Its been a while since I’ve done a ‘5 Places’ post, but a cancelled trip and a gap in my posting schedule means I’m sharing more of my bucket list with 5 more places I want to visit. This list isn’t geographically specific like previous lists so the five places listed below range from the UK to the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
Orkney Islands, Scotland
Located in the North Sea, about 10 miles north of the Scottish mainland, Orkney is an archipelago of about 70 islands of which about 20 are inhabited, some for more than eight millennium. The largest island, the Mainland, is the 10th largest island in the British Isles and is home to Kirkwall, Orkney’s largest town.
UNESCO Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage Site – Orkney’s group of four Neolithic monuments make up the UK’s most northerly UNESCO World Heritage site, with these being a large, chambered tomb (Maes Howe), two ceremonial stone circles (the Stones of Stenness and the Ring of Brodgar) and a settlement (Skara Brae). Having been constructed more than 5,000 years ago, these are a major part of Orkney’s heritage and history.
Wartime Heritage – With their location between the North Sea and Atlantic Ocean, the Orkney Islands played a key part in Britain’s wartime strategy. Scapa Flow, the large body of water between the islands of Mainland, Graemsay, Burray, South Ronaldsay and Hoy, was the main base of the British Home Fleet during both World Wars and is possibly most famous for being the scuttling location of the German Fleet following World War 1. There’s plenty of wartime history to explore in Orkney, including a free trail around the key locations.
World’s Shortest Flight – Kirkwall Airport is the gateway to the Orkney Islands, with multiple daily flights connecting it to various cities on the Scottish mainline. Kirkwall also allows onwards connections to some of the small islands via Loganair’s Island Hopper, which includes the World’s Shortest Scheduled Flight. With a scheduled flight time, including taxi time, of just two minutes, the flight between Westray and Papa Westray holds the record for the shortest flight at just 53 seconds. As an AvGeek, this is a must do flight in the future!
Sitting at a latitude of 64°08′ N, Reykjavik is the world’s most northerly capital of a sovereign state (Nuuk is further north but Greenland is a constituent country of Denmark so doesn’t count as a sovereign state). As the capital it is the centre of Iceland’s cultural and economic activity and is also the gateway for international tourists visiting the city and the rest of Iceland.
Hallgrimskirkja Church – Standing at 74.5 meters tall and sitting on a hill above Reykjavik, the Hallgrimskirkja Church can be seen from across the city and has become an important symbol for Iceland’s national identity since its completion. The church also has a viewing deck at the top of the tower, allowing for amazing views across the city and surrounding mountains, and is open from 10am until 5pm daily, with hours extended until 9pm in the summer.
Northern Lights – Located within the Artic Circle, Iceland is a great place to see the Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights, and Reykjavik is no different. There are numerous tours from the capital to the best areas to see the Northern Lights, including boat trips, however, Visit Reykjavik also has an app to help you find them yourself. There is also the Aurora Reykjavík, a visitors’ centre and museum showing how people and cultures around the world saw the Northern Lights via legends and myths.
Head out to The Golden Circle – Whilst not in Reykjavik itself, no trip to Iceland is complete without venturing away from the capital to the Golden Circle and Blue Lagoon. If time in on your side, you can spend multiple days exploring the large number of natural sights including geysers and waterfalls, however the key sites can be seen in just a few hours if you’re pushed for time. The Þingvellir National Park, the Geysir geothermal area, and the Gullfoss waterfall are some of the closest natural sights to Reykjavik.
New Orleans, LA, United States
The largest city in the state of Louisiana, New Orleans is world renowned for its cuisine, music and festivals and has been described as the ‘Most Unique’ city in the Unites States. Founded as a French colony on the 18th century, the city, along with the rest of Louisiana, joined the United States in 1803 having been sold by Napoleon in the Louisiana Purchase. With multiple annual celebrations and festivals, including Madri Gras, New Orleans is a must visit for its culture!
The French Quarter & Bourbon Street – The oldest neighbourhood in the city and a National Historic Landmark, New Orleans’ French Quarter is home to Jackson Square and Bourbon Street along with a large number of the city’s best-known bars and restaurants. Having avoided significant during New Orleans’ infamous hurricanes, the French Quarter is still home to many building built in the late 1790s/early 1800s. As the heart of New Orleans’ history and culture, the French Quarter feels like a must visit.
