Travel Bucket List Ideas: 100 things to do before you die
- Esquire’s Ultimate Bucket List is made up of the 100 best places to stay, things to do and sights to see
- The bucket list ideas take into account the entire world, including the US, Europe, Africa, Asia and the Middle East
- Each of the 100 things to do before you die is based around recommendations from Esquire’s editorial team and our social media audience
- This bucket list of things to do is regularly updated with brand new experiences every few months
Presenting the Esquire Ultimate Travel Bucket List – a collection of 100 things to do, places to stay and sights to see before you kick the proverbial bucket.
This feature was put together in celebration of Esquire’s 100th issue – and was sourced from recommendations by Esquire’s travel and culture editors (as well as lots of input from you, the readers).
The list truly does span the globe, and features varied activities – such as travelling the Silk Road to paddling around your own private island in the Maldives. Whether or not you only have the chance to tick one of these off the list (or all of them) rest-assured that each entry represents the best in the business when it comes to travel.
How many can you tick off the list?
Things to do
Paddle around an Iceberg
Antarctica is one of the largest continents on earth, but also the least visited. But this is slowly changing. Attracted by the untouched beauty of this raw landscape, complete with glaciers, icebergs, icy frost and a healthy penguin population, there are more expeditions to this frozen continent than ever before. Travel by sea is more popular than ever, be it via cruise, yacht or charting a private ship.
Climb to Machu Picchu
For history buffs and those who admire beautiful landscapes alike, the trek to Machu Picchu is not to be missed. The famed 15th century Inca citadel remains the best example of this past civilization, which is why it is a UNESCO’s World Heritage site and one of the most popular tourist destinations in the southern hemisphere.
Sail around the Galapagos Islands
In a world where you can fly just about anywhere in just a few hours, the Galapagos may well be your best bet at exploring the unknown. The volcanic island chain is home to a world of uncommon treasures, from animal species that don’t exist anywhere else, to totally unspoiled island views. Each of the 19 islands here has its own unique environment, meaning a new adventure every day of your stay.
Walk with Gorillas
A rare chance to truly become one with nature, and get up-close-and-personal with some truly magnificent features. Virunga National Park is one of the best-protected gorilla sanctuaries in the world and offers expert tour guides that will lead you through stunning jungles and mountainous valleys, all in search of a tribe of silverback gorillas.
Island hopping around the Mediterranean
The islands of Greece – which encompass a huge 7,000 kilometres of Grecian coastline – are an important part of the country’s culture. And while the likes of Santorini, Mykonos and Rhodes tend to steal the spotlight – and attract the most tourists – there are hundreds more dotted about the turquoise deep blue waters.
Dive the Great Barrier Reef
There’s a reason why the Great Barrier Reef is the most-visited diving location on Earth. This 2,000 kilometres stretch of reef embodies every aspect of natural greatness, with more species of underwater life than you can shake a starfish at. While you can also sail or fly above this natural wonder, the best way to experience it is under the water, where you can get up close to the incredible sights of the reef.
Catch some sun in Bali
Bali is home to lush forests, spiritual monuments and a range of adventure sports. However, it’s best-known for its remarkable beaches. Dive in and enjoy a range of watersports or kick back on a lounger (be it from one of the country’s many five-star properties or a local-beachside deck-chair wrangler). Sun yourself by day, and as the moon rises move on to enjoy Bali’s bustling night markets and euphoric party culture.
Swim with Whale Sharks
Taking a dip with a frenzy of sharks (that being the collective noun of a group of them) might sound intimidating, but Whale Sharks are the cuddly versions of their Great White counterparts. You can swim with these gentle giants elsewhere in the world – such as the Philippines – but nowhere offers such a steady stream of these creatures as Isla de Mujeres just 13 kilometres off the coast of Cancun.
Hike along the Great Wall
The Great Wall is the only one of the seven wonders of the modern world that is best experienced on foot. The 8,000 kilometres stretch of wall winds through the lush greenery of Mutianyu, all the way to Hebei Province, about 300kilometres east of Beijing. You can pick a spot of wall to wander (some places are accessible by gondola) and most areas have a Great Wall Museum so that you can explore the history behind this unforgettable landmark.
Trek to Everest Base Camp
Topping 8,848 kilometres in the air, the mighty Everest has captured the imagination of adventurers for decades. However, if reaching the summit is a little bit beyond your abilities, then perhaps a trek to the great mountain’s base camp is a little more your style. The hike is by no means easy – it takes 14 days of walking uphill to get there – but you’ll see a load of mountain monasteries, traditional Sherpa villages and Tibetan and Buddhist prayer stones along the way.
