5. Yellowstone National Park

What is Yellowstone National Park?

It's a 9000 square km park that contains half of the world's geysers, mudpots, and other geological features that stink a bit but are worth it. It's also home to mountains, lakes, and a grand canyon of its own, as well as bears, bison, elk, wolves and other animals. 

What is Yellowstone National Park like?

In places, Yellowstone is like being on another planet. Steam and gases pour out of openings in the earth (called fumaroles) from the volcano that lies underneath the park. Mudpots just bubble away. It's a completely unique and incredible place. 

Where is Yellowstone National Park?

Wyoming, Idaho, Montana USA 

When did we go?

September 2012 

How did we get there? 

We flew to Seattle, where we also visited Pike Place Market (343), then drove down towards Denver staying in various towns along the way. We stayed just outside Yellowstone for three nights. 

Worth noting: 

Old Faithful is the geyser that you're most likely to see erupt - it does its thing every 44-125 minutes. 

What was Yellowstone's place in the 2015 edition of the Lonely Planet Ultimate Travel List?

61. It moved up 56 places in the latest edition

Does Yellowstone deserve its higher place on the 2020 Lonely Planet Ultimate Travel List?


 Yellowstone entrance gate

13. Grand Canyon National Park

What is the Grand Canyon?

The Grand Canyon is a huge split in the earth where the ground has been eroded by the Colorado River over millions of years. It's 277 miles long, a mile deep, and 18 miles across in places. The colours of the exposed rock are stunning.

What is the Grand Canyon like? 

It's breathtaking. It has to be seen. 

Where is the Grand Canyon? 

Arizona, USA

When did we go? 

February 2009

How did we get there? 

We flew to Las Vegas and had a couple of nights there before hiring a car and driving out to the Grand Canyon for 3 nights. We stayed just outside the park near the South Rim. We didn't do any hiking or rafting but I would recommend them.

Worth noting:

It's well worth getting up early for the sunrise (or hanging around for sunset).

The Grand Canyon's position in the Lonely Planet Ultimate Travelist 2015 edition:

6. It dropped down 7 places in the latest edition.

Does the Grand Canyon deserve its lower place in the 2020 top 500? 

No way. The Grand Canyon is my number one, all day long.

Grand Canyon in the snow

20. Yosemite National Park

What is Yosemite National Park?

If Yellowstone is about geysers and bison, Yosemite is about waterfalls, rocks, and giant sequoia trees.The park stretches over a thousand square miles, although most visitors head to Yosemite Valley. It has some of the most challenging rock climbs in the world, including El Capitan and the Half Dome.

What is Yosemite like? 

We'd been to Yellowstone a couple of years before and I didn't think Yosemite could beat it. It did - it's just so different. We loved it.

Where is Yosemite National Park? 

California, USA

When did we go?

April 2015

How did we get there? 

We did a road trip from San Diego up to San Francisco. We also visited the Golden Gate Bridge (60) and Alcatraz (was in the 2015 edition but removed in 2020). 

Worth noting:

Mariposa Grove was probably my favourite part of Yosemite. The giant trees are just incredible - I had wanted to see a tree that you could drive through since I was a kid. It had fallen over but it was still amazing.

What was Yosemite's position on the 2015 edition of the Lonely Planet Ultimate Travelist?

21. It moved up one place in the latest edition.

Does Yosemite deserve its place in the 2020 top 500?

Yes, without a shadow of a doubt.

Fallen Tunnel Tree

 Yosemite National Park

21. Wild Atlantic Way

What is the Wild Atlantic Way?

The Wild Atlantic Way runs for 1600 miles along the west coast of Ireland, from Derry in the north through Donegal, Leitrim, Sligo, Mayo, Galway, Clare, Limerick, and Kerry before finishing in Kinsale in County Cork. It is one of the longest defined coastal routes in the world. 

What is the Wild Atlantic Way like?

It's long, so we only attempted the northern half from Derry to Galway on this occasion. But even half of the Wild Atlantic Way provides an almost endless list of things to see - beaches, lighthouses, cliffs, towns, villages, loughs, rivers and more.              

Where is the Wild Atlantic Way?

The west coast of Ireland

When did we go?

