The World's 30 Best Places to Visit in 2018-19

With the help of reader input and expert analysis, U.S. News determined the top vacations.

By Erin Shields, Staff WriterJune 19, 2018
By Erin Shields, Staff WriterJune 19, 2018, at 12:01 a.m.
U.S. News & World Report

The World's 30 Best Places to Visit in 2018-19

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World's best places to visit
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You'll find everything from dreamy once-in-a-lifetime destinations to scenic national parks on this list.

When it comes to choosing a vacation, what appeals to one group of travelers might not be of interest to another. And with so many different destinations across the globe to choose from, narrowing down your options can be challenging. Taking into consideration sights, culture, food scenes, accommodation options and value for the money, plus reader and expert insight, U.S. News ranks the world's best places to visit. This list features everything from national parks to incredible island escapes to cities bursting at the seams with cultural sights. Read on and find your next vacation.
San Francisco is one of the world's best places to visit
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(Getty Images)

30. San Francisco

The City by the Bay offers something for everyone. Travelers love the city's iconic sights, including the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz, its vibrant neighborhoods like the Mission District and Chinatown, and its outdoor offerings, such as Muir Woods National Monument, Golden Gate Park and Ocean Beach. What's more, San Francisco is home to an excellent and diverse food scene, boasting everything from Michelin-starred eateries to tasty food trucks to the popular Ferry Building Marketplace food hall.
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You'll find everything from dreamy once-in-a-lifetime destinations to scenic national parks on this list.

When it comes to choosing a vacation, what appeals to one group of travelers might not be of interest to another. And with so many different destinations across the globe to choose from, narrowing down your options can be challenging. Taking into consideration sights, culture, food scenes, accommodation options and value for the money, plus reader and expert insight, U.S. News ranks the world's best places to visit. This list features everything from national parks to incredible island escapes to cities bursting at the seams with cultural sights. Read on and find your next vacation.

30. San Francisco

The City by the Bay offers something for everyone. Travelers love the city's iconic sights, including the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz, its vibrant neighborhoods like the Mission District and Chinatown, and its outdoor offerings, such as Muir Woods National Monument, Golden Gate Park and Ocean Beach. What's more, San Francisco is home to an excellent and diverse food scene, boasting everything from Michelin-starred eateries to tasty food trucks to the popular Ferry Building Marketplace food hall.

29. The Maldives

The epitome of luxury, the Maldives enjoy an incredibly scenic location in the Indian Ocean. The contrast of bright turquoise water against stark white sand is stunning, and this destination is a favorite spot for those looking to stay in an overwater bungalow (many of which come with a private plunge pool). This collection of islands appeals to travelers eager to rest, relax and indulge. A vacation here won't come cheap, but it will offer unique opportunities, such as dining in an underwater restaurant or enjoying a treatment at an underwater spa.

28. Prague

Once one of Europe's hidden gems, Prague now attracts millions of travelers annually – and for good reason. This beautiful city is home to impressive architectural landmarks, charming neighborhoods, friendly locals and a variety of lodging options. Spend time admiring the Old Town Square, the Prague Castle and the bizarrely designed Dancing House before sitting down for a meal and a locally brewed Pilsner. Even better, Prague is one of Europe's more affordable destinations to visit thanks to its many free attractions and budget-friendly accommodations.

27. Amalfi Coast, Italy

Italy's Amalfi Coast beckons to both adventure travelers and relaxation seekers. The 13 cliffside towns that comprise this region offer picturesque hiking trails and several beaches to explore. You'll also find exquisite luxury hotels sharing real estate with colorful residences framed by greenery and imposing cliffs cascading down to the cobalt Mediterranean Sea. In fact, one of the best ways to see the Amalfi Coast is on a boat tour. What's more, you'll discover delectable Italian fare and fresh seafood wherever you go.

26. Banff, Alberta

Outdoor enthusiasts should add Banff to their bucket lists. Surrounded by the Rocky Mountains and Banff National Park, this Canadian vacation spot offers active pursuits galore, ranging from hiking, whitewater rafting and caving to skiing, dogsledding and snowshoeing. The area also hosts cultural and musical performances throughout the year. Plus, the après-ski scene here is top-notch: Skiers and snowboarders can wind down with drinks by the fire and meet new friends after a day on the slopes.

25. Great Barrier Reef

Though the Great Barrier Reef's coral population is diminishing, it's still one of the most awe-inspiring destinations in the world. The region is home to more than 3,000 individual reefs and coral cays, and colorful fish like angelfish, clownfish, parrotfish and butterfly fish, in addition to various species of sharks. When you're not exploring underwater, you can spend time relaxing on Whitehaven Beach or sailing on the turquoise Coral Sea.

24. St. Lucia

St. Lucia has been a longtime favorite destination for honeymooners and couples, but luxurious resorts and a romantic atmosphere aren't the only things this Caribbean island has to offer. Visitors can hike and learn a bit of history at Pigeon Island National Landmark, or snap photos of the waterfall and flora at the Diamond Falls Botanical Gardens. And, of course, the beach is a big draw: St. Lucia's top sandy spots include Reduit Beach and Anse Chastanet.

