Where are the world's most beautiful places? Make the most of your holidays and visit the best ones. From ancient cities and underwater worlds, to epic waterfalls and majestic mountains, we've selected 50 awesome holiday ideas for the ultimate travel bucket list.
Want to know where to go for the world's best adventures? Or where to spot the most stunning wildlife? Browse our places to see before you die and see how many you can tick off your bucket list...
50 places to see before you die
50 places to see before you die: The ultimate travel bucket list
Explore the living masterpiece that is the Great Barrier Reef by swimming, sailing, snorkelling and diving. The World Heritage-listed attraction stretches more than 2,000km along the Queensland coast and can be seen from outer space. Hop between the idyllic, palm-fringed islands and discover the bright coral and marine life. Visit Heron and Wilson islands during the annual turtle nesting season (November to March) where you can witness hatchlings scurrying to the sea. Browse the world's most endangered places
One of the most iconic attractions in the world, the Great Pyramid of Giza, was built around 2560 BC as a tomb for the Egyptian Pharaoh Khurfu. It took 20 years to construct using nearly 2.3 million blocks of stone and at 450ft high remained the world's tallest building for 4 millennia. Dan Saunders of Encounters Travel, which specialises in group tours to Egypt, says: 'No trip to Egypt is complete until you’ve stood at the base of the Great Pyramid of Giza in Cairo. This monument is probably one of the most recognisable sites around the world and is the only surviving member of the Seven Ancient Wonders of the World, so it should definitely be on anybody’s travel bucket list.' Egypt's top 10 destinations
If you're a lover of city breaks, New York City is a must for your travel bucket list. From seeing the sparkling lights of Broadway to checking out the city skyline from the top of the Empire State Building or Top of the Rock, there's loads to see and do in the city that never sleeps. Take a boat trip to the Statue of Liberty, a stroll around Central Park and shop 'til you drop on Fifth Avenue. Basically just enjoy the city that songs are written about and movies are set! Looking for a hotel in New York? Check out our favourites
The Northern Lights are one of nature's phenomenons that you need to see to believe. With easy access to the natural light display, snowy wilderness and reindeer, Finnish Lapland is a magical place to spot the Aurora Borealis. Instead of watching them outside in freezing temperatures, why not spot the Lights from the comfort of your own heated glass igloo? It means you can spend the night gazing at the sky from your bed and wake up to the spectacular snow-covered scenery. Stay at the unique Kakslauttanen Igloo Village in Saariselka.
Grab your hiking boots and experience the magnificent four-day Inca Trail through cloud forests, over high peaks and past ancient Inca ruins before you finally arrive at beautiful Machu Picchu. 'Although the trek is rated moderate, it can be challenging reaching altitudes as high as 4200m so spend at least a day in Cusco to fully acclimatise,' advises Claudia Cornejo Mohme, vice minister of Tourism of Peru. 'Wander the cobblestone streets, admire the Plaza de Armas in the heart of the city or soak up history in one of the many museums.'
Ever fancied visiting Europe and Asia on one city break? Head to Turkey's largest city Istanbul where you can do just that and more. Visit the stunning Blue Mosque, take a ride on the Bosphorus strait and marvel at the historic Hagia Sofia. Shopaholics can get lost in the Grand Bazaar while those looking to relax shouldn't miss a traditional Turkish bath. Love films? Taken 2 and Skyfall are the latest movies to have been set in the glorious city. See ten great things to do in Istanbul
Orlando's theme parks appeal to all ages and make for a fun break where you can feel like a celebrity. Make like Lady Gaga and Gary Barlow by meeting your favourite Disney characters at the magical Walt Disney World Resort, follow in the footsteps of Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas by hitting the rides at Universal Orlando Resort and get soaked by dolphins and whales at SeaWorld, like Tom Daley. To really feel like a star, opt for VIP tickets to get the best seats at live shows and cut the queues for rides.
