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50 trips for our ultimate wishlist

Which 50 trips made our ultimate wishlist?

You'll need more than 3 wishes to visit all of these destinations (Ana D)

1. Torres del Paine NP, Chile

If you like your scenery dramatic and fantastical, you can’t go far wrong with this National Park. Even the names are full of foreboding – there’s the Towers of Paine, the Grey Lake and the River of Blood (except the last one’s a fib). With lakes, waterfalls, glaciers, forests and a profusion of wildlife, the rugged wild outdoor thing is certainly big. The weather-scourged granite massif dominates the landscape, but you’ll be distracted by the huge blue icebergs of Lake Grey. The Paine Circuit is understandably popular but other trails mean some degree of solitude is still possible.

2. Angkor Wat, Cambodia

Alcohol may have been banned in Cambodia, but that should make an early start to catch the sunrise even easier. Be at Angkor Thom’s east-facing Bayon for dawn, the jungle-shrouded Ta Prohm for midday and west-facing Angkor Wat for sunset, and you have a perfect picturesque day. Not that a day is enough to do justice to Angkor – the ancient Khmer temple complex is huge. Fortunately this also means that it’s easy to find a bit of temple to yourself. Wander off among the ‘temple mountains’ and smiling statues, and pretend, like the 19th century Frenchman Henri Mouhot, that you’ve ‘discovered’ the lost temple city.

3. Iguazú Falls, Brazil/Argentina

It may be a cliché to talk of multi-sensory travel experiences, but the description fits these waterfalls beautifully. They look amazing, the sound is incredible, and you certainly feel them – some of the best viewing points ensure a thorough drenching. (The taste and smell are less remarkable.) The 275 falls beat Vic Falls on width (three kilometres) and Niagara on height (80m).The Brazilian side is best for the awesome grand overview, and the Argentinian side for the more detailed close-up – here you can enjoy the rainforest and its wildlife too. Two days should do it but allow longer – the mesmerising effect is powerful.

4. Machu Picchu & the Inca Trail, Peru

Criticised as a commercial tourist trap, but you have to ask yourself why so many people want to go there. Climbing the stone paths and steps of the Incas through lush cloud forest and snowy mountain passes is an experience that few will ever forget. Even if archeology isn’t your thing, you won’t be able to resist standing open-mouthed at the Gate of the Sun, looking down to Machu Picchu. The site itself can get coaches of breathless tourists arriving during the day, so there is only one option – be the first to arrive at six in the morning and have the city to yourself while the sun rises.

5. Denali NP, US

Truly getting away from it all – and other people – seems increasingly difficult. But the real wilderness experience is still to be found in this Alaskan National Park (admittedly only once you’ve got through crowds and queues at the entrance). Not only can you explore untouched backcountry, there’s also the enormous splendour of Mount McKinley, and easy-peasy wildlife viewing. The park road runs the length of the preserve, so even the shuttle bus has great fauna-spotting – you’ll find the Big Four here: wolf, moose, caribou and brown bear. And hunting’s never been allowed so the animals are happy to pose for pictures.

6. Sand dunes, Namibia

The Namib Desert stretches for 2,000km through three countries, but it’s at its most spectacular at Sossusvlei. The awe inspired by these enormous dunes comes partly from the knowledge that they aren’t stationary – try walking up one and you’ll soon realise that the solidity is an illusion. If you get to the top you’ll feel like you’ve done battle with a step machine. But it’s definitely worth the effort.

Early morning and late afternoon are best – not only to avoid the heat, but for the magical light that plays on the shifting yellows, reds and oranges.

7. Baalbek, Lebanon

The Middle East is littered with spectacular Roman ruins, but the great complex at Baalbek is in a class of its own. This was once a Mecca for pilgrims across the Roman Empire, a place to make sacrifices to the Gods. And although Byzantine and Umayyed empires left their mark on the site, there is enough remaining to get a real sense of the ancient world, aided by the small number of visitors that make it to the Bekaa Valley. The Jupiter Temple has the largest columns in the world, and the Temple of Bacchus is considered the best preserved Roman temple anywhere.

