Editor’s Note: Those who choose to travel are strongly encouraged to check local government restrictions, rules, and safety measures related to COVID-19 and take personal comfort levels and health conditions into consideration before departure.
What’s on your bucket list? With so many places worth traveling to, it can be hard to narrow down your top spots to visit.
Sometimes, it’s the famous attractions, delicious food, and stunning hotels that draw us to a certain destination, and other times, it’s the bragging rights that come with checking off every continent, country, or state. Whatever your motivation, we’ve rounded up 21 incredible bucket-list trips, complete with once-in-a-lifetime experiences and iconic sights you won’t find anywhere else in the world.
So, what makes a trip truly bucket list-worthy? That answer varies from traveler to traveler, but one thing is for sure: From African safaris to classic road trips, this list will make you want to plan your next great adventure.
Related: More bucket-list trip ideas
Watching the Eiffel Tower sparkle, viewing famous works of art at world-renowned museums, eating delicious French pastries: These are just three of the innumerable reasons that Paris deserves a spot on your bucket list. Of course, other dreamy French destinations like Mont-Saint-Michel, Chamonix, and the Riviera are well worth a visit, too.
American National Park Road Trip
The classic American road trip is a mainstay on many travelers’ bucket lists — and for good reason. The country’s incredible national parks, including the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, and Yosemite, are best explored on a road trip with stops at charming small towns and kitschy roadside attractions.
Seeing the historic ruins of the Incan Empire set among the breathtaking Andes at Machu Picchu is an undeniably bucket list-worthy experience. The stunning citadel ruins of Machu Picchu are worth the journey — and for some travelers, that trip, often taken by train or on foot as a multiday trek, is a big part of the experience.
Seeing majestic animals like lions, elephants, and rhinos in the wild is a dream best accomplished with an African safari. South Africa, Tanzania, Rwanda, and Kenya are among the most popular safari destinations — and in each of those countries, you’ll find incredible lodges and tour operators who can help you spot these creatures in their natural habitat.
Whether you dream of cruising down the famed Nile River, seeing the Pyramids of Giza, or visiting the ancient Valley of the Kings, Egypt’s historic wonders make the destination completely unique (and worthy of a spot on your bucket list).
Unlike many of the action-packed trips on this list, the Maldives is synonymous with relaxation, luxury, and romance. A stay in an overwater bungalow set atop turquoise blue waters is the ultimate getaway that’s worth the long-haul flight and oftentimes pricey accommodations.
Hoping to visit all seven continents? Cross Antarctica off your bucket list with a cruise. Several major cruise lines offer journeys to Antarctica, offering incredible views of the ice and wildlife from the comfort and safety of a ship.
Deciding between the historic and culturally rich cities of Rome, Venice, and Florence for the top destination to visit feels impossible, so the entire country of Italy, including the rolling hills of Tuscany and the beautiful Amalfi Coast, deserves a spot on your list.
Dubbed one of the natural wonders of the world, the Great Barrier Reef is a can’t-miss for many wildlife lovers. Of course, Australia’s gorgeous coastline, the iconic Sydney Opera House, and fuzzy creatures like kangaroos and koalas are also reason to head to the destination.
Incredible and diverse plant and animal species make the Galapagos Islands another must-visit for nature-loving travelers. This stunning archipelago off the coast of Ecuador is best explored by cruise, so you can take in as many breathtaking landscapes and animals as possible during your trip.
Like the other countries on this list, India has countless destinations worth exploring, but one of the most famous attractions that travelers dream of seeing for themselves is the Taj Mahal. This 17th-century white marble mausoleum has drawn visitors to Agra for years. Luxury travelers might consider a train trip aboard the Maharajas’ Express (with a stop at the Taj Mahal) as the ultimate bucket-list experience.
Old and new come together in Japan’s bustling capital city. Historic temples and shrines, busy shopping districts, delicious food, and some of the world’s best theme parks and attractions — whatever your interests, there’s something for you in Tokyo.
New York, New York
Visiting the Statue of Liberty, standing at the top of the Empire State Building, walking across the Brooklyn Bridge: These are just a few of the things you can only do in New York City. Whether you dream of visiting all the places you’ve seen on screen, catching a Broadway show, or eating your way through the city’s diverse neighborhoods, there’s no doubt that NYC deserves a spot on your bucket list.
The stunning ancient city of Petra is made up of several impressive structures carved into sandstone rock faces, including the famous Al-Khazneh. The city dates back thousands of years, making this UNESCO World Heritage site a must-visit for history buffs.
Passing through India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, China, Bhutan, and Nepal, the Himalayas are home to some of the world’s highest peaks — and that means breathtaking mountain views, too. For adventurous and active travelers, climbing Mount Everest (or at least trekking to Everest Base Camp) is a once-in-a-lifetime bucket-list experience.
Great Wall of China
Stretching across China for thousands of miles, with sections dating back nearly 2,000 years, the Great Wall is regarded as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. Visitors can hike along parts of the wall — some areas are located within driving distance of Beijing, so it’s a perfect day trip from the city.
The hundreds of monolithic moai statues have drawn curious visitors to Easter Island for years. This remote Polynesian island is worth the lengthy trip for travelers hoping to see these impressive human figures, while also soaking in some incredible coastal views.
Northern Lights Spotting
Catching a glimpse of the elusive northern lights is possible in several destinations close to the Arctic Circle, including Alaska, Iceland, Canada, Greenland, Finland, Sweden, and Norway. All of these places have incredible viewpoints (and even hotels where you can see the phenomenon from your bed), in addition to great, wintry scenery. (The lights are best viewed from late fall through early spring.)
Busy medinas, intricate architecture, and a unique combination of cultural influences make Morocco unlike anywhere else on the planet. Whether you’re traveling to bustling Marrakesh, pretty coastal cities, or remote desert towns (or hopefully, all three), a trip to Morocco is bound to be one to remember.
From the whitewashed homes of Santorini to the Ios party scene to the relaxing atmosphere of Milos, there’s a perfect Greek Island for every type of traveler. Island hopping gives you the chance to experience more of what the country has to offer, but don’t forget to spend a couple of days in Athens at the beginning or end of your trip.
Thailand and Vietnam
A trip through Southeast Asia is a must for any traveler, especially foodies who love street eats. While you could spend weeks in each of these countries, Thailand and Vietnam can easily be paired for an exciting trip packed with lush scenery, cultural experiences, and delicious food. Have a little extra time to spare? Add Cambodia to the mix and include a visit to expansive Angkor Wat.