August 30, 2001
2:19 PM   Subscribe

National Geographic Traveler has put together a list of 50 places in the world you should visit in your lifetime. I'm not as well traveled as I'd like to be, so I really don't know if these places are as impressive as they sound. Did they leave anything out, or does that just about cover it?
posted by Jairus (40 comments total)
I've only been to NY once, when I was eight or so, but I did grow up mostly out east... I mostly remember sitting on the edge of Peggy's Cove, my feet dangling, watching the waves smash themselves on the rocks thirty feet below. Peaceful moments, those. Not too much like that in big cities.
posted by Jairus at 2:31 PM on August 30, 2001

Tricky... I'll bet they put "space" on there just so they wouldn't get too many people bragging about how cool they were to have visited the top 50 places in the world/universe.
posted by whatnotever at 2:36 PM on August 30, 2001

I'm surprised I've knocked off 5 of the 50 already, and I haven't been anywhere really. Looks like a good list to me, though honestly, I don't think San Francisco is worthy of being one of the world's great cities. It's got its perks, but I wouldn't put it on an all-time list.
posted by mathowie at 2:42 PM on August 30, 2001

Yeah, I think they got 'em all. Those are without a doubt the 50 best. I'm glad I got to see cyberspace before it closed down.
posted by chino at 2:48 PM on August 30, 2001

i'm surprised vienna isn't included in those urban spaces mentioned. and when i think of the "laboratory of modern life", i think of tokyo, not new york. this list just seems a little biased.
posted by dai at 2:48 PM on August 30, 2001

The great feature of all "Great Lists" is the way they spur debate.

...with that in mind, I'll express irritation over the fact that they didn't include Halong Bay.

Anyone here been to Kerala? Is it actually that good? Would it be worth, say, cutting my time in Ladakh by half?
posted by aramaic at 2:52 PM on August 30, 2001

Jeez louise, my ONLY one is "Cyberspace."

And it wouldn't have been much to look at if it weren't for all the pr0n :)

I gotta get out more.
posted by UncleFes at 2:58 PM on August 30, 2001

By and large I think travel for travel's sake is overrated. I know a lot of people who treat foreign destinations like a hunter treats big game animals: things to go out, shoot, check off their list and brag about. I don't have the slightest problem with people who want to do this, but it doesn't call to me. For my recent honeymoon, my wife and I went to the Netherlands where some old college buddies of ours live. We pretty much lounged around their house the whole time, making occasional day trips to Germany and such. We had a glorious time. When we got back our friends were like, "did you see the Effel Tower? Did you go to Berlin? Did you see the Van Gogh Museum?" And we were, like, "No. We hung out and ate raw herring and drank a lot of Dutch beer. Sorry."

Speaking of Paris, there was a great This American Life on last week where they interviewed David Sedaris, who is currently living in France. He pretty much said the same thing. He's been in Paris for a couple years, and never once gone to The Louvre. When asked why, he says "why would I come all the way to Paris and then go to the one place where I can't smoke?" Later he sees a line of people of people waiting to get into The Louvre and says something to the effect of "Look at all those people. Do you think they go to museums at home? No, of course not. So why are they going to The Louvre? It's because someone told them that they had to. 'Oh, you're going to Paris? You've got to go to The Louvre!'"

I'm actually a fairly well-traveled guy, but I would never go somewhere just because someone -- or National Geographic -- told me I should.
posted by Shadowkeeper at 3:02 PM on August 30, 2001

So how does the Drudge Report rate a link in the cyberspace section?
posted by jdbanks at 3:06 PM on August 30, 2001

