Satiate your travel wanderlust with these bucket-list worthy travel destinations.
Whether you’re busy filling your travel bucket list with the ultimate must-go destinations, or are stuck and needing a little inspo, we’ve got you. While vaccinations are being rolled out, the hope for leisure travel is slowly dawning upon us. While it’s yet to be a norm, there’s no harm in indulging in a little future travel planning. (Also, we get it – there’s absolutely no shame in wanting to feed your travel fantasies.)
Here’s our ultimate picks of 24 must-visit destinations worth adding to your travel bucket list.
1. Kyoto, Japan
Gion, Kyoto’s most famous geisha district, is situated around Shijo Avenue between the eastern Yasaka Shrine and the western Kamo River. Its high concentration of traditional wooden machiya merchant houses makes it the perfect photo opportunity for ancient streetscapes. Instagram shots of Gion are best taken in the early evening, when the place takes on an anachronistic atmosphere (think glowing traditional lanterns and perfectly preened apprentice geishas on their walks).
2. Raja Ampat Island, Indonesia
The Kalibiru (also known as Blue River) is one hidden gem located in the heart of the Raja Ampat Island of Indonesia. Visitors travel far and wide to dip their toes or take a splash into the all-natural, serene waters. Getting there includes an hour-long car ride from Waisai City to Warasambin Village, followed by a 20-minute boat ride. For a perfect escape into an almost-magical enclave, this is truly a must-visit travel destination.
3. Krabi, Thailand
A long weekend in Krabi is never a bad idea. If you love a good, relaxing and luxurious trip, Amari Vogue Krabi has a deal valid till 31 June 2021. The special Couple Celebration Package (from USD $135.60 per night) offers a private round trip airport transfer (from Krabi International Airport), a romantic beach dinner and honeymoon room set-up. Plus, we hear the Sunset Lounge overlooking the pristine Tubkaak Beach is the perfect spot for sundown cocktails.
Alternatively, you may choose a more laid-back option at Hua Hin. While the beaches there aren’t the most pristine, ambled by the seashore and the purr-and-pound of the waves – you’ll still definitely find beauty in its rawness. The locals don’t try to glam it up either, and that’s what we love about it.
4. Mount Emei, China
Mount Emei, traditionally regarded as the place of enlightenment of the bodhisattva Samantabhadra, is one of the Four Sacred Buddhist Mountains of China. The trees are verdant almost all year round. Plus the mountain’s landscape varies according to the season, elevation, and climate. Travellers can snap photos of the surrounding greenery while scaling the mountain. At the Golden Summit, they are rewarded with the sight of the imposing four-sided and ten-headed golden statue of Puxian against the backdrop of a clear sky. It’s a true view for keeps.
5. Tiruchirappalli, India
Or Trichy for short. Even if you’re not a temple-phile, the Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple (pictured) – the ultimate embodiment of the city’s dynamic and colourful grandeur – is a must-see. Occupying a whopping 156 acres, it’s an architectural wonder outside and a stunning, almost self-enclosed city on the inside. Simply observing the daily life of locals in Trichy is a joy in itself. Streetside bazaars and busy traffic characterise the city’s form, while everyday life stops for no one – not even tourists. Admittedly, it takes a bit of getting used to, but when you do, you’ll fall in love with the city.
6. Vientiane, Laos
Not Valencia, but Vientiane. This charming capital city of Laos marries a European style of architecture peppered with Buddhist temples. It’s got everything a city cat would love, from happening bars to cultural sites, with all the laid-back lusciousness of the countryside (which is never far away – check out the nearby rice paddies!)
A must-visit destination: the Patuxai Victory monument (pictured). Reminiscent of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, go a little closer and you’ll actually see intricate designs of Hindu Gods in traditional Laotian style. P.S. head to the top of the tower for a stunning view of the cityscape!
7. Zhangjiajie, China
If you’ve seen James Cameron’s Avatar (2009), you’ll remember the extraordinary jagged mountainous landscape of Pandora inspired by the pillars of sandstone rock in Zhangjiajie National Forest Park, located in northwest China. Did you know? The national park (which is also China’s first) is so large it requires two to three days to fully explore!
Also located in the park are natural wonders like the Spirit Soldier’s Gathering, a cluster of 48 rocky towers standing in formation, the Tranquil Gold Whip Stream and the world’s longest and highest glass-bottomed bridge, suspended between two mountains. Needless to say, with breath-taking sceneries at every turn – this is definitely a photographer’s dream. Or, if you’re an adventure junkie, this is the place to go.
8. Bavaria, Germany
What’s more magical than the castle that inspired Walt Disney’s Cinderella castle? Located in Bavaria, Germany, Neuschwanstein Castle is one of the world’s most famous attractions. That’s not all: It also stands amidst an extremely scenic setting of the Alps and nearby idyllic villages.
