Jan 31, 2009

Travel - 48 weeks, 30 must-visits

Sumana Mukherjee

Forty-eight weeks left in the year, and that includes at least three weeks of vacation. Where will you holiday? Exclusive Top 10 extracts from Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2009 (formerly Lonely Planet Bluelist)—which lists 850 trends, destinations, journeys and experiences—narrow it down for you and tell you why these 30 destinations are must-visits.

TOP 10 COUNTRIES
• Algeria
Peace. For most Algerians, the simple pleasures the rest of us take for granted…feel like being able to breathe again.
• Bangladesh
A revelation that actually leaves India looking a little worse for wear.
• Canada
Winter or summer, Canada is a land of action, with an insane amount of terrain to play on.
• Georgia
A fascinating culture, a realm where the welcome is spontaneous, where the landscape is breathtaking, and where travel is still a challenge…
• Greenland
Out-of-this-world scenery, iceberg-filled fjords and mesmerising pure light…the experience is worth every penny.
• Kyrgyzstan
The country that your inner nomad has secretly been dreaming about all these years.
• Oman
The difference here is that the words of welcome, the spirit of religious tolerance, the preservation of the past…are the real deal.
• Peru
(Try) falling asleep in a hammock as you float away down the Amazon, waking up just in time to catch (the) dawn over the world’s second-longest river.
• Rwanda
The tough terrain will be nothing more than a distant memory once you find yourself face to face with a 200kg silverback.
• Sierra Leone
We know what you’re thinking. Blood Diamonds. Child soldiers. Summary amputations. But that was then…
TOP 10 REGIONS
• Basque country, France and Spain
It’s a country that’s so complicated its borders are marked on no maps.
• Bay of Fires, Tasmania, Australia
The secret edge of Tasmania, laid out like a pirate’s treasure map.
• The islands of Chiloé, Chile
This misty archipelago with splendid emerald curves is the distilled, 80-proof version of traditional Chile.
• Hawai’i (The Big Island), Hawaii
This oversized, “hang loose, brah” place has all the necessary tropical delights (plus lava-spewing volcanoes!), and it’s less crowded and less expensive.
• Ko Tao, Thailand
…tiny Tao sure knows how to pack it in—there’s something for everyone, and nothing is in moderation.
• Languedoc, France
Spiky interior versus coastal plain; deep chestnut forests against vast rolling vineyards; fisherfolk and shepherds…
• Nam Ha National Protected Area, Laos
Die-hard adventurers can tackle leeches and thigh-destroying slopes on a true jungle trek.
• San Andrés and Providencia, Colombia
Clamber up to the hammock swaying over the sea and soak it all in.
• Svalbard, Norway
“Cold coast” in Norwegian, this is Europe’s most northerly landmass and the planet’s northernmost permanently inhabited spot.
• Yunnan, China
Yunnan is China distilled into one superlative province and offers more variety than any other place in China. Period.

TOP 10 CITIES
• Antwerp, Belgium
There’s much more to this city than the world’s best variety of beer.
• Beirut, Lebanon
Despite its weakness for all that’s new and swanky, Beirut’s not entirely about the hottest, priciest and glitziest.
• Chicago, USA
If you want your finger on America’s pulse, don’t head to New York or LA. The heart beats in Chicago.
• Glasgow, Scotland
Forget about castles, kilts, bagpipes and tartan—you come to Glasgow for the cocktails, cuisine and designer chic (plus the legendary native wit).
• Lisbon, Portugal
While a lesser girl would have developed bags under her eyes after all this partying, Lisbon has simply become better with age.
• Mexico City, Mexico
Crossing the street in Mexico City plays out like a scene from Death Race 2000. No kidding.
• São Paulo, Brazil
Once typecast as the bad-boy city of crime and pollution, São Paulo has reinvented itself in recent years, emerging as Brazil’s cultural behemoth.
• Shanghai, China
Racy architecture, charming side streets and European verve meet the clamour and energy of the Chinese.
• Warsaw, Poland
Warsaw still has its work cut out to become a world-class capital…but any visitor willing to spend some time here will find its energy and vibe infectious.
• Zürich, Switzerland
This is one city that definitely changes its face after dark. That’s when the pinstripe brigade yields the streets to glam bar-hoppers and clubbers…

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