The World’s Most Popular ‘Wishlist’ Travel Experience

People may not have traveled much over the past year, but that hasn’t stopped them from looking for ideas online.

Unforgettable Travel, the luxury travel company, wanted to know what travel experiences people have been searching for most over the past year. With the help of digital marketing agency SEO Travel, the company compiled a list of 135 of the world’s most popular “property list” destinations and used the software to determine how many people plan to visit each location.

Top 10 travel experiences in terms of search for “property list”

travel experience Global Monthly Searches
Visit Burj Khalifa in Dubai 10000
Sailing around the Statue of Liberty 9300
Hiking to Mount Everest Base Camp in Nepal 9000
Sailing the Nile in Egypt

7900
Go to the top of the Eiffel Tower 7900
See the Las Vegas Strip 7400
Crossing the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco 7400
Seeing New York City from the top of the Empire State Building 6500
Tour the Louvre Museum in Paris 6400
Exploring the Colosseum in Rome 6400

According to the research, which analyzed searches from May 2020 to May 2021, the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, was the most sought after travel experience, a finding that surprised the team at Unforgettable Travel.

With more than 160 floors, Burj Khalifa is 2,716 feet tall, or more than twice the height of New York’s 1,250-foot Empire State Building in Dubai.

Fraser Hall | Photo Bank | Getty Images

“There have been some experiences in the top ten alone that we thought would rank lower despite being great experiences…and that includes the No. 1 Burj Khalifa in Dubai,” said Luke Harvey, the company’s director of marketing. “But the fact that Dubai has remained open to visitors for the vast majority of the time during the pandemic will help set it up.”

This wasn’t the team’s only surprise.

“The treks to Mount Everest base camp are certainly a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and yet we didn’t think they would defeat the likes of the Colosseum in Rome,” he said.

The Statue of Liberty is located on Liberty Island, a small island owned by the federal government to the south of the Manhattan area.

Victor Bleu | Bloomberg | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Mount Everest’s place on the list may reflect the growing preferences for outdoor travel activities. Six hiking expeditions featured in the top 50 list, including Mount Everest, Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Havasu Falls in Arizona, Norway’s Trolltunga, Table Mountain in South Africa, and the Peruvian Inca Trail to Machu Picchu.

“bucket list” travel experiences by continent

Continent listings show which travel experiences and locations get the most attention online in certain parts of the world.

Africa

History, wildlife and natural wonders top the most searched sites in Africa, including some that have been linked in terms of global search activity.

1. Sailing the Nile
2. Climb Mount Kilimanjaro
2. Hiking to the top of Table Mountain in Cape Town
4. Seeing Chefchaouen, Morocco’s ‘blue city’
5. Hiking on Mount Kenya
6. Bungee jumping over the Victoria Falls Bridge
6. Trekking to see gorillas in Uganda
8. Seeing the Sahara Desert
9. Go on a safari in the Ngorongoro Crater
9. Visit the old city of Marrakesh

“These are all great activities in some of the best destinations in Africa,” said Kent Redding, president and co-founder of luxury safari company, Africa Adventure Consultants.

He told CNBC that while those locations are open, travelers should expect some restrictions due to the pandemic. For example, visitors must stay within 10 meters of gorillas in Uganda, and the cable car at Table Mountain is closed until at least July 11, he said.

Travelers to Africa this year are “experiencing a level of exclusivity not seen in a century,” said Kent Reading of Africa Adventure Consultant.

Sergio Petamitz | Volkswagen photos | global photo collection | Getty Images

Reading said the 2022 travel season is filling up quickly due to delays this year and “a lot of new bookings” for next year. This means that there are plenty of opportunities for travelers wanting to travel this year, he said.

“While travelers are facing some of the hurdles they are traveling through now — including canceled flights, intermittent shutdowns, and lots of Covid testing — those who can beat the punches are having incredible experiences,” Reading said. “They visit some of Africa’s most famous parks and see amazing wildlife…with no one else around.”

Antarctica

The White Continent only has one experience on the list – you just need to apply to it.

1. Visit Antarctica

“Antarctica has always had a unique allure,” said Patrick Woodhead, managing director of White Desert, a luxury tour company that organizes excursions into the interior of the continent. “Customers are drawn to the Continent because it continues to represent a sense of discovery in travel lost in many other places on Earth.”

Despite impressions that Antarctica is a large iceberg, the continent is “incredibly diverse,” said Patrick Woodhead of White Desert.

Jaime Diaz | 500 Pixels Prime | Getty Images

Woodhead said the 2021-2022 travel season will be the company’s busiest season yet.

“With such pent-up demand for so long, customers aren’t waiting to experience a lifelong dream,” he told CNBC.

Asia

Although most of Asia was closed to tourism last year, people are still searching for information about these experiences:

1. Visit Burj Khalifa in Dubai
2. Hiking to Mount Everest Base Camp in Nepal
3. Walk around the Taj Mahal
4. Travel to Japan during the cherry blossom season
5. Seeing the Forbidden City in China
6. Diving in the Indonesian islands of Raja Ampat
7. Watching the sunrise at Angkor Wat
8. Swimming in the Dead Sea
9. Take a tour of the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur
10. Seeing the sunrise at Borobudur Temple

Perhaps the least well-known place on the list of Asia, the archipelago of Raja Ampat Island in Indonesia is among the best places in the world for scuba diving.

