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Serious travelers pinpoint their favorite spots

Condé Nast Traveler’s Readers’ Choice Awards essentially provide a roadmap of cities to visit, places to stay and smart ways to travel if you don’t have the time or energy to have your expectations dashed during your next break from work.
/ Source: TODAY contributor

Take it from thousands of avid travelers out there: They’ve left their hearts in San Francisco, their minds in Salzburg and their loyalties with an entirely new airline.

Those are just some of the details to emerge from Condé Nast Traveler’s annual Readers’ Choice Survey, which polled 32,633 travelers about their favorite cities, cruise lines, airlines, hotels and resorts worldwide.

The full Readers’ Choice Awards, to be featured in the magazine’s November issue, essentially provide a roadmap of cities to visit, places to stay and smart ways to travel if you don’t have the time or energy to have your expectations dashed during your next break from work.

Granted, readers shared their most cherished recommendations a few months ago, before bleak economic news began dominating headlines and many people started curtailing their travel plans. Nevertheless, the survey results are telling, said Kate Maxwell, a senior editor for Condé Nast Traveler.

“People believe that travel is really something of a right these days,” Maxwell said. “It’s important to people and it can be the highlight of their year. These results show they really feel strongly about it.”

Here are a few highlights from the awards, which are now in their 21st year:

  • Charleston, S.C., beat New York City out of the number 2 spot for best U.S. city to visit.  San Francisco remained number 1 and New York City fell to number 3.
  • San Francisco won the top U.S. city designation for the 16th consecutive year.
  • Virgin America, a new airline that launched in August 2007, was named the best U.S. domestic airline. JetBlue Airways grabbed the number 2 spot.
  • For the 19th time, Singapore Airlines was named the number 1 international route airline.
  • In the ranking of the best European cities, Florence took the top spot for the fifth year in a row, Rome ranked second and Salzburg and Venice tied for third place. The Austrian birthplace of Mozart scored well for its ambiance and cultural sites and landed its highest ranking ever this year.
  • Prague reappeared on this year’s list of top 10 European cities after a four-year absence.
  • Damascus, Syria stayed near the top of the list of best cities in the Africa/Middle East category after climbing up the list last year.

And here is a list of this year’s top award winners in each category:

Top Cities — United States:

  1. San Francisco
  2. Charleston, S.C.
  3. New York City

Top Cities — Europe:

  1. Florence, Italy
  2. Rome, Italy
  3. Salzburg, Austria and Venice, Italy

Top Cities — Asia:

  1. Bangkok, Thailand
  2. Chiang Mai, Thailand
  3. Hong Kong

Top Cities — Africa/Middle East:

  1. Cape Town, South Africa
  2. Jerusalem
  3. Damascus

Top Cities — The Americas

  1. Buenos Aires, Argentina
  2. Vancouver, British Columbia
  3. Quebec City, Quebec

Top Cities — Australia/Pacific:

  1. Sydney, Australia
  2. Melbourne, Australia
  3. Queenstown, New Zealand

Top Hotels — Southern Europe:

  1. Il Pellicano, Tuscany, Italy
  2. Four Seasons Hotel George V, Paris
  3. Il San Pietro di Positano, Positano, Italy

Top Hotels — United States:

  1. The Peninsula, Chicago
  2. Elizabeth Pointe Lodge, Amelia Island, Fla.
  3. Stephanie Inn, Cannon Beach, Ore.

Top Hotels — Canada:

  1. Hotel Grand Pacific, Victoria
  2. Auberge Saint-Antoine, Quebec City
  3. Sooke Harbour House, Sooke, Vancouver Island

Top Hotels — Asia:

  1. Oberoi Udaivilas, Rajasthan, India
  2. Oberoi Amarvilas, Agra, India
  3. The Peninsula, Hong Kong

  1. Cape Grace, Cape Town
  2. Twelve Apostles Hotel and Spa, Cape Town
  3. Table Bay Hotel, Cape Town

Top Hotels — Caribbean/Atlantic:

  1. Hotel Saint-Barth Isle de France, St. Barts
  2. Eden Rock, St. Barts
  3. Le Toiny, St. Barts

Top Hotels — Middle East:

  1. David Citadel Hotel, Jerusalem
  2. Four Seasons Hotel Doha, Qatar
  3. Four Seasons Hotel Amman, Jordan

Top Hotels — Northern Europe:

  1. Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace, Budapest, Hungary
  2. Ritz-Carlton, Berlin, Germany
  3. Brenner’s Park-Hotel & Spa, Baden-Baden, Germany

Top Hotels — Mexico:

