Is it the otherworldly red deserts? The unique tribal culture? The desert-adapted elephants and black rhinos that roam the wild plains? For all these reasons – and countless more – Namibia has always featured high in our Reader Travel Awards, and this year it has reclaimed top spot from 2018’s winner, Canada.
A trip to Namibia is always rich in spectacle, from the raw, elemental beauty of the Skeleton Coast and the shape-shifting dunes of Sossusvlei, to the lush Epupa Falls on the Kunene River – a welcome respite after a dusty desert safari. It has its isolated corners, and a visit to the wilderness area of Kaokoland (as Wanderlust did in 2018) reveals a land where the nomadic Himba people still live a traditional life. But Namibia is largely very accessible, and whether touring the colonial cities of Swakopmund and capital Windhoek or rhino tracking in the Damaraland, it’s easy to take the wheel and explore under your own steam, which is perhaps why you find it so irresistible.
For the past few years, Japan has been quietly gaining momentum in our awards, and has finally scooped silver this year. Quite frankly, we’re surprised it hasn’t crept up sooner: from the ancient temples and Geisha culture of Kyoto, to Hokkaido’s steamy hot springs and Tokyo’s urban energy, Japan never fails to surprise and delight. Meanwhile, New Zealand – which has made your top three for the past 18 editions – continues to enthral.
But it’s not all perennial favourites: Indonesia features in our top ten for only the second time. While it’s most famous for its pearl-white beaches, the archipelago is a Wanderlust favourite for its wildlife-rich jungles, Komodo dragons and far-flung islands (over 17,500!). Recent earthquakes and volcanic eruptions may have affected visitor numbers, but we wouldn’t be a surprised if the South-East Asian nation climbs even higher in 2019 – especially with Garuda Indonesia recently launching new direct flights from London to Bali.