Stuck for travel inspiration? Whether it’s an Instagrammable sunset, remote natural wonders or a close encounter with wildlife you’re after, we’ve picked ten places guaranteed to get your wanderlust going.
The Canadian Rockies
The Rocky Mountains run almost the entire length of North America, but our favourite part is the Canadian end. Linked by the Icefield Parkway road, it combines ease of travel and friendly hospitality with some of the most stunning scenery on the planet.
One of the biggest attractions in the area is the Athabasca Glacier. Walking on the glacier is an incredible experience, but be sure to go with a guide as hidden crevasses can be fatal. An easier option is to book on to a Snocoach tour, where you will be driven to a safe spot to explore on the glacier in a specially adapted bus. Another option is to travel up to the Skywalk – a glass lookout point giving you the feeling of floating in mid-air while enjoying amazing views of the glacial valley and Mount Kitchener.
There are trailheads all along the Parkway, meaning there is something to suit every level of fitness and adventure. Many viewpoints can be accessed by a short walk, and there are plenty of day hikes for those wishing to get further away from the crowds. For real explorers, a backcountry permit allows you to camp overnight in the Jasper, Banff and Yoho National Parks.
The Giant’s Causeway
Made up of over 40,000 hexagonal basalt columns stretching from the cliffs into the sea, it’s not hard to see how the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland was originally thought to have been built by supernatural forces. The formation stretches under the sea before emerging again in Fingal’s Cave in Scotland. Legend says it was built by Finn MacCool in order to face the Scottish giant Benandonner in a fight, but it was actually formed by volcanic lava cooling over 50 million years ago.
A recently opened visitors centre has a comprehensive exhibition explaining the geology of the causeway and the many legends that have sprung up over the years. The area is particularly picturesque at sunrise and sunset when the faded light emphasises the strange regularity and geometry of the rock formations.
There’s plenty else to do along this spectacular stretch of coastline. Traverse the rickety looking rope bridge swaying 30 meters above the sea to Carrick-a-Rede, a tiny rocky island with incredible views out to sea or learn more about the Irish whiskey industry at Bushmills, the oldest distillery in the world. The windswept and rugged coastline has also featured in many scenes from Game of Thrones. If taming dragons or walking the tree-enclosed Kingsroad are on your bucket list, this is the trip for you.
Flights to The Giant’s Causeway
Next up we’re visiting the largest waterfall in the world – Victoria Falls on the border with Zambia and Zimbabwe. While it is not the tallest or the widest waterfall, at around a mile wide and over 100 meters tall, it is the sheer volume of falling water that makes Victoria Falls bucket list material.
Most of the falls are located on the Zimbabwe side of the border and can be easily seen from a walking track in the National Park surrounding the waterfall. The vast amount of water tumbling into the gorge below creates a thick mist around the waterfall, leading to its local name of “Mosi Oa Tunya” – The Smoke That Thunders. Take a raincoat to avoid getting totally soaked or pack your swimsuit if you feel brave enough to swim in the “Devil’s Pool’. A ring of rocks at the top of the waterfall creates a section without a strong current, meaning you can dip in the river here without being instantly washed over the edge. Alternatively, visit at night during a full moon to catch a glimpse of a “moonbow”.
Away from Victoria Falls, take a wildlife safari at the surrounding national park reserves or check out the heritage centre for more information about the local indigenous cultures.
Phong Nha National Park
The Phong Nha National Park in Vietnam contains the spectacular cave complex known as Hang Son Doong. At over 5 kilometres long, 150 meters wide and 200 meters tall, it’s the biggest cave in the world. It’s large enough that a jumbo jet could fly through it, the statue of Liberty would only reach halfway up and it has its own weather system – clouds often form inside. However, you’ll have to be determined to tick it off your bucket list; only 800 visitor permits are issued each year and it can only be reached after a gruelling four day jungle trek.
The Phong Nha National Park has plenty to explore for slightly less adventurous travellers. There are hundreds of caves throughout the park, as well as the oldest karst mountains in South East Asia. Trekking tours ranging from one day to a week visit some other spectacular caves such as Tu Lan and Hang Tien. Expect to see underground rivers, shimmering mineral pools, huge stalagmites and secret gardens where holes in the cave roof allow sunlight in.
For a more sedate experience, take a boat to the Phong Nha cave. Visitors drift silently through the flooded cave, with spotlights highlighting the most impressive rock formations. You can also easily access the Paradise cave, which at 31 kilometres long is thought to be the longest cave in the world.
