The 2023 edition has a slightly different format than in previous years. Instead of a simple list, destinations are broken down into five categories – Eat, Learn, Travel, Relax, and Connect.
“This year we really wanted to try something new and reflect the way we see travelers looking for travel that’s about the destination but also about the experience,” said Nitya Chambers, Executive Editor and Senior Vice President of Content at Lonely Planet.
The editors will start working on the list as early as April. Chambers says that — much as they would like — not every employee can personally visit every place on the list.
Instead, she explains, Lonely Planet is reaching out to its wide network of contributors around the world and asking them to nominate destinations they feel should be on the list.
From there, the editors at Lonely Planet HQ will begin asking more questions, editing their sources, and narrowing down options until it releases in November.
Chambers summarizes the perfect goal as “expected but unexpected.”
It could mean taking a risk in a new country, like Malta or Guyana, where all your friends haven’t been. It could mean choosing a less-visited spot in a favorite destination, like Marseille over Paris, or Fukuoka over Tokyo. All four spots belong to the 30 destinations on the 2023 list.
The Lonely Planet journey began in 1972 after Maureen and Tony Wheeler traveled to Australia from the UK and subsequently published a guide to recreating their overland adventure.
The Mediterranean country of Malta has been voted one of the best places to relax.
Calin Stan/Adobe Stock
However, his South American brother Montevideo — another “Eat” entry — isn’t as well known. Visitors to the Uruguayan capital may recognize dishes popular elsewhere on the continent, such as Dulce de Leche, Asado steaks Yerba buddy.
Meanwhile, it’s hard to find an Italian cuisine that isn’t popular.
As the world opened up after long Covid restrictions, many travelers felt the urge to connect or reconnect with others.
One way to do this is to look into our own backyards.
Just because the year is over doesn’t mean that the sense of belonging is gone: Ghana aims to reach the goal of eight million tourists a year.
Ghana is a great destination for ecotourism and outdoor travelers thanks to its diverse wildlife and beautiful coastline.
learning to let go
The pandemic has also sparked another strong desire: The stress of working from home while still homeschooling the kids via Zoom means many travelers just want to take a long break.
Island destinations like Jamaica and Dominica in the Caribbean are just the place to relax, according to Lonely Planet.
The former is at the top of Chambers’ personal list for 2023.
“There’s just an opportunity to spend a little more time with our kids over the summer, to be immersed and to have the experience of living in a place where you really feel changed and transformed by being part of a different place.”
While the 2022 ‘revenge travel’ summer may have seemed like Europe is over-excited, Malta – another ‘relaxation’ destination – is a lesser-known gem with Italy’s climate and Middle Eastern scenery.
This spot in the country’s West Papua province is popular for ecotourism and is home to a highly successful coral restoration project.
learn a lesson
Have you started baking sourdough or learning a new language during lockdown? If you want to keep the spirit of learning alive beyond the pandemic, Lonely Planet recommends visiting a destination to deepen your knowledge.
Visiting some of Europe’s second largest cities can also broaden your horizons. In Marseille, learn to say more than just “merci beaucoup” while sunbathing on France’s Mediterranean coast. Over in England, Manchester is an underrated cultural destination, with art galleries, event spaces and an annual cultural festival.
For New Mexicans, chili 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 route is the goal
Whether you’re traveling in search of the perfect meal or a breathtaking cityscape, ultimately, travel is as much about exploring along the way as it is about what’s on your itinerary.
With that in mind, Lonely Planet has named six “travel” places, places for the most travel-loving 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 Trail, connecting nine Dzongkhags (districts), 28 weighed (local governments), two municipalities, a national park and 400 historical and cultural sites.
Another “destination,” Zambia is perhaps best known for Victoria Falls, which UNESCO describes as “[tumbles]noisily down a series of basalt canyons, throwing up an iridescent mist.”
But while the world’s most impressive waterfall isn’t a must-see, the wild diversity of wildlife – giraffes, elephants, lions, hippos, cheetahs and more – makes it a perfect choice for a safari holiday.
Here is the full list of the 30 destinations:
Lonely Planet’s 2023 Best in Travel list
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Istanbul, Turkey to Sofia, Bulgaria
Nova Scotia, Canada
National Natural Park, Colombia
Raja Ampat, Indonesia
Boise, United States
New Mexico, United States