8. Isfahan, Iran

‘Isfahan is half the world’ is a famous 16th century saying about Iran’s former capital. Today, it’s a relaxed and beautiful city. Marvel at the huge Emam Khomeini Square, ringed by two outstanding mosques (the magnificent Masjed-e Emam and the more intimate Masjed-e Sheikh Lotfollah). Wander around the huge bazaar shopping for saffron, carpets and gold. Try an apple-flavoured bubble-pipe in one of the traditional teahouses that are set into the bridges spanning the Zayande River, or munch on exquisite pastries at a tea shop on the bazaar roof.

9. Gorilla watching, Uganda

Looking for gorillas can be a torturous business as you plod your way through relentless mud and thick undergrowth, often in pouring rain. But once you are face to face with your relatives, all the discomfort is forgotten. The precious moments that you share with these powerful yet gentle creatures, and the look in their eyes as they stare back at you, will stay with you for the rest of your life.

10. Leptis Magna, Libya

If you thought Roman ruins were boring, Leptis Magna will set you straight. Abandoned after an earthquake, the Med-side city was buried for centuries under the sand. Serious excavation was started by the Italians trying to up the ante on their colonial claims, and although only a fraction’s been uncovered, it’s a vast site. The triumphal arch, the Hadrianic baths, the amphitheatre, forum, basilica and marketplace are among the stunningly well-preserved features. Not only will you have the place to yourself but you can still find Roman coins and bits of pottery lying around in the dust.

11. Palenque, Mexico

Buried deep in the jungle-clad hills of Chiapas, Palenque affords an unDisneyfied version of the Mayan experience – there are no Chichen Itza manicured lawns here. Built at the height of the classical period, many of the ornately carved buildings honour important historical and mythological Mayan beings – the Temple of the Inscriptions contains the tomb of Lord Pakal, first ruler of the Palenque dynasty. The inevitable crowds can be avoided with forays into the dense jungle. Keep an eye out for wildlife and the unexcavated buildings disguised as lumps of undergrowth. You’ll be thinking you’re Indiana Jones before you know it.

12. Taj Mahal, India

There’s no beating your first sight. Whatever your preconceptions, you won’t be disappointed – especially if you resist the temptation to sneak a peek before you get to the main gateway. Controversy recently surrounded the hike in tourist entrance prices, but you’re unlikely to regret the Rs960. In fact it’s worth repeat visits to appreciate the effect of the changing light on the luminescent marble. The beautiful symmetry of the place, its subtle grandeur and tranquil atmosphere combine to make this an outstanding monument to love. Rabindranath Tagore described it as ‘a tear on the face of eternity’ – believe the hype.

13. Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

The highest and largest salt lake in the world is the place to come for one of the weirdest travel experiences going. The salt covers an area of around 12,000km2 and jeep tours mean you can actually drive over a lake. The white of the salt against the blue sky is incredible, but can be too harsh – use of the word ‘blinding’ as a term of recommendation may well have started here. Adding to the surreal icy-looking landscape are bizarre crystallisation patterns, islands of giant cacti, and views of the snowcapped Volcán Tunupa. Further south are geysers, odd rock formations and technicolour lakes. Out of this world.

14. Moai Statues, Easter Island

There’s nothing like a few question marks hanging over the origins of a ‘wonder’ to give it that extra je ne sais quoi. And the moai have plenty. We know that hundreds of these big, moody-looking statues and their ahus (plinths) were carved from the island’s volcanic rock between the 10th and 16th centuries. What’s less clear is how the Rapa Nui people went about designing, sculpting, transporting and erecting them.

And why? Who do the long-faced, long-eared, heavy-browed figures represent? Of course you could spend your visit trying to get some answers – but it’s probably best to just marvel at the mystery.

