Bucket List Destinations: My Top 12

I am a bit of a travel addict but I started very late in life so I have a lot of destinations to get in now!  I am filled with envy at those who started young.  Traveling after high school, living in hostels, or backpacking the world sounds amazing!  At my age though, I prefer business class seats and luxury hotels.  Luckily, travel hacking has made this a reality for me.  I want to share my top 12 bucket list destinations with you.

In the past 3-4 years, I have really stepped up my game and regularly plan 4-6 trips a year.  My theory at this stage of my life is literally, “So many places to go, so little time!”

I was thinking of writing a post about my top 10 bucket list travel destinations so far but had to extend to 12.  I am still having trouble with this and keep moving a few others in and reluctantly taking some out.  This world is just such a fascinating place and there are so many great experiences to have when you travel. Here are my top 12, for now 🙂

The Great Wall of China

I never wanted to go to China. Never thought about it. Never. Then one day my stepmother asked if I wanted to go on a tour with her to China and I remembered the Great Wall. The opportunity to actually climb the splendid wall I’d seen in movies suddenly seemed like something I just had to do.

We saw so many fabulous sites in China including the Terracotta Warriors, Dazu Rock Carvings, and the Zhangjiajie National Forest Park. We cruised the Li River and the Yangtze River and I loved it all! But on the next to the last day of the tour, we finally made it to Bejing and the Great Wall of China. I think my face in the picture says it all! This was why I came to China!!

The Great Wall of China is about 13, 170 miles long and it took about 200 years to build. It served as a fortification to protect the Chinese against the Mongolians and other invaders. We only climbed a small section but I had a smile on my face and a lilt in my step the entire time!! Definitely one of the best experiences in traveling for me!

Woman with outstretched hands on the Great Wall of China
I cannot tell you the joy I felt in this moment!

The Western (or Wailing) Wall in Jerusalem

Jerusalem is one of my favorite cities. I love the melding of religions and cultures there. I know the Jews and Palestinians are at odds with each other in the city, but I loved them both. Their passion, their clothing, and their zeal for life were so amazing to see.

One of my best moments took place at the Wailing Wall. I was there watching the Jews in all their Friday Sabbath finery arrive to pray when the Call to Prayer sounded. A perfect moment that I tried to video but couldn’t very well. Luckily, it is embedded in my mind. We were also there on a Thursday when they celebrate the Bar Mitzvahs. Watching the joy in the eyes of parents as their boys completed this important passage of time, was so sweet. I loved their singing, dancing, and traditional dress.

A crowd of men at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem
If only you could hear the and see the singing and dancing going on! Such joy!

The Statue of Liberty in New York City

I love my country, absolutely love it! So, of course, getting up close and personal with Lady Liberty was an emotional experience for me. There we were on our ferry boat and, suddenly, she was in front of me. Awesome!!

Of course, I enjoyed several Broadway plays, delicious treats (think Dean & DeLucca, Magnolia Bakery, and Dominique Ansel ). We even got to see Fallon in a dress rehearsal along with Kelly and Ryan too. But the Statue of Liberty was New York City’s finest moment for me.

Statue of Liberty
Statue of Liberty

Santorini, Greece

Italy has always been my country. I mean, literally, I love, love that country so I go back every couple years. And then I met Santorini. And now I am a fickle lover. The white buildings, the blue doors, the fresh feta, the gorgeous ocean at every turn – what’s not to love?

Every single moment in Santorini was an a-ha moment for me. Watching the crowds of people head West to see the sunset every night was amazing -we even spotted James Franco in the crowd. Will I go back to Santorini? I’m planning a trip for next year with my sister now (she just has to get her points to cover those business class seats)! See you soon, my love! (I think Greece is on everyone’s bucket list destination!)

Blue roof top in Santorini Greece
Santorini, Greece

Staying in Monterosso, Cinque Terre

Cinque Terre has long been on my list to travel to and it was worth the wait. It can be packed during the day because of cruise ships, and for good reason, it is spectacular. I would never go there just for a day or off a cruise ship.

The real magic happens after the crowds leave and it becomes this tiny area of five towns that have colorful buildings, gorgeous beaches, and wonderful restaurants. We stayed in Monterosso for three days and I would love to return for a week. Hot focaccia and gelato were my diet every day and it was a joy to wander around the area. There was a beautiful scene at every turn. I can’t wait to return!

Monterosso Italy rooftops
Monterosso, Cinque Terre, Italy

Amalfi Coast of Italy

Positano, Sorrento, Amalfi, and Pompeii are all part of the beauty of the Amalfi Coast. We took a train from Naples and stayed in Sorrento in a hotel we found on trip advisor. It boasted the most wonderful host but we decided everyone must have been confused. It was the shuttle driver who was so full of the Italian spirit.

In Sorrento, I had the best Italian dinner ever in a little cave-like restaurant called TavernAllegra. Shrimp and lemon risotto was my pick for dinner and it was one of my favorite meals ever. Of course, the fact that the owner of the restaurant just happened to spontaneously sing in Italian didn’t hurt the ambiance a bit. By the way, Rick Steves recommended the restaurant in his guide book and, I have to say, he has helped me to many good eats.

Here on the Amalfi Coast, riding a bus to the other cities is a thrilling experience. The buses weave on the winding road sparing mere inches between each other. Looking over the edge is not advised!

