Lonely Planet Writer

Lonely Planet Traveller's Choice: the top destinations of 2013, part 1

At Lonely Planet, debates are constantly raging over our favourite countries for food, our best-value travel finds and our number one destinations overall. These debates culminate in our annual Best in Travel selections, but we wanted to throw that question to a wider crowd by asking our fans on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Thorn Tree where they have travelled and which places they enjoyed the most. Then we asked them to rate those destinations by 16 criteria (for example, which was the best 'Value for Money'). More than 3000 people responded, and the results are finally in.

The word cloud below shows (by size) the destinations that entered the top 10 of each category the most:

Elephant Hill (Punakha, Bhutan) by jmhullot. Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike

Top 20 destinations overall

Top of the list is Bhutan. As our travel guide says: 'This is a country where buying cigarettes is illegal, where the rice is red and where chillies aren’t just a seasoning but the entire dish. It’s also a deeply Buddhist land, where men wear a tunic to work, and where Gross National Happiness is deemed more important than Gross National Product.' European destinations didn't do too well overall, with Iceland being the first country on the list (in seventh position), and the next European country, Italy, at nineteenth. Asian countries made up half of the top 20.

1. Bhutan
2. Thailand
3. Australia
4. New Zealand
5. Japan
6. India
7. Iceland
8. Cambodia
9. Costa Rica
10. Argentina
11. United States
12. Indonesia
13. Iran
14. Burma
15. Peru
16. Nepal
17. Colombia
18. Georgia
19. Italy
20. Maldives

The top 10s in each category are listed below and in two following articles. These are calculated by seeing the percentage of people who visited a destination who also rated it as the best for that criterion. So, for instance, nearly 30% of people who have been to Italy considered it the best destination they have been to for food.


If food is your main reason to travel, then head to Italy, Thailand, India, Japan, and the rest of our foodie favourites below. You may need to break up this list with a few from the Adventures list (see below) to keep your waistline under control. Chiefly famous for its steak, Argentina was the only country to make the top 10 outside of Asia or Europe.

Gelato. Rome. Italy.'Roman Gelato' by lightmatter. Creative Commons Attribution

1. Italy
2. Thailand
3. India
4. Japan
5. Argentina
6. Vietnam
7. France
8. Lebanon
9. Taiwan
10. Spain


High-adrenaline travellers are in no doubt about where to go: New Zealand. Costa Rica came in second place in the adventure travel category, helped, no doubt, by loads of visitors zip-lining through its jungles. And hikers most likely helped Nepal and Peru (Machu Picchu) get in the top 5.

New Zealand. Tunnel. Fox Glacier.
2000 New Zealand 108 by anoldent. Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike

1. New Zealand
2. Costa Rica
3. Nepal
4. Peru
5. Australia
6. Iceland
7. Bhutan
8. Bolivia
9. India
10. Uganda

Value for money

And the winner is...Thailand. This is an obvious winner for anyone who has eaten at a Bangkok street stall or stayed in a beach hut facing the Gulf of Thailand. In fact, the other two countries on the Gulf of Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia, also made the top 10. According to LP travellers, Asia provides the best value for money, with 7 out of the top 10 budget favourites coming from this continent alone. Bulgaria was the only European destination in the top contenders, while South America was represented by Bolivia, and Africa by Ghana.

'Thailand. Phi Phi Island. Beach. Sea.'The Postcard Shot' by MikeBehnken. Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs

1. Thailand
2. India
3. Bolivia
4. Cambodia
5. Ghana
6. Vietnam
7. Laos
8. Philippines
9. Indonesia
10. Bulgaria

Continue on to Part 2 & Part 3 of the survey