Home to the King of the Arctic, the polar bear, Spitsbergen is a brilliant place to visit in the summer months when you can go sailing and spot the magnificent animals. It's where the warmer currents of the Gulf Stream meet the cold air and water from the north and the region's top predator rules over the fragile and frozen kingdom. Hurtigruten offers tours on ships that look out for polar bears the whole time and take you close to the Arctic wildlife, where you can also see thousands of seabirds migrate to the coastal cliffs of Svalbard.
If you're planning on saving up for an African safari, experiencing the migration in Kenya's Masai Mara between June and November is a must. Stefano Cheli, owner of Cheli & Peacock, which has camps in the Masai Mara, says: 'Don't just rush towards the famous "river crossings" as those have become extremely busy with tourists who sometimes unwittingly can interrupt wildebeest from crossing, which can cause rage and stress. Enjoy the migration for what it is - millions of zebra, wildebeest, Thomson's gazelle roaming the plains looking for better grasses. Sit on top of a hill and watch the elephants give way to lines of wildebeests and the hyenas following behind hoping for the sight of an injured one.'
An unforgettable day out and one of Britain's most wonderful attractions, Stonehenge is a highlight of the South West and probably the most famous prehistoric monument in the world. It comes with a mysterious history and was built around 5,000 years ago. Was it a temple for sun worship? A healing centre? A burial site? Or maybe a huge calendar? The World Heritage Site never fails to impress and is surrounded by prehistoric landscape, perfect for a walk in the beautiful Wiltshire countryside.
For the opportunity to get up close to one of the world's most iconic attractions, hop on a bike and cycle San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge. While most people have driving over the bridge on their bucket list, cycling offers a fresh perspective on the old classic, with great views across the bay, Alcatraz and the city skyline. Hire a bike and go across yourself or book a guided cycle with Bike and Roll
Cambodia's famous temples of Angkor Wat are something that most travellers have on their bucket list, but if you want to take things one step further, enter its east side before dawn and explore the temples by torchlight before the other tourists arrive. Here you can watch the sun rise over the spires for a unique view of the iconic attraction. Specialist tour operator Travel Indochina is the only operator to have access to the lesser-known entrance and gives you an intimate experience, following a path through the jungle illuminated only by torchlight!
For one of the most fascinating train journeys in the world, take a ride on the Trans-Siberian railway, the longest in the world, connecting Moscow with the Russian Far East and the Sea of Japan. Kristi Rorison of IntouristUK, which specialises in travel to Russia, says: 'Begin your adventure in Russia’s mighty capital Moscow, with a rich history and some of the finest architecture in the world, including the Kremlin, Seven Sisters buildings and the stunning Metro System. Move onward through the vastness of Siberia before settling in Irkutsk, home to Lake Baikal, the largest freshwater source on the planet. Mongolia awaits - spend time in a traditional Mongolian Ger and live like a nomad before journeying on to Beijing, China’s colourful capital.'
'As deserts go, the Namib is the real thing,' says Chris McIntyre, managing director of Expert Africa, which organises trips to Namibia. 'It's so old that its own endemic animals have evolved there, but what captivates the visitor is the sheer beauty of the sharp-edged, sinuous curves that glow apricot around sunrise and sunset.' Enormous dunes, towering mountain ranges and deep sculptured canyons characterise the Namib-Naukluft National Park. Be sure to leave plenty of time to stop, take photos and have a picnic surrounded by space and silence.
Soak up the atmosphere of Budapest in the winter when the locals and tourists hit the city of baths' outdoor thermal pools to keep warm, socialise and enjoy the healing waters. The Szechenyi has an enormous neo-Baroque courtyard with a bath and one of its best sights is the dedicated chess players with their floating cork boards! The Gellert is known as the finest of all the bath houses with its main indoor pool - perhaps the best example of Hungary's neo-classical architecture. Rudas and Kiraly are other historic baths in the city.
