1Today Kyoto remains the center of Japanese culture.
If you are a travel lover looking for new travel bucket list ideas and suggestions for interesting places that might alter you and your point of view, here are our 3 suggestions that might do that for you:
Travel bucket list destination #1:
Just a few hours away from Tokyo, this year’s host of the Olympics 2020, lies Kyoto, the city that was the capital of Japan for over 1000 years, from 794 to 1868. It was once known as Heiankyo - Capital of Peace and Tranquility. Today, Kyoto remains the center of Japanese culture, juxtaposing modern, urban life with traditional Japan.
The city overflowing with numerous spiritual sites attracts thousands of tourists every year, and many say to feel an immediate sense of warmth and positivity arriving to the city.
- Kyoto has over 2,500 impressive Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines
2Visiting Kyoto during the cherry blossom (Sakura) period is a unique experience
What to see in Kyoto? Top 5 places to visit
1. Arashiyama Bamboo Forest
The mystical bamboo forest at the foot of the Arashiyama mountains has become one of the most popular Kyoto landmarks. The path of the Bamboo Grove offers a cool and calming walk giving you a sense of the spiritual nature of the region, as the sun filters through the bamboos.
- In order to experience the walk in complete peace and avoid large crowds and groups of tourists, it is best to head into the woods early in the morning, just after sunrise.
2. Fushimi Inari Taisha
No trip to Kyoto is complete without visiting its iconic treasure, the Fushimi Inari-taisha Shrine. Located at the end of a string of tens of thousands of torii gates lies one of the most popular landmarks in Japan dedicated to Inari, the Shinto god of rice.
- Halfway up the mountain you’ll find the Yotsutsuji crossroad, where you’ll enjoy one of the most popular and incredible views of Kyoto.
Another very famous landmark in Kyoto is Kinkaku-ji, also known as Golden Pavilion. This Zen Buddhist temple is one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Kyoto and probably the most famous landmark in the city. Kinkaku-ji was destroyed in a fire in 1951 and rebuilt in 1955 as a perfect copy.
- There are 17 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Kyoto, and Kinkaku-ji is one of them.
4. Philosopher’s path
The popular Philosopher’s Path runs along the canal in the Higashiyama district. The 2km long path is named after one of Japan’s most respected philosophers, Nishida Kitaro who practiced meditation while walking this route on his daily commute to Kyoto University.
- The path is beautiful to visit throughout the year, however in spring is especially popular as it is covered in cherry blossoms.
One of the most celebrated temples of Japan, Kiyomizudera (literally “Pure Water Temple”) was founded in 780, close to the Otowa Waterfall. In 1994 the temple was added to the list of UNESCO world heritage sites. This shrine is worth a visit not only because of its beauty, but also the view that can be admired from the temple.
These are only five among thousands of beautiful temples, shrines and gardens to visit in Kyoto. However, the cultural center of Japan offers much more:
- Apart from numerous religious landmarks, Kyoto offers a vast number of restaurants and has the second largest number of Michelin stars in the world, succeeding Tokyo.
- The street food in Kyoto is worth a try as well, especially in the famous Gion district, where there are thousands of stalls serving traditional dishes.
- Nara, the capital of Japan from 710 to 794, is only a short distance from Kyoto and it hosts the Todai-ji temple where the Great Buddha Hall has the world’s largest bronze Buddha statue.
3There are over 32,000 torii gates on the way to the Fushimi Inari Shrine.
When to visit Kyoto?
The most recommended time to visit Kyoto is during spring or fall.
- Visiting Kyoto during the cherry blossom (Sakura) period is a unique experience, but it is also the most crowded and expensive season.
- Fall is a great time to visit Kyoto as the climate is good, and the autumn bring beautiful colours to the landscape.
- The end of June is when the rainy season starts and the weather can be quite hot and humid until late July.
How to get to Kyoto?
Kyoto is one of the best-connected cities in Japan, and it is only a short 15 minutes on the bullet train from Osaka and a couple of hours from Tokyo.
