OK, Sharm el-Sheikh is being sold for its cheap winter sun but Sinai is much more than a convenient place for Europeans to top up their tans. Away from the Costa del Camel, this mighty desert peninsula is home to a mystical red-rock mountain range, said to have played a major role in the foundation of the three major monotheistic faiths.
The Red Sea’s phenomenal coral reef may have brought divers from all over the globe, but in recent years a new type of tourism has emerged. Ecolodges and idyllic beach-hut camps between Taba and Dahab are now attracting travellers looking for a peaceful retreat in the Middle East. President Mubarak’s government may have spent much of the past decade developing the ‘Red Sea Riviera’ with huge hotels and golf resorts but parts of Sinai still have that familiar old hippy-trail vibe.
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The 10th edition of Egypt will take you from the dusty streets of Cairo to the wondrous Pyramids of Giza and the temples of Luxor. To wash off the dust, go diving in the Red Sea before boarding a felucca for a breezy cruise along the Nile.
Tone Tuscany down a notch or two – thin the tourist hordes, lower the prices, sprinkle a little mystique – and you get Istria. Shaped like a heart, this Italian-flavoured peninsula of 3600 sq km is where continental Croatia meets the Adriatic.
In summer months, the sun-and-sea set storms the resort-lined coast, or so-called ‘blue Istria’. For art, food, wine and an offbeat vibe, head to the interior, nicknamed ‘green Istria’ – a bucolic dream of rolling hills, hilltop villages, rural B&Bs and farmhouse restaurants.
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Croatia offers the best of the Med for a fraction of the price. Our guide takes you to the best sun-worshipping spots and then fills you in on the rest of the pretty picture. We’re talking sailing, bird-watching, Venetian-inspired architecture, dramatic waterfalls and a budding Slow Food scene.
The famous French painter Paul Gauguin didn’t escape to the Marquesas for nothing. Constantly in search of a place to eschew civilisation and find perfection, he finally settled in the Marquesas in 1901. He couldn’t have picked a better place.
About 1500km northeast of Tahiti, the Marquesas still feel like the world’s end. Waterfalls taller than skyscrapers trickle down vertical canyons, the ocean thrashes at towering sea cliffs, sharp basalt pinnacles project from emerald forests and scalloped bays are blanketed with desert arcs of white or black sand. The Marquesans live in a sprinkling of tiny villages where time moves at a crawl.
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Think Tahiti and French Polynesia and immediately your imagination is seduced by images of lapping lagoons, Gauguin paintings and Marlon Brando in his heyday. This guide will show you where that the essence can still be felt amid the newer resorts of these delicious islands.
With the slow pace of life in its villages, it seems like Cappadocia sees little change other than winds eroding the fairy chimneys (rock formations). However, as surely as Mt Erciyes towers in the distance, the modern world is encroaching here. If you want to live like a troglodyte, you should rock ‘n’ roll to Turkey now, before Cappadocia is changed forever.
It’s worth the trek from İstanbul. Once you’ve left Göreme’s Flintstones-referencing backpacker joints behind, and hiked into the valleys of wavy white rock, the 21st century feels like a distant world.
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Turkey is as perfect for bon vivants as it is for adventurers and scholars. Roam battlegrounds and the palaces of great empires, unwind in a hammam, float in a balloon over Cappadocia’s fairy chimneys and explore the steep cobbled streets of Ïstanbul.
Anyone lucky enough to visit Iceland comes back goggle-eyed and open-jawed with tales of an untamed island of volcanoes (yes, including that volcano), waterfalls and unrivalled natural scenery. Unsurprisingly, routes out of Reykjavík and the circuit of the island are well-trodden, especially in summer months. But there is another Iceland:a quiet whisper about a secret and overlooked corner of the country is becoming a clamour that this year might be too hard to ignore. The place is the Westfjords, that oddly shaped peninsula only just connected to the rest of Iceland by a narrow isthmus of land. It’s as isolated as it is spectacular.
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Iceland is a magical destination. Discover the otherworldly beauty of the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, chat with locals while bathing in Mývatn’s geothermal pool, walk over lava fields and past glaciers on the Landmannalaugar to pórsmork hike and indulge in gourmet Icelandic cuisine in Reykjavík’s top-class restaurants.
Unst, Fetlar and Foula don’t sound very British, or indeed Scottish. But they are some of the many islands that make up the little-known Shetland Islands.
Part of the UK but closer to Norway than the islands of Great Britain, part of Scotland but less than 100km from Caledonia’s north coast, the Shetlands are a place apart. This might just be the last untamed corner of the United Kingdom.
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Scotland is deliciously wild and woolly, full of raucous festivals, remote islands, tempestuous weather, bucolic golf courses and cities bursting their seams with galleries, cafes and rich Scottish spirit. You don’t do this place in half-measures.