March 2024

How did we get there? 

We flew to Derry and then hired a car. We stayed one night in Derry, one in Sligo, one in Westport, and then two nights in Galway before flying home from Shannon. 

Worth noting: 

The Wild Atlantic Way is mentioned four times on the Lonely Planet Ultimate Travel List. As well as its listing here, three of the individual sites along the route have their own entries: Ring of Kerry (114), Connemara Peninsula (163) and Sliabh Liag (389).      

What was the Wild Atlantic Way's place in the 2015 edition of the Lonely Planet Ultimate Travel List?

The Wild Atlantic Way was a new addition to the list in 2020, along with Ring of Kerry (114), the Connemara Peninsula (163) and Sliabh Liag (389). The Cliffs of Moher (seen in the top picture below) had been listed at number 378 in the 2015 edition - that were removed as an individual item in 2020. 

Does the Wild Atlantic Way deserve its place in the 2020 Lonely Planet Ultimate Travel List?

Yes - it's beautiful and full of interesting things to see.

25. Dome of the Rock

What is the Dome of the Rock?

It's a glimmering, shimmering building built in the 7th century that covers a slab of rock that is sacred to Muslims and Jews. Muslims believe that the Prophet Mohammed made his Night Journey to heaven from here. Jews believe it was here that Abraham prepared to sacrified Isaac.

What's the Dome of the Rock like?

It's a stunning building, both up close and from afar (you can get a great view from the Mount of Olives), with a fascinating history.

Where is the Dome of the Rock?


When did we go?

June 2018

How did we get there?

I joined a week-long Biblical Lands tour group, which also covered Beit She'an (removed from the 2020 edition), the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (294) and the Sea of Galilee (also removed from the 2020 edition). It also included the Dead Sea although I didn't go there. I highly recommend the whole trip - it was fantastic.

Worth noting

You must dress carefully - they're very, very strict on shoulders and legs being covered.

What was Dome of the Rock's position in the 2015 edition of the Lonely Planet Ultimate Travelist?

86. It moved up 61 places.

Does it deserve its place in the Lonely Planet Top 500?

Yes, absolutely yes.

Dome of the Rock

27. Acropolis

What is the Acropolis?

The Acropolis is a rocky outcrop that sits above Athens. There is evidence that people lived and/or worshipped on the rock from the 6th millenium BC but many of the famous remains that we see today (the Parthenon, the Propylaea, the Erechtheion and the Temple of Athena Nike) were constructed 460-406 BC. The Parthenon and the other buildings were seriously damaged during the 1687 siege by the Venetians when gunpowder being stored in the Parthenon was hit by a cannonball and exploded.

What's the Acropolis like? 

The Acropolis is stupendous. The sheer size of each of the pillars in the Parthenon is mind-blowing when you consider how many pillars there are. Athens is also a fantastic city to visit and I highly recommend it.

Where is the Acropolis? 

Athens, Greece

When did we go to the Acropolis?

October 2020

How did we get there?

I flew to Athens and stayed for two nights, giving myself a whole day to see the main sights. The Acropolis is very much part of the city and only a short walk from the centre. I walked up early (it opens at 8am) to beat the crowds - it was lovely and quiet but I was still surrounded by a coach party. 

Worth noting:

A modern new Acropolis Museum was opened in 2009 and is located a few minutes' walk from the main entrance to the Acropolis. It contains a lot of the sculptures from the site and is well worth a visit.

What was the Acropolis's position in the 2015 edition of the Lonely Planet Ultimate Travelist?

28. It moved up one place.

Does the Acropolis deserve its place in the 2020 Lonely Planet top 500?

Definitely -  I'd put it higher up.

Acropolis Parthenon

40. Lake District National Park

What is the Lake District?

The Lake District is a mountainous region in the North East of England that includes the largest lake in England, Lake Windermere, and Scafell Pike, the highest peak. The Lake District National Park was created in 1951 and extends 40 miles north to south, and 51 miles from east to west.

What is the Lake District like?

It's stunningly beautiful. There are 19 fairly large lakes, as well as numerous smaller ones (called tarns), 4 mountains that exceed 3000 feet, and 7 sizeable towns including Grasmere, which was once home to William Wordsworth.

