Lonely Planet reveals its top destinations for 2023

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The 2023 edition has a slightly different format than previous years. Instead of a simple list, destinations are divided into five categories: eat, learn, travel, relax and connect.

“This year we really wanted to try something new and wanted to reflect the way we see travelers looking for travel, which is about the destination, but also about the experience,” says Nitya Chambers, executive editor and senior vice president of content at Lonely Planet.

Editors start working on the list from April. Chambers says that as much as they’d like to, not every staff member can personally visit every site on the list.

Instead, he explains, Lonely Planet reaches out to its vast network of contributors around the world and asks them to nominate destinations they think should be on the list.

From there, Lonely Planet HQ editors start asking more questions, working their sources and narrowing down the options until it’s published in November.

Chambers sums up the perfect fate as “expected but unexpected.”

This could mean venturing into a new country, like Malta or Guyana, that not all of your friends have been to yet. It could mean choosing a less visited spot in a favorite destination, like Marseille instead of Paris or Fukuoka instead of Tokyo. All four places are among the 30 destinations on the 2023 list.

Lonely Planet travel began in 1972 after Maureen and Tony Wheeler traveled from the UK to Australia and later published a guide to recreate their overland adventure.

Check out CNN Travel’s award-winning feature The Hippie Trail to learn more about the company’s history.
The Mediterranean country Malta was chosen as one of the best places to relax.

The Mediterranean country Malta was chosen as one of the best places to relax.

Calin Stan/Adobe Stock

Culinary delights

It’s no surprise that Lima features as one of the picks in the “food” section of Lonely Planet’s list: Peru’s capital has been racking up accolades on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list for years.

However, its South American brother Montevideo, another “food” entry, is not as prominent. Visitors to the Uruguayan capital may recognize dishes that are popular elsewhere on the continent, such as sweet milk, roasted fillets and yerba mate.

Uruguay is also establishing itself as a wine destination, with its range of whites and reds. Plus, it’s much more affordable and less crowded than Argentina’s Mendoza wine country.
Street food lovers should head to Kuala Lumpur. The capital is a perfect place for an introduction to food from around Malaysia, such as today nasi lemak (the unofficial national dish), Penang-style curries and Peranakan classics like fish maw soup.

Meanwhile, it’s hard to find Italian cuisine that isn’t beloved.

Stanley Tucci visited Umbria in an episode of his show, “Searching for Italy,” feasting on black truffles, wild boar ragout and braised pigeon. It’s also on the Lonely Planet list.

Online

As the world opened up after long Covid restrictions, many travelers felt the need to connect or reconnect with others.

One way to do this is by looking in our own backyards.

Boise, the capital of Idaho, is home to the largest Basque community in the world outside of Spain, and is on Lonely Planet’s “to connect” list. Some residents still speak Basque, learn traditional dances and make a pan big enough to feed the whole village.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, Sydney is also on the list. The Australian city is known for its friendly locals, as well as its beautiful beaches, top-notch dining scene and…oh yeah, a really nice opera house.
People of African heritage may want to head to Accra, Ghana for their own sense of connection. The country, also on the list, observed the year of return in 2019, which brought people from across the diaspora to Ghana for coexistence and community.

Just because the year has gone by doesn’t mean the sense of connection has gone: Ghana wants to hit the target of eight million tourists a year.

Ghana is a great destination for ecotourism and outdoor travelers, thanks to its wide variety of wildlife and beautiful coastline.

Learn to let go

The pandemic also sparked another powerful desire: the stress of working from home while homeschooling the kids on Zoom means many travelers just want to take a long break.

According to Lonely Planet, island destinations such as Jamaica and Dominica in the Caribbean are just the place to relax.

The former is high on Chambers’ personal list for 2023.

“There’s only one opportunity with our kids in the summer (to) spend a little more time, immerse yourself and have the experience of living in a place where you can really feel changed and transformed by being part of a other place”.

While the ‘revenge travel’ summer of 2022 may have made Europe seem over-touristed, Malta, another ‘unknown’ destination, is a lesser-known gem with Italy’s climate and the landscape of the Orient medium

And in Asia, the Indonesian archipelago of Raja Ampat could be one of the last remaining paradises on Earth.

Located in the country’s West Papua province, this site is beloved for ecotourism and is home to a highly successful coral restoration project.

Learn a lesson

Did you start cooking too much or learn a new language during confinement? If you want to keep the spirit of learning alive beyond the pandemic, Lonely Planet suggests visiting a destination to deepen your knowledge.

These include New Mexico, the US state nicknamed the “Land of Enchantment,” where visitors can learn about Native American history and Spanish heritage while eating red and green chiles and tasty biscochito cookies.

Visiting some of Europe’s second cities can also broaden your horizons. In Marseille, learn to say more than “merci beaucoup” while soaking up the sun on France’s Mediterranean coast. In England, Manchester is an underrated cultural destination, with art galleries, performance spaces and an annual cultural festival.

For New Mexicans, chile isn’t just a food, it’s a way of life. Chiles are so important that New Mexico is the only state that has an “official” question, “Red or Green?”

The journey is the destination

Ultimately, whether you’re hitting the road in search of a perfect meal or a stunning cityscape, traveling is as much about exploring along the way as it is about what’s on your itinerary.

With this in mind, Lonely Planet designated six “travel” spots, places for the most passionate of travelers.

It’s no surprise that the Central Asian kingdom of Bhutan made the cut. In 2022, the country finally reopened to tourism and unveiled its crown jewel: the Trans-Bhutan route, which connects nine dzongkhags (districts), 28 gewogs (local governments), two municipalities, a national park and 400 historical and cultural sites.

Zambia, another “travel” destination, might be best known for Victoria Falls, which UNESCO describes as “(crashing) noisily down a series of basalt gorges and sending up an iridescent mist.”

But even if the world’s most impressive waterfall isn’t a compelling reason to visit, the wild diversity of animal life – giraffes, elephants, lions, hippos, cheetahs and more – make it a perfect choice for a safari holiday.

Here is the full list of 30 destinations:

Lonely Planet’s Best Travel List 2023

FOOD

Umbria, Italy

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Fukuoka, Japan

Lima, Peru

South Africa

Montevideo, Uruguay

JOURNEY

Istanbul, Turkey to Sofia, Bulgaria

Nova Scotia, Canada

butane

zambia

Western Australia

Naturales National Park, Colombia

DEFENSE

Halkidiki, Greece

jamaica

Dominica

Raja Ampat, Indonesia

Malta

Jordan

CONNECT

Alaska

Albania

Accra, Ghana

Sydney, Australia

Guyana

Boise, USA

TO LEARN

Manchester, United Kingdom

New Mexico, USA

Dresden, Germany

El Salvador

South of Scotland

Marseille, France

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