Hands up if, like me, your travel bucket list just seems to keep growing and growing. Instagram and Pinterest have created a new wave of wanderlust fanatics. A quick search and a simple click of your mouse will bring up hundreds of deals to new locations, but which one do you choose? I’ve taken some of the work out of it for you, and pulled together a list of 10 travel destinations you really must go see for yourself.
10 – Marrakech, Morrocco
Marrakech is not for the faint hearted. Many people I’ve spoken with have hated it, finding it intimidating, dirty and intrusive. Holiday makers with a love of luxury sun lounging would be best to book one of the luxury riads or hotels out in the new town. However, if you’re anything like me and love the character and bustle that large developing cities have to offer, then make sure to stay right inside the old town area for the ultimate Moroccan experience. Marrakech has so much to explore; day trips out into the middle of the desert, the vast mazes of souks with days worth of shopping potentail, and so much vegan food
9 – Vang Vieng, Laos
Vang Vieng was once famous for its wild (and rather dangerous) tubing parties on the river. The mix of alcohol, moving water and rope swings made for a ongoing cocktail of nonsense, and the Laos government (under pressure from other countries) finally called it a day and ordered the destruction of the bars. Travellers to the town can now appreciate Vang Vieng for its glorious mountain scenery, lush lagoons and day-long treks.
Insider tip: Cross the river over to the mountain lagoon. Locals will take you an hour into the mountain to a dark, cold water lagoon with nothing but a torch. Safe? Probably not. A sight you won’t forget? Definitely!
8 – Siem Reap, Cambodia
Choosing just one place in Cambodia was tough, but it HAD to be Siem Reap. Visiting Angkor Wat was one of my bucket list points, and I was blown away when I discovered that the surrounding Angkor Thom and other ruins are just as spectacular. The city is perfect for backpackers, offering days worth of temple exploring, quirky night markets and endless nightlife.
Insider Tip: Find yourself a good tuktuk driver for the entirety of your stay. I found a guy that took $10 from me per day, driving me everywhere, and at each stop for hours until I was done. As the days went by, he became my insider friend, taking me places a little more off the beaten track, and even giving me a phone in case of emergencies.
7 – Amsterdam, Netherlands
Europe doesn’t tend to be my thing. I’ve already seen a lot of castles (I’m from Scotland). Amsterdam, however, is stunning. I’m always disappointed to hear people saying that they only smoked weed and went to see the prostitutes. The city is teaming with galleries, festivals, little hipster coffee spots and restaurants. My Instagram account has a field day every time I visit.
Insider Tip: Visit De Pijp for city centre boutiques, vintage shops, restaurants and the locals’ bars.
6 – Wat Rong Khun, Chiang Rai
One of my biggest regrets is that I only stopped in Chiang Rai for a mere 45 minutes to see this place. Have you ever been somewhere that was so overwhelmingly beautiful that it made you cry? This was the first place to ever set me off. Designed and privately owned by a local artist, it is a contemporary art exhibit in the form of a Buddhist temple. Big statues of media icons surround the temple, whilst a moat of clawing hands circle the front. Inside are hundreds of little paintings of material and media icons like Kung Fu Panda, Superman, and Converse shoes, all covering the walls and ceiling. Mind. Blown.
Insider Tip: Take a few days out to visit Chiang Rai and experience real Thailand.
5 – Cairo, Egypt
Another dirty city on my list, Cairo is bursting with personality! Our bus ride alone taught me things that I never knew, e.g. a lot of homes deliberately have their fourth and final wall missing. This deems the building incomplete, and therefore, not liable for tax. I was worried the pyramids weren’t going to live up the the hype. I was wrong. Despite the crowds and the litter, these enormous ancient structure are just as spectacular as you could imagine they would be.
Insider tip: Don’t eat anything unless it’s cooked. As a vegan, I thought I was safe in higher end restaurants. I was wrong, even the salads were washed in water my stomach wasn’t used to, and I was sick for weeks.
6 – Railay, Thailand
I loved this stupid little place so much, I made it my home for two years. I wanted to throw Bangkok into this list, but I couldn’t leave Railay out. Railay is fast becoming built up by tourism, but was a lovely backpacker haven for those wanting to get off the main route, without going completely hardcore. Famous with climbers for its huge rock formations, the peninsula even hosts some of the Red Bull climbing events. If you want to try real rock climbing, the instructors here are some of the best in the world, and they will accommodate all levels.
Insider tip: Go see the Fire show at the Last Bar, take a trip on the Krabi Sunset Cruise, and head to to the West Beach to watch the sunset.
3 – Rio, Brazil
Rio completely surpassed all my expectations. There was so much to do there that I could have easily spent at least another two weeks. Take a surfing class on Ipanema beach, visit the Christ the Redeemer, watch the Sunset on Sugarloaf mountain and party like you’ve never partied in your life.
Insider tip:Visit Pedra do Sal on a Monday night for a much more intimate locals street party, full of music and street dancing.
2 – Ubud, Bali
Ubud is like walking into an Asian version of that movie The Secret Garden. Breathtaking tours of rice paddy fields, coffee tastings, hidden jungle temples and little secret passage alleyways are everywhere.
Insider tip: Visit the dog rescue centre on the main street. They’re always looking for volunteers and donations, and I got hours of doggy cuddles.
1 – Cusco, Peru
I sobbed like a baby at the top of Machu Picchu. Like. A. Baby. By myself, surrounded by a truck load of other climbers. The journey, 8000 feet above see level, is exhausting. My sheer happiness to be at the top, teamed with tiredness, thirst, and the fact that it was my life long no.1 bucket list spot, just got the better of me. The views were like nothing I’d ever seen, the ruins are still in phenomenal condition. Whether you are a traveller thirsty for hiking, or someone just looking for your next mind blowing view point, Machu Picchu should be on your list.
Insider tip: Do the extra climb up Machu Picchu Mountain instead of the famous Huayna Picchu. Huayna Picchu sells out fast, but the mountain opposite is taller, and gives you the photo op that you see in all the brochures.
What would you put on your travel destination list? Send me your recommendations and your thoughts.