There are 195 countries in the world. Every one of those countries has a unique selection of sights and sounds to attract visitors from all over the globe.
Of course, nobody has the time or budget to visit every country on the planet. That’s why we’ve narrowed things down for you.
We’ve put together this list of 25 bucket list countries. We’re going to be looking at each one in detail, discussing why you have to visit and what you can expect when you arrive.
Whether you’re craving a sun holiday or a little bit of history, there’s a country below that can give it to you.
Which will you visit first?
Top 25 Bucket List Countries
For a long time, travellers avoided visiting Mexico. Over the past couple of years, however, it has markedly risen in popularity and it isn’t hard to see why.
The country’s warm climate combines with its beautiful beaches to make it a great destination for sun and surfing.
Meanwhile, its Mayan ruins offer ample opportunity for sightseeing. Plan your visit to coincide with the Day of the Dead festival to fully immerse yourself in Mexican culture.
Not far from Mexico is the United States of America. The country may have something of a bad reputation, but once you’re in it, it’s impossible not to love it.
The greatest thing about travelling through America is that every state has its own unique culture.
You’ll have a very different time in Florida than you will in New York, for example, but you can be certain of jaw-dropping sights, mouthwatering cuisine, and plenty of things to do wherever you go.
Whether you visit Northern Ireland or Republic of Ireland, you’ll encounter the green fields and tranquility for which the land is famous.
You’ll also see the towering buildings and bustling city streets which define modern Ireland.
Also expect to see plenty of theatres showcasing Ireland’s famous playwrights and performers.
While you’re in the country, be sure to experience a true Irish pint of Guinness. The taste just can’t be replicated anywhere else in the world!
In summer, Greece can get as hot as 30 degrees Celsius, so it’s a great place for a sun holiday. Meanwhile, its internationally renowned cuisine should place it at the top of any foodie’s travel bucket list.
But what really sets Greece apart is its history.
Throughout the country, you’ll find ruins dating back thousands of years.
In Athens alone you can see the Acropolis, the Temple of Hephaestus, and more!
Italy is similar to Greece in that it offers searing summer temperatures, delectable traditional cuisine, and ancient ruins to beat the band.
Of course, that doesn’t make the sights and sounds of the country any less unique.
One cannot comprehend the sheer magnificence of the Trevi Fountain or the awe-inspiring wonder of the Coliseum without experiencing it firsthand.
Meanwhile, a trip to an Italian vineyard is a great way to spend a day away from the crowded streets of Rome.
Israel’s great allure is its connection to Biblical life.
All over the country, there are sites that were referenced in the Bile, the Quran, and other religious scriptures thousands of years ago.
Among the most noteworthy of these sites is the Church of the Nativity, which is believed to be built upon the site where Jesus was born.
Even for a secular tourist, the history of ancient ruins of the Old City make Israel a bucket list country.
Israel and Egypt are mentioned together in many Biblical stories, so it’s difficult to think of one without thinking of the other.
Unlike with Israel, it’s possible to visit Egypt without constantly being reminded of the country’s Biblical connections. It doesn’t matter if you believe Moses helped build the pyramids, all that matters is the wonder of the pyramids themselves.
While the pyramids are certainly the most iconic tourist attraction in Egypt, other ancient ruins such as the Sphinx and the Abu Simbel temples will leave you with no shortage of sights to see during your visit.
For the past couple of decades, Japanese culture has been penetrating the mainstream of the Western world.
To truly experience everything the country has to offer, however, you need to be in the heart of it.
One of the most diverse cities in the world, Tokyo offers everything from delicious traditional cuisine to mind-blowing technology exhibitions.
For a day out that’s a little more tranquil, you can visit one of the countless Buddhist temples located throughout Tokyo and beyond.
Many tourists choose to spend a day or two in Canada when visiting America.
However, the Great White North is more than worthy of being the cornerstone of your vacation. Like America, Canada changes drastically from city to city.
In Montreal, for example, you can immerse yourself in the rich culture of arts that bred Leonard Cohen and other iconic writers.
In Vancouver, meanwhile, you can spend a day on the beach, enjoying the city’s summer temperatures of 25 degrees Celsius.
Spain is one of the most visited countries on the face of the Earth.
Every year, more than 80 million tourists travel there to experience its famous warm weather and explore its bustling city streets.
While Spain is certainly a great spot to visit for a sun holiday, it also boasts a rich cultural tapestry.
In Barcelona, you can visit the Picasso Museum, while in Figueres you can experience the surreal Dalí Theatre-Museum.
Then there are the many breathtaking churches, cathedrals, and basilicas. The most famous of these is La Sagrada Familia, in Barcelona. While it has been in construction for more than 100 years, the basilica is already open for visits and tours.
A guided tour of La Sagrada Familia coupled with a visit to Park Güell is a great way to experience the iconic architecture that shaped Barcelona, Spain, and the world as a whole.
