Welcome, travel enthusiasts! Are you looking for your next adventure and need some inspiration? Look no further! We have compiled a list of the top 10 places to visit in the world that will leave you breathless. From the temples of Angkor in Cambodia to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, these destinations are a traveler's dream. In this article, we will discuss the 10 best destinations on our list, and we hope that by the end of this read, you'll be ready to book your next trip.
Are you ready to explore these fascinating places? Keep reading to learn more about each destination and why they should be on your travel bucket list.
The Temples of Angkor, the Hindu Paradise on Earth (Cambodia)
The site that emerged as the top-ranked destination won by a landslide, with a 36% lead over the next contender, while the runners-up were in a close race for second place. So, what is the secret behind the success of the archaeological site of Angkor?
As the largest temple in the world dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu, dating back to the 12th century, Angkor Wat stands out in predominantly Buddhist Cambodia. A massive representation of Mount Meru, the residence of Hindu gods, it is the undisputed centerpiece of the site. Made up of thousands of sandstone blocks adorned with such delicate and graceful bas-reliefs that they seem to be sculpted by the gods themselves, they depict legends from the Ramayana, Mahabharata, and Puranas. This magnificent monument is the most valuable relic of a Hindu kingdom that once stretched as far as Myanmar, Laos, and southern China.
Even in Southeast Asia, which is rich in temples, Angkor is exceptional. The complex comprises more than 1,000 temples, sanctuaries, and tombs whose towers rise like those of a lost city in the jungle of northern Cambodia.
Although the neighboring city of Siem Reap is serviced by international flights, Angkor is far from being a secret. Yet, visitors who venture among the roots piercing ancient walls and the effigies of deities covered in climbing plants will feel like adventurers discovering an untouched land behind a curtain of greenery.
Over the centuries, the inhabitants of this heavenly city abandoned Hinduism for Buddhism. In the temples, the two mythologies intermingle. Arriving at dawn in the ruins of the Bayon temple is a unique experience: the benevolent faces of Avalokiteshvara, the bodhisattva of compassion, emerge gently from the mist like heavenly apparitions. Travelers are also moved by the emotion of the overgrown ruins of Ta Prohm, a 12th-century temple almost entirely engulfed by the jungle, which has changed little since the arrival of the first European explorers at Angkor in the 17th century. In fact, Angkor offers such unique experiences that travelers often spend several weeks immersing themselves in the splendor of these temples and relics.
Spread over more than 400 km2 are sacred pools and stone bridges with demon-headed ramps holding monstrous serpents, as well as temple ruins. Some have become must-see attractions, such as the temple of Banteay Srei, whose stone sculptures are among the most delicate in Angkor, and Kbal Spean, nearby, with its riverbed carved with countless Lingas (symbols of Shiva).
Angkor is a powerful testament to human creativity and the fundamental need of man to leave a lasting mark. The site generates an awareness cherished by Buddhism: nothing material is eternal; with time, nature always takes back its rights. More than just an interesting ruin, Angkor is an epiphany engraved in stone.
Great Barrier Reef, an Underwater Eldorado (Australia)
Taking the second spot on our list is a natural wonder that stretches over 3,000 km off the northeast coast of Australia. The Great Barrier Reef needs no introduction. It is the largest coral reef in the world, home to 400 species of coral and 1,500 species of fish. Some 30 species of whales, dolphins, and porpoises have been identified there, along with 6 species of sea turtles and 17 varieties of sea snakes.
Unfortunately, the reef is at risk of disappearing or at least losing some of its splendor. Ocean warming is responsible for the bleaching and death of corals, and there is little to suggest that this phenomenon can be stopped. For now, the reef remains an underwater paradise for divers and snorkelers. Even on the surface and around the coast of Queensland, this essential ecosystem captivates visitors with its abundant birdlife and countless tropical islands and beaches.
