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The Seven Most Bucket List-Worthy Destinations for 2011

      Foxnews.com
An intrepid traveler enjoys the sunset over Erg Chebbi in Morocco.


If
you haven’t seen the 2007 film “The Bucket List” about two terminally
ill guys attempting to get through their must-do-before-they-die lists,
neither did I. But I think we both get the idea. And author Patricia
Schultz had already cemented the concept into the minds of travelers
with her 2003 book “1,000 Places to See Before You Die”.
Neither the movie nor the book suggests that
you need to be dying to have a bucket list, of course, but if you use
the concept to focus your trip planning a bit, you’ll see that
destinations that find their way onto such lists often have certain
things in common. The places are often expensive or difficult to reach,
or hard or dangerous to navigate, or a combination of those things. One
characteristic that all bucket-list worthy destinations seem to share is
that to fully get why the place is so special you really have to go
there. That said, here are seven picks from travelers who have been
there.
How much each of these trips costs will
depend on your departure point and whether you travel with a group or go
solo. Land excursion costs in particular will vary depending on when
you go as well as the length and privacy of your tour. Sample airfares
are provided in some cases.
South Pole, Antarctica
Ultramarathoner Dean Karnazes
has circled the globe twice and to date the South Pole “remains my most
cherished destination,” he says. Getting there was half the fun for
him, as it “required a six-hour flight on a gutted Russian cargo jet
from the tip of South America to the remote Antarctic outpost of Patriot
Hills. Once the weather was safe 
— which took a week of waiting in
Patriot Hills — we took another six-hour flight aboard a DC3 to reach
the South Pole” and was fortunate to land, he said, as the extreme
weather can contribute to unsafe touchdowns. “Once there, the conditions
were other-worldly. There is absolutely no plant or animal life
whatsoever,” given that the “temperature hovered around minus 45
degrees. It was sometimes impossible to discern where the ground ended
and the horizon and sky began, it all was a stark bright white. The sun
was directly overhead, and we landed at midnight.”


