Best Places on Earth

written by
Joanne Owen

updated 15.12.2023

The Rough Guide to the 100 Best Places on Earth 2022 reveals our writers’ recommendations for top destinations to visit. A trove of travel inspiration, with over 150 photos of 100 remarkable places accompanying insightful overviews, this book is a sure-fire winner of a gift for the adventurers in your life.

Underpinned by insider knowledge, all 100 entries were selected by our travel experts on the basis of their potential to fulfil travel trends and our readers' needs and desires. The list therefore includes regions that present rewarding opportunities to travel responsibly, as well as secluded spots to escape the crowds. Reflecting our readers' yearning for post-pandemic adventure, you'll also find exhilarating urban hubs and back-to-nature adventure hotspots that’ll set your heart a-pounding.

Read on to discover a selection of the exceptional cities, countries, islands and regions featured in this celebratory guide, many of which can be visited with Rough Guides Tailor-Made Trips, either as a ready-to-go tour or bespoke trip created by a local expert, just for you.


Jaisalmer, India

If you’re looking for a blend of beautiful backdrops and ancient culture, Jaisalmer in India is a jewel of a destination and one of the most romantic places in India. Situated in the remote westernmost corner of Rajasthan, it delivers sweeping desert landscapes at every turn.

Its UNESCO-listed Golden Fort (so-named for the mesmerising way its sandstone walls shift from bright yellow to honey-gold as dusk falls) is an historic architectural marvel with continued cultural relevance - some 4000 people reside here. Jaisalmer is also a base for thrilling excursions into the Thar Desert.

Intrigued by India? With Rough Guides Tailor-Made Trips you can experience the wonder of India, from the Ganges to the Golden Triangle – and remember, all itineraries are fully-customisable to suit your travel needs.

Things not to miss in India: Jaisalmer Fort in sunset light, Rajasthan, India, Asia.

Jaisalmer's Golden Fort, Rajasthan, India © Shutterstock

Ninh Binh Province, Vietnam

Famed for the dramatic finger-like limestone formations that spear up from rice paddies, Ninh Binh Province in Vietnam is also known for its Buddhist temples and pagodas, lush plains speckled with grazing water buffalo, and the Ngo Dong River that meanders romantically through the jutting jade mountains that frame it.

All of which means this is the perfect place for travellers seeking an escape-from-it-all experience, with opportunities to get active presented by climbing those stunning mountains, or hiring a bike. Just about 100km south of Hanoi it is also easily accessible.

Contact your Vietnam local expert to start planning your trip today.

Ninhbinh Ninh-Binh, Vietnam © John Bill/Shutterstock

Ninh Binh Province, Vietnam © John Bill/Shutterstock

Pokhara, Nepal

Tucked beneath the white peaks of the Annapurna range, Pokhara might be Nepal's biggest tourist centre, but it retains an atmosphere of unspoiled beauty. With settlements clustered around Phewa Lake (think bright boats backed by wooded mountains, with the Himalayas rearing up beyond), it’s the perfect place for tranquil walks.

It's also a glorious gateway to more adventurous activities, among them trekking, paragliding, rafting and kayaking. Rough Guides Tailor-Made Trip Taste of Annapurna is an incredible (but moderate!) trek that allows you to experience the great Nepalese outdoors in all its glory as you pass through picturesque mountain villages.


Pokhara, Nepal © Shutterstock

Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Once the capital of Tamerlane’s Silk Road Empire, Samarkand oozes elegance from every angle, not least because it’s home to the region’s most celebrated collection of fourteenth-century Islamic architecture and art.

Meandering the streets is a stimulating joy, with majestic blue domes dappling the skyline and beautiful bazaars to explore. Once thing’s for sure, taking a trip that takes in highlights of the Silk Road is something you won’t forget in a hurry.

