Travel is a common part of most people’s bucket lists. When it comes to choosing the best places to visit, this part becomes a lot more challenging. The world is a vast place. As Saint Augustine said, “The world is a book and those who don’t travel read only a page.” With so much to see and experience, how do you narrow down the top places to visit?
While money, time off, family responsibilities, and so on are always a concern, creating a travel bucket list is still a rewarding experience. Whether you keep these places in mind for your next getaway or you’re saving them for retirement, visit one of these 18 countries before you die. What will you explore next?
1. The United States of America
It should come as no surprise that the United States is first on this list. With so much to see and do, this might be one of the most diverse, interesting places on earth.
From the Everglades in Florida to the Rocky Mountains in Colorado, there’s no shortage of things to do or discover. Whether you plan a trip across the country or pick a few cities that stand out to you, you’ll never tire of your time here.
Top sights: The Statue of Liberty, The Grand Canyon, and the National Mall.
2. New Zealand
Few places around the world are known strictly for their beauty, but New Zealand is one of them. This remote land Down Under is truly an oasis for any outdoor lover. With thousands of miles of shores, towering mountains, and landscapes that inspired the Lord of the Rings, this is an otherworldly place to experience.
Top sights: Milford Sound, Mount Cook, and Bay of Islands
Brazil is one of the largest countries in the world, so it’s no surprise that it earns a place on this list. Home to some of the most vibrant cities in the world like Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, this country blends the old and new world. Journey between the Amazon and the Atlantic for a breathtaking experience.
Top sights: Sugarloaf Mountain, Copacabana beach, and Christ the Redeemer
Though you might only think of the cosmopolitan Zurich, Switzerland has a lot to offer travelers of all interests. From the famous lakes to the Swizz mountains, this is one of the top tourist destinations for a reason. Visit in the winter to take in some of the best winter sports around, or spend time in the gorgeous summer.
Top sights: Rhine Falls, Jungfraujoch, and Mount Pilatus
5. South Africa
As one of the top places to visit in Africa, South Africa has a lot to offer guests. Visit any of their national parks to see the “Big Five”, or just lounge on Boulder’s Beach for some penguin sightings.
If you’d prefer a city feel, you can’t deny the beauty of Cape Town, Durban, and Johanasburg. South Africa really has it all, from wildlife to big city fun.
Top Sights: Cape Town, Kruger National Park, and Golden Mile
Another large country that brings a diverse range of views is China. From the bustling metropolis to some of the highest peaks in the world (Mt. Everest and Mt. Taishan to name a few), there isn’t much you can’t find in China. Plus, recent technological advancements means that this ancient nation is also home to some of the most advanced, bustling cities.
Top sights: Forbidden City, Great Wall of China, and the Summer Palace
Italy is one of the most popular vacation spots because of its long-winded history, world-renowned culture, and breathtaking sights. When it comes to things to do in retirement, Italy might just be the best place for exploring. From the best vineyards to the Roman ruins, there is something for everyone here.
Top sights: Pantheon, Colosseum, and Venice
Though only recently made famous as the filming location for the popular HBO series Game of Thrones, Croatia has long been Europe’s best-kept secret.
Croatia has ancient, gorgeous cities like Dubrovnik along with natural wonders like the Plitvice Lakes. Framed by the crystal clear water of the Mediterranian, it doesn’t get much better than this.
Top sights: Hvar, Plitvice Lakes National Park, and Dicletian’s Palace
Though Ireland is colder than some of the other countries on this list, it’s still well worth a visit. Because of the cold, moist climate, this is a vibrant green paradise.
Imagine quiet hilltop walks, calm lakes, foggy skies, and a late-night pint at a local pub. That’s Ireland in a nutshell, and it’s one of the best places to relax in nature’s beauty.
Top sights: Cliffs of Moher, Dublin, and Killarney National Park
For an experience stepping outside your comfort zone, add India to your bucket list. From the Himalayas to the Indian Ocean, this is one of the most exotic, interesting destinations on the planet. Outside of the bustling and chaotic cities, you can spot Asian elephants, Bengal tigers, and a variety of other unique creatures.
