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Lonely Planet's top 10 countries to visit in 2019

The Cathedral Of Holy Spirit In Minsk -

The Cathedral Of Holy Spirit In Minsk - The Main Orthodox Church Of Belarus And Symbol Of Capital. Credit: Getty Images /bruev

If you are stuck on where to plan your next vacation or just feeling a bit of wanderlust, Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel series has you covered.

Lonely Planet compiled a list of the top 10 countries to visit in 2019, taking you from crystal blue Caribbean waters to dense European forests and beyond. Here are the destinations not to miss. 

1. Sri Lanka

Known for its timeless ruins and culture, gorgeous beaches and welcoming people, Sri Lanka is a key destination for anyone looking for a relaxing vacation full of beach lounging, wellness retreats and flavorful food, to explorers in search of the next greatest sight. Go to Tangalla for wide-open and mostly untouched beaches in the southeast of Sri Lanka; Marakolliya Beach has mangrove lagoons you can kayak through. Train is a popular way of traveling though Sri Lanka (many cars are so crowded they become standing room only), as it offers breathtaking views of the countryside. See stunning ancient ruins at Anuradhapura. Buffalo, elephants and colorful birds inhabit Udawalawe National Park.

When to visit: Sri Lanka is busiest December through March. However, the best weather can usually be found in April and September.

2. Germany

From cities filled with museums and nightlife to beautiful wildlife, Germany has something for everyone. Some tourist favorites include Berlin’s Museum Island and of course, the Berlin Wall. The Cologne Cathedral in Cologne, a World Heritage Site, and the Black Forest, a thick evergreen forest full of vast meadows, farmhouses and delicate waterfalls that reach the Swiss border are also must-see destinations. In 2019, Germany is celebrating the 100-year anniversary of Bauhaus, a school founded in 1919 that was crushed by the Nazi regime in 1933, but whose teachings and aesthetic have lasted through modern times.

When to visit: Germany is most popular among tourists in July and August. Lonely Planet recommends heading over in the fall and spring.

3. Zimbabwe

The attraction of Zimbabwe is all about its gorgeous landscapes and extensive wildlife. Victoria Falls National Park is among the best spectacles to see in this southern African country. Take view of the rushing, mile-long waterfall from Devil’s Pool, a natural infinity pool next to the fall, and peer at its 328 feet drop. Other awe-striking locations include Matobo National Park, where you can view exquisite natural granite formations and Hwange National Park, one of the 10 largest national parks in Africa, to find 400 species of bird and 107 types of animals.

When to visit: April and October bring sunny days and clear, cold nights, while July through September is the prime time for wildlife viewing and white-water activities. 

4. Panama

The country may be small, but there is a lot to do and see in Panama. Panama City is a diverse and busy city, and it is celebrating its 500th anniversary in 2019 by throwing a huge celebration. Known as Panama’s cultural heart and soul, Peninsula de Azuero offers acres of farms and ranches, indigenous land and the strongest example of Spanish colonial influence in the country. Panama also welcomes all to its pristine beaches, blue waters and thriving reefs, its most famous being Archipelago de Bocas del Toro, a group of islands in the Caribbean Sea off Panama's northwest coast.

When to visit: High season in Panama is during public holidays, such as Christmas and Easter. The best prices seen are usually between mid-April and early December. Although this is rainy season, many activities can still be enjoyed.

5. Kyrgyzstan

This Central Asian country has been getting attention thanks to the 2018 World Nomad games, Central Asia’s competition dedicated to its unique regional sports. With almost 1,700 new miles of trekking paths, a simplified e-visa program and a revamped national highway, traveling here has never been easier. The country boasts picturesque sights, from soaring cliffs that envelope calm lakes in Naryan Oblast and Sary-Chelek Biosphere Reserve to the snow-topped peaks of Alay Valley.

When to visit: Tourist numbers drop between May and June, while the flowers blossom and snow melts from the mountaintops. July through September is the country’s busiest, when the weather is great for hikes and festivals. December through March is ideal for snow sports.

6. Jordan

Find the ancient city of Petra carved into sandstone cliffs, get a glimpse of the vast desert at Wadi Rum or take a dip into the inviting blue water of the Dead Sea. Jordan offers culture, history and refuge to all.

When to visit: Expect more traffic  from March to May, when the weather is comfortable and attractions are in full swing. September through February seem to be the best times for visits to the Dead Sea, but prices will rise. Some activities, such as camping may be unavailable due to rainy or snowy weather.

7. Indonesia

More than 17,000 islands make up this southeast Asian country, providing a diverse array of culture, food and sights. Visit Komodo National Park’s islands to be submerged in its rich marine ecosystems, immerse yourself in Balinese culture by walking the bustling streets and listening to the traditional gamelan echoing in the distance or visit the Borobudur Temple, which dates back to the 8th and 9th centuries. 

When to visit: Indonesia is most crowded in July and August. Dry season is in May, June and September, except for Maluku and Papua. Indonesia is least crowded from October to April, during wet season in Java, Bali and Lombok, and dry season in Maluku and Papua.

8. Belarus

Belarus’ capital of Minsk is dotted with Stalinist architecture, beautiful memorials, religious buildings and museums. Stylish bars and street parties keep the city lively. Outside the capital, discover serene landscapes, pastoral frontiers and impressive fortresses. Visit the majestic 16th century Mir Castle, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, or see the 19th century Homel Palace for a taste of grandeur. Take a trip to Belavezhskaya Pushcha National Park, the oldest wildlife refuge in all of Europe, and witness some of the 55 mammal species, including its prized European bison. Or, stick to the cities and tour through Vitsebsk’s Marc Chagall Art Center, Mink’s Museum of the Great Patriot War or Brest’s Museum of Railway Technology.

When to visit: June through August offers European travel without the crowds.

9. São Tomé and Príncipe

This two-island nation in the Gulf of Guinea is easily overlooked, but should be near the top of your list, according to Lonely Planet. Trek through the jungle, snorkel in its tropical waters, lounge on its peaceful beaches and learn about artifacts from the island’s role in the slave trade. Some notable beaches are Praia Banana, Praia Bateria and Praia dos Tamarindos. Visit the Cao Grande mountain in southern São Tomé to see a 2,175-foot column of hardened lava surrounded by lush green forest. Take your sweet tooth on vacation and tour of Claudio Corallo Chocolate Factory in São Tomé.

When to visit: The northeast of both islands is generally dry, but the best time for hiking is June through September. However, the climate of the islands is highly variable, and you will likely come across cloud, rain and sunshine any time of year.

10. Belize

Belize offers a diverse range of people and landscapes. Its Caribbean coast hosts the world’s second-largest barrier reef, while its interior boasts some of the most extensive cave systems in Central America. Top aquatic destinations include Lighthouse Reef’s Blue Hole Natural Monument, a giant marine sinkhole that drops 130 feet, Glover’s Reef and Caye Caulker. Move inland to the jungle near the Guatemala border to see Caracol, the largest Maya site in Belize or head to the Mopan River to see another Mayan treasure, Xunantunich.

When to visit: Belize is most crowded from December to April, when days are sunny and warm. November and May seem to be the best bet to see a slight drop in prices and tourists while most places are still open.

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