From the Great Barrier Reef to the pyramids of Egypt, this planet is full of endless awe-inspiring places—a blessing, to be sure, but also a challenge when it comes to putting together the ultimate travel bucket list. With so many sights to see, cuisines to nosh on, and adventures to be had, how on earth do you narrow down the perfect list of places to visit in a single lifetime?
As travel lovers ourselves, we’ve put together a few inside recommendations for crafting a personalized (and plausible) list of destinations so you can simply pack up your luggage and make the most of all the wonders this world has to offer.
Tips for Creating Your Perfect Travel Bucket List
Before we unveil our picks for under-the-radar travel must-see’s, let’s discuss some practical considerations for pooling together travel bucket list ideas that are perfectly tailored to your unique style of wanderlust.
- What activities do I consider fun things?
- What natural scenery resonates most with me?
- Do I want to splurge, or am I a traveler on a budget?
- Am I traveling in a group, as a pair, or doing solo travel?
You’ve got a lifetime to traverse all the ground your bucket list covers, so these details will inevitably change over time as you do. That said, if you know your happy place tends to involve an ocean breeze and killer nightlife, there’s no need to include Mt. Everest on the list–no matter how much of an incredible experience it supposedly is.
Travel Bucket List Item 1: The Hidden Gems of a Eurotrip
If you’re planning a European excursion, chances are you have at least a handful of the region’s most popular destinations on your list: Paris, Rome, London, etc. But with a whopping 44 European countries in total, there’s more than enough latitude to venture off the beaten track.
Here are some underdogs in each of the four European regions that deserve a place among your travel bucket list ideas.
Whether you’re traveling while working remotely or are on a dedicated vacation, Western Europe offers an infinite bucket list of places to visit all around this region. These are our two underdog cities to spice things up:
Marseille, France – The hotbed of France’s growing multiculturalism, Marseilles is an uncontainable cross-section where immigrants from North Africa, Italy, Armenia, China, and the Sub-Saharan region have converged to co-create one of the most culturally exhilarating cities in the country.1 The soul of Marseille is the sea air, so be sure to add this city to your list if you’re partial beach bumming by day and living it up by night.
- Vienna, Austria – Don’t sleep on Vienna! Austria may not be as flashy as its European cousins, but if you’re looking for culture, this cosmopolitan hotspot has it in spades. From resplendent palaces to de la mode modern art museums, Vienna is the beating heart between the old world, the present, and the future culture, clocking in as one of the world’s smartest and eco-conscious cities in the region.2
Ten countries total comprise the more culturally Slavic side of Europe, with Russia serving as an intermediary between Europe and Asia. Here are our top two cities to visit for a bucket list experience if you’re leaning eastward during your Eurotrip:
Budapest, Hungary – Should your travels take you to Europe’s eastern reaches, be sure to fit in a visit to Budapest. Famed for its thermal bathhouses, Budapest ensures that trips to the spa are just a part of everyday life in this city–seeing a robeless neighbor dipping in and out of the cold pool is just par for the course. If you’re looking for a pitstop to unwind along your journey, look no further than Budapest.
- Kyiv, Ukraine – If you’re feeling intrepid and ready to brave an entirely new alphabet, Київ (or Kyiv) is on the rise as a seldom-heralded hotspot of culture. Blending Slavic and European influences, this city blends staggering UNESCO-recognized palaces and cathedrals with ultra-modern restaurants, music, and nightlife.
The Nordic lands of Europe are the most sparsely populated of the four–all the better for taking in the staggering natural beauty of the region. So long as you have the weather-appropriate gear, these two destinations are not to be missed when crafting your bucket list of travel goals:
- Reykjavik, Iceland – It’s no surprise that Reykjavik has ascended to the topmost ranks of travelers’ bucket list destinations in recent years. The topography nonpareil of Iceland will make you feel like you’ve left this planet and landed on another. There’s no end to this country’s transcendent delights, from geysers to volcanoes to the nation’s iconic foss (waterfalls).
- Wales (by Inn!) – If anything about the aesthetic of Gothic literature resonated with you in high school English, a stay in at least one of Wales’ abundant haunting-yet-homey country inns should be on your travel bucket list. You’ll find commodious lodgings surrounding all three of Wales’ spectacular natural parks—plenty of hearths to warm your bones by after taking in the ruggedly gorgeous scenery.
Southern Europe is a trove of treasures passed down from the very origins of European culture. If there’s anywhere in this part of the world to linger, immerse, and explore, it’s here.
