Best of the World: 1,000 Destinations of a Lifetime
“Best of the World: 1,000 Destinations of a Lifetime is worthy of the National Geographic imprimatur, providing tips and insights that strike a solid balance between depth and breadth.”
With in-depth information about virtually any place on Earth just a few clicks away on travel websites or available via any number of YouTube videos, a book about top destinations seems a bit quaint, if not entirely antiquated. Why burden oneself with a hefty tome when one can get what’s needed on TripAdvisor?
National Geographic reckons otherwise, and with good reason; its magazines and guides have always ventured a little farther, using striking imagery and thoughtful text to unveil territories and cultural gems previously hidden from public notice. Best of the World: 1,000 Destinations of a Lifetime is worthy of the National Geographic imprimatur, providing tips and insights that strike a solid balance between depth and breadth.
Over the past decade, Nat Geo has assembled annual “Best of the World” lists in five categories—Nature, Culture, Cities, Adventure and Family—and each category is represented in Best of the World with hundreds of points of interest, accommodations, activities, and cultural notes. Those who have browsed an issue of National Geographic Traveler magazine will recognize many of its earmarks in this rundown of globe-spanning destinations: top 10 lists, road trip itineraries, insider recommendations on where to stay and what to do and eat, and first-person accounts packed with journalistic detail.
Best of the World has the gloss one would expect from a Nat Geo publication, but it also embraces a bit of chaos in its presentation: a tip about Malbec wine in the mountains of Argentina inhabits the same page as details on homestays in Vietnam, while trekking tips for Dakar sit alongside a visit to Tbilisi’s historic sites. Like travelers suffering whiplash on a white-knuckle adventure in the great outdoors, the reader is continually thrown halfway across the globe and back again. Of course, that’s the point of the exercise: the book is meant to be perused with an open and curious mind, with constant surprises around every corner. (For those who insist on reading up on a specific locale, the index at the back of the book will prove invaluable.)
The book offers plenty of juicy minutiae as it hops across continents and cultures, offering suggestions for travelers of all stripes, from eco-getaways to family-oriented museum trips. It’s at its most compelling when it takes a breath for reportage from a particular locale. Whether it's an examination of the push-pull between past and present in Malta, a meditation on the rhythms of French Polynesian island life, a stroll through the hip neighborhoods of Melbourne, or a hike up Brandberg mountain in Namibia, the long-form essays scattered throughout the book are immersive, and potent proof of the value (and joy) of travel.
As well laid-out and adventurous as the content is, Best of the World is a bit perfunctory when it comes to its images. Save for a few breathtaking vistas, the photos are more expository and less stunning than one might find in a standard issue of National Geographic. Nevertheless, the combination of visuals and text are enough to inspire daydreams of faraway lands or undiscovered treasures closer to home, whether one is a foodie, a culture maven, an environmentally conscious explorer, or a happy wandering nomad. The result is an impressively packaged compendium of travel delights, and if it’s impossible to truly give the entire planet its due in a single volume, Best of the World reminds us just how wide the world is, and how much out there is ready to be experienced.