Take a Boat Trip on the Mississippi – The largest river in the United States in terms of discharge, the Mississippi river flows through the centre of New Orleans and is one of the key features of the city. The best way to experience any river, especially the Mississippi has to be to take a trip on it, with numerous boat trips available from throughout the city. Perhaps the most special are those provided by the New Orleans Steamboat Company, who operate traditional paddle steams along the Old Man River.
Food Tour – It’s a tossup whether New Orleans is more famous for its music or its food, however I certainly know where my preference lies. With the local food combining elements of local Creole, haute Creole and New Orleans French cuisines, I certainly want to do a tour of the city trying out different foods. Beignets (square, fried dough), Muffaletta sandwiches and various seafoods are New Orleans specialities, that are a must try if you visit.
Located in the Eastern Himalayas and surrounded by China and India, the Kingdom of Bhutan has a population of around 750,000 and is known as the Land of the Thunder Dragon. The nation’s landscape ranges from the 7,000m+ peaks of the Bhutanese Himalayas in the north to lush sub-tropical plains in the south. This wide ranging landscape is home to a diverse makeup of plants and animals, including the Himalayan takin.
The Tiger’s Nest Monastery – Paro Taktsang, or the Tiger’s Nest Monastery, is a sacred Buddhist site located on a cliffside and is the most famous of thirteen ‘Tiger’s Nest’ caves in Bhutan. Whilst a sacred site and a practicing monastery, the Tiger’s Nest is open to visitors providing they pay due respect to their location and, having seen photos of the stunning landscape and beautiful buildings, Paro Taktsang is certainly high on my bucket list!
Tashichho Dzong – Traditionally the seat of the civil government, Tashichho Dzong is a Buddhist monastery and fortress, located on the edge of the Bhutanese city of Thimphu, Bhutan’s summer capital. With the Tashicho Dzong complex containing thirty temples, chapels and shrines, and the history of the site dating back to 1216, the Dzong remains one of the most important complexes in the country, despite most of the present buildings only dating to the 1960s.
Buddha Dordenma – Constructed between 2006 and 2015 to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the fourth king, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, the Great Buddha Dordenma is one of the largest Buddha Rupas (statue or image of Buddha) in the world and is 54 meters tall. As well as the impressive Rupa, the project to construct the Buddha Dordema included the 943-acre Kuensel Phodrang nature park, along with two outdoor public gymnasiums. With the park and the Rupa, Buddha Dordenma and its surrounding’s definitely seem worth adding to the list.
Federated States of Micronesia
With a total land area of just 702km2, the Federated States of Micronesia (Micronesia) is the 177th smallest country on earth, smaller even than the city state of Singapore. However, being made up of more than 600 islands across a distance of more than 2,900km (about the distance from Dublin to Istanbul), Micronesia has the 14th-largest exclusive economic zone in the world, ahead of countries such as Denmark and Norway.
United’s Island Hopper – Another one for the AvGeek bucket list, but also one of the only ways to get to Micronesia, United Airlines’ ‘Island Hopper’ connects Honolulu and Guam via five locations in the Marshall Island and Micronesia, including Pohnpei, the airport serving the capital, Palikir. With connections at Guam to United’s ‘Manila Hopper’ which serves other destinations in Micronesia, the ‘Island Hopper’ is a key route through the country.
Nan Madol – Located close to the eastern shore of Pohnpei, the largest island in Micronesia, Nan Madol is an important archaeological site and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The capital of Saudeleur dynasty until about 1628, the city was constructed on almost 100 artificial islands located in a lagoon, and is sometimes called “Atlantis”, the “eighth wonder of the world,” or the “Venice of the Pacific”.
Yap Island Coins & Yap Day – About halfway between Guam and Indonesia, Yap is a small group of islands that make up the Yap state of Micronesia. The islands are most famous for the Rai Stones, or Yap Island Coins, generally large pieces of stone manufactured and treasured by the native inhabitants of Yap. The smallest ‘coins’ found have been 3.5cms in diameter, whilst the largest still in existences has a diameter of 3.6 meters and is half a meter thick. Yap Day, an annual festival held on 1st March, was founded in 1968 to preserve Yapese culture and continues to be held to this day with traditional dances and cuisine being shared.