Can't speak for a lot of those places (I'll travel widely when I win the damn lottery), but I think they missed two of the most significant.
1) Glacier National Park. Canadian Rockies, PPHHHHTTT! I'm sure someone realizes that the Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Canada, Alaska Rockies comprise some of the most unbelievable Heaven built architecture on the planet and that NO one can possibly experience them all in a lifetime unless they devote their every waking hour to the task. All that majesty is encapsulated within the boundaries of Glacier/Waterton National Parks. Go there, go now, don't hesitate.
Before any of my Canadian brethren decide to flame me, remember this: Waterton is Canadian, and the 4 parks (Yoho, Banff, Kootenai, and Jasper) require several weeks to admire. Glacier can be seen, hiked, and loved in a couple of days. Also, the exchange rate favors us (neener, neener).
2) Yellowstone National Park. Get real, its the largest active volcano on the planet, and the largest active geothermal region outside of middle Europe, and far easier to access. Yeah, I know that its not cool for NG to recommend a wild spot that stands as a family vacation outpost, with developed bathrooms and paved roads. Too bad for their arrogance. Yellowstone is truly a world wonder; just ask the millions of world travellers who visit it every year.

Okay, so, I'm a Montanan, so sue me. I live here for a reason, ya think?
posted by Wulfgar! at 3:06 PM on August 30, 2001

I'm a Montanan, so sue me.

You, sir, shall be hearing from my attorneys!
posted by aramaic at 3:15 PM on August 30, 2001

I just did a little deeper digging at this site... This is from the October 1999 issue, and they're pimping the October 2001 issue, in which they'll be providing a new list.
posted by jdbanks at 3:19 PM on August 30, 2001

...uh... a new list of 50 places in the United States only.
posted by jdbanks at 3:20 PM on August 30, 2001

The US only? Well that's boring.
posted by aramaic at 3:23 PM on August 30, 2001

I've read all your comments and was shocked to hear that all you Americans (myself a proud Israeli)did not travel in all of your 20-50 years of life while I in my 13 and a half miserable years of life have bin 13 of the list flew over 6 and in the next year will more than likely be seeing another 3 or 4.

about them missing some I will say the far east, south America, and Africa are not represented enough. some people said that you should visit yellow stone or other national parks as a person who has bin to Africa and who has bin physically to south America yet has not gone through the forests can tell you that the only thing keeping Africa and south America out of those lists are the poor financial funds country there have

another place everyone should see are the hanging gardens in Haifa I see them every day from my bedroom window its worth it
posted by caveman at 3:26 PM on August 30, 2001

some people said that you should visit yellow stone or other national parks as a person who has bin to Africa and who has bin physically to south America yet has not gone through the forests can tell you that the only thing keeping Africa and south America out of those lists are the poor financial funds country there have

Yeah, well, duh. Dying to see anything just ain't worth it. Besides, the pompous attitude is foolish. As I've tried to indicate, for those of us who are American, there's a hell of alot for us to see here, without having to fly all over the world and risk anti-American sentiment from other cultures or bizaar deseases that you aren't any more immune to than we are. It's a big planet; enjoy it without counting coup, lest someone slap your puppy ass down.
posted by Wulfgar! at 3:34 PM on August 30, 2001

The problem of lists like this is that it encourages a culture akin to that of the eighteenth-century "picturesque", where people went out to the Lakes with a map and a picture frame (I kid you not) just to get the "right" view. Being told where to look, sometimes, stops you from looking properly. And especially stops you from seeing things in the "wrong" places.
posted by holgate at 3:39 PM on August 30, 2001

I've hit 13 of these, plus Space Camp, which was pretty great to a 13-year-old and closer than most will get to actual outer space. Stick that in your pipe and smoke it.
posted by msacheson at 3:40 PM on August 30, 2001

The US only? Well that's boring.

I dunno, this little country of ours has some neat areas to explore - even the vast middle...
posted by owillis at 3:42 PM on August 30, 2001

But I should add to this, and say that when I was travelling across Galway and Mayon with the young lady, there were times when we pulled over, so overwhelming was the landscape. The quality of light is something indescribable.
posted by holgate at 3:43 PM on August 30, 2001

