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Join our Twitter #lpchat on Best in Travel 2019!

Every year we release our Best in Travel list – a collection of 40 different destinations that we recommend travelling to in the coming year. From the best places to make your money go further, to the most epic new openings and national celebrations, it’s all on one handy list, just waiting to be ticked off.

To celebrate the release of Best in Travel 2019, we’ll be holding a Twitter chat focused on and inspired by the destinations on the list, which are yet to be revealed. Whether you’ve visited them all, just a few or none at all, we want to hear your opinions, anecdotes and travel tales! Bring your best ones, and meet us on Twitter at 16:30 BST/ 8:30 PDT, Wednesday 24 October – see you there!

The best tweeter will win themselves a copy of the Best in Travel 2019 book.

How do I take part?

1. Follow @lonelyplanet and the hashtag #lpchat on Twitter on Wednesday 24 October at 16:30 BST / 8:30 PDT.
2. Questions will be ordered Q1, Q2, Q3 etc. To answer Q1, begin your tweet with A1. For Q2, A2 and so on.
3. Add #lpchat to all of your tweets during the Twitter chat, so others (including @lonelyplanet) can see what you’re saying.
4. Bring your best travel tips, pics and ideas!

Meet our co-hosts

Kia of atlasandboots.com

Kia Abdullah is an author, travel writer and Lonely Planet Trailblazer. She also recently lent her extensive travel expertise to the panel that decided the final Best in Travel list, making her perfectly placed to co-host this chat!

Macca of anadventurousworld.com

Macca Sherifi is a successful travel blogger, photographer and presenter, as well as a Lonely Planet Trailblazer. He is currently planning a trip to one of our top Best in Travel destinations...

Abi of insidethetravellab.com

Abi King shares her tales of thoughtful, luxury travelling, now with a young daughter in tow, through her hugely successful blog, as well as being one of Lonely Planet’s Trailblazers. She has visited a number of destinations on the Best in Travel list.

Chloe of wanderlustchloe.com

Chloe is a successful travel blogger, with a passion for all things adventure, food and memorable experiences, as well as being a Lonely Planet Trailblazer. She is currently exploring one of our Best in Travel destinations, and so will be laden with tales, photos and inspo ready for the chat!

Terms & Conditions: Entrants must be 13 years old or over. Judges’ decision is final. Promoter: Lonely Planet Publications Ltd of 240 Blackfriars Road, London, SE1 8NW. The winner will be notified via direct message on Twitter. The winner must claim their prize and provide an address for delivery within 7 days of being notified, otherwise the judges may select another winner. Prize: one copy of Best in Travel 2019 book £11.99/$15.99

 

Just back from: Kyrgyzstan

Megan snapping a selfie in front of otherworldly Kol-Suu Lake Megan snapping a selfie in front of otherworldly Kol-Suu Lake © Megan Eaves

Megan Eaves, Destination Editor for North Asia, has recently returned from a trip to Kyrgyzstan.

Tell us more… I spent a quick five days exploring the Tien Shan Mountains in Kyrgyzstan on a horse trek. Kyrgyzstan is an extremely mountainous country, and has just completed an initiative to mark and map a network of trekking trails. And as I am a bit of a horse nut, and Kyrgyzstan is one of the most horse-crazy countries on the planet, it seemed right to do my exploring from the back of a hardy steed.

In a nutshell… This was a completely off-the-grid adventure involving a five-and-a-half-hour four-wheel-drive ride into the mountains along the Chinese border, mostly on unpaved old Soviet roads and dirt tracks, with the odd horse/sheep/goat traffic jam. I stayed at a yurt camp and took horse treks during the day, visiting the otherworldly Köl-Suu lake, watching September snowfall while staying warm over a fire and drinking Kyrgyz tea sweetened with wild-blackcurrant jam.

A yurt tent in the middle of the Kyrgyz wilderness There's no place like home in a yurt camp amongst the Kyrgyz wilderness © Megan Eaves

Defining moment? Standing under the starriest sky I have ever seen, shivering under two coats and sipping Kyrgyz cognac from the bottle to keep warm. With the nearest light pollution at least five hours away in any direction (if not much, much more), the Milky Way goes from horizon to horizon here. I am pretty knowledgeable about the night sky, but there were so many stars that I completely lost all sense of where familiar constellations and ‘bright stars’ even were. It was just a giant, glimmering mass, so bright you could find your way to the outhouse without a head torch by starlight alone.

