The World's 30 Best Places to Visit in 2020-21

Using reader input and expert analysis, U.S. News identified the latest can't-miss vacations.

U.S. News & World Report

The World's 30 Best Places to Visit in 2020-21

Best places to visit in the world
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Let exploration, relaxation or a mix of the two guide you toward your next getaway.

Planning a vacation may sound simple, but when the world is filled with so many breathtaking destinations, organizing a trip can become a challenging task. Using a methodology that considers expert analysis and user opinions, plus editor evaluations of everything from food and culture to sights and accessibility, U.S. News determined the World's Best Places to Visit in 2020-21. Whether you're looking for a cosmopolitan city, a picture-perfect island, a mountain retreat or something else entirely, the destinations on this ranking will help inspire you to book your next vacation. (Note: Some of these destinations may be affected by the coronavirus outbreak. Check with the CDC and the U.S. Department of State before traveling.)
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30. Niagara Falls

Stretching along the border of Canada and the United States, Niagara Falls draws tourists from around the globe. It's actually composed of three different falls – American Falls, Bridal Veil Falls and Horseshoe Falls – and altogether, they form the second-largest waterfall in the world. To get the full Niagara experience, embark on the Maid of the Mist boat to sail beneath the crashing waves and take in the spectacular views, but prepared to get splashed. There are also many other viewpoints to take in the majestic falls: Tourists can get soaked at the Cave of the Winds observation deck, venture along the calmer White Water Walk or check out the water from above at the Skylon Tower in Ontario.
Costa Rica is one of the world's best places to visit
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29. Costa Rica

Costa Rica's jungle will bring out the adventurous side of any visitor. You can't leave this rugged rainforest without zip lining beneath its tree canopy, which stretches for miles. The country is often called the "rich coast," because it's believed to be full of precious metals, but Costa Rica is rich in diverse wildlife, too – more than 50 species of hummingbirds, spider monkeys and sloths are just a few kinds of animals you might encounter while on vacation here. Outside the rainforests, you will find one of the region's most active volcanoes (Arenal Volcano), top-notch whitewater rafting, 800-plus miles of shoreline and numerous beaches. Travelers enjoy joining Costa Ricans and their "pura vida" lifestyle during the dry season from mid-December to April.
Argentine Patagonia is one of the world's best places to visit
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28. Argentine Patagonia

The southernmost tip of South America is teeming with eye-catching landscapes and seascapes – travelers can admire everything from jagged mountaintop glaciers to orcas beneath the water's surface. Argentine Patagonia is home to some of the world's purest marvels, including Mount Fitz Roy and the Perito Moreno Glacier. The penguins and seals that inhabit the eastern coastline may not be able to tell you the region's history, but you can head to the Cave of the Hands to explore distinct cave art that offers a look into Argentine Patagonia's past. The developing infrastructure of this Andes mountains region means visitors should expect to traverse rugged roads on their way from one striking attraction to the next.
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27. Rio de Janeiro

In this city of contrasts, 1,000-year-old rocky peaks act as a backdrop to the ever-evolving metropolis. Among Rio de Janeiro's bragging rights, the Christ the Redeemer statue that sits atop Mount Corcovado is considered one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. Travelers can enjoy dramatic views of the Marvelous City from Sugarloaf Mountain's summit or from down below at Copacabana Beach. After a day of sightseeing, kick back at one of the many luxury lodging options with a caipirinha (the country's national cocktail) and renowned Brazilian barbecue. If you plan to visit in February, bring glitter and bright clothing to celebrate and fit in with the samba dancers sweeping the streets for the Carnival festival.
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26. Amsterdam

Amsterdam's maze of canals offers a deeper educational and artistic history than you might have thought. Feast your eyes on the impressive artwork at the Van Gogh and Moco museums, and put yourself in 15-year-old Anne Frank's shoes when learning about her Holocaust story at the Anne Frank House. You'll also enjoy taking romantic cruises along the canal, which pass the stunning houses in the Herengracht neighborhood, or stopping in one of the many eccentric coffee shops in Leidseplein. And, of course, a visit wouldn't be complete without saying "proost" to good health at the Heineken Experience. Other popular activities include swinging over the city at the A'dam Lookout and people-watching in verdant Vondelpark.
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25. San Francisco

