Editor’s Letter: 50 Places of a Lifetime

Every curious traveler should visit these treasures.

Our November/December issue is a special collector’s edition, “50 Places of a Lifetime,” and it’s heading to a mailbox or newsstand near you. Here’s the introduction to the package from the pages of the magazine; the complete list of all of our Places of a Lifetime can be found after the jump.

A decade ago, Traveler published a landmark issue– “50 Places of a Lifetime”–that in subsequent years has become something of a hallmark of the magazine, spawning related books, podcasts, special issues, web content, games, mobile apps–even a round-the-world jet trip from National Geographic Expeditions to lift off in October 2010. Long before The Bucket List and 1,000 Places to See Before You Die, we sought to showcase those treasured destinations that every curious traveler should visit in a lifetime.

Now, in Traveler’s 25th-anniversary year, we recognize the first 50 places and offer another 50 that speak to the transformation of travel since 1999–how we travel, where we travel, why we travel. Ten years ago, we could see the emerging signs of a new kind of journeying–one that puts a premium on sense of place, authenticity, culture, sustainability, and experience rather than mere sightseeing.

These elements became the compass we use to steer you to destinations that are more than just numbers in a hot list. Our first 50 picks were icons the world collectively recognizes as superlative. What we offer in the following pages is what sets this magazine apart. We go beyond the obvious. You’ll see that we’ve picked locations of character–and asked those with a personal connection to them to tell us why they are important, unique, compelling. Some are places you may know but haven’t seen the way we view them here. Others, we hope, are surprises that may seduce you to explore them firsthand. We address what makes a destination special, what will reward the traveler, why you should come here rather than go somewhere else. We are more sensitive than ever to the fact that many places we love most are deeply threatened–and our challenge is to preserve them for future generations. When they travel, I want my children to know the same joy I feel every time I discover somewhere new and different. We all begin that journey by finding a place that sings to us. We hope you find many destinations in these pages that do just that. –Keith Bellows, Editor in Chief

The following is a list of all of the Places of a Lifetime we’ve featured in the magazine, from both 1999 and 2009; the newer selections are in bold, and are also featured on an interactive map here. To see a photo gallery of many of the places featured in this year’s issue, click here. And to hear music selections inspired by each of the places from our current issue, click here. How many have you visited?


  • Athens, Greece
  • Atlanta, Georgia
  • Barcelona, Spain
  • Berlin, Germany
  • Delhi, India
  • Dublin, Ireland
  • Florence, Italy
  • Hong Kong, China
  • Istanbul, Turkey
  • Jerusalem, Israel
  • London, England
  • Mexico City, Mexico
  • New York, New York
  • Paris, France
  • Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
  • San Francisco, California
  • St. Petersburg, Russia
  • Tokyo, Japan
  • Vancouver, Canada
  • Venice, Italy


  • Aleutian Islands, Alaska
  • Amazon Forest
  • Antarctica
  • Arnhem Land, Australia
  • Australian Outback
  • Auyuittuq National Park, Canada 
  • Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, Uganda 
  • Canadian Rockies
  • Coast Redwoods, California
  • Galápagos Islands
  • Grand Canyon
  • Lake Baikal, Russia
  • Madidi National Park, Bolivia
  • Okavango Delta, Botswana
  • Papua New Guinea’s Coral Reefs
  • Sagarmatha National Park, Nepal 
  • Sahara
  • Serengeti
  • South Georgia Island, South Atlantic Ocean
  • Venezuela’s Tepuis


  • Aitutaki, Cook Islands
  • Amalfi Coast, Italy
  • Boundary Waters, Minnesota
  • British Virgin Islands
  • Fernando de Noronha Archipelago, Brazil
  • Greek Islands
  • Hawaiian Islands
  • Japanese Ryokan
  • Kerala, India
  • Lord Howe Island, Australia
  • Mayreau, St. Vincent and the Grenadines 
  • Molokai, Hawaii
  • Mount Rigi, Switzerland
  • Pacific Islands
  • Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica
  • Quirimbas Archipelago, Mozambique
  • Salina, Italy
  • Seychelles
  • Torres del Paine, Chile
  • Yap’s Outer Islands, Micronesia


  • Alps
  • Asturias, Spain
  • Azure Coast, Turkey
  • Big Sur, California
  • Canadian Maritimes
  • Cordillera Terraces, Philippines
  • Danang to Hue, Vietnam
  • Gaspé Peninsula, Canada
  • Gobi desert, China and Mongolia 
  • Lake District, England
  • Loire Valley, France
  • Mendoza, Argentina
  • Montenegro
  • North Island, New Zealand
  • Norway’s Coast
  • Piedmont region, Virginia
  • Rif Mountains, Morocco
  • Sawtooth Mountains, Idaho
  • Tuscany
  • Vermont


  • Acropolis, Greece
  • Angkor, Cambodia
  • Cyberspace
  • Easter Island, Chile
  • Fatehpur Sikri, India
  • Great Wall, China
  • Karnak, Egypt 
  • Kuelap, Peru 
  • Leptis Magna, Libya
  • Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.
  • Machu Picchu, Peru
  • Mesa Verde, Colorado
  • Petra, Jordan
  • Potala Palace, Tibet
  • Pyramids, Egypt
  • Sagrada Família, Spain
  • Samarkand and Bukhara, Uzbekistan 
  • Terra Cotta Army, China 
  • Taj Mahal, India
  • Vatican City 

51st Place of a Lifetime

  • The Ocean
  • Space