Every corner of the globe has something extraordinary—and illuminating—to reveal to the traveler. Given the immense variety of geological features, ecosystems, and human cultures that define the planet, that shouldn’t come as a surprise.
If you’re brainstorming a “bucket list”—a collection of places and activities you aspire to experience during your go-round on Planet Earth—here are five destinations to consider. Naturally, these aren’t “better” than other global jewels; and, naturally, everyone has his or her own distinct preferences and emotional responses. That said, these five adventures magnificently suggest the transcendent beauty and power of our world’s natural and cultural wonders.
(1) Dive the Great Barrier Reef
Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is, at 348,000 square kilometers, the planet’s biggest coral-reef mosaic, and one of its outstanding bastions of biodiversity. Set off the northeastern coast of the island continent in the appropriately named Coral Sea, this internationally renowned ecological treasure is also a magnet for ecotourism-minded divers and snorkelers.
The variety of scenery and wildlife visible below the surface of those warm, azure waters is astounding. At sites such as the Agincourt Reef, strung along the rim of the continental shelf, you can watch for everything from wrasse and sea stars to sharks and sea turtles. There are also notable shipwrecks, such as the SS Yongala, to explore.
(2) See the Grand Canyon
The title of the world’s deepest or largest river gorge is a somewhat disputed one, but it’s not difficult to argue that Arizona’s Grand Canyon has no peers in the sheer beauty and spectacle departments. A gargantuan defile carved by the Colorado River system over millennia, the Grand Canyon is a defining landmark of the Colorado Plateau of America’s Southwest, a true geologic wonderland. The mile-deep plunge of the canyon walls reveals a staggering spectrum of Earth-time, the oldest rocks dating to nearly two billion years back.
You can define your Grand Canyon adventure: Gaze into it from the North or South Rim, stroll over the abyss in a transparent walkway, mount a mule and descend to the depths, or trek deep into wild, lonesome backcountry. No matter what, you’ll come away amazed—struggling for words to convey an indescribably epic landscape.
(3) Cycle Tour Through India
India is a remarkable country of unbelievably rich history, ethnic diversity, and ecological variety. Few other corners of the globe so fantastically display the sheer force of the human spirit as this subcontinent—and few methods of exploring its throbbing cities and ethereal countryside compare to bicycling.
There are numerous options for multi-day bicycle expeditions through India. Whether you’re embracing the vitality of Jaipur or Mumbai, sampling outstanding cuisine, cruising through the sere emptiness of the Thar Desert, or gazing at the lush Himalayan foothills, a two-wheeled excursion gets you up-close and personal with this grand country like nothing else.
(4) Trek to Machu Picchu
One of the world’s most famous archaeological treasures, Machu Picchu in the Peruvian Andes can inspire meditations on the breadth of human culture like few other places. Set nearly 8,000 feet in sublimely rugged mountains, this UNESCO World Heritage Site protects the grounds of a magnificent 15th-century Incan city. Apparently mainly erected between 1438 and 1493, Machu Picchu manifests as a spectacular mosaic of sinuous terraces, grand walls, and stone corridors, all remarkably cohesive with the thickly vegetated peaks and ridges swaddling it.
Among the preeminent means of experiencing Machu Picchu is hiking the ancient Inca Trail, which traces an Incan road leading to the remote “lost city.”
(5) A Serengeti Safari
The greater Serengeti ecosystem in East Africa showcases an almost unbelievable ecological spectacle. It’s most renowned for hosting the world’s largest terrestrial migration: Millions of wildebeest, zebra, and other grazing ungulates annually trek between Tanzania’s Ngorongoro region to Kenya’s Maasai Mara as they follow the rains for fresh fodder and visit ancient calving grounds. Flanking the herds are impressive predators such as lions, African wild dogs, spotted hyenas, and—in the rivers—huge Nile crocodiles.
The Serengeti ecosystem isn’t just about wildlife, though: It’s the homeland of the resilient Maasai people, proud pastoralists, and also encompasses the site of some of the oldest-known hominid remains in Africa—Olduvai Gorge. What better place to mull the deep-history of our kind than here, set within the same sort of diverse, stirring ecosystem we “came of age” in?
No bucket list will suffer for including these five indisputable wonders of the world. Even if you only ultimately check off one or two, your motivation—to taste the splendor of our planet—is a noble and fulfilling one.
Peter Roberts is a life coach. He loves giving tips on how to live a full and happy life on lifestyle blogs.