Editor’s Letter: 50 Places of a Lifetime

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.

Oct_cov.jpgA 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


  1. Postcrossing:Big Sur Coast 的壮丽
    August 1, 2014, 2:43 am

    […] 也被 國家地理雜誌National Geographic 选为人生五十个要去的地方 “50 Places of a Lifetime"之一 […]

  2. Billyk
    July 18, 2014, 7:59 am

    The place to look for Adventure of a life time with Gorillas is Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in Uganda. The whole trek may be some what tiresome but the Dream of Coming face to Face with some of the last Mountain Gorillas in the Wild keeps you going on and on until you come to the ultimate price
    If you once ever think of getting there here are the guys who can help you make your dream come true
    these guys have got offices in Uganda and Rwanda and are a trusted company that has lead tours time to time since 1996

  3. […] renderam reconhecimento internacional pela mídia especializada em viagens como: O título de “50 destinations of a lifetime” pela National Geographic Traveller , ou mesmo 1 dos 1.000 lugares para conhecer antes de morrer da autora Patrícia […]

  4. Lene
    January 27, 2014, 10:34 am

    this is a forgotten place to visit…
    the main central island in Mediterranean Sea, SARDINIA!

  5. Kasu
    Sri Lanka
    September 10, 2013, 9:33 am

    wooow…what a beautiful world. Sri Lanka….A land Like no other.
    Set in the Indian Ocean in South Asia, the tropical island nation of Sri Lanka has a history dating back to the birth of time. It is a place where the original soul of Buddhism still flourishes and where nature’s beauty remains abundant and unspoilt.

    Few places in the world can offer the traveller such a remarkable combination of stunning landscapes, pristine beaches, captivating cultural heritage and unique experiences within such a compact location. Within a mere area of 65,610 kilometres lie 8 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, 1,330 kilometres of coastline – much of it pristine beach – 15 national parks showcasing an abundance of wildlife, nearly 500,000 acres of lush tea estates, 250 acres of botanical gardens, 350 waterfalls, 25,000 water bodies, to a culture that extends back to over 2,500 years.

    This is an island of magical proportions, once known as Serendib, Taprobane, the Pearl of the Indian Ocean, and Ceylon. Discover refreshingly Sri Lanka!

  6. yatramantra
    January 24, 2013, 7:28 pm

    Kerala-the evergreen strip of land blessed by the eternal flow of natural beauty from the brink of heaven makes the world rightly call it –‘The God’s own country’. This narrow masterpiece of nature’s craftsmanship in the south-western corner of the Indian peninsula is a perfect cradle for all the comfort seeking, travel thirsty people out there. With its vast green hills, mysterious beaches, serene backwaters, rich and diverse forests coupled with warm welcoming hearts of the keralites makes this a perfect getaway, ensuring a rejuvenating experience to all in this time of chaos and crisis.

  7. […] de “soul of a destination” Het is nu al een positief effect te zien. Montenegro behoort tot de 50 places of a lifetime van National Geografic, men motiveert mensen echt hun eigen passie te volgen. Het belangrijkste […]

  8. Abbas Tyabji
    Hyderabad Andhra Pradesh, India
    May 1, 2012, 2:23 am

    I was extremely happy to see the mention of Hyderabad in the 50 Tours of a Lifetime feature in the May 2012 issue of NGT, a rare mention of one of the hidden heritage gems of India. I am a photo journalist and organise tours of Hyderabad as also surrounding heritage/natural sites and my name appears if the latest Lonely Planet on India. I would be happy to mail u pictures of some of the highlights of our city and some of the places worth visiting around like Bidar, Gulbarga, Bijapur,Badami, Aihole, Pattadakkal, Hampi etc which could be covered in a road trip from Hyderabad in a week or so, which I normally organise.

    Your mention will definitely boost interest in this rather neglected region. THANKS My mail id


  9. RomanticKeralaTours.com
    Kerala, South India
    April 7, 2012, 10:19 am

    I had to travel out of Kerala to find out how luck I am to be born in Kerala. Truly its the Gods own County. Welcome everyone.

  10. […] de “soul of a destination” Het is nu al een positief effect te zien. Montenegro behoort tot de 50 places of a lifetime van National Geografic, men motiveert mensen echt hun eigen passie te volgen. Het belangrijkste […]

  11. alberto valdez
    new jersey eeuu
    August 21, 2011, 9:39 pm

    naci en mendoza , bella ciudad, limpia tranquila, adorada por todos los argentinos y extranjeros.