Gur-E Amir Mausoleum, the tomb of the Asian conqueror Tamerlane, Samarkand, Uzbekistan © NICOLA MESSANA PHOTOS/Shutterstock

Gur-E Amir Mausoleum, Uzbekistan © NICOLA MESSANA PHOTOS/Shutterstock

Africa and the Middle East

Jebel Sahro, Morocco

Known for its alluring lunar-like landscape and the nomadic Aït ‘Atta Berbers who’ve lived in this south Moroccan mountain chain for centuries, Jebel Sahro comes especially recommended for travellers who love secluded serenity and wilderness walking. By day, enjoy meandering its mysterious moonscape. Come dusk, settle down around a crackling fire as countless glittering stars spark up overhead. Magic.

Short on time, but want to experience the magic of Morocco? With our Morocco Highlights Tailor-Made Trip, you’ll experience the cultural capital Fez, as well as Chefchaouen and Marrakech, and sleep in a deluxe tent in the desert – all in a little over a week! Don’t forget, all Rough Guides Tailor-Made Trips are completely customisable to suit your needs.

Mountains of the Jebel Sahro, Morocco ©  Louise Bottomley/Shutterstock

Mountains of the Jebel Sahro, Morocco © Louise Bottomley/Shutterstock

Johannesburg, South Africa

Johannesburg is (arguably) South Africa’s most cosmopolitan and spirited city, with long-term investment and an inspired regeneration programme now bearing tasty fruit. We’re talking ultra-cool boutique hotels, modern hostels, fine food, a thriving arts scene, plus world-class museums that lay bare the region’s Cradle of Humankind status.

If you’re looking for a high energy city experience that’s big on history and contemporary culture, Joburg might just be your bag. Check out our Tailor-Made Trips travel itineraries to South Africa – and remember, they're all fully customisable to suit your travel needs.

Architecture of downtown of Johannesburg, South Africa © Sopotnicki/Shutterstock

Downtown Johannesburg © Shutterstock


It’s not for nothing that Madagascar is often called the eighth continent of the world. Its unique biodiversity includes around ten thousand animal and plant species found nowhere else on earth, making it a dream destination for nature-lovers and wildlife-watchers.

This isolated Indian Ocean island is also a paradise for travellers looking for the ultimate beach experience, with sublime snorkelling and diving to hand should you feel the urge to peel yourself from your sun-lounger. Contact a Rough Guides local expert in Madagascar today, to start planning your adventure.

20 great places to pitch a tent: Tropical jungle river at the beach of Masoala National Park in Madagascar.

Masoala National Park, Madagascar © Shutterstock

Petra, Jordan

Picture this – an undisturbed ancient city nestled in a valley basin between two streams of jagged peaks. A grand entrance through the echoing Siq canyon unfolds to an encounter with the sunlit Treasury, the wind-eroded Nabataean tombs, and the Roman Theatre, with remarkable views awaiting atop the monastery cut from the rocks at the mountain summit.

Jordan’s Petra presents a mind-blowingly different travel experience - it’s a step back in time that’ll fire the imagination and make you re-think everything you thought you knew about ancient civilisation.

Ready to taste the Treasures of Jordan? With this fully-customisable Tailor-Made Trip, you’ll experience the restorative powers of the Dead Sea, seek adventure in Wadi Rum and fill up on culture in Petra, Amman and Jerusalem.

See Petra under the stars, Jordan

Petra, Jordan, at night © Shutterstock


The Acropolis, Greece

Being an icon of Western culture, Athens’ Acropolis sure has a lot to live up to – and it does exactly that in spectacular style. At first sight, chances are you’ll feel like you’ve seen it before, yet viewing the real thing feels somehow unreal.

Sitting atop the sheer-sided limestone crag that overlooks Athens, Greece, the Acropolis has crowned the city (literally and metaphorically) throughout its history and, after almost 2500 years, it remains the undisputed highlight of any trip to Athens (and arguably to Greece, too).

To start planning your trip to Greece, contact your Rough Guides Greece local expert today.

Acropolis Parthenon Athens, Greece © Shutterstock

The Acropolis, Athens © Shutterstock

Dubrovnik Old Town, Croatia

From first sight, it’s easy to see why Dubrovnik is Croatia’s most popular tourist destination. Sitting at the foot of a gnarled mountain, this sea-battered city seems untouched by the twenty-first-century, with a labyrinth of quaint cobbled alleyways weaving around beautiful Baroque churches and shuttered stone houses.

