For this collaborative post, I asked fellow travel bloggers about their idea of a trip of a lifetime:
If a person who’s never traveled far from home asked you to name the one place they should visit on their one-and-only trip ever, what would you say?
I got so many different answers! I’ll start with the country that got the most nominations: Italy, but in no particular order.
If you want to jump around, just use the table of contents below:
Shannon Doyle’s blog is called In Search of Mexican, and her choice is Rome:
I like to jokingly call Rome the place where civilization came from. It is covered in history and is one of the oldest continually occupied locations in Europe. While it is perhaps most well known for being the home of the Roman Empire, it is also home to the Vatican, is of historical importance for the World Wars, and is a very modern city.
In fact, there is so much to see and do in Rome that you can easily find yourself mentally reaching capacity: unable to be amazed at yet another amazing thing. If you’re only going on one vacation in your life you will want it to be somewhere you can get everything. Rome does that for you. It has history, beaches, fantastic food, a great night life, beautiful people, art, hiking, sports, religion.
It is also a great place to take day trips from. From Rome the train options are excellent and you’ll be able to go to places like Pompeii, Naples, Tuscany, Florence, Amalfi Coast, and so much more. If you were ever only going to go on one trip in your entire life, I would recommend you go to Rome. It has everything you’re looking for and more.
Alison Roberts-Tse of Up&AtEm Travel suggests Sardinia for your trip of a lifetime:
Although Sardinia belongs to Italy, you’ll most often see the black, white and red flag that represents only the island. Here, you can enjoy simple, traditional Italian fare: heaps of pasta, top-notch pizza and hearty meat dishes; but the seafood along the coast is especially delicious. (I highly recommend squid ink pasta with shellfish in saffron cream.) Plus, some restaurants will gift you a complimentary glass of mirto to cleanse your palate at the end of your meal – dark liquor made from myrtle. And if you fancy rounding out your meal with dessert, creamy gelato in fruit or other sweet flavors is always easy to find.
Cuisine aside, Sardinia boasts gorgeous beaches, and the water from shore to sea turns four shades of beautiful blue, from a light teal to deep sapphire. The island’s beaches vary from stretches sheltered by giant cliffs to broad beaches scattered across the La Maddalena islands and shallow beaches that border on pine forest. A one-day boat tour is a great way to see as much as possible during your stay. Inland, Sardinia also offers relatively easy hikes with rewarding views.
My friend Karen Warren recommends Sicily. She blogs at World Wide Writer:
Sicily is Italy writ large: it has everything the traveller could want. Occupied first by the Greeks and then by the Romans, it is unmistakably Italian but with Greek flavours.
Historians will discover some of the finest Greek sites outside of Greece itself, and marvel at the amphitheatre in Taormina that played host to both civilisations. If your preference is for countryside, you can climb the mighty volcano of Etna or wade through the spectacular Alcantara Gorge. You can walk through olive groves and citrus orchards, and in the spring the island is a mass of colourful flowers. Or just enjoy the beaches with their shimmering sea and year-round sunshine.
Then there is the food: you’ll find all your Italian favourites here, but also local specialities like arancini (stuffed rice balls) or cannoli (pastry tubes filled with chocolate or mascarpone). Sit on a terrace in Taormina with a glass of local limoncello and gaze at the snow sparkling on the distant summit of Etna. You’ll start to agree with the poet Goethe that “Sicily is the key to everything”.
Locals we meet in Bologna often ask us why we return over and over again. We love the Italian lifestyle, in general—but even most Italians would agree that Bologna offers the best cuisine in all of Italy.
The city is especially known for its handmade egg pasta, hearty Ragù sauce, and melt-in-your-mouth mortadella (commonly known as baloney in America). It is centrally located, close to the small farms and factories in the Emilia Romagna region that produce Prosciutto di Parma, Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale. You can take cooking classes at the Culinary Institute of Bologna (CIBO), choose from an array of formal restaurants and informal eateries, or learn home cooking recipes from a network of cesarine.
A lively university town, Bologna is home to the oldest university in Europe and boasts 25 miles of architecturally interesting porticos (arcades) lining its streets. Its beautifully-preserved historic center is a car-free zone, made for walking and people-watching in the Piazza Maggiore, one of the most beautiful public squares in Europe.
