The Best Destinations in the World: The Gold List 2022

By CNT Editors

Best Destinations in the World The Gold List 2022

There are three great lists annually in  Condé Nast Traveler,  all of which have changed due to the events of the last two years: the Readers’ Choice Awards , which you, our beloved audience, select; the Hot List , which compiles the new and notable of the previous year; and this one, which is ultimately about the places and experiences our editors carry in their hearts. This year, when we say  our editors,  we mean  CNT ’s entire global crew, working in locations from California to Beijing ; we’ve also expanded the parameters of the list to include not just the hotels and cruises you’ve seen in years past, but also the destinations we treasure. The Gold List is, more than ever, made by humans for other humans—something we need more than ever in this day and age. Here, our favorite destinations in the world.

Read the complete set of Gold List winners   here .

All listings featured in this story are independently selected by our editors. However, when you book something through our retail links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Cholula Puebla Mexico

Puebla, Mexico

I love when I can feel familiar with a new place in 48 hours. In Puebla , Mexico’s historic, fourth-largest city, all the spots you want to hit are walking distance within its center, itself a tidy sprawl of bright pink and yellow villas and small plazas. That includes food markets for a crispy cemita (a schnitzel-­style sandwich with all the fixings); the gilded Capilla del Rosario and the city’s famed talavera, or ceramic houses; I stayed for close to an hour watching the row of artisans hand-paint and hand-fire their mugs, plates, and vases at Uriarte Talavera. Before the pandemic, tourism was just starting to happen here, and the city was in that sweet spot of supporting a new breed of traveler, like with the artisanal-inspired Cartesiano hotel, but without muting any of its essence for international business. I liked that I had to use my shoddy Spanish with barkeeps and store owners. And that sitting in those plazas meant a front-row seat to daily Poblano life: vendors selling sliced cucumber spices with cayenne, old-timers playing dominos. Puebla felt like a special somewhere on the verge of discovery in a country with pockets already turned over to the masses. My guess with all that’s happened this past year is that it still does. —Erin Florio

Rio de Janeiro Brazil

Rio de Janeiro

If you were to hook the city of Rio de Janeiro up to a cardiogram, the needle would swing off the page. The city thrums with live samba and bossa nova at all hours of the day; the bustling streets, bookended by the dramatic rise of granite monoliths on one end and the pounding waves of the Atlantic on the other, have a pulse all their own. It's easy to feel this when you're amid throngs of colorfully clad cariocas —I feel it most swaying to the live music at Pedra do Sal on Monday nights, or when, perched in the leafy hilltop neighborhood of Santa Teresa, I hear people in neighborhoods below lean out their windows to cheer when Flamengo scores a goal. It's a complicated city, with plenty of issues—insecurity, corruption, inequity, to name just a few—but there's a premium on joy and celebration that isn't reserved for Carnaval . There are few places in the world where you know you couldn't possibly be anywhere else, and whenever I hear the whole of Arpoador beach break into applause as the sun sets in summer, I'm reminded that Rio is one of them. —Megan Spurrell

Alentejo Vicente Coast

Alentejo, Portugal

I call the road to the sea through Portugal’s Alentejo region the place where the beatniks read Pessoa; you can imagine Kerouac breezing through its small hotels, surf camps, and villages scattered with craft shops, markets, and bohemian bars. For me it’s a place of happiness. There are boutique hotels like São Lourenço do Barrocal and Dá Licença and olive groves, cork oaks, and infinite horizons. The road ends at Vicentine Coast National Park, a wild, protected coastline in southern Europe. A paradise for surfers , it has electrifying sunsets, but the icy waters stop it from ever getting too crowded. —David Moralejo

Svalbard Norway

Svalbard, Norway

Arctic Svalbard —whose capital, Longyearbyen, is the world’s northernmost town—is like nowhere else I’ve been. On the one hand, it’s a deep-nature Scandi fantasy of snowmobiles, Northern Lights, ski-touring along glacial valleys, and surprisingly smart boutiques with stacked wine cellars. But there’s also a compelling strangeness to this international settlement, where no one is born and no one dies. There are the Soviet mining towns with their Lenin busts, whether abandoned or (even weirder) still working; the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, which preempts a coming apocalypse; it’s advisable to leave Longyearbyen with a shotgun, in case of polar-bear attack. As much as a destination, it’s a journey into the heart of the climate crisis, with academics from across the world doing game-changing research here. I’m itching to go again—to escape but also to think and connect, which is what happens in all the best places. —Toby Skinner

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Goa India

My first trip to Goa as a college student was wrapped in dreams of homemade chorizo and reliving moments from the cult Bollywood coming-of-age film Dil Chahta Hai . Many trips and feni cocktails later, Goa remained a respite for my city-weary bones. The state straddles its multicultural past and present, trading up ’60s hippie markets for hipster boutiques while keeping its old-world Indian and Portuguese traditions intact. Simple fish-curry plates, aunties doing an impromptu jig to fado, old-timers squabbling over their favorite Goan soccer club, and the right freshness of bread coexist with edgy global menus, alt-music gigs, and all that is artisanal and arty. The ocean changes color from one season to the next, the multi-color sunsets never repeat, and like many travelers, I continue to return and find my salve in sunshine, sea, and susegad —the quintessential Goan idea of the slow, easy, and good life. —Diya Kohl

Plettenberg Bay South Africa

Plettenberg Bay, South Africa

Plettenberg Bay is South Africa's summer playground, and I, a Capetonian, would drive the 186-mile coastal path along the scenic Garden Route each year to join the fun. The bohemian seaside town sits atop a sheltered bay, where a jumble of hipster coffee shops, seafood restaurants, and kitsch boutiques tumble down onto fynbos-covered cliffs—where a slew of new hotels like The Robberg Beach Lodge sit beside grandes dames like The Plettenberg Hotel . Pretty young things like to celebrate the end of matric student exams, where hedonism sweeps across the bay, while dolphin and whale watches come during the languid, warm winter months. Venture just outside Plett to find the luxury Tsala Treetop Lodge , a manicured Gary Player golf course, indigenous Keurbooms River Nature Reserve, the Plett Polo Club on the Kurland Estate, and a host of animal sanctuaries to meet cheetahs, elephants, and monkeys. But above all, come for the glorious golden beaches. Central Beach—dotted with bars—surfy Lookout Beach, and the eerie, mist-covered sands of Robberg Nature Reserve. Search hard enough and you might stumble on a sand dollar—the symbol of Plettenberg Bay, thought to bring eternal luck. —Isabella Sullivan

Scottsdale Arizona

When I can’t take another minute of winter, I head to Scottsdale. As, historically, do the day-drinking spring breakers and the far less rowdy snowbirds. Recently, though, the Valley of the Sun has come into its own, claiming its stunning desert setting and Southwest culture in new ways. If I’m bringing the kids, the 1929 Frank Lloyd Wright–designed grande dame The Arizona Biltmore, A Waldorf Astoria Resort (on the border of Scottsdale and Phoenix), is my place. It has sprawling grounds and seven pools, one with a legitimate waterslide, and just underwent a much-needed facelift. Sanctuary Camelback Mountain Resort , terraced into the side of its namesake adobe-hued mountain, has my favorite spa in town. Its adults-only pool on weekends and easy access to sunrise hiking give me plenty of excuses to leave the kids at home. Solo or with family, I can always bank on sunshine, a great exhibit at Phoenix’s nearby Desert Botanical Garden, and excellent Sonoran-style Mexican food. —Rebecca Misner

Tuscany Val Graziosa

Val Graziosa, Italy

I am a frequent traveler to Val Graziosa, a valley near the Pisan mountains and a part of Tuscany relatively unknown and terribly beautiful. Here there is Monte Pisano—“ che i Pisan veder Lucca non ponno, ” the poet Dante said, a small group of mountains that hides Lucca from Pisa and makes it impossible for the Pisan locals to see the city of Lucca. There are olive trees everywhere, producing the best olive oil on Earth in a splendid countryside. I love to walk around the surroundings of Montemagno—please read the book Maledetti Toscani, by Curzio Malaparte, and you will understand a lot about Italians from this region. I love to go to the grocery store in Patrizia for a glass of wine (the one and only épicerie of the village) and then to Certosa di Calci, a 14th-century monastery, and one of the many secret beauties in my crazy country of Italy. —Maddalena Fosati

Chiang Mai Thailand

Chiang Mai, Thailand

When I first went to Chiang Mai, I intended to stay a couple of nights and ended up staying more than a week; for me, that trip is a reminder of travel at its most impulsive and impetuous: the freedom to move on when you feel like it. There’s no beach pressure here, and inland Thailand always feels more interesting than the obvious hits of the beachfront. And, away from the beaches, there's the sense of a modern Thai city where young creatives are carving out a contemporary aesthetic, with the energy that a large student population gives a city. —Rick Jordan

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World’s 30 Best Travel Destinations, Ranked

Best places to visit in the world.

Bali, one of the best travel destinations

The ultimate ranking of travel destinations aims to solve a serious problem: so many places to visit, so little time.

But even in a world with a trillion destinations, some manage to stand out and rise to the top. From the sleek skyscrapers of Dubai to the emerald-green waters of the Bora Bora lagoon, you’re sure to find at least one vacation that piques your interest (and likely several!).

These are the 30 best places to visit in the world. Which ones have you already been to? And which ones stoke your wanderlust most?

30. Argentine Patagonia

Traveler in Argentine Patagonia

In this region of the Andes, you’ll find glaciers, evergreen trees, deep blue lakes and clear skies everywhere you look. For a trip full of adventure and discovery, there are few better destinations on the planet.

No trip is complete without a visit to the craggy Mount Fitz Roy, the historic (and mysterious) Cave of the Hands, the Punta Tombo wildlife preserve, the Peninsula Valdes marine wildlife refuge and the impressive Perito Moreno Glacier. Be sure to bring your camera and your sense of wonder.

*Rankings are based on U.S. News & World Report's " World's Best Places to Visit ," traveler ratings as well as our own editorial input.

What to Know Before You Go to Argentine Patagonia

Argentine Patagonia Glacier National Park

Where to stay: Cyan Soho Neuquen Hotel

Hot tip: Since springtime occurs in the southern hemisphere in October and November, those months are your best bet when planning a trip.

Fun fact: The largest dinosaur fossils ever unearthed were found in Argentine Patagonia. They belong to the largest-known titanosaur, believed to have weighed about 83 tons. 

Note: We may earn money from affiliate partners if you buy through links on our site.

29. Amalfi Coast, Italy

Campania, Amalfi Coast

Set in the Sorrentina Peninsula, the Amalfi Coast has long been renowned for its natural beauty and idyllic coastal towns. During the golden age of Hollywood, it was a preferred vacation spot for glamorous movie stars.

Days here are spent eating Italian food, drinking wine and walking around colorful cobblestone streets. You can also expect to drink copious amounts of wine as you look out into the Mediterranean Sea.

The best way to see the coast is to rent a car and then drive to different towns each day.

What to Know Before You Go to the Amalfi Coast

Amalfi Coast road

Where to stay: Hotel Marina Riviera

Hot tip:  If you're planning on using a beach chair to work on your tan, make sure you wake up early, as they are usually first come, first served.

Fun fact:  The Amalfi Coast is featured in Sofia Loren's 1995 Film, "Scandal in Sorrento."

28. Cancun, Mexico

Beach sunset in Cancun

For years, Cancun has been the preferred getaway for East Coast Americans (particularly Floridians) who want an international getaway that's still close to home. But despite the droves of tourists, the area has managed to keep the charm that attracted people in the first place.

The city is known mostly for its luxury hotels, wild nightlife and warm beaches. Definitely indulge in all of these — as well as the Mexican food! — but also consider other activities like visiting Mayan ruins, swimming in cenotes and snorkeling. One thing is certain: You won't run out of things to do in Cancun .

What to Know Before You Go to Cancun

Cenote Zaci, Mexico

Where to stay: Hyatt Zilara Cancun

Hot tip:  While you're in Cancun, make a plan to visit one of Grupo Xcaret's six eco-tourism parks, with the best ones being Xcaret and Xelha. The Mexican-owned company is credited with starting the eco-tourism trend in the Yucatan Peninsula, and the parks offer incredible and varied local experiences.

Fun fact:  The Yucatan Peninsula, where Cancun is located, was the cultural, political and economic center of the Mayan civilization. Many locals have Mayan ancestry and Mayan continues to be widely spoken in the area.

27. San Francisco, California

Close up of Golden Gate Bridge

Everyone should visit San Francisco at least once in their lives. Though tech companies grab all the headlines these days, it remains down-to-earth, diverse and packed with things to do.

Where to start? No matter your style, you’ll want to check out the world-famous Golden Gate Bridge, see the sunbathing sea lions at Fisherman’s Wharf, take a tour of the historic prison Alcatraz and relax in one of the city’s many parks, especially Dolores Park for its epic people-watching on the weekends. 

For dinner, treat your tastebuds and make a reservation at one of the many Michelin-starred restaurants in the Bay Area .

What to Know Before You Go to San Francisco

San Francisco houses

Where to stay: The Westin St. Francis San Francisco on Union Square

Hot tip: Want similarly beautiful landscapes and rich cultural attractions, but at lower prices and with (slightly) fewer crowds? Head to Oakland just across the Bay Bridge, named one of the most exciting places on earth to travel by National Geographic. 

Fun fact: The fortune cookie was invented in San Francisco by a Japanese resident. Random!

26. Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls in autumn Canadian side

Niagara Falls is one of the largest waterfalls in the world . The power with which water storms down cliffs on the border between the United States and Canada has captivated the imagination of humans for centuries. 

This natural wonder is comprised of three awe-inspiring falls. One of the best ways to experience them is on a boat tour.

What to Know Before You Go to Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls boat tour

Where to stay: Sheraton Niagara Falls

Hot tip: There is some debate about which side of the falls is better, but the general verdict is that the Canadian side offers better views. This is because you can (ironically) get a better view of the American Falls as well as get up close to Horseshoe Falls. 

Fun fact:  Established in 1885, Niagara Falls State Park is the oldest state park in the U.S.

25. Yellowstone National Park

Bison at the Great Prismatic Spring

Located mostly in Wyoming as well as Montana and Idaho, Yellowstone is America’s first national park and remains one of the most popular in the country, welcoming more than around 3.3 million people in 2022. With unpredictable geysers, rainbow-colored hot springs, craggy peaks, shimmering lakes and tons of wildlife — from elk to boars to bison — it’s easy to see why so many people flock here. 

The park makes for an awesome family trip and is well-suited to budget travelers since it offers so many campsites ( over 2,000! ). 

