What are the best places to travel? If you’re like most people, the allure of new horizons and uncharted adventures keeps you constantly adding destinations to your travel bucket list. Britain-based luxury travel company Kuoni recently did a study to rank the world’s best bucket list places to visit.
Kuoni conducted the comprehensive analysis by scouring Google search data for 119 bucket list items in 219 countries. The results paint a vivid picture of travel aspirations, spanning from the breathtaking shores of the Maldives to the thundering majesty of Niagara Falls, encompassing iconic landmarks and awe-inspiring natural wonders along the way.
According to Sheena Paton, senior program manager, this is the first time Kuoni has assembled this list. “We’ve previously created travel stories that have analyzed the demand for different locations or the best landmarks to visit, but this unique study looks at every country’s most popular bucket list item,” Paton told me in an interview. “We were intrigued to see how this might vary from country to country and which experiences would come out on top, so we decided to do this study to reveal what travelers around the world want to experience.”
Coming in at the top is the idyllic cluster of islands known as the Maldives—which is known for its beautifully white sands, bright blue waters and incredible sunsets. It topped the list for a staggering 121 countries. It’s great to see that a trip to the Maldives is considered a bucket list item for so many people,” says Paton. “It’s a tropical paradise popular amongst honeymooners, families and retirees alike.”
Coincidentally, in 2021 Kuoni looked at where the world wants to travel most. “The top destinations to travel to that year were the Maldives, Mexico and Bali, which is interesting because visiting the Maldives also came top as the most searched-for travel bucket list experience in this most recent report,” says Paton.
In second place: Niagara Falls, which has an impressive amount of searches each year, as people hope to get up close to the incredible waterfalls located on the Canadian and American border. “Getting splashed at Niagara Falls is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience which focuses on the stunning natural wonder,” says Paton.
In third place—seeing the Mona Lisa, with art lovers around the world flocking to the Louvre in Paris to admire this iconic Leonardo da Vinci painting. “It’s something that draws thousands of people all over the world just to catch a glimpse,” says Paton.
The United States has an impressive six places on the top 20 worldwide list—in fact, it’s the country with the most locations on the list. In addition to Niagara Falls, the experiences that made it on the list include climbing the Statue of Liberty, seeing Times Square, visiting Alcatraz in San Francisco, visiting the White House and admiring the views at Yosemite National Park. “The vast nature that the United States affords travelers an array of travel experiences, from admiring natural wonders to iconic city attractions,” says Paton.
So whether you’re an intrepid explorer with an ever-expanding list of dream destinations or someone who just wants to plan the trip of a lifetime, check out this journey through the 20 most coveted travel experiences. But remember: This is just the start, since the more you travel, the more endless your bucket list will become.
Bucket List Trips: The Top 20 Places Around The World
1. Visit the Maldives
Topping the global list is the enchanting paradise of the Maldives in the Indian Ocean. “With its overwater bungalows, crystal-clear waters and vibrant marine life, it’s no wonder that this tropical haven is at the pinnacle of travel dreams,” says Paton.
2. Get Splashed at Niagara Falls
Coming in at a close second is the awe-inspiring Niagara Falls. “The thundering waters at the border of Canada and the United States never fail to mesmerize visitors, providing an unforgettable bucket list experience,” says Paton. There are multiple viewpoints to witness the thundering waters—Horseshoe Falls, American Falls, and Bridal Veil Falls—but one of the best ways to experience the falls is on a boat tour like the Maid of the Mist.
3. See the Mona Lisa in Paris
Created by Leonardo da Vinci, the Mona Lisa is perhaps the world’s most famous painting and hangs in the Louvre Museum in Paris, among thousands of other priceless artwork. “Art enthusiasts and history buffs alike aspire to lay eyes on the enigmatic smile of the Mona Lisa,” says Paton.
4. Visit Bora Bora in French Polynesia
Bora Bora, another tropical paradise, ranks high on travelers’ wish lists. “Its overwater bungalows, vibrant coral reefs, and stunning lagoon draw visitors seeking an idyllic getaway,” says Paton.
5. Climb the Statue of Liberty in New York City
“The Statue of Liberty is a symbol of freedom and opportunity,” says Paton. Best way to experience it—to climb to its crown for panoramic views of the city skyline.
6. See the Northern Lights
“Witnessing the ethereal Northern Lights dance across the Arctic skies is a natural spectacle that ranks high on the bucket list for many adventure seekers,” says Paton. Some of the best locations to see them include Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Greenland and Finland.
