Best world travel destinations for In 1846, the UNITED STATES won the right to build a trans-isthmian railroad, invaluable during the western gold rush. When finished, the 47.5-mile railroad was the first transcontinental railway in the world. But a canal seemed more practical. Americans explored other options, but the isthmus was the best. In the last quarter of the 19th century, with European imperial competition heating, interest in a canal became especially strong. In 1876, France’s Ferdinand de Lesseps sent Navy Lieutenant Lucien N. Best world travel destinations 2016.