San Francisco is filled with attractions for all kinds of travelers. If you're a foodie or a fashionista, explore Ghirardelli Square (home to some of the nation's best chocolate) and roam trendy Fillmore Street to enjoy boutiques and top-notch dining experiences. For the best photo opportunities, stop by the pastel Painted Ladies houses, the Presidio neighborhood, historic Chinatown and Pier 39, where playful sea lions sunbathe and relax. Adventure-seekers can get their fix by listening to the escape attempt stories of some of America's most notorious criminals during an Alcatraz tour. Consider visiting in fall, when mild temperatures make it comfortable for travelers to walk or bike through each of the culturally distinct neighborhoods.
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24. Great Barrier Reef

Australia's Great Barrier Reef cannot be missed – literally: You can see the world's largest living structure from outer space. With nearly 3,000 coral reefs, about 900 islands and more than 1,500 species of fish, the Great Barrier Reef is one of the planet's most impressive destinations. Consistent tropical weather makes for excellent scuba diving opportunities year-round, meaning you'll have plenty of chances to see incredible coral, colorful fish, humpback whales and spinner dolphins. Plus, you can enjoy snorkeling, helicopter tours and glass-bottom boat adventures. After you've gotten your fill of the water, step ashore to experience Kuranda's rainforest (accessible via the Kuranda Scenic Railway), the Cairns Botanic Gardens and Hartley's Crocodile Adventures.
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23. St. Lucia

St. Lucia's tranquil beaches make for a sweet escape – and that's before you try the island's irresistible handmade chocolate. While St. Lucia lures beach bums and chocolate connoisseurs, it also flaunts the world's only drive-in volcano. The bubbling mud in the sulfur springs around the dormant volcano is said to have healing properties, so be sure to lather up before swimming at nearby Toraille Waterfall. You can also hike the Piton mountains, relax on serene beaches and zip line through the Chassin region's rainforests. After an active day, wind down at one of St. Lucia's luxurious lodging options, which range from hotels with infinity pools that overlook the Pitons to secluded romantic resorts for couples.
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22. Yellowstone

Established as the world's first national park in 1872, Yellowstone is home to a massive web of ecological and geological diversity, including the largest free-roaming herd of bison in America and more than 150 species of birds. Visitors can camp, hike, bike and boat through this 2.2 million-acre park, which was formed atop one of the world's largest active volcanoes and carved by glaciers, geysers, canyons, thermal pools, basins and valleys. You likely can't traverse Yellowstone in its entirety in one visit, but after seeing Old Faithful, Yellowstone Lake and Mammoth Hot Springs, you will definitely want to plan a return trip to see some of this Wyoming, Idaho and Montana park's lesser-known natural formations as well.
Oia at sunset, Santorini
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21. Santorini

Candlelit dinners overlooking the caldera, unforgettable sunsets at Oia and infinity pools that cling to cliffs above the Aegean Sea – these are just a few things to look forward to when visiting Santorini. The whitewashed houses that contrast with the cobolt water below make this Greek island postcard-worthy to say the least. But don't neglect the fascinating history behind this island. Santorini's volcanic activity around 1650 B.C. paved the way for the colorful beaches, ancient ruins and unique topography that visitors marvel at today. A few ways to experience Santorini's beauty include snorkeling in Kamari Beach's water and hiking from Fira to Oia, but you should also plan to dine alfresco while admiring the vivid orange sunsets over Amoudi Bay.
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20. Yosemite