Paris. Ahhh Paris. We never get bored of the romantic city and love browsing the epic art collection at the Louvre, climbing the steps to the Sacre Coeur and shopping 'til we drop on the Champs-Elysees. Paris is wonderful any time of year - in the summer you can sit at a pavement cafe Parisian-style or head to the beach along the river Seine, a stroll around the Jardin du Luxembourg to see the leaves in autumn is a must, winter is when you can see the city lit up at Christmas and spring is the perfect time to visit the museums and enjoy Paris without the crowds.
Conservationists and tourists welcomed the news of the ban on tiger tourism being scrapped as seeing the mighty animals in the wild is a thrilling experience. Ranthambore is the place to see them as the national park has seen an impressive increase in tiger numbers over the years. Parik Laxminarayan, managing director of Enchanting-India, which organises tiger safaris in Ranthambore, says: 'Its daunting gaze, statesman-like walk, raw power and overwhelming enigma proves why the tiger is rightly known as the King of the Jungle. To see one in the wild in all its beauty is truly an awe-inspiring experience, for keen wildlifers and casual tourists alike.'
While most travellers flock to southern Spain, the north is home to one of Spain's best treasures, the Islas Cies, an archipelago off the coast of Galicia, where you'll find the Praia das Rodas, known as one of the world's best beaches. The locals call it their Caribbean beach as it boasts pristine white sands, turquoise waters and is backed by small dunes. The three islands that make up the Islas Cies are now a national park so you won't find big hotels and beach vendors. Be sure to sample the fabulous seafood, for which Galicia is famous.
The city of grand palaces, ornate shrines and exquisite gardens, Kyoto is the Japan you imagine, with maiko dancers in the streets wearing kimonos, the famous Aoi-matsuri Festival celebrating the two Kamo shrines and the spectacular autumn leaves that transform the former capital of Japan. Don't leave the city without touring the streets of Kyoto dressed up as a real geisha or maiko, spending the night in a Kyoto Temple and waking up to morning meditation, having tea in the garden of a temple and visiting UNESCO World Heritage site, the Golden Pavilion.
Hawaii is the birthplace of big wave surfing and whether you're looking to learn or are ready to take on its powerful swells, there's a variety of surf at the islands. Experienced surfers should hit the strong winter waves of Makaha on Oahu's west shore and Waimea Bay on the North Shore, while Waikiki Beach is one of the best spots in Hawaii for first-timers. Don't miss watching the surfers at the viewer-friendly beaches of Waimea Bay, Sunset Beach and the Banzai Pipeline in Oahu.
For a true Moroccan experience, go on a trek with a Berber family accompanied by 200 sheep and goats, dogs, camels and mules during the Berber migration. You'll walk for six days through the Dades Valley, over the snow line at 11,000ft and into the summer pastures in the High Atlas, sleeping in desert camps and drinking mint tea by the fire. Alex Edwards, owner of Natural High, which offers this unique experience, says: 'A week in the company of a family from the nomadic Ait Atta clan in Southern Morocco with the pace of the journey dictated by the location of water and grazing for the flocks will remind you of the value of time.'
It's inspired songwriters, novelists and filmmakers, and Route 66, the Mother Road of America makes for an epic journey across the States, stretching for 2,400 miles from Chicago, Illinois to Santa Monica, California. Route 66 crosses eight states: Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California. Spend 16 days exploring the route and stopping at attractions, such as St Louis's jazz clubs, Oklahoma City, the desert scenery of Santa Fe, the vast Grand Canyon and the Las Vegas Strip. America's best road trips
Adventure types shouldn't miss Wales' breathtaking Pembrokeshire coast where you can try coasteering, an activity first developed by surfers and kayakers in the 1980s. It involves working your way round the coastline at sea level by climbing, diving, swimming, scrambling and rock hopping. With stunning views, dramatic coastline and fabulous beaches, Pembrokeshire is a top spot for coasteering. Preseli Venture offers adrenalin-fuelled coasteering breaks, which you can combine with nights under the stars, at a five-star eco lodge, or with kayaking and walking.