Good grub? Kyrgyz nomad food is hearty and designed to help you withstand frigid, long winters and very high altitudes. There’s a lot of bread, jam, black tea, soups and noodles. I was suffering from a little bit of altitude sickness and the tea, jam and bread was the perfect comfort food.

You’d be a muppet to miss… Köl-Suu. It is the sort of lake that only exists in your dreams, or in some bygone adventurer’s travelogue. After a two-hour horse ride to get there, it started snowing, which only made the shards of grey peaks rising up out of milky turquoise water that much more otherworldly.

Fridge magnet or better? My nomad hostess gifted me with a giant jar of her homemade jam, made from blackcurrants she harvested in the mountains. It was a risky game putting it into my luggage but luckily it arrived home in tact (and my clothes unscathed from jam residue).

Horseback riding through the wild Kyrgyz landscapes Riding through these landscapes is an indescribable experience © Megan Eaves

Fave activity? Just being on horseback out in the wild, so far from anywhere. It is a magical experience that is tough to describe. You become very aware of things like the sound of the wind and the feeling of letting your horse take his own sure-footed strides over sometimes rocky and sometimes marshy landscapes and through frigid rivers. We also took a boat ride out into the middle of Köl-Suu, but the motor was broken so we had to row. That definitely made it more memorable.

Watch the interview

Megan travelled to Kyrgyzstan with support from USAID Business Growth Initiative Project and #DiscoverKyrgyzstan. Lonely Planet contributors do not accept freebies in exchange for positive coverage.

Want more behind-the-scenes adventures? Find out what Destination Editor Trisha Ping got up to on her recent journey on the Trans-Mongolian Railway.

 

Pathfinders: top Instagrams from September 2018

A lone springbok against the harsh landscape of the Skeleton Coast, Namibia © Anywhere We Roam

Framing vast, arid landscapes, natural phenomena and intricate architectural designs, our Instagramming Pathfinders sure have been snap-happy this month. From the wild west African coast to inner-city Berlin, here are the shots that made us look twice.

Bali, Indonesia

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'Flying a drone sometimes almost feels like being a bird in the sky, looking down upon your next shot. It offers entirely new perspectives and angles, and makes the sites we visit even more spectacular. We had arrived at the Tegallalang rice terraces at 6.30am, right after the sun started to rise, and we had them all to ourselves. The water, pooled within the rice fields, acts as a mirror for the sky – this site is a true piece of art created by mother nature.' – Odette, @omnivagant

Why we like it: Rice terraces, with their complex, Tetris-like configurations, are always fascinating subjects for a photographer, but even more so when seen from above. Odette's skilled drone shot showcases the verdant greens and lush vegetation of this particular terrace, framing its intricate patterns; the eye is flawlessly drawn from the undulating curves at the image's top, to the tangle of lines it becomes at the bottom. Just as Odette herself points out, the sky reflecting in the pooling water brings the image to life, as light dances across it.

Berlin, Germany

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'I was so happy that I decided to visit Berlin's aquarium – I could watch the jellyfish here for the whole day. They look so magical and so unreal!' – Sven, @svenywhere

Why we like it: The Reichstag or the Brandenburg Gate it isn't, but Sven's Berlin jellyfish shot is pretty special in its own right. Sure, snapping creatures at close range lacks the drama of photographing wildlife on a safari or scuba dive, but we love the framing of these aquatic critters wafting around, seemingly swimming within the image itself. Sven's sharp focus on the jellyfish in the foreground creates a vibrant focal point, around which the tentacles and water particles appear to swirl.

Pas de Bellecombe, Réunion

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'For half of the trip in Réunion we slept in the tent outside. We expected cold, windy and rainy nights, but in fact, the reality was different – mostly warm nights I could enjoy, once the clouds had disappeared. I knew the milky way was centered, however, the moon was in an early phase, which sometimes made the shots a bit more difficult. At the volcano Piton de la Fournaise, I struggled to find a proper composition during sunset, but after dark I found that these almost dead trees really caught my attention, and made a perfect foreground for the sky.' – Javi, @javilorbada

Why we like it: There's something celestially beautiful about a clear night sky, particularly when captured as expertly as Javi has here. The star-strewn backdrop to those eerily moonlit trees is of course the main event, but Javi adds an extra sprinkling of drama with his considered framing; the darkened vegetation that runs along the bottom of the image contrasting with the starlit brightness of the horizon.

