10 trips of a lifetime

Overwater bungalows in Bora Bora, French Polynesia (Photo: Frommers.com Community)

We all take simple vacations, but when was the last time you traveled somewhere that changed who you are and how you see the world? These 10 places, while not always easy to reach, inspire travelers to rethink – and perhaps better appreciate  – the world around us.

Bora Bora, French Polynesia

Nothing says "ultimate honeymoon" like Bora Bora. Lush mountains slope down to a lagoon striped with bands of clear water ranging from deep blue-green to neon-turquoise. Around the lagoon, palm-fringed atolls and coral reefs trace a wispy pentagon, and everywhere, suspended boardwalks lead like tentacles to overwater bungalows for newlyweds and other romantics. Too perfect a tropical getaway to be a secret, Bora Bora is nevertheless remote and expensive enough that the island's luxurious mystique has remained intact.

Less touristy and even more stunning is Moorea – inspiration for the mythical island of Bali Ha'i in James Michener's Tales of the South Pacific, made popular by the Rodgers & Hammerstein musical. Once you behold its beauty in person, you may find it hard to believe the scenery isn't computer-generated: Jagged mountain contours are so dramatically faceted as to seem man-made, and the dense vegetation blanketing every surface of the island has the soft, rich look of green velvet. If the landscape isn't dreamy enough, visitors can learn the art of growing black pearls or traditional tattooing at Moorea's Tiki Theatre Village, a reconstructed Polynesian village. Or visit a vanilla plantation in cliff-bounded Opunohu Valley. Or simply make friends with local residents, who still have time to stop and chat with inquisitive visitors.

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