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Emerald Lakes, Tongariro National Park, New Zealand (Dreamstime)

Wanderlust Reader Travel Awards 2017

2nd February 2017

Best country. Best city. Favourite airline. Top TV show. Best tour operator. Wanderlust’s readers have spoken, in the Wanderlust Reader Travel Awards 2017, and here are the results…

TOP COUNTRY: New Zealand

Boat and tourists near waterfall, Milford Sound fiord, New Zealand (Dreamstime)

New Zealand wins again. Its combination of superb mountain scenery, whale-watching, giant glaciers, water-streaked fjords and sulphur-rich volcanic lands proves irresistible to Wanderlust readers once more. With such a vast range of experiences to be had, return visits can prove to be a completely new adventure.

Your options are endless. You can spy dolphins while cruising majestic Milford Sound, listen to the creak of the Franz Josef glacier, hunt for kiwis by night of Stewart Island and ascend Mount Cook in the footsteps of Edmund Hillary. The country has strengthened its grip on the title with a near-perfect score, which is welcome news, following the devastating earthquake that hit both the North and South Islands in November 2016.

Botswana again runs New Zealand the closest this year. Its wildlife-rich wildernesses, the surprisingly diverse swathe of the Kalahari Desert and the watery wonders of the Okavango Delta are still a huge draw.

The new direct flights from London to Lima that launched last May have given a huge boost to Peru, judging by its third-placed finish, while the Inca Trail permit limits haven’t stopped you visiting, either.

Overcrowding doesn’t seem to be an issue (yet) for Iceland as it pops up in fourth, while Sri Lanka appears to be emerging from the shadows of its 20-year civil war and the 2004 tsunami.

Regulars Burma and Vietnam also return to complete a familiar-yet-new list.

Interestingly, if Antarctica (not surprising, really) or humble Guernsey were countries, they would have nabbed the crown, and if Scotland was an independent country – which one day it may well be – it would have featured in ninth place.

1 New Zealand 99.67%

2 Botswana 97.93%

3 Peru 96.92%

4 Iceland 96.67%

5 Japan 96%

6 Burma 95.71%

7 Vietnam 95.56%

8 Sri Lanka 95.34%

9 Namibia 95.19%

10 Kenya 95%

 

TOP CITY: Kyoto

Daigoji temple, Kyoto (Dreamstime)

With kimono-clad geishas, ancient shrines, peaceful temples and intricately-manicured gardens, Kyoto is the perfect glimpse into Japan’s fabled past and a delightful opposite to the ultra-modern streets of the country’s futuristic cities. It appears you were taken by Kyoto’s charms too, voting it as your top city.

Meanwhile, prolific top dogs Bagan and Luang Prabang don’t feature at all. However, there are some new cities in town, including up-and-coming St Petersburg and the architectural haven Budapest, while history-steeped Edinburgh flies the flag for the UK.

It’s heart-warming to see runner-up Istanbul have some good news, too, after being marred by headlines for the wrong reasons in recent months.

As ever, you’re a well-travelled bunch. Wanderlust readers visited a staggering 830 cities, from Aachen to Zurich, with the most-visited locations being Cape Town, London, Cusco, Hanoi and New York City.

1 Kyoto 96.47%

2 Istanbul 96.36%

3 Hoi An 95.33%

4 Cusco 94.67%

5 St Petersburg 94.48%

=6 Boston 93.94%

=6 Budapest 93.94%

8 Cape Town 93.67%

=9 Edinburgh 93.57%

=9 Krakow 93.57%

 

TOP EMERGING DESTINATION: Rwanda

Gorillas in Rwanda (Dreamstime)

In 1994, we witnessed the horrors of the Rwandan genocide and, in some ways, the country is still recovering. But over 20 years on, it’s making its mark on the travel map. You’ve been heading there and telling us you've liked what you've seen, crowning it this year’s best emerging destination.

There’s another cause for celebration too, as Rwanda's wildlife is also recovering. Akagera National Park first reintroduced lions to the country last year after a 15-year absence and, in 2017, black rhinos will also be returning, making the park a Big Five destination.

Bolivia makes the list for the third year running, while Bhutan, Nicaragua and Georgia show there are still hidden treasures on all continents of the globe.