Walk the city walls for jaw-dropping views of the azure Adriatic before catching a ferry - as well as being a glorious city break destination in itself, Dubrovnik is the perfect base from which to launch a longer trip to Croatia.

With Rough Guides Tailor-Made Trips, you can embark on the Ultimate Croatian Adventure, taking in stunning landscapes, including mountains and the Adriatic coast. Remember, this tour – like all Tailor-Made Trips itineraries – can be full customised to suit you needs. Your Croatia local expert is waiting to hear from you!

Banje beach in Dubrovnik © Shutterstock

Dubrovnik's Banje Beach © Shutterstock

Pembrokeshire, Wales

Surrounded by the Atlantic on three sides, and nestled the most southwesterly corner of Wales, Pembrokeshire is a place of wild wonder, ancient history and contemporary vitality. The county’s beaches are breathtaking, with Caribbean-esque Barafundle Bay often cited as being among the world’s best.

Then there’s the internationally renowned Pembrokeshire Coast Path National Trail, the bird-rich islands of Skomer, Skokholm and Grassholm (home to huge colonies of puffins and gannets, and the world's largest concentration of Manx shearwaters), and oh-so-many ways to get back to beautiful nature and enjoy outdoor adventures, including coasteering, kayaking and hiking.

Discover inspiring itineraries for your Tailor-Made Trip to stunning Wales.


Pembrokeshire coast, Wales © Shutterstock

Porto, Portugal

While Porto might be Portugal’s second city, it’s certainly not second best. In fact, many argue that it tops Lisbon when it comes to atmosphere and architecture. With a lovely laidback charm in distinctly dramatic surroundings (courtesy of its position at the mouth of the Rio Douro), Porto is a joy for foodies and culture vultures.

Porto is home to fabulous port wine lodges to take day trips to, friendly restaurants serving world-class cuisine, and unique architectural attractions ranging from monumental Baroque marvels, to the Art Deco elegance of Serralves Villa.

With Rough Guides Tailor-Made Trips, a Portugal local expert will work direct with you, to help you plan and book your perfect trip.

Porto, Portugal

Porto, Portugal © Shutterstock

USA, Mexico and Canada

Campeche, Mexico

Despite being one of the country’s finest colonial-era cities, colourful Campeche isn’t exactly on the well-trodden tourist trail - good news for travellers who want to do things their own way in Mexico. Located in the Gulf of Mexico (the sunset views from the palm-fringed malecón are not to be missed), this ancient port town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

In Campeche you'll find imposing walls and fortresses vying for attention with Baroque churches and charming eighteenth- and nineteenth-century buildings. Campeche’s many museums house exceptional Mayan artefacts, while its market is an exhilarating must-visit.

Dreaming of Mexico? With our Tailor-Made Trips Amazing Mexico tour, you’ll spend 11 days exploring sites such as Mexico City and Oaxaca, a cosy UNESCO World Heritage City. Fancy a different Mexico tour? There are 20 more, fully-customisable Tailor-Made Trips in Mexico to choose from.

Mariachi on streets colonial Campeche city, Mexico © javarman/Shutterstock

Campeche city, Mexico © Shutterstock

Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park

If it’s epic you’re after, you might want to consider taking a trip to Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park. Located on Hawaii’s Big Island, it encompasses the island’s two southernmost volcanoes, Mauna Loa and Kilauea, with landscapes ranging from rainforest, to desert, to arctic tundra - and that’s on top of those mighty active volcanoes..

You’ll see evidence of them at every turn, too - in the steam vents that splutter through the lunar terrain, in the lushness of the forests, and in the lava flows and sparking cinder cones.