Pattaya, Thailand

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'Three months into our exploration of Southeast Asia, we arrived in Pattaya, en route to Bangkok. Pattaya has somewhat of a party reputation, but its Sanctuary of Truth is an exception. A carved wooden temple of mammoth proportions (2115 sq metres inside), its construction began in 1981 and continues to this day. It is an absolute masterpiece of Buddhist and Hindu carvings and this photo captures the ongoing work. A sign near the entrance explains the intended purpose of the temple, proclaiming that 'true happiness is found in intrinsic spiritual pleasure'. The temple, made as it is in wood, is considered to be reflection of this – wood deteriorates over time, but the spiritual importance of the soul remains inherent.' – @lawyerturnedgypsy_travel_blog

Why we like it: This is an image of two halves, and one that really tells a story. At the top of the frame, the intricate wooden carvings of the temple are a sturdy and well-crafted emblem of the past, but scanning over the scaffolding below, the eye is drawn to the mess of raw wood, dirt and building materials on the temple's floor. Good photography always comes with narrative, and this is the perfect example of a picture speaking a thousand words.

Skeleton Coast Park, Namibia

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'The Skeleton Coast Park in Namibia is a long, dusty road trip through a harsh, barren landscape. With gravel in every direction and only tiny pockets of small, silvery bushes, it’s amazing that anything can survive out here at all, but somehow, life manages to exist. We spotted this lone springbok eyeing us suspiciously as we drove by.' – Paul and Mark, @anywhere_we_roam

Why we like it: The landscapes of Namibia's Skeleton Coast are famously arid and expansive, something which Paul and Mark's image communicates immediately. Aside from the singular (suspicious) springbok, which provides a great focal point for the shot, the varying grey hues that graduate from dark to light throughout the image add a sense of vastness to the frame. This is a great example of subtlety in photography, which really pays off.

Follow @lonelyplanet for more Instagram inspiration.

 

Pathfinders: top posts from September 2018

A thick slice of American apple pie This month's round up includes a story of a quest to sample the world's best pie © Lesya Dolyuk / Shutterstock

Another month, another banquet of engaging travel yarns provided by our globetrotting Pathfinders community, who, during September, have penned an exciting array of stories covering topics from nomadic sports in Kyrgyzstan to the street-art scene in Bristol, and pretty much everything in between.

Though narrowing down submissions is no easy feat, here’s five of our favourite blog posts produced by our Pathfinders in September.

Pie Town, New Mexico: why you should visit – Stephanie & Adam

There are some travel experiences too iconic to miss: tossing a coin into Rome’s Trevi Fountain, riding the cable cars in San Francisco and, of course, eating a pie in Pie Town, USA. Stephanie’s post details her experience of driving five hours to this obscure community in New Mexico just to sample its eponymous dish. Simple and satisfying (like a good slice of pie!) this is an ode to the strange things we do on the road in the name of a memorable travel experience.

Husband and wife Stephanie and Adam are on a mission to work through their bucket list while holding down regular day jobs. Find out more at roadunraveled.com.

Horseback archery at the World Nomad Games – Richard Collett

Set against the backdrop of Kyrgyzstan’s mountainscape, the World Nomad Games are increasingly drawing tourists from across the world to witness an array of exciting nomadic sports. Richard’s post manages to capture not only the colour of this spectacle but also the convivial – slightly chaotic – atmosphere, smartly framing his narrative around the success of the US women’s horseback archery team.

Richard is an adventure traveller and photographer who is addicted to getting off the beaten track. Read more of his stories at travel-tramp.com.

Beyond Banksy – Bristol street art in three neighborhoods – Carol Guttery

Before street art was considered an essential component on the ‘trendy city’ checklist, there was Bristol and Banksy. Carol’s post offers a highly informative history of street-art scene in the English West Country town – which was infatuated with graffitti long before it was considered ‘art’ – and one of its most famous residents: world-renowned street artist Banksy. The post also delves into famous murals visitors can see in the city today, as well as highlighting the work of upcoming local street artists, making this essential reading for real fans of the art form.

Carol’s blog aims to encourage travellers to go beyond the headline sights and find alternative and offbeat adventures. Learn more at wayfaringviews.com.

