A massive thank you to everyone who has contributed with writing a story about their chosen travel bucket list destinations. I hope you all get to experience your dream destinations one day!
Unlike the other ‘stans’, Kazakhstan, the world’s largest landlocked country, is modern and wealthy. Almost untouched by western tourism, there is so much to see.
Kazakhstan is where tulips and apples come from and they grow in the wild, it must be an amazing sight. The old capital, Almaty, has the world’s largest wooden cathedral, built entirely without nails. In the nearby mountains is the outdoor Medeu skating rink. At over five thousand feet it’s the highest in the world and two hundred world records have been broken there. The mountains, which separate Kazakhstan from China, are home to snow leopards – it would be great to spot these rare animals.
The new capital, Nur Sultan, is purpose-built and contains many ‘must-see’ buildings. These include the Khan Shatyr shopping mall, designed by British architect Norman Foster and officially the world’s largest tent. On the top floor is the indoor Sky Beach Club with sand from the Maldives. Imagine spending a day at the beach in the world’s largest landlocked country!
Then there’s the Presidential Palace which is a cross between the White House and a mosque, a roman-style opera house, an ultra-modern concert hall and an art gallery shaped like a doggy bowl. The pyramid-shaped Palace of Peace and Reconciliation, also designed by Norman Foster, has two sides on roller bearings to cope with temperatures that range between plus thirty centigrade and minus forty. The bus shelters have solar heating to cope with the cold winters.
The National Museum has a gold room with thousands of items over four centuries old but all in perfect condition. There is even a gold suit of armour. In the entrance hall a huge gold eagle is suspended from the ceiling; it flaps its wings and ‘flies’ every hour.
Another place I want to visit is Baikonur, the world’s oldest, largest and busiest Cosmodrome. It’s where the first satellite, Sputnik, was launched as well as the first man in space, Yuri Gagarin. Today it’s busy launching satellites and sending astronauts and cargo to the International Space Station. I would love to visit on a launch day as well as tour the site and the historic space exhibitions.
There is just so much to see in Kazakhstan, some of it hardly seen by many outsiders. What a place!
My dream destination is New Zealand! New Zealand has been on the top of my bucket list for many years. Back in 2018, I thought I had the chance to visit New Zealand. I came across an incredible flight deal, booked the ticket without a second thought, and immediately started planning my two week itinerary. I was mid-way through planning my time in Auckland when I got an email from the airline. My flight had been cancelled and they weren’t honouring the flight deal. I was crushed.
New Zealand didn’t happen for me in 2018, and sadly not in 2019 or (likely not) in 2020 either. But one day I will make it to New Zealand!
New Zealand is my dream destination because it seems like the perfect place for an epic road trip. I imagine myself and my partner spending a few weeks driving across both islands. I want to stop in and have overpriced coffee in small towns, check out gorgeous views and stay in waterfront properties. I’m not a huge hiker or adrenaline junkie but it’s the natural beauty of New Zealand that appeals to me. I usually prefer cities to the countryside, but something about New Zealand just seems so special and unique. I can’t wait to explore the landscape and the culture one day when it’s safe to do so!
Right at the very top of my bucket list is to experience Día de los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead Festival, in Mexico City. Mexico City has been a dream of mine for some time, having learned Spanish for the past couple of years and had a soft spot for Latin American culture. Día de los Muertos is an embodiment of the cultures of family, traditions, diversity and celebration. The festival celebrates lost family members in an explosion of colour, with traditional dancing, puppets, and the iconic sugar skulls lining the streets.
Mexico City also has plenty more to offer of course. Thought to be the oldest metropolis in North America, the city has an abundance of culture. In the centre, I’d enjoy pounding the pavements and seeking out local food and drink (and perhaps a tequila or two), as well as enjoying some of the great architecture of the city. I’d certainly head to watch traditional Lucha Libre, as well as soaking up the nightlife. Outside of the city, one of the most archaeologically significant sites in the area is the incredible complex of pyramids at Teotihuacán. The ancient city lies just 50km North of the city, and was the largest city in the Americas in its time, established roughly in 100BC.
From the historical importance of Mexico City to the modern day culture, it’s a destination that sits right at the very top of my bucket list.
I saw pictures of Zhangjiajie on those classic “Places you HAVE to see before you die” articles, and to be fair they had a point.
I spent 3 days exploring the National Forest Park there. If anything that wasn’t enough time, even with however many impressive cable cars there are to get around, not to mention the tallest outdoor lift in the world. It’s just so vast.
