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Best of the Best Destinations 2024

Best of the Best Destinations

You’ve probably got one or two of these destinations on your list of dream vacays. What can we say? People love them—and for very good reason.

The Travelers’ Choice Awards Best of the Best title celebrates the highest level of excellence in travel. It’s awarded to those who receive a high volume of above-and-beyond reviews and opinions from the Tripadvisor community over a 12-month period. Out of our 8 million listings, fewer than 1% achieve this milestone.

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Bucket list travel: the top 20 places in the world, according to a new report.

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What are the best places to travel? If you’re like most people, the allure of new horizons and uncharted adventures keeps you constantly adding destinations to your travel bucket list . Kuoni—a Britain-based travel company— recently did a study to rank the world’s best bucket list destinations .

Kuoni conducted the comprehensive analysis by scouring Google search data for 119 bucket list places to visit in 219 countries. The results paint a vivid picture of travel aspirations, spanning from the breathtaking shores of the Maldives to the thundering majesty of Niagara Falls, encompassing iconic landmarks and awe-inspiring natural wonders along the way.

According to Sheena Paton, senior program manager, this is the first time Kuoni has assembled this travel bucket list . “We’ve previously created travel stories that have analyzed the demand for different locations or the best landmarks to visit, but this unique study looks at every country's most popular bucket list item,” Paton told me in an interview. “We were intrigued to see how this might vary from country to country and which experiences would come out on top, so we decided to do this study to reveal what travelers around the world want to experience.”

Aerial view of Canareef Resort in the Maldives, named the top bucket list trip in a new report.

Coming in at the top of the world’s best bucket list destinations is the idyllic cluster of islands known as the Maldives—which is known for its stunning white sands, bright blue waters and incredible sunsets. It topped the travel bucket list for 121 countries. “It’s great to see that a trip to the Maldives is considered a bucket list item for so many people,” says Paton. “It’s a tropical paradise popular amongst honeymooners, families and retirees alike.”

Coincidentally, in 2021 Kuoni looked at where the world wants to travel most. “The top destinations to travel to that year were the Maldives, Mexico and Bali, which is interesting because visiting the Maldives also came top as the most searched-for travel bucket list experience in this most recent report,” Paton explains.

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In second place on the global travel bucket list: Niagara Falls, which receives an impressive amount of searches each year, as people hope to get up close to the incredible waterfalls located on the Canadian and American border. “Getting splashed at Niagara Falls is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience which focuses on the stunning natural wonder,” Paton says.

The third best travel bucket list experience—seeing the Mona Lisa, with art lovers around the world flocking to the Louvre in Paris to admire this iconic Leonardo da Vinci painting. “It’s something that draws thousands of people all over the world just to catch a glimpse,” says Paton.

The United States has an impressive six places on the top 20 worldwide roundup of bucket list destinations—in fact, it’s the country with the most locations on the list. In addition to Niagara Falls, the experiences that made it onto the travel bucket list include climbing the Statue of Liberty, seeing Times Square, visiting Alcatraz in San Francisco, visiting the White House and admiring the views at Yosemite National Park. “The vast nature that the United States affords travelers an array of travel experiences, from admiring natural wonders to iconic city attractions,” Paton highlights.

So whether you’re an intrepid explorer with an ever-expanding list of dream destinations or someone who just wants to plan the rip of a lifetime, check out this bucket list journey through the 20 most coveted travel experiences. But remember: This is just the start, since the more you travel, the more endless your bucket list will become.

Travel Bucket List: The Top 20 Places Around The World

Maldives—the best bucket list place o visit in the world, according to a new report

1. Visit The Maldives

Topping the global list is the enchanting paradise of the Maldives in the Indian Ocean. As Paton describes, “With its overwater bungalows, crystal-clear waters and vibrant marine life, it’s no wonder that this tropical haven is at the pinnacle of travel dreams.”

Niagara Falls, the second most wish-listed bucket list travel place in the world.

2. Get Splashed At Niagara Falls

Coming in at a close second is the awe-inspiring Niagara Falls. “The thundering waters at the border of Canada and the United States never fail to mesmerize visitors, providing an unforgettable bucket list experience,” says Paton. There are multiple viewpoints to witness the roaring waters—Horseshoe Falls, American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls—but one of the best ways to experience the falls is on a boat tour like the Maid of the Mist.

Visitors looking at the Mona Lisa painting in the Louvre Museum in Paris.

