Zoë Dawes - aka The Quirky Traveller - is a travel writer. She was recently voted Britain’s Best Travel Bloggerand her website www.thequirkytraveller.com was voted in the Top 10 Inspiring Travel Websites 2010. We asked Zoë to give us a few ideas for brilliant places to visit. We never guessed that it would be good old Blighty that would take the top spot. But there it is. And Zoë really does know what she’s talking about.
There are so many places to visit on Planet Earth – how can you choose where to go and what to see? Well, everyone has their own ideas. But here are some of my favourites: Of course they could have changed completely by this time next year!
1. The Lake District, Cumbria, England. Discover what inspired many of the world's greatest writers and artists to product some of their best work. Our quaint villages, beautiful lakes and rivers, soft hills and challenging mountains, historic sites, vibrant cultural events, welcoming old pubs, top-class restaurants and quality accommodation all ensure the Lake District was be voted 'Best Destination' in Virgin's 2010 Responsible Tourism Awards. The loveliest place in the world - but then I would say that, wouldn't I - it's my back yard!
2. The Norwegian Fjords. Unsurprisingly this area is one of the top destinations in the world for outstanding natural beauty. The Geiranger Fjord, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is unparalled in its majestic beauty and the FlamsBahn railway is a quirky and spectacular. I visited them on Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth – now that’s the way to see them; up close and in luxurious comfort …
3. Western Turkey. For anyone interested in the origins of European civilisation, this area is a treasure-trove of delight. There are also great seaside resorts with gorgeous beaches, luxury hotels and quality restaurants, some of the best spa treatments in the world, exotic bazaars and traditional markets. The Temple to Apollo at Didyma, the Library of Celcus at Ephesus, Lycian Tombs, hot springs at Pamukkale, a leisurely cruise from Fethiye ... and so much more.
4. Rotarua, New Zealand. Te Rotorua-nui-a-Kahumatamomoe is its Maori name and that culture permeates the area as much as the smell of sulphur. Boiling hot steams escapes the earth at every opportunity, from tiny cracks in the formal English-style gardens to enormous geysers shooting high into the air in the geo-thermal park. There is so much to do here for all the family; some of New Zealand's most spectacular scenery and adrenalin-fuelled activities are right on the doorstep.
5. Boracay. The Phillippines: simply one of the loveliest beach destinations in the world. White sandy beaches overhung with palm trees, the sea every shade of blue imaginable, laid-back charming people and an island so small you can walk its length before breakfast. The perfect get-away to relax and remember what life is really all about.
6. Lithuania. Relatively new to the tourist trail, this country is slowly emerging from a very colourful past to take its rightful place in the European travel itineries. With its age-old traditions, medieval towns and villages, breath-taking landscapes and friendly, hospitable people, it has everything the discerning traveller is looking for.
7. Jerez, Spain. This graceful old city retains Moorish influences in the Alcazar and is the home of some of the most names in sherry including Gonzales Byass, Tio Pepe and Pedro Ximenez. Jerez is in the heart of flamenco country; brilliant guitar playing and passionate singing and dancing fill the streets every evening. Historic Cadiz is a stepping off point to other worlds and the White Villages of mountainous Andalucia are popular all year round.
8. Kinsale, Co Cork, Ireland. No-one really needs a reason to visit this part of Ireland, but the quaint fishing village has a cosmopolitan air that certainly adds to its appeal. Near the vibrant city of Cork, amongst some of the loveliest scenery in the country, Kinsale is famous for its diverse culinary delights and its excellent sailing. The village has colourful Dutch-style buildings. fantastic restaurants, welcoming bars and quirky shops, an old fort and, of course, the Irish 'craic'. Great any time of the year.
9.Venice, Italy. No excuses for including this magical place. Everyone should visit Venice at least once in their lives. Take a stroll round the back streets, gaze up at crumbling palaces, find the most out of the way trattoria, escape from the heat into one of the many churches on every corner - and do the full-on tourist bit with a gondola ride and a coffee at Florian's as you watch the world pass by on St Mark's Square...
10. The Isle of Man. This unspoilt gem lies off the coast of Ireland and NW England and has Gaelic connections with Ireland and Scotland. It’s like stepping back in time to a world where life was lived at a more leisurely pace – except when the world famous TT Races take place and then the island is alive to the roar of thousands of motorbikes and the pace definitely speeds up. The Isle of Man is full of fascinating places including the capital, Douglas and horse-drawn trams, the lovely Laxey Wheel, Peel Harbour and Manx Kippers, the Calf of Man with its seals and maybe a basking shark or two… and so much more.