Angkor Wat, a "Hindu heaven on earth" and a "complex of more than 1,000 temples, shrines and tombs that form a virtual city of spires in the jungles of northern Cambodia," take the crown in Lonely Planet's Ultimate Travelist.

The temples of Angkor have stood for over a thousand years and are visited by over 640,000 foreign tourists every year. Originally dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu, it has remained a place of worship since its construction. Thought to be a miniature replica of the universe, its towers, moats and concentric walls are celebrated as an architectural masterpiece.

Published on Monday 17 August, Lonely Planet's Ultimate Travelist ranks the 500 best places to see on the planet. The Temples of Angkor are followed by Australia's Great Barrier Reef – "a psychedelic underwater playground"; Machu Picchu in Peru – "mind-blowing" and "a proper enigma"; the Great Wall of China – "an awe-inspiring maze of walls and fortifications"; and India's Taj Mahal which "still presents a misty window through time".

The British Museum in London is the UK's highest-scoring sight. Coming in at number 15 makes it one of the highest-ranking sights in the world. The British Museum staked its claim to a top spot thanks to being "the great treasure house of Europe".

It is praised as "a grand Greek Revival temple to treasure hiding an unexpected Norman Foster canopy over its vast central courtyard". Visiting the museum is described as "a pilgrimage for fans of antiquity".

Tom Hall, Editorial Director of Lonely Planet, said "This book has been years in the making and brings together the most compelling places in the world according to our team of globetrotting travel experts.

Every traveller has got a list of places they simply have to see – places heard about, read about or dreamed about. Of course, what makes somewhere special is different for everyone and we'd love to hear about other people's top spots. But this is our definitive list. And one we hope will inspire many other travel wishlists."

Lonely Planet's Ultimate Travelist – The Top 20

1. Temples of Angkor, Cambodia

2. Great Barrier Reef, Australia

3. Machu Picchu, Peru

4. Great Wall of China, China

5. Taj Mahal, India

6. Grand Canyon National Park, USA

7. Colosseum, Italy

8. Iguazú Falls, Brazil-Argentina

9. Alhambra, Spain

10. Aya Sofya, Turkey

11. Fez Medina, Morocco

12. Twelve Apostles, Australia

13. Petra, Jordan

14. Tikal, Guatemala

15. British Museum, England

16. Sagrada Familia, Spain

17. Fiordland National Park, New Zealand

18. Santorini, Greece

19. Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

20. Museum of Old & New Art, Australia