World's best places to visit

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World's best places to visit

With a world full of fascinating destinations, choosing the perfect vacation spot can present a challenge. That's why U.S. News used expert opinions, user votes and current trends to compile this list. We hope these recommendations can help you craft your travel bucket list.

  • Great Barrier Reef

    Why go: The world's largest coral reef system boasts incredible scenery, whether you view it underwater, from the air or by boat. Though plenty of diving and snorkeling spots can be found along Queensland's coast, to escape the crowds, take an excursion to Hamilton Island.

    A helicopter flies over the Great Barrier Reef near Heron Island, Australia.
    Don Fuchs | Getty Images
  • Paris

    Why go: Year after year, the magnetic City of Light draws travelers looking to cross the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame off their bucket lists. But what visitors really fall in love with are the city's quaint cafes, vibrant markets, trendy shopping districts and unmistakable je ne sais quoi charm.

    Paris, France.
    Mike Hewitt | Getty Images
  • Bora Bora

    Why go: It's hard not to be enchanted by this paradisiacal destination: Lush jungles extend into sky high volcanoes and sands stretch into upscale resorts. Remember, though, that a trip to this Pacific paradise does not come cheap.

    Four Seasons in Bora Bora
    Source: Four Seasons
  • Florence

    Why go: The historic city of Florence offers plenty of world-famous attractions, including the Duomo, the Piazzale Michelangelo and the Piazza della Signoria. After appreciating the city's Renaissance architecture and art, sample some of the region's delectable Tuscan food and wine.

  • Tokyo

    Why go: Temples, markets and museums are just some of the offerings you'll find in the bustling, tech-centric city of Tokyo. And thanks to the city's abundance of free attractions, you'll be able to visit top spots like Tsukiji Market and the Imperial Palace without breaking the bank.

    Kevin Winter | Getty Images
  • Cusco

    Why go: Known as the heart of the Inca Empire and the archaeological capital of the Americas, Cusco offers plenty for history and architecture buffs to enjoy. If you're up for a challenging, yet life-changing experience, try hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu.

    Travel Ink | Gallo Images | Getty Images
  • London

    Why go: London is a world unto itself. The eclectic neighborhoods – which house a blend of historic landmarks and modern-day attractions – can keep you occupied for days. Be sure to visit the Tower of London, Buckingham Palace and the British Museum during your stay.

    London Skyline with Tower Bridge at twilight
    TangMan Photography | Getty Images
  • Rome

    Why go: When you visit the Eternal City, prepare to cross a few must-see attractions – the Colosseum, Trevi Fountain and the Pantheon, to name a few – off your bucket list. Additional treasures like St. Peter's Basilica and the Sistine Chapel can be found in nearby Vatican City.

    Tourist outside the Coliseum in Rome, Italy
    Giorgio Cosulich | Getty Images
  • New York City

    Why go: New York City hosts infinite urban adventures: Wander through Central Park, tour the exhibits at the Met, catch a Broadway show or peruse SoHo's stylish boutiques. And at night, admire Manhattan's glittering skyscrapers from the top of the Empire State Building.

    New York City.
    Grant Faint | Getty Images
  • Maui

    Why go: Maui – one of the most beloved of all the Hawaiian Islands – lives up to its superlatives with exotic beaches (like Kaanapali Beach), palatial resorts (like the Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea) and lush terrain (as seen in Iao Valley State Park).

    Beach house on Maui, Hawaii.
    Jay Spooner | Getty Images
  • Cape Town

    Why go: This South African city appeals to adventure seekers and mellow travelers alike. Kick-start your day by climbing Table Mountain. Afterward, sunbathe along Clifton Beach's khaki-colored sands or tour the vineyards of Constantia Valley.

    Skyline view of Cape Town and Table Mountain from Helicopter
    Allan Baxter | Photographer's Choice | Getty Images
  • Barcelona

    Why go: Though known for its fútbol team, Barcelona boasts much more than athletic talent. The city is a feast for the eyes: Visitors can walk past medieval architecture in the Barri Gòtic and Gaudi's unique creations at Güell Park. Meanwhile, Las Ramblas buzzes at all hours.