Machu Picchu, the Inca Enigma (Peru)
Only a few votes separated the second and third winners, yet they differ in every way. The blissful contemplation of Machu Picchu from the Sun Gate after four grueling days on the Inca Trail has become a rite of passage for any trip to Peru. The 15th-century citadel is surrounded by a spectacular Andean landscape and suspended above a sheer drop, but its main attraction lies in the mystery that surrounds it. It is a true enigma. There is no shortage of theories - royal retreat, the temple of the Sun Virgins, a landing strip for extraterrestrials - but none have been confirmed. Even Hiram Bingham, the American amateur archaeologist who discovered the ruins in 1911 and led excavations there for years, did not know exactly what he was looking for (he died believing he had discovered Vilcabamba, the legendary lost city of the Incas).
Today, you can wander through the mysterious city perched on a mountaintop, letting your imagination run wild. Don't miss the ascent of Huayna Picchu, the steep Andean peak that overlooks the ruins, along the dizzying trail that leads to the Temple of the Moon.
Great Wall of China, Imperial Wall (China)
Every country has its flagship monument; in China, this monument winds through almost the entire country. The Great Wall is not just any wall, but an imposing labyrinth of fortifications stretching 8,850 km across the rugged terrain of the north of the country. Built in successive phases over more than a millennium, the Great Wall ultimately failed in its mission - the fight against Mongol invasions - but became the emblem of the Ming dynasty, the greatest power to have reigned in the Far East until the advent of Mao Zedong.
Contrary to popular belief, the Great Wall is not visible from space, but facing this edifice that seems to stretch to infinity, one could be convinced otherwise. Some die-hard enthusiasts hike the entire wall on foot, but even if you content yourself with a single section, you will be impressed by its indestructible aura. You can choose between imperial grandeur (near Beijing), military precision (Gansu), or timeless barren landscapes (Inner Mongolia).
Taj Mahal, the Mogul Pearl (India)
How do you achieve architectural perfection? Start with a few hectares of sparkling white marble, and add thousands of semi-precious stones carved and set in elaborate Islamic motifs. Choose a sublime setting by a sacred river, in a sumptuous garden with perfect symmetry. Wrap it all in an intriguing love story. You get the Taj Mahal.
Built-in the 17th century in India by the Mogul emperor Shah Jahan to serve as a mausoleum for his favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal, the Taj has attracted travelers for centuries. Ironically, at the end of his life, the emperor was imprisoned by his son in the Agra Fort, from where the direct view of the Taj was the only memory of his lost fortune.
Despite the influx of visitors it attracts, the Taj Mahal continues to open the doors to a bygone era. The specters of Mogul India stroll along the glittering marble of the courtyards, slipping under the arcades and behind the trellises. No other Indian monument so perfectly reflects the customs and atmosphere of that time.
Grand Canyon National Park, a natural spectacle of exception (United States)
When you gaze into this deep cleft in the earth's crust, two billion years stretch out before your eyes. The numbers do not leave you indifferent. Lit up by the sunset, shrouded in oceans of mist or sprinkled with snow crystals, this 450 km long and almost 2 km deep corridor is to nature what cathedrals are to architecture. Facing the Grand Canyon, you will feel both tiny and great, moved and serene, poetical and speechless. As the explorer John Wesley Powell said, "The wonders of the Grand Canyon are inexpressible and cannot be rendered by words." We had to try anyway. Come hike, raft on wild Colorado, observe condors and black bears, or simply feast your eyes.
Colosseum, theater of Roman Cruelties (Italy)
There's nothing quite like a Roman gladiatorial arena to awaken the historian in you. As a symbol of ruthless power, this massive amphitheater with 50,000 seats is the most fascinating of Roman ruins. Gladiators battled here, and the condemned faced off against wild beasts before the eager crowds. Even two thousand years later, this place still exerts a grip on visitors that's hard to shake.
