A bucket list can be a tricky beast. What to leave in (or out) is seriously subjective. It holds a ridiculous amount of personal meaning and is often compounded by your mood, those latest obsessions (you know the ones), or your own impatience with yourself.
Pinning it down just isn’t as easy as it seems.
But as Flight Centre Travel Group turned 40 in 2022 – and because we’re in a celebratory mood – we figured we’d have a stab and name 40 of our absolute faves.
Many of these destinations have reopened post-pandemic, but as the world gets back to normal, you might like to view our latest info on current travel restrictions.
Read on for our top 40 travel destinations…
Just a four-hour jaunt from the UK, Turkey offers a unique meeting point between Asia and Europe. For centuries, cultures of both continents have found a way of living and thriving in this diverse land of myriad experiences. From the sandy beaches of Antalya on the Mediterranean coast, to the ski fields of Anatolia, not to mention the mosques, churches and thriving street food of Istanbul, Turkey has a lot going for it.
39. New York City
Manhattan, the Big Apple, the City That Never Sleeps. There’s a reason New York City features on every ‘best of’ list going. Whether you’re grabbing a slice in Brooklyn, strolling the High Line, getting up close to Lady Liberty, or discovering the skyline from above at SUMMIT One Vanderbilt, this is a place that’s packed full of experiences. And no matter if it’s your first or fiftieth visit, it’s choc-full of nostalgia too – thanks to its abundant TV and film appearances.
Most people have heard of the mighty Angkor Wat, and there’s so much to Cambodia beyond. Boating along the Mekong Delta has become a popular way of seeing some of the country’s abundant temples at the heart of the ancient Khmer civilisation. Theravada Buddhism is practised by 95% of the population, making a visit to Cambodia a truly spiritual, if not life-affirming, experience. Of all Cambodia’s secrets, Sihanoukville’s beaches are its best kept.
Culture, food and history all converge in Germany. For starters, capital cities don’t get more open and welcoming than Berlin. Indeed, embracing diversity is a way of life in a city that celebrates its thriving LGBTQ+ communities with a host of specialty bars and clubs, all promoting tolerance and inclusiveness. Throw in delicious currywurst and some truly grand architecture, and you’ll just love this vibrant metropolis. Meanwhile, Munich holds a special place in our hearts for having invented the biergarten. For beer lovers and everyone else, the Bavarian capital offers a taste of old-world Europe from stately architecture to picturesque, forested surrounds full of hiking trails. Neuschwanstein Castle on the outskirts provides a spectacular blend of both.
36. South Africa
We all love big hitters like Cape Town and Kruger National Park. But these are just the beginning. Johannesburg’s Maboneng district has a thriving hub of art galleries and an intriguing food scene. We love an art tour in Soweto, while a visit to the Apartheid Museum is truly compelling; the country’s tortuous colonial legacy is laid bare in the spirit of reconciliation. Milder temperatures in spring and autumn make these ideal seasons to visit, while South Africa’s world-class wineries are not to be missed, alongside the breathtaking views of Table Mountain on your descent into Cape Town Airport.
If delicious coffee, scrumptious egg tarts, and beautiful beaches are your thing, look no further than Portugal. From the islands of Madeira to the cobblestone streets of Lisbon and the golf courses of the Algarve, we love every inch of this European gem – especially its rich history and culture. Don’t miss the iconic hilltop beacon that is Pena Palace in Sintra.
34. Sri Lanka
Blue whales, elephants, leopards: Sri Lanka is a wildlife lover’s paradise. Couple that with a rich and joyous culture, sandy beaches brushed by turquoise waters, and a burgeoning eco-tourism industry taking in mountains, forests and ancient monuments, and Sri Lanka will easily be one of the coolest countries on your bucket list.
If you do nothing else but beach, sleep, eat and repeat, that’s perfectly acceptable in Cyprus – and that’s why we adore it. But when you’re full of gyros and ready for a change of scenery, you’ll find some of the most breathtaking landscapes in Europe here. Head for the Blue Lagoon to admire crystal-clear waters, flanked by soaring rocks. Or, for the very best hiking, we can’t get enough of the pretty Karpas Peninsula, to the northeast of the island.
