During March and April, while I was trying to come to terms with the new “normal”, I didn’t even dare think about travelling, let alone a travel bucket list. I was hunkering down, keeping my nose to the ground, and just focusing on having enough groceries (and toilet paper!) to survive each day.

By May, as the COVID-19 numbers started to come down (at least in Canada) and the curve to flatten, I dared to dream a bit. By then I didn’t think I would go very far in 2020, but eventually this crisis would come to an end. And travel would pick up again, but no doubt in a profoundly changed world.

Where would I go then?

I’ve never liked crowds and over-touristed places, but now I’ve taken them out of the equation completely. Forget mega-cities and overrun hiking trails. I will seek less popular places that are still beautiful, interesting, different, and have friendly people.

Not too surprisingly, what I am left with looks pretty similar to my pre-pandemic travel bucket list!

Without further ado then, here are the places that I seriously want to visit when it is safe to do so again.


Romania Peles Castle (travel bucket list)

Romania Peles Castle. Image by Marius Mitea from Pixabay.

Romania began actively courting tourists a few years ago and this is when I started finding out more about this Eastern European nation. Surrounded by Slavic countries, Romania is an anomaly as the population speaks a Romance language (based on vulgar Latin like Italian, Spanish, French and Portuguese).

Physically, the countryside looks very green and pristine, with villages and medieval towns strewn about, the Carpathian Mountains, and of course the capital Bucharest, which seems to have modernized a lot in recent years. It’s also famous for Bran Castle (associated with the Dracula legend) but contains many other fortified castles and churches as well. Brasov sounds like an especially lovely town.

The cuisine sounds interesting, borrowing influences from many cultures, including Turkish, Greek, and Hungarian.

And since I have the time, I may even be able to learn a bit of Romanian before I get there!

Georgia & Armenia

Georgia Caucasus Mountains (travel bucket list)

Georgia Caucasus Mountains. Image by Richard Mcall from Pixabay.

Located in the Caucasus, at the frontier of Europe and Asia, these two small countries are now on the list of many seasoned travellers. Tourism has exploded in Georgia over the last decade, but I still wouldn’t expect to see the crowds one expects in the main cities of Western Europe.

Known for its grandiose mountainous landscapes, wine-making tradition, and the eclectic architecture of the capital, Tbilisi, Georgia is also a foodie country (so much so that Intrepid offers a food tour there, among other itineraries). Besides exploring cultural highlights such as the 12th century cave-monastery of Vardzia, I would also expect to do some hiking, and food-focused activities. And perhaps also make it all the way to the Black Sea coast.

Armenia, right across the southern border of Georgia, was one of the earliest countries to convert to Christianity, and has some of the oldest churches in the world. With a rich history, culture, and phenomenal landscapes, and again lots of old stone monasteries, Armenia looks like a good complement to Georgia. And I suspect that it’s probably even less busy. With its pink-stone neoclassical buildings, Yerevan looks like another pretty and interesting capital to explore.

While Georgia and Armenia were both former Soviet republics, they have their own unique languages (Georgian and Armenian) and scripts. I read that it’s rare to encounter English speakers outside the capitals, so I may decide to join a tour for at least part of the trip, such as this one , before and after which I could spend a few days on my own in both Yerevan and Tbilisi.


Madagascar ring-tailed lemurs (travel bucket list)

Madagascar ring-tailed lemurs. Image by Marjon Besteman-Horn from Pixabay.

Africa is a continent that I’ve explored so little, there are many countries still on my list. However, as time goes by, I find myself less and less interested by the sites that everyone visits, namely game parks like the Serengeti in Tanzania, and Kruger in South Africa.

Enters Madagascar, a huge island nation in the southeast of Africa. Having evolved in isolation from the mainland, 90% of the wildlife here is found nowhere else on Earth. Madagascar may not attract the crowds that Tanzania, Kenya, and South Africa do, since it doesn’t have the “Big 5” but here you can see several species of cute lemurs and chameleons, in addition to some weird plants like the gigantic baobab trees.

The country has a wealth of national parks and beaches, but it’s also notoriously hard to travel around, with bad roads and slow public transportation. So I’m thinking that a tour may allow me to see more in less time here. But it would have to be a French tour because French is Madagascar’s second language after their native Malagasy, and also my first language! (So taking an English-speaking tour would just be weird.)


Ethiopian tribe people

Ethiopian tribespeople. Image by emocje from Pixabay.

Years ago, I read in National Geographic that Ethiopia is the only African country that has never been colonized. And there are 54 countries in Africa! Every other country apparently has been at some point occupied by either the British, the French, the Dutch, the Italians, the Germans, or the Portuguese (did I forget anyone?)

That fact alone made me want to visit Ethiopia. A bit more research also quickly revealed a unique sight: the rock-cut Christian churches of Lalibela, dating back to the 12-13th centuries (dug by hand out of solid rock). This site is actually included in my “Unforgettable places to see before you die” coffee table book.

Ethiopia was probably one of the first inhabited places on Earth. This is where the skeleton of “Lucy” was found, a hominid who lived around 3.2 million years ago. Several other UNESCO World Heritage Sites also relate to archeology such as Axum, one of the oldest continuously inhabited places in Africa, and Tiya, where Middle Stone Age tools and megaliths have been found.

In the extreme south of the country live the tribes of the Lower Omo Valley, all aesthetically distinct and culturally quirky (for example, one tribe wears lip plates).

And Ethiopian food is one of the best known in Africa (although I hope after COVID-19 they’ll be serving it in individual plates!) Ethiopia is also famous for its coffee.

This is the kind of diverse country that makes for a very interesting holiday and travel bucket list entry. And yes, there are even mountains and verdant countryside in Ethiopia!

Chilean Patagonia

Torres del Paine, Chile (travel bucket list)

Torres del Paine, Chile. Image by u_1dmncgsm from Pixabay.

I have been to South America many times, and visited central Chile once back in 2011. I was even in Argentinean Patagonia in 2005. Somehow though, I haven’t yet made it to the southern tip of Chile.

In the South, Chilean Patagonia includes the towns of Punta Arena and Puerto Natales, gateway to the Torres del Paine National Park, with its granite pinnacles, glaciers, turquoise waters, forests, and many hiking opportunities. In the middle are the fjords, which you can explore by boat. And in the North, the Lake District offers snow-capped volcanoes, and true to its names, many sapphire-blue lakes.

Yes, Chile has some of the best scenery in South America, as well as affordable seafood and wine. I want to go back while I still have some energy, especially since the weather in the far south can be extreme and unpredictable. (“All four seasons within a day” goes the saying about Patagonia.)

Although far from unknown by travellers, the far south of Chile is expensive to reach, and hiking tours are not cheap either, which helps to thin out the crowds. On the plus side, I read that Chile dropped its high reciprocity fee for Canadians and Americans recently.

Bonus countries: if I came across a large amount of money, I’d also consider Bhutan and the Arctic as good post-pandemic destinations. 🙂 These were both on my travel bucket list from 2016.

That’s it for me. What about you? What are some of the countries you will put on your bucket list once it’s safe to travel again? Let me know in the comments.

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