To no one’s surprise, I received a travel book for Christmas. The World’s Most Amazing Places, a 2018 publication by Centennial Media, was mostly what I expected. Its “Iconic Cities” included Venice, Sydney, and London, which are 1, 2 and 3. But there are a few surprises along the way too. Are you familiar with “Salar de Uyuni”? I wasn’t.
Subtitled “112 Destinations to See in Your Lifetime”, The World’s Most Amazing Places (WMAP) is divided into categories like Ancient Marvels, Sacred Sites, and Extreme Adventures. They can be predictable–the Acropolis and Angkor Wat are among the sacred sites–or unusual–Watery Wonders and Dream Resorts are interesting categories. I was rather surprised to find Newgrange, a truly wonderful Neolithic burial mound in Ireland that predates Stonehenge, among “Timeless Tombs”. This category also included Westminster Abbey.
I had forgotten that Westminster Abbey has become the resting place for so many famous people. According to WMAP, approximately 3,300 historical superstars like Charles Dickens are either buried or memorialized in Westminster. I had heard about China’s Zhangye Danxia but didn’t know that these rainbow mountains “only shine from June to September”. I will reschedule that trip. I know about Abu Dhabi but had never heard about the Sheikh Zayad Grand Mosque. WMAP informed me that visitors are invited into it daily to gasp at its 82 white domes and gold-plated chandeliers. Most importantly, I learned that one of the world’s most famous unfinished projects and an amazing destination is to be completed by 2026. Yes, Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia, which began construction in 1883, will hopefully be finished in 7 years. I have seen many commercials for Sandals Royal Caribbean Resort but learned from WMAP that a personal butler is included with each suite. I have been to Zion but never have felt totally comfortable there. Several people have died by drowning or falling in this National Park. “Be prepared to get dirty, hungry, cold, and wet,” WMAP’S writers conclude. I laughed when I read this because it’s so true!
But I found The World’s Most Amazing Places most invaluable when it told me about destinations I had never heard of. Rajasthan is in India. It’s where Ranthambore National Park contains about half of the world’s remaining wild tigers. I love cold places. I long to visit Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort in Lapland but will probably never see Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia’s high-altitude salt flat that fun website traveltriangle.com calls both weird and the world’s largest.