Here at SI Swim we’re no stranger to travel. Our community is captivated by the uncharted, exploring all the beauty that awaits us from every corner of this earth. As we emerge from many months of lockdown, we’re providing you with our list of dream destination getaways. From breathtaking beaches to world wonders, we encourage you to plan your next great escape and adventure with eyes wide open.
More than 400 miles off the Yemeni mainland, and well off the radar of mainstream tourism, you’ll find Socotra, an otherworldly island of steep sand dunes, dramatic mountains and virtually unparalleled biodiversity. Travelers don’t come to this UNESCO World Natural Heritage destination for entertainment, nightlife and fancy restaurants, they come to get off the grid and into some of the most unique flora and fauna on earth. You’ll want a pro-level camera to capture the distinctive “dragon’s blood tree,” an endemic species with a vivid red sap.
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As the last remaining wonder of the ancient world still standing, the pyramids of Giza should be on everybody’s bucket list. But there’s more to Egypt than these iconic structures of early engineering. Be wowed by glittering archeological finds at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, smoke shisha at a cafe in Dahab, dive with manta rays in Sharm el-Sheikh or don a wide-brimmed sun hat and a full-length kaftan as you wander through the White Desert National Park’s pale chalk spires.
With its wholesome lifestyle and breathtaking landscapes, it’s no wonder New Zealand is often thought of as a modern utopia. The bulk of any visit to this remote island nation consists of outdoor adventures set amid breathtaking nature (here’s your excuse to buy cute hiking boots), but New Zealand is also an extreme sports capital of the world. Brave travelers can jump out of a plane at 12,000 feet, bungee off bridges, zipline across raveens and raft down river rapids.
Known for its sculptural peaks and dramatic vertical rock faces, the Dolomites region in the northern Italian Alps is picture-perfect whatever the season. Travelers flock to the Dolomites’ famed ski resorts in their coziest down jackets during winter and hike its alpine meadows in summer, marveling at sublime vistas from every peak and valley. The region was Austrian before World War I, so come prepared with some basic German phrases.
Patagonia, Argentina and Chile
In this era of globalization there aren’t many areas of untouched wilderness left, but Patagonia, on South America’s southern frontier, is one of them. Adventurers who make it this far down the continent are rewarded with volcanoes and glaciers, ancient petrified forests and vast canyons. Your options for outdoor escapades are endless in Patagonia; pack a colorful rain jacket and a water bottle for hiking among the saw-toothed peaks of Torres del Paine National Park and kayaking the wild fjords of Tierra del Fuego.
Machu Picchu, Peru
Few images capture the traveler’s imagination like the mist-cloaked ruins of Machu Picchu, the 15th-century Incan citadel perched in the Peruvian mountains. Visitors to the Lost City can arrive by train and bus or via one of the planet’s most iconic hikes: the Inca Trail, a four-day journey through the Sacred Valley, following in the footsteps of ancient Inca priests (and alpacas!). When you arrive back in Cusco, soothe those achy muscles with your favorite bath soak.
While there’s plenty to see and do on Greece’s mainland (Athens, of course, and even skiing in the northern regions), it’s the islands that tend to steal focus. Whether you’re looking for fine dining or watersports, nightlife or blissful relaxation, there’s an island with your name on it. Build your itinerary around several destinations—Mykonos for partying (glamorous sunglasses are de rigueur), Santorini for food and wine experiences, Naxos for beaches (bring a swimsuit, or several) and Delos for archaeological sites—and enjoy a little of everything you missed in 2020.
Approximately 250 miles south of the Arctic Circle, in the far north of Canada, you’ll find a little town with one huge attraction. It’s called Yellowknife, and it’s one of the best places on the globe to see the Northern Lights. Come from January through March and spend your days dogsledding and your nights watching the Aurora borealis dance across the clear dark sky. Nature can be unpredictable, but with a hardcore winter coat and furry snowboats you’ll be set to weather the chilly Canadian nights.
Ever since Petra was voted one of the new seven wonders of the world in 2007, the ancient Hidden City has become a firm fixture on traveler bucket lists. Accessed through a narrow sandstone canyon with vertical walls (it gets hot, so cover up with a linen shirt and plenty of sunscreen), Petra is every bit as impressive as you imagine, with ornate facades carved straight into a rock face that appears to change color depending on the time of day.
Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, Kyoto, Japan
There’s no better place to try the Zen-inducing Japanese pastime of forest bathing than the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove. This famous spot in the country’s former capital city of Kyoto is instantly recognizable for its tall, delicate bamboo trunks that scatter sunlight across a winding forest path. Pose for photos fluttering a handheld paper fan if you must, but the best part of a visit to Arashiyama Bamboo Grove is the calming atmosphere.
A visit to Morocco overwhelms the senses in the best possible way. The Islamic call to prayer reverberates from opulent mosques, food stalls sizzle with aromatic dishes and souks buzz with traders selling spices, textiles, and leather goods (you’ll need an extra suitcase for all the souvenirs). Whether you spend your time adventuring into the Sahara Desert on camelback dressed in a floaty jumpsuit or getting a scrub in a Marrakech hammam and relaxing poolside at your riad, a vacation in Morocco is always an unforgettable experience.
The Celtic regions of Wales, Scotland and Ireland are rich in history, tradition, and natural beauty—particularly in the summertime, when spirits are high and the land blooms with wildflowers and emerald-hued greenery (always bring an umbrella, just in case). From the majestic Scottish Highlands and the higgledy-piggledy stones of Giant’s Causeway, to the golden-sand bays of the Gower peninsula in Wales, this land is full of unexpected delights and unparalleled pub banter.
El Nido, Philippines
If cerulean sea, diamond-dust sand and shimmying palm trees are your idea of heaven, plot a course for El Nido, on the Philippine island of Palawan. Known as the gateway to the Bacuit Archipelago, this is your base for expeditions to postcard-perfect coves hidden by sheer limestone cliffs and lapped by crystal-clear water full of marine life. Remember to pack a pair of slides (easy to get on and off when you're moving between boat and land) and a palate for exotic flavors, because Filipino food is influenced by a hundred distinct ethno-linguistic groups.
Written by Esme Benjamin