“Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Known as the Cidade Maravilhosa, or the Marvelous City, Rio de Janeiro has more than 20 beaches and many dramatic landmarks including the much-photographed Christ the Redeemer statue overlooking the city. The thriving metropolitan area, with exceptional architecture, museums, galleries, and dining, sits on the magnificent Guanabara Bay against a rugged backdrop of forested mountains, one of the most stunning settings in the world.
Machu Pichu, Peru
The Lost City of the Incas is perched on the edge of a mountain high in the Andes, a location so remote that it remained hidden from ravaging Conquistadors and untouched by the 20th century until it was “discovered” in 1911. Machu Picchu is a wonder on many levels, from its awe-inspiring natural splendor to its fascinating history. Visitors can do a multi-day trek to reach the site, or ride a bus up a winding road.
Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
The Galápagos archipelago and its surrounding waters are a national park, a biological marine preserve, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The area’s raw beauty and abundance of unique species, like the giant tortoise, make it a nature lover’s dream. Charles Darwin conducted research here in the early 1830’s that contributed to his theory of evolution and his groundbreaking book, On the Origin of Species.
Torres del Paine National Park, Patagonia
Here, the granite spires of the Paine massif tower over emerald green valleys, churning rivers, glassy blue lakes, glaciers, and icebergs. Adding to the mystique, this dreamscape is one of the most inhospitable places on the planet, with wind that can knock a grown man to the ground. Visit in January or February; the weather is too extreme any other time.
From waterfalls to active volcanoes, from glaciers to hot springs, the Land if Fire and Ice is a study in extremes. The country is such a visual spectacle that it’s hard to decide where to begin. Fortunately, Iceland also knows how to cater to tourists. Base yourself out of Reykjavik, the quirky capital city, where a host of reputable outfitters like Arctic Adventures offer excursions ranging from scenic horseback rides to extreme ice climbing, and everything in between.
Paris is like a living museum of architecture and history. Add in the world-class dining, gallery-hopping, and shopping, not to mention the je ne sais quoi of the Parisian personality, and the City of Lights is a mesmerizing cultural experience.
This is the center of Renaissance art and religious opulence. Sites like the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel and the Colosseum are among the most visited tourist attractions on earth. For most people it’s not a question of whether or not to visit Rome, but rather, when. The answer: as soon as you can.
Perhaps the most exotic city on the planet, Marrakesh began as a trading post along the ancient caravan routes from Timbuktu. It remains a shopping mecca, and the city’s main square, Djemâa el Fna, is regarded as the busiest in Africa.
Serengeti National Park, Tanzania
There are few wildlife experiences as awe-inspiring as the Great Migration, when 1.5 million wildebeests, accompanied by 400,000 gazelles and 200,000 zebra, move throughout the Serengeti ecosystem. There is no better time to go on a safari in Serengeti National Park, which also has the highest concentration of large mammals on the planet, particularly lions.
Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
Its indigenous name meaning smoke that thunders, is neither the tallest nor the widest waterfall on the planet. But its combined height and width make it the largest, an enormous sheet of falling water twice the height of Niagara Falls. The falls can be viewed from either the Zambian or the Zimbabwean side, with the Zimbabwean regarded as the more picturesque.
The Great Pyramid, one of three main pyramids located at Giza, is one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World—the only one that survived to present day. It was built in the 4th Dynasty (circa 2550 B.C.) and was the tallest building on earth until the Eiffel Tower was erected in 1889.
One of the oldest cities in the world, Jerusalem is also perhaps the most divine. Literally. This walled area of cobblestone alleys is smaller than half a square mile, but packed with major sites like the Western Wall, Temple Mount, and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, as well as boutiques and markets representing the four quarters: Jewish, Muslim, Christian, and Armenian.
Built in the first century B.C., the city appears to spring from the very cliffs that surround it, a marvel of rock-cut architecture, and mystery. The ancient city did not even appear on Western maps until it was re-discovered in 1812 by a Swiss traveler. Today, tourists are free to stroll Petra’s boulevards and explore its mesmerising tombs and archeological sites.
The city formerly known as Constantinople is located along the Silk Road and straddles two continents. Today it’s a thriving cosmopolitan metropolis that juxtaposes old and new.
Taj Mahal, India
The awe-inspiring Taj Mahal is the world’s most famous monument in honour of love. The white marble mausoleum was built sometime in the mid-1600s by emperor Shah Jahan in remembrance of his wife Mumtaz, a Persian princess.
Everest Base Camp, Nepal
Everest Base Camp is located in the world’s highest national park, Qomolangma National Nature Preserve, and is open to tourists as well as to mountaineers.
The isolated Kingdom of Bhutan transitioned to a constitutional monarchy in 2008, and became more open and welcoming to travellers. Bhutan makes our list not only for its untouched natural beauty, but also for a unique culture that measures progress in terms of Gross Domestic Happiness.
Great Wall of China, China
One of the most iconic man-made structures on earth, the Great Wall of China is not one continuous wall, but rather a series of shorter walls. Originally built to keep out nomads and invaders, the Great Wall winds along the crests of hills, providing a stunning vantage point of the rugged landscape.
The Great Barrier Reef, Australia
Dubbed the Blue Outback, the reef is a protected marine park and World Heritage Site comprised of 900 islands and 3,0000 individual reefs. The marine life statistics are dizzying.
The most remote place on the planet, there are no human residents, thanks to a hostile climate of cold and wind. But the absence of people means a pristine wilderness like none other, with colossal icebergs, giant whales, and tens of thousands of penguins.