I am a big fan of the idea of a bucket list. It is not because I am dying that I want to have such a list, but because I want to challenge myself to experience things very few people in the world attempt, or have the opportunity to do. Such a list of destinations can’t have common places like “Italy” or “Greece” because really, who doesn’t want to go there? Such a list should have places that appeal to you personally for one reason or another, even if they are not popular tourist spots at all. After reading a blog I love about bucket lists, it got me thinking, where would I go if I could go anywhere. Here are my top 5 unusual bucket list destinations in the world with a brief explanation as to why I feel they are unique.

#5 The Maldives 

The Maldives

This is probably the place that could be considered the most “touristy” in the list. The Maldives are a set of islands off the coast of India, and have some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Most of the economy is based on its amazing natural beauty with high end resorts galore. The expense is the single biggest reason I have not visited yet (the second being how far away it is). However, on a bigger, more serious scale, it will probably be underwater by the end of my lifetime (I’m 26). Volcanic islands are forming all the time all over the world, but  an equally extraordinary (but far more sad) reality is that the rising seas, due to the increased global heating of our planet, are putting some areas of the Earth, underwater. This is not something that might happen, or will happen in a few generations, we are talking about the complete exodus of the entire Maldive population within the next 30 years if patterns continue. This is a real life Atlantis in the making.

#4 Easter Island

Easter Island

For those that don’t know, Easter Island is “off the coast” of Chile, and belongs to that country. Really though, it is a good 2000 miles from Chile, and is one of the most isolated populated places in the world. It is still debated how such a remote island came to be populated by the Rapa Nui people, as it would have taken an extraordinary navigational job to even arrive (let alone have a civilization flourish). It is a classical example of what is known in environmental science (originally economics) as the “tragedy of the commons.” The Rapa Nui people apparently kept using up the islands resources, including the local palm tree (the main source of timber), until there were none left, leading the a catastrophic collapse of society.

To add to the mystique of the builders of the Moai statues, the language Rongorongo seems to have no predecessors and evolved uniquely on the island. No one has yet managed to decipher the language, but many are keen on studying it. If confirmed as a unique language, it will be only the fourth language in the history of the world that developed a writing system independently without external influence.

#3 North Korea (DPRK)

North Korea

The current state of hostility has me really reconsidering whether it would be safe for me as an American citizen, to visit North Korea at all. Unlike pretty much every other country on earth, North Korea doesn’t allow free roaming of the country or contact with ordinary citizens as all visitors are accompanied by tour guides at all times. This, along with the steep price tag for tours, deters most tourists from even considering North Korea. Furthermore, to even enter the country, you have to apply from their offices in Beijing, so you should visit China to even have a shot. You would also need a visa to visit China in the first place, as immigration won’t care if you are only there for a day.

The attraction still remains. North Korea has managed to stay isolated from the rest of the earth in an era when you can get any headline from anywhere in the world to anywhere else in the world in a matter of seconds. More than anything, if allowed, I would love to speak to the locals with my limited Korean skill. It would give me an insight to a country that really, no one knows much about. If you want to go too, here is a good resource! (warning, might be blocked in some countries).

#2 The Kingdom of Bhutan

Bhutan Taktsang Monastery

First lets start with the flag. Is this the most bad ass flag in the world or what? In 1972, the “Dragon King” of Bhutan had had enough of western powers evaluating the standard of living of a country based on GDP. He proposed that while it was true that the US and western powers dominated the earth in terms of economic might, his country of Bhutan was first in “Gross National Happiness.” While initially taken as a joke, it got people thinking whether there was even a link between economic success and happiness. As polls continue to show, many poor countries actually score well in terms of the happiness of its citizens despite low GDPs.

Bhutan prides itself in being slow to modernize in an attempt to prevent their unique way of live from being destroyed. It is largely an isolationist country, with their only regular trading partner being India (also where the only Bhutanese embassy stands). They fear that modernization that is too rapid might turn their country into “the next Thailand” where backpackers ravage through town unregulated (their words, not mine). For this reason, travel is very regulated and monitored. Much like North Korea, you must have a set itinerary to even get access into the country, and you have to visit India first (which also requires a visa). They introduced the television and internet simultaneously in 1999, and is one of only two countries in Asia (the other being North Korea) where the capital city doesn’t have traffic lights.

