Seasoned or occasional travelers, we all have trips that we dream of taking, places praised by friends on their return from vacation, or discovered according to our readings. Some even list them. Here we offer our own list of the 500 most fascinating and memorable places in the world, ranked according to their success with the Lonely Planet community. They will challenge you, move you or simply make you want to share your experience.
How did we establish this ranking of the best destinations in the world?
We started by making a list of all the essentials mentioned in the Lonely Planet guides, i.e. thousands of sites and monuments cited by our authors for years. After establishing a preselection, we then asked all members of the Lonely Planet community to vote for their 20 favorite sites. According to a mathematical principle, the places systematically cited at the start of this top 20 won more points than those mentioned many times but at the end of the classification. We were thus able to establish a top 500. The results were tight, except for site n ° 1: with 10,162 votes, it occupied a special place.
Here, for the first time, is the ranking of the best destinations in the world by Lonely Planet. We hope it inspires you to make a list of your own desires. And while waiting to discover this top 500, here are the top 10 destinations!
1. Temples of Angkor, the Hindu paradise on Earth (Cambodia)
The top-ranked site won an overwhelming victory, 36% behind the next site, while results for second place were very tight. What is the secret of the success of the archaeological site of Angkor?
The largest temple in the world dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu, dating from the 12th century, Angkor Wat is a little out of place in a predominantly Buddhist Cambodia. Huge representation of Mount Meru, the stay of the Hindu gods, it is the undisputed centerpiece of the site. It is made up of thousands of sandstone blocks decorated with bas-reliefs so delicate and graceful that they seem to be sculpted by the gods; they illustrate the legends of the Ramayana, the Mahabharata and the Puranas. This magnificent monument is the most precious vestige of a Hindu kingdom that once extended to Burma, Laos and southern China.
Even in Southeast Asia, so rich in temples, Angkor is out of the ordinary. This complex contains more than 1,000 temples, shrines and tombs whose towers rise like those of a city lost in the jungle of northern Cambodia.
Since the neighboring city of Siem Reap is served by international flights, it cannot be said that Angkor is secret, and yet the visitor who ventures among the roots piercing through ancient walls and the effigies of deities covered with climbing plants will have l feeling like an adventurer discovering virgin land behind a curtain of greenery.
Over the centuries, the inhabitants of this heavenly city abandoned Hinduism for Buddhism. In the temples, the two mythologies mingle. Arriving at dawn in the ruins of the Bayon temple is a unique experience: the benevolent faces of the Avalokiteshvara, bodhisattva of Compassion, then emerge gently in the mist, like celestial apparitions. The traveler is also seized with emotion in front of the overgrown ruins of Ta Prohm, a 12th century temple almost entirely engulfed by the jungle, which has changed little since the arrival of the first European explorers in Angkor in the 17th century. Angkor also offers such unique experiences that travelers often spend several weeks there to soak up the splendor of these temples and remains.
Scattered over more than 400 km2 around are sacred pools and stone bridges with ramps depicting demons brandishing monstrous snakes, as well as vestiges of temples. Some have become unavoidable, such as the temple of Banteay Srei, whose stone sculptures are among the most delicate in Angkor, and Kbal Spean, not far away, with its river bed carved with innumerable linga (symbols of Shiva).
Angkor is a powerful testimony to the ambitions of human creativity and to man’s basic need to leave a lasting mark. The place generates an awareness dear to Buddhism: nothing material is eternal; over time, nature always takes back its rights. More than a simple ruin worthy of interest, Angkor is an epiphany carved in stone.
2. Great Barrier Reef, an underwater eldorado (Australia)
Second place in our ranking is occupied by a natural wonder that stretches over 3,000 km off the northeast coast of Australia. No need to present the Great Barrier
coral. Let’s just remember that it is the largest coral reef in the world, populated by 400 species of coral and 1,500 species of fish. Some 30 species of whales, dolphins and porpoises have been identified, as well as 6 species of sea turtles and 17 varieties of sea snakes.
The reef risks disappearing or at least losing its splendor. The warming of the oceans is responsible for the bleaching and death of corals and there is nothing to suggest that the phenomenon can be stopped. For the moment, the reef remains an underwater paradise for divers and snorkelers. Even on the surface and around the Queensland coast, this essential ecosystem captivates visitors, with its abundant feathered fauna and its countless tropical islands and beaches.
3. Machu Picchu, the Inca enigma (Peru)
Only a few voices separated the second winner from the third. However, they differ in every way … The blissful contemplation of Machu Picchu from the Sun Gate after four days of trying trekking on the Inca Trail has become a rite of passage during any trip to Peru. The city, dating from the 15th century, is surrounded by a spectacular Andean landscape and suspended above the void, but its main attraction lies in the mystery that surrounds it. It’s a real conundrum. There is no shortage of hypotheses – a royal retreat, a temple of the Virgins of the Sun, an airstrip for extraterrestrials – but none could be confirmed. Even Hiram Bingham, the American amateur archaeologist who discovered the ruins in 1911 and excavated there for years, did not really know what he was looking for (he died mistakenly believing that he had discovered Vilcabamba, the legendary lost city of the Incas .) Today, you can stroll through the mysterious hilltop city, giving free rein to your imagination. Do not miss the ascent of Huayna Picchu, the steep Andean peak that overlooks the ruins, along the vertiginous path leading to the Temple of the Moon.