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The Gap Year Blog

Top 5 Places For Your Bucket List

4 Dec 2017 14:55 PM

An American writer once said, “twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did.” You definitely don’t want the regret of not visiting the world’s most amazing places. Although there are so many incredible sights across the globe, here are the top 5 worth adding to your Bucket List. Don’t dream of going, make it a reality!

Galapagos Islands

David Attenborough put the Galapagos Islands on the map when he filmed a Galapagos 3D documentary. His opening narration merely designates this place as ‘extraordinary’ and ‘nature’s greatest experiment’. Believe it or not, the endemic species here were studied by Charles Darwin and inspired the theory of evolution. So why not visit the place at the forefront of natural selection as we now know it.

Flickr | Gary

The Galapagos Islands are 900km off the coast of Ecuador in the Pacific Ocean and are characterised by 18 major volcanic islands. This remote location is a land endeavouring tropical rainforests, lava formations, green highlands and beautiful tropical beaches. The species which call this place home are extraordinary as many are found nowhere else, and act as if humans don’t exist.  The population is only about 25,000, including a limited number of visitors to protect animal and plant life. New regulations only allow travellers to stay for a maximum of four nights. But don’t worry; this is plenty of time to see all the incredible sights!

Within seconds of stepping foot on the Galapagos Islands, you will be face-to-face with curious species that you have never seen before.  Everywhere you go will be overflowing with nature, without any trace of human development, just like the real life Jungle Book! The top attraction, suggested by Lonely Planet, is the El Chato Tortoise Reserve on the Santa Cruz Island. If you have seen David Attenborough’s Galapagos adventure or Planet Earth 2, you would have seen the giant tortoises in the wild. Their huge sizes are unbelievable and once described by Charles Darwin as being so large that six to eight men are required to lift them! This is the only place in the world where you can stand face to face with a giant tortoise and more the reason to put the Galapagos Islands on your bucket list.

Flickr | pantxorama

Machu Picchu, Peru

As one of the Seven Wonders of the World, there’s no excuse for this not to be on your bucket list!  You will have seen this archaeological site in hundreds of photographs, but trekking the Machu Picchu is an experience a photograph can’t give you. It’s truly a once in a lifetime adventure. UNESCO has described it as a ‘historical sanctuary’ as it is filled with mystery;  archaeologists believe it was once home to the Inca civilisation, but the rest lies unknown to us as we are still playing a guessing game on what exactly happened. Nonetheless, you can explore the ‘Inca trail’ and explore the ruins of the ancient temples that have been left behind. The ruins are combined with wilderness and adjoining forests, which vibrantly contrast with the dry-stone architecture.

Flickr | ElinUK

The man-made stair-like terraces are the most remarkable feature. They were once a farming technique to grow crops, but also stopped the mountain from eroding. Now the terraces are covered in grass with the odd llama grazing and still to this day preventing landslide activity. From late May until September, thousands of people arrive to explore the ancient city. But for the adventurous, why not trek the Inca Trail.

The Lares Trek is a new favourite for travellers as you can trek through the mountains around the Sacred Valley and indulge in local living by passing remote villages and be greeted by friendly faces. You’ll feel like you’re in the Andes Mountains by yourself as the remoteness adds a magical vibe to the journey, where you can stop and listen to pure silence, surrounded by nothing but nature.  The Machu Picchu really doesn’t disappoint and is worth the ‘hype’.

Great Barrier Reef, Australia

This is one of Australia’s, if not the world’s most natural gift. It is both a wonder of the world and World Heritage Site, which means it should be on your bucket list! The coral reef stretches over 2000 kilometres along the Queensland coast, being the largest coral reef system. It contains thousands of marine and endangered species, being the most biologically diverse ecosystem on this planet.     In fact, it is the only natural place on earth that can be seen from space. Are you impressed yet?  Believe it or not, there are over 30 species of whales and dolphins and a large population of fish species, you’ll probably recognise them if you’ve watched Finding Nemo!

