Need some travel bucket list inspiration?
How about taking a trip to the vast yet intricate Forbidden City in Beijing, taking to the roads that follow the rugged shore on the Pacific Coast Highway or exploring Queenstown, New Zealand’s adventure capital?
They’re all locations that are listed in a brand new book by Rough Guides called The Rough Guide to the 100 Best Places on Earth.
It features the destinations Rough Guides’ team of authors and editors believe are ‘unmissable, underrated, up-and-coming or back on the tourist map’.
The book says: ‘Taking in exhilarating mountain scenery, dazzling cityscapes, pristine tropical islands, atmospheric ruins and sweeping savannahs, this book reaches every corner of the globe in the search for 2020’s most spectacular spots.’
Scroll down to discover Talkmore’s Travel’s picks of some of the best places on earth that feature in the book…
The Gorges du Verdon in Provence is hailed by the book as having ‘breathtaking beauty and majesty’. It is peppered with ‘spectacular viewpoints, plunging crevices up to 700m deep and glorious azure-blue lakes’. The tome adds: ‘This area of Provence in France is absolutely irresistible’
The world-famous temples of Angkor dot the Cambodian countryside ‘rising out of the enveloping forest like the classic lost-in-the-jungle ancient ruins of every Hollywood filmmaker’s wildest dreams. Angkor Watt itself, pictured, is made up of five soaring towers hemmed in by a moat. It was built around 1113 and 1150 by Suryavarman II. The book says: ‘Stunning from a distance, its intricacy becomes apparent as you approach, with every surface covered in fine detail. Throughout the day the colour of its stone changes with the light’
Tucked away in Italy’s southern Basilicata region, the guide says there aren’t enough superlatives to describe Matera, pictured. The city is carved out of rock and its cave dwellings were inhabited from the Paleolithic Age until just 60 years ago. The book adds: ‘Be sure to make time to explore a Case Grotte, a reconstructed, traditional cave, to gain a fascinating insight into the beating pulse of Matera, past and present. Zigzag through the sloping streets, pausing at Santa Lucia alle Malve and the Crypt of the Original Sin to take in extraordinary eighth and 13th-century frescoes’
The Forbidden City – or the Imperial Palace – lies in the heart of Beijing and according to the book is among China’s finest monuments. It is encased by a moat and is composed of 11 south-facing Halls or Gates, which are described as ‘exquisite and ornate’. Branching off from this are 800 buildings that have imperial red walls and yellow roof tiles. Elsewhere, jade green, gold and azure blue decorate the woodwork, archways and balconies. According to the book, for many visitors, it’s the side rooms, with their displays of the more ‘intimate accoutrements, that bring home the realities of court life for its inhabitants’
The Pacific Coast Highway follows highways 1 and 101 and runs from the sunny beaches of San Diego to the redwood forests of Northern California. Highway 1 was closed for more than a year in 2017 due to massive landslides but has now re-opened following a $54million reconstruction. The guide says: ‘Hugging the cliffs, the road winds high above the rugged shore, giving dramatic views of white-capped surf pounding against the rocks below and sun-sprinkled waves stretching out across the horizon’
Madagascar is the world’s fourth-largest island and lies over 300 miles off the coast of Africa. It is one of the most isolated landmasses of comparable proportions anywhere in the tropics. Its primary attraction is its ‘postcard-perfect beaches, turquoise lagoons, whispering palm plantations, craggy islets and snorkel-friendly coral reefs’. The book adds: ‘For adventurous travellers, however, Madagascar really comes into its own away from the beaches. This immense tropical island is sometimes referred to as the Eighth Continent on account of its unique biodiversity, which incorporates an estimated 10,000 animal and plant species found nowhere else in the world’
According to the book, Northern Slovenia’s Kamniške-Savinja Alps are among the most stunning and least spoilt mountain ranges in Europe. And its big attraction is the impossibly picturesque Logarska dolina (Logar Valley), pictured. The guide says: ‘Formed during the Ice Age, the 7km-long U-shaped glaciated valley features a level, green valley floor covered with flower-speckled meadows and beech woods, enclosed by step-like cliff sides riddled with glacial boulders, waterfalls, springs, streams and a majestic wreath of jagged grey peaks, most of which top 2,000m’
The scattering of limestone pinnacles jutting out of the smooth waters of Halong Bay in Vietnam is an incredible sight, says the book, adding that dropping anchor to explore small islands and caves is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The guide adds that the best junk boats have private cabins and serve gourmet food and in the early morning you can pull back the curtains to watch the sunlight dancing on the emerald green water. A cheaper way to explore the area is to take the ferry from Halong City (Tuan Chau Island) to Cat Ba Island, pictured, which ‘reveals a glimpse of the majesty of Halong Bay at a fraction of the cost’
An aerial view of Cape Town, which the guide says is one of Africa’s ‘most beautiful and most visited cities’. The book adds there is an array of high-octane activities to take part in from paragliding to kite surfing and partying. Away from the thrills, there are ‘fabulous beaches, rolling vineyards and fine museums’
