(CNN) — In 1973, young British couple Tony and Maureen Wheeler published a guidebook entitled “Across Asia on The Cheap.” Little did they know that one humble guidebook would lay the foundation for a worldwide travel brand called Lonely Planet.
Nearly 50 years later, their travel guide empire, Lonely Planet, is still chugging along.
As much of the world is slowly reopening following the coronavirus pandemic, travel is front of mind for so many of us. The hope is that 2022 will see families reunited, loved ones catching up after long stretches apart and hoarded vacation time used on once-in-a-lifetime experiences.
“After an enforced hiatus, it’s time to take those long-postponed travel plans off the shelf and make them a reality,” Tom Hall, Lonely Planet’s VP of Experience, said in a statement. “The lists celebrate the world in all its wonderful enticing variety.”
This year, Lonely Planet highlighted its top 10 cities, regions and countries — see the lists below.
Top 10 countries
But don’t think that “old” is synonymous with “dull.” Despite their 4,500+ years of history, we are still learning more about these architectural marvels every year.
Malawi is considered one of the friendliest countries in the world.
Jonathan Gregson/Lonely Planet
But there are treasures to be had in the “Warm Heart of Africa,” all with fewer tourists to compete with for space along the stunning Lake Malawi, the world’s ninth largest lake.
Malawi has many of the same attractions its African cousins are beloved for, like safaris where you can watch elephants, baboons, hippos and other animals in their native habitats, all at a fraction of the price.
It’s nearly impossible to discuss Nepal without talking about Mount Everest. But this Himalayan nation has so much more on offer for travelers who aren’t climbing the world’s highest mountain.
The Middle Eastern kingdom of Oman scored high marks from Lonely Planet staffers.
Justin Foulkes/Lonely Planet
Think Norway is the only place in the world with fjords? Think again.
But that isn’t all that Oman has to offer. Within the same trip, you can also experience “the Empty Quarter,” an expanse of desert where Oman meets Yemen, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. That’s four countries all at once — and you won’t need to pack a coat.
Anguilla is one of the Leeward Islands.
Okay, so Anguilla is an overseas British territory and not technically a country. That said, the gorgeous Caribbean island is deserving of a closer look.
She raved about the island’s “aquamarine sea, 33 public beaches, 80-degree temperatures, amazing hotels and food,” as well as its responsible approach to public health amid the pandemic.
Thanks to the country’s small size, visitors can cover a wide range of terrain in a short amount of time, from breathtaking Lake Bled to the buzzy capital of Ljubljana.
Lonely Planet isn’t the only one taking notice. This year, the Michelin Guide handed out stars to seven restaurants in Slovenia.
Want to explore Mayan ruins, swim in electric-blue waters and view incredible wildlife? Belize has all of this and more, accessible via direct flights from multiple North American cities.
If you’re waiting for Australia to open up its borders, try Belize instead: its UNESCO World Heritage-listed Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System is breathtaking, and US travelers won’t need to worry about jet lag.
Meanwhile, the language-cautious will appreciate that Belize’s national language is English.
The most-Googled topic about the island paradise of Mauritius is “where is Mauritius?” Let us handle that one: it’s in the Indian Ocean about 700 miles east of Madagascar.
Norway has more than 15,000 miles of coastline.
Norway is consistently included on lists of the world’s happiest countries. So what’s their secret? CNN asked two of the country’s royals, Crown Prince Haakon and Crown Princess Mette-Marit, for their theories.
If you want to channel that peaceful energy for yourself, head to Bøkeskogen, the world’s northernmost beech forest. It’s about two hours from the capital of Oslo, so you can easily experience city and country in the same day.
1. Cook Islands
Fun fact: Air New Zealand only operates one flight from the United States that doesn’t go to New Zealand. It connects Los Angeles with Rarotonga, capital of the Cook Islands and gateway to some of the most beautiful places on the planet.
This group of 15 islands in the South Pacific was at the top of many Lonely Planet staffers’ wish lists for 2022 and beyond.
What’s on offer? Water-centric activities like snorkeling, diving and fishing, not to mention a look at the native Maori community in Te Vara Nui Village.
Considering choosing a city or region for your next trip? Here’s the rest of Lonely Planet’s 2022 selections.
Top 10 regions
1. Westfjords, Iceland
2. West Virginia, US
3. Xishuangbanna, China
4. Kent’s Heritage Coast, UK
5. Puerto Rico, US
6. Shikoku, Japan
7. Atacama Desert, Chile
8. The Scenic Rim, Australia
9. Vancouver Island, Canada
10. Burgundy, France
Top 10 cities
1. Auckland, New Zealand
2. Taipei, Taiwan
3. Freiburg, Germany
4. Atlanta, US
5. Lagos, Nigeria
6. Nicosia/Lefkosia, Cyprus
7. Dublin, Ireland
8. Merida, Mexico
9. Florence, Italy
10. Gyeongju, South Korea