Ultimate Travel List

The best places on the planet… ranked

Introducing Lonely Planet's Ultimate Travel List

We’ve all got a list of places that we want to see for ourselves: places friends have enthused about, places we’ve read about, dreamed about. This is our list. It’s the 500 most thrilling, memorable, downright interesting places on this planet ranked in order of their brilliance. COVID-19 has resulted in travel restrictions that may have clipped your wings through 2020, but now is the perfect time to plan ahead so you’re ready for your next adventure when it’s safe to hit the road again. These are the places we think you should experience; there are sights that will humble you, amaze you and surprise you. They’ll provoke thoughts, emotions or just an urgent need to tell someone about them.

Here are the top 10 travel experiences from Lonely Planet's Ultimate Travel List. We hope this will inspire many more travel wish lists of your own. 

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JORDAN

1. Explore the enigmatic 'lost city' of Petra

The treasured Unesco Heritage Site of Petra is the must-see ultimate experience on our list. Once nearly lost to the outside world, the sandstone city is now one of the most loved places on the planet, voted in as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World by popular ballot in 2007. Spread over some 102 sq miles (264 sq km), Petra was constructed by the ancient Nabataeans, a civilisation of crafters and merchants, and made for a grand trade route stop-off between Arabian oases. But generations later, after the city was abandoned, it was known only to the Bedouin who made the caves their home. The iconic Treasury, looming 128ft (39m) high is most visitors’ first sight of the city, reached after a winding journey through a narrow water-etched slot canyon. Rediscover the city’s eternal air of mystery in the early morning or the hours before closing when it’s at its most atmospheric.

ECUADOR

2. See the islands that changed the course of science – the Galápagos

A thousand kilometres from mainland South America, life on the Galápagos follows different rules. Cormorants can’t fly. Iguanas can swim. Tortoises live nearly 200 years. The islands are famed, of course, as the place where Charles Darwin developed his ideas on evolution by natural selection. The process is more obvious here than elsewhere on Earth, since animals that otherwise look alike diverge subtly from island to island, depending on their environment. You’ll find blue-footed boobies performing cartoonish mating dances, creeping colonies of iguanas, penguins zooming underwater, and fur seals lounging on volcanic rocks. Even 200 years after Darwin’s journey on the HMS Beagle, visitors continue to be astonished by the archipelago’s stunning diversity. Ecotourism is central to everything on the 17 islands of the Galápagos National Park – the airport is made from mostly recycled materials and runs on wind and solar power, and each municipality has a strict sustainability plan.