Bucket list? Zzzz. But this list of 25 spots -- from caves to critters to Cuba -- crackles with energy

The ALMA telescope in northern Chile includes an array of 66 radio antennas that scientists use to see the universe.

The ALMA telescope in northern Chile includes an array of 66 radio antennas that scientists use to see the universe.

(European Southern Observatory / Babak Tafreshi / Wikimedia Commons)

You won't find India's Taj Mahal or San Francisco's Alcatraz on Smithsonian magazine's list of 25 top new places to travel in its September issue. It approaches destinations as a place to learn and experience rather than just snap a photo.

Smithsonian calls it a life list -- more about living than kicking the bucket. And it's geared toward the 21st century traveler. Four U.S. destinations make the list, and five sites don't even exist yet.

Check out Smithsonian's "21st Century Life List: 25 Great New Places to See" by Jamie Malanowski.

Here are the 25 that made the cut.

1. Hang Son Doong cave, Vietnam

(Doug Knuth / Wikimedia Commons)

The cave, believed to be the largest in the world, has been open to tourists for the past two years. Its entrance was only discovered in 1991, was then lost and then rediscovered. A river runs through this massive cave whose chambers can be as much as 450 wide and 600 feet deep. It's about five miles long, so go with a guide.

2. CERN Laboratory, Switzerland

A calorimeter being installed at the large hadron collider at CERN. (CERN)

Its big claim to fame is being the place where experiments led to the discovery of the Higgs bosun or God particle. And if you don't get particle physics, brush up before you go. The center, known by its acronym for Conseil Europeen pour la Recherche Nucleaire (European Organization for Nuclear Research), only occasionally schedules open days for the public to visit. It's located in Meyrin, north of Geneva.

3. Spaceport America, New Mexico

Opening of Spaceport America in 2011. (Matt York / Associated Press)

If you want to take a $250,000 commercial flight into outer space, this is probably where you'll take off and land -- with a little bit of weightlessness on your return. Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic space travel venture chugs on in Mojave, Calif., despite the setback of a fatal pilot crash last year. Spaceport offers daily tours at the site about 55 miles north of Las Cruces.

4. Mountain gorilla treks, East Africa

(Peter Martell/AFP/Getty Images)

Travelers see the big animals close up on these treks in Congo and Rwanda. It's the close contact that makes this experience list-worthy. Smithsonian offers this tip on how to act when you see one: "Speak quietly; stay at least 20 feet from the animals; if one charges, crouch down slowly, avoid eye contact and wait for the animal to pass. In other words, act as if you were taking your tween daughter to a One Direction concert." Cost is about $400 a day in Congo and $750 in Rwanda, the magazine reports.

5. ALMA telescope, northern Chile

(European Southern Observatory)

It's the clearest view of the night sky you'll ever get. That's because this array of telescopes sits above the Atacama Desert, one of the driest places on the planet. Formally called the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array, the telescope sits at 16,570 feet above sea level. Parts of the site are open to tourists -- and don't forget to stand still at night and just look up.

The rest of the best ...

6. Mendenhall Ice Caves, Alaska

(Gillfoto / Wikimedia Commons)

The ice caves exist under the Mendenhall Glacier (which is melting) in Tongass National Park.

7. Ferrari World, Abu Dhabi

(Aziz J. Hayat / Wikimedia Commons)

The theme park boasts the world's fastest roller coaster -- 0 to 60 mph in 2 seconds and a top speed of 149 mph in five seconds.

8. Cayman Trench, Caribbean Sea

You can dip 2,000 feet below the sea aboard a submarine operated by the Roatan Institute of Deepsea Exploration.

9. Museum of Islamic Art, Qatar

I.M. Pei designed this museum with textiles, manuscripts, ceramics, jewelry and more in Doha.

10. NOMA restaurant

White asparagus with poached egg yolk and sauce of woodruff. (CycloneBill/Wikimedia Commons )

Quite simply the world's best restaurant, located in a warehouse in Copenhagen. Chef Rene Redzepi forages and creates extraordinary dishes -- in the kitchen and on the plate.

11. Havana

(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times )

"Go, baby, for the love of God go!" the Smithsonian list says. Go for the time capsule aspect of visiting Havana before it all vanishes.

12. Leicester, England

(Andrew Cowie / AFP/Getty Images )

This is all about Richard the III, killed in 1485 and whose body was recently discovered. See the Leicester Cathedral, above, where his bones were reinterred last March, below, the Bosworth Battlefield Heritage Center and the King Richard III Visitor Center.

(Andy Rain / EPA )

13. Haifa, Israel

(EdoM / Wikimedia Commons )

Visit the Baha'i shrine in Haifa, above.

14. Ross Island, Antarctica

(Eddy Hartenstein / Los Angeles Times)

Spend New Year's Eve (and day, of course) in Antarctica, where you'll find folks celebrating the Icestock music festival.

(Eddy Hartenstein / Los Angeles Times)

15. Throbbing Temple, New Delhi

(Vaibhav Shukla / Wikimedia Commons )

Swaminarayan Akshardham Temple is the largest Hindu temple in the world.

16. John Muir Way, Scotland

The newly opened Kelpies sculptures in Falkirk, Scotland, are a stop on the John Muir Way. (Jeff J. Mitchell / Getty Images)

The 145-mile John Muir Way, named for the Sierra Club founder and naturalist, runs from his hometown of Dunbar to Helensburgh.

17. Karakum Desert, Darvaza, Turkmenistan

(David Stanley / Wikimedia Commons )

The Karakum Desert, above, also holds the natural-gas cavern called the Door to Hell, below.

(Flydime / Wikimedia Commons)

18. Tianmen Mountain, Hunan Province, China

Take the 700-foot sky walk in Zhangjiajie National Forest Park.

19. Ecuador by rail

(Jose Jacome / EPA)

Take the rail line from Quito in the Andes, above, to Guayaquil on the Pacific coast.

20. Ellis Island Hospital, New York City

Period photographs of patients and the hospital. (Julio Cortez / Associated Press)

21. SkyRise Tower, Miami

This will be tower shaped like a money clip slated to open in 2018.

22. Louvre Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates


The long-awaited Saadiyat Island museum may open as soon as December, according to Smithsonian.

23. Garden footbridge, London

The footbridge that will measure 1,200 feet is expected to open in 2018.

24. Kingdom Tower, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

The tower scheduled to open in 2018 aims to claim the world's tallest building (3,034 feet).

25. Giza Plateau, Grand Egyptian Museum, Egypt

The museum will house 100,000 artifacts when it opens in 2018.


America's No. 1 tourist spot is a place nobody ever wanted to be: Alcatraz

Griffith Observatory and Big Sur among '500 best places on the planet' (Sorry, Hollywood sign!)

10 Labor Day hot spots: Vegas and NYC sizzle, Miami and Seattle drizzle and L.A. is its cool self