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Your Ultimate Summer Travel Bucket List

Your Ultimate Summer Travel Bucket List

I've had a magazine sitting on my shelf for a while now, called: National Geographic-100 Places That Will Change Your Life. It's been there for two years, and I don't know why I still have it, when I haven't read a page of it. Now, with spring in the air, it feels like the right time to book summer plans. I made a list of places I would love to visit, with selections from the magazine, and a few additions. Under every blurb there's a link to a website recommended by National Geographic with travel logistics.


Africa

1. The Nile River, EGYPT

Any person who has seen a nature documentary about Africa will gush about how you must visit Africa and how it's absolutely gorgeous. It's a land of brilliant colors, from the earth to the sky. Cruise on the Nile and learn about Egyptology. I certainly need to visit the site that made so many cameos on my history pop quizzes. 

More info here.

 

2. Makgadikgadi Pans, BOTSWANA

This 6000-square-mile landscape was once a salt lake that evaporated millions of years ago. You're guaranteed to see some baobab trees, meerkats, and brown hyenas; during the wet season in winter you might even witness a zebra migration.

More info here.

 

3. Sossusvlei, NAMIBIA

These rusty-red and orange sand dunes are in the Namib-Naukluft National Park, part of the oldest desert on earth. National Geographic says that it takes two hours to summit the biggest dune. I wonder how long it takes to run down the side of one?

More info here.

 

 


Antarctica

1. The South Pole

National Geographic introduces the idea of skiing to the South Pole. You'll bus from Drake Passage to base camp, and ski from the Antarctic coast until you cross the Polar Plateau, journeying 700 miles in 2 months! Brrrr.

More info here.

 


Asia

1. Qufu, CHINA

The Shaolin Monastery is respected as the sacred ground of Buddhism in China, and esteemed institute for the kung fu discipline. The temples were built in the fifth century, and are situated upon the quiet green mountains of Song Shan in Henan Province. Shaolin monks typically begin training at eight years old, meditate and recite scriptures in the morning, and eat zhai fan (Buddhist vegetarian meals). You can visit the Qufu Shaolin Kung Fu School in Shimen Forest National Park, where they accept students of all skill levels for weekly or even yearly stays! 

More info here.

2. Mount Fuji, JAPAN

Mt. Fuji is beautiful any time of year, but especially in the spring, when the white snowcap sets against a precious blue sky and pink-petaled cherry blossoms. The magazine suggests you climb the volcano overnight, and relish in the fresh mountain air as you watch the sun rise over Tokyo. You'll be in high spirits and would likely work up an appetite, so pack a bento beforehand!

More info here.

 

3. The Himalayan Foothills, NEPAL

Trek to the sublime Tibetan "roof of the world," where you can join Habitat for Humanity to clear rubble left from the earthquake on Apr. 25, 2015. You will also help skilled construction workers in tasks such as mixing mortar and cement, carrying and soaking bricks, and weaving bamboo. The twelve-day program this year partially conflicts with our final exams, but the experience is essentially a crash course in Nepalese culture.

More info here.

4. Pune, INDIA

If you've been practicing yoga for eight years or more, National Geographic refers you to the Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute. You might consider attending classes at this elite yoga institute to stay fit, while you're cramming all those savory samosas on your trip! 

More info here.

5. Manjanggul Cave, SOUTH KOREA

The Manjanggul Cave is a UNESCO World Heritage site located on Jeju Island, a retreat hotspot known as South Korea's Hawaii. The cave is a lava tunnel glittering with stalagmites, and there are nocturnal creatures such as bats zipping in the darkness, making for an adventurous journey.

More info here.

 


Australia

 Photo by MaytheeVoran/iStock / Getty Images

Photo by MaytheeVoran/iStock / Getty Images

Experience farm life in rural Australia through the World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farm (WWOOF) program. You choose from over 1,500 specialty host farms (strawberries, dairy, etc.), and perform farm chores (weeding, cheesemaking, etc.) for four to six hours per day, in exchange for free board and meals. You join WWOOF as a certified volunteer, getting hands-on experience and learning farmers' insights, such as predicting weather changes!

