Ohrid, Macedonia (Shutterstock)

Wanderlust Readers’ Travel Awards 2016: THE WINNERS

4th February 2016

Where is the world's top destination? Which country is the one to watch? Where is the loveliest international airport – and which airline is the best to fly with? The Wanderlust Travel Awards 2016 reveals all...

In 2015, we asked our readers to tell us their favourite destinations, airlines, airports, gear, guidebooks – and more – in our annual Travel Awards Survey. The results were announced at the Destinations Show 2016 in Olympia, London, on 4 February – and you'll find them all below... 

How it works: For many of the survey questions (eg 'Which countries have you visited in the last year?'), we asked readers to list up to four entries and score each one on its merits. The final positions were based on an average score for the entry (converted to a percentage) – so the results are based on satisfaction rather than the number of votes. In categories where no percentage is shown, the results were simply based on the number of votes cast for each option.  

Thank you to everyone who took the time to share their opinions with us – good and bad – to give us a true picture of what travellers really think.


1. New Zealand 97.333%
=2. Ethiopia 96.522%
=2. Botswana 96.522%
4. Peru 96.250%
5. Chile 96.154%
6. Namibia 96%
7. Ecuador 95.897%
8. Burma/Myanmar 95.758%
9. Vietnam 95.690%
10. Japan 95.333%

The Land of the Long White Cloud is top of Wanderlust Reader Travel Awards once again. New Zealand is your number one country for the second year in succession and it looks like it’s here to stay. It's a great self-drive destination, plus all of its 23 Great Rides cycle routes are now open – offering a completely new way of seeing the country’s array of scapes, from icy mountains and lush forests to old gold mines and laidback cities.
New Zealand (Shutterstock)

Africa is breathing down the Kiwis’ neck, however. Ethiopia, with its rock-hewn churches, rare wolves and mighty mountains proves that 2015’s third-place finish was no fluke, while Botswana’s trio of desert, delta and wildlife leapfrogged it into joint silver position, having not made the top 10 last year.

Interestingly, Namibia – nearly always New Zealand’s closest challenger – drops to sixth place. Asia also features heavily, with Japan slipping back in after not listing for a couple of years.

At last though, South America gets the recognition it deserves: after having no entries last year, it returns with a vengeance this time around with three. It wouldn’t be surprising if Peru climbs even higher in 2017, with direct flights launching from London to Lima later this year.


1. Macedonia 98%
2. Bolivia 97.143%
=3. Greenland 95%
=3. Mongolia 95%
5. Iran 94.545%

The Balkans are fast becoming Europe’s hottest new must-visit: last year it was Montenegro and now you, our ever-discerning readers, have been wooed by the lakes, mountains and monasteries of Macedonia. And, have we mentioned the wine, wolves and fabulous walking? 

However, much of the rest of the list follows suit from 2015, with Greenland also popping up again after a one-year break.


1. Hoi An, Vietnam 98.5%
2. Tromso, Norway 98.33%
3. Bagan, Burma 96.92%
4. Cusco, Peru 96.23%
5. Kyoto, Japan 96%
6. Venice, Italy 95.38%
7. Amsterdam, Netherlands 95.2%
8. Luang Prabang, Laos 94.67%
9. Tallinn, Estonia 94%
10. Siem Reap, Cambodia 93.84%

A melting pot of cultures, Hoi An proves to be hotting up your travels as it fends off serial toppers Bagan and Luang Prabang (last year's winner) to head the list. Home to Chinese shophouses, French colonial buildings, Vietnamese tube houses and the Japanese Covered Bridge, Hoi An's charming concoction of influences have certainly made their mark on you.

Hoi An (Shutterstock)
Hoi An (Shutterstock)

Northern Lights hub Tromso ensures that Scandinavia has a presence in the top three once again. It's interesting to see Estonia's Tallinn, a fusion of modern and medieval magic, earning a mention as well.

In 2015, our readers visited 618 different cities, from Albuquerque to Zwolle, with the most-frequented being London, Cusco, Hoi An and Bangkok.


1. Lake District 28.26%
2. London 20.87%
3. Cornwall 10.22%
4. Edinburgh 8.91%
5. Northumberland 7.39%
6. Peak District 7.17%
7. Snowdonia 5.87%
8. Bath 4.57%
9. New Forest 3.70%
10. Scottish Highlands 3.04%

There's no getting away from it: the trio of the lovely Lakes, London and rustic Cornwall really are your nailed-down favourites, cementing the top three for the third year in a row. It's also great to see Bath sneak into the top 10, as well as the New Forest just behind.

Lake District (Shutterstock)
Lake District (Shutterstock)

But is there anywhere that could match up to the trio of UK beauty spots? Will somewhere in Wales' adventure playground propel itself up the list during the country's Year of Adventure in 2016? Can Hull enjoy a successful year before becoming UK Capital of Culture in 2017? With your votes stretching from all corners of the country, there’s still much more to see…


1. Llama Travel 99.39%
2. Bamboo Travel 99.26%
3. Selective Asia 98.82%
4. Undiscovered Destinations 98.75%
5. Wild Frontiers 98.13%
6. Walks Worldwide 97.98%
7. Wexas 97.19%
8. Holiday Architects 97.14%
9. Trailfinders 95.56%
10. Audley Travel 93.56%

In previous years, this category has been a tussle between Asia specialists Bamboo Travel and Selective Asia – but this year Llama Travel has stolen the show. With a 99%-plus rating, its focus on value-for-money trips to South America has clearly left a lasting impression on you.

