Wanderlust Reader Travel Awards 2018: Who you judged the best in travel Wanderlust Reader Travel Awards 2018: Who you judged the best in travel

We asked you about your travels of the past year, and to rate the countries and cities you visited, and the providers you used. Here are the results of the Reader Travel Awards 2018
01 February 2018

The results of the annual Wanderlust Reader Travel Awards are always highly anticipated, as we have the best-travelled readers around, and as the results are based on a satisfaction rating rather than on sheer numbers. We asked where you had been in the last year, and to rate those destinations and suppliers; more than 2,000 of you responded and here are the results. The winners were announced at the Destinations Travel Show, Olympia, London, on 1 February in front of an audience of finalists and readers.Many thanks to all who participated and shared their feedback. 

Top country

Peyto Lake, Canada (Dreamstime)

1: Canada 95.8%

2: New Zealand 95.64%

3: Peru 95.44%

4: Namibia 95.32%

5: Japan 93.33%

6: Vietnam 92%

7: Russia 91.63%

8: Costa Rica 91%

9: Cambodia 90.29%

10: Italy 89.53%

Canada’s panoramic alpine views, icy wildernesses and cosmopolitan cities were enough to convince you that New Zealand’s winning streak as your Top Country should be interrupted, after three years at the pinnacle.

It’s a huge country and with that naturally comes big widescreen views with a mighty dollop of diversity. The great outdoors is a major draw, as is the magnificent wildlife. It’s not a one trick pony, though: its hip cities are well-bedded as destinations in their own right, and they provide a platform for Canada’s rich mix of cultures, from the Asian street markets of Vancouver to the Gallic charm of Québec City. We have a sneaky feeling that part of the reason it’s topped the list this year is its generous gift of open access to all of its national parks throughout 2017, meaning the toothpaste-blue lakes of Jasper and deep fjords of Gros Morne were all free. Not a bad deal if you ask us.

Top emerging destination

White yurt in the mountains of Kyrgyzstan (Dreamstime)

1: Kyrgyzstan 97.33%

2: Iran 97%

3: Georgia 93.33%

4: Greenland 92.5%

5: Montenegro 92%

There’s just something about the Silk Road. The echoes of ancient traders once tracing a trail across Asia, their camel caravans stacked high with silk, spices and jewels, still linger today. It seems Kyrgyzstan is increasingly becoming your preferred gateway to this legendary route, especially as three veins of the old Road once blazed through its mountains and rolling pastures. Yurt stays beside alpine lakes in its high steppes offer the most authentic glimpse into the memories of these romanticised merchants, while capital Bishkek is a surprising cultural delight, as well as a handy doorstep to the rugged Tian Shan peaks.

Interestingly, only Georgia survives from the gang of 2017, with the moonscapes of Greenland and sun-soaked fjords of Montenegro impressing you. It’s nice to see you ignoring the scaremongering headlines to explore what runner-up Iran really has to offer: fine architecture and warm locals.

Top tour operator

Daigoji Temple in Autumn, Kyoto, Japan (Dreamstime)

1= Holiday Architects 100%

1= Llama Travel 100%

3: Selective Asia 99.88%

4: KE Adventure 98%

5: Wild Frontiers 97.67%

6: Audley 97.44%

7: Undiscovered Destinations 95%

8: Bamboo Travel 94.44%

9: Inntravel 93.33%

10: Kirker Holidays 92%

There’s really no separating your two favourite tour operators this year, with 2016 winners Llama Travel returning to the top table with a flawless satisfaction rating, along with Holiday Architects, which has been slowly climbing its way to the summit over the last few years. Last year’s runner-up Selective Asia finishes an extremely close third. The list is completed by a newbie to the Awards, with cultural tour specialist Kirker Holidays clearly striking a chord with you.

