A Greek sunset among the top 10 trips of a lifetime
There are two types of vacations according to CNN. The ones we take once or twice a year to recharge and reconnect with those close to us — maybe a quick getaway to a resort somewhere hot or a road trip to Disney with the kids. Then there are the ones you spend your whole life dreaming about, whether it’s a luxury African safari or a road trip down Italy’s Mediterranean coast. CNN presents a list with the 10 best travelling experiences, among them a trip to a Greek destination.
1. See the Northern Lights
The greatest light show on earth. Hands down. But before you get too lost in the beauty of the Northern Lights, it’s worth remembering there are some pretty impressive forces at work behind the scenes. Caused by collisions between gaseous particles in the Earth and sun’s atmospheres, the Northern Lights commonly appear during the winter months in northern countries like Canada, Finland, Alaska, Greenland, Norway, Sweden and the place that seems to be on everyone’s travel wish list right now, Iceland. That includes Akureyri, which topped Lonely Planet’s “10 Best Places in Europe” list in June. Less than 100 kilometers from the Arctic Circle, it’s Iceland’s second-largest city and a great spot to watch the aurora borealis dance through the sky.
2. Sleep in an overwater bungalow
The best vacations and the best photos taken from the edge of your overwater bungalow — particularly when it’s in Bora Bora, according to TripAdvisor’s users. Can’t decide which resort to choose? The Four Seasons Bora Bora is consistently rated as one of the world’s best overwater bungalow resorts. Not hard to see why. It’s made up of 100 overwater bungalows with traditional teak wood furnishings and roofs thatched with pandanus leaves that sit on stilts over a turquoise lagoon.
3. Admire the sunset over Santorini
Open any Greece travel brochure and chances are you’ll see a shot of the famed blue and white domed houses of Santorini. But the island’s sunsets, which rank up there with some of the best in the world, are just as deserving of travelers’ attention. The village of Oia is where you’ll find some of the best sunset views, whether you choose to take it all in from a restaurant or offshore on a boat.
4. Trek the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu
Archaeologists believe the Inca Trail was constructed as a holy pilgrimage to prepare visitors to enter Machu Picchu. There are a few route options, ranging from two to seven days. The most popular is a high-altitude 43-kilometer (27-mile) hike through some pretty rough — but beautiful — terrain that takes four days to complete. The payoff is obviously worth it. Doesn’t matter how many photos you’ve seen, there’s nothing quite like laying your own eyes on the legendary “Lost City of the Incas” — Machu Picchu.
5. Explore the Galapagos Islands
Given this wildlife-filled archipelago hundreds of miles off Ecuador’s shores came out on top in Travel + Leisure’s 2015 list of the world’s best islands, it’s no surprise it ranks highly among TripAdvisor users as well. For a full-on Galapagos experience there’s the 10-day cruising expedition with conservation-focused Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic Endeavour. The voyages have a strong photography slant, with most on-board naturalists certified by National Geographic as photo instructors too.
6. Visit Italy’s Amalfi Coast
The best way to experience the beauty of Amalfi Coast, with its rugged cliffs and pastel hued villages that stretch 50 kilometers along the southern side of Italy’s Sorrentine Peninsula? From the passenger seat of a vintage convertible, naturally. It’s considered one of the world’s prettiest road trips, so we sympathize if you find yourself manning the wheel. You’ll be too busy navigating those hairpin bends to really enjoy the views. If you’re looking for a really special place to stay, the Monastero Santa Rosa, overlooking the Amalfi Coast, is a lavish hotel and spa in a former monastery.
7. Photograph the “Big Five” on safari
Ready to fulfill your childhood NatGeo dreams and photograph the “big five” on an African safari? South Africa’s Kruger National Park’s got the quintet you crave — lions, leopards, elephants, buffaloes and rhinos. Plus a few extras. The largest game reserve in South Africa, it’s home to over 500 bird species, 100 reptiles and nearly 150 mammals.
8. Take the ultimate road trip
Route 66 has been called “the most famous highway in the world” and remains the ultimate road trip. It was officially designated in 1926 and covers eight states — Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California. These days, more than 2,000 of Route 66’s original 2,448 connected miles — about 85% — can still be driven. Random tidbit: In 1937 while on a summer drive on the famous highway John Steinbeck conceived of “The Grapes of Wrath.”
9. Set foot on Antarctica
As any adventurer worth his or her worn-in “bunny boots” will agree, you ain’t hardcore till your gnarled toes have made contact with the coldest place on the planet — Antarctica. So how long have tourists been making the long, cold journey south? The year 2016 marks the 50th anniversary of commercial tourism to Antarctica. These days dozens of tour companies in Argentina, Australia, Chile and New Zealand offer expeditions to Antarctic stations from November to March. For a list of companies committed to safe and environmentally sound tourism practices, check out the International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators website.
10. Ride the Trans-Siberian railway
Bring on the vodka — you’re going to need it if you plan to see this epic train journey though to completion. The Trans-Siberian Railway chugs its way across Russia over 9,300 kilometers of track, connecting Moscow to the far eastern port town of Vladivostok. Though most people get off along the way to explore, riding the entire distance with no stops takes around seven full days.