Fun fact: Did you know that Hitler’s famed holiday retreat, the Eagle’s Nest, is also located in Bavaria? Perched on top of the Bavarian mountains? Who knew! With German beer, sausages, ski resorts and endless medieval history and architecture, this must-visit destination truly has something for everyone.
9. Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina
This sequestered, not-so-known part of south-eastern Europe looks like something straight out of a fairy tale. With cobbled streets, old stone buildings and meandering rivers, this is a must-visit destination to immerse yourself in fascinating Ottoman architecture.
Start with the capital, Sarajevo – known as one of the most intriguing cities in Europe. Why? East meets West. Catholic cathedrals, Orthodox cathedrals, mosques and synagogues appear with every dozen steps or so. And did we mention? Sarajevo is also called the city of sunsets.
When you’re done, venture to Mostar (pictured), Bosnia’s best-known city. Old bridges criss-cross turquoise waters while its famous Blagaj Tekija Monaster – built by monks in the 16th century – sits at the base of a cliff in a small village. Head there for a gorgeous sight with elements of Ottoman architecture as well as Mediterranean style. For somewhere truly romantic and with a distinct “old Europe” vibe, Bosnia is hard to beat.
10. Isle of Skye, Scotland
When we think of rural Scotland, rolling hills and frothy waves crashing against treacherous cliffs often come to mind. If you love the creations of Mother Nature, make a trip to the Isle of Skye. From the waterfalls at Fairy Pool (local folklore has it that fairies guard the waters purported to have magical health-restoring properties) to the valleys of Quairag, the Isle of Skye has it all. To warm down after exploring the coastline under the blustery Scottish winds, gulp down a smoky Talisker whisky. The best part? It’s distilled locally.
11. Lapland, Finland
Visit the legendary birthplace of Santa Claus to reignite your inner child. Or, you could head here to realise an adult dream to witness the Northern lights. If you are from the tropics, you would find the snowscape from November to March to be astoundingly stark and beautiful. In this winter wonderland, reindeer and huskies are aplenty, making it a treat for animal lovers. Seeing the Aurelia Borealis (Northern Lights) during your trip would be the icing on the cake — if you should be lucky enough. If you are not, take heart in the fact that the Santa Village is open every day of the year.
12. Reykjavik, Iceland
Mother Nature must be biased, for she seems to work her magic the most in Iceland. This treasure trove of natural wonders doesn’t lose its magic even with the influx of tourists. From the city, head out to where nature beckons to witness other-worldly landscapes like erupting geysers, majestic waterfalls, and more.
Tip? Don’t miss the must-visit-when-you’re-here Blue Lagoon, a natural geothermal spa destination located in a lava field.
13. Mount Rigi, Switzerland
Exploring Switzerland by train is one way to savour its scenic beauty. From Lucerne, Zermatt and all the way to Zurich, this 11D/8N itinerary by EU Holidays combines journeys on the cogwheel train in Vitznau up to Mount Riga. There are also scenic boat rides to hop on and the infamous Glacier Express panoramic train that goes through 291 bridges and 91 tunnels to bring you across the Swiss Alps. Also included in the itinerary are visits to the Ice Palace and visits to the Matterhorn and Glacier Garden Museum, which was discovered in 1872.
14. Zagreb, Croatia
You can’t get lost in Zagreb – signs on every corner lead you to the most popular sites that aren’t just insta-worthy, but teeming with history and culture too. And by culture, we mean everything from the stunning Zagreb cathedral (pictured above) to the Museum of Broken Relationships, which features the pains of the modern-day individual in pursuit of love.
15. Burj Khalifa, United Arab Emirates
The Burj Khalifa stands at a whopping 828m, making it the world’s tallest skyscraper. (That’s approximately three times the height of the Eiffel Tower!) This skyscraper is designed to resemble the Hymenocallis desert flower (a.k.a. Spider Lilies). A snapshot from afar will capture Burj Khalifa in its magnificent entirety. Head to the observation deck to bask in breath-taking views of Dubai and its surroundings. Tip? The views are great in clear weather and also between November and March when the city is swathed in fog for a unique texture and mood shots. Extra tip: Leave the tripod at home to avoid run-ins with security.
16. Tehran, Iran
If Iran has always been on your bucket list, EU Holidays has an 11D/8N package running from April to October. The itinerary is one ideal for culture vultures keen to explore the hidden gems (i.e. The Golestan Palace pictured above) of this beautiful must-visit destination). Spanning through cities such as Tehran, Shiraz and Yazd, the days are packed with visits to renowned sites such as the Eram Gardens, the Chehel Sotoun Palace, the underground city of Nushabad (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) that once housed 2,859 families four floors underground and the world-famous Isfahan Jameh Mosque that dates back 1,000 years.
