Lonely Planet's Best in Travel 2011
Lonely Planet, $34
There's no doubting the clout of a mention in one of these Lonely Planet guides. Just a week after the 2011 edition hit the shelves, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton paid a visit to Wellington and noted it had been named the "coolest little capital in the world".
While some of the choices for best cities raised eyebrows, the role of a guide such as this is really to inspire travellers to consider unfamiliar destinations and to remind them of the places they take for granted in their own backyards.
But it was the more obscure travel lists towards the end of the book that really caught my attention.
The section called "Top 10 best places to learn to cook the local cuisine" particularly piqued my interest. Laos is the best place for this experience, incidentally, though New Zealand also gets a mention, with Banks Peninsula singled out for its "growing foodie credentials".
One of the quirkier lists ranks the top 10 vampire-spotting locales around the world, but there are top-10s to satisfy just about everybody, from "best secret islands" to "greatest bookshops" to "countries that didn't exist 20 years ago".
Lonely Planet's Asia-Pacific Travel Editor Shawn Low told the Herald the guide's editors deliberately chose a wide range of destinations to cater for its global audience. His pick for a localish holiday for Kiwis? Indonesia's Gili Islands (one of the guide's "top 10 regions" for next year) where visitors can snorkel, dive, party hard or relax on white sand beaches.
As someone who loves travelling - and even the prospect of planning my next trip - this compact guide was a real treat.
The sumptuous photographs alone - from a magical night scene in Chiang Mai with paper lanterns rising to the stars, to a vivid snapshot of a spotfin lionfish cruising the waters of the Great Barrier Reef - were enough to transport me momentarily into holiday mode.