National Geographic Travel Unveils Annual Best of the World List

by Richard D'Ambrosio
National Geographic Travel Unveils Annual Best of the World List

Photo: JuliusKielaitis/

If your clients asked you, “Where should I go next?” would you answer Ethiopia?

That’s what National Geographic Traveler magazine is advising its 9.6 million readers, this week publishing its annual Best of the World list of the 21 must-see destinations to visit in the year ahead.

National Geographic called Harar, Ethiopia, “contradictory” and “the most surprising city in east Africa,” rarely traveled to by tourists. “The ‘City of Saints’ boasts 82 mosques, as well as Ethiopia’s best beer, strongest khat (an ubiquitous narcotic plant), and highest quality coffee,” the editors said.

Second place went to Jujuy Province, located in outermost northwest Argentina. Home to the Quebrada de Humahuaca World Heritage site, photos of the region’s Cerro de los Siete Colores (Hill of Seven Colors) will “elevate your Instagram,” the magazine advised.

Tbilisi, Georgia, took third place on the NatGeo list. “Development is reshaping the cityscape of Georgia’s capital city at a dizzying pace,” the magazine said. “Traditional Georgian experiences — the 24-hour sulphur baths, the plump khinkali (spiced meat dumplings), and the legendary hospitality of the locals — persevere in disarmingly disorganized Old Tbilisi.”

The magazine’s editors devised their list based on their opinions of each destination’s urban environment, culture and natural surroundings.

"We looked for cities that bustle with new energy and intrigue,” said George Stone, National Geographic Traveler's editor in chief, as well as parklands “with vitality and ecological protection,” and “communities rich in local character that offer opportunities for cultural engagement."

Other destinations on the list include Malmö, Sweden (8th); Dublin, Ireland (10th); Phnom Penh, Cambodia (13th); and Friesland, Netherlands (20th).

Not every getaway requires a passport
In the U.S., NatGeo is recommending the North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii (7th); Cleveland, Ohio (14th); and San Antonio, Texas (18th).

While the North Shore of Oahu is famous for its surfing, local farms such as Poamoho and Kahuku, “are helping (as the ubiquitous bumper stickers state) ‘Keep the Country Country’ by cultivating homegrown crops and agritourist experiences,” the magazine said. The North Shore’s Mohala Farms allows guests to “exchange labor for lodging.”

Cleveland’s long evolving industrial revival gained it a spot on this year’s list, with a spotlight on the city’s eight theaters at Playhouse Square; the indie-music venue Beachland Ballroom; and its “meat-lovers’ restaurants like the Black Pig and the Plum.” The magazine also recommends visitors “shop and stroll in the revived Hingetown neighborhood and Waterloo Arts District.”

In 2018, San Antonio will celebrate its tri-centennial. The magazine suggests travelers consider joining a year-long party that kicks off this New Year’s Eve with a concert and fireworks extravaganza, “or at any of more than 550 scheduled arts and cultural events.” San Antonio ‘s five missions comprise Texas’ first World Heritage site.

Nearby but a world away
Labrador, Canada, took high marks; as did Oaxaca, Mexico. Fifth-place Oaxaca was featured despite the September earthquakes that rocked the area. Oaxaca’s local markets have “dazzlingly vibrant wool rugs and other handmade textiles” using fruit, insects, and other natural colorants.

Also noteworthy on the list are Tétouan, Morocco; and in the Middle East, the ninth-ranked Jordan Trail. The 400-mile Jordan Trail “is a newly minted hiking path linking ancient trade routes. Divided into eight separate sections, the trail leads through Jordanian forests, canyons, deserts, and along the shores of the Red Sea.”

National Geographic Traveler publishes six times a year and has 15 international editions.

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