ultimate-travel_WEBLike many of you, I dream of distant lands—raging waterfalls that cascade over the jungle’s edge, villas stacked tightly along the cliffs and oceans so clear you can see to the bottom. Then, the phone rings and I’m sucked out of my computer screensaver and back to reality. You feel my pain.

So, when Lonely Planet released ULTIMATE TRAVEL: Our List of the 500 Best Places on the Planet…Ranked, (Lonely Planet; October 20, 2015) I was sold. I’ve long been filling my mental bucket of places I must see; If I had it my way, I’d be flying on a plane tonight to see the Northern Lights in Iceland, wailing tomatoes at strangers in Buñol, Spain (La Tomatina festival is a real and amazing thing), or doing my skin a favor with mud from the Dead Sea. While I thought my list was set, this book is opening my eyes to some lesser-known options abroad—even ones that aren’t far from my own backyard. If there is a place you’re on the fence about, this book will convince you.

Here is my own definitive travel bucket list…not ranked:


My only experience with bamboo thus far has been my neighbor’s front yard where he illegally planted it amongst the elm trees for a little added privacy from the street. Here in the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, Lonely Planet suggests, “Ditch the camera, because there’s a palpable presence to the place that is utterly impossible to capture in pictures.” The pictures did it for me. The mystical, yet eerie bamboo-lined paths seem to go for miles. I wouldn’t mind getting lost for a while.


Aerial view of Heart Reef on Great Barrier Reef near Whitsunday Islands.

Aerial view of Heart Reef on Great Barrier Reef near Whitsunday Islands.

Admittedly, the Great Barrier Reef has never been on my radar. As the kid who took three hours to jump off the lake dock into three feet of murky water below (while pinching my nose closed with my fingers), anything involving swimming or diving never grabbed me. But the photos of the Great Barrier Reef, with deep, clear, blue waters, have me wishing I was snorkeling with the sea turtles. The promise of peering “into the mouths of metre-long giant clams” have me a bit concerned, but I’m willing to take this chance to have an encounter with the 1,500 species of fish and 400 types of coral. Again, the 17 kinds of sea snakes aren’t even enough to keep me away. But if you want to visit this spot, you should do it fast. Tragically, the rising temperature of the oceans over the years has been killing the coral.

ALHAMBRA (Granada, Spain):


Alhambra, Grenada, Spain

With plans to visit Spain in my near future, the Palace of the Alhambra is most definitely added to my list. The palace towers take over the skyline, a stunning reminder of 800 years of Moorish presence in the country. Originally built as a fortress in the year 889, many people have laid eyes on the structure. I for one don’t want to be excluded.

BLUE LAGOON (Iceland):

The photo of this spot makes it look like tourists are floating in a steamy, hot cup of milky tea and I mean that in the best way possible. You can just picture grabbing a raft and a good book and floating through the steam clouds and past the black lava field. The waters of the hot spring are a heavenly 100ºF and I want to be there this very second.

THE MIGHTY VOLCANO (Piton de la Fournaise) (Réunion Island, France):

As if the name alone isn’t enough to convince you of its awesomeness, this volcano was responsible for forming most of the island. As one of the world’s most active volcanic locations (with 100 reported eruptions since 1640), it won’t be a relaxing visit, but it will certainly be one to remember.




A UNESCO World Heritage Site, this city has been lived in since prehistoric times, but wasn’t discovered until 1812 when explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt went searching for the rumored “lost city of the Nabataeans.” Portions of the city are carved out of the mountain stone. With such intricate carvings that have stood the test of time, it’s no wonder millions have traveled here since its discovery.

Which spots do you have on your own bucket list? Which have you seen that you’d recommend? Share in the comments!