3. See The Mona Lisa In Paris

Created by Leonardo da Vinci, the Mona Lisa is perhaps the world’s most famous painting and hangs in the Louvre Museum in Paris, among thousands of other priceless works of art. “Art enthusiasts and history buffs alike aspire to lay eyes on the enigmatic smile of the Mona Lisa,” says Paton.

A sunset in paradise: Bora Bora.

4. Visit Bora Bora In French Polynesia

Bora Bora, another tropical paradise, ranks high on travelers’ wish lists. “Its overwater bungalows, vibrant coral reefs, and stunning lagoon draw visitors seeking an idyllic getaway,” says Paton.

The Statue of Liberty—a bucket list travel destination.

5. Climb The Statue Of Liberty In New York City

“The Statue of Liberty is a symbol of freedom and opportunity,” Paton affirms. Best way to experience it: Climb to its crown for panoramic views of the city skyline.

Camping under the northern lights.

6. See The Northern Lights

“Witnessing the ethereal Northern Lights dance across the Arctic skies is a natural spectacle that ranks high on the bucket list for many adventure seekers,” Paton shares. Some of the best locations to see them include Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Greenland and Finland.

Sunset over Stonehenge, a bucket list travel spot.

7. Visit Stonehenge In England

Stonehenge, an ancient stone circle in Wiltshire, England, has mystified archaeologists and visitors alike for centuries. Its origins and purpose remain a subject of debate. “A visit to Stonehenge allows you to walk among these massive stones and contemplate the mysteries of this prehistoric monument,” Paton says.

At the Taj Mahal in Agra, India

8. Visit The Taj Mahal In India

Built by Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his beloved wife, this UNESCO World Heritage site is one of the world's most iconic architectural marvels and has been drawing visitors to Agra, India for hundreds of years. “It’s a testament to eternal love and architectural brilliance,” Paton explains.

In Times Square, one of the world's best places to travel

9. See Times Square

Often referred to as “The Crossroads of the World,” Times Square is legendary for its annual New Year's Eve ball drop celebration. “Times Square in the heart of New York City is synonymous with vibrant city life and dazzling billboards, making it a must-see for travelers,” Paton insists.

Burj Khalifa in Dubai at sunset.

10. See The Burj Khalifa In Dubai

The Burj Khalifa in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, is the world’s tallest skyscraper, soaring to dizzying heights of over 2,700 feet. Visitors can ascend to the observation decks on the 124th and 148th floors to take in “breathtaking views of Dubai's futuristic skyline,” per Paton, and gaze beyond into the surrounding desert.

The ancient walls in Pompeii with Vesuvius in the background.

11. Visit Pompeii

This ancient Roman city in southern Italy was famously buried by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79. Today, the remarkably preserved archaeological site offers a glimpse into daily life in the Roman Empire. “Exploring Pompeii's streets, villas, and amphitheater is like stepping back in time,” says Paton.

Admiring Barcelona's Sagrada Familia.

12. Visit Sagrada Familia In Barcelona

Designed by Antoni Gaudí, Sagrada Familia's intricate façade and lavish interior is a testament to the visionary architect’s creative genius. Visitors can explore the ongoing construction and admire the breathtaking stained glass windows. “It’s an architectural masterpiece renowned for its unique blend of Gothic and Art Nouveau styles,” Paton notes.

The train station in the small village of Manarola in Cinque Terre.

13. Visit Cinque Terre In Italy

Along the Italian Riviera, Cinque Terre is a collection of five pretty villages perched on cliffs connected by hiking trails and a scenic railway. “The area has stunning vistas and amazing hiking opportunities,” Paton emphasizes.

London Big Ben—one of the best bucket list travel spots in the world.

14. Visit Big Ben In London

Located at the north end of the Palace of Westminster in London, Big Ben is known for its majestic clock face and melodious chimes. "This iconic clock tower is a symbol of British heritage and a must-visit attraction,” says Paton.

Posing at Chichen Itza in Mexico, one of the top places to travel.

15. Visit Chichén Itzá In Mexico

Chichén Itzá, a UNESCO World Heritage site in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, is a well-preserved ancient Mayan city. It's most famous for the imposing El Castillo pyramid, which aligns with astronomical precision during the spring and fall equinoxes. "Exploring Chichén Itzá offers insights into Mayan culture and history,” says Paton.

Trekking in the Annapurna Range of Nepal in the Himalayas—one of the top bucket list travel spots.