1 Rwanda 97.14%

2 Bhutan 96.92%

3 Bolivia 95%

4 Georgia 94%

5 Nicaragua 93.3%

 

TOP UK DESTINATION: Snowdonia

Llyn Gynant in Snowdonia National Park (Dreamstime)

It looks like Wales' Year of Adventure 2016 went down well with our active and intrepid readers, with both Snowdonia and Pembrokeshire knocking the Lakes off its consistently-held perch. Snowdonia is not just a place for gasping at its weather-beaten landscapes, but its recent awarded status as a Dark Sky Reserve means it’s perfect for gazing skywards as well.

London, runner-up the previous two years, drops off the list altogether, while you proved the UK is always full of new (or rediscovered) wonders, with the rugged wilds of Dartmoor and anecdote-laden lanes of Cambridge new to the list this year.

1 Snowdonia 95.71%

2 Pembrokeshire 94.84%

3 Lake District 93.64%

4 Northumberland 93.19%

5 Cambridge 92.12%

6 Scottish Highlands 91.82%

7 Edinburgh 91.77%

8 Dartmoor 91.43%

9 Peak District 91.03%

10 Cornwall 90.99%

 

TOP AIRLINE: Singapore Airline

Singapore Airlines aeroplane (Dreamstime)

Seeing Singapore Airlines top our table as your favourite airline is becoming a familiar sight. After taking a one-year sabbatical, last year's winner Emirates is cast into second place this time to restore the normal order. If you can afford it, you can celebrate with Singapore Airlines, as they’ve has announced new First Class cabins onboard their A380 planes later this year.

Meanwhile, Australian airline Qantas is also riding high among a raft of Asian carriers, especially after recently announcing it was to launch the first non-stop flight from the UK to Perth in 2018.

1 Singapore Airlines 92.48%

2 Emirates 91.58%

3 Air New Zealand 88.28%

4 Etihad Airways 87.72%

5 Cathay Pacific 87.57%

6 Qantas 86.43%

7 Swiss International Air Lines AG 86.32%

8 Qatar Airways 86.23%

9 Thai Airways International 86.04%

10 Malaysia Airlines 85%

 

TOP WORLDWIDE AIRPORT: Changi

Changi airport (Dreamstime)

It’s another familiar story. Changi is your favourite airport yet again and no one has come close to taking its crown. That’s hardly surprising, as the airport has tropical flora, Michelin-worthy restaurants and a huge dollop of hospitality. It’s like a city, nature reserve and hotel rolled into one.

Hong Kong is Changi’s nearest challenger once more, but Doha’s newest airport, Hamad, has quickly made an impression on you after only opening in 2014.

Amsterdam makes the list again, but for how long? With Eurostar looking to open a direct train link from London to the Dutch capital later in 2017, many might switch from the skies to the rails.

1 Singapore Changi 93.94%

2 Hong Kong International 88.71%

3 Zürich 85.56%

4 Hamad International (Doha) 85.52%

5 Amsterdam Schipol 85.05%

6 Oslo 84.44%

7 Auckland 83.68%

8 Chhatrapati Shivaji International (Mumbai) 83.33%

9 Dubai International 81.69%

10 Geneva 81.21% 

 

TOP UK AIRPORT: London City

London City airport (Dreamstime)

There’s no change at the top of the UK airport tree. In fact, London City has strengthened its position at the summit, a just reward after posting its busiest ever year in 2016, with 4.5m passengers passing through its gates.

Liverpool also saw a similarly successful 2016, with more passengers (4.8m) passing through its doors than the last five years.

Southampton and Bristol fill the rest of the podium places and Glasgow returns to the list to give Scotland two representatives.

1 London City 87.14%

2 Southampton 84.55%

3 Bristol 80.78%

4 Birmingham 80.34%

5 Edinburgh 78.52%

6 London Heathrow 78.2%

7 Liverpool (John Lennon) 78.07%

8 Glasgow 77.41%

9 Manchester 77.05%

10 London Gatwick 74.49%

 

TOP TV OR RADIO PROGRAMME: Joanna Lumley's Japan

Joanna Lumley in Japan(ITV)

Even though at Wanderlust towers we’re massive fans of Simon Reeve, it’s refreshing to see someone new top this list. Who better to end the four year reign of the ‘new Palin’ than the absolutely fabulous Joanna Lumley, whose travels around Japan’s varied lands had you hooked.

