Lonely Planet has named their top 10 countries to visit in 2016. TravelingMom has got you covered. We’ve visited and brought back ideas to help you plan your own family’s visit. Here are tips on family travel to Japan, Latvia, Australia, Poland, and Botswana, all Lonely Planet top picks for travel in 2016. And our whole site has tips for the US, another top pick by Lonely Planet!
Japan is a Lonely Planet Top Travel Pick
Lonely Planet’s picks for top countries to visit in 2016 include Japan. Why is Japan the perfect place for a family vacation? Because it combines being completely foreign and completely modern, says Dia Adams, the Travel Hack TravelingMom. Many Asian destinations have hurdles – logistical, language, health and safety – that you do not face in Japan. Your kids will marvel at the strangeness of a Robot Restaurant and revel in neon lights that put Times Square to shame – and that’s before you even leave Tokyo!
Board the always on-time Shinkansen Bullet Train and you’re transported back in time: Kyoto is an entire city steeped in history. Next door in Nara your kids can feed wild deer in the shadow of a 50 foot high Buddha. If they’re really brave they can crawl through his nostril for good luck.
And I haven’t even mentioned the world’s best Disney park: Disney Sea. Tokyo Disneyland is lovely (and 1/3 cheaper than the USA parks) but Disney Sea has to be seen to be believed. Ariel’s Dad Triton rules his castle in the shadow of a volcano that takes you to Jules Verne’s Center of the Earth. Like Japan itself, Tokyo Disney is unique . . . and well worth the flight.
Latvia is a Lonely Planet Top Travel Pick
For more than 700 years, Latvia’s coveted location on the Baltic Sea has made it a target for neighboring super powers. Despite unwanted rulers and numerous wars, Latvia held on to its cultural roots. Terri Marshall, Globetrotting TravelingGrandmom, has visited Latvia’s capital city, Riga, a UNESCO World Cultural and Natural Heritage site. The city’s historic center is filled with medieval architectural marvels, she says. Riga is also known for its exquisite art nouveau properties having the largest concentration of any city worldwide.
Throughout the country there are cities with preserved medieval castles. Period clad docents from the Middle Ages are on hand to help your family explore your inner knights or ladies with a bit of archery practice or a lesson in stilt walking. And kids of all ages will love the adventures like obstacle routes, a toboggan track and chairlifts at Tarzan’s Adventure Park – the largest outdoor adventure park in the Baltics – located in the picturesque Gauja National Park.
Australia is a Lonely Planet Top Travel Pick
Australia is well worth the long trip for its natural attractions that can’t be found anywhere else. The Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest coral reef with amazing snorkeling and scuba-diving. By contrast, the Outback is a vast desert region that comprises most of Australia’s interior (remember “Crocodile Dundee”?). It’s most famous for Ayer’s Rock, the world’s largest single rock, which looks gorgeous as it changes colors throughout the day and during sunset.
In addition to Australia’s natural beauty, Heather McLaughlin, 7 Continents TravelingMom particularly loved Sydney, Australia’s largest city. Sydney has a beautiful harbor and iconic opera house. One of my favorite memories is feeding a kangaroo and petting a koala at a zoo in Sydney. Children will love seeing these cuddly marsupials, which originated in Australia, along with many other unique creatures which call this continent home.
Other Australia highlights: going on the jumping crocodile cruise in Australia’s Northern Territory and touring an opal mine in Cooper Pedy. Whatever your interests, you’ll love visiting this ecclectic country!
Poland is a Lonely Planet Top Travel Pick
Why Poland? Well, Krakow is a walkable city with beautiful churches and residential architecture, plus a former home of kings, the Wawel Royal Castle. The heart of Krakow is the lively market square, lined with cafes, where you can taste grilled sausage or perogi, buy souvenirs, or watch street performers and people passing. A walking path lined with trees is a welcome green space that surrounds the old part of the city, says Philadelphia TravelingMom Sarah Ricks, who visited Krakow with her husband and two teenagers.
Krakow’s former Jewish ghetto, created by the Nazis who governed Poland in 1941, is now a lively neighborhood of cafes and restaurants. It was a filming location of the movie Schindler’s List. You can tour the former factory owned by Oskar Schindler, who saved the lives of 1,200 Jews during the Holocaust by employing them in his factory. It is now a museum of Krakow under Nazi occupation.
A fun daytrip from Krakow is Poland’s biggest tourist attraction, the Wieliczka Salt Mine, an underground mine where miners carved statues, chapels, and even a cathedral from salt.
A very different, emotionally wrenching day trip from Krakow is the Nazi concentration camp, Auschwitz, where 1.1 million people were murdered during the Holocaust. Touring Auschwitz was an important experience for my family but may be too disturbing for children under 12. For more about the surprising charm of Krakow, Poland, click here.
Botswana is a Lonely Planet Top Travel Pick
Kimberly Tate, Active TravelingMom says she’s been touting the beauty and joy of Botswana since her visit two years ago, so it was a delight to see Lonely Planet recognizing this southern African country as the very best country to visit in 2016.
The country has seen a huge change in circumstances, going from one of Africa’s poorest countries to now one of the richest, making it feel “westernized” and great for families. English is the primary language of the country, a benefit for English speaking traveling families. 70% of the country is made up of the Kalahari Desert savannah, but to the north you’ll find the Okavango Delta, a safari dream destination. Any family visit to Botswana wouldn’t be complete without checking out Chobe National Park, home of the largest concentration of African elephants. Kimberly highly recommends a river safari trip along the Chobe River!
Does your bucket list include any of these Lonely Planet picks for top countries? Tell us about it in the comments.