16. Trek Through The Himalayas

From the picturesque Annapurna Circuit in Nepal to the mystical landscapes of Bhutan’s Snowman Trek, the Himalayas are a haven for trekkers seeking breathtaking vistas and cultural encounters. “Trekking through the Himalayas—a majestic mountain range that stretches across Bhutan, India, Nepal, China and Pakistan—is an adventure like no other,” says Paton.

Alcatraz prison in the bay of San Francisco.

17. Visit Alcatraz In San Francisco

Alcatraz, often referred to as “The Rock,” is a historic island prison located in San Francisco Bay, California. Once home to some of America’s most notorious criminals, including Al Capone, it’s now a popular tourist attraction. “Visitors can take a ferry to explore the prison’s eerie corridors, learn about its intriguing history, and enjoy panoramic views of San Francisco,” Paton reveals.

The White House—one of the top bucket list travel spots in the world.

18. Visit The White House In Washington, D.C.

“A symbol of American democracy, the White House is open for public tours, offering visitors a chance to explore its iconic rooms, learn about its history, and witness the seat of U.S. government power,” says Paton.

Floating on the Dead Sea.

19. Float On The Dead Sea

Set between Israel and Jordan, the Dead Sea is one of the world’s saltiest bodies of water. You can effortlessly float on its surface and also bathe in the mud, which is renowned for its skin benefits. Paton describes it as “a surreal and therapeutic experience.”

Sunrise at the tunnel View vista point at Yosemite National Park.

20. Admire The Views At Yosemite

Yosemite National Park, located in California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains, is filled with towering waterfalls, giant sequoias and dramatic landscapes. “Iconic sites like El Capitan, Half Dome and Bridalveil Fall offer jaw-dropping vistas, making Yosemite a must-visit destination for outdoor enthusiasts and photographers,” says Paton.

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Around the World Itinerary: 13 Months & 35 Countries

Julie Last updated: January 16, 2024 Itinerary , RTW 100 Comments

Our Around the World Itinerary Pin

In 2014 and 2015, we spent 13 months traveling around the world. If you are considering long-term travel and need some inspiration, or just want to find out what we did, here is our around the world itinerary.

An Overview of Our Around the World Trip

Duration: 13 months, 396 days Countries visited: 35 Continents: 5 Distance traveled: 87,314 miles

Our Around the World Itinerary Map

Nine of the 13 months were spent in Asia. We had several reasons for doing this. Asia is one of the cheaper places to travel through, so our money could go farther here, helping us stick to our budget. Second, it takes a long time to travel to Asia from the east coast of the USA, so we wanted to explore this region thoroughly while we had the luxury of time. And finally, there is SO MUCH to see in Asia, a continent that was brand new to us before starting this around the world trip.

We spent less time in more expensive countries, such as Europe, Australia, and New Zealand. Japan did not even make it on our original itinerary simply because it can be so expensive, but we did end up adding it in, anyway. It was a great decision; Japan is now one of our favorite countries.

We did not visit South America on this itinerary. For one thing, we ran out of time. Plus, it’s fairly easy to fly from the US to South America, so we could visit this continent once we were home again.

Our Around the World Itinerary

New york city – june 29, 2014.

From Maryland, we took the Bolt Bus to New York City. In Times Square, we snapped a family photo and then boarded our flight to Europe. Hello world, here we come!

Copenhagen, Denmark – June 30

We landed in Copenhagen and had a six hour layover before our flight to Rome, Italy. This was just enough time for lunch in Nyhavn and before we knew it, we were on our way to Rome.

Our route through Europe

Europe Itinerary Map

Italy and The Vatican – July 1 to July 25

          Rome           Sorrento, Capri, Amalfi Coast, Pompeii           Florence           Siena and Tuscany           Pisa           Cinque Terre           Milan           Venice           Dolomites

Since we traveled as a family, we had to adjust to being with each other every moment of the day. We wanted to get into this new groove of traveling in a place that felt somewhat familiar to us. For us, this “familiar” place was Europe. We did not want to deal with culture shock, exotic locales, and a new style of traveling all at once, so Italy made it as our first destination of the trip.