15. Sydney, Australia

This clean, cosmopolitan city set around a series of picturesque harbours and coves is a positive advertisement for the outdoor life. Take a ferry to Manly with its excellent views of Sydney harbour and you’ll be surrounded by myriad brightly coloured sail boats, while relaxing on one of the golden sandy beaches you’ll find yourself strangely compelled to jump on a surf board and catch some waves. The simple outdoor life is more than balanced by an array of chic fusion restaurants combined with culture and history galore at the opera house, and in the numerous museums, churches and art galleries.

16. Rio, Brazil

The reputation of Carnival goes so far before it that there’s no need for description. If you know anything about the partying involved, you have an insight into year-round Rio; Carnival is just one expression of Rio’s inherent pleasure-seeking. But it’s not all parties and beaches (though Ipanema and Copacabana aren’t to be missed) – there are also parks, museums, churches, as well as colonial architecture, shopping and socialising. And it’s one of the best-looking cities around, clinging to the dramatic oceanside escarpments. One of the finest views of the city is at sunset from Pão de Açúcar – it’s truly spectacular.

17. Sunken churches of Lalibela, Ethiopia

Like many good must-sees, the origins of these churches are swathed in legend and mystery. The 12th century King Lalibela had the churches cut from rock – supposedly as a result of divine visitation. And the site is awe-inspiring. Standing below ground level, some of the churches are well over ten metres tall. Intricately carved and uniquely designed, they’re joined by tunnels and passages below the ground. Adding to the magic is the fact that the churches are still used as Christian shrines – drums and chanting echo round the early morning. Other plus points are the stunning natural location, and the marked absence of tourist hordes.

18. Galápagos Islands, Ecuador

This is the Mecca for all wildlife enthusiasts. Darwin found inspiration for his theory in these remote volcanic islands, where the strangest of creatures evolved, and animals never learned to fear their two-legged relatives. Sitting on a beach next to sea lions and iguanas, swimming with turtles and penguins, standing nose to beak with a blue-footed booby and being scrutinised by a giant tortoise are just a few of the extraordinary experiences in store. There’s nowhere like it on the planet, a fragile paradise that should top every nature lover’s list.

19. Luang Prabang, Laos

Magnificent temples, markets and a superbly relaxed atmosphere are what makes this low-rise Laotian city a delight, especially if you’ve just come off the deafening eight-hour speedboat trip from the Thai border. Days slip by when you soak up the sights at the local pace. Stroll the French colonial streets from Wat Xieng Thong with its sweeping roof and intricate mosaics, to the ‘watermelon stupa’ of Wat Wisunalat, and on to Wat Mai for its golden bas-relief. Sunset from the central Phu Si ‘mountain’ shows off domes, spires and the Mekong valley. The Kuang-Si waterfalls and Buddha-stuffed Pak Ou caves are nearby must-do excursions.

20. Okavango Delta, Botswana

Approaching the Okavango through the vast expanse of the Kalahari desert, it is hard to believe that this vast inland tapestry of water exists. Home to a vast array of wildlife and birds, this is the jewel of southern Africa. Be poled through this watery wilderness in a mokoro – a hollowed out log that can hold two passengers – for a unique perspective (and a soggy backside.) Out on dry land you can track elephant and other game on foot. Alternatively, adrenalin-seekers can take a horseriding holiday here, galloping next to herds of zebra and antelope, or those who can afford it can criss-cross the delta on elephant-back.

21. Himalaya, Nepal

It’s easy to see why people get entranced by mountains once they get close to the Himalayas. Waking up and looking out of your tent flap or hut window to the majestic sight of the world’s highest mountain range is guaranteed to take the breath away. And you don’t have to don crampons to enjoy them. A multitude of lower-altitude treks can take you on circuits or to base camps, with hot (if a touch monotonous) food to fuel you along your journey. A perfect way to forget all about the pressures of the modern world.

