people sitting around Petra with candles in front of it

10 is more manageable, right?

You’ve heard all the motivational quotes. The world is big, you must explore, travel is the greatest gift – and you may even have a coffee mug or two saying so. Beneath it all, the world is big, travel really is brilliant, but some places just aren’t all that exciting. Sorry. There are plenty of places on earth you can happily go without ever seeing.

But at the same time, there really are sights which can change your life, or your perspective and life wouldn’t feel complete without seeing them. Sure, there’s a top 50, and 100’s more, but these are the places where the views are as stunning as the attractions themselves, and history is unmatched. In pop culture terms, these 10 tourist attractions really are essential before you die, and hey 10 is more manageable, right?…

a group of trees with lights at nightGardens By The Bay – Singapore

You don’t need to be crazy rich to enjoy one of the most moving experiences found anywhere, in fact the best parts of this one are free. Seeing the nighttime light show at Gardens By The Bay is enough to bring you happy tears, as plant life sings while lights dance and music plays. Stunning is the only fair word. Arrive just before 7:45PM or 8:45PM to catch the stunning shows. The city of Singapore and Marina Bay Sands certainly don’t disappoint as a backdrop…

a stone structure with arches and a blue skyThe Colosseum – Rome, Italy

There aren’t many places where you feel history come alive, but this is one of them. From the roar of the crowds to the growl of exotic animals, the Colosseum is a place where you can touch history and  sense it too. You can go into the basement, putting your feet where gladiators once stood and after it’s all over, you’re in central Rome. For the best viewing experiences you’ll definitely want to book a guided tour and get there early.

a stone ruins on Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu – Andes, Peru

Breathtaking is a totally overused word in travel, but this may be the spot that originally coined the phrase. High in the Andes mountains, miles from beautiful Cuzco and nearby valleys, this elevated temple leaves you wondering just how it could’ve possibly been built. It doesn’t matter which way you look, because every viewpoint is absurdly beautiful and inspiring. If you are going, be sure to read up on the new regulations introduced this year.

a large building with a pool of water with Taj Mahal in the backgroundThe Taj Mahal – Agra, India

On ‘An Idiot Abroad’, Karl Pilkington once remarked that Shah Jahan must have felt extreme guilt for how he treated his wife Mumtaz Mahal while she was living, because building something this ornate to commemorate her death is extreme, to say the least. However you wish to think about its inception, seeing the Taj Mahal first hand is more exciting than you could possibly imagine, as the boundless symmetry, manicured gardens and viewpoints wash over you. After 2018’s restoration, 2019 could be the perfect year to visit, or 2020 if you want to play it safe. There’s still a bit of work going on…

Grand Canyon National ParkThe Grand Canyon – Arizona, USA

America the beautiful really doesn’t get any more gorgeous than the Grand Canyon. It doesn’t matter if you’re stopping by after debauchery in Las Vegas, Nevada or a spa break in Sedona, Arizona; all that matters is that you go. Any vantage point will make you feel vulnerable and every view will make you realize the power of the world. You can’t say you’ve truly lived until you’ve taken a breath at the edge of this true marvel of the natural world. And sunset – just wow.

people sitting in front of Petra with candlesPetra Caves – Petra, Jordan

How many times can you take in life from 300 B.C. in such pristine glory? Jordan is safe, Jordan is beautiful and Petra is so rewarding in every sense. Al-Khazneh is one of the many layers of the vast archaeological digs which make any visitor sit back with bewilderment, but it’s the entire experience which sets this above many of the rest. You’re in gorgeous desert with orange, red and yellow sand, you’re exploring an amazing country and you’re connecting the dots, when you realize that Petra fell to the Romans. It’s the story of mankind…

a city next to water

Christ The Redeemer – Rio De Janeiro, Brazil

Christ The Redeemer is just a great excuse to visit Rio, but the vantage point totally justifies any wait you experience to get up there. With sweeping views and yet another head scratching “how did they build this”, it’s impossible not to enjoy your time atop this mountain peak in the sunshine. It looks awesome in movies, but it’s even better in person and when you get down there’s always a refreshing caipirinha in front of the sea to look forward to. Rio is magic.