Exploring the land of the Pharaohs is nothing short of epic. Discover the world’s oldest civilisations by visiting the temples, tombs and pyramids placed reverently along the banks of the Nile. For more modern vibes (well, slightly) head for the Khan el-Khalili bazaar, which has been attracting hagglers since the 14th century. It gets more interesting the deeper you wander into its narrow alleyways. Here you’ll find authentic exotic goods amid all the hustle and bustle of a genuine Egyptian bazaar experience.
Famous for its stunning white silica, and being the birthplace of Bob Marley, Jamaica is one of our favourite Caribbean getaways. Spend your days sipping cocktails, sampling jerk everything, or exploring natural wonders like Dunn’s River Falls.
A dramatic volcanic landscape and vast ice sheets give Iceland an otherworldly, almost ethereal, feel. With a bit of patience, you can also catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights, as they swirl thick swatches of green ribbon across the sky after dark. Indeed, many of the country’s glamping sites are within an easy drive of the capital Reykjavik and have transparent areas of ceiling so you can enjoy this eye-popping polar light show from the warmth of your glamp-bed.
12. Ho Chi Minh City
Frenetic yet vibrant, Vietnam’s largest and southernmost city is best seen on foot. It may seem an impossible task to cross Ho Chi Minh City’s busy streets, buzzing with a thousand motorbikes, but you’ll soon find yourself doing as the locals do, and hurtling forwards at a steady pace as the two-wheeled traffic weaves smoothly past you. Top visits include the War Remnants Museum and the ornate French-built Saigon Central Post Office.
If you’re a Game of Thrones fanatic, no doubt you’ll have heard all about Croatia’s claim to fame in the epic show, where Dubrovnik doubles as King’s Landing. Head out beyond the city walls, though, and you’ll be rewarded with a confection of national parks, waterfalls, and beaches. If you’re heading to Split or Zagreb, be sure to tag on a day trip to Plitvice Lakes so you can tour its dramatic cascades.
Sandy beaches, coral reefs and craggy peaks that brush the sky give Mauritius a dreamy quality that’s so eagerly anticipated in a tropical vacation spot. And for an island no more than 30 miles in length, Mauritius has plenty going on. From sky-diving, to street markets, zip-lining to swimming with dolphins, boutique hotels to mountain biking, a holiday in Mauritius comes in many colours (quite literally, check out the rainbow sands at Chamarel).
Donkeys aren’t something you’d normally associate with this iconic alpine enclave of neutrality, watch-making and chocolate. But in an age of eco-tourism and authentic experiences, learning “donkey knowledge” and trekking with them along the winding trails of the mountainous Toggenburg region is a fantastic way to experience Switzerland. You'll also make friends with some of the most good-natured creatures on the planet.
With 7,600 islands to choose from, it’s no surprise that the Philippines has an abundance of spectacular beaches, not to mention all the swimming, diving, paddling, surfing “aquivities” you could imagine. The Philippines’ heady mix of ethnicities makes for a culture and cuisine that’s rich and colourful too. This is exemplified by the playful paintwork on its Jeepneys – ex-World War II 4X4s, craftily adapted into buses that have become a national icon.
25. Costa Rica
If waking to the sounds of howler monkeys, tropical rainstorms and the chirps of miniature poison dart frogs are your thing, look no further than Costa Rica. This is a haven for nature lovers – especially those who are partial to delicious central American grub and super-cute sloths in abundance. Head out on lakes and oceans, through jungles and across beaches, in search of plentiful wildlife, volcanoes and waterfalls.
An unwavering favourite for us Brits, there’s plenty to Spain beyond sun, sea, and sand. In fact, you’d have to be hiding under a giant ladrillo not to be caught up in the revelry of a Spanish festival. From the La Merce festival in Barcelona to honour the city’s patron saint, to Madrid’s summertime San Cayetano festivities, Spain is a sea of celebration.
