While many people associate the large countries of Canada and the USA with North America, the continent also contains Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central American nations. From huge cosmopolitan cities to tiny indigenous communities, North America has so many places to visit and people to meet.
When it comes to landscapes, the continent has almost all types of terrain imaginable. From soaring mountains, rolling flatlands and arid deserts to lush rainforests and long stretches of sandy beaches, the environment is incredibly diverse.
In our opinion, North America is best explored as part of an epic roadtrip, be sure to check out this post for plenty of inspiration on what to pack.
Choosing just 20 top places to see in North America was a tough call, but we’ve narrowed it down to our favourites…
1. Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada
Among the most breath-taking places on the planet, Canada’s Banff National Park offers a wealth of beautiful vistas and is a truly stunning place to hike and camp out!. Within the Rocky Mountains, glistening lakes, towering peaks, majestic glaciers, plunging canyons and picturesque waterfalls all add to the ethereal exquisiteness. Highlights include Lake Louise, Banff Hot Springs, the Plain of Six Glaciers, Herbert Lake and the Big Beehive.
2. Whistler Mountain, British Colombia, Canada
A hotspot for skiing enthusiasts, the mighty Whistler Mountain is part of the Fitzsimmons Range. While the inter offers an assortment of snow sports, complete with arresting views, the summer also offers plenty of ways to get active in the great outdoors. Hiking, biking, bear spotting, rafting, bungee jumping, zip lining, fishing, and camping are just a few activities that you can enjoy around the mammoth mountain.
3. CN Tower, Toronto, Canada
The iconic landmark of Toronto and one of the world’s top tourist destinations, the CN Tower looms large on the cityscape. After you’ve taken plenty of pictures from a distance, head up the tower to marvel at the sweeping views over the city and beyond. Feeling brave? Step out onto The EdgeWalk.
4. Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada / New York, USA
Sitting on the border between Canada and the USA, the three falls that make up Niagara Falls are among the most-visited waterfalls in the world. Horseshoe Falls is the continent’s most powerful waterfall; you can feel the power and hear the thunderous roar from some distance. The other falls, Bridal Veil Falls and the American Falls, are just as impressive. You’ll find heaps of activities in the area too.
5. Grand Canyon, Arizona, USA
One of the top tourist destinations in the USA, the gaping Grand Canyon stretches for more than 220 miles. The Colorado River winds its way between the soaring red-colored rocks. Volcanic elements add to the dramatic landscapes. Native groups inhabit several places around the canyon. While the Grand Canyon offers so many views and activities, highlights include Horseshoe Bend, the Skywalk and Havasu Falls.
6. Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, USA
Home to grizzly bears, moose, and many species of birds, among other creatures, Yellowstone National Park also has some of the USA’s most interesting geothermal features. Watch as Old Faithful spews a powerful jet of water into the air. Marvel at the psychedelic colors of the Grand Prismatic Spring. See the bubbling water of Mammoth Hot Springs. It’s well worth taking plenty of time to explore the spectacular national park.
7. Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska, USA
One of nature’s stunning icy playgrounds, Glacier Bay National Park is home to enormous glaciers, many of which regularly calve, deep fjords, snow-capped peaks, rugged forests and dramatic coastlines, Whether you focus on the mainland coast or the islands you’ll be presented with incredible vistas and an abundance of wildlife. Several species of whales, sea lions, seals, and fish inhabit the frigid waters. Bears, moose, wolves, coyotes, deer, goats, porcupines, squirrels, and otters are among the creatures that roam dry land. There are myriad bird species too.
8. Times Square, New York, USA
Neon billboards, flashing lights, a cacophony of competing sounds, swathes of people … Times Square is everything you probably imagine, and more. The chaotic frenzy has to be experienced to be understood. Attracting tourists from all four corners of the globe, Times Square is the epitome of American decadence.
9. Joshua Tree National Park, California, USA
With weird and wonderful trees and landscapes at every turn, me and Mikey have been camping out in Joshua Tree National Park once a year for about ten years now, this is one of our favourite places in the world to camp and bust out some tunes (and beers) whilst we watch the stars. Check out this post to find out how to plan the perfect Joshua Tree day trip.
9. Antelope Canyon, Arizona, USA
The two picturesque and unusual slot canyons at Antelope Canyon are the stuff that photographers’ dreams are made of. Upper Antelope Canyon, with its streams of light filtering down through the towering spiral-esque walls, is especially photogenic.
