The World's Best Places to Visit in 2016-17

With the help of reader votes and expert analysis, U.S. News identified this year's top vacation spots.

By Christine Smith, Staff WriterJune 28, 2016
By Christine Smith, Staff WriterJune 28, 2016, at 9:00 a.m.
U.S. News & World Report

The World's Best Places to Visit in 2016-17

View all in one page
4 of 26
San Francisco skyline and Bay Bridge at sunset.
Credit

(Getty Images)

23. San Francisco

San Francisco is filled with eclectic neighborhoods, thriving food scenes and picturesque surroundings. But the main reason to visit the City by the Bay is undoubtedly its iconic attractions. After taking in the area's famous redwood trees at Muir Woods National Monument, head to Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge. And no visit to San Francisco would be complete without taking a ride on the city's famous cable cars and sampling some local sourdough bread.
Tirta Empul Temple in Tampak Siring Bali is a Hindu temple famous for its holy water where Hindu Bali people go for purification.
Credit

(Getty Images)

22. Bali, Indonesia

A laid-back vacation filled with culture and serene landscapes is what you'll experience in Bali. This paradisiacal island features towering volcanoes, beautiful beaches and multi-tiered rice paddy fields carved into lush hills. But the standout sites here are Bali's picturesque temples. Thousands of temples can be found throughout Bali, but the island's most popular religious sites include Uluwatu, Tanah Lot and Tirta Empul.
Next:
Two Magellanic Penguins gaze out over the Beagle Channel from their burrowed nest on Martillo Island near Ushuaia in Patagonia Argentina. In the distance are the Dientes de Navarino mountain range in Navarino Island, Chile.Magellanic penguins are medium-sized penguins which grow to be 61 to 76 cm (24 to 30 in) tall and weigh between 2.7 kg and 6.5 kg (5.9 to 14.3 lbs). The males are larger than the females, and the weight of both drops while the parents nurture their young.
Credit

(Getty Images)

24. Argentine Patagonia

This stunning South American destination is home to sky-high glaciers, granite-walled mountains and pristine lakes. Popular activities include trekking to Perito Moreno Glacier, horseback riding through southern Patagonia and skiing at Cerro Catedral. For those interested in spotting marine animals like Magellanic penguins and orcas, visit Punta Tombo and Peninsula Valdés, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Next:

Plan your next trip to one of these can't-miss destinations.

Let's face it: If you love to travel, prioritizing your must-see destinations can feel like a daunting challenge. From the charming canals of Amsterdam to the ancient pyramids of Cairo, your options are seemingly limitless. That's where U.S. News can help. Using a methodology that takes into account reader feedback and expert analysis, we determined which destinations qualify as the World's Best Places to Visit. This year's list offers everything from locales with top-notch food scenes to historic treasures. No matter where your travels take you, prepare to be wowed by breathtaking scenery, bucket list-worthy attractions and unique cultural experiences in these hot spots.

25. Budapest, Hungary

Therapeutic thermal baths, acclaimed museums and traditional Hungarian fare are just some of the things you'll find in this Eastern European city. And thanks to Budapest's abundance of Romanesque- and Gothic Revival-style architecture, the city is just as beautiful to look at as it is exciting to experience. For some of the best vistas of Budapest (and a view of one of the city's two UNESCO World Heritage sites), take the funicular from the banks of the Danube River to Castle Hill.

24. Argentine Patagonia

This stunning South American destination is home to sky-high glaciers, granite-walled mountains and pristine lakes. Popular activities include trekking to Perito Moreno Glacier, horseback riding through southern Patagonia and skiing at Cerro Catedral. For those interested in spotting marine animals like Magellanic penguins and orcas, visit Punta Tombo and Peninsula Valdés, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

23. San Francisco

San Francisco is filled with eclectic neighborhoods, thriving food scenes and picturesque surroundings. But the main reason to visit the City by the Bay is undoubtedly its iconic attractions. After taking in the area's famous redwood trees at Muir Woods National Monument, head to Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge. And no visit to San Francisco would be complete without taking a ride on the city's famous cable cars and sampling some local sourdough bread.

22. Bali, Indonesia

A laid-back vacation filled with culture and serene landscapes is what you'll experience in Bali. This paradisiacal island features towering volcanoes, beautiful beaches and multi-tiered rice paddy fields carved into lush hills. But the standout sites here are Bali's picturesque temples. Thousands of temples can be found throughout Bali, but the island's most popular religious sites include Uluwatu, Tanah Lot and Tirta Empul.