This is where the sights and smells of Mexico meet the party vibes of the Caribbean, ancient Mayan monuments meet sandy white beaches, and hotel prices become more reasonable once the Spring Break crowds disperse through April. And it’s not all parties either – Cancun is a great base for exploring the likes of Tulum and its beachside ruins, visiting the mighty Chichen Itza pyramid, and heading out into the ocean in search of whale sharks.
While the governance of the Netherlands is left to The Hague, Amsterdam has the fun job of being the nation’s cultural capital and home to its eclectic food and art scene. Its quirky museums are a highlight, and best visited on two wheels thanks to the city’s reputation for being bike-friendly. What to visit first: the Cheese Museum? The Museum of Bags and Purses? Or De Kattenkabinet (the Cat Cabinet)?
Whether you’re soaking up the heady wares and aroma of incense in the souks, catching some waves in Essaouria or Taghazout, or hiking amid the Atlas Mountains, Morocco is one of our favourite short-haul destinations. There are masses of variety to suit every traveller, and some really delicious Moroccan fare too – pastilla we’re looking at you.
20. St Lucia
Adventure seekers: assemble! St Lucia is home to the world’s only drive-in volcano, not to mention a wealth of jungle treks and aqua adventures. Best of all, when you’ve got your dose of thrills for the day, you can reward yourself with some well-earned beach time, cocktail in hand of course.
British Columbia’s bustling but beautiful urban heart, teetering on Canada’s west coast offers both metropolitan magnetism (see: coffee, art, foodilicious eateries and nightlife) and stunning vistas. As it’s cradled nicely between the Rockies and the sea, Vancouver’s surrounds roar with the call of wilderness adventure. And, well, it’d be rude not to answer.
18. Las Vegas
Vegas is bright lights, big city, personified. Unashamedly bold and brash, there’s something thrilling about Sin City – whether you’re catching a show, mesmerised by the fountain show at Bellagio, or chowing down on some of the biggest meals you’ll ever eat. This is larger than life, and you’re going to love it.
17. New Zealand
While Queenstown’s slopes attract a multitude of skiers from every corner of the globe in winter, New Zealand saves its best for spring, summer and autumn. Hiking trails (call it tramping) through the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Tongariro National Park, Abel Tasman, and Te Wahipounamu (the creme of the South Island's national parks) are stunning outside the snowy season, as are attractions such as the Hobbiton movie set in Waikato and authentic Maori cultural experiences and geothermal hot springs in Rotorua.
From its ancient heart around the Acropolis to swanky inner-city districts such as Kolonaki, a visit to Athens bares the span of Western civilisation. The city’s streets are open museums of the art and architecture of countless eras: classical Greek and Roman Empires, the Byzantine age and the Ottoman conquest. Once you’ve absorbed all the history, head for one of the city’s many rooftop bars for a cocktail and a view – after all, with its old-meets-new vibes, this is easily one of Europe’s prettiest capitals.
15. Kuala Lumpur
From high-end shopping and tall towers to Buddhist temples, mosques and a thriving street-food scene, Malaysia’s multi-cultural capital holds endless surprises. The Petronas Twin Towers were once the tallest in the world. And if you prefer more of a wild experience, remember that this thrilling city is just a stone’s throw from jungle and beach: Borneo, you’re next.
In pre-pandemic times Paris had over 30 million overseas visitors a year, making it perhaps the most visited destination in the world – particularly as it’s just a short jaunt on the Eurostar for UK travellers. No wonder, then, that so many of its sights and attractions are the centrepiece of so many brag-worthy travel stories: the Tour Eiffel, Norte-Dame cathedral, the Louvre and the Arc de Triomphe…
13. Hong Kong
With more skyscrapers and multi-millionaires than New York, the Hong Kong skyline is truly impressive. Long a financial hub at the foot of an enterprising China, the city exudes confidence, wealth and all the hallmarks of a hyper-modern city. Hong Kong’s outlying hinterland reveals many ironies – particularly the 34-metre bronze Buddha that invites onlookers to free themselves of material desire as it sits sedately beside Po Lin Monastery.
