Thursday, 24 January 2013

Rules for the Lonely Planet Flickr photo challenges

These are the general rules which apply to Lonely Planet’s Flickr photo challenges.  The theme changes with each challenge, and we’ll let you know what the theme is prior to the commencement of each challenge.

To enter one of our photo challenges, you must do the following:

Join Lonely Planet’s Flickr group (if you’ve not already done so).During the first week of the challenge, submit one (1) photo into the group pool, and tag it using the name of the theme for the then current challenge.  Make sure that, in the photo description, you say where it was taken.  We encourage you to geotag your photos (here’s Flickr’s guide on how to geotag).Entry is free, and you can only enter once per challenge.  Your entry must not have been placed in either the 1st, 2nd or 3rd places in an earlier Lonely Planet Flickr challenge, and must not have been digitally edited, altered or manipulated (other than cropping, resizing or file processing to optimise the quality of the photo).Make sure you comply with Flickr’s Community Guidelines and Terms of Service (because, aside from anything that Flickr might do, failure to do so will render your entry ineligible).Lonely Planet reserves the right to reject any entry which it deems (in its absolute discretion) contains objectionable or offensive content.  A photo which displays an identified or identifiable person may infringe on that person’s right of privacy or may disclose that person’s personal information. Avoid submitting images which depict people in private or vulnerable situations and, where possible, try to get the permission of people featured in your image prior to submitting it.You then need to vote for 5 entries in the current challenge that most make you want to travel and best exemplify the theme of the challenge (if you don’t vote for 5 entries, you will be disqualified).  Note that you cannot vote for your own photo.  Voting takes place in the second week of the challenge. You are encouraged to add your personal reflections on the photos you vote for. Copy and paste the voting code for the current challenge into the comments of the 5 photos you vote for.If your entry receives 5 or more votes, please post a small version of it in the thread started for it in the group forum. Also post your photo there if it is not coming up in the tag search. Flickr explains why your photo may not be captured in a search here. And Flickr also explains how to post photos in threads here.The photo with the most votes wins.  Winners will be announced on the date set out on the group page.You warrant that your entry is your own work and does not infringe any third party rights (including copyright and privacy).Entries may be featured in our photography blog on our website (, but we will ask your permission before using your entry in this way.  You give us a licence to use your entry for the purposes of the Flickr photo challenge you enter. You consent to us attributing authorship to your registered ‘handle’ and we may contact you to request that your real name be used. We will never publish your real name without permission. Other than stated in these conditions of entry, no further use will be made of your entry.

The winner will receive a Lonely Planet travel guide book of their choice.  By submitting your entry you agree that these conditions of entry apply to your entry.  Lonely Planet respects the privacy of others, and we will only use your personal information to tell you if you’ve won.  You can find Lonely Planet’s privacy policy at

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Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Top travel literature titles of 2012

Throughout 2012 Lonely Planet staff rated and reviewed the travel literature titles they had read. If you’re in search of some inspiration – or just some plane reading – here are the top-rated books of the past year.

The Man Within My Head by Pico Iyer

Rating: 5 out of 5
Reviewed by Steve Waters
I can remember picking up Pico Iyer’s first travel offering, Video Night in Kathmandu,  from a stall on Bangkok’s Khao San Road, back in the glory days of Asia’s Banana Pancake Trail. The book had generated a buzz amongst travellers who saw Iyer, rightly or wrongly, as one of their own, traipsing the same ground, living the same dream. I eagerly devoured the book as I bludgeoned my way north from Xishuangbanna to Beijing and the tattered copy changed hands numerous times.

Read the rest of the review here.

On the Up by Nikki and Rob Wilson

Rating: 5 out of 5
Reviewed by David Gorvett
Co-authors of On the Up, co-founders of their own social venture (READ International) and generally inspirational characters, Nikki and Rob Wilson embarked on a trip in 2011 that would take them through 11 countries as they travelled over 8000 miles from Cape Town to Cairo. Their mission? To put the spotlight on change-makers throughout Africa, highlighting some of the amazing things happening across the continent – a refreshing alternative to the bad press that Africa often receives in the Western media (famine, civil unrest, disease and political instability being a few of the common themes).

Read the rest of the review here.

The Wayfinders by Wade Davis

Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Reviewed by Danny Heap
Wade Davis, anthropologist and also the grandly named Explorer-in-Residence at National Geographic, has dedicated his life to chronicling the lives and cultures of Aboriginal people across the world. In The Wayfinders, which is a labour of love as well as work of literature, he uses all that experience, knowledge and insight to make an impassioned plea to humanity not to lose the ‘old ways’ and also sets out to try and answer the question of what it means to be human.

