Nine Bucket List Travel Destinations to Hit Up Now Borders Have Opened (and You Can Book Now)
Pack your bags and put the out-of-office email on — it's holiday time.
October 11, 2022
Internationally and at home, borders have been opening up to tourists. Finally, we can get back to crossing destinations and experiences off our ever-growing travel bucket lists.
We can run away to remote beaches. We can get lost in bustling cities full of culture. And, at last, we can go to a place which isn't full of your neighbours – don't be mad, sometimes it's good to be around different people.
All in all, it's time to go exploring (or escaping). To get out of our local towns and cities and experience something new. There are endless possibilities when it comes to choosing where to go next, so let us help you. We've created this list of incredible locations and paired them up with some exclusive holiday deals. All you've got to do is pack your bags and put your out-of-office on.
Why: Thank the travel gods for Japan's reopening to tourists. This country is on so many people's travel bucket lists for so many reasons. Nature lovers, foodies, thrill seekers and culture kids are all offered something entirely unique in a place that's unlike anywhere else on earth. Who could say no to sake-fuelled karaoke nights, whacky themed restaurants and remote onsen baths?
How: Get through your Japan bucket list using the country's famously elite rail system and staying in a mix of traditional ryokan accommodation and modern hotels. Experience the can't-miss places by starting in Kyoto — where you'll get the best of 'old' Japan (including the iconic Golden Pavilion and historic geisha district of Gion), making your way to Hiroshima to visit the Peace Memorial Park and Museum, before experiencing the sensory overload and diverse culture of one of the world's most dynamic cities, Tokyo. You'll need at least 10 days to do it properly.
Go if you want to... experience a collision of cultures, both ancient and ultra-modern, in one of the most tourist-friendly places on earth.
Why: Based around two stunning harbours and surrounded by picturesque islands, Auckland is a city like no other. Yes, nature is on your doorstep. Wineries are just a short drive away. As are remote beaches and Lord Of The Rings-esque mountain ranges. But this city is worthy of visiting in and of itself. You've got world renowned galleries, exciting restaurants and bars opening up all the time, theatres packed with long line-ups of comedians and musicians and a heap of other cultural happenings.
How: First things first, we will do you the service of directing you to the Auckland section of Concrete Playground but here's a few of our personal selections. You can explore world-class exhibitions at the Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, find all the best local wares and fresh produce at the Farmers Market in Matakana, visit the island of wine (Waiheke Island), do some whale watching in the Hauraki Gulf or go on a road trip up on the west coast to find some of New Zealand's best beaches.
Go if you want to… see what all the New Zealand hype is about — exploring endless natural landscapes as well as experiencing the city's thriving arts and food scene.
Where: Cook Islands
Why: Each of the 15 islands that make up the Cook Islands is a tropical paradise. We could gawk at photos of the palm-lined beaches, vast turquoise lagoons and coral reefs full of your Finding Nemo favourites for days on days. But that's just pure masochism. Get on a plane and visit the Pacific paradise instead. The Cook Islands are on the bucket list of so many beach-loving travellers — be they snorkelling and scuba diving enthusiasts, or lovers of luxury resorts and beachside glamping experiences.
How: Located a six-hour (ish) flight from the east coast of Australia, your first port of call will be Rarotonga. Within an hour of landing, you can find yourself at a beach bar sipping cocktails or floating around in your own private plunge pool — forgetting that the rest of the world exists. You can then go further afield on a series of island cruise tours, hikes up into the rainforests, or go snorkelling around coral reefs. Alternatively, hire a bike and find your own private patch of Rarotonga to call home for the day.
Go if you want to…. escape to a tropical island paradise.
Why: You can live out your best Lara Croft fantasies in Cambodia's jungles (with less stealing of local artefacts and blowing up of beautiful ancient sites). The underrated Southeast Asian bucket list location is a land of spectacular ancient temples that nature is slowly claiming as its own. The villages and cities each have their own bustling markets full of local wares and tasty street food. And the welcoming locals will help you better understand their own captivating culture.
How: When in Cambodia, you must visit the ancient temples of Angkor Wat in Siem Reap (or lesser-known Ta Prohm nearby) and learn the secrets behind Khmer cuisine in bustling food markets and at some of the countless street food stalls dotted about the country. Phnom Penh is, of course, a city that also deserves your time and attention. Reflect on Cambodia's tragic history at sobering sites such as the S21 school and the Killing Fields before taking in their spectacularly colourful palaces and pagodas. And, while you're in the area, try to fit in a visit to one of Cambodia's hot ticket neighbouring countries like Vietnam and Laos.
Go if you want to… explore ancient temples surrounded by nature and wildlife as well as get a culture overload within seemingly chaotic cities full of incredibly welcoming locals who will feed you all the best local grub.
Book it now: Book the complete Cambodia adventure tour here.
Where: Byron Bay
Why: let's just say this from the get-go — Byron Bay is so much more than just the home of soulless influencers and the brothers' Hemsworth. Byron Bay and its surrounding regions are an embarrassment of riches when it comes to incredible beaches, one of Australia's most exciting food and produce scenes, and is the ultimate wellness playground with resorts, retreats and experiences that are dedicated to losing yourself or finding yourself.
