Where in the world should you go next year? Our in-house travel experts, including Lonely Planet cofounder Tony Wheeler, have chosen their top 10 countries for next year based on scores for topicality, excitement, value for money and…that special X-factor. Here they are, in order of rank, from Lonely Planet’s latest book: Best in Travel 2011.
Not so long ago, when the Balkans were considered an ‘only for the brave’ travel destination, only the bravest of the brave trickled into Albania. Since backpackers started coming to elusive Albania in the 1990s, tales have been told in ‘keep it to yourself’ whispers of azure beaches, confrontingly good cuisine, heritage sites, nightlife, affordable adventures and the possibility of old-style unplanned journeys complete with open-armed locals for whom travellers are still a novelty. Sick to death of being dismissed with blinged-up crime-boss clichés, Albania has announced ‘A New Mediterranean Love’ via its tourist board. The jig is almost up – Albania won’t be off the beaten track for much longer.
The defining Albanian experience
If you are a journey-over-destination kind of traveller, take the road (and a sick bag) from Korça to Gjirokastra. The road climbs along the Greek border to the highlands, slices through pine forests along the edge of the Gramoz mountains before crossing the Barmash Pass (1759m) and descending dramatically into the narrow valley of the Vjosa River and up the Drinos valley. Recover down south on the beach at Dhërmi or take the ferry from Saranda across the Ionian sea to the Greek Islands – just because you can.