Florence

Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein – July 25 to August 6

          Berchtesgaden, Germany           Salzburg, Austria           Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany           Innsbruck, Austria           Rothenburg, Germany           Munich, Germany

After spending several days in Berchtesgaden, Germany, we made Garmisch-Partenkirchen our home base. From here we explored Liechtenstein (with a very brief visit to the unexciting town of Buchs, Switzerland), Innsbruck, Austria, and Rothenburg, Germany. From Munich we flew to Africa, to a brand new continent for us.

Rothenburg

Our route through Southern Africa

Southern Africa Itinerary Map

Southern Africa – August 7 to September 17

          Johannesburg, South Africa           Francistown, Botswana           Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe and Zambia           Chobe National Park, Botswana           Mlilwane Animal Sanctuary, Swaziland           Blyde River Canyon, South Africa           Kruger National Park, South Africa           St. Lucia and iSimangaliso National Park, South Africa           Drakensburg, South Africa           The Sani Pass & Lesotho           Addo Elephant Park, South Africa           Garden Route: Knysna, Plettenberg Bay, Oudtshoorn, Hermanus           Cape Town

For six weeks, we toured southern Africa on one epic road trip. We logged thousands of miles, driving through Botswana and a huge portion of South Africa.

Chobe Elephant

United Arab Emirates – September 17 to September 21

        Abu Dhabi         Dubai

Our flight from Johannesburg, South Africa to Kathmandu, Nepal had a layover in Abu Dhabi. We changed this layover into a stopover, spending just three days here, just enough time to climb the world’s tallest building and drink cappuccinos sprinkled with gold, before entering Asia.

Our route through Nepal, Bhutan, and India

Subcontinent Map

Nepal – September 21 to October 17

          Kathmandu           Everest Base Camp Trek           Patan & Bhaktapur           Pokhara

We planned our around the world itinerary so that we would be in Nepal at the end of September, the start of the trekking season to Everest Base Camp. Most people make the trek in early to mid-October. We took our chances, starting a week earlier, to minimize the number of people on the trail. We got lucky that monsoon season did not run late and we had a fabulous experience.

While in Nepal, we also toured Kathmandu, Patan, Bhaktapur, and Pokhara.

Durbar Square Kathmandu

Bhutan – October 17 to October 23

          Thimpu           Punakha           Paro and the Tiger’s Nest

With a daily tariff of $250 per person (about half that cost for kids) Bhutan was a budget breaker. We almost did not include this into our around the world itinerary because of the high daily cost. But because we had Nepal and India in our itinerary, we were so close to Bhutan that it seemed a shame to skip over it.

It was an awesome decision to include Bhutan in our around the world itinerary. Bhutan is now one of our favorite spots in the world…it’s exotic, tranquil, incredibly beautiful, and a unique destination that we were very lucky to visit.

We spent just a week here, just long enough to see the highlights and fall in love with Bhutan. I have a feeling we will be back again someday…

Tigers Nest

India – October 23 to November 28

        Siliguri         Darjeeling         Mumbai         Udaipur         Jodhpur         Jaisalmer         Jaipur         Agra & the Taj Mahal         Delhi         Varanasi         Khajuraho         Kolkata

Our grand tour of India started in Siliguri on Diwali. Immediately, we were thrust into the amazingly colorful, intriguing culture of this country. After a few days in the cool, misty hill town of Darjeeling, we flew to Mumbai, where we hopped to Udaipur, Jodhpur, Jaisalmer, Jaipur, Agra, Delhi, Varanasi, Khajuraho, and Kolkatta.

It was in India that I got sick with dengue fever and Kara dealt with homesickness. It is no secret that we were not big fans of India during our five week visit here. In fact, we considered skipping the last several weeks, shortening our around the world itinerary and traveling to Myanmar or Thailand early. But our time in India changed us in so many ways…how we travel, who we are as a family, and how we think about our place in the world.

Earth Trekkers Taj Mahal

Our route through Southeast Asia

Our Southeast Asia Route

Myanmar – November 28 to December 11

        Yangon         Bagan         Mandalay

In Myanmar, our first week was spent in Yangon, getting visas for Thailand, doing a little sightseeing, and getting get caught up on things like homeschooling and future trip planning. Then we took a bus north to visit the temples of Bagan. From Mandalay we flew to Bangkok, Thailand.

Overlooking Bagan

Thailand – December 11 to January 11

          Bangkok           Krabi           Ayutthaya           Sukhothai           Chiang Mai           Chiang Rai

Bangkok is an amazing city and a great launching point for exploring Southeast Asia. We spent several days here before flying to Krabi, Thailand. We wanted to be somewhere extra special for Christmas, and with beautiful beaches, rock climbing, and snorkeling, Krabi was perfect.

