Ever been to Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe or Kyrgyzstan? What about a city break in Copenhagen in Denmark, Meknès in Morocco, or Novi Sad in Serbia? Or how about a holiday-themed around stargazing? If you’ve not considered any of these places or themes, you’re not an on-trend traveller, according to the world's biggest travel publisher, Lonely Planet.
Each year the tried-and-trusted experts at Lonely Planet announce their ‘Best in Travel’ lists for the year ahead.
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Now in its 14th year, it’s based on ranked nominations from its community of editors, researchers, locals, and influencers to create a list of unique, compelling and topical reasons to visit various countries, cities and regions in the year ahead.
“These are the places to experience in 2019”, says Tom Hall, Lonely Planet’s Editorial Director. “They might be coming into their own, celebrating a once-in-a-lifetime event or simply have been overlooked for too long – whatever the reason, now is the time to plan a trip.”
Lonely Planet’s Top Country for 2019: Sri Lanka
The number one country to visit in 2019? That’s Sri Lanka, the teardrop-shaped island nation off the southeast coast of India that’s overcome a decades-long civil war to become the hottest destination in Asia.
“It's changed so much, so quickly, but in a lot of ways that improves travel,” says Matt Phillips, Destination Editor at Lonely Planet. “During the civil war there were large tracts in the north that were completely off-limits, but now you've got new road and rail links, and new internal flights, so getting around is easier than ever.”
Sri Lanka has something for every kind of traveller, from luxurious beach resorts and yoga retreats to exquisite Buddhist and Hindu temples, ecotourism and wildlife-spotting.
“25% of Sri Lanka is protected by national parks so it's good for Asian wildlife and safaris to see leopards and elephants,” says Philips, name-checking Yala National Park, which has the highest concentration of leopards in the world.
Also don't miss the achingly beautiful tea plantations of its hill country, originally planted by British colonial settlers, or the three-hour pre-dawn climb of Adam's Peak to a mountain-top temple, which will mentally put you on a different planet.
Lonely Planet’s Top 10 Countries for 2019
Lonely Planet’s other picks for 2019 include Zimbabwe, whose Victoria Falls and Mana Pools national park are back on the tourist map after years of being avoided during Robert Mugabe’s rule, and intriguing destinations such as Panama, Kyrgyzstan and São Tomé and Príncipe (an island of rainforest and beaches off west Africa, but you knew that).
- Sri Lanka
- São Tomé and Príncipe
Lonely Planet’s Top Region for 2019: Piedmont, Italy
The number one region to visit in 2019 is the hilly Piedmont area of northwest Italy, home to Leonardo Da Vinci and new a UNESCO World Heritage Site called 'The Vineyard Landscape of Piedmont: Langhe-Roero and Monferrato'.
This has been wine country since 500 BC, and you can expect to taste Italian Piemonte wine as well as take endless panoramic photos of vineyard-clad hillsides, hilltop villages, and castles.
The Catskill Mountains in New York state – this year celebrating 50 years since the famous Woodstock festival – comes in second, followed by Northern Peru.
Lonely Planet’s Top 10 Regions for 2019
- Piedmont, Italy
- The Catskills, USA
- Northern Peru
- The Red Centre, Australia
- Scotland’s Highlands and islands
- Russian Far East
- Gujarat, India
- Manitoba, Canada
- Normandy, France
- Elqui Valley, Chile
Lonely Planet’s Top City for 2019: Copenhagen
Is there anywhere cooler than Copenhagen? Not according to Lonely Planet, which thinks 2019 is the best time to visit for its emerging foodie scene.
As well as 'new Nordic' cuisine from Noma and its 15 Michelin-starred restaurants, you can visit the iconic and colourful Nyhavn Harbour, hit the indie bars and restaurants of the gentrified meat-packing district, or taste food from all around the world at the eccentric Reffen food market, where all stalls are set-up in shipping containers.
Lonely Planet also selected 'China's Silicon Valley' Shēnzhèn – where almost all of your gadgets come from (and which is now connected to Hong Kong by a high-speed railway) – and Serbia’s emerging youth and culture capital, Novi Sad.
Lonely Planet’s Top 10 Cities for 2019
- Copenhagen, Denmark
- Shēnzhèn, China
- Novi Sad, Serbia
- Miami, Florida, USA
- Kathmandu, Nepal
- Mexico City, Mexico
- Dakar, Senegal
- Seattle, USA
- Zadar, Croatia
- Meknès, Morocco
Lonely Planet’s Best Value Destination for 2019: Southern Nile Valley, Egypt
Think Egypt has dropped off the tourist map in recent years? It has been avoided by many since 2011’s Arab Spring and the ousting of two presidents, then the bombing of a passenger plane in 2015, but tourism was up over 50% last year.
In short, Egypt is back on bucket lists. The key zone for tourism is a Southern Nile Valley, whose Luxor and Giza are where to head for a 'near-incomparable historical itinerary' that, according to Lonely Planet, is for the moment thoroughly affordable and a superb deal for travellers in 2019.
If you want to see some of the globe's best historical sites, go now before the crowds surge once again, and prices rise.
Lonely Planet’s Best Value Destinations for 2019
- Southern Nile Valley, Egypt
- Łódź, Poland
- Great Smoky Mountains National Park, USA
- Houston, USA
Lonely Planet’s Top Trend for 2019: Dark Skies
Have you ever looked at the stars? It takes some planning. Travel to an area away from light pollution in the 10 days starting a week before New Moon and you’ll see a sky-full of stars.
Between May and October, you’ll see the Milky Way arch above you from anywhere on the planet. From October-March you can see the Northern Lights from the Arctic Circle, which includes Iceland, northern Norway, Swden and Finland, northern Russia, Alaska and northern Canada.
“Dark sky travel and Northern Lights hunting are very different,” says Hall. “One is sitting around a campfire and looking at the stars, the other is you freeze your toes off in the Arctic Circle.”