11 Travel Destinations You Must See Before You Die

by Julie Sprankles
Sep 20, 2017 at 6:00 p.m. ET

As the saying goes, life is short and the world is wide. So wide, in fact, it's practically mission impossible to decide which travel destinations should be at the top of your list. And yet, there are certain places on this great, big planet so spectacular and so moving that you simply can't risk missing out. 

Granted, there are more than the 11 we've included here. However, everyone has to start somewhere, and it is overwhelming to try to consider all the seemingly endless options out there

We whittled down the list to 11 places that anyone would be remiss not to visit at some point in their life. They are places of great historical importance, architectural importance, spiritual importance and ecological importance. In other words, they’re kind of a big deal.

So whether you’re still daydreaming about your dream vacation or you’ve already starting planning your next grand adventure, go ahead and add these locales to your bucket list.

1 /11: Pyramids of Giza, Egypt

1/11 :Pyramids of Giza, Egypt

One of the most revered archeological sites in the world, Giza is home to the Giza Pyramids — most notably the Great Sphinx. And the Great Pyramid, one of the three remaining pyramids left at this locale, is one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. 

2 /11: Amazon rainforest

2/11 :Amazon rainforest

Considered one of the most important natural resources on Earth, the Amazon rainforest accounts for more than half of the entire natural rainforest on the planet. It is home to countless species of plants and animals, with countless more just waiting to be discovered. Tragically, though, the rainforest grows smaller every day due to deforestation and encroachment. Since the massive Amazon rainforest sprawls across nine countries, you have myriad options to visit while you learn more about this sacred place. 

3 /11: Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado

3/11 :Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado

It's hard to imagine a city etched into the side of a cliff until you're peering up at Mesa Verde. Here, the ancestral Pueblo people lived from A.D. 600 to 1300, making it a site as rich in history as it is in scenery. Now part of the national park system, Mesa Verde is included in the nearly 5,000 protected archeological sites of the area, including over 600 cliff dwellings. 

4 /11: Great Barrier Reef, Queensland, Australia

4/11 :Great Barrier Reef, Queensland, Australia

When you're underwater peering down and around at the dizzying array of colors and fish flitting around the Great Barrier Reef, it's impossible not to feel the magnitude of creation. The largest coral reef system on the planet, the "Blue Outback" stretches more than 1,400 miles long. Sadly, though, this World Heritage Site is in danger, as rising ocean temps and pollution are causing the coral to bleach out. Go while you still can so you can tell your kids and grandkids about the natural grandeur the Great Barrier Reef once sustained. 

5 /11: Paris, France

5/11 :Paris, France

There's a reason Paris lands on every single must-see locales list ever written. There's simply no place like the City of Light. Some of the most beloved travel sites in the world are here, including, of course, the Eiffel Tower. Other highlights include the Louvre, the Arc de Triomphe, the Champs-Élysées and the Cathedral of Notre Dame. It's impossible not to fall in love when you're in Paris... if only with the city itself. 

6 /11: Taj Mahal, Agra, India

6/11 :Taj Mahal, Agra, India

The breathtaking white marble mausoleum known as the Taj Mahal is arguably the greatest architectural declaration of love in the world. Built in the mid-1600s, the monument was commissioned by Emperor Shah Jahan in honor of his wife, a Persian princess by the name of Mumtaz. 

7 /11: Grand Canyon, Arizona, US

7/11 :Grand Canyon, Arizona, US

Here's the truth: Words just don't do the Grand Canyon justice. Pictures are better, but even they can't come close to capturing the breathtaking beauty of this immense canyon that is a whopping 277 river miles long, up to 18 miles wide and a mile deep. Staring out over the bold geological formations is enough to confuse the senses into thinking you're staring at a work of art. Then again, you kinda are. 

8 /11: Serengeti National Park, Tanzania, Africa

8/11 :Serengeti National Park, Tanzania, Africa

Doesn't everybody dream of taking an African wildlife safari at some point in their lives? Serengeti National Park in Tanzania offers the quintessential experience — especially if you are fortunate enough to see the jaw-dropping Great Migration, during which 1.5 million wildebeests and hundreds of thousands of other animals (think gazelles, zebras and even lions) make their move across the Serengeti ecosystem.

9 /11: Galápagos Islands

9/11 :Galápagos Islands

Some 500-plus miles off the coast of Ecuador exists the surreal environment known as the Galápagos Islands. It is here where Charles Darwin journaled about the survival of the fittest and formed the theory of evolution. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Galápagos is both raw and majestic, rugged and ethereal. Giant crabs, iguanas, tortoises and other marine wildlife are abundant, contributing to the mystique. 

10 /11: Machu Picchu, Peru

10/11 :Machu Picchu, Peru

There's something undeniably exhilarating about exploring a place so tucked away from civilization that it wasn't even "discovered" until the early 1900s. Yes, this magical place earned its nickname, the Lost City of the Incas. If the unique history isn't enough to wow you, the stunning Andes mountain scenery surely will.

11/11 :Iceland

Since we can't possibly pick just one spot in the Land of Fire and Ice, we recommend you carve out a chunk of time in your life to explore all that Iceland has to offer. The diversity of surroundings is stunning, ranging from glaciers with aquamarine-blue hot springs to active volcanoes. The capital city of Reykjavik is thick with quirks and charm, and the locals will help point you in the direction of the best place to take in the Northern Lights.