What to Know Before You Go to Yellowstone

Old Faithful Geiser erupting, Yellowstone

Where to stay: Stage Coach Inn

Hot tip: You’ll never fully beat the crowds at this wildly popular park, but April, May, September and November are your best bets for finding some solitude.  

Fun fact: Yellowstone is larger than Rhode Island and Delaware combined.  

24. Great Barrier Reef, Australia

snorkle Destinations: Great Barrier Reef, Australia

As the largest reef in the world, the Great Barrier Reef is home to thousands of marine species. This makes it a paradise for scuba diving or snorkeling. 

The reef system is truly gigantic, with over 600 islands and about 2,900 individual reefs. This is one of Australia's greatest prides, but it's also a planetary national treasure. Seeing it with your own two eyes is an experience that is incredible beyond words.

What to Know Before You Go to the Great Barrier Reef

Great Barrier Reef from above

Where to stay: Crystalbrook Flynn

Hot tip: Though going underwater to see the reef is a must, we also recommend booking a helicopter tour to experience the magic of it from above.

Fun fact:  Made of corals, which are animals that live in collectives, the Great Barrier Reef is the largest living structure on the planet.

23. Santorini, Greece

White washed houses in Santorini

With its picturesque blue-domed churches, whitewashed buildings and colorful beaches, the island of Santorini is a photographer’s paradise. If you want to snap photos to post to Instagram and make everyone back home jealous, this is the place to go. 

Also make sure to experience some of Santorini’s archaeologically significant sites, like Ancient Akrotiri (an ancient city preserved by volcanic ash) and Ancient Thera (where humans lived as early as the 9th century BC). And don’t forget to visit the smaller islands that surround it, including Thirassia, Nea Kameni and Palea Kameni. 

What to Know Before You Go to Santorini

Santorini houses

Where to stay: Nikki Beach Resort & Spa Santorini

Hot tip: To optimize your vacation, visit in September and October or April and May — when the weather is still warm, but there aren’t as many other tourists milling around.

Fun fact: While it’s difficult to prove, locals like to say there’s more wine than water on this island where it hardly rains (and vino abounds).

22. Florence, Italy

Florience center, Italy

For art and history buffs (and anyone who appreciates delicious Italian food), Florence is a must-visit city. 

As the birthplace of the Renaissance, it’s home to some of the most iconic artworks by the world’s premier artists throughout history — Michaelangelo, Brunelleschi and Donatello, just to name a few. In addition to art museums and architectural wonders, Florence is also home to chic shops, quaint cafes and spectacular gardens. 

What to Know Before You Go to Florence

Il Duomo, Florence

Where to stay:  NH Collection Firenze Porta Rossa

Hot tip: Keep Florence in mind if you want to spend your honeymoon in Europe without spending a fortune, according to U.S. News & World Report.

Fun fact: The city’s famed “El Duomo” cathedral took over 140 years to build .

21. Yosemite National Park, California

Yosemite Falls

Yosemite, one of the most-visited national parks in America with more than 4 million annual guests, encompasses 750,000 acres of wilderness just waiting to be explored.

It’s home to scenic waterfalls, like the 317-foot Vernal Fall and the 617-foot Bridalveil Fall, as well as iconic rock formations like El Capitan and Half Dome, two popular spots for the world’s best rock climbers to test their mettle.

Not surprisingly, the wildlife here also impresses. Dozens of species of butterflies, marmots, bobcats and mule deer are just some of the animals that call Yosemite home. And keep your eyes peeled for black bears; some 300 to 500 roam the park . 

What to Know Before You Go to Yosemite

Yosemite National Park

Where to stay:  The Ahwahnee

Hot tip: Summer can get really busy here, so if you want to camp, be sure to book a spot early. Want to beat Yosemite’s notoriously bad traffic? Ditch the car and take advantage of the park’s extensive free bus system.

Fun fact: This is one of the only places in the country where you can catch a moonbow — like a rainbow, but created by the light of the moon instead of the sun. 

20. St. Lucia

St. Lucia Les Pitons

Whether you’re visiting on a cruise ship or just relaxing at an all-inclusive resort or boutique hotel, stunning St. Lucia is a clear winner. This Caribbean island offers diverse terrain for vacationers, from its pristine beaches to its lush rainforests to its volcanic peaks, the Pitons, that loom over the landscape. 

Adrenaline-junkies love hiking, climbing and zip-lining, while newlyweds (and soon-to-be-married couples) enjoy the romantic mix of fine dining, adults-only resorts and exotic activities. 

What to Know Before You Go to St. Lucia

St. Lucia boats

Where to stay: Rabot Hotel From Hotel Chocolat

Hot tip: Visit when temperatures are moderate, which is typically in May and June.

Fun fact: St. Lucia is the only country named after a woman: Christian martyr Saint Lucia of Syracuse.

19. Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Dubai skyscrappers

Everything is bigger and better in Dubai, home to one of the world’s largest shopping malls, tallest towers, largest man-made marinas — and the list goes on. 

This Las Vegas-like urban center in the United Arab Emirates has an eclectic mix of activities for visitors to enjoy, including beaches, waterparks, tons of shopping and even an indoor ski resort. Outside the skyscraper-filled city, the vast desert awaits, best enjoyed via quad-biking or sandboarding.

What to Know Before You Go to Dubai

Dubai beach

Where to stay:  Five Palm Jumeirah Dubai

Hot tip: Though you’re likely to pay a pretty penny for a trip to Dubai no matter when you visit, you can save a little cash by visiting during the scalding-hot summer months and by booking your hotel room two to three months in advance.

Fun fact: Dubai’s man-made Palm Islands were constructed using enough imported sand to fill up 2.5 Empire State Buildings . 

18. Machu Picchu, Peru

Machu Picchu, Peru

Many travelers describe their visit to Machu Picchu as life-changing. Why? It’s an archaeological wonder, the remains of an ancient Incan city dating back more than 600 years. No wonder this is one of the Seven Wonders of the World, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the most-visited attraction in all of Peru. 

Be sure to visit significant sites like Funerary Rock, where it’s believed Incan nobility were mummified, and Temple of the Condor, a rock temple sculpted to look like the impressive bird in its name.  

What to Know Before You Go to Machu Picchu

Llamas in Machu Picchu

Where to stay: Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel

Hot tip: If you’re planning a trip, be sure to get your ticket in advance, as only 2,500 people can visit Machu Picchu each day. (And a lot of people have this destination on their bucket list.)

Fun fact: The site contains more than 100 separate flights of stairs . 

17. Sydney, Australia

Sydney Harbor with boats

With its iconic Opera House and lively Bondi Beach, Sydney is the perfect spot to vacation if you’re looking for a blend of culture, arts, nightlife and relaxation. 

Spend the day on the water at Darling Harbour, then head to the Royal Botanic garden for even more fresh air. Want to travel like a local? Get a ticket to a rugby match and order a Tim Tam, a popular chocolate-covered cookie that pairs well with coffee. 

What to Know Before You Go to Sydney

Sydney Opera House in the evening

Where to stay: Four Seasons Hotel Sydney

Hot tip: You can make your trip more affordable by visiting during Sydney’s shoulder seasons, which are typically September through November and March through May.

Fun fact: In 2007, Bondi Beach was the site of the largest ever swimsuit photoshoot ; 1,010 bikini-clad women participated, enough to earn it a spot in the Guinness World Records book.

16. Grand Canyon, Arizona

Grand Canyon from observation point

The Grand Canyon is truly massive (277 river miles long and up to 18 miles wide!), which helps explain why so many people feel the urge to see it in person. 

In 2022, 4.7 million people visited, making the Grand Canyon the second-most popular national park in the country (behind Great Smoky Mountain Nationals Park). Established in 1919, the park offers activities for all ability levels, whether you want to do an intense hike down into the canyon and sleep under the stars (with a backcountry permit, of course) or simply want to saunter along the South Rim Trail, an easy walking path with views that wow.

What to Know Before You Go to the Grand Canyon

Family in the Grand Canyon

Where to stay:  The Grand Hotel at the Grand Canyon

Hot tip: If you’ve wanted to visit the Grand Canyon for a while now, this is the year to do it. The park is celebrating its 100th birthday with musical performances, lectures, screenings and other special events.

Fun fact: The most remote community in the continental U.S. can be found in the Grand Canyon. At the base of the canyon, Supai Village — part of the Havasupi Indian Reservation — has a population of 208. It’s inaccessible by road, and mail is delivered by pack mule. Want to see it for yourself? The village houses a collection of campsites , accessible via a hiking trail.

15. Bali, Indonesia

Landmark Temple Gates in Bali

In recent years, Bali has become a popular expat destination, where groups of "digital nomads" work and play. 

But the island hasn't lost its original charm to this added tourism and continues to be an incredible destination. Divide your time between swimming in the beach, hiking active volcanoes, visiting temples and enjoying views of tiered rice terraces.

What to Know Before You Go to Bali

Pura Ulun Danu Bratan temple in Bali

Where to stay: Hotel Indigo Bali Seminyak Beach

Hot tip:  Though shoulder season (January to April and October to November) means fewer crowds and cheaper prices, it also means rain. Tons of it. We'd recommend avoiding the rainy season if possible.

Fun fact: On the Saka New Year, Balinese people celebrate Nyepi. This Hindu celebration is a day of silence when everything on the island shuts down and no noise is allowed.

14. New York, New York

New York City Manhattan

As the saying goes, New York City is “the city that never sleeps” — and you won’t want to either when you visit, lest you run out of time to take it all in. 

Be sure to check out newer attractions, like the High Line (an elevated park) and Hudson Yards (a mega-mall along the Hudson River), but also make time for some New York City classics, like catching a Broadway show or standing under the lights of Times Square. 

Foodies will have a hard time choosing where to eat (the city is home to almost 100 Michelin stars !), which is why an extended trip is always a good idea.

What to Know Before You Go to New York City

New York City Broadway

Where to stay: The Beekman, A Thompson Hotel

Hot tip: Yes, January and February get cold here, but this is also the best time to lock in relatively reasonable hotel rates. You can spend your time eating in the city’s restaurants, exploring its fabulous museums and catching its world-class theater shows without needing to spend much time in the chilly outdoors. 

Fun fact: There’s a birth in New York City about every 4.4 minutes — and a death every 9.1 minutes. 

13. Banff National Park, Canada

Banff Lake Louise

Some of the world’s most stunning mountain scenery and vistas are located in Banff, the tiny Canadian town located at 4,537 feet above sea level inside the national park by the same name. Banff is the highest town in Canada, and Banff National Park was Canada’s first, established in 1885.

Shred some powder at Banff’s three ski resorts in the winter, then come back in the summer for activities like hiking, biking, fishing and scrambling (scaling steep terrain using nothing but your hands).

What to Know Before You Go to Banff

Kayaking in Banff National Park

Where to stay: Fairmont Banff Springs

Hot tip: June to August and December to March are the best times to visit if you want to take advantage of summer and winter activities. 

Fun fact: Banff National Park has more than 1,000 glaciers.

12. Maldives

Sunset in the Maldives

You can look at picture after picture, but you still really need to visit the Maldives to believe its beauty. If rich sunsets, flour-like beaches and vibrant blue waters are your style, this is the destination for you. 

Though it’s somewhat difficult to get to this small island nation southwest of Sri Lanka, that also means it’s incredibly private and secluded, which makes it the perfect spot for a honeymoon or romantic beach getaway. 

And don’t worry about getting bored, either — explore the water by snorkeling or scuba diving, relax in the spa or wander around the bustling Male’ Fish Market.

What to Know Before You Go to Maldives

Maldives overwater bungalows

Where to stay: Velassaru Maldives

Hot tip: May to October is the island-nation’s rainy season — but that also means it’s the best time to go for fewer crowds and better rates.

Fun fact: In 1153 AD, the nation’s people converted to Islam. Today, the Maldives remains the most heavily Muslim country on earth.

11. Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona, Sagrada Familia

Soccer, architecture, shopping, nightlife, world-class food and wine, arts and culture — is there anything Barcelona doesn’t have? If there is, we honestly can't think what it would be. 

This cosmopolitan Spanish city is home to some awe-inspiring architecture, including several buildings designed by Antoni Gaudi, so be sure to book tours of his whimsical creations like Park Guell and the yet-to-be-finished Church of the Sacred Family (La Sagrada Familia). 

For nightlife and shopping, Las Ramblas is always bustling; for an enriching arts experience, follow the progression of famed artist Pablo Picasso at Museo Picasso.

What to Know Before You Go to Barcelona

Barcelona Park Guell

Where to stay:  Hotel Bagues

Hot tip: It can get really humid here, so it's best to plan your trip in May and June before things really heat up.

Fun fact: In preparation for its 1992 hosting of the Olympics, the city flew in sand from as far away as Egypt to make Barceloneta Beach a place where people would want to go. Though largely man-made, the beach remains a wonderful spot for seaside R&R. 

10. Glacier National Park, Montana

Glacier National Park in the winter

The crown jewel of beautiful Montana, Glacier National Park is every outdoors traveler's dream.

Of course, the most defining natural feature of the park are its glaciers, which provide spectacular views as well as a number of pristine lakes. There are hundreds of trails that will take you up peaks, down through valleys and across some of the most beautiful landscapes you'll ever see.

What to Know Before You Go to Glacier National Park

Mountain goats at Glacier National Park

Where to stay: Firebrand Hotel

Hot tip:  Plan to spend a day or two in the nearby town of Whitefish. This gateway to Glacier National Park is one of the best small towns in America and a destination in its own right. 

Fun fact: During your visit, you're very likely to run into mountain goats, which are the official symbols of the park.

9. Tokyo, Japan

Akihabara Tokyo

The Japanese capital is one of the most exciting cities on the entire planet. It is notoriously fast-paced, with neon lights illuminating the multitudes that are constantly rushing to their next destination. 

But Tokyo is also a city of temples, of taking time to picnic under the cherry blossoms and of making sure you enjoy the abundance of delicious food that can be found on basically every corner.

What to Know Before You Go to Tokyo

Sensoji temple , Tokyo

Where to stay: The Prince Gallery Tokyo Kioicho, a Luxury Collection Hotel

Hot tip: Visit between the months of March and April or September and November for more comfortable temperatures. Of course, spring is when the city's cherry blossoms are famously in full bloom.

Fun fact: Tokyo happens to be the largest metropolitan area in the world, with more than 40 million people calling the greater metro area home.

8. Phuket, Thailand

Phuket boats

If you’re looking for a vacation destination that feels luxurious but won’t break the bank, start searching for flights to Phuket now. 

