Travel

Travel author's top 10 destinations

Bora Bora's breathtaking lagoon has been dazzling travellers for decades.
Bora Bora's breathtaking lagoon has been dazzling travellers for decades. Thinkstock

SO many places, so little time ... and nowhere near enough money. But that's never stopped me working on my bucket list, which is probably longer now than it was when I started this job.

I suspect a lot of people have the same attitude and that's why the first edition of Patricia Schultz's 1,000 Places To See Before You Die - a sort of giant bucket list of amazing places around the world - was an unexpected best-seller back in 2003.

Copies flew off the shelves so quickly the New Zealand release had to be postponed. And - the ultimate compliment - it spawned a host of imitations.

The newly-published second edition (Workman Publishing, $49.99) has even more places to see. Schultz says that in the intervening eight years she found 200 more treasures that had to be added. She squeezed them in by merging several of her original 1000.

Of course that doesn't make it any easier to decide where to go first. So, to give readers a starting point for their own bucket lists, Schultz has kindly come up with her 10 favourite places:

Italy

Just about anywhere in Italy does it for me, says Schultz. I even like it in the off-season. Venice is magical and immersed in mist in January, and the time-locked hilltowns of Tuscany are the locals' once more, after the crowds leave in autumn.

Florence and Rome brim with world-class art museums, and grand piazzas rimmed with medieval and Renaissance palazzos will make your head swim.

But sometimes just an idyllic hour spent in an outdoor cafe (Rome's Piazza Navona is a favourite choice) promises an unforgettable parade of Fellini-esque characters to accompany your cappuccino.

Luang Prabang, Laos

Unassuming Laos is one of Southeast Asia's less-visited corners, but those who do come make a beeline for Luang Prabang (City of the Buddha of Peace) at the confluence of the Mekong and Khan rivers in the mountainous north.

The sleepy former capital is home to hundreds of saffron-clad monks who inhabit its more than 30 pagoda-like temples, and throughout town a languid air of serenity mingles with a new-found sense of stylishness.

Of the growing number of chic hotels, many are housed in refurbished French-colonial buildings, and outdoor restaurants offer mouth-watering fusion dishes.

Sing Sing Festival, Papua New Guinea

The Stone Age collides with the 21st century when hundreds of tribes come from all over the Highlands - some of them travelling for days by flat-bed truck, bus and on foot - to this August festival in Mt Hagen to compete in song, dance and costume contests.

Noses are pierced with wild boar tusks and faces are painted in primary colours, while feathers from the island's rich bird life decorate elaborate head-dresses or wigs made from human hair.

Bhutan

Slightly larger than Switzerland and 70 per cent covered by forest, this little-visited Himalayan Buddhist kingdom has a young, very cool (and much-loved) king, a people who do not know what the words greed or discontent mean, not a single stop light and a pristine countryside dissected by a single serpentine road that runs from west to east. Attending any of the sacred festivals is a wonderful way to glimpse the rich heritage of the Land of the Thunder Dragon.

Okavango Delta, Botswana

The African safari can be special anywhere. But Botswana's inland Okavango Delta, where the Okavango River meets the Kalahari Desert, has been called "the world's largest oasis". It boasts a unique ecosystem that is a magnet for wildlife.

As a local brochure puts it: "If you see 10 per cent of what sees you, it's an exceptional day." Glide through a labyrinth of papyrus-fringed waterways in the traditional mokoro dugout canoe or explore the islands and islets by Jeep, on foot ... or by elephant.

Fiordland National Park, New Zealand

Milford Sound is the attention-getter of the 15 fjords that make up this massive park of incredible beauty, but my Kiwi friends said not to miss Doubtful Sound ... and now I know why.

Doubtful is less-known outside of the country, much larger and, with less buzz and tourism, seems even more remote and magical. When our boat turned off the engines, we were enveloped in a primeval silence and a palpable sense of mystery. The experience took my breath away.

Bora Bora, Tahiti

James Michener called it "the South Pacific at its unforgettable best", and I concur. For Americans, it feels like the other side of the world and remains a dream for most, who settle for more convenient Caribbean island substitutes. Little in the world can match the lagoon's palette of blues and greens, the underwater traffic of fish, and blackfin lagoon sharks hand-fed for curious divers.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

The 360-degree view from atop Corcovado where you stand beneath the outstretched hands of the 40m Christ statue may well be the most inspiring urban view I have ever seen. With 70km of gorgeous beach fringing Guanabara Bay, cariocas - the residents of Rio - call it "the Marvellous City", and it is just that.

It's no surprise that Rio also hosts some of the world's wildest parties, including Carnival and the annual New Year's Eve bash on Copacabana Beach that attracts close to a million revellers.

New York City, USA

Skyscrapers loom above canyon-like streets where more than eight million residents, drawn from every corner of the globe, go about their daily business. The profusion of museums, restaurants and cultural life is second-to-none.

New Yorkers take advantage of a plethora of free events (opera in Central Park, big band dance-offs at Lincoln Center, films under the stars in Bryant Park) that make this otherwise pricey metropolis manageable and a joy 24/7. New York is my hometown, so you'll have to excuse me if I sound biased.

Monument Valley, Arizona and Utah, USA

The Four Corners region of America's southwest is the very embodiment of the Old West. Much of it is protected as national or state parks, and entire swathes are still owned and lived on by native American tribes.

A single 30km dirt road runs through the national park - a barren plain punctuated by towering red-rock formations with names such as Totem Pole and The Mittens, which stood in as backdrops for countless John Wayne western classics.

>> Read more travel stories.

Topics:  destinations, top 10, travel, travelling




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