Lonely Planet has had it’s say on the top ‘must visit’ destinations for 2016, it seems sensible to take a browse and see what the experts of the respected travel guide think. Are they really the cream of the crop, or just also rans? What are the surprises, which are predictable and are there any omissions?
At first glance some of the destinations include several of the usual suspects, but on closer inspection it’s an eclectic list, with some genuine surprises with good reasons for including those anticipated favourites.
The USA is a perennial favourite, but celebrating the anniversary of its many national parks, with evocative names like Yellowstone, Joshua Tree, Death Valley, Glacier Bay or Grand Teton should be enough to inspire even the most stubborn couch potato to consider taking to the open road in the land of the free. Include Canada, which feels like one huge national park and North America is a must visit destination that has plenty to suit all tastes.
Australia is probably high on the list of anybody that hasn’t visited, the knowledge that due to currency issues and falling petrol prices making it more affordable should push it towards the top of many lists.
So much for predictable entries, but what about the surprises?
Botswana topping the list of countries may surprise many, but not me. The Lonely Planet makes a persuasive argument for visiting one of the dark continents most stable countries, and sells its many attractions effectively. It does not even choose to mention the amazing Okavango Delta. The vast alluvial fan, which when it floods is one of nature’s most spectacular events, and reason enough for me to believe it deserves the top billing.
Latvia and Poland may seem even more surprising, but both have plenty to offer, with iconic wildlife which thrives in ancient forests that are rare or even absent from the rest of Europe, pretty towns, castles and oodles of history and culture. Liepāja in Latvia with it’s aged, derelict buildings enthralled me while the Warsaw Rising Museum is one of the most uplifting cultural attractions I’ve ever visited.
Another similar destination worth considering is Estonia, another of the Baltic states, it has much in common with Latvia, but visiting Kihnu Island is a real experience. The matriarchal society is fascinating, and life on the island really does feel like stepping out of history.
Having recently returned from Indonesia, a country with an amazingly diverse landscape, bustling cities, impressive cultural sites, some of the friendliest people on the planet and of course the land of the Komodo dragon it’s a destination I would add to the list of places to visit. It took my breath away on a daily basis.
How about the best regions?
Transylvania was an unexpected surprise, but also a place I haven’t visited, so they’ve inspired at least one person to make the trip. I’m intrigued as to why this tops the list of regions; though a blend of old rural Europe and modern chic does sound worthy of at least a try,
Iceland is one of my favourite destinations, it’s stark, often breath-taking scenery is some of the most spectacular anywhere, so segregating West Iceland seems slightly churlish. It’s like choosing your favourite child from among your offspring, it’s just wrong! Visit Iceland, I guarantee wherever you visit, it won’t be a disappointment.
St Helena is one of the most exciting journeys I’ve ever made, the ten day return trip from Cape Town by ship alone makes it a special adventure. The island is about to become more accessible with the introduction of an airport, providing many more travellers the opportunity to visit Napoleon’s final exile. Those extra tourists will be welcomed by the friendly ‘Saints’ eager to show them the isolated island they call home.
Talking of home, mine is near Manchester, and discovering that the northern, industrial city has made it onto the Lonely Planet’s top ten list of cities is a pleasant surprise. It’s another of the United Kingdoms great cities which has reinvented itself in recent years, reshaping the old industrial landscape into attractive retail and cultural centres. It hasn’t completely divorced itself of its roots, instead it has embraced this heritage, building upon it rather than replacing it altogether.
To be honest, while Manchester is possibly the biggest surprise on the whole list, many of the listed cities are unexpected. How many would have put Rotterdam, Freemantle or Nashville ahead of New York, London or Rome, which at least makes the list?
This seems to be part of the ethos behind the lists however, inspiring travellers to discover somewhere new, inspiring them to explore those destinations which are out of the ordinary. Many of the listed destinations are unlikely to be on the radar of too many, they are genuinely ‘off the beaten path’ and ultimately isn’t this what travellers aspire to?
Regardless of how many passport stamps we’ve collected, it should cause us all realise how much more we have to see and experience.
Now it’s your turn, has the Lonely Planet list of top destinations inspired you, what surprised you and what places do you believe have been missed and should have been included?