17. Wadi Rum, Jordan
Often likened to “the valley of the moon”, this dramatic landscape of sandstone mountains and Martian-red sand will make you feel like you’re on another planet. (Not that we know how that’s like but we’ll take a guess!) The largest valley in Jordan also dates way back after having been inhabited by many human civilisations since prehistoric times. Wadi Rum offers adventures such as trekking, camel safaris and camping. Guided tours are the best way to explore this exacting environment, through which one can visit the Dead Sea and local villages for food.
In a nutshell, Wadi Rum feels elemental and raw – perfect for the serious adventurer in need of the kind of solitude provided by vast deserts. No surprise that the Academy Award-nominated movie The Martian (2015) was filmed here.
For an ultimate escape from the bustling city, Fiji is a must-add to your travel bucket list. If a wellness break is a priority for 2021 – because after everything, you definitely deserve it – Six Senses Fiji is making this travel goal a lot easier to fulfill. The resort’s wellness focus includes aerial yoga, snorkelling, singing bowl classes and alchemy bar sessions with Meke (traditional Fiji style) song and dance presentation and the option to learn surfing from the Tropicsurf crew. A cool saving tip? Enjoy a 10% discount when you book 30 days in advance! Check out its other offers on its website here.
19. Great Barrier Reef, Australia
As the world’s largest coral reef and marine park, this 2,300km stretch of marine wonderland is home to 1,500 species of fish from tropical fish to manatees and 4,000 types of molluscs. With environment protection and conservation weighing more on travellers’ conscience than ever before, the need to see epic landmarks or destinations of phenomenal natural beauty and diverse wildlife seems to have taken on a greater sense of urgency. Especially when it’s one that has been opined by numerous experts to be dying out due to global warming. Though there are reassuring reports that the Great Barrier Reef’s health has greatly improved, we still say you should tarry no further.
20. Hobbiton, New Zealand
A must-see for The Lord of the Rings fans, the home of the Hobbits in New Zealand is a definite must-add to your bucket list. Nestled in the gentle and lush prairies of New Zealand’s North Island, the Hobbiton movie set was a significant location used for The Lord of the Rings film trilogy and The Hobbit film series. It is mainly served by guided tours, which will cover every aspect of this magical place. The most famous attraction is of course the hobbit holes, which might just inspire you to design your own home to match its warm and comfortable interior.
Food plays a big part in a hobbit’s life. Cafes like the Green Dragon inn, a replica of the alehouse seen in the movies, offer delectable sandwiches and special brews. You can also learn about the history of how the set of Shire was built while being driven through the picturesque landscape.
21. Waitomo Glow Worm Caves, New Zealand
Nothing says otherworldly more than luminescent worms hanging from a limestone cave while you look up from a boat in a river. Waitomo, derived from the Maori words for “water” and “hole in the ground”, can be explored either via walking or a guided boat tour. Either way, in the immersive darkness of the cave, the wonders of the glowing worms will touch you like a shooting star. If you’re feeling up to it, there are tours that include abseiling, climbing and water rafting.
22. Niagara Falls, Canada
No ultimate travel bucket list is complete without Niagara Falls. Eighteen thousand years ago, thick ice sheets covered large parts of southern Ontario. Today’s Niagara River is a legacy of the last Ice Age. The largest vertical drop of Niagara Falls is over 50m, and about 28 million litres of water travel down the falls every second.
Instagram tip: Those who stay on the Canadian side of the falls between noon and sunset are pretty much guaranteed to see a rainbow. Because the falls are wider than they are tall, it’s best to take landscape shots instead of portrait and to use a slow shutter speed to give the water a silky appearance.
23. Machu Picchu, Peru
The 15th-century Incan citadel may seem like a cliché on the bucket list but it’s still on the list of most people who have not been to Peru — and for very good reasons. It’s well preserved and breathtakingly beautiful. The sight of the jagged green precipices of the Huayna Picchu framing the ancient settlement that greets visitors after a two- or four-day (depending on where you start walking) hike or train ride, is one to behold. Once there, the air is thin (so be sure to watch out for altitude sickness!), but the atmosphere will remind you of its charm.
24. Lake Baikal, Russia
Russia is known for its untamed, expansive landscapes. Among its many attractions is Lake Baikal (or Baygal Nuur), lauded as one of the most beautiful lakes on earth.
Situated in southeast Siberia, “The Pearl of Siberia” is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is the oldest (25 million years) as well as deepest (1,700m) lake in the world and freezes over for about four months every year, making it a spectacular sight to behold.
Even the most amateur of photographers will be able to take impressive landscape pictures here. During winter, however, the brave can choose to walk out onto the frozen lake (at your own risk!) for a selfie quite unlike any other.
Text adapted from Charlene Fang, Mavis Teo, Pinky Chng, Weetee Neu + Silver Kris / Additional Reporting by Willaine G. Tan / Images: Attributed to respective sources + 123RF.com.