More info here.


Europe

1. Lofoten Islands, NORWAY

When northern Europe meets the northern lights, you know you're going to have a good time. The Lofoten Islands yield a high altitude and clear skies for the best views of the aurora borealis. You can board the Hurtigruten ships' "Astronomy Voyage" cruise, where you get aurora lectures and visits to the Northern Lights Planetarium. If you don't spot the northern lights on the cruise, the trip is free! This is definitely one for the bucket list. 

More info here.

2. Neuschwanstein Castle, GERMANY

What's it like to be inside a castle? New Swanstone Castle perches atop romantic mountain scenery. It is a majestic 19th century Gothic palace with a white limestone facade and deep blue turrets. The castle bears resemblance to the castle in Disney's 1950 classic Cinderella, and Walt Disney's visit here before his California theme park's construction inspired Sleeping Beauty's castle at Disneyland. Besides inspiration, I'm also ready for heaps of potatoes and sauerkraut! 

More info here.

3. Route 1, ICELAND

This 832-mile ring road at the perimeters of Iceland takes you through the country's landscape. On just one road trip, you get to see ice-bergs, sea cliffs, volcanoes, and lava fields.

More info here.

 

 

4. Pembrokeshire Coast Path, WALES

This 186-mile trail runs from Amroth in the south to St. Dogmaels in the north. Bike by beaches, cliffs, coves, and estuaries! Doesn't this look like a scene from Harry Potter?

More info here.

 

 

 


North and Central America

1. Death Valley, U.S.A.

Camels, birds, and mastodon-like prehistoric animals used to inhabit this place, before the rise of the Sierra Nevada mountains turned the land into a harsh environment with a scary name. During certain times of year, this California national park offers ranger-led hikes, where you can examine fossilized tracks like a paleontologist. My high school paleontology expedition to Barstow was one of the best experiences of my life, as I salvaged sandwiches from flies and awoke in the dead of night to a brilliant moon nestled among the world's largest display of stars. Definitely visit here and enter a lottery for tours!

More info here.

2. Oaxaca, MEXICO

Come with your hungry belly to a Mexican cuisine cooking school, where you'll learn how to make a globally beloved cuisine that's been recognized as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage. National Geographic recommends two schools: Casa de los Sabores (half-day classes ending with lunch) and Seasons of my Heart (daylong classes, market visits, culinary tours). I hope I'll get a pleasant surprise to discover tamales, singular utensils, and more in true Mexican-style.

More info here and here.

3. U.S. Space and Rocket Center, U.S.A.

The Adult Space Academy is a three-day program in the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama. As someone who's interested in astronomy, I've always, always wanted to see the nitty gritty inner workings of the space industry. The academy offers opportunities for hands-on work, like building and launching model rockets, and running flight stimulators!

More info here.

 

 

4. Yellowstone National Park, U.S.A.

Yellowstone is known as America's flagship national park. Enter the natural kingdom, where earth's wonders are blown up to scale, and marvel at hot springs, geysers, and megafauna. 

More info here.

 

 

 


South America

1. Mendoza, ARGENTINA

East of the central Andes, the Mendoza region is known as Argentina's Napa Valley. The region is rich with bursting Malbec grapes hanging from vines. At the Vines of Mendoza cooperative, you can taste wine from barrels and blend your own varietal wine. Aspiring oenologists may even choose to buy some acres of land to grow grapes. 

More info here.

2. Atacama Desert, CHILE

A test site for NASA Mars rovers, the Atacama Desert is often described as closely resembling the surface of an extraterrestrial planet. It is a 600-mile long strip of desert between the Pacific and the Andes Mountains. Visitors stay in the bustling village of San Pedro de Atacama, and make day trips into the desert. You will see weird and alien-looking geysers, salt flats, canyons, sand dunes, and volcanoes. The best part is, due to the lack of pollution, high altitude, and dry air, National Geographic names it one of the best places in the world to stargaze! 

More info here.


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