Creating the ultimate Travel Bucket List is no easy undertaking. The more you travel, the more you discover how many unexpectedly beautiful places there are in the world. Between the colorful small towns of Mexico, the quiet retreats of the Pacific Islands, culture-rich capitals like Paris and Rome, and the vast wilderness destinations of Canada and the northeast, we’ve only begun to scratch the surface of the best places to travel.
Still, there are a handful of places we see in our lifetime that we simply can’t imagine having gone without. They are the ones that humble us, open our eyes, change our perspectives, and leave us better than we were before. These are the places worthy of a spot on life’s travel bucket list.
And after much deliberation (and in no particular order), here are the 7 initial places that are essential to a perfected Travel Bucket List.
For travelers seeking the perfect balance of city life, history, architecture, and vast experiences in the wild, there may be no better place than Oslo. The expansive fjords backed by majestic mountains are both mesmerizing and inspiring. Nestled between beautiful water, high peaks and green hills on all sides, it’s not hard to see why.
How to make the most of Oslo: Travel in summer, eat every local food you can get your hands on, and sample the local craft beer.
Travel tip: Most locals speak English, so making your way around is no trouble. Explore confidently. You won’t regret it.
This UNESCO World Heritage Site is ripe with all the elements that make for incredible travel – an incredibly unique landscape, ancient ruins, firefly-filled nights, wild monkeys, and wonderful locals with a fascinating culture. For explorers and the naturally curious, there is no shortage of sites and experiences that will leave you breathless.
How to make the most of Hampi: Travel during October – January to enjoy less heat and fewer tourists. And if traveling by floating basket is on your bucket list, don’t skip the Hanuman Temple across the river.
Travel tip: Most parts of India are incredibly hot during normal travel seasons. Getting to Hampi and exploring the surrounding areas is not for the faint of heart. Most travelers will find the heat, dryness, dirt, and sanitary conditions tough to adjust to. But those that do are hugely rewarded.
If you’re a believer that the most incredible cities have a beautiful body of water running through them, Yangshuo should move to the top of your list. The small city is nestled by the Yangtze River and set against a backdrop of the incredibly unique Karst Mountains. Unlike Shanghai, Beijing and Shenzhen, Yangshuo is not a massive city or a heavily visited tourist destination – making it perfect for the local-experience-and-authentic-travel obsessed.
How to make the most of Yangshuo: Don’t rush your time here. Make sure you’ve allotted ample travel time to really settle in. Rent a bike and explore the countryside. Swim in the Yangtze River. Slow down and enjoy.
Travel tip: Yangshuo, while off the beaten path, is comfortable and accommodating. But don’t let your experience end in a cozy hotel. The area offers a vast number of hikes and caves just waiting to be explored.
In the heart of Tuscany, Florence is the ultimate destination for art and cultural enthusiasts. The Pitti Palace and Uffizi Gallery are among the top museums in the world, offering face time with breathtaking masterpieces from the likes of da Vinci and Botticelli. Complemented by its surrounding hills, beautiful streets, delicious food, and the beautiful Arno river, Florence is a place not to be missed in this lifetime.
How to make the most of Florence: Walk everywhere, as much as you can. Florence is meant to be seen on foot – from its smallest corners, to its steepest hillside neighborhoods.
Travel tip: Have dinner at one of the restaurants overlooking the Arno River and Ponte Vecchio. Come rain or shine, with grain or grappa, alone or with a companion, it promises to be one of the best meals you’ll have in Italy.
Set between two stunning lakes and right against the majestic Swiss Alps, Interlaken is almost too good to be true. Add the surrounding mountain towns of Lauterbrunnen, Gimmelwald and Murren, and the journey is made whole. Fairytale-inspiring hilltops sprinkled with houses and cows, snow-capped peaks, flowing rivers, quiet locals, powerful waterfalls, and an endless supply of things to see leave even the most tenured traveler breathless.
How to make the most of Interlaken: Get out and explore. Take the Jungfraujoch Railway to the tallest peak of the Swiss Alps. The views along the way overlooking the valleys below are absolutely stunning, and the destination will bring tears to your eyes.
Travel tip: Traveling in Switzerland is not cheap, but it’s worth it. Be prepared for pricey meals, hotels and activities. And at all costs, try the Tuna pizza.
The biggest reason for visiting Saint-Malo? Mont Saint-Michel. This once-castle, turned prison, then abbey is arguably one of the most beautiful places in the country, and was this year’s starting point of the Tour de France. Adding to the incredible architecture, history and views is the surrounding town. Below the structure are winding cobblestone streets filled with the smell of fresh baguettes and the magic of handmade artisan products.
How to make the most of Saint-Malo: Mont Saint-Michel is definitely the largest tourist attraction in the area, but Saint-Malo has more to offer than that. Walk the beach outside the town’s fortress-like walls. Visit the Saint-Malo Cathedral in the town’s center, and get lost in street after street of local shops.
Travel tip: Saint-Malo isn’t immune to peak travel season. Go in early spring or mid-late fall to avoid big crowds. And you won’t want to miss the surrounding coastal areas of the Brittany Province.
Cesky Krumlov, Czech Republic
Wise travelers from all over the world make Prague a non-negotiable on their travel bucket list. The wisest add Cesky Krumlov. A beautiful 3-hour train ride from the country’s capital, this city is nestled around the Vltava River. The best part of this historic town? Outside of Cesky Krumlov castle and its garden, there isn’t a necessary laundry list of sites to hit. The town will capture you all on its own.
How to make the most of Cesky Krumlov: Stroll down winding streets, try the local cuisine, and get lost in the magic of this beautiful Czech town. If you’re lucky enough to be there during the International Music Celebration, evening events are not to be missed.
Travel tip: Be patient. Travel slow. Sink in. The local charm and natural beauty of the area are best enjoyed slowly and with intent.
Rich with history and local customs, Siena has earned a reputation for knocking tourists off their feet. At the heart of the city is beautiful Piazza del Campo surrounded by incredible centuries-old architecture and warm cafes. Explore the city’s narrow streets, and get swept up in the pride of the 17 neighborhoods, or contrade, in the town. And if you’re lucky, squeeze in a spot at perhaps the most unique horse race in the world, the Palio di Siena.
How to make the most of Siena: Like all medieval towns, Siena is best explored slowly. Get lost in the history and beauty of the city. Meander with locals. Mingle with a few of the town’s large student population. And don’t forget to leave room in your suitcase for meaningful travel tokens.
Travel tip: The drive in and out of Siena is exquisite Tuscan countryside. It’s filled with medieval fortresses and endless vineyards. Like your time in Siena, don’t rush the trip in and out.