Read the rest of the review here.

AA Gill Is Further Away by AA Gill

Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Reviewed by Ben Handicott
Calling AA Gill a travel writer seems somehow inadequate. His pieces are a million miles from the standard roll-out of ‘went there, did that’ stuff that litters so much of the travel media.
Why? His writing brings two things together particularly well – vivid descriptions of place, and a sense of the deep affection he feels for people. His unique ability to combine these two elements provides a sharp and powerful insight into the destinations he writes about. Of course, there’s also the sheer pleasure of reading his words, which flow as if the writing was easy, no matter how much labour went into it. He is a writer. People who love to travel should read him; people who love critical writing should make it a priority.

Read the rest of the review here.

Crazy River by Richard Grant

Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Reviewed by Steve Waters
‘Money changes all the iron rules into rubber bands’, observed the esteemed Polish journalist Ryszard Kapuscinski. Though he was referring to Iran, it could easily apply to Africa, a continent he covered in intimate detail across decades of upheavals. In a new millennium, another journalist, Grant, discovers that ‘a $5 bribe will get you a long way in Africa‘ as he tries to put some distance between himself and the beggars, thieves and whores of Stone Town, Zanzibar. Befriended by a crazy former golf pro, he’s shown a life rarely glimpsed by tourists.

Read the rest of the review here.

The Lost City of Z by David Grann

Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Reviewed by Angela Tinson
David Grann’s The Lost City of Z is a fascinating account of both early 20th-century Amazonian exploration and early 21st-century investigative journalism — both intriguing exercises of obsession.
Grann’s subject, Colonel Percy Harrison Fawcett — British artillery officer, member of the Royal Geographical Society, surveyor, spy and anthropologist — ’was the last of the great Victorian explorers who ventured into uncharted realms with little more than a machete, a compass, and an almost divine sense of purpose’.
Fawcett spent more than 20 years exploring the Amazon, at a time when exploration parties were often decimated by disease or starvation if they were not abducted or killed by local tribes, some of whom were rumoured to practise cannibalism. Over this period, Fawcett became obsessed with the idea of a large, complex civillisation, like the mythical El Dorado, lost in the Amazon. He secretively named his goal ‘Z’, and was determined to find and reveal it to the world.

Read the rest of the review here.

Visit Sunny Chernobyl and other adventures in the world’s most polluted places by Andrew Blackwell

Rating: 4 out of 5
Reviewed by Anita Isalska
A quest to experience the world’s most polluted places isn’t the classic travel dream. But anyone who has felt a macabre pull to an off-beat destination can relate to the passion driving Andrew Blackwell to tour nuclear fallout zones and bob around on criminally polluted rivers. Rejecting the magnetism of pristine beaches and untouched forests, Blackwell looks instead to places where humankind’s footprint is unmistakeable — and often horrifying.
But this is far from ‘disaster tourism’: Blackwell goes much further than rubber-necking and there isn’t a shade of environmental hand-wringing in the book. Blackwell doesn’t skimp on ugly details, but he does temper every squeamish moment with piercing insights.

Read the rest of the review here.

To Timbuktu by Casey Scieszka & Steven Weinberg

Rating:  4 out of 5
Reviewed by Steve Waters
When I last passed through Tombouctou, several decades ago, there was sand in the bread, sand in the rice, sand in the coffee and sand in the beer. It was not an easy place to reach, and the rigours of the journey far surpassed any dubious delights attained on arrival. Refreshingly, in this world of constant change, it appears some things remain the same.
Like all good travel yarns, To Timbuktu reaches it goal somewhat obliquely, and we meet Casey and Steven, our two young, soon-to-be-love-struck, American language students, in a cafe in Morocco. Love blossoms and within a few pages they’re living the traveller dream, teaching English in Beijing. What follows is a fascinating first-hand account of the highs, lows and sometimes just plain weirdness of being foreign teachers inside the Chinese school system in one of the world’s most dynamically changing cities.

Read the rest of the review here.

Heart of Dankness by Mark Haskell

Rating: 4 out of 5
Reviewed by Chad Parkhill
Heart of Dankness is a travelogue only by necessity; if Mark Haskell Smith had his way, he wouldn’t need to leave his home state of California to experience the specialised highs promised by Amsterdam’s competitive Cannabis Cup. Nor would he want you to have to leave your home town (or even your couch) for a similar experience. Since marijuana possession remains illegal throughout most of the world, however, Haskell Smith needs to travel to get his toke on. This is just as well, because his quixotic search for ‘dankness’ becomes a fascinating travelogue populated by a large cast of larger-than-life eccentrics united by their love of good dope.