Lava flowing into the ocean on The Big Island © Yvonne Baur / Shutterstock

Lava flowing into the ocean, Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park © Yvonne Baur / Shutterstock

Teotihuacan, Mexico

Once the largest city in the Americas, Teotihuacan in Mexico is a sprawling 23 square kilometre complex of towering temples, pyramids and palaces that once served some 150,000 residents. Believed to have been an important religious centre, its exact origins remain an enigma, and the site certainly radiates an intoxicating aura of mystery today.

Typically visited as part of a wider tour of Mexico, be sure to arrive early - you’ll want to spend several hours here, so exploration is best begun before the heat of the afternoon sun ramps up. 


Sun temple of Teotihuacan, Mexico © Shutterstock

Vancouver and around, Canada

Cradled between the ocean and mountains, and a gateway to Canada's western wilderness, Vancouver is a vibrant city with a dazzlingly situated Downtown district. Its idyllic waterfront is edged by fine beaches, a dynamic port and stunning parkland, with stylish skyscrapers providing a splendid contrast to the natural beauty, and a thriving food and nightlife scene that’ll satisfy even the most experienced city explorer.

Beyond the elegant urbanity, incredible wildlife-watching experiences await, with the waters around Vancouver Island teeming with whales, dolphins and otters, and Whistler Blackcomb blessed with bears, deer and cougars.

Water view of Vancouver city and harbour, Canada © canadastock/Shutterstock

Vancouver, Canada © Shutterstock

Central America, South America and the Caribbean

Costa Rica

Exuding an exhilarating pura vida (pure life) ethos, Costa Rica is the ultimate destination for adventurous nature-lovers, and for those who want to embrace responsible travel, with dozens of rainforest eco-lodges offering stylish, sustainable accommodation.

To experience Costa Rica’s rich diversity (and we mean rich - this Central American stunner isn’t merely rica in name), you could look to book an experience takes in its diverse delights during one epic trip, from seeing its wildlife wonders (including sloths, howler monkeys, ocelots and jaguars), to surfing the Pacific Coast, to hiking the awe-inspiring Arenal Volcano National Park.

Costa Rica’s stunning biodiversity makes the country the perfect backdrop for an Eco Adventure – discover a Tailor-Made Trip that will lead you on adventures through jungles, beaches, tropical forests and national parks. Contact your Costa Rica local expert to get started.

A spider monkey climbs high trees of the rainforest in the Corcovado © Kit Korzun/Shutterstock

A spider monkey in the Corcovado National Park in Costa Rica © Kit Korzun/Shutterstock

Easter Island, Chile

A mere 23km at is longest point, Easter Island in Chile might be bijou in size, but it's big on big icons i.e. the 887 monolithic moai statues that have made it universally famous. It’s also big on delivering unique travel experiences that’ll never be forgotten.

Alongside marvelling at the monumental majesty of the statues, travellers can also enjoy excellent diving and surfing. Be aware, though, that this is one of the most remote inhabited places in the world, and worth visiting in combination with a trip around Chile (you'll have to fly from there, anyway).

Contact your Chile local expert to start planning your trip today.


Ahu Tongariki, Rapa Nui (Easter Island), Chile © Shutterstock

Galápagos Islands, Ecuador

That thirteen remote volcanic islands located 960km from the Ecuadorian mainland have been so pivotal in changing humanity’s perception of itself is indicative of the Galápagos Islands’ uniqueness – Darwin developed his theory of evolution by natural selection after visiting them.

Remarkably, the islands’ defied permanent human colonization until the twentieth century, and retain an exhilarating feeling of undiscovered wildness to this day, while also operating splendidly (and sensitively) as the world’s premier wildlife destination. Intrigued by Ecuador? A Rough Guides local expert is waiting to help you plan you perfect trip.


Galapagos Islands' resident © Shutterstock

Tikal, Guatemala

Towering above the rainforest, Guatemala’s Tikal is possibly the most magnificent of all Maya sites. Its atmospheric ruins are dominated by five enormous temples - steep-sided limestone pyramids that rise more than 60m above the forest floor.

Visit at dawn or dusk to experience the fulness of the forest’s wildlife – the best times to experience a cacophony of roaring howler monkeys and screeching birdlife in the most magical light. To plan and book your ideal Guatemala itinerary, talk to a Rough Guides local expert today.

