There are so many amazing and wonderful places to visit and explore sometimes it’s hard to know where to start or where to continue on to if you’ve already started your adventures. With life being so short it’s so important to make every trip, every holiday something to cherish and look back on for years to come. I don’t know about you, but I for one have a bucket list of crazy and adrenaline fuelled things to do before I kick my bucket, but I also have a bucket list within my bucket list of places that I need to see.
In my top 10 list I’ve got some classic must see places, but I’ve also got some real gems in here that you might not have heard of before and might well be booking for yourself after you see them. I’ve also got some top tips along the way to help your plan your next trip.
1. Finland – Northern Lights
Seeing the Northern Lights is a bucket-item all on its own, but there is only one way to truly enjoy this unique experience and that is to make it even more unique by viewing the Northern Lights from your very own glass igloo tucked into the snow at the Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort in Finland. You can book either classic igloo or a log cabin with an igloo attached. To get the best chance of seeing the lights visit between August and late April.
If you are visiting around Christmas you definitely need to go and see Santa’s Home, yes, inside his actual home. Not only do you get to meet the big man himself you can also enjoy Finland’s largest log cabin with state-of-the-art audio-visual entertainment and of course you can ask Rudolph for a ride on a sleigh. This is a magical place for the whole family.
Wear the right clothes. I know it sounds simple but packing the right clothes in -6 c weather is vital to keep all of those fingers and toes in one piece. Thermals and insulated socks and gloves are great as well as a really well insulated coat. My favourite little extras are little reusable hand warmers…super snug!
2. Rio de Jeneiro – Christ the Redeemer
Standing 2,300 ft on top of the Corcovado mountain in the Tijuca Forest National Park overlooking the city of Rio de Janeiro, the statue of the Christ the Redeemer not only leaves you stunned and breathless but also overpowers you with awe from its shear magnificence. This 124ft statue is also considered as one of the Seven Wonders of the World.
Christ the Redeemer is a symbol of Christianity all across the world but you certainly do not need to be a Christian to enjoy this. There are plenty of tours and trips that are well worth going on for an extra added oomph and some secret selfie spots.
You may arrive in Brazil thinking that you’ve learned enough Spanish phases to get you by throughout your stay…you’d be wrong. Brazilians actually speak Portuguese, although neighbouring countries the languages are considerably different. So, download your free Portuguese translation app before you go.
3. Myanmar – The Temples of Bagan
Bagan is home to the world’s largest concentration of Buddhist temples, over 2000 in fact. They come in all shapes and sizes with each individual temple having its own unique style and decoration, carvings and paintings. Since Bagan was made an archaeology zone you simply pay your entrance fee which then allows you 3 days to view the temples at your own leisure.
One of the most amazing ways to see these stunning monuments has got to be by air. You can book a hot air balloon ride to see the vast expanse of the pagodas and temples over a 40-mile area, some of the local tour operators offers trips at dawn and dusk, what could be more beautiful.
Bagan can at peak times be busy and very touristy to avoid these crowds Bagan has a variety of boat tours around the area where you can sit back, relax and take it all in. If you’re after something off the beaten track always ask the locals, no one knows the place better than them.
4. Iceland – Blue Lagoon
The Blue Lagoon Geothermal Spa is one of the most beautiful in the world. It is located in the Reykjavik Peninsula in the lava field of Grindavik and is nearly 800 years old. It’s about 50 minutes away from Iceland’s capital and with transfers included with some packages it’s very easy to get to.
Surrounded by nature, Blue Lagoon is an oasis of calm and luxury. With black lava on all sides the lagoon sits with its milky-blue opaque water is jaw dropping. It has quickly become one of Iceland’s most visited attractions. With bars, restaurants and in-water massages this is a slice of heaven.
Buy your tickets in advance. There are plenty of booking agents that offer great deals, some also offer 2 or more attractions with one ticket. Expedia have some fantastic combo deals all year round.
5. Thailand – The Floating Markets
The floating markets of Thailand are also known as ‘The Venice of Asia’ and it’s clear to see why. These markets are like villages on the water and have everything you could possibly think of for sale from local fruit and veg to street food, along with clothes and trinkets as well as hand carved ornaments
For me the only way to experience this amazing assault on the senses is by boat, private boat tours along with mixed tours, cooking tours and plenty more are available and are a fantastic immersive experience for you bucket list.
Hats and sunscreen, I cannot stress this enough. The heat in Thailand is intense in the height of the dry season and if you are not use to this kind of intense heat it can be quite overwhelming. Always use a factor 30 or above and 50 for children, on the back of all sunscreens is a star rating for UVA/UVB coverage the aim for 5 stars and no less than 3 stars for the best protection.