- If you are travelling from Kyoto to Tokyo, you will be able to experience a jaw-dropping view of Mount Fuji.
The nearest airport to Kyoto is Osaka, which has two international airports: Kansai International Airport (KIX) and Osaka International Airport or Itami (ITM).
Travel bucket list destination #2:
Pyramids of Giza, Egypt
Egypt is one of the most fascinating places in the world, featured on almost every travel-bucket list. It is a land of wonder and mysteries, with a profoundly rich history and some of the most awe-inspiring man-made structures ever seen. Egypt is a place that makes you step back in time and lets you experience an unforgettable insight the ancient civilizations.
- Cairo, the capital of Egypt, was named the third best destination in 2020 by Lonely Planet.
- In addition to the famous pyramids, this year you will also be able to visit the largest archeological museum in the world, the Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM), in the desert not far from the center of Cairo.
- Cairo is often associated with ancient pyramids since they are located in its geographical area.
4Khafre’s necropolis also included the Sphinx, a mysterious limestone monument with the body of a lion and a pharaoh’s head.
The Pyramids of Giza
Giza’s pyramids are the oldest most visited tourist attraction in history. They were built nearly 5000 years ago as monumental tombs on the orders of the pharaohs, who were expected to become gods in the afterlife.
- In 1979, the Pyramids of Giza were inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site along with the rest of the Memphis necropolis.
- Even today scientists can't be sure how the pyramids were built. Yet they have learned much about the people who built them and the political power necessary to make it happen.
- In 2010, Egyptian archaeologists discovered a worker’s burial ground that proved the pyramids were built by skilled, well-fed and paid artisans rather than slaves.
- Most recently, in May 2019, a new cemetery and sarcophagi were uncovered that are believed to be over 4,500 years old.
Giza Necropolis or the Giza Complex
The Giza Necropolis or the Giza pyramid complex is the site on the Giza Plateau that includes the three most known pyramids - Khufu, Khafre, and Menkaure, named after the pharaohs that built them - along with their associated pyramid complexes and the Great Sphinx of Giza.
- The pyramids lie on the west bank of the Nile, as the Egyptians believed that the west was to symbolize death, while the east was thought to be a representation of life.
The Great Pyramid of Giza (Pyramid of Khufu)
Pharaoh Khufu was the second king of Egypt’s 4th dynasty, he began the first Giza pyramid project around 2550 B.C. Khufu’s Pyramid is the largest in Giza and was the world’s tallest man-made structure for more than 3,800 years; it was originally 147 meters tall. It is the oldest of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, and the sole remaining largely intact.
- It is estimated that the Great Pyramid of Giza was created by approximately 2.3 million blocks of stone. According to the Greek historian Herodotus, this architectural feat required a workforce of 100,000 men and took 20 years to complete.
The Pyramid of Khafre
The second pyramid at Giza was built by Khufu’s son, Pharaoh Khafre, circa 2530 B.C. It is also the second tallest with 136.5 meters of height and has a base length of 215.5 meters. Some of this pyramid’s original limestone casing remains around the apex, although the rest was removed at various times throughout history.
- Khafre’s necropolis also included the Sphinx, a mysterious limestone monument with the body of a lion and a pharaoh’s head. It is the oldest-known monumental sculpture in Egypt and is especially impressive when one considers that it was carved out of a single chunk of the plateau’s limestone bedrock.
The third of the Giza Pyramids was built by Pharaoh Menkaure circa 2490 B.C. It is considerably smaller than the first two, it rises to a height of 62 meters and is made of granite and uncharacteristically huge limestone blocks.
The three main pyramids and the sphinx are the main tourist attraction, but there is much more to see at Giza - smaller pyramids, tombs, temples and the Solar Boat museum.
- If you plan to visit the pyramids independently there are public buses, taxis and even Uber rides from central Cairo.
