A 1,600-square-mile area in New Zealand's South Island comprising Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park and the Mackenzie Basin has just been designated the world's fourth International Dark Sky Reserve, making it "one of the best stargazing sites on Earth" according to Bob Parks, executive director of the International Dark-Sky Association.
Nature's Highway arranges three-night/four-day cycling tours to Mackenzie Basin from $995 per person. Includes accommodation, bike hire and luggage transport; natureshighway.co.nz/tour-dates-and-price
5. Cormorant fishing, China
With its mountain backdrop and shores lined with ancient houses, the Nanxi River in Zhejiang inevitably became the cradle of classic Chinese water-and-ink painting.
By drifting down the Nanxi River on a bamboo craft, travelers can enjoy views of locals doing laundry along the river and fishermen employing traditional methods of using cormorants to catch fish. The xiangyu is a rare freshwater fish unique to the Nanxi.
The nearest traffic hub to Nanxi River is Wenzhou, a major city in Zhejiang Province. It's about 23 kilometers away. Major cities connected to Wenzhou Airport by direct flights include Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Hangzhou.
6. Jungle pyramids, Palenque, Mexico
Mayan pyramids pervade the eastern side of Mexico, but none are more breathtaking than those of Palenque in the far south. The jungle temple of this site inspired "Raiders of the Lost Ark," and it has a lost-world, Indiana Jones kind of feeling other ruins lack.
This is the year to hit the Mayan ruins --- the ancient tribe believed the world would end in 2012.
Tucan Travel's 22-day End of the World tour hits Palenque on New Year's Eve and takes in other Mayan sites; $2,240; tucantravel.com/tour
7. Inside the Thrihnukagigur volcano, Iceland
Iceland is a spectacular living wilderness, and in summer it's possible to journey right into the inner cavity of the Thrihnukagigur volcano, which has been dormant for 4,000 years.
After a short hike across lava fields, participants descend 120 meters via a cable car into the heart of the volcano and its magma chamber, only accessible between mid-June and the end of July.
Discover the World offers three nights in Iceland including accommodation, volcano visit and a look at other natural wonders as well as the capital, Reykjavik, from around $1,130; discover-the-world.co.uk
8. Monument Valley, United States
You'd be forgiven for thinking this thrilling red rock vista at the conjunction of Arizona and Utah was a movie set. But although it's served as the backdrop for many John Ford movies, this corner of the Navajo Nation is for real.
The best way to experience the area is to stay overnight, then ride into the park with a Native American guide who can arrange a visit with some of the residents. Particularly magical is a nighttime visit around the time of the full moon.
General admission $5; navajonationparks.org
9. Kasanka bat migration, Zambia
Five million bats cluster together in one tiny corner of Zambia's Kasanka National Park every November.