This island in southern Thailand, which is just an hour flight from Bangkok, is surrounded by the Andaman Sea, so white sandy beaches abound. If a stunning sunset is what you’re after, head to Promthep Cape, the southernmost point on the island and a popular spot for photo-ops. For views of the island and beyond, climb to the top of the massive alabaster statue called Big Buddha.

You can even learn something during your vacation by visiting the Soi Dog Foundation, an innovative animal shelter that’s fighting the meat trade and taking care of the thousands of stray cats and dogs in the area.

What to Know Before You Go to Phuket

Phuket temple

Where to stay: InterContinental Phuket Resort

Hot tip: Visit between November and April for the best weather — and ideal conditions for beach activities like swimming and boating. 

Fun fact: The island is not pronounced in the rather colorful way it appears to be. The correct way to say it is “poo-ket” or “poo-get.”

7. Rome, Italy

Rome, Colosseum

Though Rome’s historic significance cannot be overstated, don’t assume that this Italian city is stuck in the past. On the contrary, you’ll find posh storefronts and luxurious hotels not far from iconic structures like the Pantheon (built in 120 AD) and the Colosseum (built in 80 AD).

And then, of course, there’s the city’s art. Stroll through Rome, and you’ll stumble upon some of the greatest treasures the world has ever seen — an astonishing collection of frescoes, paintings, ceilings and fountains created by icons like Michelangelo, Caravaggio, Raphael and Bernini.

After all that exploration, take advantage of ample opportunities to eat and drink, including at several Michelin-starred restaurants. City staples include suppli (deep-fried balls of risotto, mozzarella and ragu meat sauce) and cacio e pepe (a deceptively simple mix of al-dente pasta, pecorino romano and fresh black pepper). 

What to Know Before You Go to Rome

Rome Spanish Plaza at dawn

Where to stay: Radisson Blu Ghr Hotel

Hot tip: Tourists congregate here in the summer when temperatures are also sweltering. Go instead between October and April, when there are thinner crowds, better rates and cooler temps. Just make sure to bring a light jacket.

Fun fact: Each year, travelers throw about $1.7 million worth of coins into the Trevi Fountain. The money is donated to Caritas, a Catholic nonprofit that supports charities focused on health, disaster relief, poverty and migration.

6. London, England

Modern bridge London

English writer Samual Johnson once said, “When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life.” 

From live performances of Shakespeare to truly world-class (and free!) museums like the National Gallery, London will enrich your mind and enliven your senses. Of course, no visit would be complete without a stop at Buckingham Palace to see the famous stone-faced guards outside and the 19 lavish State Rooms inside (though, unfortunately, you can’t see the queen’s private quarters). Another must-see landmark is the Tower of London, the historic castle on the north side of the River Thames.

What to Know Before You Go to London

London in the spring

Where to stay: Vintry & Mercer

Hot tip: Many U.S. cities now offer direct flights to London, so set a price alert and act fast when you see fares drop.

Fun fact: London’s pubs are worth a visit for their names alone; fanciful monikers include The Case is Altered, The Pyrotechnists Arms, John the Unicorn and The Job Centre. 

5. Tahiti, French Polynesia

Tahiti, French Polynesia

Flavorful French cuisine, top-notch resorts, warm waters — need we say more? Though Tahiti can be pricey, travelers say it’s so worth it. 

The largest of the 118 French Polynesian islands, Tahiti is split into two main regions (connected by a land bridge). Tahiti Nui, the larger region, is home to the island’s capital Papeete and surfing hotspot Papenoo Beach, while Tahiti Iti, the smaller region, offers more seclusion and the bright white sands of La Plage de Maui.

What to Know Before You Go to Tahiti

Tahiti bungalows during sunset

Where to stay: Hilton Hotel Tahiti

Hot tip: Visit between May and October, Tahiti’s winter, when there are less humidity and rain. 

Fun fact: Overcrowding is not a concern here; Hawaii gets more visitors in 10 days than all of French Polynesia does in a year.

4. Maui, Hawaii

Rocky beach in Maui

If you’re short on time or you just can’t decide which Hawaiian island to visit, Maui is right in the sweet spot: not too big, not too small, but just right.

There are five regions to explore on Maui, including the popular West Maui and South Maui, home to some of the island’s best-known attractions and beaches (Wailea Beach is in South Maui, for example). But don’t overlook East Maui, where you can travel along the Road to Hana, or the Upcountry, where you can explore the world’s largest dormant volcano, Haleakala. 

What to Know Before You Go to Maui

Maui cave

Where to stay:  Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea

Hot tip: This is Hawaii we’re talking about, so your trip will be on the pricey side. Be sure to budget for add-ons if you need them (think gym access and WiFi at your hotel), and do some research on insurance before you head to the car-rental counter.

Fun fact: How’s this for a selling point? Maui has more beach than any other Hawaiian island — 60 miles of it, with red, white and black sand.

3. Bora Bora, French Polynesia

Bora Bora overwater bungalows

Don’t write off the French Polynesian island of Bora Bora just because of its size. Though it’s a little more than 2 miles wide and just 6 miles long, Bora Bora packs in an abundance of natural beauty. To start, you won’t be able to take your eyes off the island’s turquoise lagoon surrounded by lush jungle.

If you’re looking for more than relaxation on your trip, consider hiking or booking a 4X4 tour of Mount Otemanu, part of an extinct volcano that rises 2,400 feet above the lagoon. You can also snorkel among the coral reef of Coral Gardens, where you might catch a glimpse of reef sharks, eels and stingrays.

Because of its remoteness, flying into Bora Bora Airport will be quite a journey, no matter where you're departing from. But you'll forget everything as soon as you see this Polynesian paradise that is beautiful beyond words.

What to Know Before You Go to Bora Bora

Bora Bora Island

Where to stay: Conrad Bora Bora Nui

Hot tip: Though Bora Bora can be wildly expensive to visit, you can cut costs by visiting between December and March (though you should avoid the Christmas holiday) and by bringing your own alcohol and sunscreen with you.

Fun fact: Bora Bora is one of the countries that no longer exists . The Kingdom of Bora Bora was an independent state until it was forcefully overtaken and annexed by France in 1888.

2. Paris, France

Paris from the Arc de Triumph

Paris has it all — incredible cuisine, legendary landmarks and centuries of history. Those are just some of the reasons it’s the second-best place to visit in the world.

Though you’ll want to spend your time hitting up popular tourist spots like the Eiffel Tower and the Musee d’Orsay, you should also carve out time to explore other parts of Paris — the city’s 20 diverse neighborhoods, called arrondissements, for instance. Standouts include the 2nd arrondissement, which touts covered passages and some of the city’s hippest restaurants, and the romantic 18th arrondissement, with charming squares, cafes and bars, set apart from the city’s more tourist-packed areas.

What to Know Before You Go to Paris

Paris Montmartre at dawn

Where to stay: Grand Hotel Du Palais Royal

Hot tip: Yes, summer in Paris is busy, but the weather is also ideal — average highs are in the 70s.

Fun fact: Built for the 1889 World Fair, the Eiffel Tower was originally meant to be temporary , and was almost torn down in 1909. Luckily, local officials saw its value as a radiotelegraph station, preserving the future tourist icon for generations to come. 

1. South Island, New Zealand

Milford Sound

South Island, the larger but less populated of the two islands that make up New Zealand, earn this top-spot honor for its gorgeous scenery, adrenelin-pumping experiences and affordability.

The 33.5-mile hike on Milford Sound, which is limited to 90 people at a time, is considered one of the world’s best treks, with stops at Lake Te Anau, suspension bridges, a mountain pass and the tallest waterfall in the country, Sutherland Falls.

For a heart-pumping experience, you can jump out of a helicopter while flying over the Harris Mountains with skis on your feet. Still not satisfied? Roam Fiordland National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage area, and explore the Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers, two of the most accessible glaciers in the world.

What to Know Before You Go to New Zealand

South Island, New Zealand

Where to stay: QT Queenstown

Hot tip: Book your trip for the fall, when South Island is temperate, not overcrowded and offers great rates. Bonus: This is also when the island is at its most stunning.

Fun fact: New Zealand natives, called Kiwis, are among the most hospitable you’ll ever meet. The local saying “He aha te mea nui o te ao. He tangata, he tangata, he tangata” translates , appropriately, to “What is the most important thing in the world? It is people, it is people.”

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Travelers' pro tips for experiencing the United States

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What is the best way to get there?

International airports are located in all major cities throughout the United States.

Do I need a visa?

If you’re visiting the United States from overseas, use the government’s Visa Wizard to see if you need a visa.

When is the best time to visit?

Any time: The United States is a year-round destination. The summer months are often the busiest for city sightseeing, however, visiting in spring or autumn can mean fewer crowds. For winter travelers, cities like New York are magical over the holidays, but you could also hit the ski slopes in Colorado or Vermont, or escape to the sunny shores of Florida or Hawaii.

Festivals take place throughout the seasons in the United States, with top events including Mardi Gras in New Orleans, Burning Man in Nevada (August), South by Southwest in Austin (March), and Coachella in California (April).

Flying is by far the quickest way to travel around the U.S. It’s often more expensive than public transport but there are good deals to be found if you book in advance and travel outside of peak times.

Amtrak operates high-speed trains linking cities around the nation. Multi-ride tickets and rail passes are available.

Trailways , Megabus , and Greyhound operate low-cost long-distance bus services to destinations all around the United States.

Are there local customs I should know?

Find more information about local customs and etiquette in the United States generally here .

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The 25 Travel Experiences You Must Have

A pair of internationally minded writers, a chef, an architect and a landscape photographer made a list of the most extraordinary adventures a person should seek out. Here are the results.

By Alwa Cooper ,  Ashlea Halpern ,  Debra Kamin ,  Aileen Kwun ,  Miguel Morales ,  Dan Piepenbring and Michael Snyder

One July morning, a five-person jury — including the writers Pico Iyer and Aatish Taseer , the architect Toshiko Mori , the chef and food scientist David Zilber and the landscape photographer Victoria Sambunaris — gathered over Zoom to debate what, exactly, constitutes a “travel experience” and how some might rise above the rest. To get the conversation started, each panelist had nominated at least 10 selections in advance of the call; their job now was to slash that list from 55 to 25.

The participants were all polite, often deferring to whomever they deemed an expert on a particular subject: Zilber, who worked at Noma and co-authored the Copenhagen restaurant’s 2018 book about fermentation, on outstanding restaurants; Sambunaris, who traverses the country several months a year by car to capture her images, on the spectacular topography of the American West. They were also quick to sacrifice their own darlings, particularly if they felt they were too familiar (Petra, Machu Picchu), too obscure (Alvar Aalto’s Muuratsalo Experimental summer house in Säynätsalo, Finland — a Mori selection), too personal (driving the Karakoram Highway connecting Pakistan and China — something Taseer heard about from his father) or too commodified (a Nile River cruise, most hotel stays ). As Iyer put it, “Hotels offer luxury and comfort, but they rarely touch my soul.”

Some panelists rescinded nominations for experiences they hadn’t had themselves, despite having dreamed for years about what it might be like to, say, hike through Japan’s remote Yakushima Island National Park , the inspiration for Hayao Miyazaki ’s “Princess Mononoke” (1997) . (“I feel like I don’t know if going there would destroy or enhance my fantasy,” Mori said.) Others opted to keep in the mix selections to which they couldn’t personally attest — proving how powerful our collective imagination can be. If something seemed too easy, they worried it might not be special enough. At the same time, not every experience chosen is rare or difficult to access: Sometimes it’s just a matter of opening your eyes (or mind) to whatever magic a place has to offer.

The panel considered safety, too, with some participants concluding that what might make a destination “dangerous” is largely, though not entirely, shaped by personal history and worldview. Others wanted to be sure readers were asked to conduct their own research before deciding whether or not to set out for a certain place, as situations on the ground can change rapidly. At the time of publication, the U.S. State Department had issued its strongest possible warning — Level 4: Do Not Travel — for four of the destinations on the following list; several others have been categorized as Level 3: Reconsider Travel. But most of the panelists agreed, time and again, to include politically, ethically and ideologically fraught locations . “War-torn countries and places in conflict right now haven’t always been and might not always be,” said Zilber. “I don’t think [their current status] should negate their inclusion.” (In the months between when this panel met — on July 20, 2022 — and the list’s publication, the world continued to shift: the Russian war with Ukraine deepened; Iran erupted in protests following the arrest and subsequent death of Mahsa Amini, a young woman accused by the country’s morality police of violating their hijab law; and Ethiopia and the Tigray Defense Forces, a paramilitary rebel group, agreed to a cease-fire after two years of ruinous civil war.)

The final lineup, which is grouped geographically but not ranked, includes experiences of art and architecture, food, history and religion. There’s something for every whim and every kind of traveler — even those who may never leave their armchairs. — Ashlea Halpern

This conversation has been edited and condensed.

Ashlea Halpern: I’m curious to hear how each of you defined the word “experience” when you sat down to make your list.

Pico Iyer: I asked myself, “Which are the moments that most stay with me 30 years on in my life? Which are the most moving and also the most unexpected?” I wouldn’t include seeing the Taj Mahal by moonlight, because most Times readers would be aware of that. So something slightly different, but something that still reverberates inside me half a lifetime later.

Victoria Sambunaris: I defined “experience” as a journey, because that’s what I do in my life: I’m on the road for months at a time, immersing myself in the landscape. I’m interacting with people and learning about the [local] culture, history, ecology and geography. No reservations anywhere, being spontaneous, camping under the stars — there’s a great sense of adventure.

Aatish Taseer: I veer toward man-made things — cultural and civilizational complications. When a natural experience leaves me with a sense of wonder that I didn’t expect, it breaks the mold. Everyone travels with a sense of what they’re going to see; no one is completely blank. Then, occasionally, there’s a real element of surprise. That’s what I looked for.

David Zilber: “Experience” is really broad; everything is an experience. Binge-watching Netflix while sick is an experience, though I can’t remember what I binge-watch when I’m bedridden at home. But I do remember my 45-minute drive through the mountains of Crete to eat at this man’s biodynamic farm with his kids running around — and I probably will when I’m 75.

Toshiko Mori: I thought of natural wonders, because we forget how small we are, and of being able to observe animal life in a habitat without interfering with it. With Instagram, everybody posts awesome images; [the depicted locations] become huge attractions and it’s destructive to the environment. Also, I thought of certain civilizations and places that have had challenging pasts — like Kurdistan after ISIS retreated. It’s essential for us to engage in experiences like this, because we are incredibly privileged and protected. I didn’t want to forget places that really need attention.

A.H.: Let’s start with Europe. Spain received four nominations from four different panelists — more than any other country on your initial longlists.

