Trips that will change your life
People who have experienced a personal transformation often report feeling as if they have become a part of something bigger than themselves, and what’s bigger than this mile-deep hole in the Earth’s surface?
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Whether you ride a mule to the bottom, raft the river that runs through it or just stare at 6 million years of nature’s handiwork, you can’t help but consider the insignificance of human history.
Charles Darwin developed his theory of evolution after realizing how different the flora and fauna were on these remote Ecuadorean islands. Tourism is already threatening what makes the Galapagos so incredibly precious, so make sure you visit in a sustainable manner — stay off all-terrain vehicles and don’t touch wildlife. But do go, before this real-life incubator is forever lost to development.
For some vacationers who have been there, done that, India is an acronym for I’ll Never Do It Again. For others, the initial visit is but the first step on a path to spiritual enlightenment. Whether you fall in love with India’s bright colors and palpable energy or you can’t quite get past the country’s crowds and oppressive poverty, you’ll surely see things differently back home.
Video: Travel guide to India
The pope’s home has so many treasures from around the world that they can’t all be displayed properly. Even if you breeze through the Vatican Museums on your way to the Sistine Chapel, you can’t help but be amazed at the countless priceless artworks. Just witnessing Michelangelo’s ceiling, crowned by the iconic “Creation of Adam,” is a bucket-list event.
No state is as different from the other 49 as the Final Frontier, a vast land populated not so much by people as by bears, salmon, and orcas. You’re more likely to travel by boat or float plane than by car. After witnessing the northern lights or the midnight sun from atop a Windex-blue glacier, you may never want to go home.
Pyramid of Giza
The world’s tallest structure when it was constructed 5,000 years ago, the biggest of the three pyramids connects us to our earliest human ancestors. The oldest of the Ancient World’s Seven Wonders, it’s also the only one still standing, making it all the more remarkable. Although Egypt is experiencing political upheaval, the State Department hasn’t issued warnings for American travelers.
This tiny Central American nation is home to an astounding 5 percent of the world’s biodiversity, including four different kinds of monkey. But people seem to visit Costa Rica as much for the cat-cows and downward dogs as for the turtles and toucans; pura vida (pure life) is the country’s unofficial motto, and it seems as if half its accommodations are yoga retreats or eco-lodges.
Engineers still aren’t sure how the Incas moved massive boulders up mountains back in 1450, but they do know these mortarless structures have been amazingly resistant to earthquake damage. Some archaeologists consider Machu Picchu sacred, but you needn’t trek the Inca Trail for a religious experience. Just find a tranquil terrace and contemplate how this UNESCO World Heritage site remained undiscovered for centuries.
Ireland’s patron saint fasted for 40 days atop this 2,500-foot peak in 441 A.D. before casting the snakes out of the Emerald Isle, and millions of pilgrims have followed his footsteps ever since — many of them barefoot. If the summit’s knockout views of Clew Bay don’t move you, the kindness of strangers in the nearby town of Westport surely will.
Though the Holy Land is a time-honored destination for religious pilgrims, you don’t have to believe in God to be awed by the land where Judaism, Christianity and Islam all find their roots. A visit here is like a walk through the Bible, following in the footsteps of Abraham and his many descendants. You may not be able to part the Red Sea like Moses, but you can snorkel among its amazing coral reefs.