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In my living room I have a map of the world with magnetic pins showing both where I’ve traveled and the places I’d like to visit. I’ve actually run out of red pins showing where I’ve been; neither are there enough blue to show everywhere I’d like to go. This is one of my favorite gifts my wife has ever given me (SEE: My awesome world travel map with pins).
There are still enough blue pins to pick my top destinations. I have pins all over the globe, as there are few corners of the world that I don’t really have a desire to explore. I thought I’d share my top pick from each continent.
North America – Alaska
Instead of the Aloha State, I have America’s Last Frontier at the top of my list of North American destinations. The closest I’ve been to Alaska is sitting on a United 747-400 at Anchorage Airport after an emergency diversion. I got to see the snow-capped peaks on our descent and again as we headed off into the sunset, but the entire experience was through the window of a jet.
Even before that trip, Alaska was high on my list. But the spectacular vistas I saw from the plane were enough to cement it at the top of my list. Eventually, I’ll end up planning a multi-stop trip to see as much of this amazing state as possible (SEE: How to book a 5-stop Alaska trip starting at 17,500 miles).
South America – Torres del Paine National Park
My top pick in South America was an easy choice. Ever since I first saw a photo of the Torres del Paine in Patagonia, it has been on my travel list. If only Chile and Argentina weren’t so far away. I’ve looked into so many different ways of getting there on points.
A close runner-up to Patagonia and Torres del Paine is Iguazu Falls. We’ll probably make that one happen a lot sooner, as it can be fit into a fairly short trip to South America. But someday, Patagonia. Someday.
Europe – Switzerland
If you haven’t already picked up the theme of my top travel destinations, this is yet another picturesque destination with stunning mountains and alpine valleys. I don’t think we’ll make it to Switzerland this year, but I’m hoping to add it to our plans for 2020. Even though Swiss cities hold a certain amount of charm, I’d primarily want to spend my time hiking. Visiting in September would be ideal to have the best of the hiking without the worst of the crowds. If only Switzerland wasn’t one of the most expensive destinations to visit in Europe.
My other top Europe pick? The fjords of Norway. I penciled out a road trip along the coast, and it quickly grew to over 3 weeks. Yeah. We’ll save that for a few years down the road.
Africa – Victoria Falls
How to you pick a single location in Africa? The continent is so varied. There are the pyramids of Egypt, the Atlas Mountains in Morocco, the Serengeti in Tanzania, and the warm, welcoming people of Ghana. Settling on a single top destination was difficult. But Victoria Falls along the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe edges out the rest. The falls are sublime. A road trip through Botswana and nearby Namibia might complement a trip there nicely.
My other African top picks? Gondar, Ethiopia and the Seychelles.
Asia – Vietnam
Asia was by far the hardest for me to decide. There are so many places that I would like to see, including the majestic peaks of the Himalayas, the karst terrain of Guilin in China, the windswept steppe of Mongolia, and the island of Hokkaido in Japan. But I find that the perfect intersection of history, culture, scenic beauty, food and affordability is found in Vietnam. Exploring Ha Long Bay is high on the list, as well as spending time in Hue, Nha Trang and Saigon.
I’m not going to bother listing the other destinations all over Asia that fall somewhere on my list. There are simply too many.
Australia – New Zealand?
I really don’t know how to pick this one. If I go by the geographical definition of a continent, New Zealand can’t count, as it isn’t part of the Australian continent. If I go by the geopolitical definition of Oceania, then New Zealand is my top pick. There is simply no contest. New Zealand is another destination where I would like to have weeks of time to explore and enjoy. Even though we’ve taken several “once in a lifetime” trips, a multi-week adventure in Middle Earth is one that could truly be once in a lifetime. And it will have to wait.
If you don’t buy my pick of New Zealand and want me to stick to the strict definition of a continent, I’d have to go with Queensland in Australia, although there are a number of places I’d really like to see.
I really have too many to list. There are so many amazing places to see on our planet that you could travel for an entire lifetime and not fully experience them all. When you’re constrained to 3-4 weeks of traveling each year, there is no way to hit them all. But if I had to make a short list, here are some more: Faroe Islands, Nunavut, Tahiti, the Galapagos, Nepal, Malta, and the west coast of Ireland.