The world is filled with so many wonderful destinations and beautiful places to visit that compiling a list of the best can be difficult. Where would you take a traveler who has never traveled outside of his or her hometown for whatever reason?
The list of the world’s best places to visit must include great cities such as New York, Paris, and London, each of which has a plethora of individual sites or must-see places to visit. The list also includes specific sites, monuments, and locations that are worth seeing on their own.
Read our list of the best places to visit in the world for more ideas on where to go and what to see.
Machu Picchu, located high in Peru’s Andes mountains, is now thought to have been a sacred royal retreat for the Incan rulers. The remote site, which was built in the 15th century AD and abandoned less than a century later, continues to amaze with its perfectly joined, mortarless, intricate stonework. Massive multi-ton stone blocks are perfectly joined together without the use of mortar or cement.
The journey to Machu Picchu usually begins in the mountain city of Cusco, which served as the Inca Empire’s capital. Cusco is a fascinating city to visit, so plan on spending a few days there before or after your Machu Picchu adventure.
The Inca Trail can be hiked from Cusco to Machu Picchu. The entire hike takes five days, but you can begin earlier and do a one-, two-, or three-day hike along the trail. The majority of visitors take the train from Cusco, which takes about three and a half hours.
Machu Picchu has taken steps to avoid overtourism by limiting the number of visitors per day. Prior to visiting, all visitors must obtain a permit. They can be reserved up to four months in advance through the Peruvian Ministry of Culture reservation page. Many websites that hope to sell tours do not provide this information.
The Eternal City is more akin to a massive, living museum. Thousands of years of history surround and immerse visitors. It’s a small city, and a three-day itinerary covers the bare minimum of must-see attractions.
The Colosseum and adjacent Roman Forum, the Pantheon, and Vatican City, a separate country in the heart of central Rome, are all must-sees for any visitor.
Spend some time exploring Rome’s outskirts as well. Consider hiking along a tomb-lined section of the Appian Way, the ancient Roman superhighway, and visiting one of the city’s aqueduct ruins.
If you get tired of exploring and want to relax on the beach, Rome has a wonderful selection of beach towns just a short drive away on the Lazio coast. Escape the city’s heart, hustle, and bustle by bathing in the cool waters of the Tyrrhenian Sea.
This incredible sight, one of the world’s seven natural wonders, is located in the U.S. state of Arizona. It’s one of those breathtaking places where photos and videos simply don’t do it justice—its sheer size and scope are difficult to comprehend.
The geology formed over the last two billion years, yes billion, and the 277 mile-long canyon itself is thought to have begun around five to six million years ago. It was formed by the flow of the Colorado River, which still flows through it and erodes the geology along its path. The Grand Canyon can be up to 18 miles wide and a mile deep in places.
The South Rim is the most popular destination for visitors. A number of impressive hiking trails into the Grand Canyon begin here, and great overlooks are scattered along the rim road known as Desert View Drive. There are a variety of accommodations available here and nearby, ranging from tents to a rustic luxury canyon-side resort made of logs. A few lodging options can also be found on the remote North Rim.
Many visitors arrive at the canyon via the historic Grand Canyon Railway, which departs from Williams, Arizona. With food and live music on board, the 64-mile rail line provides an entertaining way to get to the canyon.
If you prefer to drive, check out our articles on driving north from Phoenix to the Grand Canyon or driving south from Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon.
This Hawaiian island provides visitors with a diverse range of experiences. Surfing, dining on the beach at a five-star luxury resort in Wailea, horseback riding across a dormant volcano in Haleakala National Park, or hiking through a rainforest in the West Maui Mountains are all options. The natural scenery is breathtaking; it is without a doubt one of the most beautiful islands in the world.
There is something for everyone in terms of lodging, from rustic hippie bungalow beds and breakfasts to five-star luxury resort hotels. Wailea has all of the luxury resorts—like it’s Maui’s beachfront Beverly Hills. If you’re staying here, make sure to spend some time in Kihei, where the locals congregate.
The Masai Mara in Kenya is an incredible bio-diverse area that is also a popular safari destination. It’s a chance to see all five of the “big five” animals (lion, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant, and Cape buffalo) in one trip or, if you’re lucky, in one afternoon.
The protected Masai Mara National Reserve park area is vast, encompassing over 1,500 square kilometers of mostly grassland that stretches all the way to Tanzania’s Serengeti plain. The most popular times to visit are during the twice-yearly migrations, the most important of which take place in July and August. Over a million wildebeest and other animals cross the area in massive herds to get from one feeding area to the next. Most visitors arrive in Nairobi and then fly to the Mara in a small bush plane.
This island nation is one of the world’s great places to visit, thanks to its stunning natural beauty, friendly citizens, and recent popularity as a filming location for the Lord of the Rings films (as well as many others). The biodiversity here is incredible—New Zealand is thought to be one of the last places on the planet to have human inhabitants.
Begin your journey in Auckland, the capital city, with its culture, history, and museums. Spend time on the water and at the beach—Waitemata Harbour has beaches as well as a variety of sailing and boating activities.
Visit Rotorua to learn about and experience indigenous Maori culture, and Queenstown to experience the country’s extensive range of outdoor extreme action sports. Remember, bungee jumping was invented here.