The Serengeti Migration
Stretching over the border between Tanzania and Kenya, the Serengeti and Masai Mara National Parks are home to some of the most spectacular wildlife on the planet, a safari tour here can see you spotting all of the Big Five – lions, elephants, rhino, leopards and buffaloes.
With thousands of square kilometres of grassland, the Serengeti is full of wildlife. The most unique sight is probably the Great Migration, where huge herds of wildebeest, zebras, impalas and gazelles move around the park looking for the best grazing. The best time to see the migration is in May through to September when herds up to 40 kilometres long with 1.5 million animals can be spotted. For the ultimate wildlife documentary experience, watch as the herds cross the crocodile-infested Mara River.
As the herds move north to the Masai Mara park in Kenya, they come alongside the Maasai tribes. There are several Maasai villages that are open to visitors and experiencing this unique culture is often just as much of a highlight as the wildlife. There is also a good range of accommodation options here, from budget homestays to luxurious safari lodges.
Flights to the Serengeti
Salar De Uyuni
Salar De Uyuni is the world’s largest salt flat located high in the Bolivian Andes. This giant desert covers just over 4000 square miles and is almost perfectly flat.
This makes it one of the strangest landscapes on the planet and a magnet for photographers. The lack of landmarks makes it easy to play with scale. Try taking a picture with someone close to the camera and someone far away; suddenly you have a picture of a giant! The other great trick in the salar is in the rainy season when a layer of surface water covers the plain. This creates a perfect mirror of the sky, making it impossible to tell where the land ends and the sky begins.
There are few towns in the salar and many hotels have sprung up purely for travellers visiting the salt flats. Some are even built out of blocks of salt! Where else on Earth can you relax in a salt sauna, eat from a salt dining table and then sleep in a salt bed?
Away from natural wonders, one of the most inspiring and unique destinations on Earth is the perfectly picturesque island of Santorini. Also known as Thira, the island is the remains of a volcanic crater. White washed buildings cling to the steep slopes, with royal blue domes and roof tops shining in the Mediterranean sun.
The village of Oia has stunning views of the flooded volcanic caldera and has the perfect blend of traditional charm with all mod cons. Here you’ll find winding cobbled alleyways, fabulous restaurants in whitewashed buildings and exclusive hotels with sunset-facing infinity pools. If you are feeling budget conscious aim to visit in winter. Although temperatures might be lower, the scenery is still world class.
For a different side to Santorini, head over the caldera rim to the flatter east coast. There are great black sand beaches, an open-air cinema and many vineyards offering tastings and tours. Book on to a boat tour of the caldera to explore the outlying islands, swim in secluded coves and watch the sunset into the sea.
Built around 2500 years ago, Petra is one of the most spectacular man-made sights on Earth. Located in the south of Jordan, Petra is easily reached by road from either the capital Amman or the coastal town of Aqaba.
After following the Siq, a narrow path through the rocky cliffs for around three-quarters of a mile, the beautiful facade of the Treasury appears to visitors. Carved over 2000 years ago as a tomb for a Nabataean king, it’s hard to believe that the ornate columns, pediments and statuettes were carved directly into the cliff with little room for error.
Nearby you can also find other royal tombs, a monastery and numerous caves that were home to Bedouin traders until 1985 when the area was classified as a UNESCO World Heritage site. For a different perspective on Petra, book a ticket for a night tour. The Siq and the Treasury are lit by candlelight and traditional performance featuring Bedouin music and storytelling takes place.
The Taj Mahal
Agra is famous for one of the most romantic buildings in the world; the gloriously decadent Taj Mahal. Building started in 1631 as a monument to Shah Jahan’s favourite wife, Mumtaz Mahal, and he was eventually buried inside the mausoleum with her. The Taj Mahal has been carefully preserved and restored, and looks as impressive now as when it was first built. ⠀
Carved out of glistening white marble and inlaid with semi-precious stones, the Taj Mahal is just as stunning close up as from a distance. Wander through the beautiful ornamental gardens to appreciate the symmetry of the building, with its impressive central dome and surrounding minarets. Craftsmen from around the world were brought to India to complete the complex marble screens, carve passages from the Quran in the finest calligraphy and assemble “pietra dura” mosaic motifs from intricately cut pieces of rare stones.⠀
Visit first thing to avoid the worst crowds and see the sun illuminating the building as it rises. If you can, book your trip to Agra to coincide with a full moon. A viewing platform is open at night to see the Taj Mahal by moonlight, although a similar view can be found from nearby hotels and restaurants as well.⠀
Flights to Agra
How many of these have you visited already? Where’s your next destination? What must-see locations have we missed? Get in touch and let us know!