Where are you dreaming of going this year? AFAR readers cast more than 150,000 votes to honor their favorite hotels, cruises, airlines, trips, and destinations in the annual AFAR Travelers’ Awards. This year, we might not have been able to visit our favorite places in person, but our readers gave props to Paris, dreamed of Dubai, and raised a glass to the Napa Valley from afar. We hope this comprehensive list of winners helps spark your wanderlust and inspire your next trip.
With its storied pastry shops, world-renowned museums and landmarks, and cobblestoned streets flanked with corner cafés, Paris lives up to its nickname as a city of “many splendors,” as Ernest Hemingway declared in his 1964 memoir, A Moveable Feast.
Plan Your Trip: AFAR’s Paris Travel Guide
Tokyo is characterized by its blend of ancient tradition and modern luxury. The city has more Michelin-starred restaurants than any other (as well as an array of design-forward hotels), but you can still seek out history and tranquility at Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples in popular districts like Asakusa.
Plan Your Trip: AFAR’s Tokyo Travel Guide
North American City
Winner: New York City
Eight million residents make New York City as culturally diverse as it is dense. Whether you navigate the city by subway, yellow cab, or on foot, there’s constant stimulation across the five boroughs. The coronavirus pandemic sparked many think pieces about the Big Apple’s uncertain future (including a controversial New York Post essay claiming New York is “dead”), but we know the city is defined by its resilience and beloved for its perpetually changing nature.
Plan Your Trip: AFAR’s New York City Travel Guide
South American City
Winner: Buenos Aires
Buenos Aires, which raised Jorge Luis Borges and educated Julio Cortázar, has more bookstores per person than any other city in the world. The Argentine capital is also the birthplace of tango, and you’ll still find stylish porteños (Buenos Aires residents) practicing the traditional dance at milongas (tango clubs).
Plan Your Trip: AFAR’s Buenos Aires Travel Guide
Winner: Puerto Rico
White sand beaches and tropical rain forests with bioluminescent bays. Colorful street art and lively salsa dancing after sundown. Freshly cooked mofongo. Sweet aged rum. Need we say more about Puerto Rico’s allure?
Plan Your Trip: AFAR’s Puerto Rico Travel Guide
Winner: Cape Town
Travelers to Cape Town can catch views from towering Table Mountain, marvel at the collections of the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa, or even taste wine in Constantia, the oldest winemaking region in the Southern Hemisphere.
Plan Your Trip: AFAR’s Cape Town Travel Guide
Middle Eastern City
Dubai is the most cosmopolitan city-emirate of the United Arab Emirates, but it also has archaeological sites that date to the Bronze Age. The city’s mix of Bedouin traditions and glitzy new developments make it a compelling place to visit; expect to dress up for high-end restaurants, such as Le Petite Maison.
Plan Your Trip: AFAR’s Dubai Travel Guide
On Australia’s southeast coast in the state of New South Wales, Sydney offers nearly year-round sunnny weather, which means there’s no bad time to sunbathe at Bondi Beach or take a dip in any of the numerous oceanside swimming spots around the coastal city.
Plan Your Trip: AFAR’s Sydney Travel Guide
Food and Wine Destination
Winner: Napa Valley, California
As California’s most famous wine-growing region, Napa Valley is known for its many tasting rooms. But travelers can expect a lot more than winetasting, including scenic hikes in the mountains above the valley, quaint area markets, and general stores stocked with artisan-made aprons, scarves, wine books, and canvas bags.
This year, raging wildfires devastated Napa and Sonoma County right in the midst of harvest season, but the region will bounce back with the help of travelers who love the land as much as we do.
Plan Your Trip: AFAR’s Napa Valley Travel Guide
One of 17,500 islands in the Indonesian archipelago, Bali is known for its ancient temples, pristine beaches, and verdant rice terraces. The island also has a smattering of luxury resorts and spas, many of which highlight traditional Balinese traditions.
Plan Your Trip: AFAR’s Bali Travel Guide
Colorado’s top winter activities range from soaking in high-mountain hot springs to hitting the slopes in the pristine Rocky Mountains (or skiing hut to hut in the state’s unrivaled backcountry). Of course, Colorado also offers endless outdoor adventures throughout the year, from rock climbing and white water rafting to hiking and beyond.
Plan Your Trip: AFAR’s Colorado Travel Guide
Winner: New Zealand
The uncrowded landscapes of New Zealand’s North and South Islands lure adventurous travelers with their peaks, fjords, glaciers, volcanoes, and long stretches of coast. In fact, New Zealanders even have a slang term for their country’s remote wilderness: “the wops” (or “the wop-wops”), which refers to a place far from civilization (and likely waiting to be explored).
Plan Your Trip: AFAR’s New Zealand Travel Guide
Art and Culture City
The City of Lights offers a wellspring of inspiration for artists and art-loving travelers. Most would cite the Louvre as the city’s must-visit museum, but for a real glimpse at how Parisians live in the city, head to trendy neighborhoods like Le Marais, north of the Seine.
Read More: How to Recreate a Day in Paris at Home
UNESCO World Heritage Site
Winner: Machu Picchu, Peru
More than 30 years ago, UNESCO added Machu Picchu to its World Heritage collection, calling the Incan sanctuary in Peru “among the greatest artistic, architectural, and land use achievements anywhere.” It’s a fitting description: The citadel was built in the 15th century as a religious sanctuary for the Incas at an altitude of 8,170 feet.
U.S. Road Trip
Winner: California Highway One
California’s Highway One takes you all along the state’s picturesque coastline, winding through laid-back beach towns like Santa Cruz and Santa Barbara, plus big cities like San Francisco. Be sure you plan enough time to take the drive slowly—you’ll want to stop for redwood forest hikes and dramatic waterfall views in areas like Big Sur.