Lonely Planet Writer

Lonely Planet Traveller's Choice: the top destinations of 2013, part 2

It's no easy task deciding on your favourite countries to travel to. We asked our fans on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Thorn Tree to tell us where they have travelled and then we asked them to rate those destinations by 16 criteria (for example, which was the best 'Value for money' destination). More than 3000 people responded, and the results are now in.

In this post, we look at the popular destinations to go to for 'Cultural sights', 'Nature', 'Travel memories', 'Safety', 'Meeting other travellers', and 'Meeting locals'. 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.

Cultural sights

It is no coincidence that destinations with ancient architecture dominated the 'cultural sights' list. When you think of Angkor, Giza, the Coloseum, Bagan, Hampi or the Great Wall, it's enough to get itchy feet.

Cambodia. 'Angkor Wat, Cambodia' by shootingjaydred. Creative Commons Attribution

1. Cambodia
2. Bhutan
3. Italy
4. India
5. Egypt
6. Iran
7. Burma
8. China
9. Japan
10. Uzbekistan


The Americas dominated the top 10 for 'nature' with four countries gracing the list: Costa Rica, Ecuador, Brazil and Canada. Costa Rica takes the top spot. As one of our authors puts it, Costa Rica boasts a 'Disney-like cast of creatures – ranging from howler monkeys to toucans.' Of course, it also has jungle, active volcanoes and stunning coastlines.

'Treefrog tadpoles' by ggallice. Creative Commons Attribution

1. Costa Rica
2. Iceland
3. New Zealand
4. Bhutan
5. Australia
6. Namibia
7. Ecuador
8. Brazil
9. Canada
10. Kenya

Travel memories

Asia was the most 'memorable' continent, dominating the top four places in the list. Memorable destinations are also typically far-flung, dream destinations (at least for people who don't live in Asia, South America or the Pacific).

Taj Mahal. India. Agra. 'India: Taj Mahal' by babasteve. Creative Commons Attribution

1. Bhutan
2. India
3. Iran
4. Burma
5. Australia
6. New Zealand
7. Peru
8. Afghanistan
9. Ghana
10. Japan


If safety is your thing then head to Japan, which easily topped the list with 32.5% of visitors ranking it first. All the Scandinavian countries were in the top 20, with Iceland and Norway making it into the top 10.

'Do(g)scene' by m-louis. Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike

1. Japan
2. Iceland
3. New Zealand
4. Canada
5. Singapore
6. Australia
7. Bhutan
8. Switzerland
9. Germany
10. Norway

Meeting other travellers

As expected, backpacking hotspots dominated the best places to meet other travellers. Backpackers tend to be on longer trips, which facilitates more encounters with fellow travellers. Australia topped the list with 26% of visitors ranking it first. Of this top 10, India had the highest ranking for also meeting locals (see the next list below).

Koala. Australia.'Koala at Billabong Sanctuary' by Christian Haugen. Creative Commons Attribution

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

Meeting locals

The famously hospitable Iranians easily made their country the best for 'meeting locals'. With 31.5% of visitors ranking it first in this category, this was nearly double the second-placed Ghana.

'some iranians. isfahan oct. 2007' by seier+seier. Creative Commons Attribution

1. Iran
2. Ghana
3. Burma
4. Ireland
5. Colombia
6. Philippines
7. India
8. Bhutan
9. Fiji
10. Ethiopia

Continue with Part 3 or go back to Part 1 of the survey