Unveiling Lonely Planet’s Top Attractions of the World

Guide book giant, Lonely Planet, has lifted the lid on the world’s greatest attractions, naming 500 favourites in its new Ultimate Travel book. While those 500 spots might inspire some fierce globetrotter debate, there’s no denying the top five are worthy winners – and they’re all easier to reach than you think.

Ranked in reverse order, here are the five top attractions of the world:

5. The Taj Mahal (Agra, India)
The world’s greatest monument to love is actually a mausoleum built by Moghul emperor, Shah Jahan, for his favourite wife (of three), Mumtaz Mahal. It’s hard to feel morbid, however, admiring its white marble arches, domes, and minarets. While the design certainly makes an awesome first impression, the Taj Mahal is equally rich with details, offering plenty to explore at India’s best known attraction.

Getting There: Goway’s 7-Day Exotic India is perfect for time-poor travellers wanting to see the highlights, including Delhi, Agra, and Jaipur. Those with an extra week to explore should consider our 15-Day India Odyssey, which also includes travel in Rajasthan and a Ranthambore wildlife safari.

Taj Mahal, India
Taj Mahal

4. The Great Wall of China (Beijing, China)
It can’t actually be seen from space – except perhaps from a very low orbit – but make sure you see it on Earth! Dating back to 206BC, the Great Wall was built in many stages, and no picture can capture the sense of history and wonder one gets from roaming it in person. Two of the best known portions are Badaling and slightly rougher (but also less touristy), Mutianyu. Both give a terrific sense of the Wall’s scale and legacy, and are an easy day trip from Beijing.

Getting There: Goway’s 12-Day Tail of the Dragon goes inland from Beijing, to visit Xi’an and the Li River, ending in bustling Hong Kong. Alternatively, visit the pandas of Chengdu on the 13-Day China Experience, or turn east, towards space-age Shanghai on a 14-Day China Odyssey.

Great Wall of China, Beijing, China
Great Wall of China

3. Machu Picchu (Cusco, Peru)
Machu Picchu, the famed lost city of the Inca, lay abandoned from 1572 to 1911, when it was rediscovered by Yale lecturer, Hiram Bingham. Since then, it’s become one of the world’s hottest travel tickets, often in combination with the 4-day Inca Trail for the athletic and ambitious. If that’s way more energy than you want to spend on holiday, catch the scenic Vistadome train to the summit, on our 2-Day Machu Picchu By Train. Guided tours uncover many of the city’s mysteries, but many more remain open to contemplation as you roam the ruins.

Getting There: Goway offers a wide range of air-inclusive Machu Picchu trips, including the 8-Day Wonders of Peru, which also visits Lake Titicaca, the 7-Day Incan Explorer, or 6-Day Heart of the Incas, both of which focus on the ruins of this great empire. Longer packages are also available, combining Machu Picchu with Argentina and Brazil, or the peerless Galapagos Islands in Ecuador.

Machu PIcchu, Peru
Machu Picchu

2. The Great Barrier Reef (Cairns, Australia)
The only natural wonder to make the top five, the Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest coral reef system, stretching 2,300 kilometres along the Queensland coast. Most visitors base themselves in Cairns or one of the surrounding coastal towns, where abundant sustainable trip options take in the most beautiful sections of the Reef. Meet over 1500 species of fish, 400 species of colourful hard coral, and 130 different sharks and rays as you snorkel, dive, or admire the reef from a semi-submersible or underwater observatory.

Getting There: Aussie Starter Vacations let you design your perfect trip, choosing from a wide range of Australian destinations. Simply include Cairns to see the Great Barrier Reef and away you go.

Great Barrier Reef, Australia
Australia’s Great Barrier Reef

1. Temples of Angkor (Siem Reap, Cambodia)
You can argue the case for many great sites around the world, but few match the size, complexity, mystery, and engineering genius of Angkor, once the centre of the vast Khmer Empire. The centrepiece, Angkor Wat, is the ultimate symbol of Cambodia, and watching it emerge from the darkness at sunrise, or come ablaze with colour at sunset is an experience you’ll never forget. Angkor is thought to have once supported up to a million people – an enormous city for its time – and new temples are still being discovered. Supporting stars include Ta Phrom, Preah Khan, and the city of Angkor Thom, but there is enough here to keep you temple-hopping for weeks if so inclined, to say nothing of the area’s modern-day settlement, delightful Siem Reap.

Getting There: Our 11-Day Angkor Wat and the Beaches of Thailand is a unique itinerary that rewards your temple hopping with some R&R on Thailand’s famous beaches.

Angkor Wat at sunset, Cambodia
Angkor Wat at sunset


Twelve Apostles (Australia)
– These majestic stone stacks are testament to the fierceness of the Southern Ocean, and make a great one or two day trip from Melbourne.

Fjordland National Park (New Zealand) – Rudyard Kipling called New Zealand‘s Milford Sound the Eighth Wonder of the World, but it’s just one of the incredible sights on offer only a step beyond Queenstown.

Milford Sound, New Zealand
Milford Sound

Bagan (Myanmar)
– Widely hailed as ‘the next Angkor’ this massive collection of temples and stupas in Bagan won’t stay a ‘hidden gem’ for long.

Hanoi Old Quarter (Vietnam) – A rare capital city that’s as busy as it is charming, Hanoi is also one of the best value city breaks to be had anywhere.

Temples of Myanmar
Temples of Myanmar

Africa and the Middle East
Fez Medina (Morocco)
– You haven’t really experienced Morocco until you’ve gotten lost in the sights, sounds, smells, and chaos of the oldest walled section of Fez.

Petra (Jordan) – Tucked away behind walls of rock, Petra’s secrets never fail to mystify travellers to Jordan, no matter how popular it seems to get.

Fez at Night, Morocco
Fez at Night

Latin America
Iguassu Falls (Argentina/Brazil)
– The world’s mightiest waterfalls bring together two rivers and two countries – Argentina and Brazil. Eleanor Roosevelt could only muster the words “Poor Niagara.” We’re not going to argue.

Tikal (Guatemala) – Just over the border from Belize lies the world’s second largest ruined city after Angkor. If you really want to understand the Maya, you need to go beyond Mexico to Tikal.

Iguassu Falls, Brazil and Argentina
Iguassu Falls

Colosseum (Italy)
– You’ll hear a lot of negativity heaped on Rome. The chaos, the noise… then feel it all slip away as you wander what’s arguably the most incredible ancient building in Europe.

The Alhambra (Spain) – Europe boasts plenty of palaces, but none match the Alhambra, where Spain’s Christian and Islamic periods come together in a peerless architectural masterpiece.

Colosseum at Sunset, Rome, Italy
Rome’s Colosseum at sunset
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Christian Baines
Christian Baines

Globetrotting Contributing Editor -
Christian’s first globetrotting adventure saw him get lost exploring the streets of Saigon. Following his nose to Asia’s best coffee, two lifelong addictions were born. A freelance writer and novelist, Christian’s travels have since taken him around his native Australia, Asia, Europe, and much of North America. His favourite trips have been through Japan, Spain, and Brazil, though with a love of off-beat, artsy cities, he’ll seize any opportunity to return to Paris, New York, or Berlin.

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