Top 10 destinations for your bucket list

Andy Stevens / 21 December 2016 ( 28 March 2017 )

Feeling adventurous? Embark on a change of scenery by going somewhere you never thought you would. Here's our guide to unusual places to visit this year...

Now's the perfect time to change all that and satisfy your wanderlust with our guide to 10 of the very best unusual destinations, must-dos and must-see places for you to put on your list for holidays and trips through this year and beyond:

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1. Go to Ethiopia

Ethiopia is a dynamic and fast-emerging nation – and destination – with a proud and ancient story to show and tell visitors, dating back to the roots of mankind itself.

Physical reminders of Ethiopia's peerless past include ancient monasteries and churches, whose wonders offer tantalising tales of the unfathomed mysteries of man.

Coupled with this, the country has natural wonders in a league of its own, such as the Blue Nile Gorge and the magnificent Simien National Park, home to ultra-rare Gelada baboons and the Walia ibex, the latter indigenous to Ethiopia and nowhere else.

From the medieval city of Lalibela to the peaks of the Simien Mountains, Ethiopia is a joy to explore.

2. See the spectacular lakes of Chile

Think you know about lake districts, from your experiences here at home? Not that we're knocking beautiful Windermere, Ullswater et al, but the furthermost reaches of South America will make you think again.

The southern Chilean port city of Puerto Montt is your likely starting point en route to what is arguably the world's most jaw-dropping lake district: Chile's own. 

This is lakeland beauty delivered Andes-style and on an Andes scale, an ethereal natural wonderland encompassing snow-tipped volcanoes, serene lakes and lush, unspoilt forests.

A remarkably diverse and naturally beautiful country, discover more about Chilie

3. Spot llamas in Peru

The ruins of Machu Picchu among Peru's soaring misty peaks have a mystery and a resonance all of their own to each visitor.

Gentle bit-part players in this ancient high drama are Machu Picchu's animal life: the llamas and their smaller mountain wingmen, the alpacas.

One of the many other-worldly thrills of Machu Picchu is seeing these lovely wooly creatures roaming happily around mysterious mythology-packed sites, eating grass and just generally doing their thing.

Mysterious ruins, lonely mountain peaks and a fascinating culture await, as you explore the enigma of Peru

4. Ever seen the Northern Lights first-hand?

Their spectacular night-sky display might seem familiar from what you've seen on telly and in photos. But if you haven't yet gazed at the spellbinding Northern Lights live, as it were, then a trip to northern Norway beckons.

The best setting off point for seeing the fabled lights is with an overnight stop in Alta, known as the ‘Town of the Northern Lights’. 

From here, you can take an excursion to give you the very best chance of spotting the spellbinding aurora borealis.

While up in the far, far north, make sure you savour the atmosphere of the bustling fishing town of Kålvag. 

And if you're feeling particularly energetic, take an exhilarating dog sled ride followed by a night beneath the Arctic sky in a cosy sleeping pod, for yet another opportunity to gaze upon the Northern Lights.

Discover the Northern Lights for yourself

5. Go walkabout in Australia

A trip to Australia is a longed-for, long-haul for so many. And a well-trodden one at that.

But once you've plonked yourself on the vastness of the Red Continent, where should you visit for experiences like no other, away from the better known of Oz's thousands of wonders that so many tourist enjoy and explore?

Far north for a taste of tropical Queensland and the Cairns region is one such place for something totally out-there. Here, an excursion to the mountain village of Kuranda offers a once-in-a-lifetime experience of exploring Queensland's tropical rainforest.

The mode of transport you'll take when you go to Kuranda is a bit special, too: take a trip on either the historic Kuranda Scenic Railway or the Skyrail Forest Cableway - or both, if you get the chance.

Pack your summer clothes and prepare to shift gears on a holiday of a lifetime to Australia

6. Visit the Leeward Islands – Antigua, St Kitts, Barbuda and Nevis

Swimming in warm crystal blue waters and sunbathing on pristine white sands more than have their place on a Caribbean holiday. This we'd never dream of denying. 

But away from the beach, there's heaps of other stuff to recommend and learn about idyllic island life.

Take the Leeward Islands, for example. Antigua, St Kitts, Barbuda and Nevis offer an enlightening combination of colonial history and heritage, plus natural beauty with plenty of wow-factor.

Barbuda is just a trip away by catamaran to witness a wildlife sanctuary that's home to extraordinarily colourful frigate birds. 

The historic Nelson's Dockyard National Park in Antigua is a Unesco world heritage site to savour, and pay a visit to beautiful Nevis, with its volcano, hot springs and restored plantation houses in a relaxed small island setting.

Discover the wealth of British colonial heritage and outstanding natural beauty on an exciting holiday to the Caribbean

7. Take the silk route

A road less travelled by tourists in recent times until now, the fabled Great Silk Route is one that runs as a thread through history's great waves of trade, commerce migration and civilisations, which have for centuries tied east to west and vice-versa.

Travel to Uzbekistan to explore cities previously swathed in mystery for earlier generations, including medieval Bukhara, Khiva, Samarkand and Tashkent.

Unforgettable sights of towering minarets, dazzling turquoise domes and ornate arches stand out among these exotic cityscapes of central Asia.

Full of eastern promise, Uzbekistan is a delight for travellers seeking age-old monuments, mosques and mausoleums.

Related: Top 10 travel experiences for your bucket list...

8. Go to the Verona Opera Festival

There's opera, grand as grand can be, with a focus on the spectacular. And then there's Verona.

If you love opera, then the annual Verona festival can justifiably lay claim to be the home of that noble art form in a unique setting.

Exuding sheer drama and grandeur, Verona has the proud boast of its Arena di Verona, the first century Roman amphitheatre in Piazza Bra, as the majestic venue for its opera festival.

Verona's famous summer extravaganza hosts the finest performances of the genre's most internationally-acclaimed exponents, performing opera's greatest works, with the operas of Verdi and Puccini to the fore. 

A true one-off place to immerse yourself in the finest music and spectacle.

Book a trip to Verona's awe-inspiring Roman amphitheatre

9. Explore Sweden's canals

Travelling around Sweden via its canals offers a refreshing new perspective on this popular country that you'll miss out on if you simply stay in one of its admittedly lovely main cities.

One way you can do this is by venturing onto the Grand Canal, which links freshwater Lake Vanern to Gothenburg. Fans of all things nautical will enjoy the canal's impressive falls and lock staircase which, handily, make the journey navigable.

For more of the life aquatic Scandinavian-style, you can take a journey on a vintage ship on the Gota Canal to Lake Viken, a rural idyll of a trip through forest and farmland.

Take a look at our holidays to Sweden

10. Walk in Montenegro

Beautiful Montenegro is a serious looker among the belatedly discovered jewels of southern Europe. Nowhere more so in this spellbinding small nation than on the Budva Riviera.

Nature and history go hand in hand here, which is ideal for those who wish to savour the sights and learn something new along the way, while enjoying a walking holiday with a difference.

Lovcenas National Park, the historic old town of Budva, the foothills of Mount Lovcen, the stunning Bay of Kotor and a serene walking route from Vrmac village to Gornja-Lastva are among the memorable and rewarding places that may be new to you, but will keep you coming back for more.

Find out more about walking holidays with Saga

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