6. Japan – Cherry Blossom Season
Japans infamous cherry blossom season can be difficult to predict, but peak viewing tends to be from late March to mid-April, when Tokyo, Kyoto and the rest of the main island are in flower. In Kyoto’s Higashiyama district, you can take a walk down the Philosopher’s Path, a 2 km (1.2 mile) stone track lined with hundreds of cherry trees. In Tokyo, Ueno Park sees almost 1,200 trees burst with clouds of pink.
It really is one of the most spectacular scenes you could ever see, the flowers are so delicate that one mild shower is enough to bring thousands of petals to the floor and ruin the display.
Check your bloom. Every year trees bloom at slightly different times depending on the temperature, the rain and sun levels, so before you book any travel check out the latest bloom information.
7. South Africa – See the Big Five
Kruger National park offers the best opportunity in the world to catch a fleeting glimpse of The Big Five named for the five must see animals on a wildlife safari including Lion, Leopard, Rhino, Elephant and the Cape Buffalo all stunning creatures in their own right but the fact you can see all of these animals in one place is extraordinary.
With over 12, 500 square miles of wild bushland The Kruger National park is one of the last places on earth you can get the chance to see these increasing rare wonderful animals. Safaris can be booked either as part of your accommodation or separately, but either way you are going to be left speechless.
Bring your binoculars, although your aiming to see the big five, you will see lots of animals along the way from vibrant birds to small mammals and everything in between. Make the most of everything the park has to offer.
8. Bolivia – Salt Flats
It is the world’s most stunningly unusual surface areas and is a haven for photography lovers as this scenery is totally unique. The Salar de Uyuni salt flats in Bolivia is an huge expanse of ground that is covered with salt and other minerals that make incredible patterns and visual effects. These salt flats are simply amazing is a must see.
You can also get to see eerie ghost towns that have been abandoned along with a train graveyard left after the collapse of the mining industry. The landscape here is something that can not be found anywhere else.
Know when to go. The best time to visit really depends on what you want to see. Most people recommend to between May to November when the weather is mild, but keep in mind that the Bolivian salt flat plains will be dry and won’t get the stunning reflection photos. The wet season is from January to April and is a great time to visit as the rain will make that beautiful mirror effect.
9. New Zealand – Glowworm Caves
The Glowworm Caves include a labyrinth of limestone caves and formations which began developing roughly 30 million years ago. Thousands of tiny, shinning glowworms line these subterranean caverns, making a natural light show that is unforgettable.
People have been exploring these caves since the 1880’s and these are now some of New Zealand’s most visited attractions. The caves are located in Hamilton – Waikato and are open all year round.
If you fancy some adrenaline you could always try the Black Abyss tour, this will really get your heart racing, with a 35ft abseil and black water rafting as well as a flying fox and cave walking this is an all day adventure.
10. Australia – The Great Barrier Reef
With over 600 types of hard and soft coral The Great Barrier Reef is the largest living thing on Earth and can be seen from space, so why wouldn’t this be on your bucket list? There are plenty of boat and catamaran trips you can take that will sail you around the gorgeous reefs.
You can experience a wonder of nature in so many ways, snorkelling, diving, swimming, from the shore or on the waves. Private tours are also available and have some amazing opportunities to encounter some stunning creatures and see The Great Barrier Reef in a completely personal way.
Be careful, The Great Barrier reef is incredibly fragile and there has been wide spread reports of the coral being bleached as well as tourists damaging the coral or leaving rubbish after their visit. To protect this for generations to come take everything home with you, mind your step and respect the coral and wildlife’s space.
One thing I have learnt from travelling is you need to be prepared, I love being spontaneous but you need to have the basics covered. I always check what travel requirements there are and if there are any visa restrictions or requirements for the destination I will be travelling to with the foreign travel advice service, as many people are not aware that each country has its own requirements and the FCO has all the information for each country and is a great resource to check all the relevant information before you travel. I would also recommend checking your passport at least 2-3 times prior to your trip as many people can often miss the fact that their passport has less than 6 month’s worth of validity or can sometimes misjudge the actual year of expiry and end up panicking last minute. If you need to you can renew passport online in just 2-4 weeks or less, if you do need it urgently however you can also book an urgent passport appointment just to make sure you get it in time to travel, otherwise you won’t be ticking these off your bucket list anytime soon.
We hope that this post has given you some great ideas for 2019 travel destinations that you may have missed when searching online, and remember January is the busiest time for the travel industry so it’s always a good idea to check the deals on offer for any destinations you are interested in as you may get a better deal during this time of year.