Begin your Marrakech adventure at the Jemaa el-Fnaa, the Moroccan city’s main open square. It serves as the entrance to the medina, or old walled city. The square is unlike anywhere else in the world, with a constant display of humanity. Musical acts, snake charmers, monkey trainers, amateur boxing matches, and transvestite belly dancers are among the attractions.
It’s also a massive food market, as well as a massive antique and swap meet. You can even get a haircut or have your teeth cleaned. At night, there are fire performers, and an outdoor food fair with rows of food stalls fronted by counters lined with chairs is set up in the center.
Most major European cities are only a short flight (less than four hours) away from this exotic African destination. There are frequent flights to and from this popular vacation destination. Riads, traditional houses converted into luxury boutique hotels in the medina, to five-star luxury resorts just outside the city in La Palmeraie, are available as accommodations.
Cartagena, one of the great historical Spanish cities of the Caribbean, pulsates with life along Colombia’s north coast. Its old walled city, founded in 1533, has seen fortunes rise and fall over the centuries, and has recently experienced a resurgence and revitalization.
Significant restoration of the old city has resulted in the rebirth of once-dormant 16th-century buildings as modern, yet historically significant, hotels, world-class restaurants, and shops. Explore the city’s narrow streets to find an impressive church, an open plaza with public works of art, or an eclectic shop selling the perfect souvenir.
Wander along the ancient city walls and, as the sun sets over the ocean, reflect on what life was like here nearly 500 years ago.
Cartagena is easily accessible from the United States, with daily flights from Miami and good connections via Panama City. This is an excellent choice for an exotic long weekend getaway from almost anywhere in North America.
San Francisco is a truly unique American city as well as one of the world’s premier vacation destinations. Explore its hills, take cable cars up them, and eat some seafood at Fisherman’s Wharf. Spend some time exploring Marin County, which includes the picturesque town of Sausalito, on the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge. Muir Woods National Monument’s giant redwoods are only 30 minutes away and are well worth a side trip.
Make time to visit, or better yet, drive across, the Golden Gate Bridge. This modern engineering marvel spans the strait connecting San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean. The nearly two-mile-long, six-lane bridge links the Northern California city to Marin County.
The bridge, which opened in 1937, has a distinct geometric beauty that can be appreciated from a variety of vantage points on either side of its span. The Marin Headlands, a hilly section of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, a national park that includes areas on both sides of the bridge, have some of the best views.
You might think you’re in France as you listen to the sound of French being spoken around you and wander down Old Montreal’s narrow cobblestone streets. The historic district is filled with charming shops and cafés; this Canadian city can provide an opportunity to experience a taste of Europe in North America.
There is also a thriving food scene in the city, with several popular farmers’ markets, including the Atwater Market and the Jean-Talon Market. It’s also famous for its bagels, which are prepared hot and fresh by several iconic must-see bakeries.
Visit the beautiful Notre Dame Basilica and take a drive up to Mount Royal, the city’s name-giving hill (or low mountain). You’ll be rewarded with breathtaking views all the way to the port.
Another destination that offers a great mix of culture, food, and history is Turkey’s capital city. There are thousands of years of history here, beginning with the Ancient Greeks and Romans and continuing through the Ottoman Empire.
There’s a unique blend of the new and the classic here that you won’t find anywhere else. You can spend the day shopping and the night at a wonderful restaurant eating great Turkish food and dancing to Turkish music, then rise (very early) to the sound of the Ezan or Islamic call to prayer in the morning. It reverberates across the rooftops, broadcast from loudspeakers mounted atop the minarets of the city’s mosques.
Istanbul has excellent public transportation, making it simple to get around and see all of the major sites and monuments. The Blue Mosque, Hagia Sofia, and Topkapi Palace are all must-sees.
This historic English city is another destination with a plethora of amazing places to visit. A trip to London allows you to see iconic sites such as Tower Bridge, Buckingham Palace, and the Tower of London.
Take advantage of the city’s cultural offerings by attending a West End theater production or a musical performance at the Royal Albert Hall. Modern London is also known for its fine dining, luxurious hotels, and world-class shopping.
Don’t miss the museums; the vast British Museum is free and usually quite crowded. Make time to visit The Wallace Collection, a free museum on Oxford Street. It houses one of the world’s most important collections of furniture and porcelain, as well as some important Old Master paintings.
Manhattan, one of New York City’s five boroughs, is actually an island bounded by the East and Hudson rivers (and a little bit by the Harlem River). This island is slightly less than 23 square miles in size and is home to nearly two million people. When you factor in the daily influx of workers, the island is regularly home to close to four million people.
No other city in the world compares to New York City in terms of frenetic energy. It has some of the best shopping and dining in the world, as well as some of the best museums in the world.
Central Park, Manhattan’s massive green heart, is also worth a visit. It serves as a playground for the city’s residents throughout the year, offering a variety of activities ranging from museums to a zoo. There’s also plenty of green space to play and relax in, as well as miles of running, biking, and skating trails. There are also many things to do in NYC during the winter, such as ice skating and sipping hot chocolate, as well as shopping and seeing Broadway shows.