1. Go on an epic African safari
There’s something utterly magical about Africa and there’s no experience quite like coming face-to-face with its Big Five.
These five most dangerous animals to track on foot (that’s where the Big Five name comes from) are the most majestic animals to observe in the wild.
Whether it’s watching a pride of lions doze in the shade, seeing elephants strip branches bare of leaves, following a sleek leopard as it stalks its prey, spotting a family of rhinos camouflaged in thick bush, or sitting amongst a herd of hundreds of buffalo, an African safari will leave you in awe. Add to that zebra, giraffe, hippo, hyenas, impala, wildebeest and more, and you’re in a wildlife wonderland.
The best three parks for the Big Five are Kruger National Park (South Africa), Serengeti National Park (Tanzania) and Maasai Mara National Reserve (Kenya).
The latter two are also where the annual Great Migration takes place – a once-in-a-lifetime spectacle when millions of wildebeest, zebra and gazelle stampede across the plains each year (from July to October).
On slow days, you may spend hours following tracks that zigzag in and out of the bush, but the exhilaration of finally getting up close to some of the world’s most powerful and uniquely beautiful animals makes every moment worth it.
Besides, just driving about in a safari truck with the sun rising or setting on the vast African sky, with desolate plains stretching as far as you can see, is as magical an experience as encountering the wildlife itself.
Go for a ride-along through Africa on a safari trip.
2. Hike in Torres del Paine National Park, Patagonia
No stranger to lists: Torres del Paine was voted the fifth most beautiful place in the world by National Geographic. No argument from us there.
The park, located in Chilean Patagonia, is a dramatic landscape of jutting granite spires and behemoth sharp-edged mountain ranges rising out of green plains.
Over 140,000 people visit each year, hiking on the trails that snake through the park.
You can choose to take a day trip into the park or it will take you roughly nine days to trek the entire circle of mountains and towering peaks while staying on-site.
Refugios are offering basic accommodation throughout or you can pitch a tent and camp out (there is also a luxury hotel located near the gates if you are that way inclined).
Take a hike through Torres del Pain National Park.
3. Trek to see the mountain gorillas of Africa
With mountain gorilla numbers in decline due to dwindling habitat, civil unrest and poaching, seeing these hulking, majestic primates in their natural surroundings does represent a once-in-a-lifetime experience, one that future generations might tragically never have a chance to witness.
Guided treks are the only option for viewing the mountain gorillas in their lush habitat, with tours conducted out of Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), which offer one precious hour at a time watching silverbacks, females and mischievous juveniles as they go about their normal routine.
Take a trek to see the mountain gorillas of Africa.
4. Explore the Galápagos Islands, Ecuador
This archipelago of volcanic islands on either side of the equator in the Pacific Ocean formed an Ecuadorian province, a national park and a biological marine reserve.
The Galápagos’ staggering number of endemic species fascinated Charles Darwin during his Beagle voyage and led to his history-altering theories of evolution and natural selection.
Travelling between the islands will present a dizzying array of animals, birds and reptiles, from lava lizard to marine iguana to boobies to sea lions to whales – and countless more.
The most helpful hint we can give you? Make sure you have plenty of space on your memory card!
Travel through the Galapagos Islands.
5. See the Amazon Rainforest
The figures are staggering when it comes to the Amazon rainforest: covering most of the Amazonian basin, or a staggering 5,500,000 square kilometres of South America, and can be found in Brazil (it has the biggest chunk), Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana.
There are reportedly 2.5 million insect species spread throughout its thick, humid reaches and thousands of birds and mammals.
There are also some pretty famous reptiles and fish: giant anaconda prowl here and piranha are thick in the water in some places.
A lot less vicious are the plants, of which there are a lot: a study found that a typical 25 hectares stretch of rainforest in Ecuador supports over 1100 different species of trees alone.
The beloved Amazon Rainforest is filled with over 1000 tree species.
6. Follow the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, Peru
Today’s Inca Trail is not technically the Inca Trail: it’s actually the spectacular last leg of the Incan Road as it enters the crowning glory of Machu Picchu, the Inca city spread across a mountain clearing at the top of the world.
Although famed as the Lost City of the Incas, it wasn’t actually lost.
