Today (November 3, 2014): Top 10 vacations of a lifetime.
Most of us have an instinctual desire to visit inspiring new cultures, faraway shores and desolate wilderness spots. Travel is indeed one of the spices of life, offering an escape from the routine of daily life and creating a string of memories that will stay with us for a lifetime. And while our beloved planet has countless adventures on offer for travel enthusiasts, I hereby present you my top 10 of the most epic journeys that one should make during a lifetime (each of them based on a 2 to 3 week holiday).
Think I missed one? Share your favorite trip of a lifetime in the comments section, or take my poll below!
Australia, also known as Oz or the land Down Under, seemingly has it all. With cosmopolitan cities like Melbourne and Sydney, magnificent beaches, virgin rainforests, over-the-top hotels, and the unforgiving Outback, it does not fail to impress. The famous landmarks of the Sydney Harbour, the Great Barrier Reef and Ayers Rock (Uluru) are on every tourist’s bucket list, which – most likely – includes spotting some of Australia’s intriguing wildlife as well, ranging from utterly cute (penguins, koalas and wallabies) to extremely dangerous (crocs, sharks, and snakes). But go off the beaten track in the absolute desolation of Kakadu’s wetlands and the unspoiled wilderness in Tasmania, and you will discover what Oz is really about.
9. VIETNAM, LAOS & CAMBODIA
The peninsula that comprises the territories of Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam remains Asia’s most enchanting region to visit. All 3 countries are known as Indochina and a share a history of French colonialism, which is still evident in the fading French architecture and cuisine. Laos is the most authentic country, still relatively untouched by Western influence, where you step back in time and explore ancient temples, coffee plantations and remote villages. Vietnam’s highlights include the fascinating city of Hanoi, the scenic rock formations that dot world-famous Halong Bay, and the beautiful scenery that stretches along its coast. But everything pales in comparison to the senses of cultural awe that awaits you at Angkor Wat, the iconic temple ruin complex hidden in Cambodia’s jungle.
8. TRANSSIBERIAN RAILWAY (CHINA, MONGOLIA, RUSLAND)
The Trans-Siberian Railway, linking Moscow to Beijing, is one of the world’s most epic train journeys. Spanning a record 7 time zones, this is the longest continuous rail line on earth, covering 9,289 km (5,772 mi) or over one-third of the globe. Departing from Moscow, the train will first cross the mighty Ural mountains into European Russia and the immense wooded expanses of Siberia, before continuing its epic journey through the vast plans of Mongolia after which Beijing comes in sight. While you can make the journey in just 9 days, most tourists will at least double that time, so that they can hop off en route to discover the Romanovs’ last home in Yekaterinburg, hike near Lake Baikal, camp out in a traditional Ger in Mongolia, and explore Mongolia’s capital city of Ulaan Baatar.
7. NATIONAL PARKS OF WESTERN CANADA
Start your journey in the Rocky Mountains, home to amazing wildlife, with bisons grazing in boreal forests, moose ambling through dramatic landscapes, and grizzly bears roaming free. From the dizzying mountains of the Icefield Highway to the crystal clear water of Lake Morraine to the open plains around Calgary, you can easily spend months in the Rockies while fishing, hiking, walking, riding, and ranching. Afterwards, head to Prince Rupert for an awesome day cruise on the incredibly scenic Inside Passage. When arriving on Vancouver Island, stop at Telegraph Cove for a kayak trip with killer whales, before living the grand finale of your great Canadian adventure at the Pacific Rim National Park, where mountains, rainforests, wild beaches, and exclusive lodges meet in the most mesmerizing scenery of all.
6. ALASKA & HAWAII (USA)
Raw nature awaits you in America’s Last Frontier. The unspoiled landscapes, mountainous grandeur, mighty rivers, and awe-inspiring wildlife of the Alaskan wilderness is overwhelming. Start your Alaskan adventure with a cruise through the Inside Passage and enjoy views of spectacular fiords, marine wildlife and calving glaciers. Next, embark on a road trip to discover the open tundra and wildlife in Denali National park. While it could not be further apart from Alaska in terms of scenery and weather, Hawaii is only a 6 hour, direct flight away. With their lava-spewing volcanoes, lush valleys, glorious waterfalls and towering coastal cliffs, the beautiful islands of Hawaii, especially Kauai, boast some of the most dramatic scenery on earth, that set the perfect stage to end this epic journey in style.
