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It is amazing how many people have “a trip around the world” or a number of exotic, culturally significant or spiritually uplifting destinations to visit on their bucket lists, as if we were nomads at heart (which perhaps we are).
Equally interesting is that some people have more things on their bucket list than anyone could achieve in a whole lifetime, and others have few or even none.
For both of these, and for travel lovers of all shapes and sizes, here is the ultimate bucket list of “must-see” places. It is not necessarily a practical list; some of these places are all but inaccessible, others in some way dangerous, including countries burdened by poverty, racked by disease, ravaged by war or suffering in the wake of some terrible (or man-made) catastrophe. Some of them will also be way over the average person’s budget.
However, we need to dream before we can act: in the words of a very wise North American Indian: “Truly rich is he who has more dreams in his soul than reality can destroy”. Some of these places one might actually visit, but in our dreams, we can visit them all.
Ranked by Discovery Channel in 2012 as one of the ten most amazing places on earth, Belize’s “Great Blue Hole” is an underwater sinkhole over 300 m in diameter and 125 m deep. Investigations suggest that it was initially formed above sea level 153.000 years ago, with subsequent shifts and submersion in at least four geological stages. The Great Blue Hole is situated at the center of the Lighthouse Reef atoll and can even be seen from outer space! A paradise for experienced scuba divers and snorkelers, it lies around 80 km off the coast of Belize across open sea; the boat trip can be rough, and is expensive. That said, your trip to the Great Blue Hole will definitely be a once-in-a-lifetime adventure.
Travelers can stay on the largest island of the atoll, Long Caye, which is privately-owned but has two resorts for tourists (Itza Lodge and Huracan Diving Lodge) and is only 8 km from the Great Blue Hole. The nearest airport is Belize city (around 2 hours by boat).
Also known as “The Rose City” because of the pinkish stone of which it is built, this ancient capital of the Arab Nabataeans was possibly founded as early as 312 BC. Covering a surface area of 264 square kilometres of tombs, temples and theatres spectacularly carved into the rock on which they stand, Petra leaves powerful and lasting impressions on the memories of all who visit. It was designated one of the New 7 Wonders of the World in 2007 and has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1985.
The town of Wadi Musa is a good place to stay to explore the marvels of Petra. The closest airport is the Ovda airport in Eilat, Israel (67 km); the King Hussein airport in Jordan is around 90 km from Wadi Musa.
For paradise islands straight off a picture postcard, the 21 islands which comprise the Fernando de Noronha archipelago are unparalleled. White sand, tropical vegetation, warm climate and the clearest turquoise water imaginable (visibility up to 50 m!) all go to make this a dream destination. Only the largest island, also called Fernando de Noronha, is inhabited; tourists require a special permit to visit the other islands, which are environmentally protected. A mere 26 square kilometres in area and with limited resources, the island accepts a maximum of 460 tourists at one time; these are required to pay an environmental protection tax which increases proportionate to the duration of their stay. That said, for a glimpse of Paradise in advance it is worth it!
Fernando de Noronha has its own airport, with regular flights from Recife (540 km) and Natal (350 km).
Samarkand is not only one of the oldest inhabited cities in Central Asia, it is one of the most beautiful. Highly ornate glittering mosques and mausoleums in Turko-Mongolian style give the modern-day city a most exotic and oriental appearance; in particular the Registan Ensemble and the Gur-e Amir Maqbarasi have a unique and unforgettable “Wow” factor. For anyone interested in the Silk Road and lacking the time or resources to travel from China to Turkey, Samarkand was an important stop on the Silk Road.
It is reasonably easy to get around in Samarkand; public transport is good and easily affordable. Samarkand has its own airport, 5 km north of the city center. (Tourists should be aware that many tranquilizers, antidepressants and painkillers are illegal in Uzbekistan, so check that out; being arrested should NOT be on your list of things to do before you die!).
At Waitomo on the northern half of New Zealand, a magical and mystical experience awaits the traveller; the Glowworm caves. A series of twisted tunnels, bizarrely sculpted limestone, subterranean waterfalls and whirlpools and magnificent stalactites and stalagmites, the caves would be stupendous even without the luminous presence of thousands upon thousands of the species Arachnocampa luminosa (a glow-worm only found in New Zealand). The glow-worms light up the caverns like a living starry sky, making a boat tour of the caves a breathtaking and unique experience.
Nearest airport is the Hamilton airport (53 minutes by car).