The following guest post was written by Emily K. Wolman, the editor at large for Lonely Planet. When people discover that I work at Lonely Planet, one if the predictable questions I get is, “Oh, perfect! I’m dying to take an epic trip next year… where should I go?” This usually sparks quite a lengthy conversation, but this time it’s simple, because we just released Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2014, our ninth-annual hit list of places to go in the coming year. After some feverish debate, our travel experts have singled out the most essential global destinations and experiences for 2014. What made the cut? Well, one of 2014’s most unmissable cities is Riga, Latvia, the cosmopolitan cornerstone of the Baltics. Over the past few years, hipster-chic cafés, savvy-gourmet eateries, and denizen-filled wine bars have invigorated the city center. Crumbling Iron Curtain–era facades are being restored to their brilliant, Art Nouveau luster, and Riga’s Unesco-protected castle core is being further protected. To top it off, the EU designated Riga the European Capital of Culture for 2014, which means it will explode with cultural events and festivals, and gain even more well-deserved international acclaim.
Weighing in at number six on the top 10 countries list is Mexico, whose global image is on the cusp of change as its economy continues to rebound, and it welcomes travelers with beauty, adventure, and optimism galore.
The tourism scene is booming: In addition to renowned attractions like Mayan temples, Caribbean beaches and Oaxaca's mole, there are major new Maya museums in Cancún and Mérida, plus the installation of Latin America’s longest ziplines above the Copper Canyon.
Of the world’s top 10 regions to visit, Hokuriku, Japan, is a place to experience the historic heartland of Zen Buddhism while breathing in culture, history, and striking natural beauty.
The city of Kanazawa and the surrounding area are filled with beautiful temples, castles, gardens, dramatic mountain scenery, and sumptuous onsen (hot springs). In 2015, Kanazawa will get a meteoric boost in visitation thanks to the region’s first shinkansen (bullet train) rolling into town. Until it arrives, the atmospheric city – second only to Kyoto for its population of authentic working geisha – and much of Hokuriku are affordable and light on tourists, so come experience it before you have to share it with everybody else.
When times are tight, look to our recommendations for 2014’s best value destinations. Wallet-friendly winners include: • The Greek Islands, whose recent economic woes translate into lower visitor numbers and affordable prices – yet the same stunning beaches, sights, and cuisine as ever.
• While you can’t get everywhere in Ethiopia on $30 a day, you can see many of its highlights – Blue Nile Falls, Lake Tana monasteries, the rock-hewn wonders of Lalibela, and much more – by taking great-value and time-saving flights along its Historic Route.
• The Philippines’ most sparsely populated region, Palawan, is no secret, but it rewards those who visit with jungle rivers, limestone cliffs, stunning beaches, and standout attractions like the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park and the Bacuit Archipelago, all available at competitive prices.
• And Bulgaria has managed to stave off the Eastern European inflation and tourist crowds, but not for much longer: The Black Sea beaches, unspoiled mountains, remote villages, enchanting monasteries and churches, ancient ruins, and rich traditions of religious art and folk music are being discovered. Go now!
We reveal all top 10 cities, regions, countries, and much more on our website (including a competition where you can enter to win a trip to one of our top 10 cities of your choice!) Happy (travels in) 2014! Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2014 reveals a year's worth of the world's best destinations, journeys and experiences, inspiring travelers to step out of the ordinary and into unforgettable experiences.