Lonely Planet Writer

The ultimate travel list: our top sights

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From the mysterious Machu Picchu to the mesmirising Great Barrier Reef, the world is full of unforgettable wonders. Many will amaze you, some will humble you and others will surprise you. But when it comes down to it, can you rank the world's best sights?

It's a pretty tall order, but we asked our well-travelled Lonely Planet staff to shortlist the most remarkable sights that they have ever come across. The result? Our brand new Ultimate Travel book which ranks the top 500 ultimate sights in the world!

While the Temples of Angkor pipped everywhere else to the post, it wasn't the only sight that captured our hearts. Here seven LP staffers share their personal favourite and why it got their vote.

Dan Lack

Head of Digital Product
Ultimate sight: Antarctica

Dan in Antarctica

'After trekking through all seven continents and 50+ countries, it's easy to say that Antarctica is the most amazing place I've ever been. It's the last frontier, so pristine, so beautiful, with hundreds of thousands of penguins running around on an endless playground. The glaciers are incredible, the endless daylight allows for countless hours of exploring, and you'll never find another place so remote and unique. It's truly breathtaking.'

Angela Tinson

Associate Product Director
Ultimate sight: Kōya-san, Japan.

'I overnighted at Kōya-san on my first trip to Japan, and after a few days in frenetic Tokyo, it mesmerised me. The cemetery of Buddhist temple Oku-no-in – filled with beautiful, old, moss-covered tombstones in an eerily misty cedar forest – is so serene; and staying in temple lodgings and attending a morning prayer service, I really felt like I was a welcome observer witnessing a very old, traditional way of religious life in Japan.'

Gemma Graham

Northern Europe Destination Editor
Ultimate sight: Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, Vietnam.


'Everything about Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park was so entirely unexpected. From the moment we arrived, we just couldn't understand why no one else we'd met on our travels had made the effort to visit; it only took a tiny bit of organisation to visit independently, rather than via an expensive tour. It's the kind of place that photos can never do justice – from taking in the stunning views over the oldest karst mountains in Asia, to being motioned off a boat within the depths of a vast cave system (international sign language for 'go and explore, I'll wait here'), it was astonishingly beautiful. It was truly the highlight of my travels in Vietnam.' Follow Gemma @gglpde.

Alexander Howard

Western USA & Canada Destination Editor
Ultimate sight: Taj Mahal in Agra, India.

'A few years ago, while exploring the teardrop domes and marble minarets of the Taj Mahal, I quickly realised why it would become my ultimate sight. It was the story: besieged with grief after the death of his wife, Shah Jahan commissioned the building as her mausoleum. Later, Shah Jahan was overthrown by his son and imprisoned in a nearby fort, from which he could only look upon his creation. When he died, Shah Jahan was reunited with his wife and buried next to her. Like any good top sight, there’s a story there – one of heartbreak, beauty and enduring love.' Follow Alex @AlexMHoward.

Jessica Cole

Commissioning Editor
Ultimate sight: Lake District, England.


'There's no denying it: the temples of Angkor are truly awe-inspiring, but for sheer lungs-at-bursting-point happiness, I set my sights closer to home. The Lake District may not conjure exoticism at first glance – it is, after all, the wettest part of a decidedly damp country – but look a little closer and those scree-covered fells, however craggy and chaotic, beg to be scrambled upon. The eponymous waters nestle in quiet valleys, their sparkle best viewed from a ridge somewhere high above (preferably with thermos and Kendal mint cake) where the cool, clean air and boundless panoramas will settle it: this is as strong a tonic for the soul as any place on earth.' Follow Jess @coleywole.

Britney Alvarez

Trade Marketing Manager
Ultimate sight: Daibutsu of Nara, Japan.

'For me, Japan’s Daibutsu of Nara is the ultimate place in the world because it is not as high profile as other iconic sights. Sure, standing beneath the Eiffel Tower has a kind of Disneyland magic, and standing at the edge of the magnificent Grand Canyon makes your head spin, but what makes me tingle is the sweet smell of incense and the serene crunch of gravel as you tiptoe your way to the temple where the silent, calming and pleasantly placid Buddha waits. It feels surreal. It feels like all is right in the world.'

Maria McKenzie

Social Communications Coordinator
Ultimate sight: Walt Disney World, USA.


'OK, I admit that this may be the most un-Lonely Planet thing of me to say, but my ultimate sight is Walt Disney World. From the beauty of Cinderella’s castle and the detailing of Main Street USA – a turn-of-the-20th-century American town – to the character meet 'n' greets and the attractions that have me believing I'm actually in my favourite Disney films (yes, I have wined and dined with the Beast in the West Wing!), there’s something about this park that has me leaving reality at the park gates and getting completely carried away with the magic of it all. Note: Minnie Mouse ears and Disney jumpers are a must.' Follow Maria @MazMcKenzie.

What's your favourite sight in the world? Find out where it ranks in our new Ultimate Travel book.