It’s unbelievable to me that the iconic mountains of Zhangjiajie were once beneath the ocean. The very top of the peaks, now in central China, formed the sea bed – over three hundred and eight MILLION years ago. Crazy to think about.
The National Forest Park is amazing, but there’s so much more to see. One of the most incredible days of my life so far was my trip to Tianmen Mountain, a 1.5 kilometre peak with sheer vertical drops from top to bottom near the city of Zhangjiajie. There are 2 ways to get up or down the mountain: you can take the longest passenger cableway in the world, at 7.5 kilometres long and with a climb of 1.5 kilometres, or there’s the 11 kilometre-long 99 bend road.
Once at the top you can take in the view from the glass-bottomed walkways clinging to the cliff edge. Very cool. The landscape really is so unlike anything else, and feels closer to Pandora in the film Avatar than it does the real world – Avatar was unsurprisingly inspired by the mountains of Zhangjiajie.
Another landmark in Zhangjiajie is the world-famous glass bridge. It was the longest and tallest glass-bottomed bridge in the world when it first opened in 2016 – 430m long and 300m high. That’s almost twice the length of Tower Bridge in London, and as high as the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Not something to be missed!
And finally, a day trip to Baofeng Lake is a chance to actually get underneath the clouds for once and see things from below. Hiking through the forest is beautiful, and the lake seems to appear out of nowhere. A boat ride on the lake even featured traditional singing by the minority locals – a very authentic experience.
The best way that I can describe Zhangjiajie is that it’s hugely underrated. I doubt it’ll stay that way for long though… I hope to see it again before it begins to suffer from over-tourism.
Blue Lagoon, Iceland
Most travelers pick their next getaway by location. There’s a country or city that they have ALWAYS wanted to see.
For us, it’s the other way around. We have our hearts set on Iceland, solely for the purpose of visiting the infamous Blue Lagoon.
If you don’t know what the Blue Lagoon is, let us paint you a picture. Imagine heated, beautiful blue and white water surrounded by black rocks and dark green Iceland vegetation.
The Blue Lagoon caught our attention thanks to social media. You have probably seen a picture of someone walking into this paradise and thought “that’s gonna be me one day”.
Thanks to these pictures floating around, all of us can stare at the beautiful blue water and dream about it from the comfort of our homes. At least that’s what happened to us.
But the Blue Lagoon is so much more than just a picture opportunity. It’s an entire self-care experience.
Thanks to Parks and Rec, “treat yo self” became a hit and now self-care is all the rage. The Blue Lagoon may be the epitome of spoiling yourself.
Don’t get it twisted that The Blue Lagoon is just a hot tub with pretty water. We’re talking face masks, saunas, healthy snacks, and a walk-up bar.
We could fly to Iceland, spend the whole day in this geothermal spa pampering ourselves and be happy. What better way to enjoy the Iceland scenery than sitting in heated, stunning blue water while sipping a fresh-made juice.
So if it’s not already, The Blue Lagoon needs to be on your travel bucket list. Just think of it as an investment in yourself.
Oman makes it to the top of my favourite world destinations list.
There is so much to see and do here. Thankfully not too many people have discovered this gem of a country, so it doesn’t suffer the mass hordes of tourists or cheap weekend visits that many places get.
The capital Muscat gets my vote as the jewel in the crown.
It has deliberately avoided being a skyscraper city like Dubai and Abu Dhabi in neighbouring U.A.E. It has kept its Arab feel but incorporated modern elements into its grand architecture. Small souks abound, stalls run by smiling non-pushy locals selling unique local craftworks. It also has its new picturesque Mosque with gardens, an amazing Opera House and a captivating seafront Corniche promenade, almost 3 kilometres long.
Go out to the coastal harbours and here there are plentiful modern boats (and some traditional styled ones too) to take you sea bound. You encounter the Sea Forts, race with the dolphins and marvel at the craggy coastline from the shimmering blue sea. You even get to see blazing sun-sets dimming behind the mountains of Mutrah. If you are lucky, you will even see the Sultan’s colourful waterside Palace.
If a sandy beach and relaxation is a must, then these are there too. From local small hotels to one of the best hotels in the world, the choice is varied and plentiful. The beaches are palm fringed, with natural golden sands with a gentle tide and so quiet and peaceful. They often have a BBQ area and shade for groups and families.
Oman has deliberately marketed itself as an upmarket (but actually very affordable) destination. This discourages the ugliness of mass tourism, the plagues of young raucous crowds and keeps everything small and social sized. I loved it.
