Everyone's heard of a bucket list but have you actually made one? More specifically, do you have a travel bucket list? It can be a lot of fun to sit down and plan out which countries you want to visit in your lifetime and what particular sites or activities it’s important to you that you see and do. The sky’s the limit, but it's very easy to get drawn into tourist traps and overcrowded cities if you Google "top bucket list destinations" and go from there.
Sure, some of these places are amazing and are deservedly famous for their unique architecture, natural wonders or mouth watering cuisines. But many are overhyped, contributing to a high volume of visitors and as a result, appearing all over your Instagram feed making you think you need to go there.
On this list we've compiled 15 places that deserve to be bumped from off the radar to the top of your bucket list. They offer stunning landscapes, rich history and experiences that will satisfy even the most adrenaline driven adventure seekers. We've also listed 10 places that aren't living up to the hype, so consider carefully before you give them a top spot.
25 Take It To The Top: Innsbruck, Austria
Innsbruck is a stunning part of Austria that many may overlook in favour of more popular cities like Vienna and Salzburg, but to ignore these mountain views would certainly be a mistake.
Riding the cable car up to Nordkette should be topping bucket lists everywhere with this 20 minute journey providing stunning views of the natural park’s wintery, mountain landscape.
Swarovski Kristallwelten (Crystal World) is for the jewelry lovers out there, with indoor and outdoor sculptures displaying thousands of sparkling crystals that will make your jaw drop.
24 Take It To The Top: Little India, Singapore
We know what you’re thinking - why not just go to India? Well do that too, but Little India is a stunning neighbourhood in Singapore that simply cannot be ignored. The night markets and numerous botanical gardens of Singapore are enough to catch anyone’s attention, but if you needed another reason to visit, this is it.
Shopping, food and bright colours will dazzle all of your senses in this taste of India. Visiting Tekka Centre brings the chance to try some ultra affordable street foods, while Komala Villas is a must-visit family run restaurant if you’re looking for a sit down meal. Don’t miss out on the 24-hour unique shopping experience at Mustafa Centre - you can learn a lot about a culture by browsing their grocery aisles!
23 Take It To The Top: Banff, Canada
The West Coast of Canada is unlike any other part of the country and its mountain ranges, shockingly blue lakes and high altitude make it a year round winter wonderland. Banff is located in the province of Alberta, and the epic photo opportunities are not the only reason you should be adding this to the top of your list.
Fresh air and views that will take your breath away are just the beginning - for adventure lovers this resort town offers the chance to try out the ski slopes, rent a camper van for a longer trip around Alberta and British Columbia, or hike the many trails in the hopes of witnessing some of the parkland’s native wildlife like elk, grizzly bears and deer.
22 Take It To The Top: Valletta, Malta
Maybe you’ve never heard of Valletta before, but you will hear about it a lot more in the coming years because this European city is an up and comer. A UNESCO world heritage site, it offers views of the Mediterranean alongside some of the most aesthetically pleasing architecture on the continent.
History buffs will love the National Museum of Archaeology, while vacationers can enjoy a cruise of the Grand Harbour or simply relax by the waterfront. Avoid the intense crowds of the Greek Islands while still enjoying the luxurious crystal blue sea by bumping this one up the list ASAP.
21 Take It To The Top: Ayutthaya, Thailand
Escape the insanity of Bangkok by heading north to Ayutthaya. Here you’ll witness an incredible historical marvel. Wat Chaiwatthanaram is an iconic Buddhist temple located here and features eight chapels and 120 sitting Buddha statues (Culturetrip.com). Not to be forgotten is the Temple of The Reclining Buddha (Wat Lokaya Sutha) and the ornate structure of the 17th century, Bang Pa-In Palace.
You can even take boat tours to and from Bangkok, making Ayutthaya easily accessible and a must see if you find yourself under the Thai sun.
20 Take It To The Top: Blue Mountains National Park, Australia
Australia is well known for its epic landscapes and rigorous trekking terrain. Perhaps home to some of the most sensational national parks in the entire world, the land down under has even more to offer.
