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Have passport, will travel! I absolutely live for that feeling of arriving in a new country for the first time – the smells, the sounds, and the thrill of exploration. If wanderlust is calling your name, you’re in the right place. I’ve compiled my ultimate bucket list of the top 20 countries to visit for a truly unforgettable vacation in 2023.
Get ready for some serious inspiration!
The Nordic island nation of Iceland is renowned for its stunning natural landscapes from glaciers to geothermal springs. Visit the capital Reykjavik for its funky museums and lively nightlife. Relax in the Blue Lagoon’s warm, mineral-rich waters which emerge from the ground heated by geothermal energy. Drive the scenic Golden Circle route to see thundering waterfalls and explosive geysers that erupt on regular intervals. Try to catch the dazzling Northern Lights light up the sky during winter nights.
Japan seamlessly blends ancient traditions with ultra-modern cityscapes. Visit Tokyo to experience the neon-lit streets, robot restaurants, and endless shopping. Take a bullet train to Kyoto to explore tranquil temples and shrines nestled amidst bamboo groves. Stay in a traditional ryokan, soak in hot spring baths, and feast on sushi and ramen. See the cherry blossoms bloom each spring during hanami season for a magical experience.
From Maori culture to adventure sports, New Zealand packs excitement into both its North and South Islands. See Maori artwork and attend a cultural performance in Rotorua. Go skydiving or bungee jumping in Queenstown, the adventure capital. Hike one of New Zealand’s Great Walks including the Routeburn Track and Milford Track. Sample local wines in the Marlborough region and feast on fresh seafood. Relax on golden sand beaches and admire the dramatic fjords.
Few destinations compete with Italy’s historic charm, art treasures, and delicious Mediterranean cuisine. In Rome, see Michelangelo’s paintings in the Sistine Chapel, tour the ruins of the Colosseum, and indulge in pasta and wood-fired pizza. In Venice, take a gondola ride along the winding canals. Explore Tuscany’s charming countryside and sample wines and cheeses on a farm. Italy simply offers la dolce vita – the sweet life!
Safari visits allow close encounters with the Big Five – lions, elephants, buffalo, leopards, and rhinos in their natural habitat. Cape Town boasts world-class restaurants and vineyards set against the dramatic Table Mountain backdrop. Relax on sunny beaches in Durban and soak up the vibrant history in Johannesburg. South Africa’s diversity and culture make it an unforgettable destination.
Greece’s storied past and beautiful island-dotted coastlines beckon travelers. Walk among ancient ruins at the Acropolis and Parthenon in Athens. Island hop to soak up the sun and sea in the Cyclades like Santorini, famous for its white and blue architecture. Feast on moussaka, grilled fish, feta salads, and more Mediterranean fare. Greece’s ancient history combined with relaxed island vibes create a one-of-a-kind experience.
Iconic Paris offers the Louvre, home to the Mona Lisa and Venus de Milo, the palace of Versailles, Notre Dame cathedral, and world-class museums, shopping, and dining. Outside the capital, taste wines in Bordeaux, relax on the French Riviera, or explore charming Provence. With gastronomic delights like cheese, wine, and pastries, France is a food lover’s paradise.
Vibrant Spain tempts travelers with tapas bars, flamenco shows, sunny beaches, and the whimsical architecture of Antoni Gaudi in Barcelona. Savor paella, feast on jamon iberico, and drink your way through Spanish wine regions like Rioja and Ribera del Duero. Explore Moorish palaces in Andalusia, admire Catalonian modernism in Barcelona, or party all night in Madrid. Spain will entertain, feed, and delight you.
Portugal entices visitors with historic sites like Gothic monasteries and medieval castles. Relax on golden sand beaches on the Algarve coastline. Explore energetic cities like Lisbon and Porto, filled with charming streets, lively nightlife, and youthful energy. Sample Portuguese cuisine like seafood stews, pastel de nata custard tarts, and port wine. With lovely landscapes and rich culture, Portugal charms.
Sydney’s spectacular harbor skyline and the colorful corals of the Great Barrier Reef lure visitors, but make time to venture into the Outback too. Spot kangaroos, koalas, and other wildlife on tours from Sydney. Snorkel or dive the Great Barrier Reef to swim among tropical fish and turtles. Road trip through the red-hued monoliths of the Outback, camp under the stars, and connect with Aboriginal culture on guided tours.