Most people have never heard of Kwajalein. Here’s why you should work there – Dan & Di

Sometimes a blog post can really take you by surprise. Though Di penned her article to provide information to those interested in finding employment on Kwajalein, a tiny fleck of land in the Pacific Ocean (which, admittedly, does hold a certain appeal to this claustrophobic Londoner!), the more broadly appealing aspect of this post is Di’s personal recollection of her childhood growing up on the island: a car-free, 1.2sq-mile atoll home to just three restaurants, two pubs and a US army base. The post offers a fascinating insight into a very unique place to grow up.

Dan and Di started travelling after a spell teaching in Abu Dhabi and haven’t looked back. Read more of their stories at slightnorth.com.

A look at Puerto Rico one year after Hurricane Maria – Jess Vincent

Often, after the immediate aftermath has been addressed, the best way travellers can help a destination that has suffered a natural disaster is simply to return. This is the ethos of Jess’ piece, which highlights how the resilient people of Puerto Rico are rebuilding their lives, and the new attractions that are attempting to lure tourists back to the Carribean island, from new thought-provoking art installations to boutique hotels.

Jess left her graduate job in the city to pursue her love of travel writing. Keep up with her adventures at nomadatravel.co.uk.

RUNNERS-UP

Find out what else the Lonely Planet Pathfinders are up to by checking out the Pathfinders forum on Thorn Tree.

 

Wonderings: are you ready to automate your travel memories?

Illustration of a traveller looking out of a train window at a lake with mountains and forest in the background © Joe Davis / Lonely Planet Wonderings: rambles through and reflections on travel... this month, James Kay weighs up whether you should let an algorithm take care of your albums from now on © Joe Davis / Lonely Planet

‘You have a new memory’. That’s the notification which popped up on my phone this morning on the way to work. The memory, it turned out, was just a few days old: a set of photos from our family holiday in the Isles of Scilly.

The photos app on the phone, which quietly uploads every image I take to the cloud, had acted in the name of automation: it had created a folder of shots from the trip, arranged them in chronological order, generated a map showing their point of origin, and edited them into a video for good measure.

None of this is news to the tech-savvy traveller, of course, but like much of what my phone does these days, it reminded me of the author Arthur C Clarke’s dictum that ‘any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic’.

Digital detritus

The magic here is artificial intelligence (AI), which analysed the content of the images, sifting the salvageable ones from the digital detritus, that ‘cloudfill’ of duds growing at a rate that is almost as alarming as the tide of trash threatening the real world.

That one of my wife and daughter in front of a DHC-6 Twin Otter on the runway of St Mary’s Airport? I snapped three versions before a stern-faced official ordered me to move to a safe part of the apron. The first shot was too close to the plane, the second too far away. The third, however, was in the Goldilocks zone, which the AI worked out for itself.

More remarkable still was its selection of an image of my son holding a still-warm egg filched from beneath a disgruntled chicken. Hoping to catch the moment, I took a dozen shots in the early-morning sunshine of that farmer’s field. Just two of them are anything but rotten, but once again my confident assistant chose wisely.

Boy taking an egg out of a chicken coop. Only a clever app could automatically choose this half-decent pic out of so many rotten eggs © James Kay / Lonely Planet

The AI didn’t quite read my mind, though. Before it alerted me to the existence of the folder it had so diligently made, I had already created an album of my favourite shots; although there is overlap between the two selections, I’m rather relieved to report that it amounts to just a handful of photos.

Not telepathic then, but oh so clever, and getting smarter by the day. And yet that Orwellian notification, announced by a familiar, faintly tyrannical ding, prompted me to reflect on what we should, rather than could, outsource as this sort of technology becomes ever more capable.

The explosion of images from our travels has already led to a rise in a phenomenon known as ‘digital amnesia’, according to researchers from Oxford University: perversely, the very ease with which we take pictures on our phones results in shallow memories of the experiences they reflect.

Outsourcing ourselves

If you want to remember something for longer, the researchers suggest sketching it instead (a much more strenuous workout for the brain than the snap-happy – and occasionally deadly – pursuit of a selfie). But given that 50% of a trip with small children consists of crowd control, I can’t see too many opportunities for settling down with pad and pen.