  1. Casa Natalia, San Jose del Cabo
  2. Hotel at Esperanza, Cabo San Lucas
  3. Las Mananitas, Cuernavaca

Top Hotels — British Isles:

  1. Milestone Hotel, London
  2. Lower Slaughter Manor, Cotswolds
  3. Chewton Glen, Hampshire

Top Hotels — Australia/Pacific:

  1. Henry Jones Art Hotel, Hobart, Tasmania
  2. Park Hyatt, Sydney
  3. The Westin, Melbourne

Top Hotels — South America:

  1. Hotel Monasterio, Cuzco, Peru
  2. Four Seasons Hotel Buenos Aires, Argentina
  3. Alvear Palace Hotel, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Top Hotels — Central America

  1. Hotel Casa Santo Domingo, Antigua, Guatemala
  2. Lapa Rios Ecolodge, Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica
  3. Porta Hotel Antigua, Guatemala

Top Islands — Caribbean/Atlantic:

  1. Bermuda
  2. St. John
  3. St. Barts

Top Islands — Pacific:

  1. Maui
  2. Kauai
  3. Bora Bora

Top Islands — Asia/Indian Ocean:

  1. Maldives
  2. Bali
  3. Phuket

Top Islands — North America:

  1. Vancouver Island
  2. Kiawah, S.C.
  3. Nantucket, Mass.

Top Islands — Europe:

  1. Mykonos and the Cyclades
  2. Capri
  3. Sicily

Top Resorts — Asia:

  1. Four Seasons Tented Camp Golden Triangle, Chiang Rai, Thailand
  2. Oberoi Vanyavilas, Rajasthan, India
  3. Four Seasons Resort Bali at Sayan

Top Resorts — Mexico:

1. One & Only Palmilla, Los Cabos and The Tides, Riviera Maya

3. JW Marriott Resort & Spa, Cancun

Top Resorts — Africa:

  1. Mombo and Little Mombo Camps, Moremi, Botswana
  2. Grande Roche, Paarl, South Africa
  3. Jao Camp, Okavango Delta, Botswana

Top Resorts — Europe:

  1. Penha Longa Hotel, Spa & Golf Resort, Sintra, Portugal
  2. Ashford Castle, Co. Mayo, Ireland
  3. Convento do Espinheiro Hotel & Spa, Evora, Portugal

Top Resorts — Hawaii:

  1. Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea
  2. Four Seasons Resort Hualalai, Big Island
  3. Four Seasons Resort Lana’i, The Lodge at Koele

Top Resorts — Atlantic Ocean:

  1. One & Only Ocean Club, Bahamas
  2. Pink Sands, Bahamas
  3. The Reefs, Bermuda

Top Resorts — Middle East:

  1. Burj Al Arab, Dubai
  2. One & Only Royal Mirage, Dubai
  3. Madinat Jumeirah, Dubai

  1. Hotel Bora Bora
  2. Huka Lodge, Taupo, New Zealand
  3. Le Meridien Bora Bora

Top Resorts — Mainland U.S.:

  1. Kenwood Inn and Spa, Sonoma County, Calif.
  2. Inn at Thorn Hill & Spa, Jackson Village, N.H.
  3. Sanctuary at Kiawah Island, S.C.

Top Resorts — Canada:

  1. King Pacific Lodge, Princess Royal Island
  2. Wickaninnish Inn, Tofino, Vancouver Island
  3. Long Beach Lodge Resort, Tofino, Vancouver Island

Top Resorts — Caribbean:

  1. Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman
  2. Curtain Bluff, Antigua
  3. Petit St. Vincent Resort, Grenadines

Top Resorts — Central/South America:

  1. Hotel Punta Islita, Guanacaste, Costa Rica
  2. Hotel Salto Chico, Patagonia, Chile
  3. Four Seasons Resort Carmelo, Uruguay

Top Cruise Lines — Large Ships:

  1. Crystal Cruise Line
  2. Regent Seven Seas
  3. Disney Cruise Line

Top Cruise Lines — Small Ships:

  1. Seabourn Cruise Line
  2. Regent Seven Seas
  3. SeaDream Yacht Club

Top Airlines — International Routes:

  1. Singapore Airlines
  2. Emirates
  3. Virgin Atlantic

Top Airlines — Domestic Routes:

  1. Virgin America
  2. JetBlue Airways
  3. Midwest Airlines

Top Airlines — Foreign-Only Routes:

  1. SilkAir
  2. Jet Airways
  3. Air Iceland

Top Car Rental Agencies:

  1. Hertz
  2. Enterprise
  3. Avis

To see the full lists of winners in a variety of categories, pick up the November issue of Condé Nast Traveler on newsstands starting Oct. 21, or visit .