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Hottest destinations for 2013

Travel bible, Lonely Planet, has revealed the best places to visit in the New Year: these are the cities and countries that need to be at the top of your jet-to list

  • Picturesque Hobart.Image Credit: Supplied picture
  • The gorgeous island of Sri Lanka.Image Credit: Supplied picture
  • Perfection in the Dominican Republic.Image Credit: Supplied picture
  • Home to 980 buildings, here you’ll see great art collections and the courts of long-dead emperors.Image Credit: Supplied picture

Hobart, Tasmania
The state capital of Tasmania, and Australia’s second oldest city, is celebrating being named one of the must-go’s for 2013. Of course, the fact that it’s a fab place to visit is not news to the resident Hobartians, who have long enjoyed a laid back pace of life, gorgeous climate and outdoors lifestyle. Mount Wellington dominates the skyline with the ‘Organ Pipes’ – the cliff of dolerite columns – a popular tourist hotspot. Plan your trip around the myriad of festivals which dot the Hobart calendar year-round and include the Fringe Festival, Summer Festival, Southern Roots Festival and Soundscape Festival.

It’s also futile to underestimate the effect that MONA (the Museum of Old and New Art) has had on the Hobart tourist trail, with the art hub credited with attracting thousands to the capital, elevating it to become the second most visited attraction in the state. So, what’s the first most visited? The Saturday Salamanca Market holds that distinction, and is home to over 300 stalls packed with clothes, arts and crafts and plenty of gourmet food; with the surrounding streets filled with gorgeous Georgian buildings, cafes, galleries and bars.

Sri Lanka
Topping the list of super-hot holiday destinations for 2013 is Sri Lanka, which, lucky for us is just over a four-hour short-hop flight from the UAE. With the island’s aficionados long extolling the peaceful vibe of the Indian Ocean island country, visitors can expect to fulfill a whole range of vacay fantasies, from adventure sports to sun-lounging; and exploring to eco-tourism.

Be among the first to re-discover the remote Wilpattu National Park, which was recently reopened after over two decades spent closed to the public, while wildlife fans will love the elephant and leopard-watching to be experienced at Yala National Park. And speaking of wildlife-watching, January to April is the best time to head to Dondra Head on the south coast to catch sight of the blue whales passing through the region.

To catch the surfer dudes in action (or try a spot of surfing yourself), head to Arugam Bay, whilst the beaches of Uppuveli and Nilaveli near the Eastern capital of Trincomalee are enticing lounge lizards away from the traditional beach hubs of Negombo and Vankalai.

For a list of places to explore, you could spend months taking in the historical marvels of the island country, but a visit to Sigiriya, the huge stone and ancient rock fortress and palace ruins are a must – and is thought to have been inhabited in prehistoric times. Also, take time to wander the historic streets of Galle (119km from Colombo), where European architecture meets South Asian design influences to glorious effect.

The South American country sits at number four on the Lonely Planet’s must-visit countries list, but it’s worth noting that tourists are advised to steer well clear of the Colombian border. Here you’ll stumble across UNESCO Heritage Sites, quaint villages and be able to experience the Amazonia rainforest, all under the looming gaze of the surrounding Andes.

Head to Quito where you can soak up the sights and sounds of the ‘Old Town’ as well as the ‘New’ – two areas serving up entirely different experiences within a stone’s throw of one another, from the narrow stone street of the old to the Mariscal Sucre area of the new where you’ll find vibrant cafes and boutique hotels at which to hang out in.

A guided tour through some of the Andean villages is a must, where you can pick up no-one-else-will-have-them textiles and crafts; before moving back into the Afro-Ecuadorian towns where the quality of the seafood is matched only by the sunsets.

Dominican Republic
This island’s time as a tourist hub has definitely come in 2013, and visitors can experience all the benefits of a Caribbean isle holiday, as well as enjoy the sights and sounds served up by a rich history that includes French, Spanish and Haitian influences. Environmentally diverse, here you’ll find deserts and mountains, mangrove lagoons, sandy beaches and idyllic fishing towns, as well as a legendarily welcoming population.

Start in the capital, Santo Domingo and take a stroll down El Conde, a pedestrianised street where the knick knack-buying and people-watching is first rate; and be sure to swing by the Museo del Tabaco to witness the cigars being created and rolled by hand. Heading out of the city there’s over 1,400km of coastline to explore, from white sandy beaches to coves and caves where pirates once stored their booty and where, if you’re lucky, you might spot a humpback whale or two in the surf.

Beijing, China
The Chinese capital slots in at number five on the ‘top cities to visit’ list and if you like a hefty dose of hustle and bustle (not to mention pushing and shoving) as part of your vacation, then this is the city for you. With human habitation dating back over a quarter of a million years, you won’t even scratch the surface of things to do and places to visit in this metropolis of approaching 20 million.

A good place to start is at the Forbidden City, once the imperial palace of the Ming and Qing dynasties. Home to 980 buildings, here you’ll see great art collections and the courts of long-dead emperors. Visitors will find Beijing to be a city of extremes, leaving you strolling down a narrow, traditional street one minute and then faced with a looming, concrete Soviet-style paean to Communism the next; so if you want more of the older and less of the modern, ensure you take in the plethora of temples, including Dongyue, White Cloud, Wanshou and Big Bell – as well as the Niujie Mosque, whose history stretches back over 1,000 years.

10 Cities to visit in 2013

1. San Francisco, US
2. Amsterdam, Netherlands
3. Hyderabad, India
4. Derry, N. Ireland
5. Beijing, China
6. Christchurch, New Zealand
7. Hobart, Australia
8. Montreal, Canada
9. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
10. Puerto Iguazú, Argentina

Lonely Planet’s Top spots for 2013

1. Sri Lanka
2. Montenegro
3. South Korea
4. Ecuador
5. Slovakia
6. Solomon Islands
7. Iceland
8. Turkey
9. Dominican Republic
10. Madagascar