Top 10 City Boat Trips:
Venice Vaporetto, Italy
Photograph by Don Hills, My Shot
Although gondolas may be romantic, true Venetians speed around the city in vaporettos, or water buses. You can get in the mood of the city straight from the airport. A vaporetto will take you into the city with stops at Murano and the Lido, Venice's beach, before dropping you off right in St. Mark's Square. Other routes head to different parts of the city.
Top 10 Canal Trips:
Amsterdam, the Netherlands
Photograph by Michael Gurrey, My Shot
Low bridges, arching trees, and historic narrow houses line Amsterdam's many canals. Take a sightseeing or dinner cruise, or, better yet, stay in a houseboat hotel and make the canals your base. Alternatively, you can pedal along the canals yourself: Canal Bike rents pedal boats, which you can hire at one mooring and drop off at another.
Top 10 U.S. Boardwalks
Coney Island, New York
Photograph by Kevin Kerr, Aurora Photos
Dubbed "Sodom by the Sea" back in the 19th century for its gambling houses and brothels, the Coney Island Boardwalk began a comeback in the 1980s. More recently, the city revitalized the legendary amusement area Luna Park with 19 shiny new rides, including the much-hyped Air Race, a thrill inspired by aerial racing, and an entertainment line-up heavy on magic and juggling shows.
See the complete Top 10 U.S. Boardwalks »
Top 10 Sailing Cruises:
Ha Long Bay, Vietnam
Photograph by James Wilkinson, My Shot
Ha Long Bay, or the Bay of the Descending Dragon, in northeastern Vietnam is scattered with some 3,000 precipitous, strangely sculpted limestone islands and outcrops, and dotted with small floating villages and deserted sandy beaches. In spring and early summer the water is particularly calm and clear. This UNESCO World Heritage site is best explored by a cruise on a junk.
Top 10 City Bus Trips:
New York City
Photograph by Richard Wynn, My Shot
Start in Harlem, famous for its African-American culture, then it's on to Central Park and Fifth Avenue. The bus takes you down Broadway and through the theater district—show business mecca—passing Greenwich Village and Little Italy farther south. End at Whitehall Terminal and ride the Staten Island Ferry with spectacular views of the Statue of Liberty, Brooklyn Bridge, and Manhattan.
Top 10 Ancient Highways:
Nakasendo Highway, Japan
Photograph by Michael S. Yamashita/National Geographic Stock
This narrow, 17th-century highway linking Kyoto and Edo (modern Tokyo) was built along the route of an older trail. Running for 310 miles (500 kilometers) along the shores of Lake Biwa, across mountain ranges and down onto the Kantō plain around Edo, it was meant for horses and pedestrians—the Japanese did not use carts. Parts of the tranquil route have been preserved and restored, which means that you have to walk them, as most of its original travelers did.
Top 10 Trolley Rides:
#28, Lisbon, Portugal
Photograph by Volkmar K. Wentzel/National Geographic Stock
Lisbon's #28 tram crosses the city from east to west, climbing away from the center through the narrow cobbled streets and steep gradients of the Bairro Alto, Baixa, and Alfama districts. The small vintage trams navigate tight turns past markets, restaurants, and churches, and sometimes get caught in traffic jams. You can get off in the Graça neighborhood and catch a #37 bus to the Castelo de São Jorge, where you can enjoy views of the whole city.
Top 10 Long-Distance Trails:
Milford Track, New Zealand
Photograph by Christine Cruz, My Shot
Described by hiking aficionados as the finest walk in the world, the track—from Glade Wharf on the northern shores of Lake Te Anu to Sandfly Point near Milford Sound on the west coast of the South Island—takes four days. The track starts by meandering through the beech-tree forests of the Clinton Valley, climbs to the Mackinnon Pass through subalpine tussock and alpine herbs, and then descends into the more diverse forest of the Arthur Valley with its ferns, mosses, and lichens.
Top 10 Underground Walks:
Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky
Photograph by Stephen Alvarez/National Geographic Stock
Place-names such as Grand Avenue and Frozen Niagara give a notion of what's in the world's longest cave system. The oldest part was formed 10 million years ago, 9.5 million before Home sapiens made an appearance.
Top 10 Whitewater Rafting Trips:
Futaleufú River, Chile
Photograph by Karl Weatherly/Getty
Plunging from glacier-fed lakes in the high Andes of Patagonia, the limpid blue waters of the Futaleufú River offer superb rafting among mountain scenery of alpine grandeur. Stretches are suitable for beginners, but there are also Class V rapids that will challenge even the most expert rafters.
Top 10 Cycle Routes:
Cape Argus Pick 'n' Pay Cycle Tour, South Africa
Photograph by Schalk Van Zuydam/AP
At 68 miles (109 kilometers), the Cape Argus ride isn't the world's longest open-ride race, but with some 35,000 participants, it may be the biggest. The course does a loop of the Cape Peninsula with constant ups and downs. If you're just happy to finish, you'll enjoy the many coastal sections and the portions through Table Mountain National Park.