- To avoid the crowds, it is best to visit the pyramid complex in the late afternoon, after the majority of tourist groups have gone.
5The best time to visit Egypt from October to April because of the most pleasant temperatures.
When to visit Egypt?
The best time to visit Egypt from October to April because of the most pleasant temperatures. However, December and January are peak tourist season so they could be notoriously crowded.
How to get to the Pyramids?
The Pyramids of Giza are approximately on an hour-long drive from Cairo.
Travel bucket list destination #3:
Cappadocia is one of those places that you see in photographs and wonder whether it is real or photomontage. It is one of the most incredible places known for its panoramic view of hundreds of hot air balloons flowing above the valley and volcanic fairy chimney formations.
6Cappadocia hot air balloons are becoming one of the most common travel bucket list items in the world.
Cappadocia’s unique natural landscape
The unusual and bizarre landscape of Cappadocia is what makes this place so magical. Its unique landscape was formed by centuries of historic volcanic eruptions and long-term erosion. A group of ancient volcanoes, Mount Erciyes, Hasan and Melendiz, covered the area with numerous layers of thick ash that solidified into soft rock, which was then eroded by wind and water, creating a series of interesting formations.
- While the nature shaped the Goreme valley in this extremely interesting way, in the fourth century small communities began inhabiting the weirdly shaped rocks, creating some of the most striking and largest cave-dwelling complexes in the world
What to do in Cappadocia?
Watching the Sunrise from a Hot Air Balloon
While there are plenty of things to do in this beautiful place, Cappadocia hot air balloons are becoming one of the most common travel bucket list items in the world. Hundreds of balloons fly nearly every morning above the magical and unique landscape, giving thousands of visitors a day the experience of a lifetime.
- Up to 100 balloons take off before sunrise, and then another 50 or so half an hour after sunrise.
- The balloons fly approximately 250 days of the year, so you can admire the sunrise in summer and spring, but also in winter.
- The best time to go hot air ballooning is from April to November because of the most favorable weather conditions. However, from June to August is the peak season so it can get very crowded during those months.
- Since hot air ballooning is the most popular attraction in Cappadocia, you must book as early as possible, that is months in advance if possible.
- It is also good to stay for two or three nights to maximize your chances of a balloon ride, in case it gets cancelled.
If by some very unfortunate chance you don’t get to go on a ride, you can choose to watch the balloons from one of the viewpoints in Cappadocia. It is a magical experience as well, viewing the fairytale scene of over 100 balloons floating above the historic cave dwellings at sunrise.Admiring the Sunset from one of the many viewpoints
Cappadocia has way more to offer than hot air ballooning; you can explore its underground cities, open air museum and archaeological sites, but you can also drive or hike to one of its many viewpoints.
- Red Valley is one of the must-visit places in Cappadocia. You can hike to the top or just drive straight to the sunset viewpoint and enjoy the last sun rays burning into the unique landscape.
- Rose Valley is another place hard to go past, unique for its particular rock formations that have a pink tinge which becomes even more evident during the sunset.
- Uchisar Castle is one of the best places to watch the sunset in Cappadocia, as it is the highest point of the region and it offers a unique 360-degree view over Cappadocia.
- Lover’s hill (Asiklar Tepesi) is situated in Goreme and it is also referred to as “Sunset Point”, which makes it very popular among tourists, so it might be pretty crowded during summer. But it is also a very good spot to watch the sunrise and take some great hot air balloons photos!
7The unusual and bizarre landscape of Cappadocia is what makes this place so magical.
How to get to Cappadocia
To get to Cappadocia region it is easiest to fly to Istanbul, and then get a flight to Kayseri (Erkilet International Airport or ASR) or Nevşehir (Nevşehir Kapadokya Airport or NAV). There are several flights from Istanbul daily, and they take just over an hour.
Care for more bucket-list-worthy destinations?
Check our guide on where to see the Northern Lights in 2021 & have a look at 10 tricks to buy cheaper flight tickets.