Our top two destinations to visit in the cradle of European culture are:
Córdoba, Spain – Córdoba is one of Europe’s most spellbinding cities, home to unmatched architectural masterworks that reveal the deep, rich history of exchange between Roman and Islamic cultures. For art-lovers and anyone who loves to be swept up into historical time, bucket list must-visits include the city’s Great Mosque, Medina Azahara, and Palacio de Viana.
- Greek Islands – Forgive us for not being able to pick just one. Greece has over 200 inhabited islands to choose from, each one more resplendent than the last. Nothing can compare to the impossibly blue waters, fresh Mediterranean fare, and heartbreaking sunsets—except, perhaps, for the last Greek island you stayed on.
Travel Bucket List Item 2: Ancient Ruins
Peru’s inimitable Machu Picchu should probably be on every traveler’s list of must-see’s. But if you’re partial to scrambling over ancient ruins, there are quite a few other sites that should vie for a spot on your list.
Depending on where in the world you find yourself, here are three other contenders to consider in South America, Southeast Asia, and North Africa:
Ollantaytambo, Peru – If you came to Peru to hike Machu Picchu, don’t even think about leaving without drinking in all of the other staggering remains of Incan reign while you’re here. Ollantaytambo is another bucket list destination–the sweeping, imperial perch of the late Emperor Pachacuti, and one of the most sparkling fixtures on the Inca Trail.
- Bagan, Myanmar – Bagan is an ancient city where over 2,200 of 10,000 ancient Buddhist temples and pagodas still stand (if a little worse for the wear) today. For any wanderer looking for travel experience and to see numinous feats of architecture, be sure to add this Burmese destination to the bucket list.
- Volubilis, Morocco – This North African ruin was once a thriving outpost of the Roman Empire, now an active archeological site and World Heritage crown jewel. For visitors touring popular Moroccon destinations like Casablanca or Marrakesh, this site is well worth the road trip off the beaten path.
Travel Bucket List Item 3: The Holy Lands
The sandy sweep from Egypt to Syria known as the Holy Lands routinely attracts travelers to Cairo, Tel Aviv, and Beirut, but if you’re making a pilgrimage to this region, there are a few other destinations to visit while you’re here.
- Petra, Jordan – This historical site was a trade center in the ancient world, and today boasts the Al Khazneh, a jaw-dropping temple sheared directly into an enormous sheet of sandstone.
- Cyprus – It would behoove you to pay a visit to this island nation on your way to (or from) the Holy Lands proper. Cyprus is an ultimate travel bucket list destination and has been famed for its natural beauty for thousands of years, and for good reason there is no end to its rustic charms, from verdant forests to sea caves to the two breathtaking mountain ranges that run through the country.
Travel Bucket List Item 4: The Northern Lights
Though notoriously elusive, there are destinations other than Iceland that are prime spots for tracking down the Aurora Borealis. Here are a few other prospects we recommend for beholding these elysian nimbi with your own eyes.
Lapland, Finland – Finns are known to be the world’s happiest country folk.3 While Lapland is a forerunner when it comes to catching sight of the Aurora Borealis, this means that, if you do leave empty-handed, there are no better people to cheer you up before your plane ride home.
- Orkney, Scotland – Scotland isn’t always cited as a prime spot to catch the Northern Lights, but locals are familiar enough with this natural phenomenon to have their own name for it: The Mirrie Dancers.4 If the odds aren’t in your favor and you miss the light show this time, at least you can shed a single tear while standing on a windblown moor before heading home.
- Yukon, Canada – For those light chasers who want to stay in the North American mainland, the Canadian wilderness is a dramatically beautiful landscape that will make you feel as if you’ve traveled lightyears from home. For your best shot at catching the Northern Lights, pay a visit to the enormous, clear-skied Yukon region anytime between August and April.
No Matter Where You Go, Take Your BÉIS
Feeling inspired yet? Do you have new travel goals?
If you’re feeling as inspired to dash off on your next getaway as we are, check out our flawless and functional collections of BÉIS travel accessories. Need glam luggage for an Alpine ski family vacation? Check. A fanny pack for your trek through the Brazilian rainforest? No prob. A sunglasses case for you to stash your specs while you take in a view of the Pyramids of Giza? We got you.
Wherever you’re being whisked away, we’re here (and there) for it.
- The New York Times. Going to: Marseille. https://www.nytimes.com/2005/08/14/travel/marseille.html?searchResultPosition=3
- City of Vienna. Vienna Wins UNESCO Smart City Award. https://www.wien.gv.at/english/politics/international/activities/smart-city-award.html
- The New York Times. What Makes a Country Happy?https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/20/world/europe/world-happiness-report-ranking.html
- Travel + Leisure. 12 Best Places to See the Northern Lights Around the World. https://www.travelandleisure.com/trip-ideas/nature-travel/best-places-to-see-the-northern-lights