If you’ve got wanderlust, it’s tempting to spin the globe and see where your finger lands, or just point to a spot on a map to determine, at random, where you should vacation next. But so many factors go into picking your next vacation spot. Maybe it’s emotional—you really want to see a landmark from your favorite book. Or maybe it’s practical—figuring out where the dollar is especially strong or taking advantage of super-cheap airfare to Europe.
To save you time on research, though, the World Economic Forum put together a “Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report” for 2017. In putting it together, many factors were considered, including safety, cleanliness, price competitiveness, how well tourists are treated, natural resources, airport infrastructure and more. Based upon all of these factors, a score was given to each country. Ultimately, these are the countries that landed in the top 12.
Your itinerary can go in a few different directions here. You could spend your vacation lazing at a beach club in Ibiza (Hotel Iberostar Santa Eulalia has an awesome one that stretches out over the water) and visit the hippie market for bohemian jewelry and other crafts. Or you could go museum-hopping in Madrid, stopping at the famed Museo Nacional del Prado and tasting tapas on rooftop bars. A must-see if you’re in Madrid, though: a lush, vertical wall garden near the CaixaForum.
Take a river cruise along the Seine, pose for that epic selfie in front of the Eiffel Tower and traipse through the Luxembourg Garden, which was created in the 1600s by the widow of King Henry IV of France. Plus, feast on some of those famous French cheeses, like creamy Fromage de Meaux, or enjoy the subtle toffee notes in Comte.
Here, you can tour real-life castles, like the famed Neuschwanstein castle perched on a hill in Bavaria. You can also spot dozens of fairy tale-like castles and medieval towns along the Rhine Valley. Or maybe you’re there for the beer. You can experience an epic Oktoberfest in Munich’s beer halls.
Sure, you may have a few items to cross off your bucket list when you’re here: climb Mount Fuji, see the cherry blossoms in Hanmai, visit one of the 2,000 temples in the Kyoto area. But make room for this: You can mingle with wild monkeys at the Iwatayama Monkey Park in Kyoto.
5. United Kingdom
Really, there’s so much to see here it’s hard to pin down an itinerary. A good option? Let a cruise line help. By hopping on a cruise, you can take in as much as possible in the United Kingdom (and even get over to France) without worrying about all of the logistics. Princess Cruises runs “British Isles” cruises where you can view the region’s palaces, pubs and historical monuments. The cruise line’s “More Ashore” program allows for some late night departures so you can have more time experiencing each of the destinations.
6. United States
Can’t get abroad this year? No prob. There are some great American cities that have never lost their European influence. For authentic Italian, San Diego has its “Little Italy” neighborhood (the aroma of garlic will lead you here). You can feel the influence of Spain in Santa Fe, via the architecture and the “Margarita Trail” that’s a nod to the Spanish settlers who brought tequila from Mexico. And many Colorado mountain towns have a Euro feel, including Telluride, which has been dubbed a mini-Switzerland.
You’ve heard of all the must-see tourist attractions: visiting the Great Barrier Reef, swimming at Bondi Beach and checking out the Sydney Opera House. But Coober Pedy, a lesser-known destination in Australia, gives new meaning to “down under.” In fact, the entire town is underground.
Historians, you’ll have a field day in Rome visiting the Vatican, ancient ruins and the famed gladiator Colosseum. But another great way to experience Italy is by taking a trip to the Amalfi Coast to soak in the beauty of this dramatic Mediterranean coastline via hilltop gardens or day cruises.
Need a nudge to head up North? Canada is celebrating its 150th anniversary, and you can visit the country’s national parks for free this year by ordering a the Discovery Pass that’s good throughout 2017. (You don’t even have to pay shipping.) Once there, here are seven of Canada’s most Instagram-worthy parks.
The wellness trend in vacations is going strong and shows no signs of stopping. For an epic wellness retreat, Switzerland is a gracious host. The country consistently ranks high on lists of happy and healthy countries. An example: The Chedi in Andermatt, Switzerland will show you the Swiss way with a “Slimming Lifestyle Retreat” set in the Swiss Alps. It includes a wellness-packed itinerary with algae wraps, therapeutic massages, foot reflexology, a cooking class, workshops with dietitians and unlimited access to the spa and health club.
11. Hong Kong
Get ready for a high-energy vacation. Hong Kong is a tourist’s playground where you can eat dim sum, shop in the 12-story mall known as Times Square and visit Hong Kong Disneyland. But you can also escape to the ocean or get a panoramic view of the city from Victoria Peak.
This skier’s paradise rounds out our top 12 list. And while you may come for the slopes, Austria offers up some pretty cool (and quirky) tourist experiences, like a clock museum, a brewery castle where you can actually swim and soak in beer and a butterfly park.