1. Gdansk, Poland
You would not be faulted for thinking you’re looking at Amsterdam, but this is actually beautiful Gdansk in Poland, a city rich in history and landmarks, from Gothic cathedrals to the gorgeous Versailles-esque Park Oliwa and the WWII Museum, detailing the history of the war from a Polish perspective.
2. Ishigaki, Japan
Closer to Taiwan than it is to mainland Japan, Ishigaki is part of the Ryukyu Islands which form the natural border of the East China Sea. Ishigaki has a sapphire-blue coastline which is best experienced on a glass-bottom boat, which allows a great view of marine life and coral reefs.
3. Bend, Oregon
Bend is straight out of a postcard. It is located at the outskirts of the Deschutes National Forest, twenty miles away from the Mount Bachelor ski resort. A shorter drive yet are the conical Lava Butte and the mile-long Lava River Cave. Bend itself boasts the beautiful Drake Park, at the heart of which lies Mirror Pond.
4. Tainan, Taiwan
Tainan is one of the oldest and most important cities in Taiwan, having been at one point its capital. It houses over a thousand temples, a lively night market and the Taijiang National Park off the coast, with boat tours throughout the park’s green expanse. Inland you can find Zhentou Mountain and the Guanziling Hot Spring resort.
5. Paris, France
Is there ought to say about Paris that hasn’t already been said? The birthplace of modernity and romance, the city of lights and the subject of who knows how many movies and poems.
Paris’ attractions vary from the morbid (the infamous Catacombs and the Père Lachaise Cemetery where Oscar Wilde, Jim Morrison, Édith Piaf and more are interred), the romantic (Eiffel Tower and the padlock-riddled Pont des Arts bridge), the artistic (Louvre Museum), historical (Notre-Dame Cathedral and the Élysée Palace) and the gourmet (all around, really). It’s got it all
6. Istanbul, Turkey
Originally known as Byzantion, the city at the crossroads of Europe and Asia was elevated to capital of the Eastern Roman Empire in the 4th Century by Constantine the Great, who lent the city its name (Constantinople). The city was held in such regard, that when Sultan Mehmet II conquered it, he declared himself Caesar of the Romans.
In Istanbul, you’ll find bazaars filled to the brim with handmade earthenware, carefully-crafted fabrics, aromatic herbs as well as monumental architecture such as the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque
7. Phuket, Thailand
Paradise really is on earth. In Phuket, you’ll find the world’s most gorgeous beaches, decorated by gravity-defying limestone islands (perhaps most recognizable from The Man with the Golden Gun) and vendors carrying fresh pineapples and other tropical fruit. If you’re more culturally-inclined, Phuket houses a large number of golden wats (Buddhist temples) and Chinese Taoist shrines.
8. Tokyo, Japan
Tokyo is a city of neon and bamboo, where accommodation options range from ultra-futuristic capsules to ryokans, traditional inns with paper-paneled doors and tatami flooring. Another major attraction are onsens, Japanese bathhouses that enforce a rather strict etiquette (for example nudity is mandatory and tattoos are forbidden in many).
Harajuku district is world-famous for being a center of Japanese youth and fashion culture, where young people dress in garish colors and apparel. And, of course, no visit to Japan is complete without sampling the local cuisine of sushi and ramen.
9. Shwedagon Pagoda, Myanmar
The Shwedagon Pagoda (otherwise known as the Golden Pagoda) is the most sacred Buddhist temple in Myanmar, and legend has it is the most ancient one in the world, and that it contains relics from the four Buddhas of the present era. It is a 326-foot tall gold-encrusted stupa that glints beautifully in the sun, surrounded by 68 smaller ones. The temple complex is guarded by elaborate lion statues known as chinthes. A popular custom for visitors is to bathe a statue of Buddha at a shrine dedicated to your particular day of birth. Be aware there is a dress code.
10. Vasa Museum, Stockholm, Sweden
The Vasa Museum is dedicated to an extremely rare archaeological find: a nearly-complete ornate 17th-century warship, 200 feet long, that was miraculously salvaged with very little water damage to the hull over the three centuries it spent under the Stockholm waves. The ambitious Vasa was to be the pride of Swedish naval engineering at a time when Sweden was a world power. Instead, it foundered in its maiden voyage in plain sight of the Stockholm harbor and thousands of horrified onlookers. Beyond the impressive centerpiece, the exhibitions detail the history of the ship, the background to its construction, and the tragedy of its sinking.
11. State Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg, Russia
Located in the Tsars’ Winter Palace in Saint Petersburg, the Hermitage has rightly garnered itself the reputation of one of the world’s foremost art museums. A common tourist complaint is that there is just far too much to see among the collections and exhibitions for a single visit to suffice.
12. Terracotta Army, Xi'an, China
Many kings place guards around their tomb, but only one mustered an army. Up until the 3rd century BCE, there was no single China, rather seven kingdoms vying for supremacy. The king of Qin, Qin Shi Huang, changed all of that and was the first emperor to unify China into a single nation. His empire lasted a mere 15 years, as his son was an inept military leader who allowed China to fall into chaos, and yet the legacy of his social reforms lives on in China to this day. A testament to his importance is the very name “China”, named after his dynasty.
His mausoleum covers a huge area with pits full of thousands of life-sized terracotta warriors, horses, and chariots
13. Bioparc Valencia, Valencia, Spain
The Bioparc is no normal zoo. For one thing, you won’t find any railings or chain-link fences here; instead, the visitors are separated from the animals using more natural means, such as bodies of water, rocks, and hedges. Meticulous attention has been given to recreating the various ecosystems of the African animals displayed in the park and providing them with the right conditions to flourish. The animals are healthy and happy, something that is indeed rare to see when talking about animals in captivity.
14. San Diego Zoo, San Diego, California
From the humble 25-acre Bioparc to the world’s largest and most popular zoo. Similarly to the park in Valencia, the San Diego Zoo puts every effort to ensure the animals on exhibit are treated well and are given the best possible conditions. All exhibits are open-air and the zoo boasts a conservation program that has helped rehabilitate and reintroduce a large number of animals into the wild. It is also one of the select few places in the world where one can bask in the cuteness of the giant panda.
15. Lantau Island, Hong Kong
Off the coast of Hong Kong lies the lush Lantau Island, topped by the Po-Lin Monastery, with a monumental (85-foot high) bronze Buddha presiding over it. Most of the Island’s ground is dedicated to national parks, offering ample opportunities for hiking. The Ngong Ping 360 cable-car ride offers a bird’s view of the entire island, and if your taste is more conventional, you can opt for Disneyland Hong Kong at the north end of the island.
16. Rotorua, New Zealand
A fast-rising tourist attraction, the Rotorua resort gives visitors a truly unique experience of traditional Māori culture, be it an authentic Māori hāngi dinner, cooked in a pit with hot stones. The Māori also perform haka shows, where they display their fearsome Polynesian war dance. Rotorua is surrounded by gorgeous nature, be it lakes, streams, geysers as well as a relative American newcomer- a forest of Californian sequoias!