Afriandi | moment | Getty Images

The list includes feats of modern architecture – Burj Khalifa and Petronas Towers – and historical – the temples of Angkor Wat and Borobudur as well as the Forbidden City in China.

Extreme phenomena in nature are also highlighted; The highest mountain in the world – Mount Everest – and the lowest place on Earth – the Dead Sea between Israel and Jordan – are on the list.

Europe

The top three most searched sites in Europe come as no surprise, and the rest of the list is an eclectic mix of architecture, nature, exercise and entertainment.

1. Climb to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
2. Tour the Louvre Museum in Paris
2. Explore the Colosseum in Rome
4. Go to Glastonbury Festival
5. Partying in Ibiza
6. Ride the Orient Express
7. Seeing La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona
8. Visit Buckingham Palace in London
9. Navigating the Norwegian Fjords
10. Running the London Marathon

Europe ranked first on the longest list, with 19 out of 50 places. Italy acquired four additional planes with Pompeii, the Cinque Terre, the Sistine Chapel and the Venice Canals.

Two experiences in Iceland – seeing the aurora borealis and swimming in the warm waters of a blue lake – also toured Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany and Stonehenge in the UK.

Spain’s unfinished La Sagrada Familia overtook Buckingham Palace in the UK in terms of global research interest last year.

By Yves Livesey | moment | Getty Images

Europe has opened its doors to some international travelers once again, but tourists should note that not all of these experiences are up and running yet.

North America

Four travel experiences between major North American cities made the top ten globally. The rest focused on more rural areas of the continent.

1. Visit the Statue of Liberty
2. Seeing the Las Vegas Strip
2. Cross the Golden Gate Bridge
4. Go to the top of the Empire State Building
5. Take a helicopter ride over the Grand Canyon
6. Stumble on the road down Route 66
7. Attending the Coachella Festival
7. Seeing Niagara Falls on the US-Canada border
9. Camping in Banff National Park in Canada
10. Seeing Mt. Rushmore

“This is a fantastic list, and I think it hits a lot of America’s best sites and experiences,” said Roswana Bashir, CEO of travel experiences booking website Peek.

She said one way to make bucket list trips special is to see them in interesting ways. From this list, she recommends taking an underground tour of the Grand Canyon, liner in the Mojave Desert outside of Las Vegas, and taking a seaplane over the Golden Gate Bridge.

The seaplane ride offers “fantastic views” of the Golden Gate Bridge and the city of San Francisco, said Roswana Bashir.

Xavier Honer Photography | moment | Getty Images

“On Route 66, I recommend stopping in Peach Springs to tour the amazing caves, take a tour around Santa Fe kayaking the Rio Grande River and enjoy a local handcrafted cocktail at a beautiful distillery in Galena, Kansas,” Bashir said.

Other must-see experiences in North America, she added, are hot air balloon rides over Napa Valley, a visit to Yosemite National Park and waterfall yoga in North Carolina’s Smoky Mountains.

Oceania

After Antarctica, the least populous continent in the world is Oceania, which includes Australia, Papua New Guinea, New Zealand, and many smaller islands, such as Fiji, Guam, and French Polynesia.

Unsurprisingly, all but one of the most searched for travel activities include outdoor activities.

1. Diving in the Great Barrier Reef
2. Watch a show at the Sydney Opera
3. See Hobbiton New Zealand
4. Visit the monolith of Uluru, or Ayers Rock
5. Stay in an overwater bungalow in Bora Bora
6. Tour Waitomo Glowworm Caves in New Zealand

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern tours Hobbiton on October 4, 2018 in Matamata, New Zealand.

Hannah Peters | Getty Images News | Getty Images

The most recent of these experiences is the Hobbiton Movie Set in Matamata in the North Island of New Zealand. Tolkien fans can book a guided walking tour of the 12-acre film set used in both the “Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit” trilogy.

South America

Online interest is focused on outdoor activities in South America as well.

1. Hiking to Machu Picchu
2. See wildlife in the Galapagos Islands
2. Experiencing biodiversity in Costa Rica
4. Walking on the Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia (salt flats)
4. Visit Iguazu Falls, where Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay meet
4. Seeing Easter Island’s Moai
7. Visit the San Pedro de Atacama Desert
8. Explore Patagonia
9. Sandboarding in Huacachina, Peru
10. Seeing the Amazon Rainforest

Rain causes the Uyuni salt flats in Bolivia to take on a mirror-like quality.

Kazuki Kimura / EyeEm | EyeEm Premium | Getty Images

Topping the list of the most famous tourist destinations in Peru is Machu Picchu. It was also one of the four “New Seven Wonders of the World” to be featured in the list of the 50 most searched travel experiences.

“The main surprise was that some of the ‘Seven Wonders’ didn’t make the top 50, including the Great Wall of China, Petra in Jordan, and Christ the Redeemer in Brazil,” Harvey of Unforgettable Travel said.

In the end, he brought it back to the sheer scale of the competition.

“There are so many amazing things to see and do in our world,” he said.

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