Now more than ever, this world is open to the traveller, with destinations exotic and far-flung more accessible than ever. But these 10 once-in-a-lifetime experiences rise above the rest, guaranteed to spark wanderlust in even the most jaded globe-trotter.
Explore the Great Wall
Stretching more than 20,000 kilometres when you include all of its spurs and branches, the Great Wall of China truly lives up to its name. Most visitors see just a fraction of its immensity, but it’s still enough for a lifetime of memories. With sections dating back as far as the 7th century BC, the legendary defensive wall winds up, down and over some of China’s most beautiful mountain regions. The sections of wall closest to Beijing include additional attractions, including a cable car that’ll save you climbing the thousand steps to its summit.
Sail to South Georgia Island
Crowned with snow-capped peaks and positively packed with penguins, this sub-Antarctic island is one of the world’s most remote and beautiful places. It’s also home to a mind-blowing array of wildlife, including species that are either extinct or endangered virtually everywhere else. Here you’ll find fur seals thriving, as well as the wandering albatross—the world’s largest bird when measured by wingspan. Again, it’s the millions of the penguins that serve as South Georgia Island’s chief attraction, with rookeries of majestic king penguins simply breathtaking in size and scope, numbering in the hundreds of thousands at St. Andrew’s Bay and Salisbury Plain.
Watch the sun rise from the Empire State Building
This iconic skyscraper stood uncontested as the world’s tallest building for some four decades after its doors opened in 1931. The observation deck still provides unforgettable views of New York City—views that are never more impressive than at dawn. A treat reserved for the building’s first 100 visitors each morning, these lucky few get to watch the sun rise over the East River and illuminate Manhattan’s most iconic landmarks one by one.
Have a soak in the Blue Lagoon
Craving heat? Head to Iceland. (Seriously!) From streaming geysers to bubbling hot pots, this is a country rich in geothermal hotspots, and there’s no better place to soak them all in than the Blue Lagoon. Located in a lava field just outside Reykjavik, temperatures in the lagoon’s mineral-rich waters reach a toasty 39 degrees Celsius—a soothing contrast to the often-frigid air temperatures of the Icelandic capital.
Tour the Taj Mahal
Commissioned in 1632, the building of the world’s most famous tomb ultimately involved 20,000 labourers and artisans. Drawing millions of admirers every year, it’s best to visit Agra’s most photographed attraction early in the morning—the crush of tourists and the Indian heat both increase as the day progresses.
Spend the day at Machu Picchu
A true icon of the Incas, Machu Picchu is one of the world’s most beautiful sites, built amongst the clouds back in the 15th century, by that lost civilization. From the Temple of the Sun to the Room with Three Windows, you can ramble its many chambers at your own pace, but make sure to leave enough time to sit and observe and reflect on the majesty of it all. And get there early, if you can: the dawn break from the site’s famed Sun Gate is enough to leave even the most seasoned traveller utterly speechless.
Eat your way across Vancouver
Long a favourite of foodies, Vancouver is home to the authors of the 100 Mile Diet, nine seasonal farmer’s markets, and is a huge supporter of the farm-to-table movement. Take the ferry across False Creek and start at Granville Island – were you’ll find distillers, fine sake makers and breweries nestled in among the craft shops and boutiques. Explore the Granville Island Public Market which features dozens of foods stands and some of the freshest produce, meats and fish, all under one roof. Craft breweries and craft distilleries are also booming in the city—with many opening every year. And if you visit on a weekend between May and October, don’t miss the Richmond Night Market, a true pan-Asian market that welcomed more than one million visitors last year.
Take in a show at the Sydney Opera House
Famously considered a failure when it opened to the public in 1973, this iconic structure is now recognized as one of the Southern Hemisphere’s architectural gems. Designed to emulate the sails of the boats in Sydney Harbour, the building hosts more than 40 events each week, with performances ranging from contemporary dance to classical music. Even if you don’t snag tickets to a show, you can still admire the view from one of the sun-soaked patios surrounding this 20th century design marvel.
Journey to the Canadian Rockies on Rocky Mountaineer
Gliding along the historic tracks that essentially built a nation, this experience is widely recognized as one of the world’s greatest train journeys. With routes servicing a roll call of must-see stops in the Canadian Rockies (think Banff, Jasper and Lake Louise, to name a few), Rocky Mountaineer provides an onboard experience that’s as impressive as the scenery outside. Travel the “Rainforest to Gold Rush” route and plunge deep into a land that once drew thousands from around the world with visions of great fortune in their eyes. Choose the “Journey through the Clouds” route to traverse some of the country’s most famous national parks and peaks including Mount Robson. The “First Passage to the West” is an historic route, which spins through the famous Spiral Tunnels, past Castle Mountain and rolls across the Continental Divide. If you’re keen on adding a little Seattle to your trip, you can also travel along the “Coastal Passage.”
Search for Dinosaur Bones in the South Gobi Desert
Located in vast sands of southern Mongolia, the Flaming Cliffs remains one of the world’s most important dinosaur finds, a place where, in the 1920s, paleontologist Roy Chapman Andrews noted you could walk across the entire valley on bones, without touching the ground. This stunning site was also the first place on earth to yield dinosaur eggs, and the good news is that it keeps on giving—new fossils surface all the time, meaning even today you can play modern-day Indiana Jones and make a major discovery. Stay nearby at the legendary Three Camel Lodge (named one of the world’s finest by National Geographic) and explore some of the other highlights in the area, including towering sand dunes and ancient petroglyphs.
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