Read the rest of the review here.

Wanderlust by Rebecca Solnit

Rating: 4 out of 5
Reviewed by Steve Waters
I’m fond of a good walk, particularly an extended one somewhere pristinely wet and remote like South West Tasmania. Jagged peaks, clothes-shredding scrub, thigh-deep bog and lonely west-coast sunsets are just some of the attractions. I do it because I enjoy the wilderness, the struggle, the solitude (well, most of the time). But why do I enjoy it?
Enter activist, writer and polymath Rebecca Solnit with Wanderlust, a collection of essays exploring the history of ‘walking for leisure’. Philosophers, writers, artists, poets, adventurers, cranks and visionaries are Solnit’s companions on this TARDIS-esque voyage of ambulation across the centuries. Solnit draws heavily on literature as we move from Rousseau’s Paris and Kierkegaard’s Copenhagen through Wordsworth’s Lake District and Dickens’ London to arrive at Wojnarowicz’s New York.

Read the rest of the review here.

In Praise of Savagery by Warwick Cairns

Rating: 4 out of 5
Reviewed by Jani Patokallio
In 1933, Wilfred Thesiger became the first white man to explore the legendary Sultanate of Aussa in what is today Ethiopia and live to tell the tale. Sixty years later, Warwick Cairns in In Praise of Savagery sets off in the same direction. Those are some mighty big boots to fill, and most attempts in this genre, where a travel writer traces the footsteps of an earlier, celebrated explorer or author while attempting to draw some pithy lessons out of it all, fall flat. Can he pull it off?

Read the rest of the review here.

Lessons From the Monk I Married by Katherine Jenkins

Rating: 4 out of 5
Reviewed by Claire Beyer
The ‘find yourself’ memoir/travelogue is not new to literature and has been accomplished very well by some and not so well by others. Katherine Jenkins’ story in Lessons From the Monk I Married is an honest and thoughtful memoir and although it traverses some of the clichés often found in this type of genre, it is ultimately an interesting and well-written tale.
Jenkins’ path gestates from a seemingly inconsequential exchange with a fellow worker at the Seattle gym where she works. The friend is leaving their workplace to follow her boyfriend to Seoul, South Korea, where he has accepted a position teaching English. The seed is planted and Jenkins cannot remove South Korea from her mind.

Read the rest of the review here.

Brave Dragons by Jim Yardley

Rating: 4 out of 5
Reviewed by David Gorvett
Penned by Pulitzer Prize winner Jim Yardley, Brave Dragons is an original and insightful tale of the meeting of two very different cultures: East meets West, through the medium of basketball. Yardley’s own background and experience position him perfectly to act as observer and narrator of the experiment going on in one of the Chinese Basketball Association’s (CBA) floundering teams. As an American living in China for more than seven years, most of which was spent heading up the Beijing bureau of the New York Times, and a keen follower both of the basketball leagues in the States growing up and of the CBA since arriving in Beijing, Yardley was intrigued when he first heard that one of the CBA’s worst-performing teams was importing a former NBA coach to try and help turn things around, and attached himself to the team. He goes on the road with them, garners interviews with the eccentric owner (Boss Wang), league officials, interpreters and, of course, with Bob Weiss, the former NBA coach turned Head Coach of the Shanxi Brave Dragons. The result is a well-written and in-depth look at one of the most quickly developing of the BRIC nations, and a revealing analysis of the differences between the most powerful democracy in the world, and its Communist counterpart.

Read the rest of the review here.

Our list of top-rated books of 2011

And here you’ll find all of our book reviews online.

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Update: Visiting New York after Sandy

Planning to visit New York City for the holidays, but wondering what to expect after Hurricane Sandy? Expect a New York Christmas as usual, at least in Manhattan where most winter visitors stay. You’ll still see store windows lit up with holiday displays on Fifth Avenue, and the big tree and ice rink packed with skaters at Rockefeller Center. Subways, buses, taxis – life itself – are back to normal too. You may be hard-pressed to find any indication that a storm causing 132 deaths and over $40 billion in damage even made its way through here.

Tourism is back too. The city’s visitor’s bureau told CNN that the year’s draw is up from about 51 million visitors to 52 and that 95% of the hotels were back to normal by Thanksgiving. Looking ahead, one million are expected to descend on Times Square for New Year’s Eve.

But that’s only part of the story. Coney Island, Brooklyn, is still recovering. Though it’s likely to be fully back in operation by next spring and summer, iconic eateries like Nathan’s Famous and Totonno’s have had to close, after their locations were flooded out.

