Time to update your 2022 travel wish list -- and here’s Lonely Planet’s top destinations to get you started...
After almost two years of postponing trips, being hesitant with plans and putting travel on pause as the planet took a deep breath, the chance to get out and explore the world is finally within touching distance with the arrival of Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2022. And one thing’s for certain: we’ll be travelling a lot more consciously as we move forward.
From appreciating every orange-slice sunset to taking our time when exploring new destinations, we’ll all have a new found gratitude for the freedoms of travel and how each adventure affects local regions, communities and the planet as a whole. Translation: the pandemic may have changed travel for the better.
So to help you plan your next big trip, here are our top picks from Lonely Planet’s new Best in Travel 2022 guide, as well as our latest episode of For Those Who Travel, where we sat down with bonafide travel connoisseur and Lonely Planet’s head of experience, Tom Hall, to learn all about his favourite trips and top travel tips. Enjoy.
It only takes one glance at the Cook Islands to understand why they topped Lonely Planet’s Top 10 countries. Found smack in the middle of the South Pacific, 2,008 miles northeast of New Zealand, this postcard-perfect destination is a cocktail of Authentic Polynesian traditions, endless oceans, epic adventures and pioneering sustainability. In short: they are the pearls of the Pacific. From snorkelling above untouched reefs to hiking through rich rainforests, watching whales swim off shore to relaxing on untrodden white beaches, the Cook islands are both extraordinarily tropical and thrillingly remote.
There’s no two ways of putting it: Norway is unfairly blessed with natural beauty. After all, where else can you explore with just a roll top and be guaranteed to see low-rise cities and glistening seas, fjords, forests and the mountain scenes all in one trip. It’s no wonder Norway is almost-always awarded the best place to live on Earth. But aside from being blanketed with awesome landscapes, epic wilderness and unique cities, Norway’s sustainable tourism efforts are what make this a must-visit destination. Stay with the Sami, sleep in a traditional lavvu tent, learning ancient recipes as you feed off the land and make memories that will never fade.
Almost squeezed off the continent by Italy, Austria and Croatia, Slovenia is that Adratic country that gets picked last in gym class. But it shouldn’t. Not if you want to explore somewhere that will leave pinch-marks up your arms because this place packs a major visual punch. From the alpine setting of Lake Bled to the underground waterfalls in the Škocjan Caves, this destination deserves to shove every item on your bucket list down a place. Pockmarked with snow-capped villages, forever forests, clifftop castles, emerald lakes, wooden walkways that wind through misty gorges and vistas roaming with wild horses, Slovenia is a fairy tale setting no matter which way you look. And it’s one of the greenest places in Europe, in every way possible.
The full list of countries to visit in 2022
1. Cook Islands
Let’s get one thing straight: Iceland is Mother Nature’s favourite plaything. An otherworldly island hanging off the Arctic Circle with a landscape that’s littered with molten lava fields, obsidian beaches, bubbling geezers, icy mountains, volcano hiking and Northern Light gawking. And yet the Westfjords have managed to take things to new heights, bringing all of Iceland’s dramatic scenery to a captivating climax. Picture jagged cliffs, multihued beaches, snow-capped mountains, remote fishing villages, geothermal springs and dirt roads that wind this way and that with the coastal fjords. Translation: it’s a treasure chest of natural beauty that feels a million miles from the tourist trail.
Kent’s Heritage Coast, UK
When it comes to exploring the wilds of the UK, there’s not many places better than Kent -- and it’s Heritage Coast has just been recognised again. Already an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, there’s something about seeing the iconic white cliffs grace the pages of Lonely Planet’s favourite regions that fills us with pride. And yet we’re not surprised. Known as the garden of England, there’s something for every kind of weekend explorer, from its historical towns to its ancient castle, the clifftop trails to the Elham Valley vineyards, all bordered by the emblematic symbol of wartime resilience that is its supreme shore.
Vancouver Island, Canada
Recognising what Vancouver Islanders have known all along, this region has firmly grabbed the spotlight to show the world what makes it the ultimate post-pandemic paradise for anyone that loves the outdoors. Hike amongst giant red cedars, surf the pacific breakers, explore ancient canyons, horse ride across empty green plains, paddle the rugged shores on a canoe, ski the corduroy groomers of Mount Washington or head out in a Zodiac for a wild time spotting bears, whales, eagles and more. Whatever you’re into, it’s time to pack your bags and start planning your trip because Vancouver Island has it all.
The full list of regions to visit in 2022
1. Westfjords, Iceland
2. West Virginia, USA
3. Xishuangbanna, China
4. Kent’s Heritage Coast, UK
5. Puerto Rico
6. Shikoku, Japan
7. Atacama Desert, Chile
8. The Scenic Rim, Australia
9. Vancouver Island, Canada
10. Burgundy, France
Auckland, New Zealand
Auckland isn’t just a city, it’s a rarity. A place that looks and feels like no other from the moment you see it’s skyline on the horizon. With 53 volcanoes, over 50 islands, three wine regions and some of the best surfing spots all located within the city’s boundaries, it’s hard to imagine a more geographically blessed city. And that’s just the beginning. Surrounding this North Island metropolis are lush rainforests, black sand beaches, majestic waterfalls and the glistening Hauraki Gulf with its myriad islands. But most surprisingly of all, the city itself blossomed throughout the pandemic, with the country’s “hard and fast” approach providing the perfect platform for exciting local creativity that has made this one of the most vibrant cities in the world.
Let’s get straight to it: No city is better for dancing in pubs, making half-hour friendships with complete strangers or enjoying a mix of heritage and hedonism than Dublin. None. And the best part of it all: all you have to do is fill your weekend bag and turn up. But if you are looking for a loose itinerary to give you a sense of purpose as you soak up the atmosphere, then make sure to explore the age-old highlights of Trinity College, the National Gallery, the Little Museum of Dublin and, of course, the Guinness Storehouse for the best pint of plain on the planet. Other than that, just wear a smile, go along for the ride and enjoy the places this electric and eclectic city takes you.
Florence is more than just a city. It’s a cultural hotspot where creativity has burst from its core since medieval times. From Giotto’s infamous bell tower to Brunelleschi’s iconic burnt-red dome to the picturesque piazzas that make this Tuscan metropolis such a romantic, enchanting and utterly irresistible destination, Florence is the ultimate escape for those after some dolce vita. And yet it’s going through a sparkly revival forged from the ashes of the pandemic. Led by a dynamic community of modern-day artisans and creatives, this Italian city is enjoying a fresher, funkier vibe that's challenging its image as a dowdy living museum, while still celebrating the extraordinary art and architecture found at every turn.
The full list of cities to visit in 2022
1. Auckland, New Zealand
2. Taipei, Taiwan
3. Freiburg, Germany
4. Atlanta, USA
5. Lagos, Nigeria
6. Nicosia / Lefkosia, Cyprus
7. Dublin, Ireland
8. Merida, Mexico
9. Florence, Italy
10. Gyeongju, South Korea
Thanks for reading about Lonely Planet’s top travel destinations for 2022 - you can discover their full guide here.
Also, don’t forget to listen to our latest podcast episode with their very own Tom Hall. From his favourite trips to his top travel tips to learning what life is like at Lonely Planet, this is one episode you don’t want to miss.