How: Set yourself up in accommodation that is social. It's a great place to meet likeminded people — do some group yoga classes, find your zen during a guided meditation, or set out on a sea kayaking adventure to spot turtles and dolphins. Spend your nights out at great restaurants, hit up some local bars and stroll through the town and beyond. You don't need to go full luxury here. You can enjoy Byron's vibe on a decent budget too.
Go if you want to… live without shoes for an entire week by the coast, treating yourself to all the best self-care experiences.
Book it now: Book a restorative Byron Bay wellness escape here.
Why: This North African country is bursting with natural wonders, from the beaches lining The Med all the way through to the red sandy dunes of the Sahara Desert. And the cities are just as special. Get lost in maze-like markets where you'll find locals selling just about anything (from extraordinary spices to beautiful textiles), before exploring a range of cities and villages steeped in history and eclectic architecture.
How: Casablanca and Marrakech are the spots to set up your base. Within Casablanca, you can visit the famous Villa des Arts Gallery & Museum for world-class exhibitions and visit the mind-blowing Hassan II Mosque located right on the water. And, from here, you can get a taste of Morocco's rural culture in colourful towns such as Rabat and Meknes. Marrakech, an ancient city wrapped in European modernity is where you'll find bustling bazaars and hammams for all the best pampering. It's also close to the Sahara Desert, where you can find the quintessential camel ride experiences and luxury camps. To get the most out of Morocco, you'll want to spend a couple weeks jumping from city to city.
Go if you want to... mix remote desert glamping with bustling cities steeped in culture — expressed through food, art and architecture.
Why: Bali is beautiful. That's undeniable. And it's been on the top of the travel list for many Australians for decades. But some of the best parts of Bali exist in the remote areas where nature is mostly untamed. Walk along empty beaches and through dense jungles or simply swim in your pool overlooking all that natural beauty.
How: Zip around the winding roads of Bali on a quad bike (or just get a taxi if you dare not undertake this feat) to explore the temples, holistic centres, yoga studios, rice fields and stacks of local markets of the Ubud region. You won't see quite as many Bintag singlets in these parts. You can also visit Canggu and Uluwatu to find the best surf or Kuta and Seminyak for those famous Bali party vibes. Choose your own Bali adventure.
Go if you want to... run away to a remote jungle paradise and live that luxury lifestyle without breaking the bank.
Why: Why the hell not?! Mexico has it all. Urban cities full of modern art and culture — and let's not forget the legendary and world class cuisine. Then you've got long white sand beaches that stretch on for miles as well as dense forests with hidden waterfalls for the adventurers. Small villages are also full of vibrant indigenous cultures where residents still live the traditional way of life. There are boundless ways to fall in love with Mexico.
How: Mexico City is a mighty fine starting off point. The Leon Trotsky and Frida Kahlo (La Casa Azul) Museums are must-see. As are the colourful Diego Rivera Murals in the Mural Museum. Make sure you carve out some time to get lost in the Juarez neighbourhood too. This area, full of young creatives, has evolved in recent years. Once gritty, it is now teeming with great boutiques, bars, parks, and restaurants.
Smaller cities such as Izamal and Merida are also great for a less crowded cultural experiences. You've then got Teotihuacan, Mitla and Oaxaca, where you'll find countless ancient archaeological sites steeped in history. And lastly, there is the one and only Playa del Carmen. Sit by the pool (finishing that book you've been working on for far too long) or get a little more active with snorkelling excursions. We could go on and on about the abundance of joy to be found on a journey to Mexico. Just make sure you give yourselves two weeks to see as much of this country as you can.
Go if you want to… experience an intoxicatingly joyful culture — expressed through warm hospitality, flavour-packed food and all manners of modern and ancient art. The famous beaches and coastal towns aren't so bad for pure relaxation either.
Why: There are over 1400 islands in Thailand. And they range in reasons to visit. Visitors choose where to go depending on whether they're after party vibes, quiet escapes, family-friendly fun or adventure activities. But the beauty of Phuket is that it offers up a little bit of everything. You can do it all here — all while being surrounded by 50 kilometres of dazzling shoreline.
How: First off, Mai Khao Beach is a big bucket list destination. This seemingly infinite stretch of sand lined with trees is what postcards are made for. It's stupid beautiful. Plus, it's also a national park and sea turtle zone. That means it's the perfect place to get your snorkel on. Patong is the nightlife epicentre of Phuket — for better or for worse. Here you'll find a booming party scene, busy beaches and neon-lit streets full of people having a ball. But if this one island isn't enough, you can easily jump on a ferry to nearby islands or take a day-long cruise around a bunch of the best.
Go if you want to... get all the best bits of staying on an island without emptying your entire savings account.
Feeling inspired to book a getaway? You can now book your next dream holiday through Concrete Playground Trips with deals on flights, stays and experiences at destinations all around the world.
Top Image: Danny Lau (Unsplash)
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