Top 10 Funiculars and Cable Cars:
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Photograph by Luis Veiga/Getty
The journey takes you first to Urca Hill above Guanabara Bay, then up to the summit of Sugarloaf Mountain (1,300 feet/393 meters). In the distance is Rio's famous statue, "Christ the Redeemer," on Corcovado Mountain, while the city and its beaches fan out below, splendid at sunset.
Top 10 Elevator Rides:
Taipei 101, Taiwan
Photograph by Neil Wade, My Shot
This is where you experience rocket travel without leaving Earth. The 1,667-foot (508-meter), 101-story building—the tallest in the world—has 67 elevators, including two to the observation deck that are the world's fastest. Other elevators are two stories high and open on two floors simultaneously.
Top 10 Film Footsteps:
Monument Valley, Arizona/Utah
Photograph by Guido Tramontano Guerritore, My Shot
When you drive into Monument Valley, you feel as though you are stepping onto the set of a cowboy movie. Monument Valley was a favorite of director John Ford, who made many Westerns here, beginning with Stagecoach in 1939. The mesa, buttes, cliffs, gullies, and canyons turn wonderful shades of pink and orange as the sun rises and sets.
Top 10 Sacred Caves:
Elephanta Caves, Gharapuri Island, India
Photograph by Rekha Bhatt, My Shot
Carved out of a hillside in the fifth century, the ecstatic faces and swaying bodies of Hindu deities in the temples of the Elephanta Caves seem to be listening to the drone of ancient Indian instruments. The sinuous curves of the Siva Nataraja, or many-armed cosmic dancer, and the three faces of the Trimurti, representing the creator, preserver, and destroyer aspects of the god Siva, are as expressive today as centuries ago.
Top 10 Historic Pilgrimages:
March for Jobs and Freedom, Washington, D.C.
Photograph by AP
Photos of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom show a sea of people flooding the National Mall and enjoying the festive mood. More than 250,000 joined the rally between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial, some having traveled up from the Deep South. Their reward—Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech—is surely one of the most stirring orations ever delivered.
Top 10 Nocturnal Festivals:
Chichibu Yomatsuri, Chichibu City, Japan
Photograph by Kyodo News/AP
Six ornate floats, each representing one of the city’s protective gods and decorated with lanterns, tapestries, and carvings, are hauled on ropes by hundreds of chanting devotees toward the city hall. Stalls selling snacks and rice wine line the crowded streets, and fireworks blast colors through the black skies. The festival takes place every year on December 2 and 3. Chichibu is a 90-minute train ride from central Tokyo.
Top 10 Harvest Festivals:
Photograph by Joyce McClure, My Shot
In late December, men journey to the sea to gather water so Incwala can begin. Branches from the sacred lusekwane tree are woven into a bower for the king, and only when he eats the first fruit can his people partake of the harvest. Visitors are allowed at the ceremony, though photography requires a permit.
Top 10 Pre-Lenten Celebrations:
Carnival, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Photograph by Brian Pazevic, My Shot
The world’s most famous Carnival is an extravagant four-day celebration finishing on Shrove Tuesday. One of the highlights is the lively Rio Samba Parade, taking place at the impressive 70,000-seat Sambódromo stadium.
Top 10 Golf Courses:
Pebble Beach, California
Photograph by Amber Nelson, My Shot
Pebble Beach Golf Links may be the best known course in the United States. As you work your way over the narrow fairways, make sure you pause to drink in the outstanding views of the rocky shores that make up this part of California’s Pacific coast. There’s an especially good vista at the 18th hole, a 501-meter (548-yard) par 5. Since the wind can be a big factor here, be sure to select the proper club if you want to score well.
Top 10 Sporting Events:
The 24 Hours of Le Mans, France
Photograph by Jean Francois Monier/Getty
Skill, speed, and stamina are the three s’s that mark the world’s best automobile race, the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The race, organized by Automobile Club de L’Ouest, bridges past and present on the automotive circuit. The competition is set on a nonpermanent track at Circuit de la Sarthe near the city of Le Mans on the Sarthe River. Roughly 46 cars start the race, in a series of classes that include prototype high-performance vehicles, dedicated race cars, and street cars. The diversity of autos gives the race a mix of old-fashioned and modern competitors. The winner is the car, driven by a team of three drivers, that covers the greatest distance in 24 hours. The first Le Mans contest took place in May 1923; today it is held every June. The race begins at 4 p.m., and for 24 hours the sound of roaring engines fills 8 miles (13 kilometers) of French countryside.
Top 10 Climbs:
Photograph by Karam Puri, My Shot
Flat-topped Kilimanjaro is Africa’s highest mountain. Located on Tanzania’s northern border with Kenya, the mountain is made up of three extinct volcanoes, Kibo, Mawenzi, and Shira. The highest peak, Uhuru, is 19,340 feet (5,899 meters) high. Reaching the top of Kilimanjaro is exhilarating. Take the Machame Route up so you can see the region’s wonderful animals and birds. Then you’ll begin the trek across the Shira Plateau through the Grand Barranco Canyon and on to the top. If all goes as planned, you’ll reach Stella Point with a chance to continue around Kibo’s rim to Uhuru.
