Do you have a travel bucket list? These days, more people are dreaming about travel than actually traveling. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t keep adding places to your travel bucket list. Lonely Planet has just released its second “Ultimate Travel List,” which ranks what its editors describe as the world’s top 500 “most thrilling, memorable downright interesting places on this planet.” Let’s just say that it’s a bucket list to end all bucket lists.
In order to determine the best places around the world, Lonely Planet created a comprehensive list featuring each attraction and sight recommended by its authors in its guidebooks over the years. That was then whittled down to a shortlist, and everyone in the Lonely Planet community was then asked to vote on their top 20. Each entry ended up with a score that was used to create the definitive ranking of the world’s top 500 places, which has been released both online and as a book.
According to Piers Pickard, VP of publishing, Lonely Planet changed the way it calculated its travel bucket list in 2020 (the last Ultimate Travel List came out in 2015). “For this edition, we awarded extra points to destinations and attractions that are managing tourism sustainably,” says Pickard.
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Perfect for a moment when people are craving the outdoors more than ever, this year’s list included a number of natural locations. Nine U.S. national parks make the cut, with three in the top 20 overall list, including Yellowstone National Park (#5), Grand Canyon National Park (#13) and Yosemite National Park (#20).
U.S. cultural and art institutions were also featured, with notable entries such as The National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. (#105 overall) and the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum (#418 overall) ranking among the world’s best places to travel.
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And the timing really couldn’t be better. “After seven months of staying at home, now’s the perfect time to start thinking about where and how to travel once normality returns,” says Pickard.
Read on for Lonely Planet’s ranking of the top 10 places around the world, followed by the top 29 places in the United States.
Note: Should you decide to plan a trip anywhere during the coronavirus pandemic, you should check local travel restrictions for the destination you are hoping to visit and consider warnings from the State Department and CDC. Travelers should also consider risk factors like age and existing health issues before going on a trip and take precautions to keep themselves and others safe.
Ranked: Top 10 Places Around the World
- Petra, Jordan: The red sandstone “lost city” that is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- The Galápagos Islands, Ecuador: Destination that changed the course of science and is home to some of the rarest animals on the planet, from ancient tortoises to blue-footed boobies.
- Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, Australia: Down Under’s most sacred landmark (also known as Ayer’s Rock).
- Okavango Delta, Botswana: A sprawling flooded ecosystem in Africa where you can experience the best of slow travel.
- Yellowstone National Park, United States: The world’s largest geothermal area; home to geysers and grizzlies.
- Lake Bled, Slovenia: A photogenic lake that has been visited over the years by religious pilgrims and royalty.
- Iguazú Falls, Argentina/Brazil: A powerful waterfall that is actually made up of 275 waterfalls.
- Temples of Angkor, Cambodia: A sprawling series of temples in the jungle that Lonely Planet calls “a monument to human ingenuity.”
- Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia: The world’s biggest salt flat, which becomes a giant mirrored illusion after it rains.
- Annapurna Circuit, Nepal: The ultimate trek to picturesque teahouses and high-altitude overlooks.
Ranked: Top 29 Places in the U.S.
- Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming/Montana/Idaho (#5 on the overall list)
- Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona (#13 overall)
- Yosemite National Park, California (#20 overall)
- Redwood National and State Parks, California (#49 overall)
- Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco (#60 overall)
- Monument Valley, Arizona (#64 overall)
- Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii (#75 overall)
- National Museum of African American History & Culture, Washington D.C. (#105 overall)
- Denali, Alaska (#121 overall)
- French Quarter, New Orleans, (#138 overall)
- Death Valley, California (#149 overall)
- Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Orlando (#188 overall)
- Empire State Building, New York City (#200 overall)
- Mesa Verde, Colorado (#220 overall)
- Taos Pueblo, New Mexico (#233 overall)
- The Strip, Las Vegas (#236 overall)
- The National Mall, Washington D.C. (#287 overall)
- Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City (#295 overall)
- National Sept. 11 Memorial & Museum, New York City (#316 overall)
- Pike Place, Seattle (#343 overall)
- Independence National Historic Park, Philadelphia (#376 overall)
- Statue of Liberty & Staten Island, New York (#387 overall)
- Acadia National Park, Maine (#393 overall)
- Art Institute of Chicago (#407 overall)
- Walt Disney World, Orlando (#410 overall)
- Mississippi Civil Rights Museum, Jackson (#418 overall)
- Griffith Observatory, Los Angeles (#420 overall)
- Cape Cod National Seashore, Massachusetts (#430 overall)
- Everglades, Florida (#481 overall)
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I’m a travel and lifestyle authority and a content strategist who works with brands to create powerful storytelling. In this column, “Transformative Travel,” I look at how travel can change women’s lives. I profile the doers and the disrupters and cover the trends and the destinations that appeal to women today. I have been writing about travel since the early days of my career, when I started off as a honeymoon editor, even though — ironically — I was single at the time. Since then, I have written for a number of publications, including Food & Wine, Wallpaper and The New York Times. I have been the editor-in-chief of Yahoo Travel, which was named the top online travel magazine under my leadership. Before that, I was deputy editor of Travel & Leisure. Throughout my career, I have appeared regularly on television, including Good Morning America and NBC Today. Journalism is part of my heritage: My great great grandfather was a Civil War correspondent for the Chicago Tribune. Follow me on Twitter (@laurabegley) and Instagram (@laurabegleybloom).
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