Tokyo wears many hats. Get into otaku culture and check out the anime and manga specialty stores in Akiba, near the city centre. For the best seafood and sushi restaurants try the districts of Tsukiji or Ginza, or take an inner-city breather in the tranquil Hamarikyu Gardens. You can even ride Mario Kart-style vehicles through the heart of this Japanese metropolis.
One of our top destinations for 2022, Dubai began life as a small fishing village on the shore of the Arabian Gulf. It’s since blossomed into a global financial hub of luxurious hotels, high-end shopping, and the world’s tallest building (Burj Khalifa at 828m). Dubai is an oasis of light and nightlife, where desert meets the sea, mosques meet malls and cultures from all over the world greet and mingle.
Italy’s ancient capital is packed with history, culture and, of course, food. Under no circumstances should you leave here without having tried the gelato. Travel back in time with a visit to the Colosseum, one of the largest amphitheatres ever built, the Pantheon and the Trevi Fountain. Within Rome you’ll also find the world’s smallest city, the Vatican, blessed with the Sistine Chapel and its world-renowned works by Italian painter, sculptor and artist, Michelangelo.
Thailand’s largest island is a beach-goer's paradise, famous for its bluffy, steep islets and party atmosphere. The southern beaches of Phuket are often crowded, so if you like a bit of tranquillity with your siestas on the sand, head for the northern end.
Sunshine here we come! This little isle boasts 300 days of pure vitamin D every year, making it a great place to kick back and soak up the sun. Malta is also full of history – indeed, its capital has been recognised by UNESCO, thanks to its ancient city walls, cobbled streets and rich architecture. Coupled with crystal-clear waters, flanked by picturesque cliffs and we’re onto a winner.
Visiting the Lion City off the southern tip of Malaysia generally isn't cheap. But the food is – you can even devour the world's cheapest Michelin-starred dish in an unassuming hawker centre. Singapore is notoriously clean and orderly. Watch for strictly enforced laws against spitting, jaywalking and connecting to someone else's Wi-Fi.
5. Los Angeles
The City of Angels, LA LA land, and the home of Hollywood – call it what you will, this sprawling symbol of American excess loves to surprise you. Los Angeles has laws against licking frogs (the skin of some local species contains hallucinogens) and dogs mating within 500 yards of a church. But we know that you’ll be too busy celebrity spotting, chilling on Santa Monica Pier, or taking on the rides at Universal Studios to do any of those things.
4. Hamilton Island, Australia
At the heart of the Great Barrier Reef, deep within the Whitsundays, is a slice of tropical paradise. From high-end luxurious hotels to couples' only escapes and family holiday homes, there's no shortage of places to stay. But if hopping between islets, bays and countless dive spots on the move is more your idea of a holiday, a cabin-and-catered Whitsundays sailing experience is just the ticket.
Ever flown over the Caribbean and seen a tropical archipelago that’s made up of pure white sands, turquoise oceans, and a verdant interior? You’ve caught a little glimpse of Barbados. It’s a true island paradise, where snorkelling, drinking cocktails, and lazy strolls around botanical gardens and colonial buildings are the order of the day. Bliss.
The beaches and bustle of Bali have long enticed us Brits. It’s got soft silica, a lush, jungle interior, diving and wildlife aplenty. A few tips of local etiquette here include not displaying too much skin away from the beach, taking care not to step on offerings of flowers in the street, and not touching people's heads.
If you’re dreaming of that overwater villa holiday, look no further than the Maldives. With many resorts occupying their very own islands, you can feel like a real Robinson Crusoe with a getaway here. Days here consist of relaxation, five-star food, spa treatments, and a mesmerising collection of marine life – right at your fingertips.
So many places, so much to see and do, and one life waiting to be changed... Begin planning your next holiday to the world here.