Hike through Volcanos in Hawaii
Hawaii, United States
There are a total of five volcanoes that make up the island of Hawaii, three of which are currently active. These are best explored via the island’s Volcanoes National Park, which offers more than 300 kilometres of hiking trails that put you face-to-face with these active volcanoes. Enjoy the lush landscape, walk through lava tubes and top-off your day by watching liquid hot magma dribble slowly into the Pacific.
Take a dip in the Dead Sea
The Dead Sea is the saltiest body of water on the planet, and probably one of the world’s most ancient geographic locations (it’s one of the oldest and deepest salt lakes in the world). It’s 9.6-times saltier than any ocean and includes a plethora of minerals that aren’t naturally present anywhere else. You can float weightlessly for hours in its bright blue waters, or smother yourself in the mineral-rich mud that surrounds its shores.
A food tour of Delhi
Walking through India’s most exciting city is an eye-opening and deeply-cultural experience, but there’s no better way to familiarize yourself with Delhi than through its love affair with food. You’ll go beyond the cliché of curry and try authentic Indian foods that are best served on the streets.
Climb Sydney Harbour Bridge
Sydney is often referenced as one of the nicest cities on earth, and for a good reason. It’s packed full of tourist-friendly activities, from world-renowned art and history museums to cute cafes and high0-end culinary restaurants. But the best way to take in the grandeur that is the Sydney skyline – and the famous Opera House – is by trekking across a piece of the cities iconic landmarks on foot.
Say ‘Prost’ at Oktoberfest
For a true glimpse at what German hospitality is really about, then a trip to Oktoberfest (one of the world’s biggest annual parties) is a must. The festival celebrates the end of summer and the beginning of autumn and features more than just beverage tents and bratwurst. The two-week celebration sees regular parades through Munich, along with live music and a hefty dose of culture (although, there’s still quite a bit of drinking and sausages).
Dogsled through Siberia
Siberia isn’t known for much more than its bitterly cold winters, but its harsh environment is a joy to some – namely, the region’s healthy husky population. No trip to the northernmost part of Russia is complete, without a ride on the back of a sledge pulled by these pups, and there are regular guided treks across Siberia’s frozen Lake Baikal during the spring.
Canoe up the Okavango Delta
Getting up close and personal with exotic animals is a bucket list no-brainer, but far be it from ‘glamping’ style safari parks, a journey through Botswana’s Okavango Delta – camping as you go – is probably one of the most natural ways to see wild elephants, antelope and cheetahs.
Sand surf in the Sahara
The sand dunes of the Sahara are incredibly large and more-or-less completely untouched, making them a haven for adventure sports. While petrol-heads can take ‘dune-bashing rides’ or even rent and all-terrain-vehicle for the day, the natural crescent-shaped dunes in Morocco are almost purpose-built for sand surfing (going down the slopes on a surfboard) or sandboarding (going down on a snowboard).
Road trip through ‘The Mighty Five.’
There’s no better way to explore greater America than via a gold ol’ fashioned road trip. While the country boasts a large number of well-kempt national parks, the gold-standard of trips involves a ride through what’s commonly known as ‘The Mighty Five’; a cluster of five national parks in Utah that include natural wonders such as the Grand Canyon, the enormous salt flats and even the city of Las Vegas.
Heli-ski the Alps
For your typical adventure junkie or winter sports enthusiast, typical trail-skiing is nothing more than child’s play. The real fun is had off-piste, and one of the best (read: coolest) ways to do that is by incorporating a twin-blade helicopter into the mix. Switzerland offers some of the best off-trail skiing in the world, from Alpine villages such as Grimentz and Zermatt.
World’s longest zip line
The United Arab Emirates doesn’t do things by halves, so when its nethermost Emirate Ras Al Khaimah decided to build a zip line through its beautifully rugged terrain, it went all about and produced the world’s longest zip line at Jebel Jais, the country’s tallest mountain. Measuring 2.83 kilometres, the zip line will propel thrill-seekers at speeds up to 120kilometres.
Bungie Jump above the Kawarau River
Ask any native New Zealander, and they’ll tell you their small country pretty much invented adventure sports. And they might be right. The moment the south island’s iconic Kawarau Bridge was renovated in 1988, people started throwing themselves off it. Today, more than 38,000 annual visitors take the 140-foot leap that, depending on the tide, plunges their top halves into the water.
Swim with Dolphins in the Azores
The Azores are a group of nine islands located almost 1,500 kilometres away from Lisbon. Not only do they offer the same sun, sand and sea as the Portuguese coastline, but the archipelago is the perfect getaway for adventure seekers. Climbing and paragliding are popular pursuits here, but its most popular attraction stops by for a visit during migration times (from October to April).