If you want a bit of adventure then go inland. There is so much to do and explore in the still wild interior. Here are tribal mountain villages, hiking trails, scenic mountainscapes, rock-pool lakes, hang-gliding, dune buggy rides, rock climbing, panoramic craters and wildlife – you name it, you can do it there.
The variety of things to see and do is immense and this is why it makes it my favourite country to visit.
My dream destination is Peru. I have been obsessed with history and ancient civilizations since I was a kid. One of the major things that I want to see in Peru is obviously Machu Picchu. It would be amazing to hike the Inca Trail and see this wonder of the world with my own eyes.
Another thing that is very high up on my bucket list is to fly over the Nazca Lines. They are these very large geoglyphs made in the soil – there are spiders, birds, monkeys, etc. You can only see them from a plane, on the ground they look like a line in the ground. Also, I would love to see Rainbow Mountain – the colorful mountainside located in the Andes. The colors come from different layers of minerals.
In terms of cities, I want to visit Lima and Cusco. Checking out the Amazon Jungle will be amazing as well as seeing some cute llamas. Peru has such a rich history and culture and I would love to experience it. Also, the locals look very friendly and inviting. A few of my friends have gone to Peru and they have said only nice things about it and their pictures were amazing. Really hoping to have a chance to visit this amazing country soon.
I still think of my dream destination as my missed dream. A few years ago my brother announced he may be getting married in Sri Lanka. I hadn’t heard much about this country so I started my research. I found all the things we could do there and even found my hotel, before he announced he had changed his mind and we were in fact going to Kelowna, BC. But since then Sri Lanka has been high on my bucket list.
Sri Lanka has all my favourite parts of travelling in one place:
History and culture – Sri Lanka is known for its Buddhist temples but what about the 8 UNESCO World Heritage sites? I won’t name them all but the first on my list when I do get to Sri Lanka, will be the ancient city of Sigiriya. This has the remains of the palace and fortress. It is dominated by Lion Rock which is nearly 200 metres high, you are able to climb to the top to view the palace and of course views of Sri Lanka.
Wildlife – wildlife is everywhere in Sri Lanka, elephants hold symbolic, cultural and economic importance in Sri Lanka, so throughout the country you will see them.
Sri Lanka has several national parks where you can safari. Want to see a leopard? Yala National Park is the place, the safaris are also quite a lot cheaper than any in Africa. One mammal that I am yet to see, despite trying several times, is a whale. Between January and April, blue whales pass through here and apparently swim very close to land.
Tea – as with most British people, I love tea. Sri Lanka has loads of tea estates that can be toured.
Beaches – Sri Lanka has some of the most beautiful beaches, whenever I am travelling, I always like to stop off at the beach for a little relaxation for a few days.
There are too many reasons for why Sri Lanka is my dream destination. Hopefully one day I will make it there and get to see how truly wonderful the country is.
When people describe their dream destinations, I always imagined it to be a beautiful dreamy place with enchanting waterfalls and spotless beaches with turquoise coloured sea. But what if there’s a different definition of a dream destination. A magical fairyland, right from the stone age, an entire city carved out of caves and rocks.
Yes, such a place actually exists and it’s called Cappadocia in the southern part of Turkey. An out and out cave city, Cappadocia was built after the dust settlement of volcanic eruption was converted to caves for the people to live and protect themselves against a Russian attack. People lived in underground cities with their family, livestock and lived a very different life than the rest of the world.
Cappadocia is known for their rock cut formations, pottery making town of Avanos and of course most importantly, a perfect place for hot air balloons. Apart from Luxor in Egypt, Cappadocia in Turkey is the most famous city in the world for flying in these balloons with a spectacular view of the Love Valley .
However, the best part about being in Cappadocia is the cave rooms. More than 80% of the hotels in the city have cave suites. You get to experience and sleep inside a one-of-a-kind real cave room (with all modern facilities including Wi-Fi of course). They have ensured to retain the outer walls from the caves as is, while redoing a little bit on the insides for comfort.
Cappadocia is a must visit destination and just waking up to a host of hot air balloons in the sky with a huge Turkish breakfast on the table is enough to justify a nice trip to Turkey.
Did this inspire you to travel somewhere where you consider it a dream to experience? Read about my experience as a tourist in Krakow: https://travellingwithjames.co.uk/6-things-tourist-krakow
Do you have any dream destinations which you would love to visit?
Travelling With James