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Lonely Planet’s Top 10 Countries for 2011

Saying goodbye to 2010, means looking ahead to travel plans for 2011. Back in late October, Lonely Planet’s in-house travel experts, including Lonely Planet cofounder Tony Wheeler, selected their top 10 countries for next year based on scores for topicality, excitement, value for money and…that special X-factor. Here are a few of their picks.

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. [image]

On the surface the allure of Cape Verde hardly comes a surprise; the country appears to be nothing but a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it dot of dust floating off the coast of Africa, but the islands have recently started catching sideways glances from European winter-sun tourists. This growing international interest is bringing enormous changes to an archipelago that looks and feels as if it were born from a Caribbean mother and an African father.[image]

For those in search of authentic experiences, Vanuatu is hard to beat. From mighty mountains and thunderous waterfalls to remote villages, from huge lagoons to tropical islets, there’s so much on offer, far from the crowds. Don’t expect ritzy resorts and Cancun-style nightlife; with a good choice of family-run guesthouses in traditional villages and a smattering of comfortable, romantic hideaways, it’s tailor-made for ecotourists. [image]

In Italy, the food is delicious, sunshine is plentiful, scenery and towns are sublime, and there is millennia-worth of art to look at. There are 44 Unesco World Heritage Sites here, more than in any other country. That Italy is celebrating only 150 years as a country in 2011 (it was unified in 1861) highlights how clearly it still feels like a collection of regions.[image]

To learn more about the other 6 countries on Lonely Planet’s 2011 list, check it out here.