Oh, and the Taj Mahal, most surprisingly of all, forces you to look harder. You know what it looks like, but up front-- the complexity of the stonework and the inlay -- challenges those picture-postcard conceptions. Rushdie's right: the sound is truer than its echo.
posted by holgate at 3:49 PM on August 30, 2001

on the topic of travel, i would like to hear all your comments on the idea of mass tourism as a new form of colonialism and perhaps (a bit of a stretch) imperialism. can a tourist photographing a nice landmark, and later applying his/her own judgements, making the observation "this landmark is nice", subject to his/her own values, be an act of colonialism, and a showcase of the tourist's power of representation on the subject he/she chose to photograph?

did that make sense?
posted by dai at 4:09 PM on August 30, 2001

space is infinite
without ending
all within it
just beginning.

posted by feelinglistless at 4:44 PM on August 30, 2001

18 out of 50...

I guess I don't understand the inclusion of San Francisco, a city I certainly like well enough, but to do so when neither Rome nor Athens is on the list? The other omission (IMHO) was Stonehenge from the World's Wonders list...
posted by m.polo at 5:00 PM on August 30, 2001

Maybe it's good that they left out the Okavango Delta. Good for the wildlife, that is ...
posted by vowe at 5:43 PM on August 30, 2001

Well, nine out of fifty. I've got to do more traveling, no doubt.
Hard to believe they left off the Sierra Nevada mountains.
posted by drunkkeith at 5:53 PM on August 30, 2001

11 out of 50...

I spent two weeks in New Zealand and I am dieing to go back. It's like Australia before tourist began flocking there.

The other omission (IMHO) was Stonehenge from the World's Wonders list...

Definitely worth a visit because it's, well, Stonehenge. However, the complete commercialization and overall feel of the location is a bit sad.
posted by justgary at 5:54 PM on August 30, 2001

i would like to hear all your comments on the idea of mass tourism as a new form of colonialism and perhaps (a bit of a stretch) imperialism.

Um, no.

On another note:
'Traveling' has always seemed so...well, luxurious to me. It's certainly not something you can do frequently without a heaping surplus of time and income. I'm lucky to catch a weekend at the mountains two hours from our house.

But I have been to New York City. Many times. Um and Cyberspace.
posted by glenwood at 7:19 PM on August 30, 2001

Only 9 so far. I'd have Prague and Sydney on the list. And I thought the South Island of New Zealand was much nicer than the North Island.
posted by kirkaracha at 7:27 PM on August 30, 2001

Since when is Judaism one of the "three major religions"? (Jerusalem caption).

I think I have 3 on the list, but only have a real desire to go to about 10 others... after examining and considering their choices, I've discovered that I am much more fascinated by the mundane and unfamiliar than the fantastic and unfamiliar. Even if the Acropolis wasn't commercialized (which I assume it is), I'd rather go to a small Greek fishing village than see it. I guess I agree with the Sedaris quote... canonical historical/cultural importance means nothing to me, especially when it is so often erroneous. The Taj Mahal may be grand, but when it comes down to it, I doubt that it would be a life changing experience.
posted by kidsplate at 8:52 PM on August 30, 2001

My favorite part of the Sedaris piece was his love of the frozen food store, clearly an unfamiliar/mundane experience.
posted by ParisParamus at 8:55 PM on August 30, 2001

i've hit 17 of them, and am a bit bewildered by barcelona being on the list when there are tons better cities in the south of spain that make barcelona look like a single street: ramblas... well, ok. that's really an oversimplification, but i'm still wondering how national geographic fashioned this.

in any case, i'm miffed to not see prague on the list... without a doubt one of the most beautiful cities in all the world (and $.30 beers). i remember walking through the city (not too far after the city really opened without the requirement of huge amounts of official looking papers), mouth open, eyes wide and totally bewildered at the absolute beauty of it. 'weren't we told these people were poor?' was the common joke among the backpackers (ignorant though it was), because most of the wonderland part of it was built around 13th to 15th century. in any case, i say that the exclusion of that and not telling people to go to the italian riviera (with it's step-farming etched right into the budding alps) was a surprise. that place must have inspired dr. seuss for sure (with your house up here and your bathroom up here!)

ooer, and i can't say i'm all that astonished (like caveman) at americans not being much to travel outside of north america ... i thought i would, but in the whole year i backpacked europe and surrounding, i only met 2 (count 'em 2) other americans on the road... while conversely i met tons of aussies and canadians.