Top sights: Taj Mahal, Amber Palace, and Ranthambore National Park
Though not often thought about as frequently as other destinations, Canada shouldn’t be overlooked. This beautiful country has some of the most stunning wildlife.
Especially in the Yukon territory, you’ll step outside of the realm of nature you’re used to into something entirely wild and new. Wrap up your perfect outdoor adventure with some time in one of Canada's charming cities.
Top sights: Banff National Park, Jasper National Park, and Horseshoe Falls
Kenya is home to so much natural splendor. In the Great Rift Valley, visitors can spot cheetahs, lions, rhinos, and giraffes. In the north, it’s possible to run into Nile crocodiles and hippopotamuses all within traveling distance of the capital city, Nairobi.
Top sights: Lake Nakuru, Amboseli National Park, and Maasai Mara
Indonesia is a string of islands offering some of the best well-known beaches in the world. From Bali to the rainforests, this is a tropical oasis for all types of travelers.
Whether you’d prefer relaxing on white sand beaches or trecking to Komodo National Park, Indonesia has something to offer everyone. Just be cautious of the Komodo Dragons!
Top sights: Tanah Lot, Borobudur Temple, and Uluwatsu Temple
While France might seem like an overly-Instagrammed destination, that doesn’t mean it’s not still worth a visit. Paris truly is the most romantic city, but the list of French must-dos doesn’t end there. From the French Riviera to the Bordeaux vineyards, this might be one of the most sophisticated places to explore.
Whether you’re a sunbather or an art lover, France has a city for you. You could spend months just exploring the local ins and outs of this gorgeous place.
Top sights: Eiffel Tower, Louvre Museum, and French Riviera
For anyone who has visited Thailand themselves, it’s no surprise that it earned a place on this list. It’s stunning from coast to coast. From the famous rock formations of Krabi to the sky-high islands near Phuket, this might be one of the most breathtaking places on this planet. In fact, parts of it seem otherworldly in their natural beauty.
Top sights: Phi Phi Islands, Grand Palace, and Temple of the Emerald Buddha
Of course, the country that’s home to the Great Barrier Reef is on this must-travel list. There is so much diversity in wildlife within Australia that it’s impossible to fit everything into one (or even multiple) lists.
You’d need a lifetime to see all of the natural beauty, from the famous reef to Tasmania, each corner of the land Down Under has something new to discover. Not to mention Australia is home to some of the most bustling and thriving cities in the world!
Top sights: Great Barrier Reef, Bondi Beach, and Great Ocean Road
Visiting Peru is like traveling back through time. Home to the infamous Machu Picchu, an incredible Incan ruin, there’s no shortage of things to see in this South American City.
Aside from the Incan artifacts, Peru has the world’s highest tropical mountain range and a variety of archeological sites. It’s a dream destination for nature lovers and historians alike.
Top sights: Machu Picchu, Sacred Valley, and Colca Canyon
18. Costa Rica
Costa Rica proves that paradise does exist, and it’s in Central America. Bordered by both the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, there’s no shortage of perfect beaches to be enjoyed here.
Not only is this one of the most popular places to vacation by the sea, but it’s also home to so much more. From stunning National Parks to rainforests, sea turtles, and welcoming locals, there’s so much about Costa Rica that keeps visitors coming back.
Top sights: Arenal Volcano and Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio
Explore the World
If you’re wondering how to make a travel bucket list, look no further than this list of countries above. While it’s hard to narrow down the “top” places, we considered the destinations that offered the most breathtaking beauty coupled with a welcoming culture.
While you could spend a lifetime just exploring these spots above, don’t feel pressured to visit everywhere at once. Travel is best when it’s savored, and the journal is always better than the destination. Consider how you can broaden your horizons from where you are, whether you’re planning a trip across the world or the country.