'Visiting Rio Carnival is one thing but taking part in the Sambadrome parade is an experience second to none,' says Simon Williams, founder of Brazil holiday specialist, Bespoke Brazil. 'The countless street parties (blocos) are an amazing sight but dressing up and joining in with a samba school for the Sambadrome competition is a totally different experience. The sheer energy of the event cannot be truly described, with rhythmic drumming, dancing and singing coming from the crowd.'
While jetting off to the Maldives or island hopping in Greece are brilliant holiday ideas, why not discover the islands closer to home, such as the unique Channel Islands? Jersey, Guernsey, Alderney, Sark and Herm are the main islands of the archipelago and each has a unique culture, varied landscapes to Britain and interesting history. Guernsey and Jersey have heavy French influences, Sark was the world's first Dark Sky island where stargazers can witness the magical night skies, and Herm is a true paradise island - the perfect place to get away from it all. Did we mention that the islands have idyllic beaches that rival those of the Caribbean? Take a trip to see for yourself... Condor Ferries provides year-round travel to the Channel Islands.
If you love horse riding, a journey across one of the world's greatest mountain ranges, the Andes, makes for an unforgettable experience. Ride over magnificent rocky gorges, along water meadows and sandy tracks, with a glimpse of the lakes and volcanoes en-route. At night camp by streams and rivers before reaching Chile. Tony Daly, managing director of Ranch Rider, which offers riding holidays across the Andes, says: 'For the ultimate dramatic backdrop nothing quite beats the Lanin Volcano, its presence looming larger as you edge your way towards Curarrehue.'
Nothing compares to coming face to face with these huge, endangered primates. Tracking gorillas in their natural environment is a humbling experience and there are approximately 790 living in family groups in the Virunga Volcanoes, where they can be seen in Rwanda's Virunga Mountains or Uganda's Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. Aardvark Safaris offers gorilla tracking holidays in Uganda and Rwanda, and advises travelling in the dry season between December to March and June to October when it is easier to track the animals.
Want the most iconic Sydney experience? See the Australian city from a height on an adrenalin-fuelled climb up its world-famous bridge. You'll spend over three hours climbing along the outer arches of the bridge on catwalks and ladders up to the 440-foot summit before being rewarded with 360-degree views of the city, the Sydney Opera House and the Blue Mountains. Viator offers a Sydney BridgeClimb experience, with 14 climbers on a tour, taking place in the morning, afternoon, during twilight or in the evening as Sydney lights up against the night sky.
Scotland's varied landscape makes it an excellent place for walkers and its munros are perfect for those who want to take things to the next level. There are 283 munros (Scottish mountains over 3,000 feet tall) scattered across the country and they offer incredible views and an exciting walk through the natural countryside. Bagging at least one munro is a must and climbing all 283 awards you the lifetime title of 'compleater' - there are now over 4,000 official 'compleaters'. Will you be joining them?
Soak up the island life of Mozambique by camping on its deserted islands. You can island hop, travel by dhow and sleep under the stars on the beach. Ibo Island is the island to visit for sumptuous seafood, mangrove forests and ancient history, while Mogundula is one of the most unspoilt and forgotten islands waiting to be discovered. To Escape To offers luxury and rustic camping holidays in Mozambique.
One of the world's greatest wonders and a UNESCO World Heritage site, the Great Wall of China, winds up and down across grasslands, deserts, mountains and plateaus, stretching more than 20,000km from east to west China. Its architectural grandeur and historical significance make it one of the most appealing attractions in the world and people come from all over for a trek along the fascinating wall built over 2000 years ago.
The ancient city of Petra is a place to be wowed and Jordan's most valued treasure. The vast and unique red city carved into the rock face by the Nabataeans over 2000 years ago is simply breathtaking. The colours of the rocks offer a dazzling display and catching your first glimpse of the iconic Treasury is a moment you won't forget. Spend the whole day exploring the ancient city, which also has a Roman-style theatre, colonnaded streets and the impressive Monastery. Be sure to wear walking boots, a hat and carry water.