23. Bali, Indonesia

This Indonesian island provides the perfect mix of opportunities for cultural exploration and relaxation. Travelers should spend time visiting and learning about the island's many ancient temples before heading to one of its beautiful beaches. As far as accommodations go, Bali features dozens of villas, hotels and resorts (at varying price points). To up the luxury factor, stay at a five-star resort like the Four Seasons or St. Regis and indulge in a spa treatment.

22. Costa Rica

Verdant rainforests, sprawling beaches, intriguing wildlife and imposing volcanoes characterize Costa Rica. Those looking to experience all of the above will want to seek out Manuel Antonio National Park, where you can begin the day sunbathing and swimming at the beach, then venture out for an afternoon hike to spot birds, iguanas, monkeys, sloths and more. Make sure to plan your visit for the dry season, from mid-December to April, to experience the most sun.

21. British Virgin Islands

The British Virgin Islands are an exclusive archipelago in the Caribbean Sea. Though these islands sustained damage during the 2017 hurricane season, they are bouncing back. A trip here will include plenty of outdoor fun and sun. The British Virgin Islands are home to stunning beaches, such as Cane Garden Bay, Anegada Island and Smuggler's Cove, as well as The Baths, a unique collection of granite boulders and coves. You could book a hotel here, or you could rent out a private villa or yacht to enjoy your island vacation in style.

20. Florence, Italy

With multiple museums, alluring churches and delicious cuisine, Florence woos travelers with its Italian charm. The best way to soak up this city's atmosphere is simply by wandering along its cobblestone streets and seeing what inspires you along the way. You may be drawn to a quaint boutique, the grandiose Duomo, a gelato shop or the iconic Ponte Vecchio bridge – the possibilities are endless. For incredible views of the city, take a short uphill walk to Piazzale Michelangelo.

19. Rio de Janeiro

The Cidade Maravilhosa (Marvelous City) honors its moniker by welcoming visitors with its scenic vistas and lively festivals. The extravagant Carnival celebration held each February or March includes days of masquerade balls, parades and parties. Those looking for a well-rounded trip to Rio should check out the towering Christ the Redeemer statue, explore the 340-acre Jardim Botânico, and spend some time lazing on Ipanema or Copacabana beach.

18. Machu Picchu, Peru

This Incan citadel in Peru is a once-in-a-lifetime trip. Part of the fun for many travelers is conquering the four-day hike along the Inca Trail before being rewarded with the view of this sprawling UNESCO World Heritage site. If you're not one for hiking, you can still see this impressive historical site by hopping on a train from Cusco to the mountain base.

17. Hong Kong

Hong Kong is a destination that puts travelers' senses into overdrive. The glittering skyline, the dynamic food scene, the historical sites and the family-friendly attractions are just a few reasons visitors can't get enough of this bustling metropolis. Start your trip with a tour of the waterfront on the Star Ferry, and pencil in visits to Hong Kong Disneyland or Ocean Park amusement park if you're traveling with kids. Meanwhile, foodies will delight in the culinary options: Dim sum, stir-fry and pineapple buns should be a few things you sample.

16. Sydney

The largest city in Australia offers a wealth of activities and attractions for travelers to enjoy. You can climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge for spectacular views (and a heart-pumping adventure), stroll through Darling Harbour and peruse the 74-acre Royal Botanic Garden. When it's time to wind down, head to Coogee Beach to sunbathe or snorkel, or to Bondi Beach to watch the surfers shred waves.

15. Maui, Hawaii

With captivating beaches, several scenic golf courses and even a volcano, Maui is almost an otherworldly vacation destination. Beach bums will have plenty of sandy shoreline to choose from: Waianapanapa features jet-black sand and is framed by an emerald green jungle, Kaanapali Beach is great for snorkeling and Wailea Beach is popular with those just looking to relax and take in the views. Meanwhile, a drive along the Road to Hana is another excellent way to see all the beauty this Hawaiian island has to offer.

14. Santorini, Greece

See a sunset in Santorini and you'll know why this Greek destination is one of the world's best places to visit. In addition to offering an exquisite evening atmosphere, Santorini boasts colorful black and red sand beaches, ancient ruins and several wineries. But the picture-perfect scenery is what draws most travelers: You'll see cliffside whitewashed buildings that line the brilliantly blue caldera. What's more, the luxury hotels here are some of the world's best.

13. Yosemite National Park, California

Stretching across nearly 1,200 square miles of nature, Yosemite National Park is every outdoor enthusiast's paradise. Travelers to this national park will encounter towering waterfalls, millennia-old Sequoia trees, striking cliff faces and some of the most interesting rock formations in the United States. Hiking is the best way to enjoy a trip to Yosemite, but visitors can also go swimming in some of the park's rivers, bike the various trails and enjoy photography walks or nature programs.

