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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, reader votes and 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 vote 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 traveling.)
World's Best Places to Visit
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South Island, New Zealand#1 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 country's west coast or sample delicious food and wine in the Marlborough region.
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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.
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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 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 travelers say it's worth every penny.
- View 23 PhotosBelongs on List?#4 in World's Best Places to VisitRead More
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, travelers 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.
- View 62 PhotosBelongs on List?#5 in World's Best Places to VisitRead More
London is a world unto itself. The eclectic neighborhoods, 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.
- View 44 PhotosBelongs on List?#6 in World's Best Places to VisitRead More
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. You should also attend a luau for a dose of local culture and a taste of Hawaiian specialties like poi, poke and mahimahi.
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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. 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.
- View 17 PhotosBelongs on List?#8 in World's Best Places to VisitRead More
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.
- View 63 PhotosBelongs on List?#9 in World's Best Places to VisitRead More
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.
- View 17 PhotosBelongs on List?#10 in World's Best Places to VisitRead More
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 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.
- View 43 PhotosBelongs on List?#11 in World's Best Places to VisitRead More
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 travelers who want to see Barcelona from above, a trek up Tibidabo is a must.
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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.
- View 75 PhotosBelongs on List?#13 in World's Best Places to VisitRead More
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.
- View 35 PhotosBelongs on List?#14 in World's Best Places to VisitRead More
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.
- View 39 PhotosBelongs on List?#15 in World's Best Places to VisitRead More
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.
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Machu Picchu#16 in World's Best Places to Visit
A visit to the "Lost City of the 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 Peruvian site during sunrise is well worth the effort, according to past travelers. If you're not up for the trek, you can also hop on a tourist train to the mountain base for an easier route to the top.
- View 40 PhotosBelongs on List?#17 in World's Best Places to VisitRead More
Sydney offers more than just a dizzying array of landmarks, such as the Sydney Opera House, 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 relaxing or surfing at world-renowned beaches like Coogee, Bondi and Manly. Sydney also offers a long list of seasonal events, including concerts and food festivals. No visit would be complete without visiting museums like the Hyde Park Barracks Museum and the Australian Museum to get an overview of the city's history and culture.
- View 40 PhotosBelongs on List?#18 in World's Best Places to VisitRead More
An Alberta town full of acclaimed restaurants, breweries, boutiques and art galleries, Banff makes for an exciting vacation in every season. Vacationers can spend their days hiking, relaxing in hot springs and boating on the lakes. Banff's location within the Canadian Rockies also makes it easy for visitors to access Banff National Park, which boasts some of the world's most beautiful vistas. Inside the park, travelers can admire sweeping views of the Bow River Valley from the Banff Gondola or while schussing the slopes at the park's three ski resorts.
- View 40 PhotosBelongs on List?#19 in World's Best Places to VisitRead More
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.
- View 29 PhotosBelongs on List?#20 in World's Best Places to VisitRead More
Year after year, millions of visitors travel to California's 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).
- View 23 PhotosBelongs on List?#21 in World's Best Places to VisitRead More
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. Active travelers will enjoy hiking along the rim of the caldera to witness breathtaking views of the island. For a relaxing daytrip, hop on a boat to Thirassia, then head to Amoudi Bay to watch the sun set while dining alfresco.
- View 32 PhotosBelongs on List?#22 in World's Best Places to VisitRead More
Considered by many to be a rite of passage for any American, a visit to this national park in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming 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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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.
- View 27 PhotosBelongs on List?#24 in World's Best Places to VisitRead More
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. At Australia's Great Barrier Reef, 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.
- View 43 PhotosBelongs on List?#25 in World's Best Places to VisitRead More
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, eat your way through Chinatown and explore nearby Muir Woods National Monument. If you don't have time to hit all of the top spots, a scenic ride on one of the city's historical cable cars is a must.
- View 62 PhotosBelongs on List?#26 in World's Best Places to VisitRead More
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 satisfy your sweet tooth with stroopwafels. You can also do as the Dutch do and rent a bicycle to tour the city. If you plan on visiting in spring, don't miss the Keukenhof gardens, where you can view millions of colorful flowers.
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Christ the Redeemer and the shores of Copacabana and Ipanema beaches are only some reasons why you should plan a trip to Rio. In the Marvelous City, you can 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 that flights and hotels are expensive when this world-famous celebration takes place.
- View 19 PhotosBelongs on List?#28 in World's Best Places to VisitRead More
Argentine Patagonia is a must-visit destination if you consider yourself an adventurous traveler. Otherworldly landscapes await you in Southern Patagonia, while endangered species (think: Magellanic penguins) roam Península Valdés– a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Another must-see is Perito Moreno Glacier, which is one of the only glaciers in the world that is growing rather than shrinking. And if you're up for the challenge, a hike through the surrounding Andes (especially Mount Fitz Roy, or Chaltén) will provide unforgettable views.
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From volcanic mountains to verdant rainforests to stunning shorelines, Costa Rica is a Central American gem. Explore the beaches along the Nicoya Peninsula, hike along Arenal Volcano and spot exotic wildlife in remote Tortuguero National Park. If you're looking for an adrenaline rush, go swimming next to some of the country's waterfalls or zip lining through its rainforests. Just make sure you plan a visit during Costa Rica's dry season, or between mid-December and April.
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A spectacular cluster of three waterfalls, Niagara Falls is a must-see if you want a glimpse of some of North America's best sites. You can experience the falls from below on the famous Maid of the Mist boat tour or marvel at the scene from above in the Skylon Tower. There are also miles of hiking trails around the falls that provide breathtaking views. Regardless of whether you stay on the New York or Canadian side of the falls, you'll enjoy easy access to all of this natural wonder's impressive panoramas.
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