22. Cuzco, Peru

Even if Cuzco wasn’t 3326m above sea level, the rich mixture of Inca and colonial architecture would still leave you breathless. Head for the lively Plaza de Armas where small groups of alpacas and their brightly dressed owners congregate beneath Spanish churches and porticoes. From there, streets lined by earthquake-proof Inca masonry lead out in all directions to other must-sees such as Coricancha, the Inca ‘Golden Temple’ (though all the gold was looted by the Spanish), and the ancient fortress of Sacsayhuaman that guards the city.

23. Hampi, India

The army of the monkey god Hanuman is said to be responsible for Hampi’s bizarre landscape. The boulders they threw around still sit huge and improbably balanced. Rocky hills give numerous vantage points for spectacular dawns and sunsets. The ruined city of Vijayanagar, scattered around a bend in the Tungabhadra river, has some incredible sights: the monolithic Narasimha statue, the ornately sculpted Vittala temple, the nine-tiered gopura of the Virupaksha temple. The tourist-to-pilgrim ratio is pleasantly low and there’s a bewitching atmosphere. Yet the town is somehow more than the sum of its parts – come for a couple of days and you’ll end up staying for weeks.

24. Rice Terraces, the Philippines

Man and nature have co-operated rather well on this one. The Ifugao people carved out the terraces over 2,000 years ago, and they’re still used today. Despite various threats from earthworms, a depleted working younger generation, and (you’ve guessed it) tourism, UNESCO described the paddies as ‘an outstanding example of a living cultural landscape’ when designating it a World Heritage Site. They can be seen at various spots around Banaue, but perhaps the best is Batad, a tiny village an hour and a half’s trek from the road. The sculpted hillsides resemble verdant amphitheatres, especially in April and May when the shoots are through.

25. Cape TownSouth Africa

Table Mountain is to Cape Town what the Eiffel Tower is to Paris. But it is far from its only attraction. The merging of city and sea at the southern tip of Africa has created an enviable fusion of lifestyles and cultures. A rich history can be traced from Robben Island, only a boat ride away from the grand V & A Waterfront, where exotic feasts and local wines are served to tables with ocean views. Yet the beauty of the experience lies in the cape itself – where wildlife roams on rugged shores and whales can be spotted in the windswept surf.

26. Tongariro NP, New Zealand

Lying at the heart of the North Island, this national park is the oldest in the country, and encompasses its most spectacular volcanoes with dramatic landscape on all sides. The Tongariro Crossing is dubbed the best one day walk in New Zealand, and when the sun is out, few would argue. It’s a full-day’s hike, with some fairly tough sections, but the views at the centre are out of this world, complete with the Emerald Lakes and multicoloured volcanic rocks. For the fitter walker, an optional ascent to the summit of one of the volcanoes brings views into the crater and on a clear day to the distant Mount Taranaki.

27. San Francisco, US

Maybe the constant threat of earthquakes gives San Franciscans their ‘live for the moment’ attitude. A friendlier, more laid-back US city is hard to find. Blessed with a moderate climate, surrounded by water and within easy distance of snow, this is outdoor-pursuits heaven. Perennial tourist favourites include the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz and Lombard Street, but it’s worth getting off the beaten track. The city has a surprisingly small-town air to it, and each suburb has a distinct vibe.The neat grid of streets might fool unsuspecting map-readers – the city has serious contours, which offer plenty of stunning 360° views... until the infamous San Francisco fog descends.

28. Atacama Desert, Chile

It may well be the driest place on earth. It is certainly one of the most spectacular, this great high and dry valley where smouldering volcanoes look down from the Andes, seeming little more than an arm’s length away in the crisp, clear air. From the atmospheric adobe town of San Pedro you can take excursions into the Martian landscape of the Valley of Death and crunch your way across the salt lake towards shimmering flocks of flamingoes, or head off before dawn to catch the sunrise amid geothermal pools. And indigenous culture still lingers here, in this unforgiving but stunning part of Chile.