For travelers who love to hike, rock climb, horseback ride and raft along scenic routes filled with wildlife, Yosemite has just what you're looking for. Yosemite Valley features some of the world's most impressive waterfalls, including Bridalveil Fall, Sentinel Fall and Yosemite Falls. Along with numerous thundering cascades, this California national park boasts a large population of towering sequoia trees. There are also hundreds of hiking trails, which lead to monumental rock formations life Half Dome and El Capitan, to guide you through the massive national park.
Florence is one of the world's best places to visit
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19. Florence

Travelers are sure to fall in love with the artistic treasures and ethereal Arno River that define this Tuscan paradise. The "birthplace of the Renaissance" features quaint streets and detailed fountains that never fail to impress. While wandering through the city, visitors should stop to shop for inexpensive Massimo leather and enjoy an authentic panini. Florence radiates a small-town feel even though some of the world's most striking architectural and artistic masterpieces, such as the Duomo and Michelangelo's David sculpture, call this city home. When it's time to unwind, enjoy a glass of Chianti during sunset at Piazzale Michelangelo, where you'll be treated to a panoramic view of Tuscany's capital.
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18. Banff

A small, historic town surrounded by snow-capped peaks, Banff is a treat in every season. The streets of this Alberta town are lined with world-class restaurants, breweries and boutiques. Banff's art galleries attract creative types, while its museums appeal to anyone itching to learn more about the wildlife and history of the region. The town is also a gateway to Banff National Park, so travelers can easily shred powder on Mount Norquay's slopes, hike mountain trails, admire the northern lights, relax in hot springs and canoe on Moraine Lake.
Sydney is one of the world's best places to visit
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17. Sydney

Striking sunsets at Sydney Harbour's world-famous Opera House and sweeping landscapes along the Blue Mountains are just some of the many reasons why millions of visitors vacation in Sydney each year. On top of beautiful natural scenery at Manly Beach and the Royal Botanic Garden, this city boasts legendary chefs and fresh seafood. Treat yourself to a meal and a bloody mary at the Coogee Pavilion after you conquer the 4-mile coastal walk from Bondi Beach to Coogee Beach (the cliffside vistas make the journey completely worthwhile).
Machu Picchu is one of the world's best places to visit
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16. Machu Picchu

One of the New Seven Wonders of the World, this Incan citadel is the ultimate bucket-list destination. Once you get to the Cusco region, you have two ways to journey to the grand site: by taking a train to Aguas Calientes and then hopping on a bus, or by devoting yourself to the four-day Inca Trail trek. No matter how you get to Machu Picchu, heart-stopping vistas at The Sun Gate, Huayana Picchu and Watchman's Hunt await your arrival. For the best weather, plan your trip between the end of May and September. However, be sure to book tickets well in advance, as these ancient grounds only permit a limited number of people at a time.
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15. Dubai

In Dubai, visitors can soak up the shoreline views from the tallest building in the world, shred powder on one of the longest indoor ski slopes on Earth and shop at one of the largest malls. Despite new developments in this futuristic city like the Burj Al Arab hotel and the Dubai Mall, Dubai holds onto its past, too. Travelers must make time to visit the Al Bastakiya Quarter, the city's charming historic district, as well as the spice and gold souks, where vendors flaunt their finest herbs and jewels. Beat the triple digit temperatures by visiting in winter, but be prepared to encounter crowds as you enjoy popular Jumeirah Beach.
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14. Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon definitely lives up to its name: Stretching along 277 miles of the Colorado River, this iconic American landmark offers biological diversity and awe-inspiring landscapes at every turn. Start at Grand Canyon Village, the most popular entryway to the Arizona park and home of Yavapai Point, one of the best places to gaze at the canyon. From there, let the Rim Trail or the North Kaibab Trail lead you to lookout points and riverside campgrounds. The park is open year-round, and each season offers different stunning scenery. However, dry and sunny weather in spring and fall enables visitors to hike along the Grand Canyon's many different trails and raft down the Colorado River.
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13. New York City