After nine days in Krabi, we flew back to Bangkok, and then hopped to Ayutthaya, Sukhothai, Chiang Mai, and Chiang Rai using public transportation. For our most memorable New Year’s Eve yet, we spent the night launching paper lanterns into the sky, a unique and unforgettable Thai experience.

New Years Eve Lanterns

Laos – January 11 to January 18

          Pakbeng           Luang Prabang

We spent just one week in Laos and this was not enough time. Laos blew away our expectations, and I wish we spent more time here.

Leaving Thailand behind, we drifted down the Mekong River for two days, our journey ending in Luang Prabang. This small, French city in the Laos jungle was a joy to explore. From Luang Prabang, things kept getting better with a flight to Siem Reap, Cambodia.

Cambodia – January 18 to January 31

          Siem Reap           Phnom Penh           Kampot

We spent two weeks in Cambodia. Our first week was spent exploring the temples around Siem Reap. From Siem Reap we spent several days in Phnom Penh, visiting the Killing Fields, and ending in wonderful little Kampot.

Angkor Wat with Kids

Vietnam – January 31 to February 25

          Phu Quoc Island           Mekong Delta (Can Tho)           Ho Chi Minh City           Hoi An & Da Nang           Hue           Hanoi           Halong Bay

We explored Vietnam from bottom to top, starting on Phu Quoc Island and slowly hopping northward, ending in Hanoi. From Hanoi, we traveled overland into China, taking a series of buses to get to Nanning.

Our route through China and Taiwan

China Itinerary Map

China, Hong Kong, & Macau – February 25 to March 25

          Nanning           Yangshuo           Changsha           Zhangjiajie           Beijing           Shanghai           Hong Kong           Macau

From walking on the Great Wall, visiting the Forbidden City, cycling among the fantastic scenery in Yangshuo, to visiting Zhangjiajie, our time in China was extraordinary. Hong Kong was just as amazing, although our side trip to Macau was a bit of a letdown.

Cycling Li River Valley

Taiwan – March 25 to April 8

        Taipei         Keelung & Teapot Mountain         Haulien & Taroko National Park         Taitung         Kenting National Park         Kaohsiung         Tainan

With two weeks, we toured the most popular spots of Taiwan, the highlights being the city of Taipei, hiking Teapot Mountain, exploring Taroko National Park, and eating at the night markets.

Taiwan Bridge

Fiji – April 9 to April 17

        Nadi         Mamanuca Islands

Again, we turned a layover into a stopover. Our flight from Taiwan to New Zealand flew through Fiji, so we plopped ourselves down in paradise for one wonderful week.

Fiji

New Zealand – April 17 to May 11

          Te Anau & the Milford Sound           Queenstown           Wanaka           Mt Cook/Aoraki NP           Christchurch           Motueka & Abel Tasman NP           Blenheim & Marlborough Wine Region           Wellington           Turangi & the Tongariro Alpine Crossing           Taupo           Hamilton, Matamata, & Hobbiton           Auckland

New Zealand was our favorite country on our around the world itinerary. It’s gorgeous, it’s adventurous, it’s clean and quiet, and it’s a joy to explore.

Key Summit Hike

Australia – May 11 to June 11

          Hobart, Tasmania           Adelaide and the wine regions           Great Ocean Road           Melbourne           Uluru           Sydney           Town of 1770, Great Barrier Reef           Brisbane

Australia was one of our most expensive countries on the list, but that’s OK, we thoroughly enjoyed our time here. Tasmania was our favorite spot, but Melbourne, the Great Barrier Reef, and Uluru were also pretty awesome.

Kings Canyon

Bali – June 11 to June 23

        Ubud         Seminyak

For some much needed chill time, we relaxed in the cultural heart of Bali, Ubud, followed by surfing and beach time in Seminyak.

Ubud Bali

Singapore – June 23 to June 28

As the end of our trip loomed out in the distance, we began hopping from country to country, trying to see as much as possible before this amazing adventure came to an end. For a quick five days, we toured the highlights of Singapore, then hopped over to Kuala Lumpur.

Singapore Gardens

Kuala Lumpur – June 28 to July 1

Tim found a series of cheap flights linking Singapore to Japan, and Kuala Lumpur was on the list. We were here just long enough to see the Petronas Towers and to learn that Kuala Lumpur was much more interesting than we expected it to be.

