What’s on your bucket list? Do you dream of ancient ruins or some of the world’s most beautiful beaches? Maybe your list is brimming with dazzling cities buzzing with culture and art. Or, perhaps you still need to uncover your travel dreams. If so, we’re here to help.
In this post, we’ll share some of the world’s most astonishing places, from Alaska’s whale-filled waters to Bora Bora’s palm-rimmed beaches, to inspire your ultimate travel bucket list. When you’re ready to check off your top choices, let us know at Windstar Cruises. We’ll be thrilled to show you extraordinary destinations, including must-see cities, traditional villages and secret harbors where only small ships can go.
17 Travel Bucket List Destinations
If you look at a world map, you might feel overwhelmed by countries worth exploring. Still, you might decide to prioritize destinations that offer the best travel experiences you can find. These are the world’s shockingly beautiful places that awaken your sense of wonder and are impossible to forget once you’ve experienced them.
Though the following list is nowhere near comprehensive, it includes 17 destinations worth adding to your ultimate travel bucket list.
The town of Sorrento perches on coastal cliffs overlooking Italy’s Bay of Naples. From Sorrento’s sun-drenched terraces, you can see Mt. Vesuvius looming in the distance and Naples’ urban glow. While you can spend a day strolling Sorrento’s cobblestone streets, browsing designer boutiques and sipping limoncello, the town makes an excellent base for the bucket-list archaeological sites Pompeii and Herculaneum.
Mt. Vesuvius buried both these ancient Roman resort cities in ash when it erupted in A.D. 79. Today, these excellently preserved archaeological sites are among the world’s most awe-inspiring. You can easily reach these sites from Sorrento via a short train ride. To avoid heavy crowds, plan to visit Sorrento in the spring or fall, when you can also enjoy the pleasant weather.
As Italy’s capital city and the Roman Empire’s center, Rome belongs at the top of your bucket list, especially if you adore art and history. Rome abounds with iconic structures and sculptural masterpieces, such as the Colosseum, the Pantheon, the Roman Forum and the Trevi Fountain. Other can’t-miss sites include the Sistine Chapel, Vatican Museums and Galleria Borghese. When you’re not transcending time as you explore ancient ruins, you can treat your taste buds to deep-fried street food or creamy gelato.
Nicknamed the “Floating City,” Venice is one of the world’s most enchanting and romantic destinations. The city consists of 118 small islands that float on a blue lagoon, separated by canals. The dreamy setting of bridge-linked islands, terra-cotta buildings and Venetian Gothic palaces lures travelers worldwide.
While Venice is one of Italy’s most popular destinations, it still deserves a visit at least once — even if you prefer less touristy places. Venice is a city for wandering hand-in-hand with a loved one and immersing yourself in timeless beauty.
Set on the stunning Dalmatian Coast overlooking the Adriatic Sea, Dubrovnik is a Croatian jewel. This magical, sea-lapped city is becoming a magnet for travelers. Here, you can stroll along medieval walls surrounding Old Town at sunset and watch the sun dip into the Adriatic. Find a quiet spot on the beach and gaze at the blues and greens shimmering like liquid gems. Indulge in fresh seafood, world-class wine or flaky, fresh-baked pastries. If you have a passion for water sports, rent a sea kayak and explore secret islands and beaches. No matter how you choose to spend your time here, Dubrovnik is sure to cast a spell on you.
Seward is a picturesque Alaskan port city situated on the Kenai Peninsula. Surrounded by snow-capped peaks and ice-blue water, Seward itself is a sight worth seeing. However, it’s best known as the gateway to Kenai Fjords National Park and deserves a spot on any nature lover’s bucket list.
Travelers head to Kenai Fjords National Park to watch glaciers flow from Harding Icefield, observe bears fishing in the river or catch a glimpse of whales breaching the surrounding waters. There are plenty of ways to experience nature in the park, from hiking the Harding Icefield Trail to kayaking the Bear Glacier Lagoon. Let the park’s glacial beauty and lush forests transfix you.
If you’re short on time, you can take a cruise in Resurrection Bay instead and look out for whales and other sea mammals.
If you enjoy observing wildlife in your free time, Juneau needs to be on your travel bucket list. Alaska’s capital city is one of the best starting points for a whale-watching tour, with access to numerous waterways. During the summer, you’ll almost surely see a humpback whale feeding in Alaska’s nutrient-rich waters.
When you’re not out at sea with binoculars in hand, take a brewery tour and warm up with some locally crafted beers. You might have seafaring stories to share and probably a few to hear.
With its blue-domed, bleach-white buildings perched above a cerulean sea, Santorini is the postcard image of Greece. As part of the Cyclades in the Aegean Sea, Santorini resulted from a volcanic eruption. The island is famous for its beautiful villages stacked high on seaside cliffs, spectacular sunsets and volcanic beaches.
It’s worth visiting Santorini if only to wander its villages and absorb the views, but there’s also plenty to do here. Take a winery tour and learn about local wines, sunbathe on a black-sand beach or visit ancient Akrotiri — an archaeological site and once-home of Minoans. Visit the Museum of Prehistoric Thera afterward to give the experience context.
8. Bora Bora
Bora Bora is the epitome of tropical paradise. This small, French Polynesian island is what honeymooners dream of and beach lovers long for on cold winter days. Bora Bora beckons travelers with its warm, transparent lagoon, verdant volcanic center and silky, white-sand beaches. If you crave an exotic, tropical escape that feels otherworldly, add Bora Bora to your list.
You could easily spend your time in Bora Bora relaxing in an overwater bungalow, wrapped in the scent of coconut and vanilla, or you can get active. For example, you might snorkel next to wildlife like stingrays and blacktip reef sharks or hike Mount Otemanu for striking photos. Either way, you’ll surely work up an appetite for a Polynesian feast.