The Big Apple's five distinct boroughs overflow with ethnically diverse people, eateries and attractions. Let hipsters guide you down the trendy streets of SoHo, line up behind Brooklynites for a slice of award-winning pizza, follow Manhattanites into Fifth Avenue's finest stores and give your regards to one of Broadway's top-notch performances – the opportunities are endless. In addition to dozens of renowned museums, monumental skyscrapers and some of the world's most celebrated restaurants, New York City offers hundreds of lodging options, from budget-friendly to splurge-worthy.
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12. Bali

Bali is the place many people imagine when they hear the word "paradise." Situated in the Indonesian archipelago, Bali promises pristine beaches with prime surfing conditions, white sands and exotic wildlife. However, there's more to this little island than its idyllic stretches of coastline. Bali is home to geological wonders, lush forests and volcanoes. It also has a prominent religious culture, and tourists can admire the centuries-old Hindu temples scattered around the island. Not to mention, lively festivals are deeply rooted in Balinese culture, and if you're lucky enough to witness one of these celebrations, you're sure to appreciate the art and culture that make this island so magical.
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11. Barcelona

With a mix of Spanish and Catalan culture, Barcelona is full of authentic flair. Travelers can admire the unique works of architectural genius Antoni Gaudí at the renowned Sagrada Família, Park Güell and Casa Batlló. Visitors should also explore the rich history built into the streets of the Gothic Quarter, stop for a cocktail at one of the bars situated along La Barceloneta beach and shop the numerous stores along Passeig de Gràcia. If you're not already a gastronome, the sizzling patatas bravas (spicy potatoes), paella, fresh seafood and Spanish tortilla will certainly turn you into a foodie.
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10. Phuket

With plunging waterfalls, outstanding (and cheap) street food and nearly 30 beaches to choose from, Phuket welcomes millions of visitors every year. An outdoor enthusiast's playground by day and a party animal's paradise by night, this mountainous island has it all. For picture-perfect views, travelers should plan to visit Patong beach, Phang Nga Bay and Promthep Cape. Visitors will encounter daily reminders of Buddhism – Thailand's dominant religion – at towering temples and the Big Buddha statue on Mount Nagakerd. What's more, Phuket's colorful shrines, elephant sanctuaries and Laem Hin Pier, which features floating restaurants that dish out fresh seafood, are sure to impress.
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9. Rome

Rome's mouthwatering handmade pasta and pizza will definitely please your palate, but getting a taste of Italian flavor in the Eternal City goes beyond its heavenly dishes. Where classical architecture is second to none, Italy's cosmopolitan capital seamlessly integrates ancient ruins, columns, piazzas and small-town charm into the most highly populated area of the country. Explore the monumental Colosseum, discover the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City and make a wish at the Trevi Fountain – you'll find authentic cultural history around every corner. As they say, "When in Rome, do as the Romans do" and enjoy "la dolce vita" while you can in this ancient city.
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8. Tokyo

Authentic, chic and a little bit overwhelming, Japan's capital city is a feast for the senses. Neon signs light up the bustling streets, and the scent of warm ramen drifts from nearly every restaurant. Tokyo offers a plethora of activities: You can shop in the famous Ginza district, explore the Tokyo National Museum or check out the view from the top of the Tokyo Skytree. If you want a break from city life, take a moment to relax in one of Tokyo's many green areas, such as Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden or Yoyogi Park. Tokyo is convenient to fly to, and its advanced public transportation makes exploring a breeze. So, take a deep breath and step outside your comfort zone into a city where an ultramodern lifestyle blends uniquely with ancient tradition.
Tahiti is one of world's best places to visit
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7. Tahiti

Coral gardens, sandy beaches and overwater bungalow resorts are a few of the many characteristics that make Tahiti a jewel in the crown of French Polynesia. Water sports enthusiasts can surf at Papenoo beach or watch manta rays, sea turtles, hammerhead sharks and dolphins glide by while scuba diving in vast lagoons and crystal-clear waters. This scenic island invites visitors to witness its colorful grounds with off-the-beaten-path hikes along waterfalls and volcanoes. Tahiti's multicultural influences also make for some uniquely delicious cuisine. Meats and vegetables prepared in a hima'a (an underground oven) and poisson cru (Tahitian tuna ceviche) are must-try dishes, but resorts also offer staple American meals for less adventurous eaters.
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6. Maui