21. British Virgin Islands

A trip to the British Virgin Islands is all about the water. Whether you're relaxing on a beach, sailing or scuba diving, you'll never stray far from the territory's crystal blue surf. If you're looking for a central spot to hang your hat, look for accommodations on Tortola, the BVI's largest island. On this capital island, you'll find many of the territory's top beaches, including Smuggler's Cove, Brewers Bay and Cane Garden Bay.

20. Grand Canyon National Park

The Grand Canyon is easily one of America's best destinations for outdoor enthusiasts. Miles upon miles of hiking trails can be found here, plus thrilling rapids and scenic campsites. If you're up for a challenging workout, try hiking the Rim Trail and the Bright Angel Trail. If you're interested in a less strenuous view of the Grand Canyon, climb aboard the Grand Canyon Railway. Though you won't see all 277 miles of this massive chasm, you will see enough to appreciate its incomparable beauty.

19. Washington, District of Columbia

Our nation's capital offers all sorts of free iconic attractions. At the National Mall (the most visited national park in America), you'll find the Washington Monument and eight of D.C.'s most recognizable memorials, including the Lincoln Memorial, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and the National World War II Memorial. Many of the Smithsonian Institution's museums – the National Air and Space Museum, the National Museum of American History and the National Gallery of Art, to name a few – also reside on the National Mall.

18. Cairo

Not many destinations can say they house one of the Seven Wonders of the World. For that reason alone, you should visit Cairo. However, Egypt's sprawling capital boasts plenty of other top-tier attractions. After checking out the famous Giza Pyramids, make your way to the ruins of Memphis and the archeological sites of Dahshur and Saqqara. Just remember to steer clear of public protests, since the country's political unrest has led to many demonstrations turning violent.

17. Hong Kong

For the perfect blend of amusement parks, historic sites and delectable cuisine, look no further than Hong Kong. Start your trip with a ride on the Star Ferry, which offers plenty of photo ops and will help you acclimate to your surroundings. More sublime views await you at Victoria Peak and the Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade. Once you've worked up an appetite, make your way to Hong Kong's famous street markets, where local delicacies such as pineapple buns and put chai ko (sticky rice pudding) can be found.

16. Amsterdam

Though this European destination rose to fame for its Red Light District and infamous coffee shops, Amsterdam now draws in visitors with its charming canals and world-class museums. To truly appreciate Amsterdam's quaint atmosphere, hop on a bike and ride alongside the city's canals. Other top things to do here include visiting the Anne Frank House, relaxing in Vondelpark and touring the original Heineken brewery.

15. Yellowstone National Park

Wildlife spotting, hiking and fishing are just some of the activities you can enjoy at Yellowstone National Park. While hiking the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, Mount Washburn and other park trails, you'll enjoy incredible views of the area. If you're lucky, you may even spot a bald eagle or some elk. For an up-close encounter with a few of Yellowstone's larger animals, head to the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center. And, of course, do make time to see the park's famous sites such as Old Faithful and the Grand Prismatic Spring.

14. Rio de Janeiro

Despite political instability and the rapid spread of the mosquito-transmitted Zika virus, Rio's picturesque beaches, lively atmosphere and iconic attractions make this host of the 2016 Summer Olympic Games a must-see destination. Jaw-dropping views can be enjoyed at many of Rio's top attractions, including Sugar Loaf Mountain, Prainha Beach and Tijuca National Park. However, the star of this South American paradise is the Christ the Redeemer statue. At 2,330 feet above the city on Corcovado Mountain, this impressive statue is considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World.

13. Sydney

This metropolis offers first-rate museums, restaurants, events and landmarks while embracing the laid-back atmosphere of a coastal city. Though you'll certainly want to peruse world-famous attractions such as the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge, save some time for local favorites like The Rocks neighborhood and Coogee Beach. Time your visit right and you could experience one of Sydney's many fun (and free) festivals, such as the Night Noodle Markets, Sculpture by the Sea and Vivid Sydney.

12. Barcelona, Spain

Though this Mediterranean city is most famous for its Gaudi architecture and the Gothic-style La Seu cathedral, Barcelona offers plenty of other sites to enjoy. Sports fans shouldn't pass up a chance to visit Camp Nou stadium (home of the FC Barcelona team), and foodies will appreciate the Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria (a marketplace filled with fresh meats, fish, wines and produce).

11. Cape Town

Everything from world-famous wine to historic landmarks can be found in this South African city. However, it's Cape Town's jaw-dropping scenery that has visitors flocking to the area. Cape Town's Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden is a must for nature lovers. If relaxing along the shore is more your style, unwind on the white sands of Clifton Beach or look for African penguins at Boulders Beach. Another standout natural wonder here is Table Mountain, which can be reached on foot or via the mountain's aerial cableway.