Iceland claims a spot on many travelers’ bucket lists for its surreal landscapes and friendly culture. Reykjavik, the country’s capital, is an excellent starting point for living out your Icelandic dreams. From Reykjavik, you might go whale-watching, take a dip in a geothermal bath, stroll a black-pebble beach or find a patch of clear sky to witness the northern lights. You’ll leave Iceland feeling inspired and rejuvenated.
Athens requires a visit at least once, especially if you love history. As Greece’s capital and one of the world’s oldest cities, Athens is home to fascinating historical sites and plentiful bucket-list attractions. Must-see attractions include the Parthenon, Temple of Hephaestus and Temple of Olympian Zeus. Make sure to visit the Acropolis Museum or National Archaeological Museum to add background to your adventures. There’s so much to history to explore in Athens that you may have to add it to your bucket list twice.
Kusadasi is a port town on Turkey’s Aegean coast and an entry point to Ephesus — a Roman port city that now features well-preserved ruins. If you visit Kusadasi, ensure to include Ephesus in your plans. While you’re there, you might also get pampered at a Turkish bath, visit an uncrowded beach and watch for resident boars in Dilek National Park, or ride a ferry to Samos to sample world-famous wine.
What bucket list would be worth its name without ancient Egyptian pyramids? Cairo, Egypt’s capital, sits along the Nile River, just outside some of the world’s most famous archaeological sites. You can take a taxi, bus or metro to visit the Great Sphinx and Giza’s Great Pyramids from Cairo. Be sure to visit the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities to complete your journey.
You’ll also want to explore Cairo beyond its pyramids and immerse yourself in the city’s vibrant culture. Catch a live music performance, explore the Khan el-Khalili bazaar or experience unforgettably authentic and delicious food.
Spain’s coastal, cosmopolitan city is world-renowned for its art and architecture. Here, you can visit Gaudí masterpieces such as the Sagrada Familia, Park Güell and Casa Milà. You can also tour Museu Picasso to view thousands of works created by Pablo Picasso.
Barcelona is not only for art lovers. This fun, friendly Mediterranean city invites you to indulge your senses at La Boqueria, a large public food market and the perfect place to immerse yourself in Barcelona’s culture. You might also watch a passionate flamenco performance, take a paella cooking class or relax like a local with tapas and vermouth. If you want to start your day with churros and chocolate, no one will judge you.
Do you want to see what Napoleon’s place of exile is all about? Plan a trip to Portoferraio, the main port on Italy’s Elba island. Elba sits just off Italy’s west coast in the Tyrrhenian Sea and is the largest of the Tuscan Archipelago. Portoferraio is a unique and historical destination for beach lovers. The island boasts an array of diverse and equally breathtaking beaches, including pebble beaches embraced by green hills and crystalline water.
When you’re not sunbathing or snorkeling, dive into history at the 11th-century Castle of Volterraio or Villa San Martino – Napoleon’s summer residence. Afterward, fill up on freshly caught fish as you watch the sun slip into the sea.
Istanbul is unlike any other city on earth. It’s where European and Asian cultures collide and the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires once ruled. Here, you can feel history embrace you as you shop for colorful Turkish treasures in the Grand Bazaar or feast on iconic street foods like the Balik ekmek, a fried fish sandwich. Stare in awe at the Blue Mosque’s domes and towers, kick back in a jazz bar and feel your worries drift away or enjoy a sense of calm in the emerald-green Belgrad Forest. If you feel tense after trekking to this magical city, treat yourself to a hammam massage and forget that your journey has to end.
16. Québec City
Canada’s Québec City takes you to Europe without needing to leave North America, and it might be ideal for a family travel bucket list. A French explorer founded this warm and welcoming city in the 17th century, and its historic center is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
While visiting Québec City, let the fairytale fortresses, castles and cobblestone streets charm you. Pick up souvenirs in artisan shops and take a coffee break at a quaint cafe. For a dose of nature, visit Montmorency Falls Park and witness a 272-foot-tall waterfall. You could also take a whale-watching cruise in the St. Lawrence River or spend a day touring local breweries. When you’re in Québec City, you’ll feel thrillingly far away despite being so close to home.
17. Tuamotu Archipelago
The remote Tuamotu Archipelago, located east of Tahiti, is the world’s largest group of coral atolls and is heaven for divers. Most of the islands are flat and surrounded by glass-clear lagoons filled with diverse fish species, manta rays and sharks. Above the jade-colored water, you’ll find pearl farms and coconut trees seemingly afloat.
Of the region’s atolls, most travelers visit Rangiroa, Manihi, Fakarava and Tikehau, though you could explore other atolls by boat. The Tuamotu Islands are ideal for escaping crowds and experiencing French Polynesia’s unspoiled beauty.
Live Your Travel Dreams With Windstar
Composing your travel bucket list is only the first step. After you identify your top choices, it’s time to select your journey and start planning. After all, life’s too short to set your travel bucket list aside. We’ll be happy to look at what you’ve come up with and show you how to get there.
At Windstar Cruises, we welcome travelers aboard our small, uncrowded ships to explore the most extraordinary destinations in the world and encourage authentic experiences along the way. We sail our guests to faraway ports and sparkling coastal cities that look stolen from dreams. As you journey to your bucket-list destinations in the Mediterranean, Alaska, South Pacific and beyond, you’ll get personalized VIP treatment to ensure your voyage is just as pleasurable at sea as it is on land. To start living your travel dreams today, browse our cruise destinations or contact a Windstar Vacation Planner to learn more.