1. Taste Wood-Smoked Sorcery at Asador Etxebarri in Spain’s Basque Country

The chef Victor Arguinzoniz was raised amid the rolling green hills of Atxondo, a small village in Spain’s Basque country where, when he was a child, his family kitchen had neither electricity nor gas. Perhaps that’s why the open hearth can produce such magic for him. He has no professional training but for 30 years has overseen a temple to smoke and flame at the Michelin-starred Asador Etxebarri, a rustic restaurant minutes from his childhood home. Arriving there, with its view of cattle grazing in the foothills below, is like stopping time. But in the kitchen, the clock has inched slightly forward: The six custom-made grills, designed by Arguinzoniz and adjustable via pulleys, are tools of culinary alchemy. The chef prepares his own wood coals in special ovens that are cranked up to 750 degrees Fahrenheit. For each protein, he pairs a fuel with the precision of a sommelier, selecting holm oak for delicate shellfish and turning to heartier vine wood for red meats. There’s only one service — at 1:30 p.m. — and one menu per day. The meal, served in 15 courses, is a symphony that builds, plate by smoke-kissed plate, to a crescendo: first the smoked goat butter with Périgord truffle; then the salted, home-cured anchovies on grilled bread; then the beef chop with its crisp black sear and lustrous purple center; and finally a coda of smoky-milk ice cream with an infusion of sweet beets. This is fine dining in its purest, most unpretentious form. — Debra Kamin

D.Z.: Meals are some of the stickiest memories around, and this is definitely in the top three of my lifetime. It goes without saying that the Basque Country of Spain revolutionized food in the late 1990s and early 2000s, and the repercussions of that have been felt around the world. I started cooking in 2004, and all the techniques that I’ve learned came from that region. We can talk about Ferran Adrià and his El Bulli and all the progeny who are still cooking today in Barcelona and Madrid, but Etxebarri best encapsulates what this region is about and its deep connection to the land and its people. There’s no one who comes out of that restaurant who doesn’t leave deeply touched.

2. Search for Muslim Spain in Al-Andalus

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From the eighth to the 11th centuries, the Iberian Peninsula, then under Muslim rule, was one of the world’s most important intellectual and artistic hubs. In the region of southern Spain known as Andalusia — the name a Hispanicization of Al-Andalus, as Islamic Spain was known — that heritage remains visible everywhere: in the crimped vocalizations of flamenco music; in the elaborate geometric friezes of Seville’s Alcázar Palace; in the infinite recess of the red-and-white archways of the Mezquita-Catedral de Córdoba; and, above all, in Granada’s storied Alhambra, the last Moorish stronghold on the European continent, where it glitters in honeycomb muqarnas and moonlight-washed, waterway-threaded gardens. During the so-called Reconquista, as the centuries-long process through which Catholic kings gradually eroded territories accumulated by successive Muslim dynasties has been historically misnamed, the great cities of Andalusia became spectacular palimpsests of divergent faiths superimposed on top of each other. In Seville, the 15th-century cathedral — the largest Gothic-style building in Europe — stands on the footprint of an Almohad mosque whose graceful minaret was repurposed as a church tower, while in Córdoba, a Renaissance cathedral bursts from the austere, rhythmic heart of the mezquita , itself built atop the remains of a sixth-century Visigothic basilica. After experiencing these spaces, one finds that the influence of Islamic aesthetics throughout Spain — and, indeed, throughout the Americas, devastated and remade under Spanish colonial rule — reveals itself everywhere. Beyond its beauty, Andalusia is a tribute to the indelible marks that cultures and communities leave on one another across time and space. — Michael Snyder

A.T.: Nothing in the world prepares you for the strangeness of the Grand Mosque in Cordoba [Mezquita-Catedral de Córdoba]. I’ve grown up in places where there are the mosques on the bones of temples on the bones of Buddhist viharas, but this business of church upon mosque upon church, where you walk in and see the remains of a Visigothic church but you’re in one of the most beautiful mosques in the world [and since the 13th century a church again], it’s like an act of reclamation — or historical revenge. Even the minaret is buried in the belfry of the church. It’s a theme that I love — layers upon layers of history — and just one of the reasons I thought it was absolutely marvelous.

P.I.: I was the one who suggested the Alhambra, so it comes down to whether we want a zoom lens or a wide angle. I chose the Alhambra for all the reasons that Aatish was mentioning: the overlapping of cultures, the historical significance and also the fact that the Alhambra is fairly well known. On nights when it’s open after dark, you’re getting a familiar place in a relatively unfamiliar context. So our question, really, is whether we want to introduce everyone to that entire region or just a microcosm of it.

A.T.: There’s a development I like in a broader trip, where you come to Seville, see the Giralda, which was originally built as the minaret of the old Almohad mosque, now part of this cathedral, and then you’ll journey a little farther and go to Córdoba and see this stunning mosque that has been turned into a church, and then finally it culminates in this last gasp of Islam in Spain, the Emirate of Granada, which then obviously results in the Catholic monarchs and the end of Muslim Spain. But Pico is absolutely right: The Alhambra is the epicenter — the Moors’ last sigh.

T.M.: I like this idea of a journey. This exposure to Muslim culture is so much more interesting than a single place.

3. Venture Into the Norwegian Night in Search of the Northern Lights

​​Spotting the aurora borealis, the elusive natural phenomenon colloquially known as the northern lights, involves careful coordination of time, place and, yes, luck. Like a digital rendering or laser beams projected above an after-hours rave, the unpredictable show illuminates the sky with dancing streaks of saturated yellow, pink, purple and green, a tangoing of solar gas and Earth’s magnetic field rendered in Technicolor. Locales roughly 66.5 degrees above the Equator, where the Arctic Circle begins, are considered prime viewing spots; cottage industries across Alaska, Canada and Scandinavia have sprung up to sell package tours and overnight accommodations to aurora hunters. Lofoten, an archipelago off Norway’s northwest coast, offers one of the most picturesque backdrops for witnessing this mercurial sight. There, a coastline framed by jagged peaks, sweeping fjords, sandy beaches and rorbu , old fishermen’s cabins painted cherry red and pine green, makes for a serene visit, day or night. Winters on the archipelago are long (November to April) and dark (for five weeks in December and January, the sun doesn’t even rise), so consider them a prime time to settle down on a north-facing beach (Unstad and Gimsøy are particularly beautiful) or sink into a hot tub at a heritage fishing lodge, neck craned skyward — and wait. The anticipation is half the fun. — Aileen Kwun

D.Z.: The northern lights are one of those earthly phenomena that don’t make sense — I don’t think that my brain could fully compute what it was like until I saw it in real life. And Lofoten is just extremely picturesque: It’s hard to get to but very rewarding once you’re there. But I don’t know. Maybe the northern lights are the Mona Lisa of the natural world?

A.H.: Anyone else seen the northern lights in Norway or elsewhere?

T.M.: Yeah, I have, because I’m in Maine and you can see it in northern Maine, but I don’t think it’s anything like what Dave is talking about. Lofoten is on my wish list.

A.T.: I saw them in Iceland but I’m 100 percent pinching David’s idea.

P.I.: I was really excited as soon as I saw this [on the list]. I’ve been up to Fairbanks, Alaska, to see the northern lights, and I know people go to Churchill in Manitoba. But the combination of the northern lights and this remote setting sounds irresistible.

4. Journey Across Two Continents and Eight Time Zones on the Trans-Siberian Railway

Traveling to Russia now, as its war with Ukraine continues, is virtually impossible: Nearly all international flights have been suspended, and the State Department has recommended that Americans steer clear of the country. How or whether Russia’s relationship with the rest of the world, not to mention its tourism industry — a frivolous concern compared to the immense suffering of the Ukrainian people — will recover remains to be seen. But in more peaceful times, riding the Trans-Siberian Railway and its shorter connecting lines is an unparalleled experience — a tour through the many and varied cultures that make up the largest country on Earth. The 5,772 miles of track from Moscow to Vladivostok, built at the turn of the 20th century at the behest of Emperor Alexander III, constitutes by itself the longest continuous railway in the world, and before the pandemic and then the war interrupted its international reach, sleeper cars could take you from most major Western European capitals to Moscow in two or three days. From there, you can make it to the other end nonstop in seven days, but arranging layovers along the way allows for a variety of side excursions: Hop off at Yekaterinburg to see the Soviet-era architecture of Russia’s fourth-largest city, for example, or Irkutsk to visit the UNESCO World Heritage site of Lake Baikal, the world’s oldest and deepest freshwater lake. Better yet, switch at Ulan Ude to the Trans-Mongolian Railway, which extends through the capital of Ulaanbaatar and into the Gobi Desert, ideal for fossil hunting and camel riding, before arriving in Beijing. — Alwa Cooper

V.S.: OK, I know Russia is controversial right now. But this is the longest [direct] train journey in the world. You’re going through ancient cities, deep forests, breathtaking mountains and Siberian outposts. You’re seeing a lot.

A.H.: How does the panel feel about including Russia?

A.T.: I feel absolutely fine. Russia existed before Putin, and Russia is going to exist after Putin. I mean, how could I, with a straight face, eliminate traveling through Russia and then go scurrying down to my Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy? I have a firewall between this idea of Russia as a culturally rich nation and the political reality that one can speak critically of. Lots of nations that we love will come to be ruled by bad people.

P.I.: I agree with Aatish. Political complication, historical complexity and texture are really what make these places something more than sites.

5. Savor an Unforgettable Lunch at Ntounias in Western Crete

It takes a 45-minute drive from Chania, Crete, through the Greek island’s White Mountains to reach this mecca of homespun cooking in Drakona. Through scenic Therrisos Gorge, with occasional stops for sheep crossings, the journey is best made with the windows down, cooled by the hillside breeze and dazzled by the sun winking across limestone mountain caps. Expect a warm greeting upon arrival — the view from the terrace of the valley below will make up for any bumps in the rugged and twisty road — but don’t expect a menu. Along with his wife, Evmorfili, Stelios Trilyrakis, the chef, farmer, shepherd, butcher, owner and maître d’, takes care of all that. The daily bounty comes from an organic garden, part of the tavern Trilyrakis took over from his parents in 2004 after years of working as a chef in Chania. Guests are invited to tour the grounds and the nearby apiary as well as the wood stoves and ovens in the kitchen, though the meal rightfully remains the primary attraction. There might be a village salad (horiatiki), farm-baked bread and freshly churned butter, stuffed vegetables cooked in a traditional clay pot, potatoes fried in olive oil for close to an hour, goat sizzling in its own fat and house wine made on-site. In a country known for its cuisine, Ntounias stands apart. — Miguel Morales

D.Z.: This man used to be a chef in Chania and then seemed to think, as I did, that the world of restaurants is just not where it’s at. So he left and founded a little biodynamic farm. He has this plot of land that overlooks a verdant gorge, and he cooks everything on an open fire. You get snails, lamb stew, whatever is in season. It’s not complicated food; it’s never going to be in the Michelin Guide or on the “World’s 50 Best” list. But it’s the closest I’ve tasted to soul food.

T.M.: I love Crete. It’s a very beautiful place and it still has a certain authenticity about it. The roads sometimes dead-end, and when I was there, you needed at least three maps to figure out where you were. It’s a real physical landscape.

D.Z.: The island itself is one of the oldest continually inhabited civilizations in all of Europe. It has a crazy history, and just going there and eating this food, the way that he cooks it, it’s so honest.

6. Join the Faithful in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, for a Different Kind of White Christmas

There is no Santa Claus in Ethiopia, no halls decked with holly. Christmas, which in so much of the Western world is a commercialized affair, is an intensely spiritual day here, observed not with gifts but with community, incantation and candlelight. The majority of Ethiopians are Christian and most worship freely, despite a history of extremist attacks on churches across the country. The nation follows a solar calendar, and Christmas, known as Genna, is observed on Jan. 7. The holiday begins with fasting on Jan. 6, when, at dusk, devotees head into the streets. In bustling Addis Ababa, a hush falls as thousands of men, women and children, all dressed in white and many wrapped in the traditional cotton robes called netelas , file to church like slow-moving snowdrifts. Many will worship all night, traveling by foot, lit candles in hand, from one church to the next until the small hours of morning. Ethiopia is home to some of the oldest and most beautiful churches in Africa, all of which are filled to capacity on Christmas Eve. (Visitors are welcome to observe.) In the capital, these include the Medhane Alem Cathedral, with its turquoise domes and columnar facade, and the Holy Trinity Cathedral, with its grand murals, jewel-toned stained glass windows and granite tombs in which Emperor Haile Selassie and his consort are interred. Some of the world’s oldest known human fossils have been unearthed from Ethiopian sands. On Christmas Eve, a nation that continues to endure famine and ethnic violence pauses for a prayer of peace. As worshipers pass one another and declare, “ Melkam Genna! ” — “Merry Christmas” in Amharic — the streets all but vibrate. — D.K.

P.I.: I seem to be haunted by places of spiritual intensity, from Lhasa to inner Australia. But I’ve seldom found anywhere to rival the power and magnetism of Ethiopia. It is, by some accounts, the oldest Christian country in the world, and when you drive through it, you feel like you’re going through the biblical books of Kings. But it comes to its culmination on Christmas Eve, when it seems like everyone in the capital is dressed in white, gathering around what look like mangers while these burning-eyed, bearded priests are rocking back and forth with little Bibles that fit in the palms of their hands. I’m not a Christian, but you look around and feel you could be in Bethlehem at the time of the birth of Jesus and that so little has changed in the past 2,000 years. Part of the poignancy is that life tends to be very difficult in Ethiopia, [teetering] between political uncertainty and impoverishment. So there’s this real sense that the religion and the moment mean even more than they might in Madrid or Paris. Although I was there 28 years ago, I’ll never forget walking through the night from church to church, seeing these people with tears in their eyes, gathered in the darkness, holding their candles and singing.

