World's Best Places to Visit
With a world full of fascinating destinations, choosing the perfect vacation spot can present a challenge. That's why U.S. News used expert opinions, user votes and current trends, in addition to evaluating sights, cultures, scenic beauty, food scenes and more, to compile this list. Use these recommendations to craft your travel bucket list, and cast your vote below to help us determine next year's list. Take a photo tour of the World's Best Places to Visit »
World's Best Places to Visit
- South Island, New Zealand
- Bora Bora
- Grand Canyon
- New York City
- Machu Picchu
- San Francisco
- Argentine Patagonia
- British Virgin Islands
- St. Lucia
- Rio de Janeiro
- Great Barrier Reef
- Costa Rica
- Amalfi Coast
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Every day, the magnetic City of Light draws visitors who travel from around the globe to see iconic attractions like the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, Le Marais and the Arc de Triomphe in real life. 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.
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South Island, New Zealand#2 in World's Best Places to Visit
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 west coast or sample delicious food and wine in Marlborough.
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When you visit the Eternal City, prepare to cross a few must-see attractions, including the Colosseum, the Trevi Fountain and the Pantheon, off your bucket list. Additional treasures like St. Peter's Basilica and the Sistine Chapel can be found in nearby Vatican City. Escape the tourist crowds with a twilight stroll through the cobblestone streets of Trastevere. And take time to sample some of Rome's delicacies at Mercato Centrale Roma.
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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 snorkeling and surfing conditions. Luxurious five-star resorts abound here, but the easiest (and cheapest) way to experience this paradise is on a cruise.
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London is a world unto itself. The eclectic neighborhoods, which house a blend of historic landmarks and modern-day attractions, can keep you occupied for days. If it's your first time, don't pass up 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 visit is during the warmer months, but be warned that these months are also the busiest and most expensive of the year.
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Whether you're driving along the Road to Hana, enjoying a bird's-eye view of the lush coastline from a helicopter, snorkeling with sea turtles or simply relaxing on the island's honey- or black-colored 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.
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What this small island may lack in size it makes up for in sheer tropical beauty. Here, you'll find picturesque beaches, lush jungles, luxurious resorts and a dormant volcano – Mount Otemanu makes for a great photo op or challenging hike. To relax, head to Matira Beach for crystal-clear water and soft sand. Keep in mind that a trip to Bora Bora is very expensive, though travelers say it's worth every penny.
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Located in southern Thailand, Phuket offers something for everyone, especially budget-minded travelers. 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 the white sand beaches of the Phi Phi Islands (accessible by boat from Phuket). Other must-sees include Wat Chalong Temple and the Big Buddha.
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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 landscape from above during a helicopter tour.
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Year after year, millions of visitors travel to Yosemite National Park to stand in awe of natural wonders like Half Dome and Yosemite Falls. Take in the panoramic views from outlooks like Glacier Point and the Tunnel View. Hit the hiking trails early in the day to avoid crowds looking for the perfect photo op. To save money, skip the hotel and camp out for the full experience (just be sure to book your spot well in advance).
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This city is a feast for the eyes: Visitors can walk past medieval architecture in the Barri Gòtic, snap photos of the intricate La Sagrada Família and marvel at Gaudí's whimsical creations in Park Güell. Meanwhile, Las Ramblas' restaurants and nightclubs buzz at all hours, while La Barceloneta Beach is the perfect place to pass the time on a hot day.
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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. And 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.
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Stunning Persian Gulf views, heart-pumping activities and historic landmarks await you in Dubai. This Middle Eastern city is filled with one-of-a-kind attractions, including the Burj Khalifa, the Dubai Mall and the 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.
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Machu Picchu#14 in World's Best Places to Visit
A visit to the "lost city of Incas" is not for the faint of heart, but it is often described as life-changing (once you acclimate to the altitude). While the four-day hike along the Inca Trail is challenging, arriving at the site during sunrise is well worth it, according to past travelers. If you're not up for the trek, you can also hop on a tourist train to the mountain base.
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Sydney offers more than just a dizzying array of landmarks (the Sydney Opera House, Sydney Harbour, Mrs. Macquarie's Chair and the Sydney Harbour Bridge, to name a few). This Australian city boasts a warm, sunny climate that is ideal for enjoying its long list of seasonal festivals and events, and for relaxing or surfing at world-renowned beaches like Coogee, Bondi and Manly.
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It is not cheap or easy to reach, but this isolated paradise between the Arabian and Laccadive seas is the personification of a dreamy tropical vacation. Here, thatched-roof bungalows straddle crystal-clear aquamarine waters, and beach trips and spa treatments are the only items on the agenda. If cabin fever sets in, pay a visit to the capital, Male, or book a snorkeling or scuba diving excursion.
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Famous museums, tulips, canal-lined streets, "coffee shops" and high-end boutiques await you in Amsterdam. Here, you can spend your days gazing at Vincent van Gogh paintings, relaxing in Vondelpark and shopping in the Nine Little Streets area. Immerse yourself in Dutch culture by eating raw herring or pancakes. If you plan your trip for the spring, don't miss the Keukenhof gardens, where you can view millions of flowers.