  12. jeff
    February 19, 2011, 4:46 pm

    I have been to Fatehpur Sikri, India and would recommend all to read up on the history of the place to be able to fully assimilate the beauty therein. The guides will not give you the best of history, but no one should give the localization of myths a miss
    Aquarium Secret

  13. Beste telefoons
    February 2, 2011, 2:28 am

    Wow what a list. I looked at some of the places in Google maps and man what a great list. Wish i could visit every place on that list but that will be difficult.

  14. prefabrik
    January 8, 2011, 3:27 am

    great list. It’s so deep and it shows us definitely great places to live. thanks National Geographic.

  15. 100 places to see before you die
    November 30, 2010, 12:31 pm

    Great list, check out our website for our top 100 places to see before you die 100placestovisit(dot)com

  16. Linda
    November 19, 2010, 10:46 pm

    Great list but surely the Cayman Islands might have been considered?
    Cayman Islands Real Estate

  17. Inchirieri Masini
    October 30, 2010, 1:31 pm

    Oh! i really like your article.. its my first time to hear about this.

  18. Jackson
    August 17, 2010, 11:01 am

    Some really nice list. It would be a miracle for an average person to visit all these places in their lifetime. If Maui made it to the list, it would be nice as Maui is extremely beautiful.
    Jackson, Maui beach vacation club.

  19. tadywankenobi
    August 12, 2010, 1:34 pm

    Living in Rathgar in Dublin, I found the entry about that region wonderfully thought provoking and echoed the true nature of that part of Dublin. I have the opportunity to pass the author on the street when he is in town and I feel good that he has taken this part of the world to his heart and has so aptly described it.
    This standard leads me to believe that the other entries are embued with as much knowledge and as many sensibilities.
    Unfortunately, I do have one small criticism. My wife is Montenegrin and as such, we have spent much time there. Sveti Stefan (the whole town) has been rented to a rich multi millionaire and is now closed to the general public indefinitely. We have no idea when it will be open again.

  20. john ray
    August 6, 2010, 4:29 pm

    I think the list is so good. The writer did a great job researching all the places. I agree with a lot of the places but not all. Over all you did a great job with the list. Hughes Net

  21. Josh
    July 12, 2010, 3:38 pm

    Inspiring list – means I’ve got sooo much travelling yet to do. There’s a few places there which I am eyeing up…so far I’ve been to Venezuela’s Tepuis, Sahara and Greek Islands. I’ve also been to a few of the cities there such as Delhi, Venice and Istanbul. I’ve spent most of my life in London too ;-) Congratulations on your 25th anniversary too!! Josh from bad credit mobile contracts.

  22. ranjith
    July 6, 2010, 1:19 pm

    i invite everybody to my gods own country(KERALA)

  23. tad
    April 16, 2010, 8:03 pm

    Is this a joke? Have you really traveled?

  24. Archipelago Mozambique
    March 23, 2010, 8:15 am

    It is no wonder that travelers have talked of Mozambique as a mystical and magical place; this region is simply mesmerizing and a real privilege to be able to visit and with an increasing number of visitors now really is the time to go!

  25. Arielcortez99
    November 20, 2009, 7:43 am

    Berlin deserves to be on this list because it is one of the most beautiful and interesting cities in the world. In addition, Hotels in Berlin are among the most economical and best quality on the continent.

  26. Kumaresh
    October 9, 2009, 4:40 am

    I have been to Fatehpur Sikri, India and would recommend all to read up on the history of the place to be able to fully assimilate the beauty therein. The guides will not give you the best of history, but no one should give the localization of myths a miss. Ofcourse, the majestic Taj nearby, one would have too much to see.

  27. Marija
    October 3, 2009, 10:28 am

    I was truly bedazzled when I saw my country on the cover of the magazine. Montenegro is a very beautiful country indeed but I’m not that sure that I will sort it between other “Countries Unbound” cause most of the people still live in a world full of prejudices and I’m not talking about the old people only… We do not represent and we never will a free country, a country not restrained by plethora of bonds… Maybe they had in mind a country unbound only by its beauty… However I’m really proud we found our place among other places of a lifetime :)

  28. Shane
    September 24, 2009, 1:26 am

    Its good the know that Barcelona is one of the 50 places. This city is very famous in Spain, one of the top tourist destination last year. It also have lots of beautiful Barcelona Spain hotels that can accommodation its visitors.

  29. Mike Morgan
    September 18, 2009, 1:46 pm

    What a list!
    Living here in Trinidad California, it’s exciting to see we made your list – “Wild Places” – Coast Redwoods California.
    Great to see the Cook Islands made your list too – I love little Atiu. While I’m sure it was difficult to not include Trinidad under “Paradise Found”, I wonder what number we were?
    Congratulations on 25 years. Now I need to get back out there and see more. Thanks for the inspiration, Mike