While its cultural riches may fall somewhat short of larger cities like Milan, Florence or Rome, Bologna is more affordable, has fewer queues and tourists, and is easier to navigate.
A little editorial comment here: Bologna is all about the food! Read my review of an all-day food tour I took in Bologna.
Judy Krell Freedman, who is responsible for A Baby Boomer Woman’s Life After 50, messaged me from sunny St. Pete with this nomination of Positano:
Positano is a paradise with beautiful views of the Amalfi blue waters and fantastic Mediterranean food. It’s a perfect spot to relax. The scenery is magnificent and there are superb restaurants, lots of shopping, and villas you can rent for a week or more. It’s a few hours’ train ride from Rome. You will get plenty of exercise climbing the steps up and down to the beach. Enjoy!
Not surprisingly, Janice Chung, whose blog is France Travel Tips, chose a city in France:
For those who are looking for a town that’s got everything, look no further than Avignon, France, located in the southern region of Provence. It’s easy to get to as there is a direct, 2½-hour train ride from the centre of Paris. The town definitely has history, as its most famous site is the World Heritage Pope’s Palace — Palais des Papes— which is one of the largest medieval buildings in France. There is also the Pont d’Avignon, which was made popular with the nursery rhyme (“Sur le Pont d’Avignon. On y danse, On y danse…”)
Every summer, the renowned summer arts festival takes place and Avignon is the perfect town to savour legendary Chateauneuf-du-Pape and rosé wines as well as culinary favourites such as tapenade, ratatouille, aïoli, soupe au Pistou, and Bouillabaisse (fish soup/stew).
Be sure to visit the town’s markets, where fresh produce, meats, fish, breads, olives, herbs, spices, and flowers are sold. There is one held outside and another inside Les Halles, a covered market where you can also have a meal.
Sue Reddel of Food Travelist writes about Barcelona for her trip-of-a-lifetime nominee:
We often recommend Barcelona to anyone who hasn’t been to Europe. It’s slightly smaller and not as intimidating as Paris or London. Your first glimpse of the surrealistic art of Antonio Gaudí will let you know you have arrived somewhere special. His famous Sagrada Família cathedral, still a work in progress, is breathtaking. A stroll through Parc Guell where Gaudí lived toward the end of his life will become a favorite travel memory. The Picasso Museum and the Joan Miró Museum are also world class.
Located on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, Barcelona’s temperate climate and friendly people will immediately make you feel welcome. The most important reason we chose Barcelona is the food. Their tapas or small plates make it easy to try many Spanish dishes. Stroll down Las Ramblas and stop in La Boqueria, one of the largest food markets in Europe. You can spend the entire day walking and exploring Barcelona, going from one tapas bar to another, sampling the best each has to offer. Some of the more popular choices are Iberico jamon, manchego cheese, grilled octopus, calamari, chorizo, patatas bravas (potatoes with a spicy tomato sauce), olives and many, many more. All can be perfectly paired with a glass of local sparkling cava or Spanish wine. My mouth is watering just thinking about returning.
Travel writer Carol Byrne, originally from Dublin, lives in Andalucia, and here, she shows her enthusiasm for the Andalucian city of Granada:
“Give him an offering, my lady, for there is no greater tragedy than that of the blind man in Granada.”
Just one of the many quotations, poems and songs about this wondrous city of Granada, set in Andalucía in southern Spain. A walkable city, in Granada the magical and romantic Alhambra palace presides over a warren of ancient streets, including the labyrinthine Albaicín that runs from Plaza Nueva to Sacromonte Abbey (worth the climb or the €1.20 bus to the top for the view alone).
Jewish, Moorish, Christian: the melting pot of Granada’s history shows like a slipped petticoat at every turn, in its architecture, art, music, and atmosphere. Hear the work of Paco de Lucía from street guitarists, the thunderous pound and passion of street flamenco. Listen carefully for the whisper of the ghost of Federico García Lorca. Enjoy the tasty and plentiful tapas – traditionally served free with your drink – but most of all, savour Granada, a most magical city for a first-time visitor. Be warned, once it has woven its Spanish spell, Granada is always a city to return to.