Scale the Dome at Yosemite
For serious hikers, there is no greater challenge than the Half Dome trail through Yosemite National Park. It’s one of the most intense hikes in the world, and one that stretches out for more than 25 kilometres into the blue yonder. You’ll ascent more than 1.5 kilometres in all, but it’s the last 500-metres that are the trickiest; hikers must scramble up the steep slope with only a steel cable for support.
Drive the Great Ocean Road
Running 245 kilometres along Australia’s south-eastern coast, the Great Ocean Road is considered one of the most scenic drives of all time. If you put in the miles, road trippers can expect to see mile after mile of epic surf breaks, jungle-fringed beaches and quaint seaside towns to stop in. There are loads to see and do along the way, too; including koala spotting or sampling some of the local wares at one of the many vineyards on the route.
Travel along the Silk Road
The Silk Road is better-known as the path Marco Polo took when transporting oriental herbs and spices back from China to the western world. While there is no single Silk Road, the network of routes that connect Asia to the fringes of Eastern Europe has been used for at least 15 centuries, and today passes through regions that used to be hidden behind the Iron Curtain. As such, it’s a convenient way to explore the likes of Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Armenia, in a culturally-significant fashion.
Discover fossils in the Gobi Desert
With almost a million kilometres of dunes and endless blue sky, the Gobi Desert takes up a huge chunk of Mongolia. Currently one of the driest places on earth, it wasn’t always this way. Hundreds of thousands of years ago, it was a lush tropical rainforest, and while almost all that organic life is now gone – evidence of it remains. Budding palaeontologists will get a kick of exploring this strangely beautiful barren landscape, and it’s still one of the few places on earth without phone reception.
Walk among the clouds
Ulu Temburong National Park is full of rare plants and animals, along with towering dipterocarp trees that date back to the Jurassic period. It also has one of the most picturesque canopy walkways, which at 50 metres above the ground, is often shrouded in cloud cover. As the sun rises and the clouds dissipate, however, those unafraid of the heights have peerless views of the vast rainforest below.
Hitch a ride on a ski-doo
With plentiful snowfall and quite slopes, Western Canada has loads of attractions for skiers and snowboarders alike. And while there are a variety of regular slopes to choose from, the real fun begins the moment you set foot off-piste. Mountain guides are a must here, as it’s very easy to get lost, but what you lose in additional costs you’ll more than makeup for in time spent skiing - thanks to your guide’s handy ski-doo (snowmobile).
Scale the Jade Mountain
At nearly 4,000 metres above sea level, Taiwan’s Yushan Peak is a sight to behold, especially given the island’s overall size. Situated near the protected Alishan National Scenic Area, the hike is popular among fit locals. But be warned, it’s not easy. But if you put in the 10-12 hours of hiking required to reach the summit, you’ll be rewarded with postcard-perfect views.
Hug a baby panda
These highly-revered bears are some of the most protected animals in the world (indeed, China will only ever ‘loan’ one of their precious bears to countries they deem friends) and while there are a handful to be seen in wildlife parks around the world, the best place to get up-close-and-personal with a panda is in their native birthplace of Chengdu. It’s home to the largest panda breeding program in the world, with two sanctuaries dedicated to increasing awareness of these endangered species.
Have dinner in the Sky
The Lion City has one of the most iconic cityscapes anywhere in the world, with towering residential city blocks giving way to a thriving financial district, and the Marina Bay Sands towering over the Gardens by the Bay. One of the easiest and tastiest ways to take it all in is by spending an evening aboard the City Flyer – Singapore’s version of the London Eye - that gives diners an unparalleled view of the thriving metropolis below.
Buy a bespoke suit
There’s nothing quite like a suit made for you – and you alone. Many cities boast famous tailors, including Hong Kong and New York, but none will ever quite match up to those featured on the world’s most famous suiting street, London’s Savile Row. Many of the storied brands on this street have been around for decades and dressed both the likes of Royalty and the Hollywood elite.
Ride the Glacier Express
The famous Glacier Express runs between the towns of St. Moritz and Zermatt and winds its way through quant villages and between the mountains that make up Switzerland’s beautiful landscape. The eight-hour journey gives passengers plenty of time to enjoy the Alps in all their glory, especially if you take it all in with a spot of lunch and a glass of bubbly served in the posh dining car.
Eat your way through Jeonju
Located 120-miles south of the capital, Jeonju is very far away from the hustle and bustle of Seoul. It’s a small mix of 800 traditional low-rise buildings, restaurants and small guesthouses, but is famous for one thing; food. Home to the ‘bibimbap’ – South Korea’s world famous mixed rice dish – the region is home to several popular and authentic food tours.
