Belfast and Causeway Coast world's No.1 for 2018, says Lonely Planet
Best in travel 2018
Lonely Planet's Best in Travel 2018 has been released... and Northern Ireland can start popping the Champagne corks.
Belfast and the Causeway Coast are the world's No.1 region to visit next year, the travel bible says, beating off the likes of Alaska, the Southern USA and Italy's Aeolian Islands, among other bucket list destinations, to claim top spot.
The accolade is "a game changer" for the region, said John McGrillen, Chief Executive of Tourism Northern Ireland, who said he was thrilled to read words like ‘unforgettable’, ‘unmissable’ and ‘sensation’ "in Lonely Planet’s praise of our tourism gems".
Belfast is "full of hip neighbourhoods that burst with bars, restaurants and venues to suit all tastes,” it says, "while the rusting old docklands are now the vibrant Titanic Quarter, home to fancy apartments and a sensational museum.”
The Causeway Coast's “timeless beauty and high-grade distractions – golf, whiskey and some of the world’s most famous rocks – are more popular now than ever.”
Lonely Planet's 10 Best Regions 2018
- Belfast & The Causeway Coast
- Alaska, USA
- Julian Alps, Slovenia
- Languedoc-Roussillon, France
- Kii Peninsula, Japan
- Aeolian Islands, Italy
- Southern USA
- Lahaul & Spiti, India
- Bahia, Brazil
- Los Haitises National Park, Dominican Republic
Belfast and the Causeway Coast have made huge progress as tourism destinations in recent years, thanks to a host of new restaurants and hotels (Titanic Hotel Belfast opened last month), a weakening pound, and the cultural steamroller that is Game of Thrones - much of which is filmed in Northern Ireland.
The Causeway Coast is also, of course, home to Northern Ireland's only UNESCO World Heritage Site in the Giant's Causeway.
To get a sense of the region, Lonely Planet suggest travellers "take a black taxi tour to discover the political legacy of the troubles, before heading north for golf on the stunning Portstewart links, food at nearby Harry’s Shack, and of course, a visit to the Giant’s Causeway."
Best in Travel - what's it all about?
Lonely planet's annual 'Best in Travel' publication features several highly-anticipated wish lists for the year ahead, throwing the spotlight on the brand's favoured countries, cities, regions and best value destinations for 2018.
Ireland has done well in recent lists, featuring among its Top 10 countries to visit, while Dublin ranked as a Top 10 city in 2016 and Kerry's Skellig Ring was one of the Top 10 Regions to visit in the world for 2017.
“Belfast & the Causeway Coast topped our list because it is deservedly now recognised as a must-visit destination by travellers from across the globe," said James Smart, Lonely Planet’s Destination Editor for Britain and Ireland.
"Dynamic Belfast has put its troubled past behind it and is a city transformed, its streets packed with buzzing bars and great stories, while the coastline beyond boasts spectacular scenery and plenty of great diversions."
The Best in Travel win will now be used as "a great hook" to promote the region, said Niall Gibbons, CEO of Tourism Ireland - with plans ranging from a special page on Ireland.com to live Twitter Q&As and a new Lonely Planet video (above).
In other lists, Chile was named the No.1 country to visit in 2018, while Seville in Spain topped Lonely Planet's hitlist of cities for the year ahead.
Lonely Planet's 10 Best Cities for 2018
- South Korea
- New Zealand
- South Africa
Lonely Planet's 10 Best Cities for 2018
- Seville, Spain
- Detroit, USA
- Canberra, Australia
- Hamburg, Germany
- Kaosiung, Taiwan
- Antwerp, Belgium
- Matera, Italy
- San Juan, Puerto Rico
- Guanajuato, Mexico
- Oslo, Norway
The current value of sterling adds to Northern Ireland's appeal for overseas visitors and tourists from south of the border, Smart says. For this reason, the UK also makes an appearance on the publisher's best value destinations for 2018.
Lonely Planet's 10 Best Value Destinations 2018
- Tallinn, Estonia
- Lanzarote, Canary Islands
- Arizona, USA
- La Paz, Bolivia
- Essaouira, Morocco
- United Kingdom
- Baja California, Mexico
- Jacksonville, Florida, USA
- Hunan, China
Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2018 also features five travel trends that consumers should look out for next year, with destination races, vegetarian & vegan travel and private islands among those selected as ones to watch for 2018.
See more on lonelyplanet.com/best-in-travel.