Here’s
the part that may seem particularly other-worldly. “At the South Pole,”
Karnazes says, “is a candy-striped barber pole — no, I’m not kidding.
We took some pictures and I stripped to my boots and ran around the
world naked — by running around the South Pole you are effectively
circumnavigating the globe, just at its smallest circumference. Needless
to say, my voice went up a few octaves after that quick jaunt.”
Karnazes says that “potential visitors should be prepared for a fairly
hefty price tag” as the trip can “set you back up to $60K.” Also, as
winter temperatures can hover around minus 90, consider traveling during
Antarctica’s more balmy summer, running from about October to March.
Sahara Desert, Northern Africa
Beginning in Fiji on New Year’s Day 2011, Erin Michelson
is kicking off a two-year, 70 country, seven continent tour that’ll
likely put a nice dent in her bucket list, but her favorite place among
the more than 60 countries she’s visited so far is the Sahara Desert.
“What I liked so much about it was the sheer vastness of the space and
the vivid color of the never-ending dunes. It was completely wild and
remote and incredibly vibrant,” she says, and key to the experience was
seeing the desert by camel.  A two-day camel safari took her “through
Morocco’s Middle Atlas Mountains to the village of Merzouga at the edge
of the Erg Chebbi dunes,” and among the stops was “a traditional Berber
camp beside the largest dune in the Sahara, about 30 miles from the
Algerian border.” Highlights included “singing and drumming with our
Berber guides” around a “meager desert campfire” as they passed a whisky
flask and “sleeping under the stars. The night was freezing and five of
us of slept in all our clothes in what we nicknamed ‘The Valley of the
Dung’ because of all the camel poop in the sand.” Average roundtrip
airfare from New York to Morocco is two grand. Also, best to avoid the
Sahara’s summer heat from June through August.
Victoria Falls, Southern Africa
Since it has already made the Seven Natural Wonders of the World
list its worthiness may not be in question, but Victoria Falls is “a
challenge to visit in many ways,” says frequent traveler Ben of adventureswithben.com. “There is certainly a price attached to getting there. Both gateways, Livingstone, Zambia and Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
rely on tourism dollars to sustain themselves so it’s tough to find a
deal. I spent about $1000 for a three-day, two-night stay, but it was
worth every penny.” Why? Aside from the “sense of remoteness” that crops
up as a desirable quality in a lot of bucket list picks, Ben suggests
that “when you are staring at a wall of water over a mile-long, one
can’t help but be overtaken by a sense of awe and wonderment. All day
long, all year long for as long as time has been measured, a wall of
water has been splashing over the edge. Visitors are watching Mother
Nature in action, as opposed to admiring a stationary mountain
landscape.” Helicopters and two-seater planes called microlites are
popular ways to see the falls but if that’s a little too much wonder for
you, walking trails also afford above-average viewing of the falls.
Average roundtrip airfare from New York to Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe is
$1500. To avoid the falls’ rainy season, consider going February through
May.
Angkor Wat, Cambodia
Bumpy, often muddy roads make the journey to North Cambodia’s Siem Reap a trial, says Victoria Whyte of Canada-based Ludus Tours,
so it’s “either a painful trip by car or bus — a full day trip from
the Thailand border — or an overpriced, slightly nerve-racking plane
ride from the capital Phnom Penh” but it’s worth the trouble once you
reach the jaw-dropping 12th century temple of Angkor Wat. Whyte got
there at five one morning and as “the sun rose I heard traditional
singing. In an adjacent temple locals were holding a ceremony for a
young boy who was becoming a monk. When the nuns saw me they grabbed my
hand and danced with me in the middle of the procession. I am not a
religious person, but this was the most inviting and moving experience
of my life — just an example of the warm nature of the locals and the
amazing history and heritage of the country.” December through March are
popular dry and cool months to visit the temple; average roundtrip
February airfare from New York to Siem Reap is upwards of two grand.
Gaspe Peninsula, Quebec
Author Sheryl Kayne’s
father was a traveling salesman who often recounted how a truck driver
“told him that the Gaspe Peninsula in Quebec, Canada was one of the most
beautiful drives in the world and he promised to take me. I went after
he passed away,” Kayne says, “and it’s magnificent. It’s totally French,
with local homes and businesses so comfortable with their ocean views
that many restaurants have their kitchens in the back over the water and
the dining rooms are windowless.” She adds  that “one glance at a map
of the Gaspe Peninsula and I knew what had attracted my dad – one road,
Highway 132, is the only way around the peninsula” and the most debated
question is whether it’s better to take the route clockwise or
counterclockwise, though either way, Kayne says, your best bet is to
take in the ocean views as a passenger and enjoy every moment of the
low-key drive, “from the hairpin turns approaching a valley to sheltered
coves with small fishing villages.” The Peninsula is drivable
year-round but consider May-October for pleasant climes and June and
July for potential whale sightings.
Kerala, Southern India
Kerala packed appeal for writer Cynthia Clampitt
in part because it’s off the main tourist track but also because of how
you see it, being as “the state of Kerala, point of origin of most of
the spices for which millennia of traders and explorers searched,”
Clampitt explains, “is criss-crossed by hundreds of miles of canals that
connect lakes and rivers, making it possible to sightsee from the
comfort of a houseboat. Houseboats are charming, converted rice barges
that have been fitted out with rooms, kitchens, toilets — and when
rented, come with a driver and a cook.” She adds that houseboat “is a
splendid way to see a side of life not often viewed by visitors — the
‘backyards’ of homes, women coming down to the river to wash clothes and
pans, fishermen casting nets, people loading rice or coconuts onto
barges, and much more of ordinary life. One can also use the houseboat
to actually tour, with stops available at temples, markets, and historic
sights. It is gloriously beautiful, relaxing, remarkable, and
eye-opening.” Count on the relatively coolest weather from October to
February. Average roundtrip January airfare from New York to Kerala’s
nearest airport in Kochi is about two grand.
Easter Island
Rapa Nui, better known as Easter Island, is
about 2000 miles from both Chile and Tahiti, which pretty much situates
it in the middle of nowhere, suggests author Lisa Shusterman.
“The only way to get to the island by plane is to catch a LAN Chile
flight from either Santiago or Papeete, Tahiti,” adding that “as you fly
into Rapa Nui, you look down at a small speck in the ocean and wonder
if it’s even big enough for your jet to land.” Though land it does, and
“when you stand on the top of one of the volcanoes on the island, you
see nothing but ocean, horizon and sky that go on forever. There’s no
better place I have been to where you can truly get a sense of the
curvature of the earth than standing at the top of Rano Kau, one of the
volcanoes.” One of the better known selling points of the island are the
Moai, more indelicately known as Easter Island heads, and Shusterman
says that during a week-long stay she never tired of seeing them. “They
are magnificent in their artwork and an enigma in their place in the
Rapa Nui culture. The ability for these people to move such massive
structures around the island is still a mystery.” Easter Island’s summer
from November to March is the most popular time to go; average
roundtrip fare from New York to Santiago during this period is $1100;
the hop from Santiago to Easter Island will put you back another $1,500.

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