For me, the convenience of digital photography outweighs concerns about my dwindling powers of recall. But I do think we sacrifice something rather precious when we automate the act of curation, allowing an algorithm to choose the pics rather than agonising over it ourselves when we come home.

It’s not a question of competence; the machines are learning, fast. Within years, perhaps months, my app will become so sophisticated that it can instantly compile an album that a disinterested observer finds easier on the eye than my own efforts. It’s a question of meaning.

When I pick the photos, I’m not just assessing them for their aesthetic merit, but also consciously or unconsciously shaping a story. To borrow a phrase from the literary scholar Jonathan Gottschall, we’re storytelling animals. That’s how we understand events. That’s how we understand the world. That’s how we understand ourselves. Don’t know about you, but I’m not ready to outsource that just yet.

 

FREE mini-guides: Athens, Tunis, Budapest and Phnom Penh

Lonely Planet Magazine's November issue is out now! © Lonely Planet Lonely Planet Magazine's November issue is out now! © Lonely Planet

Lonely Planet Magazine’s November issue (UK) has hit the shelves and this month’s edition features a flurry of original weekend escapes, all-American adventures in Colorado and some of Europe’s best train trips.

Start planning your next trip with the magazine’s latest destination mini-guides, available to download here for free.

View of the Acropolis at sunset in Athens, Greece View of the Acropolis at sunset in Athens, Greece © S.Borisov / Shutterstock

Autumn in Athens

With equal measures of grunge and grace, Greece’s capital is a heady mix of history and edginess. Autumn ushers in a cooler climate that’s ideal for exploring the city. Use the tips in the free PDF to inform your route.

> Download free PDF

A medina rooftop view of the Zitouna Mosque in Tunis, Tunisia A medina rooftop view of the Zitouna Mosque © Romas_Photo / Shutterstock

Culture in Tunis

Tunisia’s capital is deservedly re-emerging as a travel destination. At the confluence of Eastern and Western civilisations, Tunis is an engaging city full of hybrid ideas and layered histories, as this guide reveals.

> Download free PDF

Budapest's dazzling Parliament building Budapest's dazzling Parliament building © photo.ua / Shutterstock

After dark in Budapest

Night time suits Hungary’s capital, with restaurants, bars and entertainment venues galore. Find equal pleasure inside a grand relic of imperial times, or a ‘ruin pub’ housed in a semi-derelict building.

> Download free PDF

A woman on a motorbike orders snacks from a street food stall in Phnom Penh, Cambodia Exciting flavours are never far away in Phnom Penh © Russell Pearson / 500px

Food and drink in Phnom Penh

The Royal Palace’s glimmering spires, the fluttering saffron of monks’ robes and the mighty Mekong River – Cambodia’s capital is Asia at its most alluring. We suggest the best spots to eat, drink and sleep in the city.

> Download free PDF

Want more freebies? Check out last month’s mini-guides. Find Lonely Planet Magazine in UK shops and newsagents, digitally on iTunes, Google Play and Zinio, or subscribe from anywhere at lonelyplanet.com/magazine.

US resident? We also have a US magazine. Learn more about it at lonelyplanet.com/usmagazine.

 

Pathfinder pics: bar-hopping for pintxos in San Sebastián (and discovering Spain's culinary gems)

Two pintxos are shown resting on top of a copy of Lonely Planet's Ultimate Eats book, with the harbour of San Sebastián in the background Pintxos with a view - the harbour of beautiful San Sebastián © Dan Flying Solo

Lonely Planet Pathfinder, Daniel Clarke of Dan Flying Solo, recently spent 10 days exploring northern Spain, home to our top ranking food experience in the world – bar-hopping for pintxos in San Sebastián.

Spain is a country renowned worldwide for its perfectly crafted cuisine, fresh, seasonal produce and passionate chefs who can take the simplest of ingredients and turn them into a mouth-watering journey for the taste buds. It's also home to the top experience from Lonely Planet's Ultimate Eatlist eating pintxos in San Sebastián, a culinary gem found in Spain's Basque Country.

However, gastronomic greatness is not reserved solely for this dreamy seaside town. The variety of tasty local cuisine served up in Spain's distinctive regions and provinces saw 13 Spanish foodie experiences feature in Ultimate Eatlist. During my 10-day Spanish tour I managed to get to grips with San Sebastián's prized pintxos scene, as well as tuck into a few of the other delicious delicacies on offer in northern Spain.