South Korea – July 1 to July 7

          Seoul         Jeju Island

We were in South Korea during the MERS epidemic. Unfortunately, because of MERS, the DMZ was “closed,” so we missed seeing it, a huge bummer. With just a week, we spent a few days in Seoul and then spent a little time exploring Jeju Island.

Seoul

Japan – July 7 to July 23

        Osaka         Kyoto         Hiroshima         Himeji         Tokyo

Japan is amazing. It’s also extremely hot and uncomfortable during the mid-summer months. The food, the culture, the temples, the history…Japan is a place we cannot wait to explore again…just not during the summer.

In Nara Japan

USA – July 23 to July 29

          Los Angeles          New York City          Bus to Maryland

From Tokyo, we flew to Los Angeles. How strange it felt to back in the good ole USA. By this point in our travels, we were exhausted and actually looking forward to being “home.” The thing is, we had no house, since we sold it to take this trip, but still it felt wonderful to be heading back to our hometown.

We spent a few days in the stupor of jet lag, touring LA, before flying to New York City. It felt great to connect the dots on the map, getting back to the starting point of our trip around the globe. From NYC, it was one final 4 hour bus ride back to Maryland.

Life After a Trip Around the World

Just because our trip around the world came to an end, our travels did not have to end, also. Now we are home owners, work full time jobs, and have two kids in public school. Still, we find the time to travel. In fact, we make it a priority.

For us, an around the world trip did not extinguish our wanderlust. It’s still there, burning as brightly as before that first flight to Copenhagen. Now, we travel every chance we get, traveling to new countries, and exploring parts of the US that are still brand new to us.

Who knows, maybe someday, we will circle the globe again…

Are you Considering a Trip Around the World?

Visit our Around the World page , where we offer information about all phases of long-term travel, including the planning phase, what it’s really like to be on the road, and what it is like to come home.

How to Travel Around the World

If you have any questions about planning your around the world itinerary, let us know in the comment section below.

More Information about Around the World Travel

PLANNING A TRIP AROUND THE WORLD: If you are planning a trip around the world, there are a lot of things to consider before you go: how much does it cost to travel around the world , where should you go , how to book your plane tickets , and what should you pack.

AROUND THE WORLD TRAVEL: Learn what a typical day on the road is like when traveling around the world. We also have a round up of our worst travel experiences and a recap of the trip in 100 beautiful photos.

DESTINATIONS AROUND THE WORLD: For more places to visit around the world, check out our Destinations page.

All of the maps of this around the world itinerary were made on Travellerspoint.com . It is a free service offered on their website. They also provide other travel planning advice.

Our Around the World Itinerary Pin

All rights reserved © Earth Trekkers. Republishing this article and/or any of its contents (text, photography, etc.), in whole or in part, is strictly prohibited.

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Plan an Around the World Itinerary

Comments 100

Avatar for Marsha Lee Stiner

Amazing! What part of Maryland are you from? I lived in Calvert County most of my adult life and worked in Annapolis. Now that I’ve retired to WV, life has definitely slowed down, but I love to travel. A few of us are planning a trip to Mt. Rushmore and the Redwoods. We are debating flying and then driving, maybe all the way back home. Do you have any recommendations for that, specifically?

Avatar for Julie

Hello Marsha. We live in Howard County. I have never driven cross country but I have a strong desire to do it at some point. Tim has driven from Maryland to Denver and back. He said it’s a pretty boring drive most of that way but you can break up the drive visiting cities like Chicago, Nashville, etc. It also depends on how much time you have. Do you want to devote 2 to 4 days to driving back to WV or use that time out west. We’ve always chosen to spend more time out west which is why I’ve never done the bigger road trip. Either way, it will be a memorable experience. Cheers, Julie

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The 25 Best Cities in the World in 2021

travel destinations around the world

Note: If you’re looking for our most recent recommendations, check out the 2023 list of our favorite cities in the world.

This year's World's Best Awards survey was open for voting January 11 through May 10, 2021, as destinations around the world were lifting COVID-19 restrictions. Survey rules have always allowed readers to reflect on their travel experiences over a three-year period. We hope that this year's honorees will inspire your own travels as you get back out into the world.

What attracts travelers to certain cities around the world? Is it new Michelin-starred restaurants? Generations-old cultural heritage? Proximity to geographic wonders of the world ? Unsurprisingly, when it comes to determining the best cities in the world, it's all of the above for our discerning Travel + Leisure readers.

