Southern charm is a force to be reckoned with as far as Travel + Leisure readers are concerned.
Charleston, South Carolina, topped the publication’s world’s top cities awards, part of its annual reader-chosen World’s Best Awards.
Travel + Leisure revealed the award winners on Wednesday as part of the travel magazine’s 21st annual reader survey of top travel destinations and companies around the world.
Charleston wasn’t South Carolina’s only big winner. The state dominated the awards, with Hilton Head Island taking top honors as best continental U.S. island and Charleston’s Spectator Hotel named best hotel in the continental United States.
“Charleston is a remarkably dynamic place, so it’s no surprise that it has achieved its highest ranking ever in our survey as this year’s best city in the world,” said Nathan Lump, the magazine’s editor.
“The city has managed to preserve all the qualities for which it is widely known — a prime coastal setting, historic architecture, friendly locals — while also nurturing a creative culture that is making it one of the most notable destinations for those who seek out interesting restaurants, bars and shops,” Lump said.
It’s also a city that has worked on recovering from last year’s deadly mass shooting at the predominately African-American Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, which shook the city to its core.
Once a key location in the country’s slave trade, Charleston’s history is deep and divisive. In 1861, the Civil War started in Charleston Harbor when Confederate artillery opened fire on federal Fort Sumter.
Now Fort Sumter is a National Park Service site, the city’s Old Slave Mart is a museum and Charleston attracts visitors with its layered history, distinct architecture and booming restaurant scene.
Other popular tourism spots around the world also took home T+L honors. Chiang Mai, Thailand and San Miguel de Allende in Mexico ranked second and third among the world’s top cities.
Nihiwatu in Sumba, Indonesia, was named the world’s best hotel, according to T+L readers, while the world’s best island was Palawan in the Philippines.
The world’s best destination spa is Mountain Trek in British Columbia, Canada, while the best U.S. destination spa is New Life Hiking Spa in Killington, Vermont.
There are 79 categories of awards, including worldwide rankings and regional lists.
Among the winners:
Top 10 cities around the world
1. Charleston, South Carolina
2. Chiang Mai, Thailand
3. San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
4. Florence, Italy
5. Luang Prabang, Laos
6. Kyoto, Japan
7. New Orleans, Louisiana
8. Barcelona, Spain
9. Savannah, Georgia
10. Cape Town, South Africa
Canada top spots
Top city: Quebec City
Top island: Vancouver Island, British Columbia
Mexico/Central and South America top spots
Top city: San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
Top island: Galápagos Islands, Ecuador
Europe top spots
Top city: Florence, Italy
Top island: Ischia, Italy
Asia top spots
Top city: Chiang Mai, Thailand
Top island: Palawan, Philippines
Australia/New Zealand/South Pacific top spots
Top city: Sydney, Australia
Top island: Waiheke Island, New Zealand
Africa/Middle East top spots
Top city: Cape Town, South Africa
Top island: Seychelles