7. Traverse the Blossoming Oases and Ancient Desert Towns of Morocco’s Draa Valley

In precolonial Morocco, the imposing grandeur of the Atlas Mountains marked the boundary between the bilad el-makhzen — land under the rule of the Alaouite sultan — and the bilad el-siba , or “region of anarchy.” Today, to drive the circuitous route through the Atlases and into the Draa Valley is to exist on that line: It’s a liminal place where verdant gardens and soaring minarets open onto the vast barrens of the Sahara. Departing from Marrakesh, head southeast to Ouarzazate, or “the door of the desert,” and then onto M’Hamid, whose Dar Paru hotel exemplifies Berber architecture, with its rammed-earth walls and geometric parapets. From there, follow the N9 and N12 roads to hew close to the Draa, a river that runs along the Algerian border, nourishing a landscape of riotous color: The mountains’ ochers, umbers and emeralds cede to rippling oases of blue palms, olive groves, fields of golden barley and sun-baked adobe casbahs. Once home to a bustling trade route, the region bears the marks of Morocco’s imbricated faiths and folkways. Fragrant date palms, first grown by Arabs who arrived in the seventh century, freckle stretches of arable land hemmed in by sand dunes. Towns such as Tissint draw their influences from the Berbers, who have lived in North Africa for more than 4,000 years. (“Tissint” is the Berber word for salt, another early commodity.) Further southeast, in Akka, more than 300 miles from Marrakesh, are the remains of a community of Jewish merchants and silversmiths who plied their trade in the area as early as the second century. Their homes — made of mud brick and stucco, with walls now jagged or altogether missing — stand as monuments to the Draa’s rich, syncretic past and to the enthralling boundlessness of its present. — Dan Piepenbring

A.T.: I’d been to Marrakesh; I’d been to Tangier. Morocco, for me, was a known commodity. Then I did this journey south a couple of years ago. This is an Arabic place, and yet there’s this very profound other culture that’s always under the surface. The most startling moment came when I arrived in a town where there was an old Jewish quarter of silversmiths and we went into a house that felt like it had been abandoned yesterday. It was just one of those moments where suddenly all of the pieces fall into place and you get a window into another vein of culture or civilization and how it interacted with this Arabized Muslim state of Morocco. I also have to say, landscape-wise, it’s the only place other than Yemen where you’re driving through and you have these discrete, scarified mountains on either side, and every now and then there’ll be, like, a flowering tree against the desert. It’s stunning stuff.

8. Come Face to Face With a Rare Marine Mammal Off the Coast of Southern Mozambique

Sea pig, sea cow, sea camel — the dugong’s epithets aren’t particularly evocative, but its serene presence is the highlight of any dive trip. The 200 or so animals that scientists estimate live in the protected waters of Bazaruto Archipelago National Park constitute the largest remaining dugong population on the East African coast. To experience them, you must fly into the nearest international airport, in the town of Vilankulo, and then organize a helicopter or dhow ride to one of the archipelago’s many resorts and lodges. There are numerous diving and snorkeling spots along Bazaruto’s famed Two-Mile Reef, which offers unusually clear visibility and a thriving coral population. Found in the shallow coastal waters of as many as 40 countries, the large and placid dugong (imagine a manatee with a wider, shorter snout) is intensely shy, and its population is considered “vulnerable,” according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species. Its hearing is sharp but its vision is poor; moving in slowly, silently and respectfully is key. Even so, only the luckiest Bazaruto divers will ever spot a dugong — often from a distance of several meters — drifting alone or in pairs. — A.C.

A.T.: When I’m obliged to write about the natural world, I get kind of nervous because I think, “Oh, am I going to feel something? Am I going to know how to translate that feeling in my writing?” By April [2022], I had become very scared of travel: the pandemic, the restrictions, the fear that you were going to be stuck somewhere and not allowed back. All of this was weighing on my mind, and I’d almost lost that sense of wonder, that willingness to leave home. And in this place, which is the basin of the Indian Ocean in that part of the world, the plane tilted and I saw the sand flats push through this ancient archipelago and I thought to myself, “Of course, this is why one leaves home!” I hadn’t scuba-dived in 15 years, and here I was with blacktip reef sharks and sea turtles swimming into the raking light with plankton. Dugongs are incredibly rare, but as we came up from this dive, we saw one. It was a kind of emotional state brought on by the pandemic — a fear of leaving home running smack into that total excitement to be out in the world again.

A.H.: Many other lists like this would probably include an African safari; it’s refreshing not to promote a more traditional safari experience.

T.M.: The African safari has a checkered history because it’s related to hunting animals. There’s a balance now between conservation and infringement, but how those animals are really protected or may not be … there’s a lot we don’t know. So I’m definitely sensitive about not recommending a safari as an experience.


9. discover paradise on earth in the secret courtyard gardens of yazd, iran.

The very concept of paradise was born in Iran around 550 B.C., when Cyrus the Great, in the days of the Achaemenid Empire, oversaw the construction of a spectacular walled oasis called Pasargadae — a place of symmetry, flowering trees and calming waters — setting an example of how man might bend nature in pursuit of ultimate beauty. So deep do the Iranian roots of nirvana run that even the English word “paradise” comes from paridaida , the Old Persian term for walled garden. For those wishing to commune with Eden today, there’s perhaps no better place than Yazd, a 1,600-year-old Iranian desert town that was once a critical stop on the Silk Road. Here, the garden hotels of the city, which today is home to 530,000 people, pay homage to the Iranian legacy of paradise with their hidden courtyards. From the lush Kohan and the majestic Moshir Al Mamalek to the family-run Dad Hotel, the accommodations range from humble to luxurious. For guests who step through the door and out into the enclosed garden, hushed earthly delights of fountains and flowers — soft calla lilies, tulips and desert roses — await. — D.K.

P.I.: In all my traveling life, Iran is definitely the richest, most sophisticated, most surprising place I’ve been. And it’s the one I’m always urging my friends in California to go to — partly because I worry, as with Cuba or with other Middle Eastern places, that we’re reducing them to one-dimensional stereotypes from afar. And I’m so keen for people to experience the human reality firsthand. Sometimes friends will ask me, “Is it safe to go?” Well, I’m sitting here near Los Angeles, which for most of the planet is a really scary place.

Before I went to Iran, I was told by people who had been there that you only have to worry about two things: Everywhere you go, you’re going to be swamped with more friendliness than you know what to do with, and everyone’s going to invite you to dinner. The only reason that didn’t always happen to me was that people took me for Iranian, so they weren’t as excited as if they’d seen a more visible foreigner.

A.T.: I loved Yazd. I have to say that I did run afoul of the authorities in Iran and was turfed out with 48 hours to leave and probably couldn’t go back, but I completely second what Pico said. Up until that point, I had been met with nothing but hospitality and friendship, and Yazd was one of the highlights of that trip.

10. Swim in a Desert Oasis in Oman

Many of Oman’s wadis, or desert valleys, dry up in the scorching summer months, but at Wadi Bani Khalid, wide pools of water glisten year-round. You drive through the desert and suddenly there it is: a cliché of a gleaming desert mirage. But this is no illusion. Above the pristine pools, date palms sway in the breeze, and the rocky white cliff sides of the Hajar Mountains reveal canyons and caves; if you hike into them, you can see shimmering waterfalls. Thousands of tiny garra fish flash beneath the surface of these pools, ready to nibble at the dead skin on your toes. Wadi Bani Khalid is a three-hour drive from Muscat, making it an ideal day trip, although there are lots of budget hotels and desert camps in the area. Many visitors stop first at the sandy outpost of Al Wasil for camel rides and an overnight stay in a Bedouin-style tent. From there, the mountain road winds through fishing villages until the vast expanse of Wadi Bani Khalid, with its nearly 12-mile stretch of water, appears on the horizon. Its natural beauty is as intact today as it was when Oman’s Bedouin tribes relied on it, and a visit here offers an instant connection to the region’s deep history. The Oman government has helped develop the site in recent years, too, bringing with it a paved parking lot, bridges and public restrooms. — D.K.

T.M.: I share Pico’s notions that people should travel to the Middle East. The geographical diversity is incredible, and Oman is a peaceful and stable place. It’s absolutely gorgeous, the air is clear, the food is great and the climate is wonderful. It’s so easy for people to go here, yet Dubai takes all the tourists.

P.I.: I’m so happy to see Oman on the list. I think of it as the Bhutan of the Middle East because it’s so tastefully developed and preserved.

11. Delve Into 6,000-Plus Years of History at Erbil Citadel in Iraq

The longest continuously inhabited settlement in the world, Erbil Citadel lies at the heart of the modern-day capital of Iraqi Kurdistan. To the north, the Zagros Mountains beckon. The Kurdistan Regional Government has been developing trails there to promote hiking across a range that rivals the Alps in size — an impressive backdrop for one of the cradles of civilization. The 6,000-year-old fort sits atop a tell, a 100-foot-high mound the size of 19 football fields made by generations of Muslim, Christian and Jewish communities that built on top of one another. Courtyard homes constructed with oven-fired brick, said to be inspired by the ring of tents nomads once formed around their cattle, nestle inside the citadel walls. Their plain facades conceal branching floor plans that gave privacy to the extended families who once lived there. Visit the citadel with a guide in the late afternoon, when its brick walls turn the color of amber, and then drop by the bustling Qaysari Bazaar, one of the oldest covered markets in the world. Dating to the Ottoman era, it houses stalls of jewelry, textiles, crafts and sweets. Erbil and its citadel have withstood waves of conquest by Sumerians, Akkadians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Achaemenids, Greeks, Parthians, Romans, Sassanids, Muslims, Timurids, Mongols and Ottomans. To repair and preserve the settlement, the High Commission for Erbil Citadel Revitalization was formed in 2007; the Kurdistan Regional Government has allocated more than $30 million to the undertaking. But just as the citadel was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2014, the rehab stalled temporarily owing to the rise of ISIS. Work has since resumed; the ancient tell remains open; and, despite centuries of conquest and long spells of neglect, the citadel stands: a testament to the resilience of the human spirit. — M.M.

T.M.: Kurds will say, “We have no friends but mountains.” This is one of the world’s largest stateless populaces and it’s constantly in danger, sandwiched between Turkey and Iran. The citadel is still going through reconstruction. I wouldn’t say it’s beautiful, but it gives you a real sense of place and what it’s like to live in a region that has had to defend against ISIS attacks. It’s not a safe choice, but Kurdistan is a strong and resilient community that has survived ongoing and periodic attacks. There are prominent politically progressive women in the government and there are many untouched archaeological sites.

12. Marvel at the Threatened Mud-Brick Skyscrapers of Yemen

In an ancient Semitic world as yet undivided by modern faiths, long before the rise of Christianity or Islam, the cities of what we now call Yemen emerged from the desert as their inhabitants made their fortunes on frankincense and myrrh. As trade between southern Arabia and the Mediterranean flourished, beginning around the third century B.C., these new urban centers sprouted along the so-called Incense Route , their occupants developing, over time, ingenious systems of irrigation and urban planning that are as remarkable today as they were a thousand years ago. In the 2,500-year-old historic center of Sana’a, the capital of modern Yemen, residents adorned the ocher walls of their multistory homes with garlands of gypsum plaster, while in the town of Shibam, which emerged in its current form in the 16th century, rammed-earth towers rose as high as seven stories from a cliff’s edge overlooking the Wadi Hadhramaut, a vertiginous landscape that blurs the boundary between the natural and the man-made. For decades now, these ancient settlements and the people who reside within them have suffered crisis upon crisis — floods and famines and a years-long civil war that, since its beginning in 2014, has precipitated mass starvation, even as historic neighborhoods are shredded by U.S.-backed Saudi bombings. Among the most extraordinary human settlements on earth, the tower cities of Yemen — and, more important, the communities that have for millenniums called them home — are in grave danger of disappearing for good. — M.S.

A.T.: Singularly, without a doubt, this was the most incredible trip I’ve done in my life. This is a rare, stuck-in-the-past kind of country: Like pre-Islamic Arabia, it felt Semitic in the deepest sense. Yemen, for me, was that one place where there was no creeping globalization; it was unbelievably pure. There were some dangers then, too, but not like there are now. I hesitate to recommend it because of the safety situation.

P.I.: I was thrilled to see it on the list. And if we have to single out one element in Yemen, those skyscrapers would be the place to start: Anyone who’s seen them is never going to forget them. I think we shouldn’t worry about safety. It is one of the great countries on Earth and, as Aatish was saying, not like anywhere else.

V.S.: Yes, I agree. We should keep it. Just Aatish’s description — I’m ready to go.

13. Follow the Silk Road Through the Caravan Cities of Uzbekistan

Step back in time with a visit to three of the most important stops on the Silk Road, each city a distinctive meld of Greek, Turkish, Mongol, Muslim and Russian cultures. In the tiled expanse of the Registan, ancient Samarkand’s public square framed by three madrasas (Islamic schools), stand transfixed beneath the grand portals, patterned minarets and ornate cupolas. A little down the road to the west lies Gur-e-Amir, the resting place of the Turco-Mongol conqueror Tamerlane. Resplendent with intricate tile work and crowned by a heavenly blue dome, the mausoleum inspired the Mughal master craftspeople of the Taj Mahal. A leisurely walk northeast, past new developments and century-old buildings, calls for a stopover at Siyob Bazaar, where you can wander the food stalls selling pomegranates, dates, halvah, naan and more. A few hundred paces away is Bibi-Khanym: One of the largest mosques built in the 15th century, the structure was restored to much of its former glory in the latter half of the 20th, its grand azure dome and four minarets suspended against the backdrop of the iwan. There are no direct flights from Samarkand to Bukhara, so take the scenic route by train, past rippling red sands, the oases that punctuate the bleached-out plains of the Kyzylkum Desert and Poi-Kalyan, the sprawling mosque complex, where the baked brick of minaret, madrasa and mosque glow pink at sunset. And though all three cities have centuries-old caravansaries — the famed inns where Silk Road merchants stayed — Ichan-Kala, a remnant of the ancient Khiva oasis, checkered with medieval Islamic buildings, appears completely untouched by time. Countless others have walked these walls before, and now you have joined your steps to theirs, grounded together in the richness of the past. — M.M.

A.T.: I mean, unparalleled, the most wonderful Silk Road trip you can do. Stunning monuments, red desert, old Persianate culture mixing with the culture of the steppe and then, obviously, the Soviet empire. I would recommend it very highly.

14. Tour the Lofty Potala Palace in Lhasa, a Sacred Repository of Tibetan Artifacts

Rising out of a cliff face more than 12,000 feet above sea level, Tibet’s Potala Palace feels like a lavish retreat, a religious sanctuary and an impregnable fortress all in one. The climb to the top of the 13-story building is breathtaking in every sense of the word; make sure you’ve acclimated to the altitude before you attempt it. And the palace’s sloped red-and-white facade — repainted annually with a mixture of honey, milk, brown sugar and saffron — is as inviting as it is magisterial. (Frank Lloyd Wright found it so inspiring that he kept a photo of it in his drafting room.) Completed in 1649, the palace’s two divisions, one red and one white, together comprise at least one thousand rooms that encapsulate the vibrant multiplicity of Tibetan history. Guided tours, lit by traditional butter lamps, take you through rooms crowded with hundreds of murals, works of porcelain and jade, intricate carpets and Buddhist scriptures; the world’s longest scroll of Tibetan calligraphy, measuring 676 feet in length, has been housed here since 2014. Also on display are astonishing gilded stupas — wooden towers of concentric rings inlaid with jewels, each crowned with a sun and moon — containing the remains of eight Dalai Lamas. The Potala is a tribute to Buddhism and an embattled people; located on a mountaintop in the Tibetan capital, Lhasa, or “place of gods,” it has survived numerous attempts at looting and destruction since Tibet was annexed by China in 1950. Its resilience is reason enough to go. — D.P.