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Home to some of America's most recognizable landmarks, including the Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman's Wharf and Alcatraz Island, San Francisco has the ability to satisfy outdoorsy types, foodies and curious wanderers of all ages. Take time to explore the Castro district and eat your way through Chinatown. If you don't have time to hit all the top spots, a scenic ride on one of the city's historical cable cars is a must.
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Florence offers plenty of world-famous attractions, including the Duomo, Piazzale Michelangelo and Piazza della Signoria. After appreciating this historic Italian city's Renaissance architecture and art, sample some of the region's delectable Tuscan food and wine at Florence's quaint cafes, gelato shops and ristorantes. Then, cross the Ponte Vecchio to get to the Boboli Gardens, where you'll find verdant gardens and panoramic views.
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Considered by many to be a rite of passage for any American, a visit to Yellowstone National Park will leave you in awe of nature's power. Marvel at the kaleidoscopic waters of the Grand Prismatic Spring, catch the hourly show put on by the Old Faithful geyser, admire (from a safe distance) the roaming bison in the Lamar and Hayden valleys or simply relax with a picnic at Yellowstone Lake.
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Nestled among the Canadian Rockies, this national park boasts some of the world's most beautiful vistas. Admire sweeping views of the Bow River Valley from the Banff Gondola or while schussing the slopes at the park's three ski resorts. If you're visiting in the summer, don't miss the chance to canoe across the crystal-clear water of Moraine Lake and hike the Tunnel Mountain Trail.
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Argentine Patagonia is a must-visit if you consider yourself an adventurous traveler. Otherworldly landscapes await you in Southern Patagonia, while endangered species (think: Magellanic penguins) roam Peninsula Valdés – a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Another must-see: Perito Moreno Glacier, one of the only glaciers in the world that is growing, not shrinking. And if you're up for the challenge, a hike through the surrounding Andes (especially Mount Fitz Roy, or El Chaltén) is unforgettable.
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If picturesque beaches and warm weather are what you're after, look no further than the British Virgin Islands. For easy access to Smuggler's Cove, Brewers Bay and other top-notch BVI beaches, consider booking your hotel room on Tortola, the area's largest island. Plus, you can easily hop between the smaller islands on a boat tour. To truly get away from the crowds, head to Anegada.
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Frequently touted as a top honeymoon destination, this Greek isle woos newlyweds every year with its breathtaking sunsets, pastel-hued villages and colorful beaches. Archaeological sites, such as Ancient Thira and Ancient Akrotiri, beckon to history buffs, while central Santorini's winery tours lure oenophiles. For a relaxing daytrip, hop on a boat to Thirassia, and at night, head to Amoudi Bay to watch the sun set while dining alfresco.
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Dotted with luxurious boutique hotels, this Caribbean destination is tailor-made for lovebirds and adrenaline junkies. Those in search of relaxation will find it on the island's unspoiled shorelines (specifically Reduit Beach and Anse Chastanet). Meanwhile, adventure seekers can test their limits climbing the Pitons or zip lining through the Chassin region's rainforest. The dry season, December to April, is the most popular (and expensive) time to visit, but budget-conscious travelers can find superb weather and cheaper room rates if they arrive in May or June.
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With its Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque architecture adorning top attractions like Old Town Square, Prague Castle, St. Vitus Cathedral and the Prague Astronomical Clock, Prague makes travelers feel like they've stepped into a fairy tale. Make sure to visit the popular Charles Bridge and touch one of the 30 saint statues for luck. You won't have to look far for a drink, either: Prague is well-stocked with beer halls and pubs.
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Christ the Redeemer and the shores of Copacabana and Ipanema beaches provide reason enough to plan a trip to Rio, but there's much more to the Marvelous City than scenic vistas, tropical rainforests and cerulean seas. Revel in the sounds of samba in the Lapa neighborhood after strolling along the cobblestone streets of Santa Teresa. Time your visit in February if you want to experience Carnival, though keep in mind flights and hotels are expensive when this world-famous celebration is taking place.
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The globe's largest coral reef system – and one of the original Seven Natural Wonders of the World – touts incredible scenery, whether you view it underwater, from the air or by boat. Here, you'll find more than 600 islands and 1,500-plus species of fish. Though plenty of diving and snorkeling spots can be found along Queensland's coast, to escape the crowds, take an excursion to the Whitsunday Islands.
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From volcanic mountains to verdant rainforests to stunning shorelines, Costa Rica is one of the best kept secrets in Central America – but not for long. Explore the beaches along the Nicoya Peninsula, hike along Arenal Volcano and spot exotic wildlife in the remote Tortuguero National Park. Just make sure you plan a visit during the country's dry season, or between mid-December and April.
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Few places in the world can rival the natural beauty found along the Amalfi Coast. This region along the southern edge of Italy's Sorrentine Peninsula is home to 13 quaint towns etched into seaside cliffs. Among the pastel-hued fishing villages, you'll find upscale hotels and resorts, plus a lot of delectable Italian wine and food that ranges from rustic to refined.
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