It was a little cool when we went to the Amalfi Coast and I am eagerly awaiting a return trip to enjoy their gorgeous beaches. I might even stay in Positano next time.

Positano, Italy
Positano, Italy

Florence, Italy

In case you haven’t noticed, three out of my top 12 bucket list destinations are in Italy. I easily could have had Venice in here too because it is a spectacular city. I told you I love the country of Italy!!

Florence was my first love and I’ve visited her three times. The first time I could have gone to Florence, I chose Venice instead. I thought all the Tuscany love was just hype. So when I finally went to Florence, I was prepared to be unimpressed. Well, I was wrong. I fell in love with this gorgeous city.

What do I love most about Florence? The beautiful squares, the Duomo, the Ponte Vecchio, the people, and, of course, the gelato! The whole area of Tuscany is not hype at all to me – I love it! Siena, Lucca, and San Gimignano are some of my favorite places to walk, ride a bike and stroll through cute shops – all while eating a scoop of gelato. Is Florence on your list of bucket list destinations?

Two women on a bridge in Florence, Italy
Florence, Italy with my daughter Kasey

Petra, Jordan

This year my husband and I took a 3-week tour of the Middle East. One of our stops was Petra, Jordan. What an interesting place. We walked in as carriages sped past us carrying those who couldn’t walk such a long way. We side-stepped camels and felt like we had been transported to Raiders of the Lost Ark as we walked through the caverns.

Reaching the Treasury was pretty spectacular. It is carved out of solid rock and is 40 feet high. Bedouin vendors sell their wares nearby and there are countless opportunities to ride camels.

We had been told about an English woman who came there and married a local Bedouin and raised a family there. Her book, Married to a Bedouin, is an interesting read and really brought the area to life. I could just picture her living in the caves. What a crazy life!

woman and man in front of The Treasury in Petra with a camel
The Treasury in Petra, Jordan

Normandy, France

If you love your country, and I do, you can’t help but love a visit to Normandy, France. As I gazed at the beaches of Omaha beach and heard the stories of the brave boys, I was awestruck at their sacrifice.

Many of us have never lived where family had to go fight a war and walking the grounds of the American cemetery was a sacred experience. I have a grandson who is 17 and it blows my mind that boys only a couple years older than him fought and died over there.

We rented a great Airbnb, a real French villa, and had the best stay. Everyone should go to Normandy.

Cemetery in Normandy, France
American Cemetery in Normandy, France

Thailand

Thailand is a country of the nicest people and the cheapest massages and I enjoyed both. There is nothing that a $9.00/hr massage won’t cure or a $3.00/hr foot massage. At that rate you can get one daily, and, I did.

It was almost a spiritual experience for me as I stepped off a boat to view my first temple in Thailand. It was a trip I had dreamed of for years and I was finally there. The elephant camps were also so interesting. I loved being up close and personal with those majestic beasts!

But my favorite experience in Thailand was riding a long-tail boat with my friend to the Hong Islands. We had a great swim, a fantastic lunch and the most beautiful scenery I’ve ever seen. I took a video there that is still so surreal to me. If you ever go to Phuket or Krabi Town be sure and book a longtail boat ride from Andaman Camp and Cruise.

Long tail boats in Thailand
Thailand should be a bucket list destination for you!

Gordes, France

My daughter and her family live in London (another cool city). Her husband is just the best and has actually suggested she invite me on two road trips with them to the South of France.

My favorite stay was in the small town of Gordes, France. I remember driving up to it and thinking, “Really? We’re going to stay in this picturesque town?” We had so much fun walking around to the bakeries and small stores to buy bread, cheese, and salami. We also bought frozen snicker bars. Now, salami and cheese sandwiches with snicker bars (and of course, a Diet Coke) are staples for lunch when I travel. Gordes needs to be a bucket list destination for you too!

Gordes, France at evening
Gordes, France

Grindelwald, Switzerland

Like I said before, I have gone on road trips from London with my daughter and her family a couple of times. We went to Grindelwald, Switzerland on part of one trip. The Alps are gorgeous – think walking in the greenest areas with cattle wearing cattle bells and beautiful flowers everywhere! Add in a quaint church, a waterfall, and some cable cars and a train to take you to the top of the mountains, and you have Grindelwald.

Our summer days there were a little chilly so we enjoyed some cheese fondue instead of basking on the banks of the lake near Interlaken. We did take the train and cable cars up to the top of the mountains and watched multitudes of hang gliders jump off and float to the bottom. I don’t think I’ll be trying that adventure soon though!

Grindelward, Switzerland
Grindelwald, Switzerland

I could have written about so many other fabulous places:

  • London
  • Venice, Italy
  • Croatia
  • Bali
  • Vietnam
  • Dachau, Poland
  • Heidelberg, Germany
  • Dubai
  • Egypt
  • so many more

Where do I want to have fabulous experiences next?

  • African Safari
  • Morocco
  • Machu Picchu
  • India
  • Istanbul, Amsterdam, and Copenhagen (coming in June)
  • Australia, New Zealand, and Fiji
  • Japan
  • Ireland and Scotland

What about you? Where have some of your best travel experiences taken place? Where would YOU like to go? What would you add to my bucket list destinations!

Pinterest pin about 12 travel destinations to add to you bucket list.
Santorini, Greece

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