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It is amazing how many people have “a trip around the world” or a number of exotic, culturally significant or spiritually uplifting destinations to visit on their bucket lists, as if we were nomads at heart (which perhaps we are).
Equally interesting is that some people have more things on their bucket list than anyone could achieve in a whole lifetime, and others have few or even none.
For both of these, and for travel lovers of all shapes and sizes, here is the ultimate bucket list of “must-see” places. It is not necessarily a practical list; some of these places are all but inaccessible, others in some way dangerous, including countries burdened by poverty, racked by disease, ravaged by war or suffering in the wake of some terrible (or man-made) catastrophe. Some of them will also be way over the average person’s budget.
However, we need to dream before we can act: in the words of a very wise North American Indian: “Truly rich is he who has more dreams in his soul than reality can destroy”. Some of these places one might actually visit, but in our dreams, we can visit them all.
The Great Wall of China, which is visible even from the moon, comprises a total of 21,196 kilometres of fortifications stretching from east to west along the historical boundaries of northern China. It began as a series of smaller walls of stones and stamped earth in the 8th century BC and underwent many changes, notably in the fourteenth century under the Ming dynasty. The wall crosses 9 provinces; however, the sections most recommended to visit are all located around two hours from Beijing.
There are no direct bus routes from Beijing to the wall; a guided tour is strongly recommended, since certain sections are pretty strenuous! Visitors should take plenty of water, too. Beijing has its own airport, 32 km northeast of Beijing city.
Ephesus is the most complete ancient city in the world, and a once-in-a-lifetime travel experience. Founded in the 10th century BC by Attic and Ionian Greek colonists, it fell into the hands of the Romans in 129 BC. Most famed for its Temple of Artemis (one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World) and its library of Celsus, Ephesus covers a surface area of 415 hectares.
It is located 3 km southwest of Selcuk in the Izmir province of Turkey. The closest airport is Izmir (45 minutes northwest of Ephesus).
Bagan in the Mandalay region of Myanmar (formerly Burma) housed over 10.000 Buddhist temples at its height between the 11th and 13th centuries; 2200 survive today over an area of 104 square kilometres, which means that they are pretty close together. Add to that the fact that Bagan has spectacular sunsets and sunrises and is a very popular location for hot air ballooning, and you will have some idea of just how mystic and unforgettable this region is.
Tourists should be aware that the temples are places of worship; shoes must be removed to enter them, and clothing should be appropriate (no miniskirts or hotpants!). The Nyaung U airport is closest, just 18 minutes by car from Bagan.
The Capillas de Marmol (literally: marble chapels) are a stunning complex of caves and tunnels caused 6.000 years ago by glacial erosion, creating forms and striae reminiscent of marble. The bizarre shapes and unearthly colors of the caves are unique and breathtaking; they are included in many lists of Wonders of the Natural World.
The caves can only be accessed by boat from Lake General Carrera, but there are plenty of organized trips on offer. The closest town is Puerto Rio Tranquilo, which is a beautiful 5 hour drive from the airport at Coyhaique, where all-inclusive tours can also be booked.
This huge early 12th century temple complex is, at 162.6 hectares, the largest religious monument in the world. It is also Cambodia’s number one tourist attraction, drawing thousands of visitors annually. It is not difficult to see why; it is a spectacular example, not only of Khmer architecture, but of human genius at its best. Nearly all the walls and surfaces are carved or decorated with bas-relief depicting Hindu Buddhist deities or scenes from Indian literature; there are literally miles of them. Sunsets and sunrises over Angkor Wat are particularly awe-inspiring. Angkor Wat was designated an UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1992.
The closest city is Siem Reap (17 minutes due south by car), which has its own airport. Guided tours are recommended.