Blue Mountains National Park is located in New South Wales and is about a two hour drive west of Sydney. The iconic Three Sisters rocks are possibly the most photographed feature of the park, and if you want to up the ante, get a view from above on the Scenic Skyway gondola tour.
You can hike independently or as part of a tour group and can even experience the glow worm caves here.
19 Take It To The Top: Wadi Rum, Jordan
This protected region of the desert in Jordan is significantly lesser known to travellers than UNESCO world heritage site, Petra and that’s why you should jump at the chance to go now, before that changes!
With trademark red sand stretching as far as the eye can see, Wadi Rum may seem otherworldly, particularly if you take the chance to camp out in a tent or pod (like Bait Ali), or witness the sunrise burning orange above the sand. You’ll definitely have more privacy than you would at a popular site like Petra, allowing you to truly soak in the experience.
18 Take It To The Top: Kandertal, Switzerland
This really is a whimsical place for a winter adventure. While many are familiar with Lausanne or Zurich and perhaps have skiing in the Swiss Alps on their bucket lists, Kandertal has been overlooked by most in the past.
But if you’re looking for an exciting destination that will give you adventure, beautiful views and a fresh perspective on life, look no further. The snowy landscape lends itself well to cross-country skiing, snowboarding, snowshoe tours, ice fishing and many other winter sports. Complete the trip with a fairy tale ride in a horse drawn carriage on a lantern lit street amidst dancing snowflakes - are you interested yet?
17 Take It To The Top: Alaska, USA
Set apart from other states in the country (both literally and figuratively) it’s time for Americans to start showing Alaska some love. Bump it up your bucket list ASAP and explore the wild, rugged landscape. Glaciers, fjords and mountains collide in this northernmost part of the USA.
Spend a day exploring Denali National Park looking for wildlife to take photos of and taking in the views, or take a tour of Glacier Bay National park for an environmental awakening. Take in the culture in the largest city, Anchorage, by visiting the Alaska Native Heritage Center and discover the ways of Alaska’s indigenous people.
16 Take It To The Top: East Java, Indonesia
We’re bumping Bali out of its esteemed top spot for its more rugged and exciting cousin - East Java. Adventurers, get your backpacks ready because this wild part of Indonesia will take you further off the beaten track than you’ve ever wandered to before.
Indonesia is known for its awe inspiring natural beauty, but East Java is on another level altogether. While Java’s capital, Jakarta, sparks little enthusiasm from travellers, East Java offers highlights like Mount Bromo, an active volcano, which is difficult to get to but is a view like no other. Ijen crater is another site to behold, with the acidic lake producing gases that spark blue flames when viewed in the dark.
15 Take It To The Top: Cebu, Philippines
So you’ve seen a million social media photos of Manila and Siargao, but what about Cebu? Seemingly lesser known by the common traveller, Cebu was once the capital of the Philippines and offers the best of everything from cuisine, to shopping and days at the beach.
Lechon is a specialty roast pig dish that is a must try when travelling here, along with Bakassi (salt water eel) and tuslob buwa which is...pig brains. It might not seem like something you’ll love, but the food here may surprise you.
There’s great trekking in Cebu as well for those who like a challenge, Sirao Peak is no easy feat, and for an afternoon spent immersed in culture, check out the Temple of Leah.
14 Take It To The Top: Burano, Italy
Scratch a gondola in Venice off your list (or just move it down a spot, it’s still insanely romantic after all), and get yourself to the island of Burano, Veneto, Italy. Easily accessible from Venice via the Venetian Lagoon, Burano is a charming fishing village that screams Pinterest.
The colourful houses are the perfect backdrop for any photo but that’s not the real reason you should visit. Aside from fresh seafood caught in the canals and lagoon, Burano is known for bussolà or buranelli, which is a donut or “s” shaped cookie consisting of eggs, sugar, butter, vanilla and rum. Trying one of these while you roam the colourful streets might not seem like much, but it’s an afternoon you will never ever forget.