10. Everglades National Park, Florida, USA
A subtropical wilderness, the Everglades National Park is most well known for its large population of alligators. It is also the only place in the world that is home to both alligators and crocodiles. A haven for nature lovers, rare animals that call the Everglades home include the Florida panther and the manatee. Other animals that inhabit the wetlands include bears, deer, raccoons, otters and numerous species of fish, birds, lizards, insects, and snakes.
11. Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii, USA
Watch an active volcano in action at the spectacular Volcanoes National Park, located on Hawaii’s Big Island. Red-hot lava oozes down the side of Kilauea Volcano as smoke and steam spiral into the sky. Hardened lava covers the roads. The park is also home to the towering Mauna Loa Volcano. Another top site in Volcanoes National Park is the other-worldly Thurston Lava Tube.
12. Las Vegas, Nevada, USA
Often referred to as the Entertainment Capital of the World, Las Vegas is another of the USA’s iconic destinations that has to be visited to be believed. With enormous glitzy casinos and themed hotels, almost every kind of show imaginable, a nightlife that never runs out of energy and a plethora of activities to indulge in, Las Vegas never fails to excite.
13. Tulum, Quintana Roo, Mexico
One of Mexico’s most popular tourist destinations, the Mayan city of Tulum occupies a splendid location set against the shimmering sapphire waters of the Caribbean Sea. Take your time when exploring the magnificent well-preserved ruins to fully appreciate the site’s majesty. The area also has several stunning cenotes that are sure to tempt you in for a swim. Check out this post for plenty of inspiration on the best Tulum Cenotes. Alternatively, bask on the sandy shores of the Mexican Riviera.
14. Tamul WaterFall, San Luis Potosi, Mexico
Crystal clear water plunges more than 340 feet from the towering rocks to meet the dazzling blue pool at the bottom with a resounding crash. The roar of the mighty waterfall can be heard from afar. Get up close to the natural splendor with a rafting trip, passing interesting ancient rock formations on the way.
15. Canon de la Angostura, Queretaro, Mexico
Walk through the wildlife-rich forest to reach the sublime natural wonderland that is the Canon de la Angostura. Follow the boardwalks deep into the canyon and gaze up at the towering waterfalls. Climb ladders into secret caverns and caves. Admire the sparkling emerald pools that punctuate the rocky terrain. Go hiking in the scenic surroundings. Don’t forget your binoculars to help you spot the many birds, including woodpeckers, macaws and parakeets, that call the area home.
16. Tikal, Petan, Guatemala
One of the most awe-inspiring Mayan sites across Central America, the large Tikal is made even more stunning because of its dense jungle surroundings. Ancient structures poke up through the trees, with some of pyramids suitable for climbing. Combine history and nature in one gorgeous place.
17. Panama Canal, Panama
One of the world’s most ambitious engineering feats, the impressive Panama Canal is a must for anyone with an interest in maritime or structural history. The nearby Gatun Lake is a scenic site with plenty of wildlife.
18. Arenal Volcano, Alajuela, Costa Rica
Although no longer erupting as it did until the recent past, Arenal Volcano is still one of the top sights in Costa Rica. Rising up from the verdant surroundings, a swirl of mist often hangs in the air around the peak. Hiking and horse riding is a great way to explore the environs.
19. Havana, Cuba
Visiting the Cuban capital of Havana is rather like taking a step back in time. Old American cars line the roads and the colonial-era architecture presents a mixture of opulence and elegant decay. Of course, sampling the local rum and cigars is also a highlight for many. A fabulous destination for culture vultures and history lovers, don’t miss the Museum of the Revolution.
20. Salt Cay, Turks and Caicos, British Overseas Territory
With more than 40 islands and islets, Turks and Caicos is a stunning gem that is severely overlooked by visitors. The luxury price tags might, however, deter many! Salt Cay is a fantastic destination for fans of underwater explorations, with plenty of places to scuba dive and snorkel. Whales can be seen in the winter. The white beaches are sure to entice and the small but friendly local population will charm. Serene and peaceful, a trip to Salt Cay is like stepping back in time.
North America boasts so many splendors and there are many more fascinating places to see all around the continent. Do you have a favorite that’s not on the list?