Pintxos, the top food experience in the world

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Topping Lonely Planet's Ultimate Eatlist, San Sebastián's small but perfectly formed pintxos are petite and delicious. These flavoursome treats come in many forms, from the traditional mini-skewer combination of olive, anchovy and pepper known as the 'gilda', through to intriguing amalgamations of ingredients piled-high on bread – this is a dining delight that's never bland.

Don't go mistaking pintxos for tapas though! These tiny bites are exclusive to the Basque Region and aren't to be confused with the traditionally free bar-snacks of tapas, which are served in other parts of Spain. Pintxos are ordered and paid for individually, and aren't just an accompaniment to a drink, but the star attraction of a social dining experience.

Head to the old town streets for the buzz

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The best way to enjoy pintxos in San Sebastián is by taking to the buzzing streets of the old town, where countless bar-tops are piled high with numerous variations, from toothpick based stacks to mini-sandwiches.

This is sociable dining at its very best, and the crowds from the bars spill out onto terrace tables, street stools, beautiful plazas and even church steps to enjoy the experience of eating in this food-obsessed city. Don’t start your edible escapade too early though – 9pm is the absolute earliest to hit the streets if you want to enjoy your pintxos with a slice of atmosphere, and you'll be eating and drinking for much of your evening (and night!) in the old town. Is there any better excuse for an afternoon siesta?

Pintxos: perfectly formed finger foods

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While you can grab a plate in any bar, and fill it with the tempting and delectable bites in no time at all, pintxos are best enjoyed the way the locals do – on a bar-hopping adventure. This way you can sample various treats in different bars across the city. For a really authentic experience, order a glass of the local sparkling wine, txakoli, and enjoy the theatre of skilled bartenders pouring it from a height to increase the bubbles in the glass.

It’s easy to miss the specialities on bar blackboards, which are usually cooked fresh unlike the spread on the counter – just ask the bartender what the best dish is that day, and order away! Whether battered white asparagus or mushrooms soaked in garlic, make sure you leave space to enjoy the warm dishes as well.

A stunning backdrop to a land of gastronomy

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There is no denying that San Sebastián is a breathtaking beach destination, especially given the views of the bay from the top of Mount Igueldo, great for post pintxo-hiking (or easily accessed by funicular!)

There is a lot more to this destination than meets the eye, however, especially for those with a real passion for food. There are around 150 gastronomic societies in San Sebastián, which are a bit like members clubs, but for cooking and sharing culinary creativity. It is within these club houses that family get-togethers happen, and locals spend time in the communal kitchen. Members have their own key, providing access at any time of day – I was lucky enough to spend a morning with local chef, Ben, who showed us around one, and taught me how to cook local specialities. If you find yourself in San Sebastián, be sure to try and experience it for yourself!

Days all begin at the markets

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No matter where my food tour of Spain took me, nearly every morning of it began at a market. With fresh, seasonal produce being the focus, and local ingredients and flavours prevailing, a trip to the market is much more than a shop, it's a social experience in itself.

In Barcelona, Sarah, who would later cook us up some Catalonian treats in her home, guided us through a few of the local markets to meet her suppliers (and friends). The community bond between those who sell and buy at these markets is genuine, and community seems to be at the heart of the culinary experience throughout the country. Celebrating the market culture of Spain, at number 23 on the Ultimate Eatlist, is Barcelona's La Boqueria market, by far one of the most visited by tourists. This bustling pit-stop on La Rambla is a buzz of bars, stalls and vendors, and a great introduction that may inspire you to hunt down some of the smaller markets throughout the city.

Continue your Ultimate Eatlist tour across Spain

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Lonely Planet's Ultimate Eatlist ranks the top 500 food experiences in the world, and with 13 of those originating in Spain, I had plenty to sink my teeth into. From freshly-sliced jamón ibérico (number 192), through to dark-chocolate dunked churros (number 22), I devoured my way across the country, and realised just how much you can tell about a destination from its cuisine and eating habits.

Like any incredible journey though, mine sadly had to end, and against the impressive backdrop of Santiago de Compostela Cathedral, I dived into my last Ultimate Eatlist experience – the almond-based tarta de Santiago. Coming in at number 272, it was the perfect sweet treat with which to bid Spain farewell. With another 487 foodie experiences left on the list, it's onto the next adventure (and meal) for me!

