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20 Places To See Abroad Before You Die

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It's a big world out there -- so big that it can be daunting to decide what international destinations to visit in the course of a lifetime. From natural wonders to man-made masterpieces, from wildlife to cityscapes, the choices are seemingly endless. Don't let indecision get you down, or worse, delay the planning of your next trip. We've whittled it down to 20 amazing places to see abroad before you die. Pick one or pick them all -- you can't go wrong. --Jayme Moye

  • Rio de Janeiro
    John Copland/Shutterstock
    Where: Brazil Known as the Cidade Maravilhosa, or the Marvelous City, Rio de Janeiro has more than 20 beaches and many dramatic landmarks including the much-photographed Christ the Redeemer statue overlooking the city. The thriving metropolitan area, with exceptional architecture, museums, galleries, and dining, sits on the magnificent Guanabara Bay against a rugged backdrop of forested mountains, one of the most stunning settings in the world. Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s Rio de Janeiro Guide
  • Machu Picchu
    Chris Howey/Shutterstock
    Where: Peru The Lost City of the Incas is perched on the edge of a mountain high in the Andes, a location so remote that it remained hidden from ravaging Conquistadors and untouched by the 20th century until it was “discovered” in 1911. Machu Picchu is a wonder on many levels, from its awe-inspiring natural splendor to its fascinating history. Visitors can do a multi-day trek to reach the site, or ride a bus up a winding road. Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s Macchu Picchu and the Inca Trail Guide
  • Galapagos Islands
    sunsinger/Shutterstock
    Where: Ecuador Located 575 miles off the coast of Ecuador, the Galápagos archipelago and its surrounding waters are a national park, a biological marine preserve, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The area’s raw beauty and abundance of unique species, like the giant tortoise, make it a nature lover’s dream. Charles Darwin conducted research here in the early 1830’s that contributed to his theory of evolution and his groundbreaking book, On the Origin of Species. Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s Galápagos Islands Guide
  • Torres del Paine National Park
    © Peter Guttman
    Where: Patagonia There are more sheep than people in the Magallanes Region of Chilean Patagonia—one of many reasons that make Torres del Paine National Park so fascinating. Here, the granite spires of the Paine massif tower over emerald green valleys, churning rivers, glassy blue lakes, glaciers, and icebergs. Adding to the mystique, this dreamscape is one of the most inhospitable places on the planet, with wind that can knock a grown man to the ground. Visit in January or February; the weather is too extreme any other time. Plan Your Trip: Visit the Fodor’s Chile Guide
  • Iceland
    © Peter Guttman
    There’s simply no place else on earth like Iceland. From waterfalls to active volcanoes, from glaciers to hot springs, the Land if Fire and Ice is a study in extremes. The country is such a visual spectacle that it’s hard to decide where to begin. Fortunately, Iceland also knows how to cater to tourists. Base yourself out of Reykjavik, the quirky capital city, where a host of reputable outfitters like Arctic Adventures offer excursions ranging from scenic horseback rides to extreme ice climbing, and everything in between. Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s Iceland Guide
  • Paris
    © Ross Brinkerhoff / Fodor’s Travel
    Where: France The Eiffel Tower, the Cathedral of Notre Dame, the Louvre, Champs-Elysees, Arc de Triomphe—Paris is like a living museum of architecture and history. Add in the world-class dining, gallery-hopping, and shopping, not to mention the je ne sais quoi of the Parisian personality, and the City of Lights is a mesmerizing cultural experience. Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s Paris Guide
  • Rome
    © Halie Cousineau / Fodor’s Travel
    Where: Italy Cities don’t get more epic than Rome. The Eternal City, founded in 753 BC, is one of the oldest occupied cities in Europe and widely regarded as the birthplace of Western civilization. This is the center of Renaissance art and religious opulence. Sites like the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel and the Colosseum are among the most visited tourist attractions on earth. For most people it’s not a question of whether or not to visit Rome, but rather, when. The answer: as soon as you can. Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s Rome Guide
  • Marrakesh
    Philip Lange/Shutterstock
    Where: Morocco Perhaps the most exotic city on the planet, Marrakesh began as a trading post along the ancient caravan routes from Timbuktu. It remains a shopping mecca, and the city’s main square, Djemâa el Fna, is regarded as the busiest in Africa. The intoxicating experience of turbaned arts and craft sellers at every turn, careening donkey carts, and smiling snake charmers is unforgettable. Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s Marrakesh Guide
  • Serengeti National Park
    Theodore Mattas/Shutterstock
    Where: Tanzania There are few wildlife experiences as awe-inspiring as the Great Migration, when 1.5 million wildebeests, accompanied by 400,000 gazelles and 200,000 zebra, move throughout the Serengeti ecosystem. There is no better time to go on a safari in Serengeti National Park, which also has the highest concentration of large mammals on the planet, particularly lions. Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s Tanzania Guide
  • Victoria Falls
    Przemyslaw Skibinski/Shutterstock
    Where: Zambia/Zimbabwe Victoria Falls, or Mosi-oa-Tunya, its indigenous name meaning “smoke that thunders,” is neither the tallest nor the widest waterfall on the planet. But its combined height and width make it the largest—an enormous sheet of falling water twice the height of Niagara Falls. The falls can be viewed from either the Zambian or the Zimbabwean side, with the Zimbabwean regarded as the more picturesque. Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s Victoria Falls Guide
