5 Natural and Cultural Wonders You Should Add to Your Bucket List

By Kim Dreese

I was born with a permanent case of wanderlust. Growing up, I would look at maps, atlases, and encyclopedias and dream of faraway places. I had relatively humble upbringings, however, so when we went on family vacations, we’d typically never go anywhere more exotic than a Delaware beach.

In high school, I had the opportunity to become a student ambassador and travel to several different European countries at a reduced rate. I fell in love with foreign voices, smells, and tastes, and I’ve been traveling as often as I could ever since. But unless I become a bestselling novelist or find a sugar daddy, I won’t be able to see these amazing sights on my bucket list for a while.

1: An Eruption in Hawaii

Volcanic eruption in Hawaii - 5 Natural and Cultural Wonders You Should Add to Your Bucket List - Frayed Passport

Via creative commons.

Hawaii was on my bucket list before I even knew what a bucket list was. Ever since I read The Bobbsey Twins In Volcano Land in elementary school, it’s been my number one travel goal to visit Hawaii and see a volcanic eruption. After reading that book, I devoured all kinds of literature and TV specials on volcanoes. I was convinced that I was going to grow up to become a volcanologist, but it wasn’t until a few years later that I realized that that required entirely too much math.

This beautiful island state of Hawaii is home to the Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, which encompasses Kilauea and Mauna Loa, two active volcanoes. It was established in 1916 and became a World Heritage Site in 1987.

Hawaii is fascinating because although it is technically a part of the United States, the nation has a completely separate heritage and mythology. Although the original polytheistic Hawaiin religion was abandoned in the early 1800s, belief in some deities have stuck around. For example, Hawaiin lore suggests that Pele, the goddess of volcanoes, lives in Kilauea and is responsible for eruptions. Pele is said to release “Pele’s tears” during eruptions, which are small bits of molten material that form into tear shapes about the size of a dime.

2: The Northern Lights

Although I have a general distaste for the cold, I would absolutely be willing to sacrifice personal comfort in order to experience this incredible natural phenomenon.

Northern Lights - 5 Natural and Cultural Wonders You Should Add to Your Bucket List - Frayed Passport

Via Wikimedia Commons.

The northern lights are formally known as the aurora borealis in northern latitudes. They get their appearance from millions of solar particles crashing into the earth’s magnetic field. The peak season to see the lights runs from October to March for northern areas such as Alaska, Greenland, Canada, Russia, and more.

I think the most amazing way to experience the aurora would be by staying at the Hotel Kakslauttanen, a hotel in Finland that offers guests the ability to stay in glass igloos and admire the lights all through the night. 

3: La Tomatina, Spain

I am obsessed with crazy holidays. Although I dearly love America, food, and vacation time, we have some pretty stuffy traditional holidays. Other countries, however, will find an excuse to celebrate just about anything. Let’s take a look at how Spain celebrates their holidays, for example.

Thankfully, this is not a depiction of a spontaneous civil war or the way Spanish people get revenge on the bulls who run them over. La Tomatina, as this festival is known, is the world’s biggest food fight.

La Tomatina participants gather on the Plaza del Pueblo and wait breathlessly for armies of delivery trucks to provide enormous amounts of tomatoes in from a nearby city. The festival cannot truly begin until someone climbs up a greasy, two-story high pole and secures the ham that is traditionally placed at the top. Following this gathering of the ham, water cannons shoot off to announce the commencement of the festival, and every man, woman, and child grabs tomatoes and begins hurling them at other people.

The actual tomato fight lasts for approximately an hour. Participants are encouraged to wear safety goggles for protection, and everyone is required to squish the tomatoes before they can throw them to avoid unnecessarily injuring anyone else.

Approximately 40,000—50,000 people from all over the world descend on Buñol in eastern Spain for this festival each year. Nobody really knows exactly how or why it started, but there are several entertaining theories. Who wouldn’t want to go to a beautiful foreign country with some friends and hurl tomatoes at everyone and everything? Definitely on the bucket list.

4: A Sunset in Santorini

Greece is another country that’s been on my bucket list since I was a little girl. I’ve always loved Greek and Roman mythology, and when I saw Santorini in Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, I knew I had to go there.

The sunsets of Santorini are supposed to be so beautiful that life in the city simply stops as people descend from their homes and businesses to watch the sun set over the Mediterranean.

And who could blame them? I can easily see myself leaning against a whitewashed wall, admiring the pink, purple, and blue hues of a day slowly fading into night over the ocean.

5: Pamukkale, Turkey

Pamukkale is uniquely awesome because it’s one of those places that when you first see a picture of it, you can’t exaclty figure out what you’re looking at. The first time I saw a picture of the city, I thought I was looking at some kind of arctic landscape.

Although this scene looks like a winter wonderland, it’s actually a hot spring. This mineral bath is known as the “Cotton Fortress” and forms travertines from calcium, which gives it its terraced look.

Pumakkale is also quite historic. The ancient Romans built the city of Hierapolis around the spring, and today’s visitors can still see the remains of marble columns from the Temple of Apollo from a free swim in the Sacred Pool.

The world is an enormous and beautiful place, and I can’t wait to cross these items off my bucket list someday.

What’s on your bucket list? Post your ideas below!