The TV series Game of Thrones and the Titanic are credited with driving a remarkable turnaround in the tourism fortunes of the region in recent years.
In 2016, 2.6 million people took an overnight trip to Northern Ireland spending €850m — an increase of more than 1.1 million visitors since 2000.
The Northern Irish region earned top spot as a must-visit destination in the Lonely Planet yearbook which highlights the top 10 countries, cities, regions and best value destinations in 2018.
The world’s leading travel authority singled out the Causeway Coast for its “timeless beauty”.
It named the regions “high-grade distractions” as “golf, whiskey and some of the world’s most famous rocks” which are more popular than ever.
Belfast and the Causeway Coast came in as the number one region for 2018 ahead of Alaska, Slovenia’s Julian Alps and the Languedoc-Rousillon region in France.
The breathtaking coastline has become a mecca in recent years for film crews mostly famously for its starring role in the world’s biggest TV show, Game of Thrones.
James Smart, Lonely Planet’s destination editor for Britain and Ireland, said the Northern Ireland region topped the list because it is deservedly now recognised as a must-visit destination by travellers from across the globe.
“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,” he said.
Chile topped the list as the world’s number one country to visit, with Seville named best city and Estonia’s capital, Tallinn, taking the top spot as best value destination.
The travel bible hailed the transformation of the Northern Ireland region, particularly the capital city of Belfast, which it said “is full of hip neighbourhoods that burst with bars, restaurants and venues to suit all tastes”.
The guide suggested 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 a visit to the Giant’s Causeway.