As a visitor to this glorious coral reef, you can enjoy many experiences such as snorkelling, scuba diving and even boat and helicopter tours, not forgetting a chance to swim with dolphins! There are many dive spots along the reef that are calm and shallow for first-time divers where you can swim with colourful fish in the glorious turquoise water. An underwater camera is definitely essential here!

Flickr | Kyle Taylor

Present day, the Great Barrier Reef tends to be well known for the wrong reasons, merely the capacity at which coral bleaching is occurring. This is where the health of coral is at risk and dying due to an increase in ocean temperature and pollution. With climate change proceeding at a rapid rate, this coral reef has lost more than two-thirds since 1998 and is expected to reduce further in the future. This is why marine conservation is so important in protecting coral reefs. It’s so tragic that the Great Barrier Reef is ultimately dying as it’s a habitat to millions of rare species, so why not visit before it’s too late!

Santorini, Greece

This Greek Island is one of the most recognisable; the whitewashed buildings with blue roofs vibrantly contrast with the dark blue Mediterranean Sea. Lonely Planet calls Santorini the ‘supermodel of the Greek Islands’, probably because it is a popular A-list destination, all the way from Jennifer Aniston to the Kardashians. This island is truly spectacular when it comes to sunsets, stunning panoramas and volcanic-sand beaches, perhaps the best in Europe. Believe it or not, Santorini is the remains of a deadly volcanic eruption that destroyed the former settlement, leaving behind a water filled caldera that surrounds the island.

Flickr | Mintstime

Santorini is perfect for a relaxing holiday where you can lay on the white-sand beaches, indulge in the Mediterranean sun or enjoy the hotel infinity pool looking out into the crystal clear water. Being a volcanic island, there are many boat trips and cruises which take you to the former crater and hot springs. The caldera cruise is the best, where you can hike the volcano, swim at the red beach and watch the sunset from the greatest place in Europe, the ‘Oia cliffs’. If you are feeling more adventurous, you can take a 30 minute helicopter flight over the stunning island where you can gaze over the incredible caldera from a birds-eye view, as well as fly over the idyllic whitewashed villages. This is a perfect opportunity to take photographs of the island!

Grand Canyon, Arizona   

Another wonder of the world, another spectacular destination! It is no coincidence that it is called the ‘Grand’ Canyon; its overwhelming size is 277 miles in length and 18 miles in width! For millions of years, people from all over the world have travelled here to admire the red and orange rocks which border the Colorado River, running through the valley.  It is one of America’s top natural wonders, attracting 5 million visitors per year; making it the most visited National Park in the USA.

For easy access sightseeing there are several viewing points. The Yavapai Point is the most popular as you can actually see deep into the inner Canyon and Colorado River. The Lipan Point is also a great viewing platform for seeing the sedimentary rock formations. Of course, there’s more daring ways to see the Canyon too, by hiking! The Grandview Point, Zuni Point and Yuma Point involve a great deal of hiking to get to and take you into untouched nature; Zuni has the most beautiful views of the Red Canyon and definitely the best photograph spot!

Aside from sightseeing from the viewing platforms, there are many other activities such as skydiving, hiking, rafting, camping and helicopter tours. The Grand Canyon helicopter tour should be compulsory for Grand Canyon visitors; you can’t get more breath-taking panoramic views than that.

Flickr | Grand Canyon National Park

They you go…the top 5 places for your Bucket List! They are truly the most spectacular destinations, hidden with mysterious history, distinctive wildlife and fearful geology. It is no coincidence they are classified as World Heritage Sites, with a great deal of natural and archaeological value. So now they have been added to your Bucket List, plan your journey and go!

By Sophia-Harri Nicholaou - Online Journalism Intern

Frontier runs terrestrial & marine conservationcommunityteaching and adventure projects in over 60 countries - join us and explore the world!