17 Exotic Destinations to Spice Up Your Bucket List

Gabrielle Reeder

Beach Vacations

By definition, exotic refers to something or somewhere different. A foreign or tropical location. One out of the ordinary, if you will. Like anything, that definition looks different for people who live in the following places than people who live in rural Arkansas, so we’ve compiled a list of exotic places according to the author. Would you travel to any of these gorgeous countries?

1. Bali

Bali, Indonesia
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Surrounded by lush greenery, extraordinary beaches, coastlines, and brimming with sea turtles on the sand, monkeys swinging through the forest, and butterflies flitting through the trees lays Bali. The Indonesian country welcomes bright-eyed tourists yearning for a deeper understanding of yoga or the universe, as many yoga retreats and opportunities for spiritual practices occur there. Adventure seekers stop at the Bali Swing for a blood-pumping ride through the rainforest. 

2. Colombia

Medellin, Colombia
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Natural parks, salt cathedrals, museums dedicated to gold, and stunning religious architecture strike in Colombia. The South American country invites foreigners and locals to indulge in the organic beauty, specifically in areas like the mountainous El Peñón de Guatapé. Or the rainbowed river Caño Cristales, an ancient river boasting rich minerals that evoke five colors throughout the stream. First-time tourists need to check out Cartagena’s historic relevance. The tourist hotspot reveals a picturesque UNESCO site with its historic walled city. The once protective site shifted into a neighborhood stuck in the past, what with castle-esque buildings. 

3. Barbados

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Visit Rihanna’s birthplace for an excellent foray into surf cultures, opportunities for mingling with sea turtles, basking at Bathsheba beach, a rocky adorned beach matched with immaculate surf conditions, and tons of botanical gardens to entrance the senses. If you’re not a surfer, numerous other beaches invite visitors to their calmer waters and silkier sand spreads. For example, Crane Beach, a pink sand beach and Enterprise Beach. Though these beaches appeal to sunbathers and novice water sport enthusiasts, this is the Atlantic we’re dealing with, so rip currents and heavy waves might arise. 

4. Madagascar

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Take a journey back to your favorite childhood movie, Madagascar. Dive into the eclectic scenery with an excursion through the Reserva Natural de Tsingy de Bemaraha, a whimsical geologic masterpiece. These limestone formations rival an ocean captured in time, frozen over with limestone, making it a must-see destination in this African island country. Embrace the iconic Baobab trees (otherwise known as Rafiki’s tree in The Lion King), a deciduous marvel with a monstrous trunk and artful branches crowning the bark. Pay homage to the beloved native creatures by journeying through the Lokobe National Park. Search for lemurs, chameleons, owls, and diverse snakes and birds. 

5. Seychelles

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Soak in the carefree waters of this African archipelago. The Seychelles encompasses 115 different islands, providing each visitor with ample vacation choices. Smooth rocks dot the island near the crystal clear water, offering shade to those looking to cool off or a nice resting place after dipping in that crystalline Indian Ocean water. Aldabra tortoises coexist with tourists, trekking through the silky sand. Luckily, the islands contain zero poisonous species, so travelers can swim, snorkel, scuba, and explore sans worry. 

6. Greece

If you’ve seen Mamma Mia, your mind paints a specific picture whenever anyone mentions Greece. Unlike many blockbusters, Mamma Mia stuck to the source material, filming in the story’s actual setting. Although they made up a fictional Grecian island, fans may visit Skopelos, Damouchari, and Skiathos to act out their musical retelling of Mamma Mia. Cobalt water laps into the seaside cliffs in Greece, showcasing one of the world's most enchanting countries. Well-maintained architecture transports visitors back into ancient civilizations with tourist sites like the Acropolis of Athens, the Parthenon, and numerous temples belonging to the gods. 

7. Namibia

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Namibia’s phenomenal orange sand paints the backdrop for extraordinary parks, revealing beautiful camel thorn trees, a marvel of thin branches jutting out in each direction, taking after a witch’s hand. Select parks, for instance, Sossusvlei and Deadvlei, are clay pans or salt pans, indicating the ground’s composition contains various salt and clay minerals. Due to this chemical makeup, the ground surfaces are either white or yellow, depending on the minerals. Exotic wildlife like rhinos, giraffes, and zebras gather around the saltpans to drink water and mingle. For a gaze into the unforgiving nature of Mother Earth, head over to the Fish River Canyon. The largest canyon in Africa presents a gaping gorge, switchbacks toward a hot spring, scorpions, snakes, and baboons.

8. Peru

Machu Picchu
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You can’t visit Peru without stopping by Machu Picchu. I mean, you can, but you shouldn’t. The ancient Incan civilization appears as a storybook that comes to life for millions of passersby each year. I visited in March when a haze of fog perpetually covered and then revealed the green, mountainous peaks. Each time the cloudy layer peeled back, I gasped at the unreal beauty of the world's natural wonder. Around the country, alpacas roam, and vendors shave them and convert their fur into the highest quality items of clothing. Many other marvelous works of nature and human creativity prevail throughout the South American country, like Chan Chan, a collection of citadels, and Sacsayhuamán, a rocky protection site used by the Incas in the 1400s.

9. Philippines

‎Segba Lagoon Siargao, Philippines
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The archipelagic country of the Philippines graces visitors and locals with splendid scenery. On the one hand, Luzon, the portion of the country housing the capital, Manila, introduces the world to underwater coral reef metropolises and miles of sprawling white sand beaches paired with translucent waterways. The next spectacle is the Visayas, which contains Bohol Island’s Chocolate Hills, thousands of limestone-covered hills garnering the name “chocolate” for the chestnut color they shift to during the dry months. The third section of the Philippines, Mindanao, is another collection of islands teeming with forestry and the worst-smelling fruit in the world, durian.