Visit the Colosseum
Also known as the Flavian Amphitheatre, the oval amphitheatre in the centre of the city of Rome, Italy, it is the largest ever built and a spectacle you need to see at least once in your lifetime. When in the beautiful Rome, stay at one of the many central luxury hotels such as the Hotel de Russie, a combination of rich history with modernity.
Walk the Hollywood walk of fame
No matter who you are, you are guaranteed to find at least one name on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame that will impress you, making an afternoon trekking around L.A finding your favourites is a must when visiting tinsel town. Stay at the newly renovated Waldorf Astoria, with rooftop bar and Jean-Georges Beverly Hills restaurant, boasting a world-class menu including South American flavours and European classics for a unique farm-to-table experience.
Live like the Gibbons do
The Gibbon experience in Northern Laos, Huay Xai, basically lets you swing through the trees on zip wire staying in tree houses and hiking through amazing forestry. It’s a childlike dream come through. The cherry on top of this once in a lifetime experience, you might even spot a Gibbon while you are up there.
Lose yourself in the library
There is something deeply calming about a good library, and something humbling about an excellent one. Not only can you escape into the peace and quiet and dive into the archive of the world’s past (and present), but there are some libraries around the world that are absolutely breath-taking. The Admont Library in Austria is one, as is the Biblioteca Real Gabinete Portugues De Leitura in Rio De Janeiro. For historical significance visit the famed Trinity College Library in Dublin, or for the sheer size we recommend Paris’ Bibliotheque Nationale De France.
Feed your mind
Merely seeing the iconic, conch-shell shaped Guggenheim museum in New York is enough to give you a shot of cultural but to truly experience something life-affirming you really need to spend an afternoon there. The building designed by ‘starchitect’ Frank Lloyd Wright, has been drawing contemporary art lovers since it opened in 1959, its unique cylindrical shape a work of art in itself. Inside, visitors take in a constantly evolving collection of impressionist, post-impressionist, modern and contemporary art, including permanent pieces by Francis Bacon and Louise Bourgeois.
Embrace the aria
Going to the opera is always something you feel you should do, but never seem to pull the trigger on. Even if you’re not convinced by an evening of high-pitched warbling in foreign tongues, going to watch a performance in one of the world’s great opera houses is an experience that we cannot stress enough. Simply attending the gorgeous La Scala in Milan or the historic Bolshoi in Moscow are worthwhile experiences, but it’s Vienna’s iconic Staatsoper that matches incredible acts, with an iconic building and bags of old-world charm.
Sites to see
See the Northern Lights
Possibly the most awe-inspiring natural phenomenon on our planet, this all-natural light show paints the sky with otherworldly colours. The Aurora Borealis is one of nature’s most beautiful moments, and it while it can be seen from a number of northernmost countries, Thingvellir National Park in Iceland (only a few miles from the capital Reykjavik) has more clear skies than any other.
Shop the streets of Paris
While Paris has earned nicknames such as the ‘City of Light’ and the ‘City of Love’ over the years, we’d also label it a shopping capital of the world. Paris pleases all visitors with delectable food and drink, but is also home to some of the biggest names in the world of luxury. From the Rue de Rivoli (which pairs high-end boutiques alongside mainstream marquis) to Rue St Honoré (dedicated to the most luxurious fashion houses only) there’s something for everyone, as long as you remember your credit card.
Visit the Grand Canyon
Arizona, United States
Millions of years of erosion eventually carved out one of the great natural wonders of the world. This 440-sum stretch of river is known for its immense size and runs through some of the most remarkable landscapes in Middle America. The section of the Colorado River basin in Arizona is the best place to take it all in, especially the glass pedestrian bridge that provides those brave enough to venture out on its see-through frame unique views of the canyon below.
Watch the sunset in the ruins of Angkor Wat
The largest religious monument in the world drawn a huge number of tourists, and for a very good reason. Every step through the 162-hectare temple area is chock-full of culture and history, not to mention architecture. There are galleries, monuments and historic carvings housed within the temple grounds, including one magnificent ruin which harks back to the 12th century.
See the Taj Mahal
Each year, millions of tourists line up to see the Taj Mahal – widely considered to be one of the most beautiful buildings in the world. Named a World Heritage Site back in 1983, and lovingly-referred to as ‘The Jewel of India’ this magnificent building was commissioned by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in 1632 in memory of his late wife. It took more than 20 years and 20,000 people to build and is guaranteed to leave a lasting impression on all who gaze upon it.
Marvel at the Pyramids
The pyramids are some of the most historic and magnificent structures of the ancient world and have become defining symbols of the ancient Egyptian era. While you can see them in both Cairo and Giza, the latter is home to the Great Pyramid of Khufu (which is the tallest) as well as the Queen Pyramids.
