For the trip of a lifetime, add these unforgettable, must-see attractions to your adventure wish list
Machu Picchu Historic Sanctuary, Peru
A visit to Machu Picchu is a trip back in time, to the peak of the Inca Empire in the 15th century. The best-known archaeological site in South America, this incredible ancient city – complete with terraces, temples and royal tombs – is surrounded by a tropical mountain forest that adds to its allure. Machu Picchu is more than 2,400 metres above sea level – it’s a good idea to spend a couple of days beforehand in a nearby town (Cusco, for example) to acclimatize to the altitude. Hardy travellers can also trek the 39-kilometre Inca Trail.
Great Barrier Reef, Australia
The Great Barrier Reef stretches 2,300 kilometres along Australia’s northeastern coast. It’s the largest living structure on the planet, covering an area roughly the size of Germany. You can see the reef – and its vibrant population of coral, jellyfish, fish, mollusks, rays and sharks – up close. Swim, dive, snorkel and sail at this stunning World Heritage site, but also take time to learn about one of its greatest threats: global coral bleaching, caused by above-average water temperatures linked to climate change.
Pyramids at Giza, Egypt
More than 4,500 years have passed since ancient Egyptians built Giza’s massive pyramids, but we still don’t know how they did it. Develop your own theories at the Giza plateau, on the outskirts of Cairo. In addition to the trio of pyramids constructed for pharaohs Khufu, Khafre and Menkaure, the site includes palaces, temples, boat pits and smaller tombs. Another iconic attraction, the Great Sphinx, lies south of Khafre’s pyramid.
The Grand Canyon, Arizona, U.S.A.
You’ll never forget the jaw-dropping beauty of Grand Canyon National Park. Pick your approach: the popular South Rim is close to Flagstaff and Williams, and it’s where you’ll find historic Grand Canyon Village; the higher, more remote North Rim offers camping and lodging from May to October; and the West Rim features the amazing Skywalk, a glass-bottomed platform 1,200 metres above the canyon floor. Park activities also include biking, hiking, rafting, jeep tours and helicopter tours, plus a Junior Rangers program for kids.
The Giant’s Causeway, County Antrim, Northern Ireland
As folklore has it, the Giant’s Causeway was formed when a long-standing feud between two giants, Finn McCool and Benandonner, turned into a fight. One of the combatants (we’re not saying who) ran away, tearing up the ground in his wake. What’s left is a geological marvel: the causeway is a six-kilometre-long stretch along Ireland’s northern coast with about 40,000 polygonal basalt columns. See it for yourself and explore the beautiful landscape around it.
Northern Lights, Iceland
Iceland is the ultimate place to see the northern lights (aurora borealis), which shimmer when charged particles from solar explosions interact with the atmosphere in Earth’s magnetic field. The optimal time to go: September to April, particularly September/October and March/April. You can rent a car and look on your own (the national meteorological office provides aurora forecasts, and some hotels offer “aurora alarms”). However, you’ll save time (and frustration) with a tour. Options range from bus tours to snowmobile trips – the guides track solar and weather activity so you don’t have to.
The Tiger’s Nest Temple, Bhutan
Getting to this truly out-of-the-way destination requires jumping through extra hoops, but it’s worth the effort. Taktsang Lhakhang, known as the Tiger’s Nest Temple, is one of Bhutan’s holiest sites. It’s also built on a cliff face 900 metres above a valley, and the only way in is a steep two- to three-hour trek. First, though, you need to get into Bhutan, which limits visitor access to guests of the government and people on approved travel programs. Do your research and be prepared to pay for the privilege of visiting this intriguing Himalayan kingdom.
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