The Ngorongoro Conservation Area in northern Tanzania, pictured, has been a designated World Heritage Site since 1979. And despite the high tourist numbers, hype and expense, the book says it lives up to all expectations. It adds: ‘Ngorongoro’s highlight is an enormous volcanic crater, formed by the same immense geological upheavals as the Great Rift Valley. Once a mountain as high as Kilimanjaro, about three million years ago Ngorongoro blew itself to bits, covering the Serengeti in ash while the crater floor sank into the mountain. Today, the rim stands at an impressive 2,285m.’ The area has an abundance of wildlife and has the world’s densest population of lions, hyenas and elephants – and is home to some of East Africa’s last black rhinos
The book describes the capital of Turkmenistan, Ashgabat, as a ‘shining beacon on the desert’s edge’. And that’s partly because all public buildings, including the Wedding Palace, pictured, must be clad in white marble, ideally Italian Carrara
Former Mongol leader Genghis Khan has his face plastered on everything from banknotes to cigarette packets in Mongolia. And the Genghis Khan Equestrian Statue, 54km (33 miles) from the Mongolian capital of Ulaanbaatar, pays homage to him with a ‘modern, man-made structure of titanic proportions’. It is the largest equestrian statue in the world at 44 metres tall and made using 250 tonnes of stainless steel. According to the book, you can climb to the head of the horse for panoramas over the surrounding countryside. It adds: ‘The visitor centre contains an idiosyncratic museum with traditional Mongolian costumes and portraits of the Great Khans’
Only three of the great Pyramids of Giza have withstood the ravages of time, and according to the book, no other monuments are so instantly recognised around the world. However, the guide adds that ‘comparatively few foreigners realise that there are at least 115 further pyramids spread across 70km of desert, from the outskirts of Cairo to the edge of the Fayoum Oasis’. The book says: ‘During the daytime, the tourist hordes dispel the mystique, but visit at sunset, dawn or late at night and you’ll find that their brooding majesty returns’
The Monument Valley, pictured, straddles the state line of Arizona and Utah and is the ‘classic southwest American landscape of stark sandstone buttes and forbidding pinnacles of rock, poking from an endless expanse of drifting red sands’. The book says: ‘Moviemakers have flocked here since the early days of Hollywood, the sheer majesty of the place still takes your breath away. Add the fact that it remains a stronghold of Navajo culture, and Monument Valley is one of the world’s must-sees’
Norway’s long coastline is punctuated by more than 1,000 fjords, which reach all the way from Oslo in the southeast to the Arctic north. Many visitors flock to the Lofoten Islands, pictured, and according to the guide, the sights there have converted many a visitor into a firm Norway enthusiast. The book says: ‘The fjords are beautiful, timeless and everyone’s idea of the soul of Norway’
Iceland is included as one of the best places to visit thanks to its ‘lunar lava fields, creaking glaciers and electric-blue geothermal pools’. The tome says: ‘It’s a place of dramatic contrasts: bleak and blasted, yet intensely beautiful, full of grinding ice and fiery eruptions, with a tiny capital city that generates a huge amount of quirky, energetic culture.’ Pictured is Isafjordur town, in the West Fjords region
Ethiopia is included in the guide thanks to being an ‘enigmatic and utterly beguiling country with endless intrigue’. It’s a largely Orthodox Christian country and its religious festivals and structures are ‘something to behold’. Pictured are the sunken churches of Lalibela. The book says: ‘They were hand-carved out of red rock below the ground some 900 years ago and are an astonishing feat of engineering’
One of the star attractions of Turkey, the otherworldly terrain of Cappadocia, pictured, has ‘hills dotted with fantastical forms and honeycombed with cavern towns that give way to boulder-strewn plains’. In the fourth century AD, humans started to carve a labyrinth of cave dwellings and tunnels into, and beneath, the stone – some dug 18-storeys deep. The guide suggests: ‘One of the best experiences here is bedding down in a rock-hewn hotel before taking a hot-air balloon ride to glimpse the jaw-dropping landscapes from above’
Dubbed the adventure capital of New Zealand, Queenstown is ‘superbly set by the deep-blue Lake Wakatipu and hemmed in by craggy mountains.’ The book says: ‘Queenstown has a distinctly European flavour, with its snowy peaks and the still waters of Lake Wakitipu at its centre. Locals and visitors alike gather in cosy restaurants, spilling out onto the pedestrianized streets to trade stories of fun-filled days over a cold beer or a hot chocolate.’ Pictured is an aerial view of Queenstown
Tuamotu and Marquesas Islands are two of the less visited archipelagos in French Polynesia. But according to the guide, are even more rewarding than the likes of Tahiti or Bora Bota. The Tuamoto Islands are described as ‘seriously off-the-grid’ with no shopping or nightlife options but enchanting pink-sand beaches. The more secluded Marquesas Islands are described as ‘raw and rugged’ with white and black-sand beaches, looming cliffs swathed in green, and wild horses, boars and goats wandering free. Pictured is Moorea Island