12. Barcelona, Spain

Impressive architecture and a decadent food scene are just two reasons why travelers should check out this Spanish city. Barcelona is famous for the uniquely designed La Sagrada Familia, Park Güell and Casa Batlló, all by renowned architect Antoni Gaudí, and Las Ramblas, the wide thoroughfare populated with buskers, bars and restaurants. Speaking of restaurants, you'll want to get your fill of tasty tapas and seafood in Barcelona. Other popular things to do here include hanging on the beach and cheering on the FC Barcelona fútbol team at Camp Nou Stadium.

11. Argentine Patagonia

Cerulean lakes, turquoise-tinted glaciers, emerald trees and sapphire skies stretch as far as the eye can see in Argentine Patagonia. Adventure travelers can explore natural wonders like the growing Perito Moreno Glacier and the jagged Mount Fitz Roy. And animal lovers can't miss a visit to Punta Tombo, home to the largest colony of Magellanic penguins in the world, in addition to other bird species.

10. New York City

The city that never sleeps boasts an almost overwhelming number of things to do and see, and chances are each time you visit you'll discover something new. You can see the talented actors and singers who grace Broadway's stages, stroll above the city along the elevated High Line, wander through the sprawling Central Park and explore the numerous museums. New York City is also home to excellent food options. Taste them all on a food tour, where you can discover the city's neighborhoods along the way.

9. Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Dubai is home to the world's tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, one of the world's largest shopping centers, the Dubai Mall, and one of the only indoor ski resorts in the world, Ski Dubai. In addition to being a city of superlatives, Dubai embraces its Middle Eastern traditions. The best way to immerse yourself is to tour the Jumeirah Mosque and stroll through the gold and spice souks.

8. Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

The Grand Canyon is indeed grand, with its colorful rock formations stretching across 277 river miles. One of America's most popular national parks (it attracts around 6 million visitors annually), the Grand Canyon offers ample opportunities for outdoor fun. Visitors can hike the rugged North Rim trails, traverse the Bright Angel Trail by mule and raft down the Colorado River, among other activities.

7. Phuket, Thailand

Phuket attracts travelers looking for a taste of exotic Thailand. The Andaman Sea's aquamarine-tinted water provides a striking contrast to the stark white sand beaches and emerald jungles that line the coast. Travelers to Phuket will want to spend plenty of time on the beach but should also set aside some time to explore the area's flavorful culinary scene, tour its impressive Buddhist temples and sail or snorkel on a boat tour.

6. South Island, New Zealand

It's the breathtaking natural landscape that woos adventurers to New Zealand's South Island, where outdoor opportunities abound. Visitors can explore the area's glaciers via helicopter, watch for wildlife like whales and penguins, tour the region's wineries and stargaze on top of Mount Cook. The island's many lakes and parks also invite travelers to kayak, sail, hike and bike to soak up every bit of New Zealand nature.

5. London

Home to a wealth of cultural and historical institutions, family-friendly attractions and festivals, plus a lively nightlife scene, London appeals to travelers young and old. Must-see attractions include the British Museum and Buckingham Palace, as well as iconic sights like the London Eye, the Tower Bridge and Big Ben. The city also features efficient and affordable public transit options, such as buses and the Tube, and there are a plethora of accommodations to choose from, ranging from vacation rentals to high-end hotels. As for dining, don't leave London without enjoying a curry or fish and chips with a pint at a pub.

4. Tahiti, French Polynesia

Tranquil Tahiti offers a little bit of everything. This island nation in French Polynesia is home to incredible beaches, stunning natural wonders like waterfalls, and interesting museums that teach visitors about the history of Tahiti. What's more, there are plenty of hotel options on this island, including luxe five-star resorts and no-frills, budget-friendly options.

3. Rome

Delicious food (pizza, pasta, gelato, you name it), rich coffee and excellent wine are a few reasons why travelers love Rome. However, food and drink aren't the only things this city has to offer. You'll find major highlights of art and history, from the Galleria Borghese to the Colosseum. Meanwhile, nearby city-state Vatican City is home to St. Peter's Basilica and the Sistine Chapel. Rome is also easy to reach from other destinations within Europe, and there are direct flights here from many other parts of the world (including the U.S.).

2. Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, Montana and Idaho

Travelers will be enchanted by the stimulating colors of Yellowstone. The Grand Prismatic Spring's waters are reminiscent of a rainbow, Yellowstone Lake is a deep blue and framed by green trees and snowcapped mountains, and Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone's rocky landscape is a mix of red and gold. In addition to offering incredible scenery, Yellowstone grants visitors the chance to see all sorts of wildlife (such as bears, bison, elk and otters), and there are hiking opportunities for abilities of all levels.

1. Paris

Paris is the pinnacle of art, history, culture and tourism. The City of Light is home to the expansive Louvre art museum, the magical Eiffel Tower and the charming Champs-Élysées lined with high-end stores and boutiques. Quaint cafes and patisseries rub elbows with both casual eateries and Michelin-starred restaurants in a city where the food scene is second to none. What's more, Paris plays host to dozens of fun festivals throughout the year.
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Erin Shields, Staff Writer

Erin Shields is the Managing Editor of Travel at U.S. News, where she oversees a team of ...  Read more

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