Looking for a few places to add to your travel bucket list? Look no further. We’ve compiled a list of must-visit destinations, both exotic and close to home, from the adrenaline-charged and awe-inspiring to the other-worldly and outstanding.
The Pinnacles, Australia
With a stunning landscape like something out of Star Wars, the Pinnacles Desert in Western Australia’s Nambung is out of this world. The spiky spires of limestone for which the site is named are the result of seashell deposits exposed to the elements for thousands of years, and with hundreds and hundreds of these dotted along the sprawling yellow sands, this is a destination worthy of any bucket list.
Roughly a two-hour drive from Perth – and a pretty coastal one – the Pinnacles is a great daytrip from the Western Australia capital. Stop in at the Pinnacles Desert Discovery Centre to learn more about these dramatic structures, then set off from there by car or on foot to see them for yourself.
The only extreme attraction on our list, EdgeWalk is a hands-free walk 116 storeys over the city around the roof of Toronto’s CN Tower, the tallest freestanding structure in the Western Hemisphere. It’s a must for adrenaline junkies, with the ledge you walk on only 1.5m wide! EdgeWalk is open seasonally (it next opens 11 April 2016).
Taal Volcano, the Philippines
Taal Volcano is an active volcano only two hours south of Manila that you can not only visit, but summit. It’s also the world’s smallest active volcano. What’s even more remarkable is that you’ll find it on an island in a lake on yet another island – and it has another lake inside its main crater. Confused yet? Never mind, all will become clear on the hike to the summit, which takes about 45 minutes and rewards you with spectacular views of Lake Taal, Vulcan Point (the interior lake), and the dramatic surrounds.
Though Taal has at least 30 eruptions on record, rest assured that volcanologists are keeping a close eye on it, so don’t let a potential eruption deter you. Book a tour from Manila or from Talisay on Lake Taal.
Mu KoAngThong National Park, Thailand
The virtually untouched 42-island archipelago that makes up Koh Samui’s Mu Ko Ang Thong National Park in Thailand mostly flew under people’s travel radar until it was used as the location for the 2000 film The Beach starring Leonardo DiCaprio.
Now, this marine park’s white-sand beaches, hidden waterfalls, secluded lagoons, limestone cliffs, surrounding jungle and plethora of both active and inactive pursuits are the stuff of fantasy holidays. It’s the perfect place for hiking, snorkelling, swimming, kayaking, wildlife-spotting, or simply sunbathing.
Son Doong Cave, Vietnam
Getting to Son Doong Cave in the Quang Binh province of Vietnam takes a bit of dedication, but if a six-hour walk through 10km of forest doesn’t scare you, you’re in for a real treat. Translating to ‘mountain river cave’, Son Doong took shape two to five million years ago as a result of river water eating away at the limestone under the mountain. The massive cave is the world’s largest, measuring more than 200m wide, 150m tall and roughly nine kilometres long, and was only recently discovered – first by a local in 1991 and more recently by British cavers in 2009.
Sedona, the US
Credit: Sedona Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Bureau
A haven for artists and a dream come true for outdoorsy types or anyone just looking to relax, Sedona is another beautiful destination that will have you feeling like you’ve landed on another planet. With its massive and many-hued red-sandstone monoliths, cliffs and mesas that change dramatically with the sunrise and sunset, this Arizona town is sure to leave you awestruck.
If you’re looking for active pursuits and adventure, you’ll love the area’s hiking, cycling and mountain-biking trails, horse-riding treks, hot-air-balloon rides, and more. Those in the mood for something slightly less energetic might like to browse the more than 40 art galleries, or book in a rejuvenating treatment at one of the dozens of local spas. Plus, Sedona is only a two-hour drive (177km) to one of the Seven Wonders of the Natural World: the Grand Canyon.
ISKCON Temple, India
Just outside Bengaluru city centre on Hare Krishna Hill sits one of the biggest – not to mention most architecturally stunning – ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness) temples in the world. The grounds comprise roughly three pristine hectares, the massive main temple, and a host of smaller temples honouring many gods. The elaborate carvings and splendid painted ceilings inside the impressive glass-and-stone main temple will knock your socks off.
Doi Suthep-Pui National Park, Thailand
A true national treasure, Chiang Mai’s Doi Suthep-Pui National Park is home to rich forests, majestic mountains, cascading waterfalls, hidden caves, abundant wildlife and the stunning Wat Phra That Doi Suthep temple. This historic Buddhist monastery sits just outside the city centre atop the summit of Doi Suthep, the mountain from which the park takes its name. Tourists can visit the traditional Thai-style temple when the royal family’s not there – don’t miss the rose garden and the white elephant shrine – before exploring the massive park, which has many bushwalking and biking tracks.
Angkor Thom, Cambodia
Many have heard of Angkor Wat, the famous and World Heritage-listed temple complex in Cambodia’s Siem Reap, but what about its also-impressive neighbour Angkor Thom? Translating as ‘the great city’, Angkor Thom was the Khmer Empire’s final capital city and has a history that goes as far back as the 1100s. This vast complex boasts a royal palace, many temples, stunning gates, a defensive moat, a massive fortified wall, and more. The centrepiece, the magnificent Bayon temple, features a whopping 54 towers. The 2001 movie Lara Croft: Tomb Raider was in part filmed here.
Cu Chi Tunnels, Vietnam
Perhaps not beautiful in the traditional sense, Ho Chi Minh City’s historic Cu Chi Tunnels are significant and moving nonetheless. The tunnels, which date back to the 1940s but really took shape during the Vietnam War, sheltered Viet Cong military and included living space, kitchens, weapons arsenals, hospitals, schoolrooms and more. During the war, more than 45,000 people died defending these remarkable warrens, which span several levels and cover more than 200km. Today, tourists have access to two sections of the tunnels. If you’re feeling brave, you can even try navigating a section of the tunnels on your own – in the dark.
Photo credits: Getty Images