11. South Korea
While visiting North Korea is virtually impossible (and also incredibly ill-advised), the same cannot be said of its southern counterpart.
South Korea is a famously welcoming country which delights in showing hospitality to those who visit it.
Tour guides proudly show their guests the many wonders of the country, such as Gyeongbokgung Palace and the Bulguksa Temple.
Street markets are aplenty in South Korea and are a great place to experience traditional Korean cuisine prepared by the locals who understand it best.
You should also hit up one of the countless barbecue restaurants which line the city streets to get a taste of genuine Korean barbecue.
12. The Netherlands
The Netherlands is one of the most popular tourist destinations in all of Europe. Every year, millions flock to its capital city of Amsterdam to enjoy its famous coffee shops (which can also be found elsewhere in the country).
But The Netherlands is so much more than a spot for a party holiday.
One of the most picturesque countries in the world, it promises breathtaking views, whether you’re overlooking a canal or simply standing in a city street. One of its most historic sites, the Anne Frank House, provides a heartbreaking insight into Jewish life during the Second World War and should be visited by everybody at least once.
A lot of European travellers avoid visiting Australia because of the long flight, but trust us, the Land Down Under is more than worth those many hours on the plane.
When you arrive, you’ll be greeted by the beaming sun, cold beers, and breathtaking scenes of nature you won’t encounter anywhere else. The country is most famous for its beaches, but you can also enjoy some culture in between sunbathing sessions.
The Melbourne Comedy Festival is held every year and showcases the finest comedians from Australia and elsewhere.
For music fans, there is the Byron Bay Bluesfest, which has been introducing locals and tourists alike to the ironic joys of the blues since 1990.
When you visit Russia, you are thrust into a culture that is remarkably different to what you’re used to. As the largest country in the world, it boasts its own unique cuisine, architecture, wildlife, and more.
All of these things come together to create a truly memorable vacation for visitors.
Russia certainly isn’t the country to visit if you’re looking for a few days of sunbathing, but historic attractions such as Red Square and the State Hermitage Museum should put Russia at the very top of any traveller’s must-see list.
15. United Arab Emirates
For the past couple of years, the United Arab Emirates has been making a conscious effort to attract Western tourists and it has sure paid off.
Every year, millions of people visit its capital city of Dubai.
There, they marvel at the city’s many towering buildings, including the Burj Khalifa. The Burj Khalifa is the tallest building in the world and a trip to its top floor will not soon be forgotten.
Traditional and global cuisine can be found throughout the city, as can alcoholic beverages, contradicting the old myth of the UAE as a conservative hermit kingdom.
Not far removed from the city streets and fast cars is the UAE desert. There are plenty of companies offering guided desert tours, with each catering to a specific type of exploration. Do you want to see the desert while riding a camel? There’s a tour for that. Would you rather see it on a dune buggy? There’s a tour for that too!
Many film buffs visit the Moroccan city of Casablanca, inspired by the film of the same name. But whether you’re a fan of that movie or not, Morocco will delight and inspire you.
Outside of Casablanca, there is the city of Marrakech, which is relatively cheap to fly to from Britain and Ireland. But despite the low cost of travel, you won’t be at a loss for things to do in Marrakech.
Notable sights including the Jardin Majorelle garden, Bahia Palace, and the traditional market of Jemaa el-Fna. Combine these with the great mosques located throughout Morocco and the country becomes a must for secular and religious travellers alike.
Like Russia, India’s immense size has led to the country creating a culture that is entirely its own. Only in an Indian city like Mumbai or New Delhi can one fully experience the culture that has been exported to the west via Bollywood films.
Adding to the great allure of this most magical country are its many historical sites, such as the world famous Taj Mahal and the Amber Palace. And then there is, of course, the food. If you think your Friday night Indian takeaway is delicious, just wait until you try the real thing!
Switzerland is a little closer to home than India, but it’s every bit as thrilling.
The country is famous for the beauty of its architecture, with quintessential Swiss structures like Thun Castle and the Abbey of Saint Gall providing perfect photo opportunities.
Meanwhile, if you have a sweet tooth, you’ll delight in the chocolate shops that seem to be on the corner of every Swiss street.
Switzerland also has the advantage of being very well connected to other European countries, with places like Austria, Germany, and France all just a train ride away. If you’re preparing to explore multiple European countries in one trip, you should seriously consider utilizing Switzerland as your base.
And if you do decide to travel from Switzerland to France, you’re going to be in for a real treat.
The beauty of France must be seen to be believed. In the jaw-dropping city of Paris, dozens of new photo opportunities present themselves with every step you take. The Eiffel Tower, of course, is the cornerstone of the city and should be at the very top of your list of things to see while visiting. And then there is the food!
No city on Earth is more renowned for its cuisine than Paris and for good reason. Whether it’s something as simple as a baguette or something a little more decadent, like an eclair, you can be certain it has been prepared with care and passion. This dedication will be reflected in every bite you take.