Hauling sand after Hurricane Sandy Hauling sand in Coney Island after Hurricane Sandy, by Timothy Krause. Creative Commons Attribution license.

Over in New Jersey, Atlantic City saw an immediate fall in visitors too, due to exaggerated reports of the Boardwalk damage, per this recent New York Times visit.

In all, nearly 400,000 housing units in New York State and New Jersey were damaged or destroyed. How to help? In addition to organizations like Red Cross, Habitat for Humanity is surveying the situation. Considering this is the season of giving, either donate and watch for upcoming volunteer options in coming months. After Katrina, Habitat for Humanity built dozens of new homes aided by tourists giving even just a day or two to chip in. Check here for updates.

In short, if you’re planning on coming to New York over the holidays, don’t change your plans: the lights are on and Santa’s on his way too. Happy holidays!

Robert Reid is Lonely Planet’s US Travel Editor and a New York City resident.

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Free download: Lonely Planet’s new Northern Honshū (Tōhoku) chapter

In the last 18 months, Japan’s enchanting northern Honshu (Tohoku) region has rebounded swiftly from the devastating earthquake and tsunami of March 2011. Lonely Planet has been back to cover every corner of the region during its revitalization.

As Tokyo-based author Rebecca Milner wrote in her recent article on, Tohoku is very open for travel. And for much of the region, the sudden absence of tourists added insult to injury. In an effort to support the region’s tourism industry and local communities, and to deliver on our ongoing promise to provide quality, up-to-date travel information to Japan, we’re providing the new, post-tsunami-researched and fully updated Tohoku chapter now for free as a digital download (PDF).

This chapter was researched and written by Rebecca Milner in October 2012, and is destined for the 13th edition of our best-selling Japan travel guide, to be published in 2013, but you can download it now:

Get the free Tohoku chapter here.

If you have a copy of Lonely Planet’s current Japan travel guide (12th ed), please print this PDF and fold it inside your book to have the most recent information. Or if you have a competitor’s guidebook or no guidebook at all – well, print it or carry it with you on your e-reader anyway! It’s a gift from us to you.

As with any of our guidebooks, if you find anything with which you disagree, or if there are other Tohoku sights/eateries/hot springs/transport details/etc that you think travelers should know about, we’d love to hear about them! Send us your tips, feedback and updates through our Guidebook Feedback page. Happy travels!

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Lonely Planet staffers’ travel resolutions for 2013

After the last beer has been sunk at Lonely Planet office Christmas parties around the globe, our minds inevitably turn to our travels in the coming year. Here are a few of our travel resolutions for 2013, from honeymoons in the jungle to hitting the open road.

I love trekking, and 2013 looks like my lucky year. My father-in-law has organised a group to tackle the 12-day, 167km hike around Mont Blanc known as the Tour du Mont Blanc. This is the Alps’ iconic walk, and a number of previous sojourns to the Alps have whet my appetite to take on this grand route around the Alps’ tallest peak. I’m a glutton for towering mountains, cutesy villages and the serene vistas of the Alps, and this walk – I’m told – will have it all.

Check out Glenn’s guidebook to the Victorian Alps here.

As a little girl I was never one to daydream about what my wedding dress might look like, or my dashing husband-to-be; I was more consumed by the thought of exotic, far-flung jungles and rambling temples. As an adult, not much has changed and now I’m getting hitched my attention has turned to honeymoons rather than cakes and flowers. My new year’s resolution is not to spend all our hard-earned savings on just one day, but rather on three weeks somewhere we’ve both always wanted to go: Nepal. Goodbye seating plans and hair trials, hello dizzy Himalayan mountain passes and yak bells tinkling through the thin air. It’ll soon be time to leave behind the heavy dress and strap on the hiking boots…

I have the same travel resolution every year: ‘go to a place you have never been before’. In 2012 I made good on this resolution by travelling to San Francisco for a wedding; escaping London for the Jubilee Weekend in Cardiff; spending a couple of weeks in Portugal taking in Lisbon, Coimbra, and Porto; and a mini-break to Budapest. I’m still looking forward to squeezing in Berlin this year for New Year’s Eve. For 2013 I’m dreaming about adventure on Iceland’s Ring Road, filling my belly in Lille, and a Caribbean beach break to Antigua.

For me, 2013 is all about road trips. Like many Londoners, I cruise around on public transport while my driving licence gathers dust but this year I will finally hit the road and drive somewhere adventurous. I see myself zooming past Scandinavian glaciers, snaking down the Amalfi Coast or cruising around the coast of Wales. There’ll be nothing but the open road and maybe a sat-nav chirruping for me to ‘turn around where possible’.