With ruins that date back to 300 B.C., Petra is home to one of the most famous archaeological sites of all time. The city was carved directly into the bronze cliffs, and its remains are still full of historical monuments and intricate carvings. There’s loads to see and do here, from exploring the Siq passageways carved into a single rock-face, to visiting the Monastery and ‘high place of sacrifice’, and you can do it on foot or camelback.
Visit the Amazon Rainforest
The Amazon – which spans 4,350,000 sq km and crosses nine countries – is the most biodiverse rainforest in the world. In fact, it’s responsible for most of the air we breathe and the water we drink. While you can explore this tropical wonder in many South American countries (including Columbia, Peru and Bolivia), Brazil offers the most archetypal Amazon explorations, from day-trips
Photograph the Salt Flats
Thousands of years ago, Salar de Uyuni – today known as the Bolivian Salt Flats – was a high-altitude volcanic range. Over the years, the harsh conditions and sporadic rainfall has created an ancient dried-up lake of shimmering reflections and surreal rock formations. The seemingly never-ending salt flats attract thousands of photographers each year, who are drawn to its reflective desert-scape.
See Polar Bears roam free
These kings of the Arctic Circle are becoming increasingly few and far between (they are one of the most endangered species on our planet), but there are still a few safe havens for these 700kg gentle giants. Greenland is leading the charge in Polar Bear conservation, with a growing ecotourism industry that lets you admire polar bears (from afar) in their natural habitat.
Take pictures of the Mayan Ruins
The Mayan civilization was known for its wisdom and intuition (2012, anyone?) and there are archaeological ruins all over South America that stand testament to that intellectual curiosity. In their attempts to study the stars, the Mayans built several astrology centres along the Guatemalan coastline, letting tourists enjoy a little sun, sand and history.
Soak in Victoria Falls
Sat right on the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia, the magnificent Victoria Falls attracts thousands of tourists each year. But for those looking to get a bit more involved than simply take pictures, the Devil’s Pool awaits. This naturally-formed pool sits right at the edge of the falls, letting daring swimmers paddle tantalizingly close to the 108-metre drop below.
Get drenched at Iguazu Falls
Iguazu falls is located between Brazil and Argentina, and is one of the largest natural waterfalls on earth. It’s made up of more than 200 cascades and reaches the dizzying height of 85-metres. While you can get excellent views from either side of this massive waterfall, the more adventurous can hop on an inflatable raft that takes you directly under the exhilarating falls.
See Tiger’s Nest
Tiger’s Nest is one of the most spectacular monasteries on the planet. Located in a secluded spot in the Himalayas, this Buddhist temple is built above a cave where Guru Rinpoche is said to have travelled to on the back of a tiger. It’s known as the birthplace of Buddhism for the Bhutanese people, making it not only a great place to learn more about the religion itself, but also the local culture.
Walk Mount Fuji
This perfectly-formed snow-capped mountain towers over Tokyo, but the best way to experience its majesty – as well as some better aspects of Japanese culture – is by trekking through the ash-strewn path that leads to its summit. Along the five-hour hike you’ll see local Shinto shrines and experience local towns until you reach the top; which provides its own truly awe-inspiring view of the Japanese capital below.
Hike the frozen Zanskar River
The Zanskar River is an important body of water responsible for bringing fresh water down from the Glaciers in North India to the south. But during the colder months, the river freezes solid – letting budding adventurers trek along 50-kilometres of the riverbanks. Known locally as the Chadar Trek, guided tours will let you explore the natural beauty of this stark river land, as well as camp directly on the ice.
Sketch at Darwin Lake
The Galapagos Islands
Thanks to its location, The Galapagos Islands are teaming with life; both on land, in the sea and up in the air. And of the best spots to experience the natural species is at Darwin Lake. So named after the man himself, Darwin would often sit by this saline pool and sketch the nearby tortoises and iguanas. Now you can take guided tours to this particular spot, and re-live the golden age of exploration.
See New England in the Fall
America isn’t known for its subtlety, and most of its tourist spots generally follow the general rule of, “bigger is better”. Not so on the North East coast, where – especially once the leaves turn golden in the fall – everything is far more subdued. Photographers will particularly enjoy New England and its rolling hills and picturesque lakes.
Witness the Great Migration
When the United Nations met to discuss which locations would become the first World Heritage Sites back in 1972, it was Africa’s Serengeti that was on the top of that list. Today, it’s one of the most famous national parks on earth, and one of the best places to bear witness to The Great Migration – when thousands upon thousands of wild antelope and wildebeest cross the plains (with natural predators such as lions in hot pursuit).
