Fifty or sixty years ago travelling abroad for most people was an unrealizable dream. Only the wealthy with a lot of time on their hands could afford to travel to a foreign country for a holiday and even for them the idea of going to South America, Africa or Asia would have been pretty much unthinkable.

The development of air transport over the past few decades has changed all that. Today your often-dreamed-of trip to Cambodia or Uganda or Bolivia or even Antarctica can so easily become reality. More and more people from many different countries and of all age groups are catching the travel bug all the time.

The most remote places on earth are today accessible to the intrepid traveller. Whether it be the remarkable Yemeni island of Socotra in the Indian Ocean or Lake Baikal in Siberia, or Aitutaki in the South Pacific, none of the destinations in this book should be much more than two days`total travelling time from a major airport – provided you have the determination, energy and money to go there, of course. Truly the world now is your oyster.

Some of the must-visit destinations are great wonders of nature, but the majority are creations of human beings – towns and cities, cathedrals, castles, museums, gardens and markets – all testament to the industry, ingenuity and perseverance of mankind. Some of them, like the Great Wall of China, the Taj Mahal or the Acropolis, are famous throughout the world but many are little known. Were you to visit the spectacular lagoon at Dakhla or the beautiful temple of Wat Tham Paplong for example there is still every chance that you would be the only tourist there.

Undoubtedly travel and tourism can have a damaging effect as visitors to some of the world`s most famous cities and monuments can readily testify. Some particularly popular places, the city of Venice or Egypt`s Valley of the Kings for example, can at certain times of year be – and feel – almost overwhelmed by the sheer number of visitors and your pleasure at finally reaching your eagerly awaited must-visit destination can be marred by the presence of just too many human beings. Sometimes you can dramatically improve the experience if you simply avoid making your trip during the busiest time of the year. Venice or Florence are still beautiful in the winter months. The Valley of the Kings is equally amazing in August – though admittedly the weather will be hot.

There are also many positive and important benefits from international travel and tourism – probably now the world`s biggest single business. Some of these, like tourists spending and the provision of employment are quite obvious. Yet others are arguably just as important if not so readily apparent – the breaking down of national barriers, understanding other people`s habits, thinking and cultures, a shared pride in the fruits of the endeavours of one`s fellow man.

Of course the travelling to your must- visit destination can often be as interesting and as much fun as the arriving there. The people you meet, the hotels you stay at, the meals you eat, the trips you take on the local trains, buses or taxis – once you return home your memories or your visit will be of the journey and the whole experience and not just of the destination itself.

By Harriet

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