P.I.: Tibet is a really important place for people to visit culturally and politically because it’s so imperiled. Ladakh is more beautiful and Bhutan is more protected. But Tibet, the center of this rich culture and religion, is being destroyed very quickly, and anyone who goes there suddenly feels deeply invested in its protection.

15. Explore the Architectural Syncretism in South India’s Deccan Plateau

The vast highlands stretching between the eastern and western coastal ranges of the peninsular subcontinent have seen the rise and fall of countless kingdoms, each of which has left behind architectural remains as proof of its former glory. Nowhere is that immense cultural wealth more evident than in the temple towns and former imperial capitals of northern Karnataka, near the Deccan Plateau’s semi-arid heart. Beginning in the sixth century, the Eastern Chalukya dynasty, a vast and culturally diverse empire, turned its successive capitals in the now-sleepy villages of Aihole and Badami and the ceremonial center of Pattadakal into hubs for experimentation in religious architecture, assembling free-standing temples from elaborately carved stone that drew influence from both North and South India and excavating and erecting sites of Hindu, Jain and Buddhist devotion. In the 14th century, the Muslim Bahmani kings introduced Persianate domes and crenellated walls at the fortress capital of Bidar, while in Bijapur, roughly six hours southwest, the skyline bristles with minarets and domes left behind by the Adil Shahi sultans, who ruled there in the 16th and 17th centuries. Farther south, the subcontinent’s last great Hindu empire blossomed in the city of Vijayanagar, built over the course of 200 years, then abandoned in 1565 after its defeat by the sultanates of the northern Deccan. Now known as Hampi, that great city marks the pinnacle of Dravidian architecture, with its soaring temple towers and colonnades. Taken together, these cities and towns, clustered in the northern districts of Karnataka state, represent a practically endless trove of architectural treasures at least as rich as the Mughal mosques and Rajput temples of North India’s well-trodden tourist circuit. More important, they speak to the long tradition of syncretism that has always defined India, a tradition that contemporary politics increasingly — and tragically — aims to erase. — M.S.

A.T.: I went to school in South India, and the Deccan is very far from the world of the Taj Mahal and North Indian Islamic architecture. It was this unbelievable trail with beautiful temples in Aihole and Badami. Then you come to Hampi, which was once the capital of the Vijayanagara Empire, and it’s a site like Angkor Wat: absolutely stunning. Then you carry on to Bidar and Bijapur [Vijayapura] and you see mosques — it’s one of the most interesting, beautiful meeting points of Islam and Hinduism, but in the south of India as opposed to the north.

P.I.: I’ve been to India quite a few times and I’ve never heard about those wonders. It’s a fresh, eye-opening suggestion.

16. Hike Japan’s Lore-Steeped Kumano Kodo Trail

South of the ancient cities of Kyoto and Nara, Japan’s Kii Peninsula offers dramatic ocean vistas and dense old-growth cedar forests. Its flickering shadows, creeping mosses and shrouds of ethereal mist have enraptured pilgrims and seekers since antiquity, and the region’s awe-inspiring tranquillity has come to embody the long commingling of Shinto and Buddhist traditions. Every year, as many as 15 million people hike the Kumano Kodo, a network of trails more than a thousand years old and totaling more than 600 miles, whose cobblestone stairs and long wooden footbridges lead to three grand shrines: the Kumano Hongu Taisha, the Kumano Nachi Taisha and the Kumano Hayatama Taisha, all prized for their ability to heal and purify. (That last one is said to date to A.D. 128, when it was built for gods who’d descended to Earth.) Comprising seven routes around the peninsula or through the heart of the Kii Mountains, the Kumano Kodo is so sprawling that no two journeys will ever be alike, though all are formidable; its Kohechi trail, a four-day, 43-mile hike over three mountain passes, includes vertiginous ascents of more than 3,200 feet and is renowned for its difficulty. Those who make the strenuous climb will find weathered milestones, natural hot springs and a hand-operated cable car suspended over a riverbank. Visitors can seek shelter for the night at designated campsites or at minshuku, guesthouses scattered along the route. Further on, at the Kumano Nachi Taisha shrine, a stately three-tiered pagoda overlooks the 436-foot Nachi no Taki, Japan’s tallest single-drop waterfall, long considered a sacred entity, which has enveloped generations of travelers in its awesome roar. — D.P.

T.M.: I like the idea of Shinto mountain worship: It’s a challenging but incredibly cleansing experience — like the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in Galicia.

D.Z.: I know two people who’ve done it, both after their fathers died. They said it was transformative.

T.M.: It’s arduous, and that makes it a strange spiritual experience unlike anything else.

17. Spend the Day in the Womblike Emptiness of the Teshima Art Museum in Japan

Before the pandemic, hundreds of thousands of travelers visited the art islands of Japan, a collection of some 20 former fishing and industry isles turned art havens scattered across the Seto Inland Sea, just over an hourlong flight from Tokyo. They made the trek via a combination of train, ferry, car, bus and bicycle, some with visions of Yayoi Kusama’s “Pumpkin” (1994), a polka-dot yellow fiberglass pumpkin positioned at the end of a pier, in their heads. That sculpture was responsible for much of the foot traffic at the Benesse Art Site on Naoshima, a small island with several museums designed by Tadao Ando, until it was swept out to sea during a typhoon in 2021. (The work was eventually recovered, restored and, last month, put back on display.) As Japan slowly reopens, the Art Islands continue to attract pilgrims. Inujima, Shodoshima and Megijima host installations and art fairs in once-abandoned buildings, but it’s Teshima Island, home of the Teshima Art Museum, that travelers most need to experience. Designed by the Tokyo-based architect Ryue Nishizawa, the museum’s low-lying concrete shell is a feat of engineering and a work of art in itself. Inspired by the bulbous curve of a water droplet resting on a sheet of glass, it appears to emerge organically from a forested hillside overlooking the sea. Inside, two open-air oculi frame shifting scenes of water, sky and sunlight alongside the museum’s single permanent installation, 2010’s “Bokei” (Matrix), by the Hiroshima-based artist Rei Naito. The contemplative work features beads of water that emerge from, pool atop and are reabsorbed into pinholes perforating the floor. To enjoy a few hours in its engulfing silence, watching the light change with each passing hour, is to surrender to time itself. — A.K.

P.I.: I’ve been really impressed by the art project around Naoshima in the Seto Inland Sea and how it has developed over the past 30 years. Though I would recommend the entire Naoshima project, the most piercing place is Teshima. You take a bus across a quiet island, end up on a hill and step into this vast empty space, which is the museum. There’s nothing there except two openings in the roof and drops of water being made to emerge from the ground. And somehow it’s transfixing — like a James Turrell Skyspace doubled and taken in an almost feminine direction. So many people, from billionaires to meditation teachers, have told me this is the single most moving place they have ever been.


18. take the ultimate road trip: drive the pan-american highway from argentina to alaska.

Roughly tracing the path that early man followed after crossing the land bridge over the Bering Strait, the Pan-American Highway runs at least 19,000 miles from Prudhoe Bay in Alaska to Ushuaia at the edge of Tierra del Fuego, a subantarctic territory split between Chile and Argentina. Crossing 14 countries and interrupted only by the ecologically fragile forests of the Darién Gap between Panama and Colombia, the highway — really a collection of interconnected freeways splintered across various routes — traverses the tundra of western Canada and the peaks of the Rockies, the deserts of northern Mexico and the pampas of Patagonia. Options for detours along the way are almost endless. You might weave through the national parks of the American West. In Mexico, depending on which route you take, you might feast on roasted goat in Monterrey or raw seafood in coastal Mazatlán. You could wander colonial cities like Antigua, Guatemala, or Granada, Nicaragua, and bird-watch in the rainforests of Costa Rica. In the valleys between Colombia’s triplicate Cordilleras, you could sip coffee among green hills in the department of Quindío and salsa dance in the lowland city of Cali. Following the Andes south, you’ll gaze upon the gilded extravagance of Ecuador’s whitewashed capital, Quito, or hike in the highland planes below the snow-dusted dome of Cotopaxi, that country’s highest active volcano. You could deviate from the main road to lose yourself in the endless white expanse of Bolivia’s Salar de Uyuni, then follow the spine of South America through regions of Argentina and Chile punctuated by vineyards and lakes. To drive the Pan-American Highway is to glimpse the immensity of the Americas and the unthinkable marvels of a world both ancient and irrepressibly new. — M.S.

V.S.: You’re driving through at least 14 countries including the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile and Argentina. There’s surfing, jungles, swimming, birding, colonial towns, the history, the culture, glaciers, caves, blue lakes, beaches, hot springs in Mexico — it gives you everything.

19. Behold the Natural Wonders of Chile’s Atacama Desert

Ranging from the Pacific Coast to the Andean Altiplano and locked in the rain shadow of the world’s longest mountain range, the Atacama Desert, located mostly within northern Chile, is among the most alien landscapes on the planet. Pink flamingos gather at the edges of salt lakes the color of lapis or topaz or garnet. Perfectly conical volcanoes loom over salt flats and desolate plains where guanacos, elegantly proportioned cousins of llamas, and viscachas, which resemble long-tailed rabbits, drift through prickly wisps of ground-hugging vegetation. Jets of steam slip through the arid turf in some of the highest geyser fields, and rocky hills drop into the frigid blue waters of the Pacific. Uncontaminated by light or clouds or moisture, the night sky explodes with stars, recorded and studied by some of the most advanced telescopes on Earth. Covering a swath of 70,000 square miles and contiguous with similar biomes in neighboring corners of Argentina, Peru and Bolivia, the Atacama is so extreme in its atmospheric conditions that NASA used it as a test site for its Mars rovers in 2017. Until civilian space travel becomes a reality, the Atacama, with its spectral beauty, will remain perhaps the closest one can get to an extraplanetary experience. — M.S.

V.S.: The Atacama is the driest nonpolar desert on Earth. And I love extremes, obviously. I felt that this would offer a remote and diverse experience with lunar landscapes, salt pools comparable to the Dead Sea, sand dunes, rock formations, hiking and incredible stargazing.

T.M.: You can have an amazing time looking at stars, and it’s incredibly dry, so the atmosphere is very different. A truly visceral experience.

20. Feast on the Cuisines of Oaxaca City, Mexico

The state of Oaxaca has long been a focal point of Mexican culinary identity. But in the past few years, the namesake capital’s limestone buildings and dazzling evening light have attracted unprecedented numbers of visitors, upending the equilibrium between its Indigenous identity and the constant demands of tourists for elegant restaurants and luxury hotels. Yet growing awareness of Oaxaca’s cultural wealth and diversity has also made it possible for chefs with local roots to open revelatory new businesses in spaces as simple as they are unforgettable. At Levadura de Olla, for instance, the chef Thalía Barrios García prepares food straight out of the remote hill country south of the city where she grew up. Bowls of black beans fragrant with wood smoke or, in season, tacos made with the brilliant crimson flowers of the pipe tree are the closest thing to country cooking you’re likely to find in any major city. Outside the center, the chef Jorge León has turned the tranquil garden of his family home into a restaurant called Alfonsina, where he serves an ambitious, adventurous tasting menu that draws on his experience as a cook at Pujol, the high-concept gastronomic temple in Mexico City, while his mother and aunts turn out a parallel menu of traditional dishes like a meticulously prepared hoja santa-scented mole amarillo. Every corner of this wondrous city and its surrounding countryside contains its own culinary jewels — from market stalls selling steamed tamales swaddled in banana leaves and crisp corn tlayudas folded like envelopes around sheets of chile-rubbed beef, to relaxed mezcalerías and market halls redolent of barbacoa cooked overnight in underground pits. The newer restaurants aim neither to replicate nor supplant these spaces but, rather, to honor them and, in their down-to-earth manner, expand their reach. — M.S.

A.T.: A lot of food scenes can be quite fussy. What was moving to me here were restaurants like Levadura de Olla, with a woman who’s come from the hills of Oaxaca to bring the cuisine of her home to this restaurant. Besides the food being wonderful, it seemed like a real break from the sort of fine dining you find elsewhere.

21. Dance Until You Drop at Carnival in Cuba

Cuba’s massive Carnival celebrations have been held in some form or another since the 17th century. As a series of winter events tied to the Catholic Church’s calendar, Carnival was largely reserved for Cubans of mostly Spanish ancestry, while its summer counterpart, the Mamarrachos, allowed laborers and the lower classes (mostly enslaved Africans and their descendants) a period of riotous release after the sugar cane harvest. Many other Carnivals across the Caribbean are still observed in February, before Lent, but Cuba’s Carnival has evolved into an exuberant summer event that is celebrated across the country. The most famous parties, held in Havana in August and in Santiago de Cuba at the end of July, have preserved the vibrant spirit and Afro-Caribbean influences of the original Mamarrachos. Spangled and feathered groups of dancers called comparsas perform in the streets between giant effigies of religious figures and celebrities, decorated floats and conga performers. The mainstreaming of festivals that originated from marginalized communities hasn’t been entirely seamless, with periodic attempts by conservative Cubans to sanitize them, but the omnipresent rhythm of the Carnival drums is a permanent reminder of their roots in resilience, triumph and pure joy. — A.C.

P.I.: Cuba is one of the most powerful places I’ve been and Carnival is a wild concentration of its energy, music and spirit.

A.T.: That’s a great way to do Cuba — because it’s atmospheric. Going there is one of those experiences that, 20 years on, I can’t stop thinking about.

22. Take In the Magnificent Scale and Immutable Geology of the Colorado Plateau

The high desert of the Colorado Plateau covers 150,000 square miles, stretching across the Four Corners region in an arid, empyrean expanse including not only its namesake state but parts of Utah, Arizona and New Mexico, as well as the whole of the Navajo Nation. From its massive sedimentary rocks rise gnarled, sweeping geological marvels that seem to defy gravity and dwarf the human concept of space: Here are the mesas, petrified forests, monoliths, pinnacles and hoodoos that define the rugged archetype of the American West. The Ancestral Pueblo people, who lived on the plateau until around A.D. 1300, left ruins in the form of kivas — circular subterranean chambers often used for ceremonies — adobe pueblos and intricate dwellings built into the sides of cliffs. These are enshrined among the plateau’s eight national parks and 18 national monuments, which together constitute some of the greatest, most diverse terrain in the United States. In addition to the Grand Canyon, there’s Bears Ears, a pair of burnt-sienna buttes revered by Indigenous groups; and Grand Staircase-Escalante, an imbricated series of ascending rock layers punctuated with canyons and cliffs. The plateau, in its vastness, offers many opportunities for hiking, cycling, rafting and birding, but the best way to experience it is to camp there, watching as its endless horizons become a vault of stars. — D.P.