Top 10 Horseback Rides:
Photograph by Jure Kravanja, My Shot
A ride through this stunning part of Italy is a happy combination of idyllic Tuscan landscape seen from the backs of fine horses and a chance to study some of the world’s great art treasures in Florence and Siena. The renovated castle (Castello di Tocchi) where guests stay keeps the ancient charm while providing modern comfort. The host, who also runs a cooking school, is marvelously entertaining, and the preparation of food and choice of wine are celebrated here with near religious fervor.
Top 10 Ski Runs & Lodges:
Photograph by Denise Gelineau, My Shot
These two towering mountains provide excellent skiing with a huge vertical drop. Several decades ago, the mountains were mainly the domain of courageous hikers. Today, Whistler’s village offers everything snowboarders and skiers crave: cafés, international stores, and more than a hundred restaurants that cater to all tastes.
Top 10 Beaches:
Photograph by Mohamed Iujaz Zuhair, My Shot
Whether your dream beach trip consists of spending a few pampered nights in a four-star resort or swimming among tropical fish some 80 feet (24 meters) underwater, the Maldives are the sort of islands where either—or both—can come true. Straddling the Equator southwest of Sri Lanka, the 1,102 islands that make up the Maldives form 26 atolls. The soft air enveloping the archipelago blends into a beautiful palm-fringed haze.
Top 10 Walks & Hiking Tours:
Cinque Terre, Italy
Photograph by Jeff Rice, My Shot
Imagine walking a spectacular coastal path with the Mediterranean on one side, mountains on the other, and Italian fishing villages just ahead. Now multiply that experience by five. Welcome to the captivating region linking the “five villages” of the Cinque Terre. Footpaths cross the terraced slopes of the Riviera di Levante to hamlets with pastel-colored buildings and contrasting shutters and lead to brightly painted boats in small harbors. Walk past trattorias and a solitary abbey to a rocky promontory with the sea always in full view and a clear sky overhead. Then continue on to the wooded hills, descending into fashionable Portofino and sail across the Gulf of Poets.
Top 10 Gardens:
Château de Versailles
Photograph by Pete Turner/Getty
The famous French landscape designer André Le Nôtre laid out these gardens southwest of Paris in the 17th century at the behest of Louis XIV. The Sun King wanted them to magnify the glory of his palace at Versailles, which was itself a monument to his absolute rule. The 250 acres (101 hectares) are riddled with paths that lead to flower beds, quiet corners decorated with classical statuary, ornamental lakes, and a canal that King Louis used for gondola rides.
Top 10 Hideaways & Inns:
Photograph by Getty Images
Located in the heart of County Mayo in western Ireland, this luxurious castle, dating from the 12th century, is as romantic a place as one could desire. Rooms are decorated in cheerful pastels. The hotel has two dining rooms and three bars; a very traditional afternoon tea is served in the drawing room. An interesting array of activities is offered outdoors; there are three running trails, two tennis courts, archery and falconry lessons, and a tour boat that docks at the castle's jetty twice a day to ferry guests across Lake Corrib. The resort also provides tours led by pony-drawn carriages or traps around the grounds.
Top 10 Trains:
The Blue Train, South Africa
Photograph by Getty Images
The famous Blue Train makes the 994-mile (1,600-kilometer) run from Cape Town to Johannesburg (24 hours) three times a week in high season (summer) and once a week each way in the off-season. The train travels only at speeds up to 68 miles an hour (110 kilometers an hour); the slow, smooth ride allows you plenty of time to soak in the spectacular scenery. There are two kinds of accommodations on the train: the deluxe suites with a lounge and full-tub bathroom and the luxury suites with a private shower and toilet. Each carriage has only four suites. Food and service are outstanding. When you first board, champagne awaits you in your compartment.
Top 10 Lakes, Canals & Watery Wonders:
Li River, China
Photograph by Dan Riley, My Shot
The 51-mile (83-kilometer) stretch of the Li River between Guilin and Yangshuo cities in China has inspired writers and artists for thousands of years. Here the Li River snakes through a fairy-tale landscape of conical limestone peaks, its smooth waters exquisitely mirroring the magical scenery. The vistas are particularly enchanting when flowing mists weave themselves around the peaks, hiding them and then exposing them in moments of surprise. The mountains are vestiges of ancient eroded seabeds that support graceful bamboo groves and terraced rice paddies. Each bend of the river reveals something new and interesting to see, from lumbering water buffalo pulling carts or cooling off in the river to fishermen gliding on narrow bamboo rafts.
Top 10 Shopping Avenues:
Bahnhofstrasse, Zürich, Switzerland
Photograph by Fabrice Coffrini/Getty
The Bahnhofstrasse, Zürich's resplendent, tree-lined exclusive shopping avenue, stretches a mile (1.4 kilometers). You'll find some of Switzerland's top shopping along its length, from top clothing designers to high-end options for shoes, furs, accessories, china, and jewelry. And, of course, Swiss watches.
Our ten favorite European trains don’t necessarily offer the fastest journeys—just the most memorable.
Traveler Magazine Features
2015 Traveler Photo Contest
Explore the top photos, share your favorites, and browse all entries.