My travel resolution for 2013 is to finally go to Europe. A trip to the ‘old world’ is something of a rite of passage for young Australians, many of whom join boozy Contiki tours or slum around for months as working backpackers, but for a number of reasons I’ve never had the opportunity to go. I’m a little too old for the shenanigans of the 18-21 set, and I have commitments in Australia that prevent me from taking a long working holiday, but I am looking forward to spending some time strolling around Paris, eating pintxos and drinking txakoli in San Sebastián, and exploring the Laguna Veneta. I’ve already booked the flights, and to say I’m excited would be an understatement.

My resolution for 2013 is to explore South America. I’ve had the good fortune to spend time in all the other continents (minus Antarctica, but that’s also on the wanted list), but everything south of the Darien Gap represents a step into the unknown – and no, I’m not counting last year’s cripplingly jetlagged queue-fest in Bogotá airport.

If a stint in SA is the big prize, the small print is all about Europe. I want to take the lead set by my inspiring Aussie peers at Lonely Planet’s London HQ, who think nothing of a short hop to the continent every other weekend, and arrive back for work on a Monday with barely a matchstick-propped eyelid out of place. Respect.

New Zealand was the subject of one of the first books I laid out as a designer at Lonely Planet, and I had thought about visiting the country throughout three years I spent living in Germany. 2013 is the year I will finally make it there. I am booking the trip in the new year and plan to fly into Auckland for a few days, before heading down to Wellington, Christchurch, and driving across to the west coast of the South Island.

In summer 2013 I intend to take the long way home from the US to the UK by sneaking in a mini exploration of South America, a continent I’ve never been to.  I don’t want to miss Machu Picchu, but I’m also keen to see just how skinny Chile really is, and finish on a high in Buenos Aires.

So over to you: is 2013 the year you’ll scale a glacier, learn how to cook in Tuscany or finally visit Japan? Tell us your travel resolution in the comments!

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Twitter Landscapes competition: the winner picture

Last month we asked you to send us great pictures for our Landscapes competition on Twitter and the response was overwhelming, with over 300 pictures submitted in the space of two weeks. The winner and runner up pictures will be featured as background images in our Twitter page, so the judging panel have looked at all the pictures in this context and are now ready to announce their verdict.

First let’s look at the runner ups, in no particular order:

Seagulls flying over beach1. @boriquena20: “Taken this year at Miami Beach, Florida, United States on a Thursday morning”.

Tokyo skyline at night2. @SignosisRed: “View from Metropolitan Government Office which is located in the Shunjuku district of Tokyo”.

St Peter's basilica in Rome reflected in water3. @eweiss41: “Taken in early January, this photo reflects a colorful winter sunset behind St. Peter’s basilica, taken along the Tiber River in Rome, Italy”.

Barren desert4. @sophie_webb1: “Dead vlei, in Sossusvlei, Namibia. I took a picture of a single tree to put into perspective how vast the sand dunes are”.

House on top of green hill5. @stefanotermanin: “San Quirico d’Orcia, near Siena, in the Tuscany countryside. I woke up at 4.30 a.m. and I sat down in a Chianti vineyard (with my tripod and my camera) in front of the hill that you see in my picture. Then the sun comes out from the fog and the Podere Belvedere appeared”.

All runner ups get a Lonely Planet guide of their choice. Congratulations!

But there was one picture our panel fell in love with, and that is the winner of the competition. Check it out:

Tree shade under starry nightThe picture was submitted by @michaelperron and credit goes to Michael Perron and Linda Rayner. As well as having the honour of becoming the next background image of our Twitter page, they win a Lonely Planet guide of their choice and the Lonely Planet’s Guide to Travel Photography. Congratulations!

Thanks to everyone who took part and remember to keep an eye on our Twitter page for any further news, tips and competitions.

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Best Travel Photos of 2012 Twitter Competition: the shortlist

Recently we asked our Twitter followers at @lonelyplanet to share their Best Travel Photos of 2012 with us. We know our followers come from all corners of the world and like to visit the most varied destinations, and this was clearly reflected in the submissions to the contest. We had some truly inspiring entries, ranging from the Himalayan peaks to the backstreet of a South American metropolis. The jury is still deliberating on the winning entry, but we wanted to share the shortlist with you. In no particular order, here are the entries we’ve liked best:

1. @LindaUmar

















We will be announcing the winner very soon, so stay tuned to our Twitter account. Good luck!

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