    Residential buildings stand on the city skyline on April 10, 2015 in Barcelona, Spain.
    Getty Images
  • Sydney

    Why go: This metropolis offers more than just a dizzying array of landmarks (e.g., the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge). Sydney boasts a warm, sunny climate ideal for enjoying local beaches like Coogee and Bondi.

    Qantas wants non-stop long haul flights to Sydney, Australia.
    Don Arnold | WireImage
  • Rio de Janeiro

    Why go: Rio de Janeiro is arguably South America's hottest spot – and not just for its warm weather. The famous Christ the Redeemer statue sits above Copacabana Beach, and you'll be hard-pressed to find a livelier event than Rio's Carnival.

    View of with Christ the Redeemer and Sugar Loaf at background
    Buda Mendes | Getty Images
  • Yellowstone

    Why go: More than 3,000 square miles of nature's finest canyons, geysers and rocky cliffs are an easy sell for nature enthusiasts. Geothermic wonders like the Mammoth Hot Springs, Old Faithful and Yellowstone Lake are not to be missed at this national park.

    Elk at Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park
    Source: Spring Creek Ranch
  • Amsterdam

    Why go: Though Amsterdam's notorious Red Light District and coffee shops can still be found in the city, more family-friendly attractions have sprouted up in recent years. Some of Amsterdam's must-see spots include the Van Gogh Museum, the Anne Frank House and the Verzetsmuseum.

    A canal in the Dutch city of Amsterdam
    Jock Fistick | Bloomberg | Getty Images
  • Hong Kong

    Why go: Hong Kong is worth visiting for its one-of-a-kind cultural fusion. Only here will you find a Disney theme park rubbing elbows with ancient temples. Peruse a street market, ride the Star Ferry from Tsim Sha Tsui pier or check out the views from atop Victoria Peak.

    Hong Kong
    Jerome Favre | Bloomberg via Getty Images Restrictions
  • Cairo

    Why go: Cairo's high temperatures and ancient charm continue to draw in tourists every year. The Giza Pyramids – one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World – can be found here, plus historic neighborhoods like Coptic Cairo.

    A skyline view of Cairo, Egypt
    Mohamed El-Shahed | Getty Images
  • Washington, D.C.

    Why go: With a trove of iconic monuments, it's no wonder why our nation's capital is one of America's most-visited cities. Exploring the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial and the Smithsonian Institution's museums can easily fill several days. And the best part is: So much is free to visit.

    Washington D.C.
    Danita Dellmont | Getty Images
  • Grand Canyon

    Why go: Measuring roughly 277 miles long and 18 miles wide, the Grand Canyon offers plenty of outdoor activities for adventure junkies. Popular things to do include hiking the Bright Angel and Rim trails and going whitewater rafting on the Colorado River. Read

    Christopher Jacobs | Moment | Getty Images
  • British Virgin Islands

    Why go: If picturesque beaches and warm weather are what you're after, look no further than the British Virgin Islands. For easy access to Smuggler's Cove, Brewers Bay and other top-notch BVI beaches, consider staying on Tortola, the territory's largest island.

    Christopher Jacobs | Moment | Getty Images
  • Bali

    Why go: Serene temples and beaches are the biggest draws to this lush paradise. You'll also have plenty of opportunities to interact with monkeys and elephants while exploring Bali. To avoid the region's notorious wet season, consider visiting between April and October.

    Bali, Indonesia
    Ian Trower | Getty Images
  • San Francisco

    Why go: Gourmet restaurants, funky boutiques and laid-back vibes are just some of San Fran's charms. A ride on the cable cars and a visit to Alcatraz are musts. And, of course, don't forget to check out the city's crowning architectural achievement – the Golden Gate Bridge.

    San Francisco, California
    Compassandcamera | Getty Images
  • Argentine Patagonia

    Why go: Jaw-dropping landscapes make this South American destination a quintessential spot for adventure travelers to visit. While wandering Argentine Patagonia, you'll see everything from picturesque lakes to towering glaciers and mountains.

    Monte Fitz Roy stands in Los Glaciares National Park, part of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field
    Getty Images
  • Budapest

    Why go: Budapest is a sure standout for any trip to Eastern Europe. The city caters to a wide range of traveler types and budgets with its variety of hotels and restaurants. Thermal baths and world-class museums are just some of the attractions you'll find here.

    Budapest, Hungary
    Allan Baxter | Digital Vision | Getty Images