  • Giza
    sculpies/Shutterstock
    Where: Egypt A large suburb of Cairo, Giza is the location of the Giza Plateau, better known as the home of the Giza Pyramids and the Great Sphinx—the most famous archeological sites in the world. The Great Pyramid, one of three main pyramids located at Giza, is one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World—the only one that survived to present day. It was built in the 4th Dynasty (circa 2550 B.C.) and was the tallest building on earth until the Eiffel Tower was erected in 1889. Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s Cairo Guide
  • Jerusalem
    suronin/Shutterstock
    Where: Israel One of the oldest cities in the world, Jerusalem is also perhaps the most divine. Literally. The three major Abrahamic religions—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam—consider it holy. On the east end of town, the Old City is the religious and historic highlight. This walled area of cobblestone alleys is smaller than half a square mile, but packed with major sites like the Western Wall, Temple Mount, and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, as well as boutiques and markets representing the four quarters: Jewish, Muslim, Christian, and Armenian. Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s Jerusalem Guide
  • Petra
    Iv Nikolny/Shutterstock
    Where: Jordan Jordan’s most popular tourist attraction, Petra means “rock” in Greek. Built in the first century B.C., the city appears to spring from the very cliffs that surround it, a marvel of rock-cut architecture—and mystery. The ancient city did not even appear on Western maps until it was re-discovered in 1812 by a Swiss traveler. Today, tourists are free to stroll Petra’s boulevards and explore its mesmerizing tombs and archeological sites.
  • Istanbul
    Sadik Gulec/Shutterstock
    Where: Turkey It’s hard to top Istanbul for history, culture, and lore. The city formerly known as Constantinople is located along the Silk Road and straddles two continents. It has hosted many great civilizations, serving as the capital of four empires: the Roman (330–395), the Byzantine (395–1204 and 1261–1453), the Latin (1204–1261), and the Ottoman (1453–1922). Today it’s a thriving cosmopolitan metropolis that juxtaposes old and new. Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s Istanbul Guide
  • Taj Mahal
    © Peter Guttman
    Where: India The awe-inspiring Taj Mahal is the world’s most famous monument in honor of love. The white marble mausoleum was built sometime in the mid-1600s by emperor Shah Jahan in remembrance of his wife Mumtaz, a Persian princess. Located just south of the city of Agra, the Taj Mahal remains one of the world’s finest examples of Mughal style—an elegant combination of Persian, Islamic, and Indian architecture. The interior is even more beautiful than the exterior, if that’s possible. Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s Agra and Environs Guide
  • Everest Base Camp
    Where: Nepal The summit of Mt. Everest is an icon for adventure. But you don’t need to conquer the 29,000-foot peak to experience the exhilaration, challenge, and culture of life in the high Himalayas. Everest Base Camp is located in the world’s highest national park, Qomolangma National Nature Preserve, and is open to tourists as well as to mountaineers. Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s Nepal Guide
  • Bhutan
    mygoodpix/Shutterstock
    Where: Bhutan The isolated Kingdom of Bhutan transitioned to a constitutional monarchy in 2008, and became more open and welcoming to travelers. The capital city of Thimphu will become a major pilgrimage center and a focal point for Buddhists all over the world when construction of the Buddha Dordenma, an enormous bronze Buddha statue overlooking the city, is complete. Bhutan makes our list not only for its untouched natural beauty, but also for a unique culture that measures progress in terms of Gross Domestic Happiness. Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s Bhutan Guide
  • Great Wall of China
    © Peter Guttman
    One of the most iconic man-made structures on earth, the Great Wall of China is not one continuous wall, but rather a series of shorter walls. In their entirety, the walls span more than 5,500 miles and eight provinces along the southern edge of the Mongolian plain. Originally built to keep out nomads and invaders, the Great Wall winds along the crests of hills, providing a stunning vantage point of the rugged landscape. Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s China Guide
  • The Great Barrier Reef
    Debra James/Shutterstock
    Where: Australia Located in the Coral Sea off the coast of Queensland, Australia, the Great Barrier Reef is more than 1,400 miles long and the largest coral reef system on the planet. Dubbed the Blue Outback, the reef is a protected marine park and World Heritage Site comprised of 900 islands and 3,0000 individual reefs. The marine life statistics are dizzying. To mention a few: 5,000 species of mollusk (including the giant clam); 1,500 fish species; 400 coral species, 215 birds; 125 species of shark, stingray, skates, and chimaera; 30 species of dolphins, whales, and porpoises. Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s Australia Guide
  • Antarctica
    © Peter Guttman
    The most remote place on the planet, Antarctica is located almost entirely in the Antarctic Circle. There are no human residents, thanks to a hostile climate of cold and wind. (The lowest recorded temperature is -129 °F.) But the absence of people means a pristine wilderness like none other, with colossal icebergs, giant whales, and tens of thousands of penguins. Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s Antarctica News & Features

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