Travel Bucket List: 5 Places You Have to See Before You Die

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Traveler standing on a rock | Thinkstock

When putting together your world travel bucket list, the possibilities are pretty much endless. The world is so vast and interesting, it’s difficult going into the process of even planning, especially knowing that, in all likelihood, you’ll never get to see everything you want to. That’s when you need to get picky — what places do you think will really move you as an individual? What kinds of experiences — whether cultural, physical, or spiritual — are you looking to have?

It’s a bit overwhelming. But luckily, we’re here to help you through the process.

Hitting the road and taking it all in is a big step, and takes a bit of courage. It’s not easy to drop into a different country or culture without knowing the language or customs. But then again, that’s the entire point; getting out of your comfort zone, learning about how other people live their lives, and taking those lessons back home with you. Again, it’s choosing those exotic locales and experiences that’s tricky, given that we only have a finite amount of time on this planet, and oh so many miles to go.

So, when putting together that ‘travel bucket list,’ what are some absolute must-see places? The list could stretch on into eternity, but we’ve taken the liberty of picking five that we feel should definitely be included. One or two aren’t even that hard to get to — perhaps just a day’s drive away. Read on to see five places The Cheat Sheet feels you need to visit before you kick the bucket.

1. Cambodia — Siem Reap

Paula Bronstein/Getty Images

Siem Reap | Paula Bronstein/Getty Images

Siem Reap is in central Cambodia, which in turn is located in central Southeast Asia. You may only be familiar with the name from the Dead Kennedy’s classic Holiday in Cambodia, but if that’s all you know, you’re missing out on an awful lot. Siem Reap, one of the country’s largest cities (although it’s relatively small, by western standards) is remarkable for its close proximity to one of the world’s most famous landmarks — Angkor Wat.

If you ever wanted to live out your Indiana Jones’fantasy, Angkor Wat is the place to do it. It’s literally an ancient temple that is being swallowed by the jungle. And it’s huge. The complex goes on and on, encompassing dozens of small temple clusters, with something new to be seen around every turn. You could easily spend three days exploring it, so hire a tuk-tuk to take you around.

Also, Siem Reap is home to a famous night market, with all kinds of delicious food and drink. You can also take a boat out to a floating village. If you want a heavy dose of both spirituality and culture, a trip to Cambodia should be on your to-do list.

2. Canada — Vancouver Island

Keith Vass/AFP/Getty Images

Vancouver Island | Keith Vass/AFP/Getty Images

Literally half a world away from Cambodia, off the western coast of Canada, is Vancouver Island. Part of British Columbia, Vancouver Island is a ferry ride away from the coast of Washington state and Vancouver B.C., and has a plethora of opportunities for exploration. The biggest city on the island is Victoria, which is also B.C.’s capital, and home to many hotels, restaurants, and some of the most prominent Victorian architecture you’ll find in the western hemisphere.

Victoria may be beautiful, but there’s an entire island to explore, complete with dense forests, pristine beaches, and even a tad bit of mystery to get engrossed in. There is also dozens of small, gorgeous fishing villages and hamlets all around the island, which itself encompasses more than 12,400 square-miles, and is home to over 700,000 people. Needless to say, you won’t be bored. So grab your whale-watching gear, and maybe even sign up for a Bigfoot hunt — Vancouver Island is calling.

3. United States — Black Hills of South Dakota

David McNew/Getty Images

Set of Deadwood | David McNew/Getty Images

Yeah, yeah, we know what you’re thinking: “South Dakota? Really?”


Though the majority of South Dakota is flat and boring, there are some places that are incredibly remarkable. The Badlands is one of them, and the other is the Black Hills. Known for being home to Mount Rushmore, the Black Hills have an incredible history —  and are the ideal place to take a summer trip. Sure, you can check out Mount Rushmore and the in-progress Crazy Horse monument, but there’s a lot more to these hills than meets the eye.

For starters, Deadwood (you know, the place from that HBO show) is located here. You’ll have to go see Calamity Jane and Wild Bill’s graves, along with other famous landmarks portrayed on the show. Kevin Costner even owns a casino in Deadwood, with props from his movies. There’s a ton of fishing and hiking opportunities as well, and if you’re into motorcycles, well, you’re in luck. The annual Sturgis rally is held at the northern edge of the Black Hills every summer.

4. Guatemala — Antigua

Orlando Sierra/AFP/Getty Images

Antigua | Orlando Sierra/AFP/Getty Images

Guatemala may not be on the top of your bucket list, but it should be. Just outside of the country’s capital Guatemala City, perched at the foot of a volcano, is the city of Antigua — which lies partially in ruins. The architecture is magnificent, the food is even better, and the streets are crowded with vendors and visitors, and the fun lasts all through the night. You can even eat at a Burger King hidden in the most unlikely of places.

Antigua is now designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site, and is nearing its 500th birthday. What makes Antigua special is that the buildings that remain from the old days cannot be repaired or updated — there are laws forbidding it. Because of that, architecture buffs will nerd-out as you get to experience a city frozen in time. Oh, and did we mention that the food is great? Try a pupusa!

5. San Marino

Marcel Mochet/AFP/Getty Images

View of San Marino | Marcel Mochet/AFP/Getty Images

San Marino is one of the smallest countries in the world, and one of its oldest republics. Located in Italy — well, completely surrounded by Italy — San Marino boasts a small but bustling stretch of shops, galleries, and castles. It has a population of only 32,000, and one of Europe’s lowest unemployment rates and highest GDPs. It even has more vehicles than people, interestingly enough.

Though your stay here will probably be brief, the one thing that cannot be missed is the towering Fortress of Guaita, which overlooks San Marino’s capital city. Standing on its edge will give you an incredible view of the Italian countryside. But be careful, it’s a 750-meter drop straight down.

Follow Sam on Twitter @Sliceofginger