Become a ‘whale junkie.’
Whale watching is – no pun intended – a very big deal. More than 13-million people go out each year in search of these gentle giants, and there are regular tours that sail from locations such as Iceland, California, and New Zealand. However, only South Africa’s Cape Town virtually guarantees you’ll spot one of these larger-than-life creatures, through its short August-November whale watching season.
Watch the sunrise over Bagan
Bagan is one of the world’s most important archaeological discoveries of the modern world and rivals the likes of Machu Picchu and Angkor Wat in terms of cultural significance. The big difference, however, is the number of tourists. The little-known Bagan attracts a fraction each year, but that’s surely about to change given that there are more than 4,000 temples and palaces here, most in stellar condition.
See the temples and gardens of Kyoto
Outside the urban sprawl that is Tokyo and Osaka, Japan is very different place. Far removed from the neon signage and skyscrapers, Kyoto is known for tea ceremony masters, traditional paper-walled inn, and kimono-clad geisha girls. It is peaceful and serene, not least because it is home to some of the country’s most beautiful landscaped gardens, Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines.
Dive shipwrecks in Sipadan
Just over ten years ago, Jacques Cousteau declared that he had found “paradise under the sea”. He was talking about Sipadan, a tiny coral island 20-miles from Borneo. Here you can see huge shoals of barracuda, as well as both natural and arranged wrecks that really make the most of the year-round diving season.
See Tarsier monkeys in Bohol
On the opposite side of the primate spectrum to Gorillas, is the tiny Tarsier. They are some of the smallest monkeys on earth (measuring just 15cm) not much bigger than a regular-sized iPhone. They are an endangered species, and the best place to see these miniature marvels is at the Philippine Tarsier Foundation in Bohol.
Take in the skyline at night
Hong Kong boasts one of the most photographed skylines of any city on earth, either from the top of the highest point on the island – The Peak – or from the shores of Kowloon. At night, the skyline comes alive with a laser and light show that is best enjoyed while on a harbour cruise, on board one of the city’s 1920-style double-decker ferries.
Explore the ‘best island on Earth’
Judging by the furore around this tiny island, it’s probably worth a visit. Alex Garland took inspiration from Palawan Island, it and turned it into a novel (The Beach), it’s featured in major Hollywood blockbusters (The World is Not Enough, The Bourne Legacy) and it’s been voted ‘best island on Earth’ twice by Travel + Leisure magazine.
Sit in the shade of a Super Tree
Garden’s by the Bay is home to almost 1.6 million species of flower and plant, located in one of the eco-parks many bio-domes. While entrance to these domes requires a ticket, anyone can sit and admire the ‘Super Trees’ which stand as guardians to the park’s entrance. Each tree is 25-50-metres tall and is covered head-to-toe with local fauna. At night they come alive, providing visitors with their very own private light show.
See the world’s largest lizard
The Komodo Dragon is Indonesia’s most fearsome native species. An adult male can grow up to 3.5-metres in length, and weigh almost 100-kilogrammes. These dangerous animals are best seen at Komodo National Park on Rinca Island (which – due to the nature of these pre-historic lizards – was used by Steven Spielberg as inspiration for his film Jurassic Park).
Bask in the festival of lights
One of the most picturesque festivals in Thailand is Loy Krathong – when people gather round lakes and rivers to pay respect to the goddess of water each November. Chang Mai puts on arguably the greatest celebration, with a Lantern Festival under the fool moon that sees thousands of traditional paper-and-candle lanterns launched into the night sky.
Dance at Carnival
The biggest party on earth kicks off in March and sees around two million people take to the streets of Rio for music, dance and parades. The celebration held at the Samadrome is the most competitive and sees hundreds dress up in dazzling costumes and dance on elaborate floats in front of thousands of spectators. And the fun doesn’t stop after the parades have finished; expect small neighbourhood ‘Blanco’ bands to keep the music playing until the early hours.
Places to stay
Get pampered to perfection
Dubai’s One&Only Royal Mirage is known for more than just five-star service and a fantastic location (Drift Beach Bar is picture perfect for sunset drinks). Its award-winning Oriental Hammam helps guests de-stress and unwind in record time, with a range of traditional Moroccan treatments that you’ll wish you can take with you at check-out.
Sleep at the top of the world
The JW Marriot Marquis in Dubai towers above the rest of the city (indeed, it is one of the world’s tallest hotels), providing its guests with one of the best night-time views that the city has to offer. The rooms are split between two symmetrical skyscrapers, in a prime location directly in the middle of this busy city, and the hotel also boasts a large array of restaurants.