V.S.: This area of the country is physically magnificent and encompasses so much of what I find engaging in the West: the Kodachrome red rock formations; the sweeping views; the canyons, mountains, valleys, deserts; the 600-million-year-old geologic history of the plateau and the culturally significant sites of Ancestral Puebloans, reminding us of what was here before. It’s an awe-inspiring trip that will remind you of our fleeting time here while you experience the grandeur where past and present converge.

23. Witness a Solar Eclipse in a Sleepy Fishing Village in Newfoundland, Canada

The next total solar eclipse in North America will occur on April 8, 2024. Among the many scenic vantage points on its path of totality is Bonavista, a town of some 3,000 people on a bucolic peninsula in Newfoundland. There are plenty of remote places here from which to take in the atavistic spectacle: a sublime, disquieting experience, full of renewal and destruction, that shatters one’s sense of magnitude. When you’re not watching the moon engulf the sun in a rite of astronomical passage, you can enjoy more earthly pleasures at the Bonavista lighthouse, which looks out onto a seascape of unsurpassed beauty, featuring calving icebergs, breaching humpback whales and ambling colonies of puffins. Nearby are the Dungeon, a collapsed sea cave warped by erosion into a natural archway, and the Ryan Premises, a set of white clapboard buildings from the 19th century, striking in their simplicity, and once the locus of the town’s thriving cod-fishing industry. (Their slogan: “Where cod is culture.”) Bonavista takes its name from the Italian explorer Giovanni Caboto, often Anglicized as John Cabot, who is said to have exclaimed, “O buona vista!” upon glimpsing its shores in 1497. A full-scale replica of Cabot’s ship, the Matthew , floats in a harbor near the village center, where visitors can rent kayaks for whale-watching excursions. — D.P.

D.Z.: The one experience where I’m like, “I will die on this hill for this,” is to observe the next [full] solar eclipse in North America from the path of totality. I’ve never had the chance to [do this] myself, but I will be traveling to Toronto with my son — he’ll be two then — and I want to “ Lion King”-style raise him into the eye of the moon when this happens. It’s something our ancestors have built entire mythologies around: a way of keeping track of celestial bodies and realizing there were powerful forces far beyond our own imagination. With the association eclipses have historically carried with the end of the world, it’d be fitting to witness it from what’s colloquially known as the end of the world: Newfoundland. The province [Newfoundland and Labrador] doesn’t get a lot of credit, but it has some of the most beautiful coastal wild nature in North America. April is also iceberg season, which will only compound the viewing experience.

24. Labor on an Organic Farm in New Zealand

Travel can be alienating, expensive and bad for the environment. WWOOF , or World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, was started in England in 1971 by Susan Coppard as “a way of getting back into the countryside.” The first weekend she spent on a biodynamic farm spawned a global movement with a simple premise: Volunteers lend a hand on organic farms in exchange for food, lodging and an introduction to agriculture. WWOOFing in New Zealand, particularly in Northland, the milder, less-urbanized agrarian hub that spans much of the North Auckland Peninsula and is renowned for its white-sand beaches and giant Kauri forests, pairs this enterprise with a fairy-tale atmosphere. More than 100 farms here accept volunteer workers throughout the year, letting you experience nature and tend to it at the same time, living alongside New Zealanders, learning firsthand about their way of life and finding a way to give back to the picturesque landscape. Farm life often requires rising with the sun, but chores, whether pulling redroot weeds or tending sheep, usually conclude by lunch. Afterward, grander adventures can be had as well: backpacking Northland’s Great Walks, where you can rove through remote subtropical forests, or canoeing down the Whanganui River. But the most rewarding and memorable aspect of the trip comes from forging a bond with the earth and the resilient people who work it. — M.M.

D.Z.: Working on a farm is something everyone alive should do so that they understand where food comes from. WWOOFing is a great way to do that.

A.H.: It’s interesting in that it touches upon a recent trend toward voluntourism but in a less expected way.

T.M.: I have a miniature farm, but it takes all seasons and years to really understand a cycle. It depends on when you go, but you might see the planting, you might see harvesting; you might only get to do weeding.

D.Z.: It’s not a hotel; you can’t come and go as you please. But I don’t think the fact that you don’t get to completely embed yourself in agriculture over the course of multiple years or seasons negates the importance of learning what it’s like to farm.

A.H.: Why New Zealand specifically, David?

DZ: New Zealand, which is absolutely otherworldly for its natural landscape, is also an island nation that is super self-reliant thanks to the work of its farmers. If you chose to, say, help locals regenerate their surroundings by planting food forests, harvesting fruits in an organic orchard or rewilding land to create more habitat for native and endangered species, you would also get to reap the benefits of spending your off hours exploring Middle-earth, finding yourself a short drive from amazing landscapes like Spirits Bay [Piwhane] at the very tip of the North Island or the Te Paki sand dunes. Plus, I mean, who wouldn’t want to see a Kiwi bird in real life, crossing your path as you work in the field?

25. Float in a Zodiac to the Edge of Human Experience

The only continent with no permanent residents, Antarctica is synonymous with isolation. A two-day cruise through the notoriously rough Drake Passage (or a two-hour flight over it) from the tip of either Argentina or Chile brings you to the planet’s southernmost landmass. Once you’re there, the sights are simultaneously imposing and palpably ephemeral; the grandeur of miles-high glaciers in an exquisite spectrum of blues and greens is only heightened by the fragility of the climate that supports them. Antarctic sea ice is melting less quickly than that of the North Pole, but the vulnerability of the frozen sheet that contains more than half of the Earth’s freshwater supply has never been more difficult to ignore. Earlier this year, Antarctic ice was measured as at a record low (though it fluctuates from year to year, in contrast to Arctic ice, which has been consistently shrinking for decades). If the world’s governments fail to limit warming in the coming years to 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels, as seems increasingly likely, ice sheet collapses in the Antarctic could cause a catastrophic rise in sea levels over the next several centuries. Still, Antarctica’s sublime beauty persists. In addition to its penguin colonies, best encountered from November till January, the whale watching is revelatory. Go in February or March, when receding ice allows the dozen or so passengers in the inflatable Zodiac rafts of expedition cruises to get up-close views of blue whales, orcas, humpback whales and other cetaceans. Travel to Antarctica remains heavily regulated: Unguided landings are forbidden, and the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty, signed in 1991, instituted “leave no trace” guidelines designed to limit the human impact of tourism and scientific exploration alike. Before you go, do some research to identify the most sustainable way to explore . — A.C.

P.I.: I’m not very sensitive to nature, but this was beyond anything I’ve imagined or experienced, even in nearby Patagonia. It awakens you to the environmental concerns of the world, which are probably paramount in most travelers’ minds these days; being exposed to such majesty and beauty and also to the underlying frailty, you go home with important questions for your conscience as well as radiant memories.

At top: Footage of the World/Getty Images, Nick Ballon, Andrew Rowat, Iwan Baan, M’Hammed Kilito, Fernando Maquieira, Michael Turek (3), Nick Bondarev, Salvatore Di Gregorio, @SteMajourneys (2), Sjo/Getty Images, Luca Donninelli, Felix Odell, Stefan Ruiz (2), Grant Harder (2), Minasse Wondimu Hailu/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images, James Thompson, Kelly Cheng/Getty Images

Research Editors: Mario Mercado and Alexis Sottile

Copy Editors: Diego Hadis, James Camp and Polly Watson

Photo Editor: Katie Dunn

Ashlea Halpern is a Contributing Editor for T Magazine.

An earlier version of this article rendered incorrectly the name of a city in Cuba; it is Santiago de Cuba, not Santiago del Cuba.

An earlier version of this article misspelled the name of a city in the Achaemenid Empire; it was Pasargadae, not Parsargadae.

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Top 100 International Tourist Destination Cities By Country

Top 100 tourist cities by country

Which city is the most popular international tourist destination? Surprisingly, it’s not Paris, London or New York.

According to 2012 data from Euromonitor International , the number one tourist destination in the world was Hong Kong with 23.7 million visitors.

Singapore and Bangkok were ranked numbers 2 and 3 respectively, showing just how much Asian tourism has grown in recent years. London, at number 4, was the top ranked non-Asian city with 15.5 million international visitors and New York City, at number 8, was the most visited city in the Americas with 11.6 million tourists.

When looking at countries as a whole, the map at the top of the page is revealing. At first glance it shows just how few African countries made the list. Another interesting finding is that while London is the 4th most visited city, it’s the only UK city to make the list. Moreover, while many European countries have top 100 cities (Switzerland being a notable exception) none has more than Italy’s 4.

But that’s nothing compared to the big 3 who dominate the list:

  • India has 6 cities on the list: Chennai, Mumbai, Delhi, Agra, Jaipur, Kolkata.
  • The United States has 8: New York City, Las Vegas, Miami, Los Angeles, Orlando, San Francisco, Honolulu, Washington D.C.
  • And, China has whopping 9 cities: Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Shanghai, Beijing, Hangzhou, Zhuhai, Suzhou, Guilin, Nanjing.

Plus, this doesn’t include Hong Kong (#1) and Macau (#5), which ae both Special Administrative Regions of the People’s Republic of China .

Below are the complete rankings. Please note if you click on a city you’ll be taken to HotelsCombined where you can compare the cost of local hotels:

The data all comes from this Euromonitor International report . I’d strongly encourage you to read it if you’re curious about their methodology and other interesting findings.

If you’d like to learn about the growth of international tourism, have a look at the following books:

  • Overbooked: The Exploding Business of Travel and Tourism
  • Rick Steves Travel as a Political Act
  • 1,000 Places to See Before You Die, the second edition: Completely Revised and Updated with Over 200 New Entries

Did your favourite city not make the list? Let us know in the comments below:

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Sporxx says

March 10, 2015 at 2:09 pm

How about Jerusalem?

March 11, 2015 at 3:20 am

The results are biased. HK does get a massive flow of tourist but this can be explained by the fact that HK airport is a massive hub (works the same for Singapore airport). It’s not a touristic destination in itself, providing the tourist facilities out of HK international airport (very few) and the time people actually spend in hk. It’s more a stop over than a touristic destination. Then, you have the flow of Chinese tourists that cross the border on week ends to go shopping in HK. sqame situation, they benefit to the economy but can they actually be counted as part of the touristic industry ?

So yes, in term of people you can rank it that way but the figures do not say what kind of flows arrive to HK.

Warren Lauzon says

January 20, 2018 at 8:41 pm

No, it is not based on inbound flights. It is based on the fact that thousands of mainlanders walk across the border every day to buy non-contaminated baby formula.

turnipcake says

March 15, 2015 at 8:43 pm

As Sa said concerning Hong Kong, this list measures arrivals of tourists, I assume, at the cities’ international airports (see report). This does not show how long tourists stay in these cities, if at all. Many of the cities are close to interesting historic and scenic areas.

July 4, 2015 at 1:32 pm

Hong Kong first ? Is it a joke ? There’s nithing to see there ! Nothing, comparing to Paris, London, NYC or Beijing…

January 20, 2018 at 8:40 pm

It counts mainland tourists, who can walk across the border. But as far as “nothing to see” – have you ever actually been there?

January 20, 2018 at 9:18 pm

Yes, I’ve been there several times. Besides shopping and a few sites, what can you see there. Paris, for example, is much much more worth it.

January 21, 2018 at 8:34 pm

Funny.. I had the same impression of Paris. Once you see the Eiffel tower and a few other sites, there is not much “there” there except for overpriced restaurants and snooty bakeries 😀

Manamana says

July 26, 2015 at 11:12 am

In Poland Krakow gets much more turists than Warsaw

Rental Italy says

October 12, 2016 at 12:43 pm

Rome on 12th place, lower than Shenzhen and Macau… Wuite surprising results.

emmettbrady says

December 26, 2016 at 12:47 am

that list seems like a load of nonsense

Raj Kishor Kannoujea says

January 6, 2017 at 12:58 pm

Nice job! but need to more.

Helmut Kremers says

March 10, 2017 at 12:58 pm

Munich had 14.1 million visitors last year – and that wasn’t even the best, so how come it isn’t on the list?!

Rahul gupta says

April 24, 2017 at 7:05 am

india brautiful country with lots of diversity and more than 22+ official language having wonders of the world filled with colors and more than 2000+ local language and world second largest English speaking nation having desert ,hills,mountain,snow fall ,largest green forest,.i think it is a pack of whole European + africa. it has lots of beautiful beaches in then having world almost every religion ,here you get temple,mosque ,churchs,and many more


May 5, 2017 at 5:09 pm

apart from India more places should you visit

Bhupinder Singh says

September 12, 2019 at 5:09 pm

If India is such a wonderful place, why does everyone want to leave?

Rental24H says

January 12, 2018 at 4:55 pm

woooww! very nice photos~! good luck

Kanika Bakshi says

January 2, 2019 at 5:02 am

India is a beautiful country with lots and different culture. you will be able to learn more about its culture, traditions and languages with different food recipes.

Jonathan Ridgway says

April 14, 2019 at 12:18 am

This is list is sooo inaccurate. Business insider has a more correct list.

Kaushal Soni says

September 29, 2019 at 4:17 pm

Loved it, Insightful List!

Patricia Kavanagh says

December 22, 2019 at 9:39 am

Echo sentiments above. HK is a transport hub. Much more complex than first seems. India already has large population so will skew figures for there.

Chiku Cab says

January 28, 2020 at 11:17 am

Hey, nice post and very informative, Thanks for sharing this information.

April 4, 2020 at 8:42 am

Here is an interesting fact about the list. Turkish city Edirne has only 200K population and not so much touristic to get in this list on 62th place in the world and 4th in Turkey. Why is it here? Because Edirne covers the western border of Turkey between Bulgaria and Greece and so the EU. It is not just touristic numbers, it is also industrial transportation and transit passages all over to Turkey. This list is not accurate.

Aman Kumar says

September 26, 2020 at 7:06 am

now its very old

Kirti Pathak says

January 5, 2021 at 3:43 pm

You have list top 100 list but I think you can add some more to it.

Big Cab varanasi says

September 10, 2022 at 8:50 pm

Very informative post… Thanks for sharing

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Why I keep coming back to Georgia’s Golden Isles year after year

After my family's first trip to Georgia’s Golden Isles, I knew I'd be back again. In fact, my husband and I talked endlessly during our stay at the Jekyll Island Club Resort about how it would be ideal for a big, extended family vacation. 