Sydney Opera House with pointed roof and stairsThe Opera House – Sydney, Australia

Much like Christ The Redeemer, this is just a great excuse to visit an amazing city. Sydney is one of the most addictive cities on the planet, with a buzz for all things fun, food and sunshine. Water taxis make every neighborhood a fun adventure, and few buildings build excitement quite like the Sydney Opera House. Stroll through Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair, take in the botanical gardens and then nail the obligatory selfie with this unique architectural gem. Ideally, with the Sydney Harbor Bridge in frame.

boats in the water with a group of boats and a group of tall rock formationsHalong Bay – Hanoi, Vietnam

Like many places on this list, the actual attraction is only part of the story. Taking a “junk boat” out into the beautiful bays of Vietnam is spectacular and Halong Bay is no exception, no matter how over toured it is. Each beautiful limestone rock face juxtaposed against green sea will light up your face, but the best part is that you’re in Vietnam. If you can, try to rent a private, or semi private small junk boat and spend at least a night or two cruising, which allows you to hit smaller caves and unseen gems of this remarkable part of the world. Oh, and if you love coffee, it doesn’t get better.

a great wall of china with a green hill and mountains in the background

The Great Wall – Beijing, China

The world has an increasing number of walls, but none or few are ever referred to as “great”. With a length of 13,171 miles, China’s great wall is more spectacular than great, and if you’re lucky enough to see it you’ll know why. Thanks to jaw dropping terrain, the Great Wall would be a sight worth seeing even if there was no wall at all, but add in the cool build and it’s sensational. With so many visitors, this is an attraction to hire a private guide with insider knowledge of where people aren’t.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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      1. @Kelley to quote from the greats

        A green plastic watering can
        For a fake Chinese rubber plant
        In the fake plastic earth…

        Go to The Peak and watch symphony of lights if lasers shows are your thing and you cant find a Jean Michelle Jarre concert. There is atmosphere (quite literally when its cloudy) the huge vista of the harbour and the spines of so many buildings. Nothing is fake.

          1. My criticism is its all fake. Fake plastic trees on reclaimed land with some landscaping; Radiohead practically predicted it.

            Don’t get me wrong it’s a step up from the joke lightshow the other side of the sands. The daily light show in Hong Kong, or Sydney on new years eve the bund Shanghai on Chinese new year all comprehensively beat it out. Even the lights on the river from the boat quay with the backdrop of the financial buildings is more interesting.

            The whole list smacks of places I have been and I’m stopping going; I mean there were articles about Rome and Singapore on the site recently and the comments on the one saying Singapore airport is a great or best transit airport were also loudly mocked.

    1. It’s interesting how something can be hilarious, yet so sad and pathetic at the same time. For someone to believe they have a qualified or valid opinion about anything based on a 2-minute video (most likely watched on a phone) taken on a phone is a trait no one should be proud of.

  1. I am surprised the Great Pyramids aren’t on here. I think that they’re worth a visit. I thought I knew what to expect and they still took my breath away – standing and admiring some of the longest lived work of human beings was an almost spiritual experience for this non-religious person.

    Another tourist attraction that I was on the fence about was the Statue of Liberty, but it was another mouth-gaping moment standing on the pedestal and admiring the craftsmanship of the piece.

    Obviously everyone’s list is going to be different and we’re colored by the things we’ve experienced and not experienced. The Eiffel Tower would be on my top ten list, for example, even though it is a quintessential tourist trap at this point. There’s a reason they become that way, though.

    I’ve seen 3/10 on your list and will see another 3/10 this year. I’m looking forward to our stop at the Opera House in a little over a week! Looks like I need to add Vietnam, Singapore, Brazil, and India to next year’s travels!

  2. Gardens by the Bay? Really? It’s nice but it looks rather out of place in this list.
    I’m sure Egyptians, Cambodians and Bolivians could suggest somewhere that would make the whole of Singapore feel rather pointless.

  3. I like the way you title this as 10 to see, not “the top 10”. But I’ve been to 9/10 (all except Singapore), and can easily think of a dozen I’d pick before Singapore, despite not having been there. And you don’t even have to leave the continent of Australia to find one that I’d put above the Sydney Opera House (Uluru). And I do like me some vaguely triangular monuments!

  4. Great list to work after 🙂

    I guess my changes would be:
    *change the Petra caves with the pyramids
    *change the Gardens by the Bay with the Nazga lines in Bolivia. Not because the Gardens are not nice, but because the Nazga lines are mind-blowing 🙂
    *I would probably suggest going to see Lofoten in winter darkness and Northern lights, because hey it’s a wish list anyway 🙂
    *I don’t know what I would change to put in Angkor Wat in Cambodia, but it should be first on the honorable mention I guess.
    *Actually the Underground River at Palawan Island in the Philippines were an actual mind-blowing experience. Go there if you can.

    Great list! Looking forward to see more of them – I have 2 out of 10 so far.

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