29. Red Square, Russia

Its name may derive from a corruption of the Russian word for beautiful, but Moscow’s heart is more awe-inspiring than a work of art. The iconic splendour of the onion-domed St Basil’s Cathedral at one end is undoubted. But one side of the square is flanked by GUM, the mighty department store, and opposite that is Lenin’s mausoleum – a functional if fascinating block of bricks where the curious and faithful queue to see his embalmed corpse. The tomb lies before the great walls of the Kremlin, behind which are more aesthetically pleasing palaces and cathedrals. But standing at the centre of Red Square it is history rather than beauty that holds the imagination.

30. Cappadocia, Turkey

This region fascinates partly with its bizarre natural landscape, and partly with the way its inhabitants have adapted to their environment. The weird contours of the area are a result of erosion of the soft volcanic rock, protected in places by basalt to leave canyons, columns, pyramids and cone-shaped peaks known as ‘fairy chimneys’. Geologists are in seventh heaven, and the rest of us aren’t far behind. The human impact over the last few thousand years has been the manifestation of troglodyte houses, churches, monasteries, medieval frescoes and amazing underground cities. At Derinyaku you can descend eight floors to a depth of 55m – it all feels ancient and futuristic at the same time.

31. Old Havana, Cuba

The culture and character of Cuba is no more evident than in the vibrant, tattered and intoxicating streets of the capital’s old town. Live music drifts from the open doorways, grand old American automobiles stand outside equally dilapidated Spanish colonial buildings, and there’s not a McDonalds in sight. Neglected and yet unspoiled, Havana is a city to lose yourself in, with all the time in the world to sip a mojito at the bar once frequented by Hemingway, or stroll along the waterfront and gaze across to the fortress where Che Guevara launched his assault half a century ago.

32. Midnight sun whale watching, Iceland

Getting close to the largest creatures on the planet is a special event wherever it may be, but in mid-June off the north coast of Iceland the experience is at its most sublime. Imagine floating on a sea turned golden by a glowing sun that never sets, while whales burst to the surface, shattering the silence with great fishy-smelling exhalations.

The northern port of Húsavík used to be a whaling centre, but now the minke, fin and humpback whales are returning to the deep waters off its shores, and the hunting is done with binoculars and cameras instead of harpoons.

33. Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Stretching for 2,000km off Australia’s north-eastern coast-line, the Great Barrier Reef is the most comprehensive reef system in the world. To be close to the starfish and swim with the turtles, put on a snorkel or some diving kit and experience the true magic of the reef. But you don’t have to be a diving expert to appreciate the underwater world – the best of the coral is close to the surface – from where you can see an amazing variety of fish from swooping manta rays to great shoals of brightly coloured angel fish. Stay on one of the picture-perfect cay islands which pepper the area.

34. Uluru (Ayers Rock), Australia

When a place is as iconic as Uluru, it’s easy to think you’ll know exactly what to expect. But as visitor after visitor has discovered, the rock can surprise the most blasé of list-tickers. From a distance it’s the famous red lump in the middle of nowhere; up-close there are crevices, jaggedy edges and occasional waterfalls. The colour changes spectacularly with the light. But it’s not just eye-candy, it’s of immense cultural significance to the Anangu Aboriginal people. Climbing the rock is against their wishes, so take the far less strenuous base walk instead, which takes you past sacred Anangu sites, caves and paintings.

35. Kathmandu, Nepal

With so many different ethnic groups mingling in the narrow streets of Kathmandu, it’s one of the few places in Asia where a western visitor does not feel conspicuous. At ground level it can be bewildering, with senses being assaulted on all fronts – vultures peck at carcasses in the river, monkeys loiter like muggers in the Buddhist temples, and the squares and markets at the centre of the town bustle with the trade of centuries. But you can escape in a moment to a rooftop café and glance northwards to the Himalayas that form the ubiquitous backdrop to this spectacular country.

36. Khiva, Central Asia

Of the three great Silk Route cities in Uzbekistan (the other two being Bukhara and Samarkand), Khiva is unique in having been spared the intrusion of Soviet architecture. Inside the old city walls television aerials are one of the few signs of the modern world. Once a city where foreigners would fear to tread, Khiva is now a sleepy settlement where you can wander its narrow streets, visiting picturesque palaces and mosques, or climb to the top of a beautiful minaret and look down on a perfect city that appears to have been sculpted from the desert that surrounds it.

