Accessible from Barcelona, Spain
Barcelona is a city rife with culture and prestige, a true European metropolis poised to serve as the perfect backdrop for an adventure. There is no wrong way to go about experiencing this city … so long as you make time to marvel at the work of Gaudí. Antoni Gaudí was a genius architect of the early 20th century, renowned for his Modernisme (Catalan modernism)/ biomorphism aesthetic. Even if you don’t know of him, you know his work and could recognize it from a mile away: the undulating limestone façade of Casa Milà, the skeletal-and-scale like exterior of Casa Batlló and the sprawling dreamscape of Park Güell are prime examples. The absolute can’t-miss masterpiece, however, is the Sagrada Familia: a cathedral equal parts Gothic and art nouveau, it’s proven to be a religious experience for even the most agnostic admirer.
The “End of the World”
Accessible from Puerto Williams, Chile
The Antarctic is a world away from our own, a monochromatic alien landscape almost entirely unto itself. This is hallowed ground for adventurous explorers — you’re standing somewhere where more penguins have tread than fellow humans. It’s not just that this is remote; it’s that unless you’re a well sponsored scientific researcher, your only hope of getting here is by specialized cruise ship. The journey is just as integral to the adventure as the destination. Cruising through the Drake Passage by ship, zipping from ship to landfall by Zodiac and finally hiking across glaciers to admire the proverbial “End of the World” makes for several days of anticipation and adrenaline … not to mention souvenir snapshots in a league of their own.
Accessible from Southampton, England
About 80 miles outside London sits the fabled ring of rock, Stonehenge. To say it’s old is an understatement — older remnants of the site date back to sometime between 8500 and 7000 B.C. It’s this ocean of time that lends itself to an air of mystery: Why did they source some of the stones from southwest Wales, 140 miles away? What should we make of the site aligning with both the sunset of the winter solstice and the sunrise of the summer solstice? Your guide can answer some of your questions in the moment, but half the fun is leaving here with unanswered ones to chew on for decades to come.
South African Wildlife Safari
Accessible from Cape Town, South Africa
The savannahs of South Africa (and the wildlife that call them home) are a natural wonder; journeying across a game reserve makes for a postcardworthy adventure. The Aquila Private Game Reserve is one of the country’s most renowned. Once you arrive, an open jeep will whisk you off on safari, where with keen eyes you might spy the likes of Africa’s “Big 5” — lions, rhinos, elephants, leopards and buffalos. Your guide will be certain to provide you with the storied history of the reserve, as well as point out any animals you might not have seen straight away. The payoff to this excursion? You, rich with newfound knowledge and snapshots you’d typically only find within National Geographic.
Cairo’s Pyramids and Mummies
Accessible from Port Said, Egypt
Ancient Egypt has captivated the world’s imagination since Romans first laid eyes on the pyramids — they were already ancient by then, having been constructed around 2550 B.C. The depth of your own exploration of these mountainous tombs depends on your appetite for adventure (and comfort with confined spaces); as exciting as walking the perimeter is, descending into the chamber at the heart of the pyramid itself is an experience you won’t soon forget. There, underneath the mountain of stone slabs, the weight of time takes on a new reality within the tomb of King Khufu — your heartbeats serve as the metronome-like reminder that time is still moving forward. Any outing to the pyramids should be paired with a trip to the nearby Museum of Egyptian Civilization. While it highlights Egypt’s winding history through the eras, the crown jewel of the museum is easily the Royal Mummies Hall. It’s one thing to stand within a several-thousand-year-old tomb, it’s something else altogether to come face-to-face with one of its inhabitants.
Diving the Bahamas
Accessible from Nassau, Bahamas
The Bahamas is beautiful, but few visitors actually take the time to truly see all of it. Diving below the water’s surface opens up a whole new world of discovery: sprawling, colorful coral reefs stretch across the seabed, with the odd shipwreck jutting out like a long-lost relic, beckoning curious onlookers to board it and see remnants of its past life, as well as what underwater denizens call it home today. Between the reefs and the wrecks, you’ll have your exploratory chops cut out for you — you might need more than one scuba dive to get your fill of this colorful kingdom.
Singapore’s Hawker Stalls
Accessible from Singapore
The myriad cultural influences of Singapore combine to make something new, something fresh — something wonderful. Perhaps nowhere is this melting pot of wonder more present than in its cuisine; and of the many delectable, memorable (and oftentimes, Michelinstarred) restaurants and eateries to consider, the can’t-miss experience is the hawker stalls. Looking something like an open air mall if the mall was just delicious food stalls, over 100 hawker centers are scattered throughout the city. It’s hard to go wrong when choosing which to visit, though the most famous is likely Hong Lim Market & Food Centre — home to the Michelin-starred Hill Street Tai Hwa Noodle. The authentic way to experience this delicious street food is to order many dishes from many stalls before digging into your customized buffet, so make sure you arrive hungry!
The Cloud-Coated Citadel of Machu Picchu
Accessible from Lima, Peru
Machu Picchu is the stuff of legends: A long-lost Incan stronghold hidden in the mountain clouds until the 20th century makes for an intriguing adventure smackdab in the middle of your vacation. An excursion to this citadel will be overnight, and the journey is well worth it. After the train ride into Aguas Calientes, it’s another leg of travel to get to the ruins. Once there, prepare to have your breath taken away (and not just from the change in altitude): the mountainside seems dotted with the stony echoes of a metropolis long forgotten. One can’t-miss site on the mountainside? Huayna Picchu. You’ll need a separate ticket to visit it — and only 400 people aday are allowed — but this peak carries an extra dose of wanderlust magic. From this vantage point, you’ll peer down on the rest of Machu Picchu, an eagle’s-eye view on a lost empire.