Where is the Lake District? 

Cumbria, England

When did we go? 

August 2019

How did we get there?

I drove up to Ambleside and around Windermere with my friend, Sarah-Jane. 

Worth noting

You can buy the best gingerbread in the world in Grasmere. The inventor was Sarah Nelson and Grasmere Gingerbread has been sold from her house in the village since 1854.

What was the Lake District's position in the 2015 edition of the Lonely Planet Ultimate Travelist?

36. It dropped four places.

Does it deserve its place in the 2020 Lonely Planet top 500?

Yes - it's a magnificent place in the world.

Lake District Lonely Planet Ultimate Travelist

45. Valley of the Kings

What is the Valley of the Kings?

For 500 years, from the 16th to the 11th century BC, the pharaohs and powerful nobles of Egypt were buried in tombs cut from the rock in this valley near Luxor. There are 63 tombs in total. The Valley of the Kings became extremely famous in 1922 when Howard Carter located King Tutankhamun's missing tomb. King Tut had been a relatively undistinguished pharoah who died when he was 19. Over the years his tomb was covered over by building materials and was forgotten. However, Carter's discovery of Tut's intact grave, complete with mummy and over 5000 items buried with him, created a worldwide media storm and remains the biggest draw to the site. 

What's the Valley of the Kings like? 

It is a fascinating place - each tomb is different, as some are very empty and others are ornate. Personally, I preferred the stupendous size and scale of Karnak or Luxor Temple, but this definitely has to be seen.

Where is the Valley of the Kings? 

The Valley of the Kings is in Luxor, Egypt.

When did we go? 

April 2006

How did we get there? 

We did a Nile Cruise - I was really unsure about the idea before we went, but it was fantastic. We also visited Karnak (106) and the Luxor Temple (142).

Worth noting: 

Make sure you have a tour guide - I can't imagine visiting anything in Egypt without one. 

What was the Valley of the Kings' position in the 2015 edition of the Lonely Planet Ultimate Travel List? 

82. It moved up 37 places.

Does the Valley of the Kings deserve its higher place in the 2020 Lonely Planet Top 500?

Absolutely, although I preferred Karnak and Luxor Temple for their immediate impact.

50. Colosseum

What is the Colosseum?

The Colosseum is an ampitheatre that could seat 50,000-80,000 spectators in its day. Construction began in 72 AD. It was used for gladiatorial contests, classical dramas, executions, and re-enactments of famous battles.

What's the Colosseum like?

It's stupendous. It's hard to believe that it was even conceived of 2000 years ago, never mind built, and that so much of it is still here today is incredible.

Where is the Colosseum?

Rome, Italy

When did we go? 

February 2007

How did we get there? 

We flew there on a three day trip from London. The Colosseum is very central. We also saw the Vatican Museums (173), St Peter's Basilica (185) and the Pantheon (67).

Worth noting: 

It's possible to do a tour of the arena floor and underground areas - we didn't do this but I'd recommend it.

What position did the Colosseum hold in the 2015 edition of the Lonely Planet Ultimate Travelist?

7. It has since dropped 43 places.

Does the Colosseum deserve its lower place in the 2020 edition of the Lonely Planet top 500?

It deserves to be higher - at least top 20.

Colosseum in Rome

56. British Museum

What is the British Museum?

The British Museum was the first public national museum in the world, established in 1753. It contains 8 million items, many collected during the time of the British Empire.

What is the British Museum like?

It's beyond impressive. It's well organised and reasonably easy to find specific things (I was looking for the Sutton Hoo burial ship treasure), but just as pleasant to stroll around. The main attractions are the Rosetta Stone, the Parthenon Sculptures (aka the Elgin Marbles), the Lewis Chessmen and many, many more.

Where is the British Museum? 

London, England

When did we go? 

September 2019

How did we get there? 

I'd been to the British Museum several times with Pete - after we returned from our trip to Egypt (Valley of the Kings, Karnak, Luxor Temple) we went to see the Rosetta Stone. On this most recent occasion, I went up on the Tube to Russell Square and walked from there.

