Lonely Planet Writer

Lonely Planet Traveller's Choice: the top destinations of 2013, part 3

We asked our fans on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Thorn Tree to tell us where they have travelled and 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 'Relaxing', 'Entertainment', 'Shopping', 'Transportation', 'Off the beaten path', 'Accommodation' and 'Beyond expectations'. 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.


No surprises here. All of the top 10 destinations for relaxing are known for their amazing beaches. Most are also well-known for their unhurried 'island time' sensibility. Maldives won with the highest score of any category winner in the survey: 47.4% rank it first for relaxing above anywhere else they've been. Greece was the only European country in the top 10. The Caribbean seems like a safe bet if your primary goal is to relax next vacation, with the Bahamas, Barbados and the Dominican Republic all making it into the top 10.

Maldvies. Beach. Deck chair. Sea.'it seems i/u need a break!!' by muha.... Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs

1. Maldives
2. Fiji
3. Seychelles
4. Bahamas
5. Barbados
6. Thailand
7. Belize
8. Dominican Republic
9. Greece
10. Indonesia


If you want to be entertained, then head to the UK, the US or Argentina... cheers! Yep, it seems that most of the top entertainment destinations are good places to get drunk. But there are also the benefits of theatrical shows in London and New York. Live music is also very much part of the culture in most of the top 10 entertainment destinations. For example, if you've been to Ireland and didn't experience traditional folk music in a pub, it is a good excuse to go back.

'The Shipwrights Arms' by kholkute. Creative Commons Attribution

1. United Kingdom
2. United States
3. Argentina
4. Australia
5. Ireland
6. Thailand
7. Spain
8. Hong Kong
9. Brazil
10. Singapore


The usual suspects are on this shopping list. The USA comes in first...if you can't buy it in the States then you probably can't find it anywhere else. Other destinations are renowned for their bespoke qualities, like Thailand or Hong Kong for getting a tailor-made suit. The haute couture tradition in France is at the other end of bespoke price range.

'Sham Shui Po' by kainet. Creative Commons Attribution

1. United States
2. Hong Kong
3. Thailand
4. United Arab Emirates
5. United Kingdom
6. South Korea
7. Singapore
8. France
9. Japan
10. Argentina


Everybody loves Japan's bullet trains, it seems. Or, at least, it helped Japan get number one spot for transportation with 32.9% of its visitors ranking it first in our survey. The much maligned (by Londoners), but excellent Underground also assisted the UK to second place. In fact, most the top 10 transportation destinations are known for having great train systems (at least for where travellers congregate, eg New York City rather than the whole of the US).

Shinkansen. Bullet Train. Japan. Railway.'shinkansen 700 series' by kubotake. Creative Commons Attribution

1. Japan
2. United Kingdom
3. Germany
4. Singapore
5. Hong Kong
6. Australia
7. France
8. Switzerland
9. Argentina
10. United States

Off the beaten path

Proving that even the most visited continents have hidden gems, three countries in Europe made it to the top 10 'off the beaten path' list. But Bhutan was the clear winner, capturing 45.2% of its visitors' votes for this category, which is nearly double the second-placed, Moldova.

Chisinau. Moldova. Church.
Chisinau, Moldova' by vlitvinov. Creative Commons Attribution

1. Bhutan
2. Moldova
3. Mozambique
4. Algeria
5. Ghana
6. Albania
7. Bolivia
8. Burma
9. Iceland
10. Azerbaijan


The top 10 for 'accommodation' proves that it is primarily about location, location and location. The top four placed destinations may have been helped by the fact that they are renowned for their beaches.

Thailand. Hammock. River. Jungle. 'River Kwai Hammock' by Mark Fischer. Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike

1. Thailand
2. Maldives
3. Mauritius
4. Australia
5. United States
6. New Zealand
7. Japan
8. Indonesia
9. United Arab Emirates
10. South Africa

Beyond expectations

In an age of hype it is good to know that travellers are still surprised by some famously wonderful destinations. It is safe to say that news reports have caused many people to regard Iran in a negative light. Even though it is common knowledge that the people of Iran (or any country, for that matter) are not the same as their government, travellers are still surprised enough by Iran to place it first on this list.

'Colombia, the only risk is wanting to stay' by Luz Adriana Villa A. Creative Commons Attribution

1. Iran
2. Burma
3. Colombia
4. Iceland
5. Cambodia
6. Bolivia
7. New Zealand
8. Uganda
9. Japan
10. Namibia

Go back to Part 1 & Part 2 of the survey