With a world full of fascinating destinations, choosing the perfect vacation spot can present a challenge. That’s why, we used expert opinions, current trends and evaluated sights, cultures, scenic beauty, food scenes and more – to compile this list of the world’s best places to visit.
Use these recommendations to craft your travel bucket list, and cast your comments below to help us determine next year’s list. To fuel your wanderlust, even more, take a photo tour of the World’s Best Places to Visit. (Note: Some of the below destinations may be affected by the coronavirus outbreak. Check with the CDC and the U.S. Department of State before travelling.)
World’s Best Places to Visit
1. South Island
New Zealand’s South Island brims with majestic landscapes at every turn, from dramatic mountains to fjords to glaciers. Here, you can explore Fiordland National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Area, or gaze at the starry skies at Mount John Observatory.
You can also indulge your inner daredevil in Queenstown, explore two of the most accessible glaciers in the world on the country’s west coast or sample delicious food and wine in the Marlborough region.
Every day, the magnetic City of Light draws visitors from around the globe who come to see iconic attractions like the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre and the Arc de Triomphe. But what travelers really fall in love with are the city’s quaint cafes, vibrant markets, trendy shopping districts and unmistakable je ne sais quoi charm.
Get lost wandering along Paris’ cobblestone streets, or grab a croissant and relax on the banks of the Seine for hours.
3. Bora Bora
What this small island may lack in size it makes up for in sheer tropical beauty. Here, you’ll find picturesque beaches, lush jungles and luxurious resorts. The island’s dormant volcano, Mount Otemanu, makes for a great photo-op or challenging hike, and the friendly Bora Bora locals can help you catch a glimpse of the island’s best sights during an off-road excursion.
To relax, head to Matira Beach for crystal-clear water and soft sand. Although a trip to Bora Bora is very expensive, most travellers say it’s worth every penny.
Snow-capped peaks and azure lakes are just two reasons why Glacier National Park is one of the most-visited parks in the United States. There are more than 700 miles of hiking trails in this Montana park, plus 13 designated areas for camping.
In winter, travellers can enjoy snowshoeing and skiing, while summer is when vacationers can go swimming and whitewater rafting, among other popular activities. For those who’d rather admire their surroundings from their car, a scenic drive along Going-to-the-Sun Road can’t be missed.
London is a world unto itself. The eclectic neighbourhoods, which house a blend of historical landmarks and modern-day attractions, can keep you occupied for days. If it’s your first time in London, save time for a visit to the Tower of London, Tate Modern, Buckingham Palace or the British Museum before sitting down to a classic afternoon tea.
The best time to travel to London is during the warmer months but be warned that this is also the busiest and most expensive time of year.
Whether you’re driving along the Road to Hana, enjoying a bird’s-eye view of the lush coastline from a helicopter, snorkelling with sea turtles or simply relaxing on the island’s honey- or black-coloured beaches, you’ll find that Maui is unlike any other tropical destination. Don’t miss a chance to visit Haleakala National Park, which is home to the world’s largest dormant volcano.
You should also attend a luau for a dose of local culture and a taste of Hawaiian specialities like poi, poke and mahimahi.
Travel to this island – the largest in French Polynesia – if you’ve been dreaming of a vacation spent lazing in a lavish overwater bungalow. Beyond the posh resorts, Tahiti boasts black sand beaches, a bustling capital and prime snorkelling and surfing conditions.
If you’re looking for more cultural experiences, check out some of the island’s ancient temples or shop at its traditional covered markets. Luxurious five-star resorts abound here, but the easiest (and cheapest) way to experience this paradise is on a cruise.
Simply setting foot in Japan’s cosmopolitan capital is an experience within itself. A city known for its bustling streets adorned with flashing neon signs, Tokyo offers visitors a little bit of everything. Foodies won’t be let down by the city’s fresh sushi and hearty ramen.
Budding photographers and adrenaline junkies will love taking in the sweeping panoramas from the top of the Tokyo Skytree. Shopaholics will find plenty of must-have designer products in Ginza. And for history buffs, Tokyo offers centuries-old temples and shrines to explore.
When you visit the Eternal City, prepare to cross a few must-see attractions – including the Colosseum, the Trevi Fountain and the Pantheon – off of your bucket list. Additional treasures, such as St. Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel, can be found in nearby Vatican City.
Escape the tourist crowds by taking a twilight stroll along the cobblestone streets of Trastevere, or head to Mercato Centrale Roma to sample local delicacies like gelato and pizza. Before leaving, peruse some of Rome’s lesser-known museums, art galleries and boutiques.
Located in southern Thailand, Phuket offers something for everyone, especially budget-minded travellers. Everything from accommodations to spa treatments to boat tours come with a low price tag. For stunning scenery, check out the limestone cliffs of Phang Nga Bay and lounge on Phuket’s gorgeous white sand beaches.
Other must-sees include Wat Chalong Temple and the Big Buddha. Once the sun sets, take part in the island’s lively nightlife scene.
This Spanish city is a feast for the eyes: Visitors can walk past medieval architecture in the Barri Gòtic, snap photos of the intricate Sagrada Família and marvel at Gaudí’s whimsical creations in Park Güell. La Barceloneta Beach and the Parc de la Ciutadella are perfect places to pass the time on a sunny day before checking out the restaurants and bars along Las Ramblas, which buzzes at all hours of the night. For travellers who want to see Barcelona from above, a trek up Tibidabo is a must.
Serene temples and beautiful beaches are the biggest draws to this lush Indonesian paradise. And we do mean lush – the region’s notoriously soggy wet season is best avoided by planning a visit between April and October. Break up your beach time with a visit to Kintamani, home to a towering (and active) volcano and a large lake.
If you’re craving an adrenaline rush, rent a scooter and go exploring or hop on one of the island’s many swings to soar above rice terraces and jungles.
13. New York City
New York City hosts infinite urban adventures: You can wander through Central Park, tour the exhibits at the Met, catch a Broadway show or peruse SoHo’s stylish boutiques. At night, admire Manhattan’s glittering skyscrapers from the top of the Empire State Building or the rooftop bar of your trendy boutique hotel.
Foodies will also appreciate the Big Apple’s endless restaurant options. If you want to sample a bit of everything, consider signing up for a food tour.
14. Grand Canyon
Measuring roughly 277 miles long, 18 miles wide and a mile deep, the Grand Canyon offers plenty of outdoor activities for everyone from day-trippers to adventure junkies. Hike along the national park’s popular Rim and Bright Angel trails for unparalleled vistas, cool off with a whitewater rafting excursion down the Colorado River or view the dramatic Arizona landscape from above during a helicopter tour.
Stunning Persian Gulf views, heart-pumping activities and historical landmarks await you in Dubai. This Middle Eastern city is filled with some of the world’s most notable and unique attractions, including the Burj Khalifa, the Dubai Mall and indoor Ski Dubai.
But the city still holds onto its heritage, as seen in the Bastakiya Quarter and the traditional Gold and Spice souks. When you need a break from the hustle and bustle of the city, head to Jumeirah Beach’s sandy shore.