13 Take It To The Top: Bavaria, Germany
This region of Germany is scenic and most known for the city of Munich which is home to Oktoberfest. While many travellers may have Berlin on their bucket lists, Munich, particularly during the festival, has so much more to offer.
In addition to the annual celebration in Munich, Schloss Neuschwanstein should absolutely make bucket lists for those interested in German history. Built between 1869 and 1886 (Bavaria.by) for King Ludwig II, it’s worth your time to take a tour here.
Plan your visit for October - December so as to enjoy either Oktoberfest or one of the many local Christmas Markets that Germany is so famous for.
12 Take It To The Top: Sardinia, Italy
This Italian island doesn’t get enough recognition when overshadowed by popular bucket list destinations like Rome, Florence or Venice. The second largest island in the country, it offers coastal views, history to rival Rome and room to breathe without being crowded by fellow visitors.
Hidden wonders like Neptune’s Grotto (underground cave) or the ruins of Nora on the coast should top bucket lists, but sadly most people have never even heard of their existence. Wine, cheese and pasta are of course dietary staples here so if you love Italian food, this is the spot for you!
11 Take It To The Top: Milford Sound, New Zealand
Yes, of course you want to visit Hobbiton, it’s the whole reason you’re interested in travelling to Middle Earth - uh, New Zealand - in the first place.
You and about 350,000 other people each year (Businessinsider.com). If you’re a movie fan, it’s understandable you’d want to take a peek, but please don’t let that be the only reason for putting this surreal country at the top of your bucket list.
Milford Sound is the real reason travellers should be visiting; fjords galore and kayaking day trips that will reset your mind and let all the daily stresses of life go. Experiencing the phenomenon of the southern lights (Aurora Australis) here is quite possible if you visit from March to September (winter), and this is certainly one for the bucket list.
10 Take It Off: Bangkok, Thailand
Thailand is a backpackers' rite of passage, and Bangkok is the central hub for arrivals and departures as well as culture and food as opposed to the more tropical parts of the country like Phuket.
But even though it might look good on paper as a cheap travel option, Bangkok is an exceptionally busy city welcoming roughly 19.41 million visitors each year (Forbes.com) and the fast pace can be overwhelming at times. You can still explore the wonders of Thailand like Chiang Mai or the Phi Phi Islands, just consider limiting your time in the tourist ridden capital.
9 Take It Off: Hong Kong, China
Hong Kong attracts a lot of interest from travellers for its hiking trails, horse racing and dim sum, but it may not be as picturesque as the internet causes you to believe.
While you might get a nice view from the top of a hiking path or a cruise ship on Victoria Harbour, the city itself is extremely congested and there’s a good chance you’ll be walking in close quarters to many other tourists. Carefully consider your goals for your visit; if a sensory overload and lack of personal space sound like a high stress situation for you, this may not be your dream destination.
8 Take It Off: Hollywood, California, USA
Everyone wants to go to Hollywood - after all it’s portrayed so glamorously in the media and it’s where they (used) to make all the movies. But realistically what is there to do in Hollywood?
Maybe you want to see the sign, the walk of fame or Madame Tussaud’s and that’s fun for a few photos but at the end of the day, you’re going to be doing a lot of looking around and not a lot of enriching activity. Perhaps worth a weekend away if you rent a car to more easily navigate Los Angeles but worth a top spot on the list? Save it for something greater.
7 Take It Off: Stonehenge, England
Dating back to 3000 BC (BBC.com) this historic monument is definitely high on hundreds of thousands of bucket lists worldwide. With mystery surrounding its creation, it seems that its reputation has outgrown the pile of rocks itself.
A day tour from London is costly (roughly 80 pounds) and will take you two hours outside the city to view Stonehenge from a distance. With limited time in this bustling city, it might not be worth it to make this trek. Save yourself the lackluster experience and take this one off the list.