5. THE GREAT MIGRATION, MOUNT KILIMANJARO & ZANZIBAR (TANZANIA)
The yearly wildebeest migration in Tanzania’s Serengeti and Kenya’s Masai Mara just might be called “the greatest animal show on earth”, when ten of thousands of wildebeest and zebras migrate to greener pastures as the seasons change, with lions, cheetahs and other predators following them and waiting for an opportunity to kill the weak. Following this trilling safari experience, nearby Mount Kilimanjaro, with 5,892 metres (or 19,331 ft) Africa’s highest peak, awaits you for the adventure of a lifetime. But while you do not have to be an expert climber to conquer the mountain (just regularly fit), do not take the exhausting climb – which takes as least 5 days – lightly. Afterwards, you can recover on the sugar white, palm-fringed sands of Zanzibar, Tanzania’s tropical spice island.
4. NATIONAL PARKS OF THE USA
America’s West is home to a string of magnificent National Parks. Start your journey in Yosemite, with its dizzying granite domes, towering waterfalls and the highest trees on earth. After passing through desolate Death Valley, you will gasp for air when overlooking the spectacular Grand Canyon, although nearby Zion and Bryce Canyon are at least as impressive. Your next stop is the heart of the USA’s most untamed wilderness, being Grand Teton and Yellowstone, where you can see spouting geysers, hike in the shade of rough mountain peaks and observe bizon and wolves roaming free in the valleys. While a little out-of-the-way, finish your trip at Glacier, our favorite National Parks, offering incredible hiking opportunities as well as the best chances for spotting grizzlies in the wild.
3. PATAGONIA, ATACAMA DESERT & IGUAZU FALLS (SOUTH AMERICA)
Patagonia is the sparsely populated region located at the southern end of South America, shared by Argentina and Chile. Here, you can marvel at the calving Perito Moreno Glacier from a boat, hike in the surreal mountain scenery around El Chalten, and be awe inspired by the unrivaled beauty of South America’s most pristine wilderness area in Torres Del Pain. There cannot be a greater contrast than with the starkly desolate Atacama desert in northern Chili, an easy connecting flight away from Patagonia. With its deeply incised canyons, high steppe and towering Andes mountains, it’s a paradise for photographers, nature lovers and active travelers. Finish your journey at Iguazu Falls on the Argentinian-Brazilian border, where you can get close to 275 thundering waterfalls.
2. NEW ZEALAND & TAHITI (SOUTH PACIFIC)
Bilbo Baggins and Tolkien’s Middle Earth will come alive when you travel through New Zealand’s magnificent landscapes. The country’s position on two tectonic plates creates active geothermal activity on the North Island, with hot water pools, bubbling mud, spouting geysers, and volcanic forces. A palate of even more dramatic scenery, New Zealand’s South Island is home to the majestic Southern Alps, peaceful sounds, rugged coastlines and sweeping plains. While it’s painful to leave Middle Earth, the most mythical of all Pacific Ocean islands, Bora Bora, awaits you a 5 hour, indirect flight away from Auckland. A stay in an ultraluxurious, overwater villa on stilts in Bora Bora’s idyllic lagoon will make memories for a lifetime.
1. VICTORIA FALLS TO CAPE TOWN (SOUTHERN AFRICA)
Follow in the footsteps of Dr Livingstone and brace for thé ultimate trip of a lifetime. Travelling from the mighty Victoria Falls to South Africa’s Mother City encompasses an epic journey through Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe, that covers all of Southern Africa’s highlights. You will hike in the Fish River Canyon, spot wildlife in Etosha National Park, track predators in the Okavango Delta (where unrivaled luxury safari lodges await you), watch the sun rise over the world’s highest dunes in Sossusvlei in the Namib Desert, and get sprayed by the world’s largest sheet of falling water at Victoria Falls. Finally, you will end your journey in pure chill in the world’s most beautiful city, Cape Town, with its stunning beaches, beautiful mountains, inviting vineyards, spectacular drives, and tons of trendy bars and fine dining restaurants.