Every year for our World's Best Awards survey, T+L asks readers to weigh in on travel experiences around the globe — to share their opinions on the top cities, islands, cruise ships, spas, airlines, and more. Readers rated cities on their sights and landmarks, culture, cuisine, friendliness, shopping, and overall value.

South Asia and Mexico had an impressive showing this year, with readers' top 10 including three Mexican cities (including the No. 1 spot!) and four South Asian cities (across Laos, India, Indonesia, and Thailand). Udaipur, on India's picturesque Lake Pichola, nabbed second place, up from last year, when it ranked No. 7. One reader described it as "enchanting," while another raved that it's "by far the most beautiful city in India." The other Indian city to make the list was Jaipur (No. 17), often referred to as the Pink City because of the remarkable pink buildings that line its streets.

Also in South Asia, Chiang Mai (No. 9) beat out Bangkok (No. 10) by just a hair, with readers specifically describing Chiang Mai as "more laid-back" and "less crowded" than Bangkok. Many of our readers were lured to Chiang Mai by the elephant sanctuary, but stayed for the "amazing people with a deep love for their way of life and cultures," as one respondent put it.

In Europe , we have nine World's Best Award–winning cities this year, from two Turkey hot spots — Istanbul (No. 3) and Bodrum (No. 16) — to the culinary capital of Spain, San Sebastián (No. 15), to Kraków, Poland, at No. 12.

And coming in ahead of cities like Cape Town (No. 20) and Antigua Guatemala (No. 24) is the lone American city on our list this year: Charleston, South Carolina. Love for the charming Lowcountry destination runs deep with our T+L readers. It's a nine-time winner for the best cities in the United States, and we had an unprecedented number of reader comments about this waterfront city known for its pastel façades and burgeoning arts scene. One reader says, "The charm of the city is its architecture," while another praises the "bevy of interesting and delicious restaurants that can satisfy all tastes."

Finally, we turn back to Mexico, which saw Mexico City and Oaxaca come in at No. 7 and No. 8, respectively. But it was San Miguel de Allende that once again took the No. 1 spot. Below, the reasons T+L readers voted for it, plus the full list of the best cities in the world for 2021.

1. San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

A marriage of neo-Gothic and Spanish-colonial architecture, the city — located 170 miles northwest of Mexico City — is a design lover's dream. "The mystery of what the houses look like behind the doors is intriguing," said one reader. Described as simply "magical" by more than one respondent, San Miguel de Allende also captivated readers with its history and growing culinary clout. Our respondents also gushed over the plentiful sights — "everywhere you look there are amazing sights and beauty and history" — and remarked on how walkable and easy-to-navigate the city is. From the rooftop restaurants to the central El Jardín and the Museo Histórico, San Miguel de Allende has mesmerized our readers, one of whom summarized: "San Miguel is an incredible city, very beautiful, historic, with friendly people, fantastic food and restaurants."

Score: 93.54

2. ​​Udaipur, India

Score: 91.63

3. Istanbul

Score: 91.32

4. Ubud, Indonesia

Score: 91.25

5. Kyoto, Japan

WBA Hall of Fame honoree. Score: 90.94

6. Florence

WBA Hall of Fame honoree. Score: 90.48

7. Mexico City

Score: 90.23

8. Oaxaca, Mexico

Score: 90.22

9. Chiang Mai, Thailand

Score: 90.06

10. Bangkok

Score: 89.81

Score: 89.62

12. Kraków, Poland

Score: 89.39

13. Luang Prabang, Laos

Score: 89.29

WBA Hall of Fame honoree. Score: 88.88

15. San Sebastián, Spain

Score: 88.87

16. Bodrum, Turkey

Score: 88.82

17. Jaipur, India

Score: 88.68

18. Charleston, South Carolina

Score: 88.61

Score: 88.59

20. Cape Town

Score: 88.55

21. Trieste, Italy

Score: 88.54

22. Ljubljana, Slovenia

Score: 88.47

Score: 88.00

24. Antigua Guatemala, Guatemala

Nicholas Schmidt/Travel + Leisure

Score: 87.97

25. Porto, Portugal

Paula Galindo Valle/Travel + Leisure

Score: 87.79

See all of our readers' favorite hotels, cities, airlines, cruise lines, and more in the World's Best Awards for 2021 .

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