37. Petra, Jordan

Walking through the siq, the twisting narrow gorge, over a kilometre in length, you get hints of the splendours that await at the end. But it still comes as a shock when you round a corner and suddenly get the classic view that adorns many a brochure cover: the great pink pillars and ornate facade of al-Khazneh, ‘The Treasury’. This is just the introduction to the remains of this huge ruined city that needs at least a couple of days to explore its wonders, secreted as they are in gulleys and on mountain sides, often sculpted out of the rock itself.

38. Looking for tigers, Nepal & India

Which mammal sighting excites more than any other? Whether setting out at dawn on elephant-back, or rattling along in an open jeep, you can feel the hairs standing on the back of your neck as you scour the dappled jungle clearings for a splash of orange and black. Of course, the combination of the dwindling numbers of tigers, and the difficulty of spotting one in their natural habitat, means that sightings are far from guaranteed. But the tiger’s sheer elusiveness is part of the appeal. Bandhavgarh National Park in Madhya Pradesh is one of the best places to spot one.

39. Venice, Italy

Trust Hemingway’s and Henry James’ instincts and drift around the romantic streets and canals of Venice. The perfect city to just stroll aimlessly without a map – you can never get too hopelessly lost – at some point you will always hit the Grand Canal or the Lagoon. No suicidal Italian motorists, no constant traffic clamour, only the chugging of vaporettos on the Grand Canal or the echoes of gondolier warbling. Visit the architectural gems that line Piazza San Marco – ‘the finest drawing room in Europe’, go to the Rialto Bridge and the church of Santa Maria della Salute, and if you’re feeling extravagant, sup Bellinis at the famous Harry’s Bar.

40. Four Corners, US

The landscape may be familiar thanks to countless movies, but the scale and beauty of the deserts and canyons of the south-west USA still leaves visitors gasping in awe. The meeting of the states of Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico give the region its name, but these lines on the map bear little relation to the physical realities. The Rio Grande and Colorado River are more natural boundaries, cutting through arid country where coyotes do indeed chase roadrunners, and Native Americans still control large parts of the land. The natural wonders are many: Monument Valley, Arches and Canyon de Chelly are just a few of its splendours, all infused with a sense of history.

41. Ha Long Bay, Vietnam

The striking limestone karst scenery in this North Vietnamese bay is not unlike that found on the Thai or Chinese coast, only on a seriously more impressive scale. Supposedly created by dragons spitting out pearls, there are around 2,000 islands in the bay. More dramatic in the west, smaller and more attractive in the east, they allow almost limitless sea-kayaking, cave-exploration, boat trips and scenery-gawping.There are plenty of tourists, but plenty of space to lose them in. Avoid the crowds (and enjoy the scenic ferry rides) by staying in Hong Gai or on Cat Ba Island.

42. Polar bears, Churchill, Canada

Every October hundreds of polar bears congregate around the remote town of Churchill, waiting for Hudson Bay to freeze over. Huge tundra-buggies take visitors across the frozen wastes, providing a warm and secure base to shelter from the freezing temperatures and curious bears. The sheer size of these animals shocks you when you finally see one close up. Outside October, you may still be lucky enough to see a bear. And in the summer the bay is host to thousands of beluga whales, as well as being a paradise for birdwatchers.

43. Fès, Morocco

The oldest of Morocco’s Imperial Cities, Fès has three distinct parts. Fès el-Jdid and the Ville Nouvelle have their own attractions, but it’s the medieval medina of Fès el-Bali that really makes the city an ‘experience’. Dating back to the ninth century, little has changed in its jostling lanes, and it is both exhausting and fascinating. Mosques and medersas provide traditional sightseeing, but the real sights are on the streets: handicrafts, national haggling champions, heavily laden donkeys and an evilly labyrinthine layout. But that’s the fun of it – and if things gets too hectic, the ideal breather is on the hills of the Merenid Tombs, overlooking the minarets and mayhem.