The "Colosseo" impresses first and foremost with its size (although the amphitheater was actually named not for its dimensions, but for the Colossus of Nero, a statue erected nearby). Making your way through the 80 arches and finding a seat in just a few minutes was no small feat. Try putting yourself in the shoes of a Roman and imagine having to jostle for position among other spectators. Magistrates and high officials sat in the lower tiers closest to the action, while the wealthy citizens occupied the middle ones. The lower-class "plebeians" sat at the top. Women, who were considered second-class citizens, were relegated to the very top of the stands, forced to crane their necks to catch a glimpse of the spectacle.
Despite the horror of the fights, one cannot deny the grace and majesty of the Colosseum. The guided tour (which you shouldn't miss) can be quite disturbing, as it reveals the Colosseum in all its dark glory: the underground chambers of the arena reveal the horror, violence, and filth of the gladiatorial fights. This labyrinthine underworld called the hypogeum, is made up of corridors and ramps containing cages and is as vast as it is complex. Imagine the cries of animals, the stench, the chaos of wounded men and dying or dead animals, and you'll understand just how moving and bloody these Roman spectacles could be.
Iguazu Falls, the roar of waterfalls (Argentina - Brazil)
The Guarani word for the place where the Iguazu River plunges from the plateau to join the Paraná River is really weak: the Big Water. Indeed, the force of these waterfalls is extraordinary, and the boats stationed on the frothing basins below look like frail matchsticks. Walkways allow visitors to get close to the falls, which are set in a corner of a humid subtropical forest that forms a national park of 55,000 ha populated by animals, including jaguars.
The Alhambra, Spain's Moorish masterpiece (Spain)
The Alhambra in Granada is one of the most spectacular medieval monumental ensembles and one of the most beautiful examples of Islamic art in the world. It is also the most tenacious witness of eight centuries of enlightened Muslim domination in medieval Spain. The fortified towers of the Alhambra dominate the city: its red walls can be seen from afar above the cypresses and elms, with the snow-capped peaks of the Sierra Nevada in the background.
Inside, a network of sumptuous palaces and irrigated gardens that have inspired many dreams and legends. The contrast between the meticulousness of the ornaments and the epic dimensions of the Alhambra is what makes it so charming. The perfectly proportioned gardens of the Generalife are a striking evocation of Paradise, while the interior of the Alhambra shines with supernatural beauty. In the center, the Nasrid palaces (Palacios Nazaríes), with their countless rooms, are the most precious treasure of the Alhambra. A harmonious balance between space, light and shadow, water and greenery, they must plunge the sovereign into the heart of an earthly paradise. The walls are covered with ceramic tiles, muqarnas (corbels), vaults, and stucco ornaments, and the Court of the Lions (Patio de Los Leones) is a masterpiece of Islamic geometric interlacing. In a word, the Alhambra is the most beautiful monument in Spain.
Hagia Sophia, the fusion of beliefs (Turkey)
At once a basilica, mosque, and museum, Hagia Sophia (Aya Sofya) in Istanbul are unlike any other monument, defying categorization as it had defied the laws of architecture during its construction 1,500 years ago. The Byzantine Emperor Justinian I dreamed of a church capable of eclipsing the wonders of Rome, its rival, and whose majesty would also be that of an earthly paradise. His wish was granted. Hagia Sophia, which became the main Orthodox church, still dominates the city. It is an immense, almost cosmic space, creating an impression of unparalleled grandeur - all the more so for the time. Inside, it reveals its treasures one by one: immense columns brought from various cities of ancient Greece and the Roman Empire, and vast galleries adorned with sparkling mosaics. And then, grandiose, rising above the smooth marble, the famous dome, which imitates the shape of the celestial vault - better to forget, however, that it has collapsed several times.
The history of Hagia Sophia is as extraordinary as the building itself: few monuments have undergone so many metamorphoses. After being plundered by the Crusaders, it was transformed into a mosque after the Ottomans took Constantinople in 1453, as evidenced by its four gigantic minarets - surprisingly, the new mosques in Istanbul (including the famous Blue Mosque) have adopted this architectural feature. In 1935, it was deconsecrated and turned into a museum. Entering it remains a spiritual experience