Daniel Clarke travelled to Spain with support from Intrepid Travel. Lonely Planet contributors do not accept freebies in exchange for positive coverage. Follow @lonelyplanetfood for more Instagram inspiration.

 

Pathfinder pics: traditions and transitions in 21st Century China

The vibrant bustle of Suzhou, China © Dan Clarke

Lonely Planet Pathfinder, Daniel Clarke of Dan Flying Solo, recently spent two weeks exploring China, one of our top 10 countries to visit in 2018.

China is a country that is constantly evolving, and manages to blend 21st Century cities of skyscrapers with tiny traditional villages, sometimes with just a short bullet train ride between them. During my 14-day trip with GAdventures from Beijing to Hong Kong, I traversed the country mainly by train. In just two weeks I was captivated by historical palaces in the capital of Beijing, stood in awe of modern skylines glowing in the night and sunk into the slower pace of life that can be found in the rice-terraces of the southern countryside. To say it was a trip of contrasts is an understatement, and I’m already desperate to return and unearth more of this vast, diverse country.

Ancient palaces opening new doors

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The Forbidden City in Beijing, now the Imperial Palace Museum, is a vast complex of over 90 palace quarters and over 8,000 individual rooms. In recent years, new rooms have been renovated and opened to the public, and vast amounts of artefacts and statues dating across 24 different emperors are on display here. Construction started in 1406, and by the end of 2018 around 80% of the palace should be open to the public, with the remaining repairs ongoing until 2020. I wasn't quite prepared for the crowds here, but as China's busiest tourist attraction with up to 80,000 daily visitors, be ready to wait to take your photos without people!

Islamic heritage amongst bustling cities

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The city of Xi'an was situated at the eastern end of the old Silk Road, and Islamic snacks and goods can still be found on the small streets around the ornate wooden Mosque in the city centre. The walled city is just a short drive from the Terracotta Army, another of China's most famous ancient sights, which is also still undergoing excavation. The Bell Tower and Drum Tower (pictured) are two of the most important buildings in the city, and although many old Chinese towns had these (the sound of the bells would signal the start and end of the day), those in Xi'an are some of the best preserved and celebrated.

City breaks blending old and new

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With three or six days of visa-free travel available to nationals of certain countries heading to the main hubs of China, it has become more accessible than ever to enjoy a city break here. For those who venture to Shanghai, a short bullet train ride will connect you with Suzhou, providing the contrast of modern China with a more traditional destination. Suzhou is famous for its classical gardens and canals which run under countless ornate bridges, making boat trips a popular activity here. Step away from the busier spots though, and you'll find small stalls of local goods, children playing by the water's edge and a generally slower pace of life.

Gawp at 21st-century cities from sky-high towers

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No city in mainland China quite encapsulates the 21st Century as perfectly as Shanghai. The dazzling views of the skyline from The Bund are electrifying at night, and the gigantic Shanghai Tower became home to the world's highest observation deck in 2017. And it's not just Shanghai that is embracing modern tourist attractions – the city of Shenzhen debuted its Design Hub late last year, which includes a partnership gallery with London's V&A Museum. If you are after a more classic day out however, the tree lined streets of Shanghai's French Quarter retain their historic charm, while the city's temples, such as Jing'an, blend in amongst the skyscrapers.

From city to countryside by high speed rail

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Now boasting the world's largest high speed rail network, travelling around this vast country has become a lot quicker and more comfortable over recent years. Whether you want to visit the rolling rice-terraces of Longji, where traditional tribes live, or hit up the Karst Mountain region of Yangshuo, a popular backpacker hub, for those who don't wish to fly, HSR provides a great alternative option. As China finds new ways to showcase its beautiful nature, glass hanging bridges and viewing platforms are sprouting up, giving new opportunities to admire the never ending scenery across the country.

Modern skylines and award winning street food

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There aren't many cities that can boast Michelin starred street food, the world's longest outside escalator system and a skyline that will leave you speechless, but Hong Kong, a special administrative region of China, does just that and more. Take the Peak Tram to Victoria Peak for magical sunsets over the city, and linger around to see the bright lights by night. Hit up street hawkers for delicious food that won't break the bank, and don't miss an evening ride on the Star Ferry, especially during the Symphony of Lights, where a show of lights and music bring the buildings around the harbour to life. If you want a city that serves up futuristic buildings alongside age-old traditions, you can't do much better than Hong Kong.

