Lonely Planet reveals its top destinations for 2023

(CNN) — Guide company Lonely Planet has unveiled its 18th annual “Best in Travel” list.

The 2023 edition will have a slightly different format than in recent years. Instead of a simple list, the destinations are split into five categories: eat, learn, travel, relax and connect.

“This year we really wanted to try something new and we wanted to reflect the way we saw travelers looking to travel, where it was about the destination, but also about the experience,” explains Nitya Chambers, executive editor and senior vice president president of content at Lonely Planet.

Editors will begin working on the list as early as April. Chambers says that – as much as they would like – not every staffer can personally visit every place on the list.

Instead, she explains, Lonely Planet is reaching out to its vast network of contributors around the world and asking them to nominate destinations they think should be on the list.

From there, editors at Lonely Planet’s headquarters will begin asking more questions, editing their sources, and refining the options until it’s released in November.

Chambers summarizes the perfect destination as “expected but unexpected.”

That might mean taking a chance on a new country, like Malta or Guyana, where all your friends haven’t been yet. It may mean choosing a lesser-visited spot in a favorite destination, such as Marseille instead of Paris or Fukuoka instead of Tokyo. All four spots are among the 30 destinations on the 2023 list.

The Lonely Planet journey began in 1972 after Maureen and Tony Wheeler traveled from the UK to Australia and then published a guide to recreate their overland adventure.

Check out CNN Travel’s award-winning feature The Hippie Trail to learn more about the company’s story.
The Mediterranean country of Malta was chosen as one of the best places to relax.

The Mediterranean country of Malta was chosen as one of the best places to relax.

Caline Stan/Adobe Stock

Gastronomic delights

It’s no surprise that Lima appears as one of the picks under the “food” section of the Lonely Planet list – Peru’s capital has been gathering recognition on its list of the world’s 50 best restaurants for years.

However, its South American sibling Montevideo – another “dining” entry – is not quite as high-profile. Visitors to the Uruguayan capital may recognize dishes popular elsewhere on the continent, such as dulce de leche, asado steaks and yerba mate.

Uruguay also comes into its own as a wine destination, with both red and white wines. Plus, it’s much more affordable and less crowded than Argentina’s wine country Mendoza.
Street food lovers should head to Kuala Lumpur. The capital is a perfect location to experience food from all over Malaysia nasi lemak (the unofficial national dish), Penang-style curries and Peranakan classics such as fish soup.

Meanwhile, it’s hard to find an Italian cuisine that isn’t loved.

Stanley Tucci visited Umbria on an episode of his show ‘Searching for Italy’, where he feasted on black truffles, boar ragout and stewed pigeon. It is also listed by Lonely Planet.

Get connected

As the world opened up after long Covid restrictions, many travelers felt the urge to connect or reconnect with others.

One way to do that is to look into our own backyard.

Boise, the capital of Idaho, is home to the largest Basque community in the world outside of Spain, making Lonely Planet’s “connect” list. Some locals still speak the Basque language, learn traditional dances and make paella big enough to feed the whole town.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, Sydney is also on the list. The Australian city is known for its friendly locals, but also for its beautiful beaches, top-notch dining scene and… oh yeah, a pretty cool opera house.
People of African descent may want to go to Accra, Ghana, for their own sense of belonging. The country, which is also on the list, experienced a year of return in 2019, which brought people from across the diaspora to Ghana for fellowship and fellowship.

The fact that the year is over does not mean that the sense of belonging has disappeared: Ghana wants to meet a target of eight million tourists per year.

Ghana is a great destination for ecotourism and outdoor travelers, thanks to its abundant wildlife and beautiful coastline.

Learn to let go

The pandemic also sparked another powerful desire: the stress of working from home while the kids are homeschooled via Zoom means many travelers just want to take a long break.

Island destinations, such as Jamaica and Dominica in the Caribbean, are the place to relax, according to Lonely Planet.

The former is high on Chambers’ personal list for 2023.

“There’s just an opportunity to spend a little more time with our kids in the summer, to be immersed and have the experience of living somewhere where you can really feel changed and transformed by being part of a different place. “

While the summer of 2022 of “revenge travel” may have made it seem like Europe is over-touristed, Malta – another “relax” destination – is a lesser-known gem with Italy’s climate and Middle Eastern scenery.

And in Asia, the Indonesian archipelago of Raja Ampat may be one of the last paradises on Earth.

Located in the country’s West Papua province, this spot is beloved for ecotourism and is home to a hugely successful coral restoration project.

Learn a lesson

Did you start baking sourdough or learning a new language during lockdown? If you want to keep the spirit of learning alive after the pandemic, Lonely Planet suggests visiting a destination to deepen your knowledge.

These include New Mexico, the US state nicknamed the “Land of Enchantment”, where visitors can learn about the country’s Native American history and Hispanic heritage while eating red and green chilies and tasty biscochito cookies.

A visit to some of Europe’s second largest cities can also broaden your horizons. In Marseille, learn how to say more than just “merci beaucoup” while sunbathing on France’s Mediterranean coast. In England, Manchester is an underrated cultural destination, with art galleries, performance venues and an annual cultural festival.

For New Mexicans, chili isn’t just food, it’s a way of life. Chiles are so important that New Mexico is the only state that has an “official” question: “Red or green?”

The journey is the destination

Ultimately, whether you’re heading out in search of a perfect meal or a beautiful cityscape, traveling is as much about exploring along the way as it is about what’s on your itinerary.

With that in mind, Lonely Planet has designated six ‘travel’ spots, spots for the most wanderlust travelers.

It’s no surprise that the Central Asian kingdom of Bhutan made the cut. In 2022, the country finally reopened to tourism and unveiled its crown jewel: the Trans-Bhutan route, which spans nine dzongkhags (districts), 28 bold (local governments), two municipalities, a national park and 400 historical and cultural sites.

Another ‘travel destination’, Zambia is perhaps best known for Victoria Falls, which UNESCO describes as ‘(diabolical) in a series of basalt gorges and raising an iridescent mist’.

But even if the world’s most impressive waterfall isn’t a compelling reason to visit, the wild diversity of wildlife – giraffes, elephants, lions, hippos, cheetahs and more – make it a perfect choice for a safari holiday.

Here’s the full list of 30 destinations:

Lonely Planet’s Best Travel List 2023


Umbria, Italy

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Fukuoka, Japan

Lima, Peru

South Africa

Montevideo, Uruguay


Istanbul, Turkey to Sofia, Bulgaria

Nova Scotia, Canada



Western Australia

National Natural Park, Colombia


Halkidiki, Greece


Dominican Republic

Raja Ampat, Indonesia






Accra, Ghana

Sydney, Australia


Boise, USA


Manchester, UK

New Mexico, USA

Dresden, Germany


South Scotland

Marseilles, France

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