Ireland receives the accolade in Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015, the collection of the world’s hottest trends, destinations, and experiences for the year ahead.
According to the book, the country is “the real deal”, saying: “Ireland is stunningly scenic, its traditions — music, dance, whiskey, and beer — firmly intact and the cosmopolitan, contemporary Irish are just as friendly and welcoming as their forebears were known to be.”
It is the country’s hospitality that is recognised as one of the destination’s true qualities. “The Irish themselves are inevitably at the heart of the best the country has to offer. Attend a traditional music session in a small pub in Co Clare. Hook up with a walking club and do a little cross-country ambling on a soft Sunday afternoon. Go surfing at Rossnowlagh Beach in Co Donegal. Or just strike up a conversation over a pint with the gang sitting next to you in the pub. It’s these connections that will make you want to come back.”
The guide describes Tourism Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way as “a 1,500km scenic drive being sold as a rival to California’s Pacific Coast Highway and Australia’s Great Ocean Road”.
Ireland’s landscape and hospitality are on par with the globe’s top tourist destinations, according to Lonely Planet spokeswoman Noirín Hegarty.
“This is the 10th anniversary of the list and this is the first time that Ireland has featured,” said Ms Hegarty, an Irishwoman who commutes for Lonely Planet between her base in London and Tennessee, the company’s US headquarters.
She directs a team of 20 travel editors who, in turn, manage 200 writers in 26 countries who pool their thoughts to complete the annual list.
“I think the Wild Atlantic Way has been a huge factor in all this,” she said.
“As well as that, there is the human experience that visitors enjoy along with our charm and our ability to chat. It means that the impression of Ireland is overwhelmingly positive.”
Ireland featured fifth on the list of top countries ahead of the Philippines, St Lucia, and Morocco, and behind Singapore, Namibia, Lithuania, and Nicaragua.
The English city Salisbury was recognised as being one of the best cities in the world for 2015 as it celebrates the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta. Washington DC takes the number one spot, followed by El Chaltén in Argentina.
The destinations featured in the book are selected because they meet certain criteria; it could be that there is something special going on that year, that there’s been recent development and a lot of buzz about the place, or that a place is up-and-coming and thus, travellers should visit before the crowds do.
This year marks the 10th anniversary of Best in Travel and sees the book published in more languages than ever before, with editions available in French, German, Italian, and Russian. World best
6. Republic of Congo
8. The Philippines
9. St Lucia
1. Washington DC, USA
2. El Chaltén, Argentina
3. Milan, Italy
4. Zermatt, Switzerland
5. Valletta, Malta
6. Plovdiv, Bulgaria
7. Salisbury, England
8. Vienna, Austria
9. Chennai, India
10. Toronto, Canada