Worth noting 

There are talks that take place in some of the popular galleries. I joined one in room 41 where the Sutton Hoo treasures are kept and the guide kept his presentation fast, interesting, and informal (and it was free). I loved it and highly recommend them.

Where was the British Museum located on the 2015 Lonely Planet Ultimate Travel List

15. It has since dropped 51 places.

Does the British Museum deserve its place in the 2020 Lonely Planet Top 500?

Yes. And if you returned the items that other countries want back, it would still be a significant draw.

British Museum

British Museum Roof

Sutton Hoo treasures

60. Golden Gate Bridge

What is the Golden Gate Bridge? 

It's an art deco bridge, completed in 1937. It was the longest suspension bridge in the world at that time, stretching 1.6 miles (it's now the 9th longest).  

What's the Golden Gate Bridge like? 

It's very striking, mainly due to its unusual colour. The story goes that the steel for the bridge was coated in a red lead primer and one of the architects, Irving Morrow, saw it one morning and decided that the tone was right for the surroundings and should be used permanently.  They settled on a shade called 'International Orange'. It was called the Golden Gate because that's the name of the strait that connects the Pacific to San Francisco Bay.  

Where is the Golden Gate Bridge? 

San Francisco, USA 

When did we go? 

April 2015  

How did we get there? 

We did a road trip from San Diego up to San Francisco. We also visited Yosemite National Park (20) and Alcatraz (was in the 2015 edition but not 2020). We got to the bridge itself on a 60 minute hop-on/hop-off bus trip that also took in Sausalito.

Worth noting: 

There were only six bridges in the 2020 edition of the Top 500. Lonely Planet chose the Golden Gate because of its relationship with the weather - it looks incredible on foggy days apparently, which won it a place over the Sydney Harbour Bridge and others that didn't get a mention. So try and go on a foggy day as well as a sunny day (not impossible in SF).

Where was the Golden Gate Bridge on the 2015 Lonely Planet Ultimate Travelist? 

101. It has subsequently risen up the ranks by 41 places. 

Does the Golden Gate Bridge deserve its higher place on the 2020 Lonely Planet Top 500? 

It's one of the world's most iconic sights, so yes. Does it deserve to be ahead of Niagara Falls and the Pyramids? Not so sure. 


62. Cyclades

What are the Cyclades?

The Cyclades are a group of Greek islands in the Aegean Sea. They include Santorini and Mykonos, both very well known tourist destinations, as well as less famous islands of Naxos, Milos and Folegandros and around 200 other smaller islands.

What are the Cyclades like: 

The Cyclades are stunningly beautiful. Santorini and Mykonos are probably my favourite Greek islands - they're very different in personality but both are wonderful.

Where are the Cyclades? 


When did we go?

September 2008

How did we get there?

We went to Santorini, staying in Perissa for a week, having booked with a tour operator. We stopped using tour operators the year after and started booking our own flights and hotels.  

Worth noting: 

You can travel by ferry between the islands - it takes around 3 hours maximum to get from one to the other.

Where were the Cyclades in the 2015 Lonely Planet Ultimate Travelist? 

Santorini was on the list in its own right at number 18.

Do the Cyclades deserve their place in the 2020 Lonely Planet Top 500? 

Without a doubt, yes. The Greek islands have to be seen.

Santorini blue roof

63. Musée du Louvre

What is the Musée du Louvre?

The Louvre is the world's most visited art museum. It opened in 1793 during the French Revolution and today contains two of the best-known works of art; the Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci and the Venus de Milo, an ancient Greek sculpture. The works within the museum cover 8 departments: Egyptian Antiquities, Near Eastern Antiquities, Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities, Islamic Art, Sculpture, Decorative Arts, Paintings, Prints and Drawings.

What's the Musée du Louvre like? 

It's big. There are 38,000 items on display in the Louvre (compared to just 3,000 down the road at the Musée d'Orsay (79), the home to Impressionist art). However, it's roomy and spacious and well-organised. 

Where is the Musée du Louvre? 

Paris, France

When did we go? 

March 2022

How did we get there? 