Wake-up on The Palm
Palm Jumeirah in sunny Dubai is one of the modern world’s greatest engineering feats, and part of a wider expansion project that will saw Dubai’s coastline increase almost 1,000 per cent over just ten years. It’s also home to several of the finest five-star resorts in the city, and chief among them is The Waldorf Astoria Dubai Palm Jumeirah, where the luxury rooms and service match up to the panoramic views over the Arabian Gulf.
This luxury seaside town is home to many fashionable brands, memorable dining experiences and a vibrant nightlife. A jewel on the Aegean Sea, the best place to set-up came before exploring this beautiful summer travel spot is Allium Villas Resort, the finest new luxury hotel in Bodrum. The property has 36 suites and rooms, and each boasts beautifully panoramic views of the Aegean Sea beyond.
Tantalize your senses
The Middle East is known for its opulent beachside resorts, but Six Senses Zighy Bay is all that, and more. Set a private stretch of sandy beach, and fringed with the dramatic rocky mountains of Oman’s Musandam Peninsula, the hotel was inspired by the simplicity of a traditional Omani village. It features 82 luxury pool villas that make it a p4erfect escape from the hassle of modern-day life.
Stay in the Hajar Mountains
The best way to take in Oman’s starkly-beautiful mountain rage is from your very own private balcony, at the Anantara Al Jabal al Akhdar Resort. This hotel gives adventure seekers the chance to hike and abseil through the Hajar Mountains or, if that seems like too much trouble, simply enjoy the views from your very own private pool.
Get in a tropical state of mind
Perched on a rocky headland dividing two seemingly endless unspool beaches, lies the award-winning Salam Villas. Just two hours from Colombo, Sri Lanka’s first boutique hotel fuses classic Sri Lankan design with all the mod-cons you’ve come to expect from a five-star resort. And whether you want to explore the area or spend a day by the hotel’s infinity pool, there’s something for everyone.
Experience the Red Sea in style
In a twist to your generic sun, sea and sand holiday – Jaz Makadi Saraya Resort now offers a stylish new take on the classic holiday. More than a comfortable room in a hot tourist spot, the resort pairs stylish restaurants with smart Asian-infused décor and amazing service to provide guests with an unrivalled experience on North Africa’s favourite sea.
Become a part of history
The Galle Face Hotel in Sri Lanka’s capital Colombo offers its guests the chance to stay in a renovated 19th-century hotel, on the city’s biggest seaside promenade. The hotel first opened in 1864 and has since welcomed royalty, film stars and countless other celebrities. Fortunately, it’s been modernized and upgraded since then, but there’s still bags of character and nostalgia to be had from this historic property.
Embrace the luxury life
Caresse – a Luxury Collection Resort & Spa – first opened its doors in 2015. Since then, it has been setting the standards for luxury resorts in the port city of Bodrum, and today is known for its privileged location, stunning view and exquisite, white sandy beach.
Swim in crystal clear waters
There’s a reason The Maldives sits at the top of most luxury getaway lists. Many island resorts offer a class-leading level of luxury and privacy, and Coco Bodu Hithi resort is a great example of that. Its glorious white sandy beaches are flanked by crystal-clear water and shaggy palm trees, which all work to cocoon the resort’s 100 rooms into its natural surroundings.
Stay in an Ice Hotel
There’s no better way to experience the ice and snow then by staying in it. Finland’s SnowVillage builds (well, rebuilds) a new ice hotel each winter, and lets guests enjoy their very own luxury igloo and indoor ice bar. Temperatures are kept at a chilly minus five degrees, and rooms are themed (last year saw Game of Thrones take centre stage, complete with dragons, dire wolves and White Walkers).
Soak in historic Havana
Havana is a city soaked in history and charm, and while it was once very hard to visit, the country has since opened its doors to international travellers. The best way to explore the city is via The Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinsky La Habana, which is a stone’s throw away from Old Havana and Hemingway’s old haunt; Floridita. The grand hotel also has spectacular views over the historic sheets.
Have a tipple in Bordeaux
One of the most famous grape-growing regions of the world is also one of the most hospitable. Les Sources de Caudalie is a chic spa and country hotel, complete with peaceful gardens around its own lake, and modern sculptures dotted around the property’s own vineyards. The hotel offers tours to neighbouring chateaus, as well as dinner at its two-star Michelin-starred restaurant.
Sleep beside Ayres Rock
Australia’s Northern Territory is generally quite a barren and uninhabitable place. However one boutique hotel has decided you shouldn’t have to slum it to see one of the country’s most beautiful natural landscapes. Longitude 131 is glamping at its finest, and each room offers unimpeded views across the outback to the 600 million-year-old rock.