44. Ngorongoro Crater & Serengeti, Tanzania

Here is the quintessential Africa that so many people want to see on their first (or 21st) safari. The combination of the magnificent scenery and the Maasai people would make this a special part of the world anyway, but northern Tanzania also boasts the largest concentration of mammals on earth. The sweeping plains of the Serengeti are home to the Big Five, as well as huge herds of zebra, wildebeest and antelopes. The extraordinary Ngorongoro Crater is a more intimate experience, with wildlife concentrated on the floor of this extinct volcano.

45. Tower Houses, Yemen

Legend has it that Noah’s son Shem founded Yemen’s capital San’a. This might help explain the unique architecture – if you lived through a flood, you’d appreciate tall buildings. There are tower houses throughout the Yemeni highlands but the best are in Old San’a. In the millennium-old style, the first few floors are built from dark stone, the upper storeys of fired brick. Takhrim windows of plaster and coloured-glass fretwork look especially beautiful when lit up at night. Different floors had different purposes – the bottom one was for animals, the top one for receiving guests, and the extended family went in between.

46. The Pantanal, Brazil

If you’re into wildlife forget the Amazon jungle; it’s a great experience but in the dense vegetation you’ll see more creepy-crawlies than exotic birds and mammals. Instead head for the Pantanal – half the size of France, and with the highest concentration of wildlife in Latin America. This huge wetland is home to around 650 species of birds, as well as capybaras, caimans, anacondas and pumas.The best and most comfortable viewing is during the dry season (July to October). Explore on horseback, jeep or by boat.

47. Mosque at Djenné, Mali

Built in the early 1900s, this is a mere youngster compared with other members of our top 50. Hardly newfangled, though, the world’s largest mud-built structure is based on the design of Djenné’s original 11th century mosque. Classically Sudanese, the mosque is undoubtedly imposing: the three minarets are over ten metres high, and wooden posts stick spikily out of its walls. Looking at it from afar, it has a strange plasticine quality to it, like something Nick Park might have created for one of his animations. Although closed to non-Muslims, seeing the building from outside and visiting the market in front of it, is still memorable.

48. Antarctica

It may be the highest, coldest, windiest, driest continent, but Antarctica nevertheless has an astonishing abundance of wildlife. There are numerous whale species, seals, cormorants, petrels, albatrosses and fulmars. And, of course, penguins. They’re unafraid of humans, and although we’re not supposed to approach them, they will happily waddle over for a closer inspection if you sit and wait quietly. Shore landings from cruise ships are incredible experiences, while some companies now offer kayaking, scuba diving and climbing for the more adventurous.

49. Ancient Egypt

Not many countries can boast sites that span millennia of civilisation. The Pyramids of Giza are the only remaining wonder of the ancient world. The country’s biggest and best preserved pyramids, they have an undeniable impact as you approach across the sand – just keep your back turned on Cairo’s creeping suburbs. Impressive in its immensity and detail, Karnak is Egypt’s largest pharaonic monument after the pyramids.

Abu Simbel, a few hours south of Aswan, is the country’s third ancient must-see. Painstakingly moved away from the rising waters of Lake Nasser, the whole temple was a magnificent ego trip for Ramses II. The four huge statues of himself at the front are the crowning glory.

50. Madagascar

It may be an island, but Madagascar has rainforest, highlands, canyons, and coastline, and a diversity of wildlife to match. And what really makes Madagascar top of any natural selection is its impressively high percentage of endemic fauna. As well as 51 varieties of lemur and over half the world’s chameleon species, there’s the fossa (looks like a cross between a dog and a cat), tenrecs (they look like shrews, moles or hedgehogs) and the giant jumping rat. Who could resist trying to spot an endangered hairy-eared dwarf lemur? Despite treaties, charters and several dozen National Parks, the wildlife is under threat from poachers, deforestation and urban sprawl: the sooner you get there the better.

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