French people have a reputation for being rude or dismissive towards foreigners. The reality is that they are simply immensely proud of their culture. Although they may be reluctant to speak to you in English, it’s really something of a blessing.
You might just find yourself picking up a few French phrases!
China is another country that is often overlooked by travellers. For any serious adventurer, however, it is absolutely a bucket list country. It’s great attraction – no pun intended – is the Great Wall of China.
Construction of the wall started all the way back in the 7th century. Today, it comes in at a staggering 21,196 kilometres in length and is considered one of the 7 wonders of the modern world. For the Great Wall alone, China is worth visiting.
Of course, there’s so much more to experience alongside it. For example, you must see the Terracotta Army. Located in Xi’an, the Terracotta Army is comprised of thousands of warrior statues crafted to guard the tomb of China’s first emperor.
For nature lovers, the Yellow Mountains provide a tranquil getaway from China’s busy city streets.
If you like a good old-fashioned historical mystery, Peru should be at the top of your vacation list. The country is home to the famous Inca ruins, including Machu Picchu.
Machu Picchu is an enigma and is every bit as mysterious as it is beautiful. The sunny mountain city stands at almost 9000 feet above the Peruvian floor and is thought to have been used as something as a ceremonial city by the ancient Incas.
But what happened to its residents? Why did they suddenly disappear leaving behind a developed city that shows virtually no signs of attack? Nobody knows. This is part of what makes a guided tour of the city so captivating.
If you don’t fancy the taxing trek up to Machu Picchu, you can still have a great time on ground-level.
Peru is home to some of the most welcoming people in the world and they are more than happy to share their culture with visitors.
Many Peruvians work as crafts people and can be found selling their beautiful handcrafted wares on the city streets. Others work preparing traditional Peruvian cuisine to delight the taste buds of tourists.
Peru is famous for its alcoholic beverages, but what you really want to try when visiting the country is some of its Coca-Cola. Peru’s Coke is sweetened with real sugar, giving it a taste that is entirely different – and markedly more delicious – than the alternative we’re all used to.
Every year, thousands of medical tourists travel to Turkey in order to avail of its affordable cosmetic surgeries. But Turkey is so much more than a place to get cheap hair transplants.
One of the greatest things about Turkey as a holiday destination is its almost perpetual sun.
The country enjoys six months of summer per year, making it a great spot for a sun holiday. This is particularly advantageous if you can’t get time off work during the typical summer months (or if you’d just like to avoid the summer-time crowds).
Turkish people pride themselves on their nightlife, so be sure to hit up a bar to experience local performers captivating the audience with their music, dancing, and storytelling.
There are some great Turkish beers to sample, but you should also be sure to try a cup of Turkish coffee while you’re visiting the country. Turkish coffee is much stronger than what you’re presumably used to back home, so it’s sure to keep you going through a day of sightseeing!
Many tourists are surprised by the beauty of Cuba.
Indeed, it is one of the most naturally beautiful countries in the world, despite the many decades of political unrest.
Because many tourists were forbidden from visiting for so long, Cuba’s beaches are unspoiled and are perfect for a day of sunbathing.
Meanwhile, locals are usually pretty ecstatic to finally be able to show off their country. They welcome visitors with open arms and help them indulge in all the wonderful cuisine and culture that make the land so great.
Cuba has often been described as a “living museum” and it is just that. Vehicles from the 50s are still in circulation and you’ll be passed by more than a few as you walk the city streets.
You’ll also encounter throwback phoneboots, vending machines, and more.
You’ll feel like you travelled not by plane, but by time machine instead!
24. South Africa
Like Cuba, South Africa has seen its fair share of political and civil unrest. Again like Cuba, however, the country has managed to rebuild and turn itself into a sunny paradise that is sure to delight tourists regardless of what they’re looking for.
Do you want a sun holiday? South African beaches are a great way to enjoy the country’s 30 degrees-plus summer weather.
Do you like history? There are guided tours throughout the country dedicated to showing tourists the most crucial sites in South Africa’s social justice struggles.
Would you prefer to just sit back and enjoy a few glasses of wine? There are vineyards all over South Africa that produce the most delectable wines you’re likely to find anywhere in the world.
There’s even a vineyard in the centre of Cape Town, so you can enjoy some wine and refuge from the busy city streets without ever even leaving the city.
If you crave good nightlife when you go abroad, Thailand is the place for you. The country is famous for its party atmosphere, which can be found even before the sun goes down.
Drink is cheap in Thailand, as is admission to nightclubs (many don’t even charge), so you won’t be at a loss for somewhere to spend your evenings.
During the day, temperatures in Thailand can reach as high as 40-degrees Celsius, so you’re definitely going to want to visit one of the country’s many diving sites to cool off.
In terms of sightseeing, Thailand is home to many beautiful temples, monuments, and forests, providing the perfect blend of electric city streets and calming open spaces.