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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.
Prior to the 17 mystical visions of the sickly peasant girl Bernadette Soubirous in 1858, Lourdes was a modest market village nestling in the foothills of the Pyrenees in southwestern France. However, when Bernadette claimed that “the lady” had told her to build a chapel at the Grotte de Massabielle where the visions occurred, and to drink its water, there was a sensation, for a clear spring was now flowing where one day before, only muddy water had been. Word spread rapidly of the healing properties of the grotto and its waters; today Lourdes draws over 5 million visitors of all denominations per season, with thousands of well-documented cases of miraculous healings to its credit.
Lourdes has its own airport 15 km to the north of the town center (18 minutes by car).
Lying as it does above the “Iceland Plume” hotspot, yet with many glaciers, Iceland’s geothermal activity creates numerous hot springs. Many of these are too hot to bathe in, but a number have perfect temperatures, some of which have been equipped with facilities and charge an entrance fee (such as the Blue Lagoon near Reykjavik, a favorite tourist destination in Iceland, or the Myvatn Nature Bath). Others are just hot springs in the midst of nature, little known and frequented and a paradise for the weary hiker (Seljavallalaug on the south coast or Grjótagjá, a grotto whose beauty impressed producers enough to film scenes from “Game of Thrones” in it).
A long soak in a natural hot spring surrounded by breathtaking natural scenery should be on any bucket list, and Iceland is the place to do it! Iceland has eight airports serving different parts of the country, so finding one near your spring of choice should not be an issue. Happy soaking!
The ruggedly beautiful cliffs of Moher in County Clare are world famous; 8 km long and 214 m high, they tower above the Atlantic as an iconic representation of the “Emerald Isle” in all its beauty. The cliffs are around 280 km west of Dublin (around 3 ½ hours by car); Fannor (23 km), Doolin (10 km) or Ballyvaughan (28 km) to the northeast are great places to stay and explore this tear-jerkingly beautiful region, and Galway is only 75 km away! Some guided tours offer a trip to the Aran islands by boat as well; this is definitely the experience of a lifetime, since you experience not only the loveliness of the islands, but the unforgettable image of the Cliffs of Moher from the sea.
The nearest airport is Shannon (2 hours 40 minutes).
Founded by the Almoravids (Moroccan Berbers) in the 11th century, Meknes was once the capital of Morocco and is the sixth largest city in the country today. The old city is a fascinating and harmonious blend of Roman, Spanish colonial and Moorish styles which reflect its changing history. Additionally, Meknes combines ancient and modern in a unique way, yet is far more laid back than the capital, Rabat. Lovers of culture and ancient history can marvel at the Volubilis, the Bab El Khemis and Bob-El Mansour Gates, the Anour Mosque and the Dar El Makhzen royal palace, stroll around street bazaars or watch the snake charmers and then go back to an air-conditioned hotel and a perfectly civilized supper!
For anyone wishing to catch a glimpse of the real Morocco, Meknes should definitely be on your travel list! The nearest airport is the Fes-Saiss airport (74 km, just under an hour).
If fairytale castles are your idea of gorgeous, then Schloss Neuschwanstein in southwest Bavaria is definitely for you. Originally built by the shy king Ludwig II of Bavaria as his personal retreat, it was opened to the public soon after his death in 1886 and today is viewed by over 1.3 million people annually. Disney’s “Sleeping Beauty” and “Cinderella” castles were inspired by it and it has featured in a number of movies, including “The Great Escape” and “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang”. Perched on a rocky outcrop above the village of Hohenschwangau, it appears to be floating in the sky as a fairytale castle should. Breathtaking!
Schloss Neuschwanstein is around 124 km from Munich, which is the nearest airport (1 hour 40 minutes by car, or 2 ½ hours by rail).