Tikal National Park, Guatemala © WitR/Shutterstock

Tikal, Guatemala © Shutterstock


Franz Josef Glacier and Fox Glacier, New Zealand

Rugged and unspoiled, New Zealand’s South Island is the stuff of legend, with west coast wonders Franz Josef Glacier and Fox Glacier plunging seaward from the Southern Alps. As for that legend, the story goes that beautiful Hine Hukatere so loved the mountains that she encouraged her lover to climb them beside her. 

When he fell to his death, she cried such streams of tears that gigantic glaciers formed, which explains the Maori name for Franz Joseph glacier - Kā Roimata ō Hine Hukatere, meaning “the tears of Hine Hukatere”.

With Rough Guides Tailor-Made Trips, explore New Zealand North to South. In a compact itinerary, you’ll travel across both the North and South Islands in your own rental car, discovering glaciers, cities, thermal springs and scenic hiking trails. Fancy seeing New Zealand a different way? No problem: a Rough Guides local expert will help you plan a trip that’s just right for you.

Hikers and travelers walking on ice in Fox Glacier, New Zealand © SkyImages/Shutterstock

Hikers walking on ice in Fox Glacier, New Zealand © SkyImages/Shutterstock

Ningaloo Reef, Australia

Stretching for 300 kilometres from Bundegi Reef down to Red Bluff, Ningaloo Reef is the world’s largest fringing reef. It also happens to be Australia’s most accessible reef. You just have to step off the white sands and there it is – an enchanting coral garden covering 5000 square kilometres of ocean, with more than 700 species of fish and 250 species of coral.

Also a hotspot for migrating humpback whales and whale sharks, plus numerous turtles, reef sharks and rays, there are few better places in Australia - if not the world - to snorkel. Contact your Australia local expert today to start planning your adventure.


Ningaloo Reef © Shutterstock

Queenstown, New Zealand

With a reputation as New Zealand’s adventure capital, Queenstown is stunningly situated -  hemmed in by the rocky Remarkables mountain range right on the edge of Lake Wakatipu. You’ll come here to bungy jump at three of the world’s most astoundingly scenic bungy sites, to white-water raft or jetboat on the Shotover River, or to ski or snowboard the Remarkables.

Quiet Queenstown ain’t, though there are plenty of quaint restaurants to cosy up in between all those high-octane adventures, and you could always enjoy a laidback lake cruise on a traditional steamer if you fancy a rest.


Queenstown, New Zealand, in winter © Shutterstock

Uluru, Australia

Located in Australia’s Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, iconic Uluru is sacred to its Aboriginal custodians (the local Anangu people), and a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Uluru means “meeting place”, which is exactly what this site has been for thousands of years, with many Aboriginal songlines intersecting at the rock, and the permanent watering hole making it a vital place of convergence. Seeing the shifting textures, colours and sheer elemental presence of this natural wonder is nothing short of soul-stirring.

Uluru, Ayers Rock, Australia © Uwe Aranas/Shutterstock

Uluru. Australia © Shutterstock

If you’re about to begin planning your next adventure, check out Rough Guides’ tailor-made trips. Curated by local experts, and 100% customisable, they take the hassle out of planning so you can concentrate on what really matters - enjoying your trip.

If you're travelling with kids, discover the most magical places to visit with children before they grow up, and read up on seriously weird places around the world that'll wow even the most cynical teenager.

Header image: Ninh Binh Province, Vietnam © John Bill/Shutterstock

Joanne Owen

written by
Joanne Owen

updated 15.12.2023

Joanne is a Pembrokeshire-born writer with a passion for the nature, cultures and histories of the Caribbean region, especially Dominica. Also passionate about inspiring a love of adventure in young people, she’s the author of several books for children and young adults, hosts international writing workshops, and has written articles on the Caribbean and inspirational community initiatives for Rough Guides. Follow her @JoanneOwen on Twitter and @joanneowenwrites on Instagram.

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