The surreal landscape of Cappadocia is characterised by subterranean cities, cave houses, fairy chimneys and winding valleys, and is one of the most enchanting places on the planet. The 'other worldly' landscape is best enjoyed from the sky on a hot air balloon ride, where you can see the extraordinary rock formations, vineyards and villages of the historical region in Turkey.
The shard-like peaks of Torres del Paine dominate Chile's landscape and are the most famous feature, but there's more to the Towers of Paine, what's probably South America's finest national park, than its fearsome mountains. It is a paradise for adventurers with trails through emerald forests, roaring rivers, radiant blue glaciers and jaw-dropping lookouts to discover. At the 181,000-hectare park, rhea, Andean condors, guanaco and flamingos can be found. Be sure to pack for unpredictable weather and plan a few extra days in case you arrive when the peaks are covered by clouds.
We all know the Maldives are home to Robin Crusoe islands, pristine beaches and luxury spas, but the Indian Ocean islands are as appealing underwater as they are on land. The Dusit Thani Maldives is located in the Maldives' first ever UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and is where you'll find eagle rays, manta rays, a variety of turtle species and the endangered whale shark - plus a 360-degree Faroe reef system and underwater caves to explore. Ithaa Undersea was the first all-glass undersea restaurant offering 180-degree views of the ocean while you dine, and Subsix is the world's first underwater nightclub, located eight metres below the ocean and featuring live music from artists around the world.
The Avenue of the Baobabs in Madagascar is a photographer’s paradise. The world-famous dirt road is where you'll find around a dozen of the quirky trees that stand around 30 metres tall and live up to 800 years old. Although the trees can be found in other parts of Africa, the Avenue is one of the continents natural wonders and the trees are a well-known feature of Madagascar. Visit at sunset when the Avenue is especially beautiful.
Made up by many cascades producing vast sprays of water, the Iguazu National Park is home to one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the world and is the ultimate place to get soaked! Taller than Niagara Falls at 80 metres high and with over 250 cascades spread in a horseshoe shape, the falls are the result of a volcanic eruption leaving another large crack in the earth. Its surrounding subtropical rainforest has hundreds of different plant species and wildlife, including tapirs, jaguars, caymans and howler monkeys.
New England is the place to go to see the vibrant autumn leaves and in the state of Vermont you can see the awe-inspiring explosion of colours covering the rugged Green Mountain terrain. Hire a car and drive along the wide open roads, through mountain tops, deep forests, quaint villages and quiet lakes. Between the last two weeks of September and the first two weeks of October, the autumn colours roll down from the north to the south of Vermont, giving you plenty of time to catch them.
If you've ever wanted to witness a family of orangutans swinging from the trees, Borneo's jungle is the place to see the endangered animals. You'll need a guide, who will make orangutan calls, while you wait silently on the forest floor and you can see wild orangutans by the Kinabatangan River or at the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre. Don't miss the opportunity to contribute to the survival of the endangered apes while you're there.
Rudyard Kipling described the fjord as the 'eighth wonder of the world'. Carved by glaciers during the ice ages, Milford Sound's cliffs rise vertically from its dark waters, the waterfalls cascade downwards and the mountain peaks scrape the sky. While it’s always great to have a sunny day in Milford Sound, you won’t be disappointed if the heavens open. When it rains the mountainsides erupt with hundreds of waterfalls - some begin so high up, they never reach the sea! It's like being in a fantasy film. Sail out on on a boat trip or enjoy its natural beauty from walking the Milford Track - said to be the 'finest walk in the world'.
A journey through Europe by rail is one of the most awesome ways to see the varied landscapes of countries such as France, Switzerland, Italy, Poland, Greece and Bulgaria. If you love trains, the InterRail pass gives you the chance to experience the wide range of railway companies throughout the continent, each with their unique characteristics. Don't miss a journey through the Swiss Alps, past the Bavarian mountains and into old Yugoslavia.