Sam and Erica of The Manini Experience have a very different idea of paradise for a trip of a lifetime:
Iceland is paradise. Not the paradise one usually envisions when hearing that word. It’s not full of palm trees, or crystal blue waters, or white-sand beaches. Rather, it’s home to film-worthy landscapes, black sand beaches, numerous waterfalls, the aurora borealis, and even elves!
Iceland’s paradise is for adventurers and explorers; those who desire to be alone with the unique beauties of the landscape that Iceland boasts. Check out active volcanoes, walk behind waterfalls, and take a dip in any of their natural hot springs. Drive the Ring Road and the Golden Circle and explore the unpaved roads that wind wistfully through the countryside. Take epic selfies to preserve your epic memories. Whatever you do, just go. Go to Iceland, the land of elves, Vikings, mystery, and beauty.
(A note from Rachel: check out my comprehensive 3-week Iceland itinerary!)
Carole Terwilliger Meyers of Travels with Carole suggests London is the place for the trip of a lifetime:
If you’ve never traveled to Europe and you’re only going to get this one chance to visit and only one place, well, to my mind there is only one place to go: London! I’ve been there countless times myself and never get enough of it. In fact, I’m overdue now for a visit and am planning to go again later this year.
I adore this city and the people. I love the accents, and visiting is especially carefree since they speak English!
While I’m there, l’ll be buying cotton undies at Marks & Spencer department store, perfumed body talc at Harrod’s, and tea leaves at a favorite shop (I hope it’s still there). I’ll also have afternoon tea somewhere wonderful, and attend several plays. And I’ll probably do as I’ve done in the past and stay part of the time in an atmospheric splurgy hotel and part of the time in an inexpensive B&B. And I’ll definitely eat some Indian food, some fish & chips, and some pub food in a local. OMG, I can hardly wait!
This contribution comes from Daniel and Amanda of La Vida Viva:
“Oh, you’re from Australia? Where? Sydney? Melbourne?”
Perth is like the forgotten middle child – perhaps because it’s so far away. But it’s the quiet achiever, secretly boasting some of the best landscapes, food and activities in the world. With stretches of world-class beaches (think isolation, crystal clear waters, fine white sand, vibrant reef and ample marine life), Perth will turn you into a beach person if you aren’t one. Every activity from land to sea is available and the diverse arts scene offers enjoyment to all lovers of music, theatre, culture and entertainment.
People of all ethnicities call Perth home, so it’s no wonder that you can find delicious cuisines from all over the world. Christmas is filled with BBQs, seafood, shorts and thongs (flip flops) and Sundays are dedicated to Sunday sessions (afternoons at a bar to have a couple of cheeky drinks with mates). The people are friendly and like to take the piss (look it up). You’ll introduce yourself and immediately have your name abbreviated. Sharon? Shazza. David? Dave-o. Simon? Simo.
You get the point. It’s all about having a good time so it’s hard not to love this place. If I could only ever go to one place, this is where I’d go. Every. Single. Time.
2. Manly, Sydney
My friends Jane and Duncan at To Travel Too see Manly, near Sydney, Australia, as a great destination for the trip of a lifetime:
A great day out if you are visiting Sydney, Australia is to travel Sydney’s stunning harbour by ferry from Circular Quay to Manly. On the way you can photograph Sydney’s two icons – the Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
As you disembark, head down towards the Corso (pedestrian walkway) and make your way to Manly Beach. Take some time to admire one of Sydney’s stunning beaches and then turn right and follow the pathway along the shore to Shelly Beach. You will feel as if you are in Positano or Sorrento in Italy. The water is turquoise blue and the rocks glisten in the sunshine. See if you can find the silver sculptures along the path.
Treat yourself to lunch or just a coffee while admiring the view all the way up to Whale Beach, especially if it is a clear day. You may even see a water dragon sunning itself on a rock along the pathway.
On your return, enjoy a sunset cocktail at the Wharf Bar, adjacent to the ferry terminal, and just take in the beauty of our hometown. You will want to return!
