Galapagos Islands top best travel experience list


TRAVEL SURVEY:THEY WERE famously visited by Charles Darwin and are home to a huge variety of wildlife but now the Galapagos Islands off the coast of Ecuador have topped a new list of “must-see” destinations.

Over 48,000 people bothered to vote when adventure travel company Explore came up with the wheeze of listing the “Seven Wondrous Experiences of the World”, the idea being to identify places that deliver a good experience for the traveller rather than just boxes to tick on a list.

Travel lists may be tediously familiar – we’ve all been given Christmas presents of books urging us to see scores of sights before we die and the Seven Wonders of the World have been around for centuries – but Explore claims these polls overlook “the people aspect”.

“The very best travel involves experiences; an encounter with a particular animal, a visit to a famous site at a particular time of day, a dramatic journey to a renowned location. What links them all is they’re personal to the individual traveller, more about what one feels rather than sees,” Explore claims.

The focus on traveller experiences rather than destination seems to be taking off, with Lonely Planet launching their own version of such an award in the wake of the interest generated by the wondrous experiences list.

Explore drew up a shortlist of 20 “wonders” from around the world and then asked customers to vote on their favourites – and 48,473 did. South America featured prominently in the list, with the Galapagos being closely followed in popularity by the experience of arriving at the Sun Gate of Machu Picchu after trekking the Inca Trail in Peru.

Next in popularity came the experience of seeing giant gorilla up-close in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, which also involves a lengthy hike topped off by a dramatic climax. Sunrise at Angkor Wat in Cambodia and tiger watching in India completed the top five.

After that, things get a tad more obscure. The approach to Petra in Jordan is indeed dramatic but does it really rate as the sixth most wondrous sight in the world? And as for “standing on a glacier”, the next sight on the list, in my experience that is often marred by the litter left by other visitors, especially skiers, and the knowledge that the glacier is most probably disappearing.

But that’s what lists do, by forcing you to express an opinion or come up with better suggestions. Ha Long Bay in Vietnam, Tikal pyramids in Guatemala and a train journey in India complete the top 10. And in case you hadn’t guessed it already, Explore runs trips to all the above sights.