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7 Transformative Travel Destinations

Embark on a life-altering trip.

U.S. News & World Report

7 Transformative Travel Destinations

Taman Ayun Temple, Bali

Immerse yourself in spectacular natural landscapes on an inward journey. (Getty Images)

There are vacations, and then there are enriching, life-changing trips that shake up your routine and offer the opportunity to gain a new perspective. Both types of trips serve a purpose, but if you're looking to step out of your comfort zone, make a change and look inward, consider seeking transformational travel experiences. Whether you want to visit a legendary place to commune with nature, gain cultural insights, leave an impact or tap into your inner passions on a self-discovery journey, here are seven once-in-a-lifetime trip ideas to fuel your inspiration.

Bali, Indonesia

Bali is the go-to island destination for those looking to explore sublime natural wonders, staggered pagodas and unspoiled coral reefs. Relax and embrace a leisurely pace, whether that’s connecting with the elements or meditating at the beautiful temple of Uluwatu, where you can admire dramatic cliffs and cerulean waters. Striking natural landscapes aside, Bali's storied palaces and temples offer a spiritual setting for visitors to hone in on mental awareness and seek self-discovery.

Lobitos, Peru

Love to surf? Let your passion impact others on a journey to remember. Waves for Development, an organization that connects surfers and local residents in a cultural exchange program, offers an excellent way to give back on a volunteer trip. The program is located on Peru's northern coast in Lobitos. Ideal for soloists looking to lend a hand, the program's volunteer initiatives include water conservation, social entrepreneurship and teaching English while sharing meals and lodging with locals at a homestay or other accommodations.

The Appalachian Trail

From Georgia to Maine, the Appalachian Trail spans 14 states, and many hikers have been inspired by others’ journeys to walk the entire 2,190-mile trail. However, these journeys would not be possible without the volunteers of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. For some, one of the most rewarding parts of the trek is giving back, and what is more beautiful than helping to cultivate and conserve a beautiful footpath as you undertake your journey? As a volunteer, you can support teachers and protect the land while enjoying serenity and solitutde in the beautiful Appalachian Mountains.

Marrakech, Morocco

Marrakech is famous for its beautiful markets, especially the vibrant Night Market, which boasts a dizzying array of colorful spices and textiles. If you're looking for spiritual awareness, observe or participate in the five calls to prayer daily. Afterward, invigorate your senses (and pick up a few souvenirs) at the medina and recharge at one of the area's luxurious retreats, like the iconic La Mamounia Hotel, which features authentic mosaics and serene gardens.

Rishikesh, India

Rishikesh, set in the foothills of the Himalayan Mountains, is a prime destination for those seeking cultural and spiritual discovery. The city boasts many spiritual leaders, yoga schools and ashrams that aim to provide renewal for mind, body and soul. Parmarth Niketan, an ashram on the Ganges, boasts more than 1,000 rooms, and offers yoga classes and daily meals for a small daily donation price.

Negev, Israel

The Negev Desert boasts striking natural surroundings with captivating cliffs, craters and multihued sands. On a guided tour with an outfitter like Negev Highlands Trail, you can marvel at the area's natural splendors, like the Ramon Crater and unique wildlife, including leopards. At night, enjoy an unparalleled view of the stars.

Mount Shasta, California

Mount Shasta, a dormant volcano in the The Shasta–Trinity National Forest, stands at more than 14,000 feet tall and is believed to be a center for powerful spiritual rejuvenation, revitalization and healing. Hikers will appreciate the area's lilies and other wildflowers in the warmer months. Often compared to Mount Fuji, this scenery-packed hike does not disappoint outdoorsy types and is especially well-suited for those looking to commune with nature.

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About En Route

Practical advice on the art of traveling smarter with tips, tricks and intel from En Route's panel of experts.

Contributors have experience in areas ranging from family travel, adventure travel, experiential travel and budget travel to hotels, cruises and travel rewards and include Amy Whitley, Claire Volkman, Holly Johnson, Marsha Dubrow, Lyn Mettler, Sery Kim, Kyle McCarthy, Erica Lamberg, Jess Moss, Sheryl Nance-Nash, Sherry Laskin, Katie Jackson, Erin Gifford, Roger Sands, Steve Larese, Gwen Pratesi, Erin Block, Dave Parfitt, Kacey Mya, Kimberly Wilson, Susan Portnoy, Donna Tabbert Long and Kitty Bean Yancey.

Edited by Liz Weiss.

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