10. Croatia

Split Croatia
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A storybook village takes center stage in Croatia. The country rests on the Adriatic Sea, rewarding any visitor or local to an extravagant sensory feat. Below the orange-roofed terracotta buildings, the sparkling Adriatic Sea laps toward the city built on stone. Croatia pleases history buffs with landmarks like Diocletian’s Palace, a monolith designed for Diocletian Roman royalty from the third century. Locations like Diocletian’s Palace give life to the backdrop witnessed in popular media like Game of Thrones or Succession. The fascinating Museum of Broken Relationships reveres past relationship relics. PlitviÄ e Lakes National Park greets visitors with emerald waterfalls and limestone canyons.

11. Chile

Santiago Chile
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Chile captivates everyone with its variety. The lengthy country fascinates globetrotters with one of the seven wonders of the world, or Easter Island. A collection of rocky heads pepper the greenery in Rapa Nui National Park. Technically, Easter Island resides in Polynesia. However, it is a part of Chilean territory. Near the northern region of Chile, the Atacama Desert wicks away moisture, earning its title as the driest desert in the world. Within the Atacama Desert, The Valley of the Moon arouses curiosity in visitors, causing them to question the existence of other life forms throughout our universe. The Andes mountains stretch into space, containing landscapes like frost-capped mountain peaks, volcanic craters, and plains. Keep an eye out for chinchillas circling the mountains.

12. Hawaii

Hilo, Hawaii
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What is the only US state classified as an archipelago and the sole state in the tropics? That’s right. Hawaii. The pineapple paradise pleases people devoted to all kinds of interests. Want to take a beginner’s surf lesson? Pop over the Kauia’s South Shore for a smooth sail into catching the surf. Want to witness a black sand beach? Visit the Punaluu Black Sand Beach and walk over microscopic morsels of volcanic rocks. Interested in completing the iconic, winding Road to Hana, a zigzagged, one-lane highway where otherworldly landscapes fall on either side of the road? Immerse yourself in various bays, beaches, and lookouts along the 64-mile highway.

13. Portugal

Torre de Belem/Belem Tower, Lisboa, Portugal - one of the most famous attractions of Portugal
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Are you a fan of seafood? Particularly salted cod, octopus, or sardines? Maybe you’re craving a sip of authentic Port wine from the source. Portugal attracts millions of visitors each year for its food and drink community. Besides seafood and wine, Pastel de nata, a dessert custard, Bifanas, a salty pork sandwich, and Leitão assado, roast pig, stand out as staple Portuguese menu picks. Aside from the gastronomic side of things, Portugal’s astonishing archipelago, the Azores, draws plenty of jet setters each year. Mount Pico, the tallest mountain in Portugal, begs rapt climbers to scale to the summit. At the culmination, clouds lollygag around hikers, peering out and down at their surroundings. Tea drinkers adore a trip to the Gorreana Tea Factory on São Miguel Island, where they learn the process and soak in the history of the oldest and now only tea plantation in Europe. You may even make your own cup of tea!

14. Turkey

Alacati, Turkey
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Few places provide amazing natural beauty with an elevated experience through a hot air balloon ride. Turkey just so happens to be one of those places. Book a hot air balloon ride through Cappadocia and join the ranks of hundreds also appreciating the rocky landscapes. In addition to hot air balloon rides, Turkey also houses plenty of hot springs and naturally occurring thermal pools to rejuvenate and replenish visitors. Pamukkale is famous for these thermal springs. The heated water traverses down the terraces, gathering in these relaxing pools popular with tourists. 

15. Dominican Republic

The Dominican Republic
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The Dominican Republic gratifies sightseers yearning for restorative beach trips or an exploration into the forest. On the beachy side, Punta Cana is a fabulous island choice for snorkelers, sunbathers, and surfers. Many all-inclusive resorts welcome these eager beachgoers. On the jungle side of the DR, waterfalls populate the forest, giving visitors the opportunity to swim underneath the falls or watch the rollicking waters. Popular waterfalls include the 27 Waterfalls of Damajagua. 

16. Australia

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Travel to an exotic location where the Sydney Opera House draws music enthusiasts and groups of camels trot through the white sands of Cable Beach. Admire the sunset from either location. Scuba divers flock to Australia for a chance to gaze at the Ocean’s creation of the Great Barrier Reef, the largest coral reef in the world. People who enjoy remaining above ground cherish Kangaroo Island, a protected natural island featuring impressive cave formations, sand dunes, and countless species of native Australian wildlife. Spot Kangaroo Island Kangaroos, koalas, seals, sea lions, platypuses, and wallabies on the island. 

17. Costa Rica

El Rio Celeste Waterfall, Costa Rica
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Costa Rica succeeds in entrancing everyone with endless options between beaches, jungles, and the calming choice of sitting in hot springs and indulging in spa therapies. Stop by the treasured beach, Manuel Antonio Beach, for a mix of hiking, wildlife spotting (yes, those famous monkeys), and lounging in the water or on the sand. Head over to Arenal Volcano for insight into the mystifying Costa Rican volcano. Engage in a multitude of water sports like paddle boarding, swimming, or kayaking in front of the unique backdrop of the resting volcano. Adrenaline seekers zip line near the smoky volcano and enjoy the warming heat of the hot springs after a lengthy zip through the forest. 

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Santorini, Greece
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