Lonely Planet has announced its Top 10 Countries to travel in 2011. In Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2011, the Lonely Planet staff breaks down best destination spots and maps out where travelers to these countries should go. I’ve included the top 10 list here with my own favorite destinations in each country.
10. Japan Japan is one country with many islands, but we suggest stopping on the island of Honshū in the city of Kyoto. Kyoto is home to many museums and temples, most of which were untouched during WWII. Top-rated picks include Kiyomizu Temple and Sanjusangendo Hall, home of the Thousand Armed Kannon.
Syria is located in the Middle East and is bordered by Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq, Jordan, and Israel. Two of those countries (Iraq and Israel) currently have Travel Warnings in place by the US Department of State so plan side trips accordingly. We suggest taking your trip to the capital city, Damascus. This area was settled somewhere between 9000-6300 BC. The city has often been a battle ground for warriors and religion so it’s no surprise that the art and architecture here reflect these many rulers. Must sees: Sayyida Ruqayya Mausoleum and Umayyad Mosque. Also, make time to visit Souq al-Bizuriyyah, a spice market that will remind you of olden times.
I tried and tried but I couldn’t just pick one. Kilimanjaro National Park and Serengeti National Park both deserve nods from me. (Note: Stay in the general area of these parks, on the east side of the country to avoid Travel Warnings for Burundi and Congo) Serengeti National Park is regarded as Africa’s best wildlife park, partly due to its large population of wildebeest, zebra, lions, elephants, rhinos, and leopards. You can head to Kilimanjaro National Park for another chance at seeing animals on safari and you can climb Mount Kilimanjaro.
What isn’t there to like about Italy? It’s the fifth most visited country in the world, meaning everyone is looking for the perfect city. We suggest stopping around the Italian Riviera, with its long coastline dotted with fresco-plastered homes. We suggest stopping in and around Genoa, known for its art, architecture and history. It’s worth stopping in at the city’s many churches and its cathedral along with the city walls and fortresses. A trip to the Italian Riviera isn’t complete without taking a boat ride along the shore and seeing the breathtaking views of the cities from the water.
6. Vanuatu If you’re unsure of where the island nation of Vanuatu lies, just look west of Fiji before you hit Australia. I can already hear Weezer’s Island in the Sun playing as I dream of the location. We suggest staying at Eratap Beach Resort where you’ll have a private villa less than 20 steps away from the beach.
Bulgaria has everything you’re looking for: mountains, rivers, the sea, and coastline. We suggest heading to Varna, a city that overlooks the Black Sea and is surrounded by vineyards and forests. Check out “Pobiti Kamani”, the petrified forest or walk around the city and admire the cathedrals and theatres. Then relax in one of the coastline’s “sea baths”, local hot water pools and spas.
Get in touch with your adventuring side in Panama. We suggest heading to Boquete, a tiny riverside town, to enjoy the tropical side of this Central American country. We suggest finding a company like Boquete Outdoor Adventures, where you can do zipline canopy tours, kayak, surf, deep sea fish, hiking and biking. Stay at Boquete Garden Inn and enjoy riverside gardens, cabanas and breakfast. They even provide great tips on traveling to Boquete on their blog.
3. Cape Verde
Cape Verde is located just off the Western coast of Africa. It’s a volcanic island chain sitting right in the heart of the Atlantic Ocean. You’ll fly to the island via Lisbon, Portugal. We suggest staying at one of the Riu properties during your time in Cape Verde. On the Island of Sal, check out ClubHotel Riu Garopa or ClubHotel Riu Funana, both of which have multiple pools. On Boa Vista, check out ClubHotel Riu Karamboa or Hotel Riu Touareg, the newest Riu resort scheduled to open summer 2011. All four resorts are all-inclusive and have multiple options.
Ditch big city life and head to Foz do Iguaçu, right on the borders of Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay. There’s so much to see here, from Iguaçu National Park with its iconic Iguaçu Falls (with 275 separate falls), to the bird parks of Parque Das Aves, where you’ll see macaws, parakeets, and hummingbirds flying above you.
Albania is a country that is full of gorgeous views. You can look all over the country and find beauty wherever you go. This made it difficult to choose the one city for the #1 country, but it wasn’t impossible. For Albania, we recommend stopping in at Tirana. Not only is it the capital city, it’s the hub for all culture in the country. Climb Mount Dajti and take in the view of this city and its country. Skanderbeg Square is where you’ll get a taste of city life and the culture in town. In the heart of downtown, check out Tajvani, the heart of nightlife. You’ll find a lit fountain, restaurants, casinos, and bars. Albania is a country growing out from its former communist oppression and growing into a travel oasis. Come here to find out what this country has to offer.