Embrace Arab Hospitality
Riad Kniza – in Marrakech – provides its guests one of the most interesting and unique experiences in the city. This 200-year-old mansion was bought by one of Marrakech’s most famous antique dealers, then lavishly restored into one of the most fabulous (but utterly authentic) boutique hotels in the city. Expect soaring salons, spacious rooms and tranquil patios, and all situated in the middle of this bustling metropolis.
Explore Greater Alaska
The best way to see Alaska’s whopping 40,000 miles of coastline scenery, ice fields and glaciers is by water. Silversea Cruises operates ultra-luxurious and all-inclusive trips on its small, intimate cruise ships, all of which stop at smaller ports along the way up and down America’s Northernmost state. The ships have an old-world feel, with teak verandas and quaint bars; as well as regular wildlife excursions for those who can brave the cold.
See the Ganges River
For those looking for an ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ type experience, the new Roseate Ganges Rishikesh offers a relaxed, spiritual vibe with stunning views over the Ganges River, to boot. Located in the verdant hills of historic Rishikesh, the property has 16 generous cottages each boasting private balconies with views overlooking the historic holy river.
The Maldives is known for having some of the most stunning scuba diving sites on Earth, but what if you don’t fancy putting your flippers on? Ozen by Atmosphere is a resort located in the South Male Atoll, and besides having some of the most stunning overwater villas in the country, also boasts M6M underwater restaurant. It lets you dine among the thousands of fishes that make-up the resort’s adjacent reef.
Take a bubble bath with a view
The Conrad Suite at the Conrad Osaka gives you unprecedented views over Japan’s second-biggest city, from the comfort of your very own tub. The room features a free-standing bathtub with city-views spanning the 33rd to 40th floors of the new Festival Tower West. It’s your very own oasis, high above the bustling city of Osaka.
Take a bite out of the Big Apple
The island of Manhattan is one of the busiest cities on the planet, and so exploring this urban metropolis can be a bit of a pain unless you’ve got the right base of operations. Central Park is a good place to start, and The Peninsula New York offers convenience, and luxury, in spades. It boasts a superb location (close to the park, and a stone’s throw away from Trump Tower), with luxury apartment rooms with sweeping views of New York City.
Doze under the stars
Quissanga Island – off the coast of the small Southeast African country – is home to some of the best views of the stars in the southern hemisphere. Anantara Medjumbe Island’s capitalized on that by turning a neighbouring uninhabited island into the ultimate sleepover escape and letting adventurous couples sleep out under the stars.
Lose yourself in tea
Located in Southwest Rwanda, just south of Lake Kivu, One&Only Nyungwe House is set within the rich tea-plantations of Fisakura, on the edge of Nyungwe National Park. The hotel lets guests get up close and personal with the plantation’s famous flora and fauna, as well as venture into the National Park with your own Rwandan safari guide.
The Thai capital is certainly one of the busiest cities in the world, with congestion eating up its major roads (and river). Staying somewhere central is key to getting the most out of Bangkok, and the Sukhothai provides that and more. It offers old-world charm with opulent colonial-era suites, as well as regularly-vetted local travel guides to help make the most of your time here.
Enjoy Queenstown in style
Queenstown is a fan favourite destination for both luxury and adventure visitors (mainly because this quaint city really does have something for everyone). There are many good hotels here, but the most historic is surely Hulbert House. Originally built during the country’s 19th-century gold rush, this Victorian guesthouse has been lovingly restored to its former glory.
Travel like a nomad
The Gobi is a vast and desolate landscape. However there have been nomad tribes surviving here for centuries. Three Camel Lodge – close to the famed paleontological sites in the south of Asia’s largest desert – is Mongolia’s first luxury boutique. Far more than a simple destination camp, Three Camel Lodge features traditional felt Ger tents, and was recently named one of the ‘World’s Best Lodges’.
Rub shoulders with the elite
Dubai attracts some of the richest men and women on the planet. And while you might not be able to live like the 1 per cent, you can certainly stay alongside them. Dubai’s swanky Downtown district draws the world’s wealthy to shop (The Dubai Mall is a sixty-second walk away from the hotel), to dine (at the nearby Souk al Bahar) and to stay (The Address Downtown has recently re-opened after a luxurious refurbishment).
Walk the Ha’penny Bridge
Winding your way down Dublin’s cobbled streets is an adventure itself, but crossing the river Liffey (which cuts the city in half) over the Ha’penny Bridge is a great way to familiarize yourself with the emerald city. At just 20-minutes away, the Conrad Dublin is uniquely suited for quickly getting around the city, opposite the gardens of St. Stephen’s Green and overlooking the majestic National Concert Hall.
This has been the Esquire Ultimate Bucket List – our collection of the 100 best places to stay, things to do, and sights to see in the world before you die.
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