World’s 30 Best Travel Destinations, Ranked
From Yellowstone to Sydney, Maui to London, behold the most incredible travel destinations on Earth.
Best Places to Visit in the World
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?
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30. 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 the 2021 U.S. News & World Report's "World's Best Places to Visit," traveler ratings and our own editorial input.
What to Know Before You Go to Argentine Patagonia
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.
29. Amalfi Coast, Italy
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, then drive to different towns each day.
What to Know Before You Go to the Amalfi Coast
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
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
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
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
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 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
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
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 3.8 million people last year. 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
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
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
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
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
Where to stay: Nikki Beach Resort & Spa Santorini
Hot tip: To optimize your vacation, U.S. News recommends visiting 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
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
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, says U.S. News.
Fun fact: The city’s famed “El Duomo” cathedral took over 140 years to build.
21. Yosemite National Park, California
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 300-500 roam the park.
What to Know Before You Go to Yosemite
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
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
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
Everything is bigger and better in Dubai, home to one of the world’s largest shopping malls, the world’s tallest tower, one of the world’s 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
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
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.
17. Sydney, Australia
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
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
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.
Last year, 6.4 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
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
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
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
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 93 Michelin stars!), which is why an extended trip is always a good idea.
What to Know Before You Go to New York City
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 every 4.4 minutes — and a death every 9.1 minutes.
13. Banff National Park, Canada
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
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.
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
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
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
Where to stay: Hotel Bagues
Hot tip: It can get really humid here, so U.S. News suggests planning 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 afield 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
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
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
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
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 36 million people calling it home.
8. Phuket, Thailand
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
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
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
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 $1.5 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
U.S. News quotes English writer Samual Johnson when making the case for London as one of the best places to visit in the world: “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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 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
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
Instead of choosing just one city or region, U.S. News selected an entire island for the coveted top spot. South Island, the larger but less populated of the two islands that make up New Zealand, earned the honor for its “breathtaking scenery, once-in-a-lifetime experiences and affordable activities."
They really weren’t kidding about those once-in-a-lifetime activities, either. 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
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.”
Honorable Mention: British Virgin Islands
Sadly, we can't include every destination in the world here. But to make the ruling a bit fairer, we've included two places that were included in previous U.S. News & World Report lists. They may not be in the top 30, but they're incredible destinations everyone should plan to visit at least once.
The British Caribbean is one of the most enjoyable and exclusive vacation destinations in the world. With some 60 islands and cays to explore, the British Virgin Islands offer a little something for everyone — granite boulders, mountainous cliffs and, of course, the gorgeous Caribbean Sea.
What to Know Before You Go to the British Virgin Islands
Where to stay: Sugar Mill Hotel
Hot tip: Because of the warm weather, travelers tend to flock to the islands around the holidays, so plan your visit in the fall to avoid large crowds. Looking to save a few bucks? U.S. News suggests staying on Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands, then making a day trip to the British Virgin Islands.
Fun fact: BVI’s Norman Island was the inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel, “Treasure Island.”
Honorable Mention: Amsterdam, Netherlands
Sometimes, Amsterdam gets a bad rap for its Red Light District and marijuana-peddling coffee shops, but there’s so much more to this European city than those two sound bites.
Amsterdam offers plenty of opportunities to delve into history and culture, too, from the home where Anne Frank wrote her journal during the Holocaust to the world’s largest collection of Van Gogh paintings and drawings at the Van Gogh Museum.
It’s also a surprisingly kid-friendly destination, with spots like the NEMO Science Museum and the spacious Vondelpark for little ones to explore.
What to Know Before You Go to Amsterdam
Where to stay: citizenM Amsterdam South
Hot tip: Avoid the high tourist season by planning your visit for just before summer (between April and May) or just after it (between September and November).
Fun fact: Amsterdam is home to what is surely one of the only cat-focused houseboats in the world: a floating feline sanctuary aptly named Catboat.