Daniel James Clarke travelled to China with support from G Adventures (gadventures.com). Lonely Planet contributors do not accept freebies in exchange for positive coverage. Follow @lonelyplanet for more Instagram inspiration.

 

Travel news quiz: September edition

Top cityscape view on the dome of Santa Maria del Fiore church and old town in Florence A new rule means travellers on the streets of Florence could be hit with a €500 fine © RossHelen / Shutterstock

Why did a Cathay Pacific Boeing aircraft require a repaint? And what act now carries a €500 fine in Florence? Test your knowledge of the latest happenings in the travelsphere with our travel news quiz, featuring some of this month’s most intriguing news stories.

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Pathfinder pics: exploring Georgia, one of our top countries to visit in 2018

The tiny village of Ushguli © Timothy Cohen

Lonely Planet Pathfinder Timothy Cohen has recently returned from a trip to Georgia – one of our Best in Travel countries to visit in 2018 – where he spent time trekking in the Caucasus and exploring Tbilisi, the country's colourful capital...

I have just been travelling through Georgia for three weeks, and it definitely exceeded all my expectations on every possible level! From the snow-capped mountains of the Caucasus to the vineyards and arid plains of the Kakheti region, passing through the bustling capital of Tbilisi and the modern port city of Batumi, Georgia has much to offer.

All of this falls flat however, without the heart and soul of the country: the Georgians themselves. The kindness and hospitality of the people is renowned, and you will often be invited into a family home to drink homemade wine and try tasty food. Now is the perfect time to explore this underrated country before everyone else does!

Colourful Tbilisi

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I landed in Tbilisi, a capital of contrasts, where centuries-old buildings mix with bold, contemporary architecture. The old city has managed to preserve its historical charm with its fortress, sulphur baths, historic buildings and tangles of pedestrian alleys around every corner.

Georgia and Azerbaijan’s blurred lines

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Davit Gareja is one of Georgia’s most incredible historic sites, and its uniqueness is apparent in more ways than one. Its location on the border with Azerbaijan, its situation along a steep escarpment and its setting in a lunar landscape made the visit to this monastery an otherworldly experience.

Since the border between the two countries is right here, some Azerbaijan guards patrol in the area, and I had to make sure I was never overstepping the line. Walking along the ridge, the view combines the plains of both Georgia on the left, and Azerbaijan on the right.

Church on the hill

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It’s better than Ed Sheeran’s song Castle on the Hill – I promise! Deep in the Kazbegi region lies what may be the most emblematic sight of Georgia: Tsminda Sameba Church. The city of Kazbegi is overlooked by the church which, at 2200m, is surrounded from all sides by the jaw-dropping mountains of the Greater Caucasus. At twilight, the view is enhanced by the last golden rays of sunlight flowing over the wind-battered stone walls of the church.

A glimpse into South Ossetia’s past

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While everyone is focused on Kazbegi and the surrounding mountains, I decided to explore Truso Valley, scattered with ancient South Ossetian hamlets in ruins, frozen in time, but still inhabited by a small number of farmers. A few houses are still standing somehow, alongside ancient structures. The tiny hamlet of Abano lies deep in the Truso Valley, and is the last settlement before the South Ossetian border, 2km further along. There are only a handful of people, including a few nuns, still living here.

Meet the koshi

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The mountainous region of Svaneti is home to the koshi. These old defensive towers that were built between the 9th and 13th century shape Svaneti’s landscape, and have became the emblem of the region. Around 175 of them can still be found in the different villages nowadays. Mestia is the only town in the region and it gets pretty busy in summer. From the top of one of the towers, the beauty and peaceful atmosphere of the region still seem intact, especially after the rain.

Europe’s highest continuously inhabited settlement

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The village of Ushguli is remote, unbelievably beautiful, and lies at the foot of the highest mountain in the country – Mount Shkhara (5201m). It seems like time has taken no toll on this place and its 200 or so inhabitants. Here, there are horses running free in the valley, used to harvest the crops or as means of transport for locals. The road from Mestia is long, meandering and really bumpy – it's best to ride it on an empty stomach... But what a view when you finally arrive in Ushguli and are faced with the great snow-covered Shkhara overlooking the village full of ancient Svan towers!

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