and a testament to the achievements of the Inca civilization. Situated between the Amazon Basin and the Peruvian Andes, the Incas’ 600-year-old city of Machu Picchu is carved into the mountainside and includes more than 200 structures. Next, come down out of the mountains for a glimpse of the geoglyphs of Nasca and the pampas of Jumana. Found within a 450-square-kilometer area, these enigmatic carvings in the ground are thought to be as much as 2,500 years old and may have been used in astronomy and other rituals.
Visiting all of the national parks in the United States is quite a feat, but in Utah, you can easily hit five in one trip: Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Bryce Canyon and Zion. Then travel to the southeastern corner of the state for the opportunity to stand at Four Corners, where Utah meets with Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico. Combine that with all of the opportunities to ski, and you’ll find Utah is chock full of adventure. Additional reporting by Shannon Adams.