Traveling the world is perhaps one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever had. Whenever I arrive in a new country I’m itching to explore, to get lost out there and encounter a different culture and come face to face with some of the world’s most spectacular landmarks. Often those ‘big’ tourist attractions can be hit and miss, with some leaving you feeling disappointed, deflated and confused, looking around in disbelief for the point of interest and once realising you are right in front of it asking yourself why on earth all the guide books insist that this rather-lacklustre place deserves a spot amongst the world’s finest. But, sometimes, just sometimes, these destinations will change your life and cement themselves as the highlight of your travel dreams come reality. So, without further ado, here are the best tourist attractions that I ever had the pleasure to see.
1. Angkor Wat
Predictable huh? Maybe so, but watching the sun illuminate the dazzling silhouette of Angkor Wat in the early hours of the morning is to date one of the most magical sights I’ve had the joy to encounter. The best part was arriving at 4 am in the morning in pitch black darkness completing disorientated and watching minute by minute as this ancient wonder presented itself to the world. A major tip for visiting this tourist-crowded attraction is to turn left as soon as you arrive at the ruin instead of actually going inside, this way you can mostly enjoy the sunrise all to yourself without being shoulder to shoulder, fighting like seagulls over a chip for the best view.
The Great Wall of China (Original Site)
A few years ago, when I embarked on my one year round-the-world adventure, I visited perhaps one of the most startling beautiful tourist attractions I’ve ever seen. The hostel I stayed at offered two tours of the Great Wall – one being to the re-constructued tourist version and the other near the border of Mongolia where the original wall stood in its dilapidated state of glory. When I arrived at the original wall there wasn’t another tourist in sight, all I could see was the Great Wall of China stretching off into the distance, as far as the eye could see. As the wind stained my cheeks red and I climbed the uneven bricks to a vantage point, my breath was stolen by the sight of China to the right and Mongolia to my left, separated only by the wonder of a wall that has truly lasted the test of time.
Some might say that I left my heart at Machu Picchu and never got it back. After the six day Salkantay Trek to this magical Peruvian attraction, rounding the corner to glimpse Machu Picchu appearing behind the clouds was one of the best moments of my life. The accomplishment I felt after the long trek through the incan terrain paired with the pure magnificence of this ancient settlement gave me a total high – this, my friends, is one tourist attraction that should be on every traveler’s bucket list.
Trakai Castle, Lithuania
If you want to see a magical castle isolated by the haunting stillness of a lake and trapped by the curse of time, I suggest taking little trip to the town of Trakai in Lithuania, just outside of the capital. As you approach the edge of the water you will be overwhelmed by the magnificence of Trakai Castle, a sight so fantastical that it may well have been pulled out of the page of a fairytale.
Tulum Ruins, Mexico
There are some places in this world that are truly picture perfect and the Mayan Ruins of Tulum on the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico certainly qualify as one of these places. These Mayan ruins are perched on the edge of a cliff overlooking emerald green water and reflex-white sand. You will be rewarded with spectacular panoramic views and a mystical place that whispers of ancient tales.
Central Park, New York City
The feeling of stepping into Central Park, New York City felt a bit like walking onto the set of a movie – after all, how many times does this famous park make its way onto the big screen? With the city skyline rising above the lake and the iconic Boathouse just out of reach, being in Central Park was one of the most adrenaline-fueled experiences I’ve had whilst travelling.
Palace of Versailles, Paris
I first visited this magical place when I was 16 and was awe-struck by the grandiose palace and the magical gardens, with intricate water fountains and immaculately landscaped hedges. When I visited again 8 years later I was equally as breathtaken,which is why Palace of Versailles has taken its rightful place as the best tourist attraction I ever did see.
The Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
Alright, so they may be more of a tourist destination than an attraction, but The Galapagos Islands off the coast of Ecuador deserve a mention. When people ask me what I thought of these famous islands known for contributing to Darwin’s theory of evolution, I can only describe my experience there as a once in a lifetime biology lesson in a truly breathtaking and unique environment. I’ll never forget kneeling down and staring into the eye of a Blue Footed Booby and lying side by side with sealions. The Galapagos Islands are one of the few places in the world where animals live without fear of humans and aren’t scared to really get up close and personal.
Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany
Located in picturesque Bavaria in Germany you will find a Cinderella Castle; Neuschwanstein Castle. The view of this attraction from a distance is absolutely spectacular and is something that all avid travelers should experience once in their lifetime.
The Giants Causeway, Ireland
This natural attraction is haunted by irish mythology and is one of the most ruggedly handsome destinations that Europe has to offer. As you stand with your toes hanging over the cliff you will be overwhelmed by the site of these unique rock formations climbing out to sea. It’s particularly enchanting to visit on a rainy, windy and wild day where you can embrace the raw and endearing beauty of authentic Northern Ireland.
That’s it from me! What’s your favourite tourist attraction/destination?