Once off-limits, Colombia is now a rising South American hotspot. The colorful colonial streets of Cartagena ooze romance. Medellín offers hip nightlife and blossoming cafe culture. Trek through Tayrona National Park’s jungles and relax on palm-lined beaches. Journey to the ancient Lost City and go birdwatching around Bogotá. With a favorable exchange rate, Colombia offers value and adventure.
Vietnam dazzles visitors with its tranquil green rice paddies, stunning limestone karsts, and enticing flavors. Cruise Halong Bay’s emerald waters dotted with towering rock formations. Explore Hanoi’s imperial sights and Ho Chi Minh’s buzzing urban energy. Savor pho noodle soup and banh mi sandwiches stuffed with pork and herbs. With gilded temples, colonial architecture, jungle treks, and idyllic beaches, Vietnam tempts.
Morocco lures travelers with its colorful souks and intricate mosaics lining ancient mosques. Wander the maze-like medinas and haggle for carpets and crafts at the bazaars. Spend a night in the Sahara desert sleeping beneath the stars. Explore imperial cities like Marrakech, Fes, and Casablanca. Dine on delicate tagines loaded with spices, fruits, and nuts. Morocco dazzles the senses.
India offers unmatched energy, diversity, and history. See the iconic Taj Mahal shimmering in marble glory at sunset in Agra. Explore Rajasthan’s medieval forts and maharaja palaces. Wander through Mumbai’s bustling bazaars. Cruise the backwaters on a houseboat in Kerala. Feast on fragrant curries and bright, freshly chopped chutneys and salsas everywhere you go. An India trip promises adventure.
Croatia’s sun-washed Dalmatian Coast, island-speckled waters, and charming towns lure visitors. Base yourself in lively Dubrovnik to explore the surrounding medieval villages and pristine beaches tucked away in coves. Island hop around spots like Hvar and Korčula on an Adriatic sailing cruise. Inland, see Plitvice Lakes National Park’s crystal blue lakes connected by waterfalls. Work up an appetite before feasting on seafood along the coast.
From bustling Bangkok to remote tropical isles, Thailand tempts with manifold experiences. Explore centuries-old Buddhist temples and historic sites in Bangkok and Chiang Mai. Lounge on idyllic beaches in spots like Krabi and Phuket. Discover bohemian vibes on Koh Pha Ngan and Koh Lanta. Dine on spicy coconut curries, tangy papaya salads, and spring rolls everywhere you go. Thailand’s affordability and warm hospitality keep visitors coming back.
Peru combines Incan history with cosmopolitan flair. Hike the Inca Trail to the impressive ancient citadel of Machu Picchu, lost to the world until its rediscovery in the early 20th century. Stroll through artistic Barranco and upbeat Miraflores neighborhoods in Lima. Feast on ceviche loaded with fresh fish and spiked with lime and chili. From Cusco to the Sacred Valley, Peru will connect you to ancient cultures and rich modern life.
Brazil sizzles with its alluring beaches, pulsating nightlife, and infectious culture. Sway along to samba in Rio de Janeiro and ascend Sugarloaf Mountain for panoramic views. Relax on the beaches of Copacabana and gaze at Christ the Redeemer. Hike through Iguazu Falls, wider than Niagara, amidst a lush jungle setting. Brazil promises nonstop fun whether you want to party or explore diverse ecosystems.
Tequila, tacos, and Mayan ruins lure travelers south of the border. Tulum offers yoga retreats and beachside chic on the Riviera Maya coastline. On the Yucatán Peninsula, explore Chichén Itzá, one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. In Oaxaca, savor mole sauces over grilled meats and sample smoky mezcal. From desert landscapes to lush jungles, Mexico wows.
Nepal offers unmatched Himalayan scenery and deep-rooted spirituality. Get up close views of Mt. Everest and other imposing peaks by trekking through the Annapurna Circuit and other routes. Explore Buddhist temples and monasteries in places like Patan and Kathmandu, filled with prayer flags fluttering in the wind. Take a safari through Chitwan National Park to spot rhinos, tigers, and sloth bears. With welcoming locals, spicy curry dishes, and tranquil beauty, Nepal delivers a transformative experience.
No matter which destination you choose, traveling to any of these countries will create unforgettable memories. As the world continues reopening in 2023 after the pandemic, now is the perfect time to start planning your bucket list trip. Research these places more today and get ready for the adventure of a lifetime!
You deserve adventure, culture and natural wonders – and these countries offer that in spades. Let the countdown begin and get those bags packed! The world is waiting, go out and explore it.