I flew to Charles de Gaulle airport and then caught the RER B train into central Paris. If you're going straight to the Louvre from CdG, then get off at Châtelet–Les Halles - it's a short walk from there. I also visited the Musée d'Orsay, which is very close by. The Eiffel Tower (148), which I had visited previously, is also walkable - it's about 40 minutes away along the Seine.

Worth noting: 

The entrance to the museum is via the large pyramid in the centre, which takes you down into an underground lobby. This was opened in 1989. It was part of a 10-year project called 'Grand Louvre', created by French President François Mitterrand. The French Finance Ministry was also moved from the Louvre to another location to allow the museum to be extended.

Where was the Musée du Louvre in the 2015 Lonely Planet Ultimate Travelist? 

It was at number 37 in 2020 - it dropped 26 places in the new edition.

Does the Musée du Louvre deserve its place in the 2020 Lonely Planet Top 500? 


Louvre Museum

Mona Lisa

67. Pantheon

What is the Pantheon?

It's the world's oldest standing building that is still in regular use. The current structure began life as a Roman temple, built by Hadrian in 126AD. He built it on the site of an older temple. It was converted to a church in 609.

What's the Pantheon like? 

It was probably Pete's favourite building in the world. The front is a rectangular portico but the rest of it is round, with a huge gravity-defying dome. It has to be seen to be believed.

Where is the Pantheon? 

Rome, Italy

When did we go? 

February 2007

How did we go? 

It's in the centre of Rome where we went on a three day trip. We also saw St Peter's Basilica (185), the Colosseum (50), and the Vatican Museums (173).

Worth noting: 

The word 'pantheon' means 'temple of all the gods'. The artist Raphael was buried in the Pantheon at his own request.

Where was the Pantheon on the Lonely Planet 2015 Ultimate Travelist? 

51st. It dropped 16 places by 2020.

Does the Pantheon deserve to be on the Lonely Planet Top 500? 

Pete would say 100% yes and he'd probably put it higher up the list.

71. Knossos

What is Knossos?

Knossos in Crete has been referred to as 'Europe's first city'. Inhabited since Neolithic times (around 7000 BC), a building resembling a palace was first constructed at Knossos around 2000 BC. It was damaged and rebuilt until it was finally destroyed in the 1300s BC. At its peak (around 1700 BC), the area surrounding the palace was home to 100,000 people. Historians refer to this period of history in Crete as 'Minoan' - Minos was the king of Crete in Greek mythology, although there were likely two King Minoses, one good and one bad. The bad one is known for sacrificing young people to the Minotaur who lived in the labyrinth built by Daedalus.  

What is Knossos like?

It's relatively compact and easy to cover in a couple of hours. I actually preferred the Archaeological Museum in nearby Heraklion - this contains many of the artefacts from Knossos. The size of some of the huge pieces of pottery and the craftsmanship of the jewellery are incredible. 

Where is Knossos?

Crete, Greece

When did we go?

October 2021 - it would have been Pete's 60th birthday and he'd definitely have wanted to celebrate with a trip to Greece.

How did we get there? 

We flew to Heraklion airport and stayed in a hotel in Heraklion before getting a bus out to Knossos.

Worth noting: 

The Heraklion Archaeological Museum is a few miles away in the city centre. It's well worth a visit. There had been a big earthquake the week before I visited and the first floor was shut so I only saw half of it, but it was still highly impressive.

Where was Knossos on the 2015 Lonely Planet Ultimate Travel List?

It was not featured in 2015. It was added to the list in 2020.

Does Knossos deserve its place in the 2020 Lonely Planet Top 500?

It doesn't have the spectacular impact of the Pyramids or Karnak or other sites - I would not have put it so high up.  


Knossos Lonely Planet Ultimate Travelguide

73. La Sagrada Familia

What is the Sagrada Familia? 

It's a cathedral unlike any other. It was started in 1882, but when Antoni Gaudi, the architect that created many of Barcelona's sights, took over it became his personal interpretation of what a Gothic church should look like. The spires are the most striking thing about it - when it is completed, it should have 18 of them representing the 12 Apostles, the Virgin Mary, the four Evangelists and, tallest of all, Jesus Christ. It also has three facades representing the Nativity, the Passion, and the Glory (the last one hasn't been built yet).

What's the Sagrada Familia like? 