6 Take It Off: Pisa, Italy
This historical structure was built starting in 1173 (Towerofpisa.org) and began leaning during the construction of the second level. Located in Pisa, Italy, today this unique structure is one that every tourist wants to snap the iconic picture of themselves “leaning on”.
Of course it looks great on your Instagram feed and it can be fun to put a face to the name so to speak, but considering the endless variety of activities available to you in Italy and what little else Pisa has to offer tourists, this isn’t a particularly satisfying destination. Why not venture to the poetic streets of Florence instead?
5 Take It Off: Cliffs Of Moher, Ireland
Okay, this one is understandably at the top of your bucket list because the view looks stunning and Ireland is a magical place. But don’t let your fantasy moment on the cliffs delude you into believing that this will be an experience all your own.
1, 427, 166 people visited the cliffs in 2016, a new record according to Cliffsofmoher.ie. Based on this number, your chances of being the only one there during your visit are not looking good. Not to mention there is actually now FREE WIFI available here to make it possible to post your experience immediately. A little too mainstream at this point...let’s take a pass and head over to the Aran Islands instead.
4 Take It Off: Miami, USA
Miami is a party city with beaches, nightlife and a never ending heat wave. But will it live up to expectation? Not likely.
If you’re visiting with friends you may enjoy a few nights out and have a good time, but in terms of a bucket list destination, let’s set a higher standard. What are you hoping to get out of a visit to those places that top the list? There’s usually a bigger reason for wanting to visit than a night of fun with friends - you can do that at home.
While Miami’s nightlife might be good and its beaches booming, it lacks enriching cultural experiences for travellers like unique cuisine, rich historical sites or exhilarating adventures, and that’s why it’s time to bump it off the bucket list and back to the bachelor party list, where it belongs.
3 Take It Off: Times Square, New York City, USA
New York City is somewhere that’s instantly recognizable, Times Square in particular has been featured in countless movies and television shows over the years. Of course it looks massive, awe inspiring and vibrant, but in fact may not live up to the hype.
Compared to the scale at which they imagined it, visitors may be shocked to find it’s smaller than expected and exceptionally congested. If you’re determined to keep this one on this list despite it being overrated, do your best to walk with confidence and blend in amidst the busy crowds as they move with intention. This is a city that will remind you how small you really are, an experience that not every traveller is ready to handle.
2 Take It Off: Loch Ness, Scotland
If you've got sighting the infamous Loch Ness monster on your bucket list then you’ll need to be prepared to sit and wait for quite some time by the water's edge. Nessie has been “spotted” countless times since her initial sighting in the sixth century AD (Theweek.co.uk) and there’s even a website dedicated to people’s accounts of what they saw (Lochnesssightings.com) but people see what they want to see.
Sure it's fun to believe in the myth and if you still fancy a visit to this scenic site in the rolling grey and green landscape of Scotland, then by all means make the trip! Just don't get your hopes up that you'll be able to cross seeing Nessie off your list because she is very elusive.
1 Take It Off: Cancun, Mexico
Unless you've never been to a resort and that’s the reason Cancun is on your bucket list let's scratch this one off pronto. Not only is it packed with tourists, you're unlikely to even venture outside of your hotel pool area for the entire week of your stay.
In addition to being chock-full of glorified resorts that don’t give you any taste of the local culture, Cancun is significantly more expensive than other similar alternatives. While a four-star hotel room in Cancun will cost you roughly $295.00 CAD a night, the same room in Tulum can be roughly $130.00 CAD or even as little as $74.00. Shop around before you decide you’re set on this one.
References: Thecrazytourist.com, Theculturetrip.com, Australia.com, Thepointsguy.com, Kandersteg.ch, Aworldtotravel.com, Wanderlust.co.uk, Isoladiburano.it, Bavaria.by, Tripsavvy.com, Businessinsider.com, Backpackerguide.nz, Forbes.com, Standard.co.uk, Theweek.co.uk, Lochnesssightings.com, Jauntingjen.com, Gnometrotting.com, Cliffsofmoher.ie, Towerofpisa.org