Bucket lists destinations are synonymous with travel. But lists are one thing – making those trips a reality is entirely another. Global travel and search platform Cheapflights.co.za helps to narrow down the list and takes a look at the top 15 most popular destinations from around the world that should be on everyone’s ultimate travel bucket list.
Make time to explore Machu Picchu, the ancient “Lost City of the Incas”, that was built atop a mountain range 7 972 feet above sea level. Located in the Sacred Valley 312 miles from Lima, Peru, Machu Picchu is possibly the best example of Incan architecture.
Planning ahead is key, as only 2 500 visitors are allowed each day. “Peak season is during the dry winter months from May to October, so booking around these dates will likely be more affordable and Machu Picchu will also be less crowded,” advises Phil Bloomfield, Global Head of Communications and PR for Cheapflights.
Getting there: It’s generally cheaper to fly into Lima and then to book a separate flight on to Cusco - check out flights on local airlines as they often offer better deals from Lima.
Average airfare in April 2018 (just before peak season): R13 694. Cheapflights recommends flying from OR Tambo to Jorge Chávez Int Airport in Lima.
Located in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, each of Hawaii’s six islands offers a unique beach experience. Whether opting for Honolulu and Waikiki Beach in Oahu, the trendy beaches of Wailea, Maui, the untamed beaches of Molokai, the charmingly laid-back Lanai, the stunning black sand beaches of Hawaii Island, or the picturesque Napali Coast in Kauai, there’s a beach to suit every budget. Try to time visits for low season, which is mid-April to early June and September to mid-December.
Getting there: Average airfare from OR Tambo this December: R20 000
It might take more than one trip to Iceland to chase the Northern Lights, which appear between September and April. Since the Northern Lights can only be seen at night, fill the days with adventures like exploring Thingvellir National Park or soaking in the Blue Lagoon. (Tip: when arriving on an early morning flight, pre-book a bus ticket that includes entry to the nearby Blue Lagoon to soak away jet lag. The popular geothermal spring books up quickly as do its special floating massages).
Getting there: Celebrate Christmas under the Northern Lights this December: R11 900
4. Grand Canyon
Possibly one of the most recognised attractions on earth, the Grand Canyon is an enormous network of canyons made up of layers of red rock, stretching half way across Arizona. Most people drive or fly over to see the Grand Canyon, but one of the most interesting ways to get there is via the vintage Grand Canyon Railway.
“One of the best ways to experience the Grand Canyon is to walk the Grand Canyon Skywalk, a glass bridge extending 20m past the canyon’s edge, 360m above the canyon floor. Remember that the main access via air to the Grand Canyon in not close by. Consider flying into Las Vegas or Phoenix towards the end of November into early December for the mildest temperatures,” says Bloomfield.
Getting there: Average airfare to Las Vegas in December: R14 500
From standing at corner coffee shops sipping espresso, to indulging in refreshing gelato, to sitting down to an opulent Michelin-starred dinner, there is no place quite like Rome. For seafood, head to the nautically themed La Rosetta near the Pantheon and, for Roman classics, head to Acquolina. For a splurge, head to the three Michelin starred La Pergola at Rome Cavalieri.
Aim for an Italian getaway in April to mid-June when the weather is moderate and it is not too crowded.
Getting there: Average airfare for April 2018: R6 555
Yellowstone National Park is the world’s first national park and home to 10,000 geothermal features, including the ever-popular Old Faithful. Named for its consistent, predictable eruptions that occur about every 90 minutes, the geyser can shoot water up to 183 feet during eruptions that the last one to five minutes. Beat the crowds by visiting the park during non-peak hours (before 9 a.m. or after 3 p.m.) and during off-peak season in September or October.
Getting there: Average airfare this October to Jackson, Wyoming: R13 470. If convenience is key, fly into Yellowstone Airport (keep in mind it’s only served by Delta).
For those looking for ways to see Southeast Asia without breaking the bank, Bali is a dream destination. It’s a great place to find inner peace via secluded beaches, tranquil temples and sensational spas that don’t cost a fortune. Skip the fancy hotels in Jimbaran and save big by bunking in Sanur on the south coast, which has equally alluring yellow sand beaches. Avoid the tourists by traveling in September and October before the rains start and after most tourists have departed.
Getting there: Average airfare this October: R8 701
“A cruise is one of the best travel options for the Caribbean. Not only do you get a tropical getaway, but the ship itself offers entertainment, making it an experience in its own. The Caribbean is a vast place, so fly into Florida and start there,” explains Bloomfield.
With so many options, sales are easy to find on many Caribbean cruises departing from the south eastern U.S., particularly the cruise ports in Florida. Cruise your way to savings by booking last-minute, as the cruise ship companies are eager to fill any empty rooms. Avoid overspending and get inspired with Cheapflights’ cruise ship tips.
Getting there: Average airfare in December: R14 900 (to Florida)
9. San Francisco
The Golden Gate Bridge, a dramatic 1.7-mile suspension bridge connecting San Francisco to California’s northern counties, is one of the dozens of things that are just so San Francisco. The orange Art Deco bridge has grand 746-foot tall towers and attracts more than 10 million visitors each year.
Getting there: Average airfare in December: R13 224
10. Rio de Janeiro
While Copacabana Beach is the first stop for many visitors to Rio de Janeiro, one of the best ways to experience the city is to see it by air. Helicopter companies offer tours of Rio with flights from six minutes to an hour long. A highlight for most tours is a fly-by of the city’s iconic 30m Christ the Redeemer statue. Visit Rio in winter from June to August, taking advantage of the early spring season.
Getting there: Average airfare in June: R11 802
11. New York City
New York City is a city of culture and neighbourhoods, with everything from wide open parks, to hipster coffee shops and historical land marks. The best way to get around is on foot or in the subway.
Getting there: New York is a great city to visit any time of year so have a white Christmas there this year with an average airfare of: R9 800
Home to the Eifel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, Champs Elysees and Louvre Museum. Spring (April through mid-June) and fall (September through October) are the best times to visit Paris, but the off-season (November through March) can be great too if chilly temperatures aren’t an issue.
Getting there: Average airfare in October: R6 810
Big Ben, the Great Bell inside the Elizabeth Tower which stands at the north end of Parliament, is one of London’s most recognizable sights. Visit from April to June and September to October to avoid the worst of the rain.
Getting there: Average airfare in October: R8 057
14. California - Pacific Coast Highway
Thousands of travellers annually drive the 1000km long PCH that stretches from San Diego to San Francisco. Take time cruising along the route as it can start or end in San Diego or San Francisco and passes through Santa Barbara, Carmel, Monterey, Santa Cruz and other hot spots like California’s wine country along the way. Popular starting points include San Diego, Los Angeles or San Francisco.
Getting there: Average airfare in December: R13 400
Bangkok is known as backpacker heaven. There are numerous hostels, cheap street food and cheap bars along Khao San Road – all worth exploring. Bangkok is also home to many Buddhist temples like Wat Pho, which houses an impressive 150-foot-long reclining Buddha covered in gold leaf.
Getting there: Average airfare in December: R7 000
“Our 2017 Compass Report indicates that South Africans can save up to 14% on international flights when booking three to six months in advance so our advice would be to plan ahead when travelling to these incredible destinations,” says Bloomfield.