7. Visit Stonehenge in England
Stonehenge, an ancient stone circle in Wiltshire, England, has mystified archaeologists and visitors alike for centuries. Its origins and purpose remain a subject of debate. “A visit to Stonehenge allows you to walk among these massive stones and contemplate the mysteries of this prehistoric monument,” says Paton.
8. Visit the Taj Mahal in India
Built by Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his beloved wife, this UNESCO World Heritage site is one of the world’s most iconic architectural marvels and has been drawing visitors to Agra, India for hundreds of years. “It’s a testament to eternal love and architectural brilliance,” says Paton.
9. See Times Square
Often referred to as “The Crossroads of the World,” Times Square is legendary for its annual New Year’s Eve ball drop celebration. “Times Square in the heart of New York City is synonymous with vibrant city life and dazzling billboards, making it a must-see for travelers,” says Paton.
10. See the Burj Khalifa in Dubai
The Burj Khalifa in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, is the world’s tallest skyscraper, soaring to dizzying heights of over 2,700 feet. Visitors can ascend to the observation decks on the 124th and 148th floors for breathtaking views of Dubai’s futuristic skyline and the surrounding desert. “It has breathtaking views of Dubai’s futuristic skyline,” says Paton.
11. Visit Pompeii
This ancient Roman city in southern Italy was famously buried by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79. Today, this remarkably preserved archaeological site offers a glimpse into daily life in the Roman Empire. “Exploring Pompeii’s streets, villas, and amphitheater is like stepping back in time,” says Paton.
12. Visit Sagrada Familia in Barcelona
Designed by Antoni Gaudí, Sagrada Familia’s intricate facade and lavish interior is a testament to the visionary architect’s creative genius. Visitors can explore the ongoing construction and admire the breathtaking stained glass windows. “It’s an architectural masterpiece renowned for its unique blend of Gothic and Art Nouveau styles,” says Paton.
13. Visit Cinque Terre in Italy
Along the Italian Riviera, Cinque Terre is a collection of five pretty villages perched on cliffs connected by hiking trails and a scenic railway. “The area has stunning vistas and amazing hiking opportunities,” says Paton.
14. Visit Big Ben in London
Located at the north end of the Palace of Westminster in London, Big Ben is known for its majestic clock and melodious chimes. “This iconic clock tower is a symbol of British heritage and a must-visit attraction,” says Paton.
15. Visit Chichén Itzá in Mexico
Chichén Itzá, a UNESCO World Heritage site in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, is a well-preserved ancient Mayan city. It’s most famous for the imposing El Castillo pyramid, which aligns with astronomical precision during the spring and fall equinoxes. Exploring Chichén Itzá offers insights into Mayan culture and history,” says Paton.
16. Trek through the Himalayas
From the picturesque Annapurna Circuit in Nepal to the mystical landscapes of Bhutan’s Snowman Trek, the Himalayas are a haven for trekkers seeking breathtaking vistas and cultural encounters. “Trekking through the Himalayas—a majestic mountain range that stretches across Bhutan, India, Nepal, China and Pakistan—is an adventure like no other,” says Paton.
17. Visit Alcatraz in San Francisco
Alcatraz, often referred to as “The Rock,” is a historic island prison located in San Francisco Bay, California. Once home to some of America’s most notorious criminals, including Al Capone, it’s now a popular tourist attraction. “Visitors can take a ferry to explore the prison’s eerie corridors, learn about its intriguing history, and enjoy panoramic views of San Francisco,” says Paton.
18. Visit the White House in Washington, D.C.
“A symbol of American democracy, the White House is open for public tours, offering visitors a chance to explore its iconic rooms, learn about its history, and witness the seat of U.S. government power,” says Paton.
19. Float on the Dead Sea
Set between Israel and Jordan, the Dead Sea is one of the world’s saltiest bodies of water. You can effortlessly float on its surface and also bathe in the mud, which is renowned for its skin benefits. “It’s a surreal and therapeutic experience,” says Paton.
20. Admire the Views at Yosemite
Yosemite National Park, located in California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains, is filled with towering waterfalls, giant sequoias and dramatic landscapes. “Iconic sites like El Capitan, Half Dome and Bridalveil Fall offer jaw-dropping vistas, making Yosemite a must-visit destination for outdoor enthusiasts and photographers,” says Paton.
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