/me shrugs.

dunno why.
posted by eatdonuts at 9:34 PM on August 30, 2001

And I thought the South Island of New Zealand was much nicer than the North Island.

You're right. I just noticed they said the 'north' island.

I have no idea what they're thinking.
posted by justgary at 10:15 PM on August 30, 2001

Maybe it's good that they left out the Okavango Delta. Good for the wildlife, that is ...

vowe, I must disagree. I just got back from there two weeks ago, and it was fantastic. And most importantly, the new push toward "eco-tourism" has minimized the impact on the local wildlife, so much so that the big game animals are coming back, and they are reintroducing rhino all over the country. It helps that the Botswanan military just shoots anyone carrying a rifle in the preserves now - they don't even bother to land the helicopters. As you might imagine, this has caused a considerable drop in poaching activity. At the game camps we visited, they described their philosophy as "high cost, low impact", making no bones about charging lots of money and not disturbing the game. At Chitabe camp for example, their concession is 60,000 acres, and they are only allowed to have 4 jeeps out at a time. Wow.

The Okavango Delta should be on anyone's list. The huge river flows out into the desert... and dries up. It creates a unique environment with a diversity and density of wildlife that is incredible. I may never get a chance to go back, so I took lots of slides -- about 700 or so -- and will be putting them up on my site when I get them all scanned in.

I've managed to see 10 of the 50, and was also surprised that the Great Barrier Reef was not included. The Okavango and the GBR were the two places I promised myself I would see, and I haven't been there yet, but still plan to go.
posted by JParker at 10:37 PM on August 30, 2001

I have to agree with Dai. Tokyo is much more "laboratory of modern life" than New York, though I`m somewhat biased because I live in Tokyo. The lack of urban planning here is some of what gives it its life.

I think what kidsplate and shadowkeeper are saying go hand in hand. To my mind, unless you are a student of architecture or Chinese history, the Great Wall may be impressive, but will not change your life or your worldview. But going to China and seeing Beijing, maybe living there for a few months, would definitely change you.

The little things, like different names for common brands (even in your own country, such as Best Foods and Hilmans (sp?) in the U.S.) can really make things foreign. Seeing Sumo did not change my life. Living in Tokyo, learning Japanese, riding crowded trains and eating more noodles than bread while pining for good Mexican or Chinese food has made some small changes in the way I think. So has teaching English to non-native speakers.

I don`t travel often, but when I do, I`m far more interested in trying to see how the local life is different from mine than in seeing the major tourist attractions (other than good museums.)
posted by chiheisen at 1:32 AM on August 31, 2001

4 of 50 (which includes 'cyber space'). I need to get out more.
posted by tamim at 2:38 AM on August 31, 2001

4 out of 50 here too.

Mind you, I don't think anyone could do an objective list. "50 places in the world you should visit" is always highly subjective.
Personally, two of the most amazing places I've ever been to are Ephesus in Turkey (which I was surprised to find wasn't listed), and at the other end of the scale, a mountain in North Wales called Arenig Fawr. Approx. 800m high, it's nothing spectacular in the grander scheme of things, but to reach the top and look back was one of the best experiences in my life.
posted by emc at 5:07 AM on August 31, 2001

My favorite part is that the blurb recommending Jerusalem quotes that noted travel/religious expert Rosanne Barr.
posted by straight at 7:17 AM on August 31, 2001

Actually, after thinking about this for a while, it has inspired me to come up with a list of places I'd like to visit. For the most part, I don't really have a choice, just whatever's cheap, but it's something nice to think about.
posted by kidsplate at 7:59 AM on August 31, 2001

Kakadu? The Kimberleys? The Great Barrier Reef?
posted by obiwanwasabi at 7:03 PM on September 2, 2001

« Older White Bread Blues   |   Michael Dertouzos has left us. Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments