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Lonely Planet's Best in Travel is an annual book, and I have been given it now three years in a row. Like last year, this book is the more compact version and has 206 pages. Places included are usually based on suggestions by LP reader's and then short-listed by an 'in-house panel'. For the first year countries/regions/cities are ranked in order, usually it is just the favourite ten. For me, it is as much about seeing if places I have been to have made the list, as to being inspired for the future. I am not sure what it is about the selections that are 2011 specific, but there is certainly an eclectic mix between the pages.
TOP TEN COUNTRIES
A truly global selection, all continents are represented with countries as diverse as Brazil, Albania, Vanuatu, Japan and Tanzania. Each four page entry includes a few colour photos, some basic statistics (population, capital city, currency etc) followed by a round up of highlights, both typical and typically quirky. These highlights include festivals, must-have experiences, random facts and bizarre sights. These are tasters rather than an in-depth analysis. For example, a life-changing experience in Panama could include scaling Baru Volcano for panoramic views; or a Vanuatu random fact informs us that to become a chief on Pentecost, you may have to kill more then 100 pigs. Some snippets of info are just a line, some are a good 6-7 line paragraph. I have only been to two of the included countries this year as opposed to seven last year - room for improvement there!
TOP TEN REGIONS
Again, fairly diverse - Sinai in Egypt, West Coast USA and the Shetland Islands have made the cut. The format is the same as the previous section, and again the half-page photos (whilst small, as the book it a compact 18 x 14.5cm) are colourful and varied - wildlife, local people going about their lives, scenic views - and often inspiring. The sub-headings are similar to the Countries section also; for example, in the Shetlands they recommend the Folk Festival in April and the Tall Ships race comes to Lerwick this July. I have been to three of the regions featured this year, one up on last year.
TOP TEN CITIES
Varying from the exciting and well known (New York) to the unexpected such as Newcastle (Australia) via Ghent (Belgium) and Chang Mai (Thailand). The format is the same as the previous two sections, for example the best shopping to be found in Tel Aviv is Sheinken Street. Whilst the information may be light, they do manage to inspire and inform with what they do include. This year I have been to five of the selected cities, up on two from last year.
TOP TRAVEL LISTS
This feature has been in all three editions I have owned, and like last year they feature seventeen seemingly random lists for the perusal of the armchair traveller. All, like, the Top Ten Places To Learn To Cook The Local Cuisine covers four pages, with a few colour photos and good paragraph worth of text, along with specific recommendations. Only the Top Three spots are numbered, the last seven are not ranked. Having done a cookery class as the Red Bridge Cooking School in Hoi An, Vietnam, I can concur with their recommendation on that account, and it leads me to believe that the others are just as reliable. Other lists include Best Secret Islands (I have only barely heard of one of them, so they must be secret - at least until now) and Best Things to Climb (I have to agree again with their top choice) although it is worth noting it is more than mountains.
While sometimes the lack of depth frustrates me, I do enjoy picking this book up and flicking through it at random. I don't think it is a book to read cover-to-cover for me, but that doesn't mean it shouldn't be done like that. The suggestions are often thought provoking,and can make places and experiences that you previously thought were not for you seem appealing. I therefore recommend this book. RRP £9.99.