#1 Antarctica

Antarctica

Think about this wild claim: Any country, island, forest, desert, or peninsula in the world that has people living in it, is not special to SOMEBODY. Local people in Siem Reap, Cambodia aren’t as awe-struck when they see Angkor Wat, but would be amazed to see the Big Ben in London. Local people are desensitized to the wonders around them because they see them all the time, but wonder about distant lands different from their own. In this sense, many people are travelers at heart. Humans have managed to spread to every corner of the planet through out history, so pretty much everywhere is not special to someone. Everywhere except Antarctica. Antarctica is truly the final frontier when it comes to human traveling (besides space, but I thought that was kind of cheating) because before 200 years ago, no human had even seen the main land of the icy continent below. Still, very few people visit, even though it is getting more accessible.

Antarctica to me, is the closest you can get to visiting another planet (maybe someone in the future will read my blog and think “what a fool”) as it is a habitat where humanity has yet to conquer. In addition(and closing), who doesn’t like penguins?

What are your top, odd destinations that make people turn their heads? Leave your ideas in the comments!

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Julio Moreno

Julio is a California native who has lived abroad since 2009 as an expat in South Korea and New Zealand. He is especially passionate about experiencing other cultures and visiting as many UNESCO World Heritage Sites as possible.
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8 thoughts on “My Personal Top 5 Bucket List Destinations (which you probably didn’t consider)

  • March 29, 2013 at 9:47 am
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    I’m very keen on visiting many of these destinations as well – especially North Korea.

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    • March 30, 2013 at 12:24 am
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      I’m curious if you have a bucket list destinations post on your blog, I’d be interested to see that.

      Reply
  • March 29, 2013 at 12:08 pm
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    Not only did I consider them, I’ve been to 4 of the 5 (haven’t made it to the Maldives…. yet). I can highly recommend all four of them. All those places were awesome.

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  • March 29, 2013 at 12:11 pm
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    Not only have I considered them, but I’ve been to 4 of the 5 (haven’t made it to the Maldives…. yet). They were all awesome destinations that more than made up for the high expectations I had. You should definitely go to any or all of these countries.

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    • March 29, 2013 at 10:25 pm
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      That’s interesting that you haven’t been to what I would assume is the most accessible one. Oh, I will definitely go to all of these in the next couple of years.

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  • March 29, 2013 at 12:25 pm
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    Also, a few small corrections/comments:
    – Some traffic lights were installed in Pyongyang, North Korea a few years ago. (See: http://www.flickr.com/photos/zaruka/4911361529/)
    – You do need a Chinese visa to pass through Beijing on your way to North Korea, but you will know in advance if you’ve been approved of your North Korean visa. You actually apply and are granted your DPRK visa before you even leave from home (also, no need to send your passport, only a photocopy or scan).
    – You don’t need an Indian visa to go to Bhutan. You can fly from Bangkok, as I did. Also, I think they started some flights from Singapore to Thimpu last year.
    – North Korea feels more like another planet than Antarctica. Those are some strange aliens there.

    Reply
    • March 29, 2013 at 10:31 pm
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      -Actually, when I was originally writing this post, I also was under the impression that North Korea had traffic lights. However, wikipedia insisted that Pyeongyang also didn’t have any. Foiled by wikipedia and thanks for the correction.

      -I know that they verify that you have been granted a visa before you arrive, maybe I worded it incorrectly. I have read reports that even people who have approved visas must go through some process in Beijing. From travelers online, I’ve read stories of people who made it to Beijing only to have their visa revoked. I heard it has something to do with a pep talk they have with you about not saying anything disrespectful about NK within their lands. Did you go through this process? Or maybe there is a new system now? Either way thanks for this.

      -Wow, I didnt know there were flights from Bangkok. I tried to set up a tour two years ago and I was told I had to apply through their embassy in India. I would be curious what process you did because if its much more accessible than I assumed, this might be my next stop. Also, where did you get the flight tickets?

      Reply

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