Framed by verdant mountains, beautiful beaches and colorful flora, Maui makes for an incredible getaway. Visitors can enjoy torch-lit hikes through Ka'eleku Cave, scuba diving excursions in the crescent moon-shaped Molokini Crater and sunrises over Haleakala National Park's shield volcano. Maui also boasts some of the biggest surfing waves in the world (at Paia shore) and excellent windsurfing conditions (at Ho'okipa Beach Park). Whether you stay at one of the world-class resorts in Wailea or Lahaina, or a modest hotel in Kahului, the island's 30 miles of beaches are within easy reach.
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5. London

From walking along upscale Oxford Street to discovering quirky Dover Street boutiques to watching a performance in the West End theater district, lively London offers something for all types of travelers. Big Ben, the London Eye and Buckingham Palace are among the dozens of world-famous landmarks that visitors can see here. What's more, the London nightlife scene is unmatched, from its spirited pubs to its edgy clubs. The only challenge you might face is deciding where to eat: This melting pot offers an overwhelming variety of mouthwatering global cuisine. Some of London's must-try meals include a Sunday roast and nandu varuval (Indian-style soft-shell crab).
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4. Glacier National Park

The rugged mountains, turquoise lakes and diverse forests of Montana's Glacier National Park make for a vacation full of breathtaking views and plenty of hiking. The national park spans more than 1 million acres and boasts more than 760 lakes and 200 waterfalls. Not to mention, it's one of the largest intact ecosystems in the continental United States. When you visit, you can bed down in one of the surrounding towns, but to get the full experience, consider camping at one of the park's many designated campgrounds.
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3. Bora Bora

Surrounded by black rock mountains, hibiscus flowers and cerulean lagoons, Bora Bora is lauded for its peaceful atmosphere. This French Polynesian archipelago attracts couples with romantic floating villas at various overwater resorts, which rest atop diverse marine ecosystems. Venture out of your serene hideaway and hike the island's ancient volcano (Mount Otemanu), which is surrounded by a string of coral islets. The shallow, warm waters are perfect for first-time snorkelers, and experienced water sports enthusiasts can enjoy activities like kayaking, Jet Skiing and paddleboarding. Regardless of whether you're a beach bum, an adrenaline junkie or somewhere in between, this pristine island will no doubt captivate you.
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2. Paris

The City of Love, grounded by the iconic Eiffel Tower, appeals to travelers with its charming culture and intimate atmosphere. If the way to your heart is through your stomach, indulge in Paris' culinary delicacies, from savory crepes and cheeses to fresh baguettes, macarons and pastries. Let intuition guide you down cobblestone streets as you listen to the language of love and explore the illustrious architecture along the banks of the Seine. Travelers should also plan to visit the Louvre and shop along Boulevard Saint-Germain, then take a seat in an outdoor cafe and simply watch the world go by.
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1. South Island, New Zealand

One of the top outdoor destinations in the world, New Zealand's South Island possesses some of the purest landscapes on Earth and offers ample opportunities for adrenaline-fueled activities. A trip here is incomplete without visiting the "Adventure Capital of the World," Queenstown, where risk-takers can cross bungee jumping, paragliding and skydiving off of their bucket lists. Hiking, biking and boating are also great ways to see the island's breathtaking scenery. The South Island's numerous national parks feature extremely diverse terrain to explore, including glaciers, lakes, peninsulas, mountains and beaches. Whether taking a leap of faith at Mount Cook or watching Milford Sound's pastel-colored sky dissolve into stars, this island is marked by endless exploration. To explore the full list and vote for the destinations you think are the world's best, head to the rankings »

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