Or read this article on driving from Brisbane to Cairns – it might be a good idea after your visit to Sydney!
Chiang Mai, Thailand
Katie Ackerley of Real World Runaway explains her choice of Chiang Mai:
When asked where would I go if I could only visit one place in the world, my first thought was New York City. Then after a few minutes of thinking, I decided that Chiang Mai is the one.
Different enough from my own world to be new and exciting whilst still welcoming enough to immediately feel like home, Chiang Mai is the perfect place to experience the culture of Thailand and settle into their way of life. From beautiful scenery to breathtaking temples, you’re never short of a spectacular view. Even just shopping at the night bazaar is an experience in itself.
Take a trip to the hills to hike through rainforest, stay with indigenous nations and help promote ethical animal tourism before returning to laid-back life in the city. The people are some of the nicest you’ll meet and the culture is admirable. What better place to visit?
Coron, Palawan, the Philippines
According to Katherine of Tara Lets Anywhere, Coron, Palawan is the place to go:
Coron, Palawan, is perhaps one of the most beautiful places a world traveler will be lucky enough to set foot on. Its photos online are mesmerizing, but the actual experience of being there is so much better. Coron has green and icy-blue lagoons, beaches set in islands or in tiny nooks of limestone karsts, and clean lakes. In fact, one of its seven lakes, Kayangan Lake, is considered the cleanest in Asia.
Coron is perfect for relaxing or adventure trips. For adrenaline junkies, there are snorkeling and scuba diving activities. There are shipwreck sites and a long stretch of coral garden. For night activity, there’s a sulfur hot spring resort whose water is sourced from a volcano.
Coron is special to me because before my trip here, I didn’t know that a province can be well known and at the same time effectively preserved. Natural attractions are cared for by the local indigenous Tagbanua and the local government. With its beautiful natural attractions, Coron in Palawan is truly one of a kind.
Click here for accommodations in Coron.
Bora Bora, French Polynesia
Debbra Dunning Brouillette of Tropical Travel Girl nominated a place I’ve always wished to visit:
How can an 11-square-mile island surrounded by a lagoon and a barrier reef be worthy of my choice as the destination of a lifetime?
First, there is the lagoon and its unending shades of blue. The main island of Bora Bora is surrounded by an 18-mile ring of islets called motus encircling what author James Michener called “the most beautiful lagoon in the world.” Countless others have been spellbound by it, including me.
I am speaking of Bora Bora, one of French Polynesia’s Society Islands, located in the Pacific Ocean, midway between Los Angeles, California, and Australia. Bora Bora is 148 miles northwest of Tahiti, the main island of French Polynesia, where journeys to this tiny speck in the Pacific Ocean begin.
Aerial photos of Bora Bora had fascinated me for years. It represented that ultimate exotic place in the tropics, halfway around the world, almost unreachable.
Along with its protected lagoon and barrier reef that surrounds the main island, a mountain, Ote Manu, rises as the focal point of the mainland.
If you go, make sure you book a stay in an overwater bungalow, a standard feature of most Bora Bora resorts, such as the one I stayed in, the Conrad Bora Bora Nui.
Wherever you stay, the magic of Bora Bora is sure to draw you in. For the early Polynesians it was a place of exile for outcasts. It is no longer a place to be banished, but to banish oneself — to totally unplug from civilization.
Cape Town, South Africa
Jurga, from Full Suitcase, picked Cape Town:
We have been fortunate to visit many great places all over the world, but we left our hearts in South Africa and particularly in the Cape Town region. Cape Town is a beautiful cosmopolitan town with a wonderful atmosphere and lots to do for young and old. But what makes it really special is the city’s amazing location and the incredible nature that surrounds it. Where else in the world can you see penguins in the morning, go surfing or hiking at noon, do a safari ride in the afternoon, and watch whales or dolphins from ashore at sunset! Add to that the relaxing atmosphere and great food accompanied by some of the world’s best wines, and you cannot go wrong with choosing Cape Town for your next vacation.
South Africa is often referred to as “the world in one country” and it most definitely is. If you don’t travel much, but are looking for a really special destination, I can truly recommend South Africa. It will exceed all your expectations! Get inspired – see some of our favourite pictures from South Africa.