That multigenerational family vacation hasn’t come together yet, but since my first visit to these barrier islands off the coast of southern Georgia, my family has made two more trips. While we love traveling to new family vacation spots , this place has lured us back several times, with more trips sure to come. Here's why I keep returning to Georgia’s Golden Isles for my family vacations .

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1. It feels like a vacation

A getaway should be just that – an escape from everyday life. As soon as I start seeing the sweeping marsh views that seem to go on forever in the Golden Isles, my vacation mode kicks in. The four barrier islands that make up the Golden Isles are St. Simons Island, Sea Island, Jekyll Island, and Little St. Simons Island, and though they're situated midway between Savannah and Jacksonville, they truly feel like a world away. 

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Drive over the causeway onto St. Simons Island and you’re soon surrounded by stately moss-draped oak trees and houses that look ripped out of the pages of Southern Living. It’s basically what I picture when I close my eyes and imagine "the South." On Jekyll Island, the historic district immediately transports me back in time, while the windswept beaches beckon no matter the time of year.

2. Georgia's Golden Isles are slow-paced but definitely not boring

My favorite family vacation ideas are one part active exploration, one part chill-out-and-relax. Georgia’s Golden Isles are the perfect place for that combination. Want to bike, kayak, fish, or play golf? You can do that here—there are 24 miles of trails for biking on Jekyll Island alone. But you can also stroll the beach, sit by the firepit at your resort or vacation rental , or curl up on a porch with a good book and your favorite beverage. 

3. There's lots to do on Georgia's Golden Isles, no matter your age or interests

Our daughter was a tween when we first visited Jekyll Island, and activities like visiting the oh-so-cute rehab patients at the Georgia Sea Turtle Center and a round of mini-golf down by the beach were big hits.

She’d become a teenager by our next visit, but she wasn’t too jaded to climb the 129 steps to the top of the St. Simons Lighthouse Museum or ride a bike on the sands at East Beach. We spent a morning snapping photos while strolling Brunswick’s historic downtown, an afternoon scouring the shops at St. Simons' Pier Village, and early evenings watching the sun set over the marshes. 

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Georgia’s Golden Isles feel tailor-made for a multigenerational family vacation , something we experienced ourselves on our most recent visit with my in-laws. The St. Simons Trolley Tour is a low-impact but highly informative way to explore the island, and the World War II Home Front Museum got a thumbs up from both my Vietnam Vet father-in-law and teenage daughter.

And we wouldn't miss a trip to Driftwood Beach on Jekyll Island. Each visit to the haunting spot feels just as special as the first one, and I will never have too many photos of the dramatic gnarled branches lining the beach and water’s edge. (They’ve been a backdrop for at least one holiday card family photo.)

4. The Place Was Made for History Buffs

I’ve loved history ever since I was a kid (thanks to Little House on the Prairie and all the precursors to the Who Was? books), and Georgia’s Golden Isles have an intriguing past. 

Jekyll Island's National Historic Landmark District is what first drew me in and inspired our initial stay at the Jekyll Island Club Resort. Originally a winter retreat and "the richest, most inaccessible club in the world" for names like Pulitzer and Vanderbilt, the 240-acre site now includes the resort and more than 30 other historic structures that we've explored both by foot and trolley tour.

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"The Jekyll Island National Historic Landmark District is one of the largest ongoing restoration projects in the southeastern United States," says Kathryn Hearn, a spokesperson for the Jekyll Island Authority. "Preserving and allowing people to experience this historic area contributes to the island’s charm, cultural richness, and educational value."

St. Simons Island has plenty of history of its own. Two of my highlights: Fort Frederica National Monument , where archeological remnants and interpretive signage helped us picture the British colony that once stood there; and Christ Church, Frederica, one of the oldest churches in Georgia that’s always ready for a photo op. Plus, if you’re a "Hamilton" fan, you can say you vacationed on the same island Aaron Burr fled to after his notorious duel with Alexander Hamilton.

5. You Can Sleep and Eat Well on Georgia's Golden Isles

We had a memorable stay at the Jekyll Island Club Resort several years ago, and I can’t wait to go back to see the recent renovations of the circa-1888 Clubhouse property. Updated guest rooms now have sculptural, upholstered headboards and a style that blends the past and present. The lobby bar gives strong speakeasy vibes.

"Our designers borrowed from the Gatsby era of the early 1900s when American life was a little less buttoned up than the Victorian era of decades earlier," says Kevin Baker, area director of sales and marketing for Jekyll Island Club Resort. "It still feels historic, but with the joyous freedom and expected comforts of a modern vacation retreat."

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If you’d rather be by the beach, sister property Jekyll Ocean Club offers modern suite accommodations just steps from the sand. You can also stay beachfront on St. Simons Island at The King and Prince Beach and Golf Resort or opt for a luxe getaway at The Cloister on exclusive Sea Island (which is still on my bucket list).

Vacation rentals are also a great option on St. Simons Island. We've rented in the East Beach area for walking distance to the ocean and easy proximity to everywhere else. Rentals range from cozy beach cottages to big multi-bedroom houses, and many of them have pools.

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You won't go hungry on the islands, with dining spots that range from elegant to ultra-casual. Kid-friendly restaurants that grownups also love include The Wharf for fresh local seafood, Guy Fieri-approved Southern Soul Barbeque, Porch for hot chicken sandwiches and a great outdoor eating area, and Alton Brown's fave Beachcomber BBQ and Grill.

6. Georgia's Golden Isles are an easy-to-get-to, any-time-of-year vacation destination

We’ve never visited Georgia's Golden Isles during prime summertime beach weather when seasonal attractions like Summer Waves Water Park are open and the sea turtle season is in full swing. But the area’s mild climate makes visiting any time of year appealing, and we’ve spent lots of time outdoors no matter when we traveled. Plus, visiting at other times of the year means the chance to experience events like the Jekyll Island Shrimp and Grits Festival in the fall and the Holly Jolly Jekyll holiday celebration that features more than a million lights on display around the island.

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From where my family lives in Florida, it's an easy drive to Georgia’s Golden Isles for a long weekend or a lengthier trip. The area is about an hour from Jacksonville International Airport and drivable from cities like Savannah, Charleston, Atlanta, and Charlotte. And if you head there yourself, you just might see me wandering among the driftwood or walking along the shore, taking a breather from life as usual.

Why I keep coming back to Georgia’s Golden Isles year after year originally appeared on .

More from FamilyVacationist:

  • 11 Best Family Beach Vacations in the U.S.
  • 10 Toddler Vacations the Whole Family Will Enjoy
  • 10 Best Family Resorts with Teen Clubs and Activities

The views and opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect those of USA TODAY. and are owned and operated by Vacationist Media LLC. Using the FamilyVacationist travel recommendation methodology , we review and select family vacation ideas , family vacation spots , all-inclusive family resorts , and classic family vacations for all ages. TourScoop covers guided group tours and tour operators , tour operator reviews , tour itinerary reviews and travel gear recommendations .

Planning a trip to Hawaii? You might have to pay a tourism tax

Sarah Stocking

Feb 21, 2024 • 2 min read

travel destination tourism

Enjoying Hawaii's beautiful landscapes might soon cost a little more © Anastasia Babenko / Getty Images

Spending time on Hawaii ’s gorgeous beaches or traipsing through its vibrant forests could cost travelers just a little more in the future.

Joining other nations struggling with the heavy burden of over-tourism, Hawaii’s governor, Josh Green, proposed a $25 climate fee on tourists. The bill, HB206 is currently in committee in Hawaii’s legislature. 

What lawmakers call the green fee, or visitor impact fee, is intended to raise funds to help protect beaches, prevent wildfires and offset the repercussions of nearly 10 million visitors per year. Hawaii’s population hovers at 1.6 million, meaning tourists make up the vast majority of people on the islands at any given time.

“A Climate Impact Fee on visitors would provide the needed resources to protect our environment and increase awareness of the impacts of climate change,” Green said. “I believe this is not too much to ask of visitors to our islands… Hawaii’s natural resources – our beaches, forests, and waterfalls – are an essential part of our culture and way of life.”

Hikers on hiking trail, Waianapanapa State Park, Maui, Hawaii

The proposed fee would be added to a visitor’s accommodation charge in lieu of raising hotel and resort taxes, which in Hawaii are already some of the highest in the world. 

In the fall of 2023, devastating wildfires raged on both the island of Maui and Hawai’i Island ’s Kohala Coast , forcing road closures and evacuations and causing some 115 deaths. The fire in Maui also destroyed the historic town of Lahaina . The subsequent economic and environmental burden has been difficult to recover from, and Governor Green believes this charge on tourists, which is projected to raise $68 million, could help prevent these kinds of emergencies and help supplement the recovery when they do happen.

Governor Green is open to other suggestions, he said. These could include raising the hotel tax or charging for park licenses, The Wall Street Journal reported. 

While the details are still being worked out, it's clear that Hawai’i’s state leadership believes there should be some further charge for visitors.

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Asian News International

Moscow Presents Its Tourism Potential at the SATTE 2024 International Exhibition in India

New Delhi [India], February 24: Moscow Tourism is taking part in the largest international travel and tourism trade fair SATTE ( South Asia's Travel & Tourism Exchange ) that is taking place in Greater Noida , NCR, India from February 22-24. The delegation is one of the largest at the event: it includes representatives of the Moscow City Tourism Committee, the Made in Moscow project team, and other representatives of the city's tourism industry.

Representatives of the Moscow City Tourism Committee took part in several business sessions and presented the capital's flagship projects during the first day of the event on February 22. For example, during the discussion on cultural heritage, the tourism committee highlighted about the Moscow Estates festival, which has already gained popularity among foreign tourists last summer and this winter.

Moscow is among the world leaders in terms of the number of historical mansions. More than two thousand architectural monuments have been restored in Moscow over 12 years. The festival allows guests to immerse themselves in the history of manors through theatrical tours, master classes and other unusual events. This interactive format of studying cultural heritage is especially suitable for children and young people. Visitors to the festival, including tourists, appreciate the recreated atmosphere and the opportunity to take beautiful photographs.

Another flagship project of the capital is Moscow Tea Time. At Moscow exhibition stand guests can taste tea blends and learn about the Moscow tea traditions. The project takes place right now in Moscow hotels and restaurants. Every day from 16:00 to 19:00, visitors can try different tea time sets, offering a variety of jams and pastries.

"Moscow hosts over 350 colourful cultural and entertainment events every day, which are suitable for both young people and families with children. Business travellers are united through international forums and congresses. For Indian tourists, Moscow is not only a city of impressions, but also a convenient metropolis for travelling. We have more than 19,000 gastronomic establishments, including restaurants serving Indian cuisine. Hotels are developing offers specifically for guests from India, and tourist navigation is duplicated in foreign languages, which makes the trip even more comfortable," said Evgeny Kozlov, First Deputy Head of the Office of the Mayor and the Government of Moscow, Chairman of the Moscow City Tourism Committee.

As part of the SATTE business programme, interregional routes of the "Moscow +" project were presented. Foreign travellers, including guests from India, often seek to combine visits to several cities in one trip. That is why the capital as a transport hub, from where travellers most often start their journeys around the country, demonstrated ready-made tourist offers combining Moscow and other regions: St. Petersburg, Tyumen, Moscow Region. Russian tour operators - participants of the project -discussed their package offers for the Indian tourist market.

Moscow is a recognised centre of commerce and offers a wide range of shops and brands. At the exhibition, the city presented a rich assortment of traditional souvenirs made by participants of the "Made in Moscow" project. Sixteen Moscow entrepreneurs brought goods in various categories: grooming cosmetics, home fragrances, HoReCa (Hotel, Restaurant, Catering/Cafe), children's products, accessories, as well as vegetarian and vegan products, which were of particular interest to Indian consumers.

Cooperation between Moscow and India is developing rapidly -both in the sphere of classic tourist trips and business tourism. Business visits have become one of the most popular purposes of trips from India to Moscow. Representatives of the Moscow City Tourism Committee talked about the opportunities of Moscow within the framework of business tourism. For example, the Moscow City Tourism Committee shared the successful experience of organising the international conference Meet Global MICE Congress in the field of business tourism in the Russian capital.

The Gzhel theatre, which is rightfully a visiting card of Moscow, also performed at the exhibition. It is a unique dance company that combines folk and ballroom dance, as well as classical ballet in its repertoire. "Gzhel" successfully tours all over the world, introducing the audience to the bright folk traditions.

For more details, please visit: .

Moscow is one of the main tourist destinations in Russia. In 2023, the capital was visited by 24.5 million tourists from different regions and countries - this is 37% more than in 2022. Today there are almost 2,000 hotels in Moscow. Thanks to the wide choice, every tourist will find a suitable accommodation option. Hotels are most in demand during holidays and major city events.

There are thousands of cultural sites in the capital: theatres, museums, libraries and others. The city preserves its rich cultural heritage and creates new points of attraction. In recent years, iconic historical and cultural sites and entire territories have been renovated and reconstructed - for example, the country's main exhibition, VDNKh. The Northern and Southern River stations have been reopened. These are not only important transport hubs of the city, but also places of recreation, new tourist attractions.

There are 19 thousand food industry enterprises in the city -from world-famous restaurants to accessible Moscow gastroclusters. If you had breakfast, lunch and dinner at a new establishment every day, it would take 19 years to try them all.

The capital is a city of panoramas. You can admire the views from a cabin of the Moscow cable car over the river, from the highest skyscrapers, from the soaring bridge in Zaryadye, from observation platforms in the city centre and other districts of the city, not counting the view restaurants that guests traditionally include in their travel plans. In summer, residents and tourists can relax on beaches and swim in outdoor pools, walk along eco-trails in natural areas, and play sports on specially equipped platforms in parks. Also, over the last 10 years, 40 embankments have been built in Moscow: walking along them, one can take 86.5 thousand steps.

Moscow offers many opportunities for child and family holidays. The city has many points of attraction for family tourists that do not depend on the season: for example, the Moscow Zoo, one of Europe's largest oceanariums, Russia's first indoor amusement park Dream Island, and others. The capital has more than 400 museums and more than 1000 excursions available - including walk-quests for parents and children. In 2023, the city was named the Capital of Children's Tourism, as well as the Youth Capital for 2024.

(ADVERTORIAL DISCLAIMER: The above press release has been provided by NewsVoir . ANI will not be responsible in any way for the content of the same)

Evgeny Kozlov, First Deputy Head of the Office of the Mayor and the Government of Moscow, Chairman of the Moscow City Tourism Committee


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