Michael Portillo made a triumphant return on the rails, while Richard Ayoade’s fresh, satirical view at popular city breaks really struck a chord with you, too.

1 Joanna Lumley's Japan

2 Great Continental Railways Journeys

3 Greece with Simon Reeve

4 Travel Man: 48 Hours In...

5 Planet Earth II

6 Walking the Himalayas

7 Rick Stein's Long Weekends

8 Coast

9 New Lives in the Wild

10 Arctic Live

 

TOP TOUR OPERATOR: Bamboo Travel 

Golden Buddha statue in Chiang Mai, Thailand (Dreamstime)

There’s no arguing over the winner here. Bamboo Travel certainly impressed you, scoring a perfect 100% satisfaction rating and retaining its crown.

Many others have also upped their games. Third-placed Holiday Architects' score of 99.57% would have been enough to win the two previous years. Runner-up Selective Asia scored a mightily impressive 99.71%, a lovely late birthday gift from you, as it celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2016.

You're never afraid to take a trip with new tour operators either, having travelled with over 480 companies.

1 Bamboo Travel 100%

2 Selective Asia 99.71%

3 Holiday Architects 99.57%

4 Llama Travel 98.86%

5 Audley Travel 97.63%

6 Wild Frontiers 97.53%

7 Wexas 96.65%

8 KE Adventure Travel 96.25%

9 HF Holidays 96.12%

10 Discover the World 93.91%

 

WANDERLUST TRAVEL ICON OF THE YEAR: Stanfords

Travel is full of icons. They’re the unsung people, places and companies inspiring the greatest travel experiences around. If anyone can appreciate the legwork that goes into making a great trip, it’s us. Which is why our inaugural Wanderlust Travel Icon of the Year award goes to Stanfords, a booksellers that has been providing books, maps and inspiration to explorers and armchair travellers alike for 164 years. With a customer roll call that includes everyone from Captain Scott to Ranulph Fiennes, it has launched countless adventures. Long may it continue. 

 

TOP EQUIPMENT BRAND: Páramo

Masters of water-resistant technology in jackets and trousers, Páramo's rain-repelling apparel is your champion when it comes to outdoor wear for the second year in a row.

But it’s the rest of the Top 10 that makes for the most interesting reading. While Rab finishes in the top two yet again, serial finalists Berghaus, The North Face, Jack Wolfskin and Salomon miss out altogether. Instead, they're replaced by some fresh brands on the block and some reappearing favourites, like Osprey, Sherpa, Smartwool and Pacsafe.                                                    

1 Páramo 90.74%

2 Rab 90.62%

3 Osprey 90.54%

4 Sherpa Adventure Gear 89.09%

5 Patagonia 87.83%

6 Arc'teryx 87.73%

7 Rohan 86.59%

8 Smartwool 86.36%

9 KEEN 86.02%

10 Pacsafe 85.81%

 

TOP GUIDEBOOK SERIES: DK Eyewitness Travel 

After two years as runner-up, it seems two decades of experience and its beautifully crafted illustrations have finally paid dividends for this year’s winner: DK Eyewitness Travel. To add even more meat to an already fine guide, the company has

 now added anecdote-laced audio accompaniments to its books in 2017. From the best of the rest, your classic favourites are still all there, just in a different order. It’s good to see Marco Polo sneak into the Top 10 for the first time as well, too.

1 DK Eyewitness Travel 85.95%

2 Bradt Travel Guides 83.41%

3 Cicerone 82.88%

4 Lonely Planet 82.69%

5 Insight Guides 81.60%

6 Footprint Travel Guides 79.13%

7 Rough Guides 78.82%

8 Time Out 73.95%

9 Marco Polo 73.41%

10 Trailblazer 73.04%

 

About the Wanderlust Readers’ Travel Awards in association with the Money Shop

The awards are based on readers’ travels from December 2015 to November 2016. Results are based on an average satisfaction score (converted to a percentage) rather than the number of votes cast. An entry required a minimum number of votes to be considered. In categories where no percentage is shown, results are based on number of votes cast.

The awards are sponsored by The Money Shop who offer great rates on foreign exchange all day, every day, with over 50 different currencies available at 0% commission. Travel money can be purchased in-store, or you can order online with a click and collect service; and pick up from your local store, or have it delivered straight to your door.

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