10. Maui

Outdoor activities abound on this Hawaiian paradise. From phenomenal surf at Ho'okipa Beach to 14 world-class golf courses, Maui offers something for everyone. For some of the island's best views, consider trekking along one of Maui's picturesque hiking trails. If you only have time for one hike, make sure it's at Haleakala National Park. This 30,000-acre park is home to the island's highest peak and the popular Pipiwai Trail, which traces Maui's coast to Waimoku Falls.

9. New York City

If you travel to one city in the U.S., make sure it's the Big Apple. The city that never sleeps boasts some of the country's best cuisine, arts, architecture and museums. Though there are plenty of first-rate attractions, we recommend paying a visit to the National September 11 Memorial & Museum and strolling through Central Park. At night, take in one of Broadway's award-winning shows after grabbing a slice of pizza or dining at one of New York City's 76 Michelin-starred restaurants.

8. Rome

Whether you're a history buff or you're simply looking to cross a few sights off your bucket list, you'll find plenty to marvel at in the Eternal City. Must-see spots in Rome include the Trevi Fountain, the Roman Forum and the Pantheon, while sites like the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter's Basilica can be found in the adjacent Vatican City. But perhaps Rome's most recognizable attraction is the Colosseum, which is considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World.

7. London

Eclectic neighborhoods, renowned attractions and delectable pub grub await you in London. The Tower of London, Buckingham Palace and the London Eye are just a few of the city's must-see offerings. Budget-minded travelers will also be happy to find many of London's top things to do – including the Tower Bridge, Camden Market and the British Museum – are free to explore. For additional savings, plan your visit during the fall and winter months when you can typically score deals on airfare and accommodations.

6. Cusco, Peru

For a glimpse into the lives of the Inca, make your way to Peru. This South American city is more than just a starting point for travelers visiting Machu Picchu: Architectural landmarks like Qorikancha and La Catedral can be found within the city's limits. Remember to book your accommodations and tours several months in advance if you plan on traveling to Cusco between May and August, the city's peak tourist season.

5. Tokyo

Tech-centric Tokyo perfectly blends the hustle and bustle of a large metropolis with the continent's historic temples and top-notch food. Quintessential Tokyo attractions include the Sensoji Temple, the Imperial Palace and the Meiji Shrine, all of which are free to visit. And, of course, you can't leave Tokyo without indulging in Japanese staples such as sushi and ramen. Both can be found at the Tsukiji Market, our No. 1 attraction in Tokyo.

4. Florence, Italy

A visit to Florence is all about exploring its art-centric attractions. The Gothic-style Duomo protrudes from the city's skyline and features an impressive red-tiled cupola designed by renowned Renaissance architect Filippo Brunelleschi. Inside the Galleria dell'Accademia, you'll find the statue of David, one of Michelangelo's most famous works. And for a glimpse of iconic paintings such as Raphael's "Madonna of the Goldfinch" and Sandro Botticelli's "Birth of Venus," wander the halls of the Uffizi Gallery.

3. Bora Bora, French Polynesia

Visiting this stunning island does not come cheap. However, if you can swing a trip to Bora Bora, you'll find pristine lagoons, lush foliage and towering extinct volcanoes. For some of the island's best scenery, head to Matira Beach and Mount Otemanu. When you're ready to dive into crystal blue waters, check out the Bora Bora Lagoonarium and the Coral Gardens, two of the island's best snorkeling spots. After a long day of fun in the sun, retire to one of Bora Bora's famous overwater bungalows for a little relaxation.

2. Paris

With unbeatable charm, trendy boutiques and some of the world's most recognizable attractions, it's easy to see why the City of Light draws in millions of visitors each year. Set aside plenty of time to explore iconic landmarks such as the Arc de Triomphe, Notre-Dame Cathedral and the Eiffel Tower. When your feet are in need of a break, sip a coffee at one of the city's quaint cafes or grab a quick bite at a crepe stand. Though the State Department recently issued an alert on travel to Europe, an increased police presence at top sites shouldn't deter you from visiting this world-famous city.

1. Great Barrier Reef

The Great Barrier Reef is our No. 1 best place to visit. Whether you view it from the air or beneath the ocean surface, you'll be amazed by the reef's vibrant coral and more than 1,500 species of fish. The world's largest reef is also a prime spot to see endangered species such as the dugong – a type of sea cow – and the green sea turtle. However, rising sea temperatures are threatening to destroy the reef through a natural phenomenon called coral bleaching, so you'll want to experience this massive underwater ecosystem before the reef suffers widespread damage.
4 of 26

Christine Smith, Staff Writer

Christine Smith is an Editor for the Travel section at U.S. News, where she manages the annual ...  Read more

When purchasing from our site, we may earn commissions. This does not affect the quality or independence of our editorial content.