Vancouver, BC, Canada
This contribution is from Nat and Tim Harris of A Cook Not Mad:
If you could only take one trip in your lifetime, I would suggest heading to Vancouver, British Columbia. Not only does it have numerous award-winning restaurants and hotels, it is by far the most diverse city when it comes to urban and, especially, nature experiences.
You can find yourself in the hippest music venue listening to cutting edge bands one night and be fly-fishing for salmon on world-class rivers the next day. You can be skiing in Whistler or surfing in Tofino within hours.
Whatever you’re into, there’s a big chance you can indulge your passion in Vancouver and the surrounding area. There’s a reason why British Columbia’s motto is “Super Natural British Columbia.”
The United States
1. The Grand Canyon
Jennifer Mims of My Own True North waxes poetic about the Grand Canyon:
Rightfully placed as one of the Seven Natural Wonders, the Grand Canyon is NOT a “hole in the ground.” I completed my third hike to the bottom of the canyon this summer and have traveled to the rim at least a dozen times while living in Arizona. When I need a reminder of perspective and my place in this world, I stand on the edge of the rim. Whatever problem I’m facing I can work through there.
The word “awesome” was created for the purpose of describing the canyon: it truly inspires awe. The canyon pushes me to my physical limits, whether hiking rim to rim, down to the river and back up switchback after switchback after switchback, or wading through streams and waterfalls in a desert oasis to hear my voice echo off canyon walls…. I’ve given my blood, sweat, and tears to its rugged beauty.
A river cutting through the landscape, up to a mile deep and as wide as 18 miles in places, is testimony to the power of steady persistence. If one is lucky enough, glimpses can be had of condors floating on wind currents that seem to whisper “Yes, yes, yes.”
2. San Francisco, California
Putting this collaborative post together made me think about what I would say in this situation if someone wanted a recommendation for one trip ever. I thought of lots of different places, but I kept coming back to San Francisco.
San Francisco has to rate as one of the most beautiful cities in the world: the way the Victorian and Edwardian buildings climb the hilltops, painted in bright colors; the views in all directions from those hilltops; the Golden Gate Bridge; Golden Gate Park; Alcatraz; the Pacific Ocean; and so much more.
I could go on and on about how much there is to see and do: museums, monuments, street fairs, theater, music. You simply could not get bored. As for food, pretty much everything and anything is available and authentic.
And I could go on and on about how wonderfully diverse and crazy and true to themselves San Franciscans are, and how accepting and embracing of all that diversity and craziness and truth they are.
So San Francisco is my pick. (You can read some of my San Francisco articles here.)
Michelle da Silva Richmond of The Restless Voyager calls Mexico City “a capital like no other”:
Diverse, dynamic, and colorful, Mexico City – capital of the ancient Aztec Empire – is unique. Blending the old and the new, this scintillating metropolis – founded in 1325 as Tenochtitlán – is the crown jewel of Mexico’s amazing cultural heritage.
At the heart of the city, the impressive main square, or Zócalo, and surrounding Historic Center sit on the rubble of that ancient empire in silent testimony to its former glory.
Today, trendy bistros, fine restaurants, designer boutiques, ultra-luxurious hotels, and some of the liveliest nightlife in the world promise modern pleasures, while a host of museums bursting with archaeological treasures and exquisite works of art showcase the city’s venerable past.
Sleek skyscrapers soar alongside posh palaces, castles and convents, replete with ancient artifacts highlighting the splendors of the colonial era, while colorful markets burst with exuberant colors, forms and figures by Mexico’s contemporary artists and artisans, showcasing its whimsical side.
For visitors interested in the culinary arts, the nation’s capital will not disappoint. Gourmets and gourmands delight in the variety of tastes and flavors dished up in the city’s bistros, taquerias and fine restaurants – some located in beautifully restored haciendas and colonial buildings.
Our list, then, is dominated by Europe, and Italy takes the gold with five nominations.
If you’re still having trouble choosing where to go, read this article with lots of advice on how to choose!
Now it’s your turn: does this list affect your “bucket list”? Is there someplace you would add to the list? Add your comment below!