We've watched some pretty amazing sunsets in our time but one of the most iconic has to be on the Greek island of Santorini. It's not just the sky turning red and reflecting on the whitewashed houses making it a (dare we say it) magical experience. Sunset in Santorini is when people stop sunning themselves on the beaches, come out from the tavernas and head for the famous spots of Oia and Fira to wait for the sun to provide put on a show. If this is all a bit too cheesy for you and you don't fancy joining all the couples at Santorini's sunset hotspots, the lighthouse of Akrotiri and the village of Pyrgos offer spectacular views of the sunset without the crowds.
'Apart from climbing Everest, this must be one of the most iconic mountain climbs in the world,' says Kathy Cook, joint managing director of Ramblers Worldwide Holidays, which offers 12-day trips to climb the mountain. 'It is the most beautiful way of getting an overview of Africa at its best and savouring spectacular scenery en-route.' Kilimanjaro soars at an impressive height of 5,895m and is the world's highest free-standing mountain. Although it is challenging, the trek is immensely rewarding when you're standing at the top of the continent!
Remember James Bond's iconic jump from the 220-metre high Contra Dam in the film GoldenEye? For the ultimate adrenalin rush over Switzerland's stunning Lago di Vogorno, take the plunge from the fourth highest dam in the country, Contra (also known as the Verzasca Dam) with the rustic valley and beautiful Swiss landscape as a backdrop. The jumping station is in the middle of the dam wall and is the world's highest stationary bungee station.
Fed by naturally-heated and mineral-rich seawater, Iceland's Blue Lagoon is the country's most unique attraction, located 40 minutes from Reykjavik. The extraordinary pool is where you can take off your thermals and bathe in the water, reaping the benefits of the geothermal water. Be sure to smother yourself in the white silica mud and take your natural spa experience to the next level by sweating in the sauna with a view of the lagoon and standing underneath the waterfall for an energising massage. Bliss!
Created originally for military purposes, the palace and fortress complex of Alhambra is found on a hilltop overlooking the city of Granada in Andalucia, and is a must-see for its exquisite Islamic design filling every space of the 'red fortress'. Built in the 10th century by Spain's Moorish rulers, the Alhambra was a place of luxury and art, as you will see when browsing the stunning site backed by the snowy Sierra Nevada.
Ever wanted to feast on the best and freshest sushi in the world? Head to the home of sushi, Japan, where you'll find Tokyo's Tsukiji fish market. Here the organised chaos of mini trucks racing to and fro with boxes of prawns and huge tuna, auctioneers shouting the prices of today's catch, and the city's chef inspecting the different stalls make for a brilliant foodie experience. Don't leave without sampling fresh sushi at one of the family-owned restaurants and stalls within the market. InsideJapan Tours offers a sushi breakfast at the market on trips to Tokyo.
In Canada, getting up close to killer whales in a sea kayak is a thrilling adventure for you to watch their behaviour while getting active. Vancouver Island in British Columbia is renowned as the place to spot orcas in their natural habitat and there are a number of kayak tours available, which set up camps where orcas often pass, so you can see them while having dinner or sat around the campfire before enjoying a night of the great outdoors. Visit kingfisher.ca and seakayakadventures.com
Located in the French Pyrenees and famous for its astronomical observatory, Pic du Midi is a mountain that opened to the public for the first time in 2000 and became a significant natural site for the beauty of the area in 2003. The unique spot is reached by cable car and is a place for researchers and astronomers to study the skies. From the summit you can admire just about the whole of the Pyrenean range, from the Catalan region to the Basque country, with over 300km of mountains in view from east to west!
It's no secret that Venice is one of Italy's most beautiful yet expensive cities, but fortunately one of the best things to do in the city is wandering its streets and alleys aimlessly to soak up the atmosphere and find the charming and empty squares. If doing Venice on a budget is on your list, forget the pricey gondola rides. Instead opt for the vaporetti (water buses) which will take you along the main canals, to the islands and around the lagoon, visit St Mark's Square when it's empty (early morning or late at night) and see if you can spot some city gems, like the market boats selling vegetables and fish to the few residents of Venice and the remaining gondola workshops where the men work on the boats in the sun.