Top 10 countries for 2010

Wondering where to go on your next trip, or simply daydreaming about far away destinations? There’s no shortage of exciting places to go – and settling on a destination isn’t always easy. If you’re looking for some inspiration, the global team at Lonely Planet has picked its favourites for the year in its Best in Travel 2010 guide.

Here’s a quick look at the top 10 countries for 2010:

El Salvador: Many travellers take a pass on this beautiful country due to worries of civil war (which ended decades ago) and organized crime — but the good news is that you won’t be overwhelmed by crowds. However, you will enjoy some stunning scenery like lush forests, volcanoes and mountain lakes. Trekking is highly recommended, but if surf and sand are more your style then watch for new beach resorts springing up as the country looks to draw in more tourists. Some top spots to check out include the Ruta de Flores (Flower Route) and El Imposible (one of the large national parks).

Germany: It’s another anniversary — 2010 marks the 20th anniversary of German reunification, and the country is still reinventing itself. Sure, there’s the old-world charm of castles, fairy-tale forests and famed German beer and sausages, but as Lonely Planet notes, there’s modern sophistication to enjoy too. Treat yourself with gourmet cuisine and local wines, bold architecture and art, fashion and spas, for instance. Take a cruise down the Rhine or enjoy the holiday season at one of the dozens of annual Christmas markets throughout the country.

One not-to-be-missed experience this year — Oktoberfest turns 200 in mid-September. Can’t make it? Germany also hosts many other beer-related festivals to help celebrate the more than 5000 varieties produced by local brewers.

Greece: One country, many different trip possibilities. Explore ancient ruins at the Acropolis, see a classical Greek drama at a preserved theatre, explore the mountains, sun yourself on a sandy beach or tour the islands with a visit to Santorini and Mykonos. And while Canada hosts the 2010 Olympic Winter Games, visit the birthplace and namesake city Olympia.

Easter is the biggest holiday in the country, but there are many festivals and events going on throughout the year like Carnival and the Hellenic Festival. Of course, the fresh cuisine and local specialties such as cheese aren’t to be missed either.

Malaysia: Don’t let its lack of natural disasters or coups lead you to believe this country is bland compared to its neighbours. In fact, it’s the perfect place for an active vacation. Explore the wild jungles of Borneo, dive the coral reefs, venture into the caves or go bird watching at one of the many national parks or at the Tree Top Walk in Kedah. If your tastes are more cosmopolitan, shop in Kuala Lumpur near the Petronas Towers (the tallest twin towers in the world) or indulge in some traditional spa treatments.

For the budget-conscious, Malaysia is also on the list of “Best Value Destinations” thanks to its low prices on food, flights and lodging.

Morocco: It’s a small country, but packed with culture. Enjoy a blending of cultural traditions and landscape — from Mediterranean to African, urban to rural and sand dunes to sea — developed over millennia of being on main trade routes. Take in a moussem (part religious festival, part commercial fair) or attend one of the many cultural festivals, like the World Sacred Music Festival or the Gnawa and World Music Festival.

With the many markets and shops featuring traditional arts and crafts like rugs, jewelry, mosaics and pottery, it’s also an ideal place to do some serious souvenir shopping (and don’t forget to brush up on your haggling skills!)

Nepal: See it before the tourism boom during “Visit Nepal Year” in 2011. Now that recent unrest has settled down, trekkers are once again returning to the challenging and scenic trails of this mountainous country. Nepal is home to the highest point on the world — Mt. Everest — but the ten-day trek isn’t the only way to see some spectacular views. Take a short or long rafting trip, or a jungle safari to spy local birds and animals. If you’re feeling daring, try paragliding or ascend in a hot air balloon.

For a less physically-demanding adventure, explore the temples and palaces of the capital, Kathmandu, or relax in the Balaju Gardens or the Garden of Dreams at the Kaiser Mahal.

New Zealand: It’s a long flight, but worth going the distance. In the span of a week or two, you can see a lot of variety — like glaciers, volcanoes, inland lakes, rainforests and beaches. The landscape isn’t the only thing to experience — enjoy the fruits of the local wine industry, and take in the culture of the Maori people and other South Pacific influences. Immerse yourself in local arts, including the annual Mataraki (Maori new year) events each June and July.

If you’re worried about your carbon footprint getting there, take heart: New Zealand has been winning awards for its eco-travel and responsible tourism initiatives. In fact, one-third of the country is protected parkland or reserves.

Portugal: Tradition melds with modern life in this coastal European country. The larger cities are always popular tourist spots, but Lonely Planet sings the praises of newly revitalized areas and smaller, historic villages. Be on the lookout for new foods (part of the culinary renaissance), fine wines, new boutiques and galleries and restored architecture.

Of course, the history and tradition still hold strong with religious celebrations such as Lisbon’s Festival of St. Anthony each June. See castles and religious buildings straight out of medieval legends, or book a romantic getaway in Douro, a UNESCO World Heritage site and prime wine-growing region.

Suriname: With the combination of cultures, Lonely Planet describes a trip to Suriname as “hitting several countries at once”. There are a wide variety of languages, holidays and traditions for travellers to absorb, including indigenous, Dutch, Creole, Chinese, Jewish, Indian and Lebanese cultures (to name a few). In other words, there are a wide variety of events to celebrate, arts to experience and cuisines to enjoy.

Suriname is also famous for it natural beauties and eco-tourism. It’s a top place for some wildlife watching (particularly for giant sea turtles), but also sports like deep-sea fishing and diving.

United States: Americans may have mixed feeling about his policies, but Obama is good for tourism. Add in the budget constraints of a bad economy — not to mention the weak U.S. dollar — and it’s the perfect time to take a classic American road trip.

Where are tourists flocking? Washington D.C. is the quintessential city to steep in American history (think free museums, monuments, a great transit system and some world-class architecture), but it’s not the only one making the spotlight. Charleston, South Carolina was selected a “Top 10 City” for its southern charm and manners. Not only is Las Vegas one of the “Best Hedonistic City Breaks”, this recession-hit city hits the jackpot for being a “Best Value Destination” too.

While Canada didn’t make this year’s list (we were featured in the 2009 edition), Vancouver earns bragging rights as one of the “Top 10 Cities”, and the 2010 Olympics made the list of “10 Best things to do in 2010”. Other notable mentions include the Calgary Stampede (“Best Open-Air Entertainment”), Cape Breton Island (“Super Cycling Routes”) and Montreal (“Best Hedonistic City Break”).

Naturally, this is just a short list of the many travel possibilities. For more information about the guide, visit the Lonely Planet website.

Do you agree with these top picks, or do you have a better idea for 2010? Tell us in the comments.

Additional sources: Local tourism board websites


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