If you could go anywhere (really, anywhere!) in the world right now, where would it be? New Zealand or Australia? Hawaii or Mexico? We’ve come up with the ultimate wanderlust-inspired game of “would you rather.” Sixteen destinations are facing off against each other in Virtuoso’s first-ever Travel Dreams Tournament, a three-week, bracket-style voting game to crown this year’s top vacation destination.
Beginning today, head to virtuoso.com/traveldreams to cast your votes. After week one, eight destinations will be eliminated, and eight will move on – March Madness style. Vote as many times as you’d like, but be sure to come back for each new round to see if your favorites made it through and vote again. We’ll be posting real-time tournament updates on our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagrampages, so hit that follow button.
Before you vote, allow us to introduce the 16 destination in this year’s Travel Dreams tournament first. Check out the scouting reports below, then go make your picks.
City Escapes: Paris vs. London
There’s magic everywhere in Paris, from the twinkling Eiffel Tower to the Seine. Parisians invented the word “flâneur” – an idle stroller – and roaming is the best approach for taking in this city’s cafés, museums, boutiques, and public parks. We’re calling it now: Paris is poised to say bonjour to the finals.
Read More: The Insiders’ Travel Guide to Paris
Come for the royal pomp and circumstance, stay for the cutting-edge art scene and Michelin-starred restaurants. London has it all: Buckingham Palace, afternoon tea in swanky luxury hotels, inventive martinis on rooftop bars, and Banksy murals on hidden alleys. This U.K. capital isn’t going to let a little rain stop it from Travel Dreams glory.
- Read More: Where to Shop, Eat, and Explore in London
Down Under Favorites: Australia vs. New Zealand
Australia comes to play with barreling surf, a strong cultural game stretching from artsy Melbourne in the south to Aboriginal Arnhem Land up top, and a reef and a rock like nobody’s business. Its secret weapon: a positive, in-it-to-win-it attitude no matter the score – you can’t say even hi to someone here without hearing that it’s a good day.
- Read More: City Secrets: Melbourne
A tourism Cinderella story, New Zealand’s dream-trip stature got a boost thanks to its star turn as Middle Earth. But the land of kiwis and bungee jumping has staying power, thanks to its dramatic scenery – deep sounds, dramatic peaks, fern-trees, and stretches of pristine coastline – and its killer cuisine and wine.
- Read More: Just Back from New Zealand
Beach Retreats: Hawaii vs. Mexico
Whether you choose to settle down in one place or you’re ready to island-hop between Oahu, Hawaii Island, Maui, Kauai, and Lanai, you’re practically guaranteed a pristine spot on one of the world’s best beaches. Throw in helicopter tours over lush coastlines, mountaintop sunrises, and a few mai tais, and Hawaii is a real Travel Dreams threat.
- Read More: A Guide to the Hawaiian Islands
From Los Cabos to Cancun, Mexico’s Pacific and Caribbean beaches invite travelers to bask in the sun and adventure on land and sea. And in between, beautiful cities, ancient Mayan ruins, and charming, centuries-old colonial towns await. Mexico’s wide appeal and stunning versatility make it a strong favorite heading into the Travel Dreams tournament.
- Read More: Five Things We Love: Mexico City
Cruising Staples: Caribbean vs. Mediterranean
Keeping tabs on team Med is the ultimate Travel Dream odyssey: new cruise ships plying ancient routes, a yacht game that’s never looked sleeker, and then there’s “the light” – an untouchable quality inspiring generations of artists. From Tangier to Tunis to Tel-Aviv, Med ports are singularly qualified to thrill style mavens, scholars, playboys, and gourmands while uniting Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa on a common journey.
A Caribbean cruise is the ultimate island-hopping getaway: Where else can you snorkel with sea turtles, sip rum at a local distillery, zip line through a rain forest, and tour Alexander Hamilton’s childhood home, all in a week’s time? Throw in that crystal-clear water and those idyllic, palm-fringed beaches, and this is the stuff travel dreams are made of. The only real choice here: Eastern or Western Caribbean?
Romance Havens: Greece vs. Bora-Bora
A godlike presence in many a travel dream, Greece brings its A-game with sun-drenched islands, whitewashed towns, and a mythic past that just won’t quit. From the Acropolis to the Aegean Sea, this is a destination to watch.
Read More: 4 Exceptional Experiences in Greece
This platonic ideal of paradise could easily run away with the title. Consider its top-seeded assets: White sand beaches; an iconic flat-topped mountain; and clusters of bungalows perched over gin-clear water. Don’t let its laid-back aura fool you – Bora-Bora is a contender.
- Read More: Virtuoso Life Editors’ Wow Moments
Mountain Trips: Swiss Alps vs. Machu Picchu
Famed for its staggering, high-elevation beauty, the Swiss Alps’ mountain villages, glitzy ski resorts, glacial lakes, and Alpine hiking trails offer unbeatable winter or summer outdoor experiences. Greet fellow travelers (or the country’s happy, grazing cows) with “Grüezi,” and you’re on your way to that coveted Switzerland passport.
- Read More: Jet-Setter’s Gstaad
Talk about tournament royalty, Peru’s mystic city of Machu Picchu was built as the ultimate summer retreat – a feature few others can claim. The exacting craftsmanship and skill displayed in its maze of plazas, palaces, terraces, and temples have stonewalled centuries of challenges, but it’s the history and lore that will likely leave opponents in ruins.
- Read More: Peru Made Easy
Winetasting Wonders: Napa Valley vs. Tuscany
A global wine mecca, Napa Valley enchants visitors with charming small towns and beautiful hotels. Talented chefs make the most of just-picked California produce, and the legendary wine pairings are guaranteed to please well-traveled oenophiles and food lovers.
- Read More: Napa Valley Travel Guide
A nearly untouchable contender, Tuscany packs famed vineyards, storybook landscapes, and revered cuisine into its travel dreams arsenal. Oh, and did we mention Michelangelo’s David and the treasures of the Medici dynasty marvels in the Uffizi? Super Tuscan, indeed.
Nature-Fueled Adventures: Galápagos Islands vs. South Africa
Now here’s a South American gem to keep an eye on. The Galápagos Islands – which inspired Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution – are seemingly untouched by time. For nature lovers wanting a true expedition experience and the breathtaking feeling of coming face-to-face with fearless animals, the journey changes you.
- Read More: Trips to Take Before the Teens Leave Home
South Africa has something for everyone, from cool, cosmopolitan Cape Town and the Stellenbosch and Franschhoek wine regions to epic game drives and life-changing moments witnessing “big five” wildlife in Kruger National Park. This safari heavyweight is sure to be a frontrunner for the championship.
- Read More: Cape Town Calling
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For the past 12 years as a Certified Travel & Cruise Consultant, I have sent clients all around the world making their dreams come true! What could be better than that?” My passion is creating travel experiences & adventures that are unique & rewarding offering you local experiences whenever possible. I specialize in Travel for Individ... more