Staying on a Whitsunday isle is one of the best options for experiencing the reef. There are 74 islands in total but only eight are inhabited – most are accessed via the wild and trashy port town of Airlie Beach. Our tip: just spend one or two nights at Airlie, then quickly make your way to an island. Most resorts are excessively pricey, but good budget options can be found. Hook Island has a rustic backpacker-style resort with cheap meals, and both Hook and Whitsunday Islands have self-sufficient bush camping areas – perfect for kayaking trips.
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Always fancied a trip to outer space? Try the Great Barrier Reef! Unearthly and psychedelic, this underwater wonder is a universe unto itself. Continue your orbit via the outback, the rainforest and a coast’s worth of perfect beaches, before touching down in dynamic Brisbane. No doubt about it: Queensland is out of this world.
Postage-stamp-sized states and bleak urban living? Forget about it. The West Coast states of California, Oregon and Washington mean wide-open spaces and a fresh look at urban and rural living, which has resulted in a fervent eco-movement.
Get in on the action by touring urban chicken coops, tasting biodynamic wines or shopping for heirloom vegies at farmers’ markets. Then head outdoors into decades-old national and public parks that now feature uber-environmentally friendly interpretive centres and campgrounds.
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Hit the road for a classic American journey through forests, fields, metropolises and oases. Whether it’s day-tripping from New York City, cruising along the Mississippi, delving into the Grand Canyon, or driving the California coast, this definitive guide inspires you to go the distance and discover the USA’s very best.
The dramatic landscape of Chilean Patagonia is not for the faint of heart. But on a crowded planet, it’s strangely satisfying to encounter wide open spaces where GPS devices may not help you find your destination and your Gore-Tex jacket does little to protect you from the elements. This is the great outdoors – complete with wildly fluctuating weather, massive glaciers, active volcanoes, and herds of graceful guanaco hightailing it across jaw-dropping mountain vistas.
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Chile spans a kaleidoscope of photo-ready landscapes and handsome cities soaked in Latin culture. Lonely Planet’s latest guidebook takes you up Andean peaks, along the streets of poets and around those perplexing, tiki-tastic Easter Island sculptures.
Although the tag ‘New Ibiza’ is wildly off the mark, the lures here seduce visitors so that days flow into nights and weeks drift past in a haze. Brilliant snorkelling and diving among sea turtles, sharks and rays can fill days or you can just drift off on a beachside bed.
There aren’t any cars or motorbikes to spoil the mood, rather you can quickly make an island circuit on foot, bike or horse-drawn cart. Nights are the awesome on Gili Trawangan, by far the most popular of the three islands. All-night parties and raves anchor the weekly calendar while visitors can choose to sleep it off in original thatched huts by the beach, in hippy chic retreats, or in stylish villas dripping luxe.
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Shake off the nine to five and get where the living is easy. Easy like sunny surf beaches, zipping around on motorbikes, Mandi Lulur massages and drinking in the sleek bars of Seminyak. Can’t you just feel the water at your toes? Not just cheap and convenient, these two islands offer so much more. Grab this informative guide for a tour around Bali & Lombok, with their fiery cuisine, lush jungle and brilliant beaches. Yes, everyone’s been to Bali, now find out why.
Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2011 – the best places to go and things to do all around the world right now! Drawing on the knowledge, passion and miles travelled by Lonely Planet’s staff, authors and online community, we present a year’s worth of travel inspiration to take you out of the ordinary and into some unforgettable experiences.
Lonely Planet ranks the top 10 countries, regions and cities to visit in 2011.
The best travel experiences for the year ahead, from the opening of New York’s September 11 Memorial to flamenco classes in Andalucía
Over 35 events mapped out month by month in the 2011 travel planner.
“This fun, list-driven read is sure to provide plenty of travel inspirations for next year and beyond.” thecitytraveler.com, USA
“Full of mind-blowing travel destinations, all perfectly showcasing the wonderful world around us…the guys at Lonely Planet will inspire you to get up off your bum and start the adventure of a lifetime.” Famous Magazine, Australia
“The annual Lonely Planet guide is packed with useful tips, fascinating facts and excellent advice.” Mail on Sunday, UK
About the Contributor
John Purcell (aka Natasha Walker) is the author of The Secret Lives of Emma trilogy published by Random House Australia. The Secret Lives of Emma: Beginnings reached the top ten on the Australian fiction charts and Natasha/John was the tenth highest selling Australian novelist and third highest selling Australian debut author in 2012. The trilogy has since sold over 50,000 copies in print and ebook and has been translated into French, Korean and Polish. John has worked in the book industry for over twenty-five years. While still in his twenties he opened John’s Bookshop, a second-hand bookshop in Mosman in which he sat for ten years reading, ranting and writing. Now he is the Director of Books at booktopia.com.au.