(In Alphabetical Order)

By Chuck Hawks

    AVALON, SANTA CATALINA ISLAND - I am a big fan of islands, and the good news for fellow Americans is that one of the world's best island destinations is only 22 nautical miles off the coast of California. The unspoiled 1950's atmosphere of the town of Avalon is a reminder of how nice Southern California used to be. Avalon Bay, of course, has been a paradise for yachtsmen since around the turn of the century.

    CHARLOTTE AMALIE, ST. THOMAS ISLAND - When I first saw the harbor at Charlotte Amalie, U.S.V.I., my first thought was that the graceful half-moon bay reminded me of Avalon Bay, only bigger. One of the "must see" spots on a Caribbean cruise. And truly great bargains for shoppers. You will see what seems like half of the yachts, and half of the cruise ships, in the Caribbean in the bay at Charlotte Amalie. While you are there, take the excursion boat to nearby St. John Island. St. John gets my vote for the title of "world's most beautiful island".

    GEIRANGER, NORWAY - My choice for the world's most beautiful town, in the world's most beautiful country. Set at the end of a fjord, ringed by waterfalls and snow capped mountains, I can't describe it adequately. You will simply have to go there and see for yourself. A good way to get there is on a cruise of the Norwegian fjords. Unforgettable!

    HONG KONG - The former crown jewel of the British colonies. Spectacular modern architecture, beautiful harbor, great shopping, Hong Kong had it all. How it will fare under continuing Chinese Communist rule is a question that fills those of us who knew the old British Crown Colony of Hong Kong with trepidation.

    HONOLULU, OAHU - Honolulu, on the island of Oahu, is the point of entry for most visitors to the Hawiian Islands. Waikiki Beach and Pearl Harbor are justly famous attractions in the Honolulu area, and definitely in the "must see" category. But the rest of Oahu is equally interesting, and even more spectacularly beautiful. Oahu is well supplied with paved roads, which (along with the excellent weather) makes it the best of all the islands to explore from the seat of a rented Harley-Davidson motorcycle. (After visiting the Arizona Memorial, something every American--and every Japanese!--should do, you will be proud to be riding a Harley.) One can ride completely around Oahu in a day, but there is so much to see that, if you have the time, it is better to rent that Harley for at least a week.

    LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - Not just for gamblers, Las Vegas is for everyone. The most exciting "fun city" in the world. Las Vegas is bigger, more spectacular, more excessive, with more to see, and more to do. Don't miss the many attractions on the famous "Strip" (many of them free) or the "Fremont Street Experience." But also consider renting a car or motorcycle and touring nearby Hoover Dam, Red Rock Canyon, and Lake Mead.

    MAGDALENA BAY, SPITZBERGEN ISLAND - If Geiranger is the world's most beautiful town, this is one of the world's most beautiful unpopulated bays. Spitzbergen Island is located far north of the North Cape of Norway, about half way to the North Pole, near latitude 80 North. Total wilderness, ringed by mountain peaks clogged with glaciers that rise straight out of the Arctic ocean. Encased within the Arctic ice pack much of the year, Magdalena Bay is the most remote, and certainly one of the most beautiful, places I have ever been. You can get there on Vistafjord, when she does her cruise to the Ice barrier.

    SAN MARINO - The world's smallest Republic, located entirely within Italy. Built on a tiny mountain plateau not far from the northern Adriatic coast. Spectacular views, quaint beauty, and a truly unusual stamp for your passport.

    SITKA, ALASKA - It is hard for me to choose just one town to represent the last American frontier. Juneau and Ketchikan certainly have their charms, for instance. But Sitka gets the nod because of its combination of charm, beauty, and historical interest. And, it is small enough that you can cover most of it on foot. Like most coastal Alaska towns, it is a wonderful place to visit by boat or cruise ship.

    SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - If I could be a millionaire and live anywhere in the world, Sydney would be the place I would choose. Probably the world's most beautiful major city, with a truly great harbor. Be sure to take a harbor tour by boat, or you will miss the most beautiful aspect of this great city. Also don't miss the spectacular view from the top of Sydney Tower, one of the tallest structures in the world.

    VENICE, ITALY - I have been to the "Venice of the North" (Stockholm), and the "Venice of Asia" (Bangkok), and they are both great places that almost made this list. However, the most beautiful Venice of them all is the original. Very expensive, but worth it. The view from the clock tower, and a visit to the Moreno glass works are among my favorite things to do here. Anyone who does not enjoy sightseeing in Venice is probably already dead.

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Copyright 1998, 2007 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.