Adventure tour operator Undiscovered Destinations returns to the top 10 after a one-year break, while sixth-placed trekking experts Walks Worldwide makes its debut. All-rounders Wexas make the list for the first time too – call it a late birthday present from you, after it celebrated its 45th anniversary in 2015.


1. Emirates 89.77%
2. Singapore Airlines 89.52%
3. Qatar Airways 87.88%
4. Malaysia Airlines 87.14%
5. Norwegian 86.43%
6. Turkish Airlines 85.38%
7. Virgin 85.31%
8. Etihad 85.16%
9. KLM 85.05%
10. Qantas 84.76%

Recently named as the world’s most valuable airline at an eye-watering $7.5bn, it seems Emirates is also quite valuable to you, our readers, as it pips regular winner Singapore Airlines to top spot. It’s also the proud owner of the globe’s longest regular non-stop flight, from Dubai to Panama – over 8,500 miles and 17 hours!

This list is usually dominated by Asian airlines, so it's good to have highly-rated budget airline Norwegian, Virgin, and Qantas soar into the top 10 too.


1. Singapore Changi 95.96%
2. Hong Kong International 88.15%
3. Tokyo Narita 84.80%
4. Vancouver 84.44%
5. Dubai 84.38%
6. Zurich 83.33%
7. Mumbai 82.67%
8. Kuala Lumpur 82.17%
9. Barcelona 82.14%
10. Amsterdam Schipol 81.21%

Is there anyone that can topple Changi’s efficiency and friendliness? It seems not so far, as the Singapore airport is runways ahead from the rest, with its highest satisfaction rating yet – 94%.

Changi Airport (Shutterstock)
Changi Airport (Shutterstock)

However, the rest of the pack has a few new faces: Barcelona’s clean and smooth airport hub is rewarded, while Mumbai records India’s first-ever appearance on the list. For fifth-placed Dubai though, clearly the busier it is, the better – since 2014 it has had more international passengers pass through it than any other airport, nearly all of which are clearly impressed.


1. London City 85.24%
2. Newcastle International 84.85%
3. Belfast International 81.67%
4. Birmingham International 81.19%
5. London Heathrow 77.67%
6. Manchester 77.65%
7. London Southend 76.92%
8. Edinburgh 76.49%
9. Southampton 75.86%
10.  Bristol International 75.52%

After two years away from the limelight, serial winner London City is back on top, thrusting last year’s champ Newcastle into second place.

London City Airport (Shutterstock)
London City Airport (Shutterstock)

Fifth-placed Heathrow proves the ongoing runway debate hasn’t distracted it from providing high customer satisfaction for the second year on the trot, while Southend has clearly made an impact on you since it was upgraded in 2012 for the London Olympics, making its first appearance. Across the water, debutant Belfast is beginning to make waves as it seals third place.


1. Bradt 81.54%
2. DK Eyewitness 80.95%
3. Lonely Planet 80.93%
4. Rough Guides 77.43%
5. Cicerone 76%
6. Trailblazer 75.77%
7. Footprint 75.52%
8. Insight 74.11%
9. Time Out 70.92%
10. Blue Guides 67.56%

Championing responsible travel and profiling off-the-beaten tracks has served Bradt well, as it nabs top spot off Cicerone, winner of the previous two years. Dorling Kindersley’s glossy visual Eyewitness guides hold onto second place for another year, with regular list-makers Lonely Planet and Rough Guides completing the top four.

In an age where solo adventuring is becoming more and more popular, it’s good to see independent traveller-focused Blue Guides make a reappearance.


1. Páramo 96.87%
2. Rab 89.80%
3. Keen 88.29%
4. Arc’teryx 86.18%
5. Rohan 85.88%
6. Berghaus 85.63%
7. Mammut 85.49%
8. Salomon 85.29%
9. The North Face 84.48%
10. Jack Wolfskin 83.08%

After slowly creeping up the ranks over the past few years, last year’s runner-up Páramo, is top of the tree.

Swiss mountaineering firm Mammut’s 150 years of experience pays off as it enters in the top 10 for the first time, while US shoe company Keen is also a new entrant. It’s nice to see Arc’teryx build on its fast-growing reputation and climb up to fourth place too.


1. Caribbean with Simon Reeve
2. The Hunt
3. Great Continental Railway Journeys
4. The Mekong River with Sue Perkins
5. Chris Tarrant: Extreme Railway Journeys
6. Stephen Fry in Central America
=7. Patagonia: Earth's Secret Paradise
=7. Joanna Lumley's Trans-Siberian Adventure
9. In the Land of the Midnight Sun
10. Ireland with Simon Reeve

Not content with topping the list for a fourth year in succession, Simon Reeve also sneaks in his two-part Ireland series – despite it only being broadcast in November. But he is rather good, isn’t he?

Interestingly, Sue Perkins seems to live long in your memories as her Mekong River series makes the top four for a second year in a row. Rail travel was also big on the small screen in 2015 too, with three train-themed series making the top ten.

Main image: Ohrid, Macedonia (Shutterstock)

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