10 Places to Visit Before You Die
It’s a new year – the perfect time to design your ideal itinerary. Don’t fall into the trap of allowing life to happen to you while you’re busy making other plans: Make plans to see the world before life passes you by. Here are some ideas of places you should include on your next fantasy car hire adventure.
Cape Town, South Africa
Few cities can boast a backdrop quite as spectacular as Cape Town. Set against the iconic flat-top profile of Table Mountain, Cape Town is a cosmopolitan city framed by heavenly beaches and rolling vineyards. If you can’t face the trek up Table Mountain (1,085 metres), take the cable car (but possibly not if you don’t like heights). And then there’s the outdoor adventure on offer: The game reserves may be a couple of hours away, but you’ve got everything from hiking and biking to surfing and paragliding within easy reach.
All those cliches you’ve ever heard about New York are true: It never sleeps, and it really is up to you when it comes to choosing your own adventure. New York City may be conveniently organised into five boroughs (Manhattan in the middle, the Bronx to the north, Staten Island to the south, and Brooklyn and Queens across the East River), but you never know what you might find around any corner. From glamorous clubs and after-hours cabarets to imposing brownstones and inviting cobbled lanes, New York is a wonderland where your dreams can range as high as the Empire State and as never-ending as Broadway.
Fjordlands National Park, South Island, New Zealand
Fjords are something you generally associate with Norway, but Milford Sound is one of the 15 fjords in New Zealand’s largest national park—described by Rudyard Kipling as the Eighth Wonder of the World. With a vast range of landscapes, from snow-capped mountains to enormous marshes, the setting was used as Middle Earth in Peter Jackson’s film versions of Tolkien’s Lord of the Ring series. South Island is less populated than North Island, so you’ll get plenty of incredibly beautiful places to yourself. Rent a car from Invercargill or Queenstown, both are about 3 hours’ drive from the national park.
Built between 3,000 BC and 1,600 BC, Stonehenge, near Salisbury in England, is an enigmatic ring of massive standing stones that attracts some 900,000 visitors annually. Even today, nobody is quite sure how the massive boulders were moved from Wales to Wiltshire, although scientists believe that Neolithic engineers used ball bearings to transport them hundreds of miles. An impressive new visitor centre features a 360-degree virtual experience that allows people to “stand in the stones” before they enter a gallery housing almost 300 prehistoric artefacts and displays.
Pyramids of Giza
It’s hard not to think of pyramids when Egypt springs to mind, and, indeed, the Pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx at the base of the Giza plateau combine to create the iconic image of this African nation. Giza is part of greater Cairo, located high on the desert plateau immediately to the west of the urban district. The three main Pyramids of Giza are where pharaohs Khufu, Khafre and Menkaure are buried, with two of them open at any given time. Beware, however, that the interior of the pyramids is hot and sticky, with steep, cramped corridors that anyone with serious health issues may wish to avoid.
Grand Canyon, Arizona, United States
The stuff of a thousand Westerns, the Grand Canyon is the world’s most breathtaking gorge. Chiselled out of the Arizona rock by the Colorado River, the Grand Canyon plunges a mile deep and up to 18 miles wide across an area so vast that only a fraction of the canyon’s 277 miles is visible from any single viewing point. Most of the 5 million people who flock to the gorge each year first see it from the South Rim, with its spectacular views into the deep inner gorge of the Colorado River. Take a heli tour or rent a car from Las Vegas.
One of Croatia’s most eye-catching outdoor attractions, Plitvice Lakes National Park is the country’s biggest national park and the oldest national park in Southeast Europe. It centres on a series of 16 lakes, which cascade through the travertine rock and filter the sunlight to produce a sparkling kaleidoscope of colours from jade to sapphire. The park is very popular with visitors, but you can avoid the biggest crowds by walking the recommended routes in reverse. The park is accessible from the A1 Zagreb–Split highway via the Karlovac exit in the north, the Gornja Ploča exit in the south, and the Otočac exit in the west.
Santorini really is as gorgeous as the gushing guidebooks say. You will not be able to resist the charms of its incredible landscape, a legacy of what may have been the world’s biggest volcanic eruption. Don’t miss the caldera (huge volcanic crater) and its vast curtain wall of multi-hued cliffs, and prepare to be awed by the spectacular sunsets. Visitors throng the northern village of Oia for its uninterrupted views of the evening horizon, but explore the rest of the caldera for less crowded sunset viewing points.
The Queen of the Adriatic is a unique cityscape of stone palaces that appear to float on water, remaining virtually unchanged for six centuries. Built on a lagoon in the north of Italy, Venice is composed of different boroughs, the most famous of which is a group of 118 islands in the main districts (sestieri). With no cars permitted, the city is easily navigable by foot, but a speedier mode of transport is via the vaporetti (public boats).
Now listed among the New 7 Wonders of the World, Chichen Itza is the best-known, most stunning, and most popular of Mexico’s ancient Mayan sites. This spectacular metropolis served as the main ceremonial centre of the Yucatán state and is dominated by the pyramid-shaped Castillo. Although many people visit Chichen Itza on a day trip from Cancun or Merida, try to spare some extra time for your visit, so that you can appreciate more of the vast site at your leisure. Get here early in the day, before the sun gets too hot and the crowds swell.