Lonely Planet has announced its Top 10 Cities 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 cities should go. I’ve included the top 10 list here with my own favorite destinations in each city.
Located in the northern part of Thailand on the Ping River, Chiang Mai has recently started attracting 1 million tourists a year. The historical city sat inside walls and moats, the remains of which exist today. The city has many elephant parks nearby, mostly full of elephants who need a natural scape to habitat as the towns and villages begin expanding beyond their historical borders. For entertainment, we’re fond of the many cooking schools, including Siam Rice Thai Cooking School. For your fee, you’ll get a recipe book, a trip to a market with a guide to help you pick out the complimentary ingredients, tea and coffee, and instruction on cooking at least 5 dishes. You’ll get to celebrate your success by eating food you cooked in a wok right in front of you.
This town is best known for its beaches and its ocean baths. Locals love Nobbys Beach while tourists pour into Bar Beach and Newcastle Beach. Nobbys Beach has surfing and Nobby’s Lighthouse, Bar Beach has calmer waters perfect for swimming and Newcastle Beach has more surfing. The Newcastle Ocean Baths are worth a visit as well, with swimming overlooking the beaches of the city.
Delhi is the largest city in northern India, with legend saying it has been built and destroyed 11 times. While you’re in Delhi, you must see Bahá’í Lotus Temple, an architectural award winner as well as a house of worship. This temple is shaped like a lotus blossom, with 27 “petals” made out of concrete and inside you’ll find space for meditation. The building itself is surrounded by gardens, though you should stay on foot-paths. For information on the temple and its prayer services, please check here and plan ahead.
Located in Flanders, you’ll find this city scenic and picturesque. To get the best views of the city, take a boat ride through the canals of Ghent with De bootjes van Gent. Two of the top tours include The Medieval Centre of Ghent tour and the Ghent Completely tour. The first tour is best if you are traveling alone or with a small group while booking the latter tour is best if you have a large group wanting to spend over an hour touring top sites on multiple canals.
6. Iquitos, Peru
Iquitos is located in the Peruvian rainforest on the Amazon River. You can’t reach this city by road so you’ll need to travel here via plane or boat. Two prime locations to visit are the Amazon Animal Orphanage and the Pilpintuwasi Butterfly Farm. The Peruvian government has formally recognized the animal orphanage as a non-profit in charge of providing a natural habitat to rescued animals, including those people have tried to breed and sell. The butterfly farm is the only such farm in all of Peru. If you have time, read up on the amazing story that inspired Gudrun Sperrer and Roblar Morales to create this haven for animals.
5. Valencia, Spain
You can’t help but notice the star of this city is its City of Arts and Sciences. L’Hemisfèric contains the planetarium, IMAX theatre and laser show, L’Umbracle is a landscaped walk featuring a sculpture garden, L’Oceanogràfic features an aquarium, El Palau de les Arts Reina Sofía features an opera house and performing arts center, and L’Àgora has concerts and sporting events. This area was named one of the 12 Treasures of Spain.
4. Wellington, New Zealand
Wellington is the capital city of New Zealand as well as its art and cultural capital. If you want to get a feel for just how unique the terrain and animal life is in New Zealand, ZEALANDIA: The Karori Sanctuary Experience is a must see. If you come at the right time, you can find things here you can’t see most other places, like the kiwi, the tuatara, the parakeet, and the giant weta. Listen at the beginning of the tour for the different bird calls to help you locate the elusive kiwi.
3. Tel Aviv, Israel
If you want to experience Tel Aviv with the eyes of a local, Savor Israel’s Culinary Tours are perfect for you. There are 5 different touring options, 3 of which are very close to downtown Tel Aviv, the Tel Aviv-Yafo tour which includes an interest in the Yemenite population and features hummus and coffee; the Ramle tour which includes Ha-Tikva and focuses on the Jewish-Indian culture; and the Galil tour, with typical Galilean foods and insight into the Israeli-Arab culture. The other options include Moroccan food/culture and Bedouin food/culture.
2. Tangier, Morocco
You may want to hire a private tour guide to reach all the attractions in and around this city. One of the must-sees is the Cave of Hercules. Legend says Hercules rested here after using the blow of his sword to create the Strait of Gibraltar. The cave opens up to the Atlantic Ocean and fills up at times while an opening has the appearance of the African continent known as “The Map of Africa.” Private tour guides are able to get you here early before locals come and can even get you a camel ride nearby.
1. New York City, New York, United States
With 5 boroughs (Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and Staten Island–each with their own districts and neighborhoods) and 6,720 square miles, there’s a lot of options when it comes to New York City. I’m going to take the side of the arts and suggest the Metropolitan Museum of Art. “The Met” is located along the edge of Central Park and has over 2 million works of art. Hailing from the Midwest, the first I heard of it was in From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler but at that young age it seemed like a place worth living in. You’d almost have to live in it to see all the art the museum contains. Check out this list of the top 10 pieces of art to be seen at The Met.