Our editors are frequently asked this question, but they routinely avoid answering it. As one editor admitted, “Picking a favorite place is like picking a favorite child. I can do it, but I prefer not to.” However, we persisted and managed to get two of them to answer this perennial question:
From our editor-in-chief: After having visited more than 135 countries, this is not an easy question to answer. I’ve always loved France, Italy and Greece; and some of the happiest times of my life have been in Africa, especially northern Kenya and Botswana (the Kalahari and the Okavango). My favorite tropical islands are the Seychelles. But if I had to choose one “all-time favorite place” – which I don’t like doing – it would probably be Nepal. Yes, Kathmandu has been wrecked by uncontrolled construction and mass tourism, and yes, many people live in dire poverty, and childhood meningitis is commonplace. But all the different cultural and ethnic groups are fascinating, and the temple architecture is astonishing; I like the food; and most people you encounter are enchantingly friendly.
I have spent countless happy hours trying to spot tigers in the Terai (and occasionally succeeding). But ultimately it is the mountains that draw me back. After the monsoon rains in October and November, when the air is clear and you can see for 100 miles, the Himalayan foothills of Nepal are quite simply the most beautiful place on earth. The colors of the people’s clothes, the flowers, the birds, the stupendous white summits — which seem about twice the size that you expect — combine in a way that is utterly breathtaking and completely unforgettable. Nowhere else have I felt quite the same degree of joy and exhilaration at simply being alive.
From another editor: I always love Vienna. I loved it the first time I went in 1998, and I’ve loved it every other time I’ve been back. Such a gorgeous place, and with such compelling art! I never tire of the voluptuous Klimts in the Belvedere Palace, the tortured Schieles in the Leopoldmuseum or the joyous Hundertwassers in Kunst Haus Wien. The superb quality of the food might come as a surprise to some — it’s not just Wiener schnitzel. And it’s always rather surprising to me how reasonably priced the former capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire is. Vienna has plenty of tourists, but the city seems to absorb them so well, in contrast to many other beautiful European destinations.
Whenever I’m in Vienna, I feel elevated somehow; the city has a wonderful grace to it. But while enjoying that aspect, it’s impossible to forget Vienna’s dark moments, notably the populace’s generally warm reception of Hitler. The grace and the darkness create a tension that’s almost palpable. I'm going back again next May, on vacation this time.