Sagrada Familia is incredible. It's completely different to any other church, both in style and structure, but also in the intricacy of the story-telling in the facades - you could stand there all day working out what is what. 

Where is the Sagrada Familia? 

Barcelona, Spain 

When did we go?

June 2014 

How did we get there? 

We spent 3 days in Barcelona having flown from London. La Sagrada Familia is very central, so easy to find. The queues are long though, so do what you can to fast track. We also went to Camp Nou, home of Barcelona FC (removed from the 2020 edition).

Worth noting: 

It's not finished and is still a building site. The spires and main church are due to be finished in 2026 in time for the centennial of Gaudi's death, but decorative work will continue.

Where was Sagrada Familia on the 2015 Lonely Planet Ultimate Travelist? 

16. It dropped 57 places in the 2020 edition.

Does the Sagrada Familia deserve its place on the Lonely Planet Top 500? 

It definitely deserves a place in the top 100, so I'm happy with it.
Sagrada Familia

Sagrada Familia

79. Musée d'Orsay

What is the Musée d'Orsay?

The Musée d'Orsay is home to the largest collection of Impressionist and post-Impressionist masterpieces in the world, by painters including Monet, Manet, Degas, Renoir, Cézanne, Gauguin, and Van Gogh. It also houses other paintings as well as sculpture and photography by French artists from 1848 to 1914. The museum was created to bridge the gap between the Louvre and the National Museum of Modern Art.

What's the Musée d'Orsay like? 

It's much more down to earth than the nearby Louvre (63). It's a smaller collection (only 3,000 pieces on display) so you feel that everything in there is worth looking at, whereas the Louvre is a bit overwhelming. The 5th floor is dedicated to the Impressionists and post-Impressionists but there are also also exhibits (like Pompon the polar bear).

Where is the Musée d'Orsay? 

Paris, France

When did we go? 

March 2022

How did we get to the Musée d'Orsay? 

I flew to Charles de Gaulle airport and then caught the RER B train into central Paris. You can then take the RER C train to Musee 'd'Orsay but I got off B at Saint-Michel-Notre-Dame and walked the 20 minutes along the Seine instead. The Eiffel Tower (148), which I had visited previously, is also walkable - it's about 40 minutes away along the Seine.

Worth noting: 

The museum is housed in what was once the Gare d'Orsay, a Beaux-Arts railway station built between 1898 and 1900. A new station was built and permission was granted to demolish the old one in 1970 but it was protected and eventually became a listed building in 1978.

Where was the Musée d'Orsay in the 2015 Lonely Planet Ultimate Travelist? 

1t was a new entry in 2020.

Does the Musée d'Orsay deserve its place in the 2020 Lonely Planet Top 500? 

It does deserve a place but I am surprised that it gets listed higher than the Eiffel Tower or the Pyramids of Giza and other similar sights.  

Musee d'Orsay

Pompon Musee d'Orsay
Pompon the polar bear, named after its sculptor. There are 12 marble versions of the 'Ours Blanc' (White Bear) and the Musee d'Orsay has one.

82. Wales Coast Path

What is the Wales Coast Path?

In 2012, Wales became the first country in the world to have a walking trail along the entirety of its coastline. The 870-mile Wales Coast Path joined up a number of other trails that had existed previously, such as the Pembrokeshire Coast Path, which is the bit I did (and I managed a rather pathetic 2.5 miles of it). 

What is the Wales Coast Path like?

It's stunningly beautiful. It offers cliff tops, beaches, castles, Dylan Thomas and more. 

Where is the Wales Coast Path? 


When did we go?

September 2020

How did we get there?

I got a train to Carmarthen and then hired a car so I could drive around Pembrokeshire easily. I stayed in Freshwater East for a week and travelled around from there. I also visited St David's Cathedral (396).

Worth noting

Wales has 400 castles and 13 of them are along the Coast Path, including Harlech and Caernarfon.

Where was the Wales Coast Path in 2015 edition of the Lonely Planet Ultimate Travelist?

It was not included.

Does the Wales Coast Path deserve its place in the Lonely Planet Top 500?

I'm surprised it's so high but it deserves a place.

Wales Coast Path

Wales Coast Path Pembroke