After being built in the 15th century in the classic Incan style, the site was abandoned a century later at the height of the Spanish Conquest, and while it was well-known among locals, outsiders didn’t become aware of it until it was brought to world attention in 1911 by American Hiram Bingham.
By 1976, 30 per cent of the UNESCO World Heritage Site had been restored, with work continuing to this day.
There are two ways to take in the Inca Trail and Machu Picchu: by trekking the 43 kilometres over four days or via train, which leaves four times a day from Cusco and 13 times daily from Ollantaytambo.
Join this hike and see the beauty of history.
7. View the Taj Mahal at sunrise, India
The story of the Taj Mahal is a legend: a giant mausoleum, it was built by Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his favourite wife Mumtāz Mahal.
The mammoth building of white marble (there were also precious stones attached throughout but most have disappeared) took 17 years to complete and is one of the most visited sites in India, so arriving at sunrise is perfect in two respects: it is at this time that the burgeoning sunlight gives the building an ethereal glow that is picture postcard perfect and the enormous crowds that flock to the monument on a daily basis haven’t yet arrived, allowing time to see it in relative peace and tranquillity.
Nothing in this world compares to watching the sunset and rise at the Taj Mahal.
8. Walk the Great Wall of China
One of the most instantly recognisable sites on Earth (and before you ask, no it’s not visible from space), parts of the Great Wall of China were started in the 3rd century BC, although the majority of the wall as we now know it dates from the Ming dynasty (1368–1644).
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the wall is 8850 kilometres long (6259 kilometres of actual wall, 359 kilometres of trenches and 2232 kilometres of natural defensive barriers) and is made up of stone, brick and tamped earth.
You aren’t going to walk the whole thing, so it’s good to know the hotspots to visit: Juyongguan is closest to Beijing; Badaling is close but crowded; Mutianyu is further away and less crowded, so probably the pick of the bunch.
Spend at least three hours on the wall to get a feel for its sheer size and scope, and avoid summer when it is stiflingly hot and weekends and public holidays when it’s crowded.
It’s impossible to walk the entire Great Wall in one day.
9. See the beauty of Petra, Jordan
Petra is impressive on so many levels: impressively old (it is mentioned in the Book of Exodus), impressively large, impressively beautiful.
The UNESCO World Heritage Site is a vast city carved into the sheer pink rock face by the Nabataeans, who settled in the area more than 2000 years ago.
A national treasure of Jordan, the city is a collection of gargantuan royal tombs (the more modest houses that the population lived in have long since been destroyed, largely by earthquakes).
The fact that there are no motorised vehicles allowed in the ancient city leaves you with the choice of walking or hiring a horse-drawn carriage to take you through the one-kilometre trip to the site; and once inside you can explore on foot, by a donkey or, rather more evocatively, on camelback.
Four to five days is suggested by tour operators as the amount of time needed to see everything there is to see at a leisurely pace, although it can be done in much less time.
What is not up for debate is the need to protect yourself from the harsh desert sun and to stay well hydrated.
Delve deep into Petra’s incredible history.
10. Spend a week in New York, USA
No surprises here; a show of hands would have New York coming out on top as one of the best cities in the world (if not the best).
The city, with its five boroughs – Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, The Bronx and Staten Island – is a veritable cornucopia of things to see and do; so many things that the nominations were very specific.
Attend a Broadway show
You can’t leave New York without attending a broadway show. There are hundreds of theatres throughout the city, but the very best is Belasco Theatre, Walter Kerr Theatre and Eugene O’Neil Theatre (home to Tony Award winners at The Book of Mormon).
Shop ’til you drop!
If you are looking for luxury head to Fifth Avenue; for something a bit more hip try SoHo, Chelsea and Greenwich Village; for fresh produce, the Union Square Greenmarket (Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 8 AM to 6 PM); and everything vintage can be bought at Brooklyn Flea every weekend.
Check in to the Plaza
Do as Eloise does in New York’s most famous hotel, The Plaza (sitting on the corner of 5th and West 59th Streets)
New York offers myriad experiences, which combine to make one ultimate experience.
Jam pack a whole lot of culture into one week in the concrete jungle.