Top city

Air New Zealand plane (Dreamstime)

1: Kyoto 97.5%

2: Venice 94.4%

3: Seville 94.15%

4: Budapest 93.94%

5=Dubrovnik 93.33%

5= Moscow 93.33%

7: Boston 93.08%

8: Sydney 92.94%

9: Luang Prabang 92.8%

10: Vancouver 92.59%

Long gone have the days of South-East Asian hubs being your favourite cities. You have to head even further east to find the new top dog – Kyoto, also 2017’s winner. Its peek into Japan’s past, geisha culture and ancient shrines have enticed you once again. From our point of view, it’s always interesting to see the changing waves of ‘in vogue’ cities and this year’s list features a marked dose of European influence.

You were charmed by the milky-blue canals of second-placed Venice (and we don’t blame you), while the future’s orange for Seville, which you scored into third. New faces include the Croatian walled city of Dubrovnik, seemingly still riding the hype as its Game of Thrones alias King’s Landing, past serial winner Luang Prabang nudges into ninth, while Boston’s mix of revolution and evolution has caught your attention – a nice touch five years after the horrors of the marathon bombing.

Top airline

Singapore Changi airport control tower (Dreamstime)

1: Air New Zealand 90.59%

2: Singapore Airlines 89.68%

3: Emirates 89.46%

4: Thai Airways International 88.46%

5: Qatar Airways 88.3%

6: Vietnam Airlines 87.6%

7: Cathay Pacific 87.23%

8: Etihad 83.81%

9: Qantas 83.5%

10: Swiss International Air Lines 83.48%

After a couple of years off the top, Air New Zealand is your choice as the world’s best airline once more. Singapore Airlines continues yo-yoing between first and second and Emirates completes a familiar-looking top three, while the list is again flush with Asian, Middle Eastern and Oceanic carriers, with Vietnam Airlines new to the scene. Only Swiss International Air Lines breaks the monopoly, while Qantas will hope its new direct flights to Perth from the UK will help it to advance up the list in 2019.

Top worldwide airport

London City Airport (Dreamstime)

1: Singapore Changi 93%

2: Hamad International (Doha) 90.8%

3: Amsterdam Schipol 85.65%

4: Dubai 85.63%

5: Tokyo 85.46%

6: Munich 84.35%

7: Hong Kong International 84%

8: Sydney 83.46%

9: Helsinki 83.33%

10: Bangkok 82.34%

Singapore Changi being your favourite landing and transit hub is a story stuck on repeat and that rings true again this year. You passed through hundreds of airports but couldn’t find either one to rival it, nor even come close. However, it’s not resting on its laurels, giving its Terminal 2 a fresh look, blinging it up with illuminating glass sculptures – as you do. Doha’s airport, Hamad, is barely four years old but has struck an immediate chord with you, creeping into second. You were again impressed by Amstersdam’s Schipol airport, which flies the flag for Europe along with Munich – a nice way to celebrate an all-time passenger traffic high of 44.6m during 2017 – and Helsinki.

Top UK airport

Lindisfarne Castle on the Northumberland coast (Dreamstime)

1: London City 82.94%

2: Southampton 82.63%

3: Bristol 82.14%

4: Birmingham 80.79%

5: Edinburgh 80%

6: London Heathrow 79.22%

7: Liverpool (John Lennon) 78.23%

8: Glasgow 76%

9: Manchester 75.46%

10: London Gatwick 76.63%

It’s a hat-trick for London City, sealing three years in a row as your top airport in the British Isles. Only just, this time though – Southampton is quickly cementing its place as your preferred alternative. Third-placed Bristol also retains its place from last year, and with plans to expand by 2050, let’s hope they keep they quality with the added quantity. In terms of the rest of the pack, it’s a familiar scene, comprising regulars over the years. You know what you like.

Top guidebook series

Blue Planet II (Penguin Random House)

1: Bradt 84%

2: DK Eyewitness 82.8%

3: Cicerone 82.4%

4: Lonely Planet 81.4%

5: Rough Guides 77.6%

6: Insight 77%

7: Time Out 75.6%

8: AA 75%

9: Marco Polo 71.6%

10: Footprint 68.2%

When it comes to your choice of guidebook, it seems Bradt and DK Eyewitness are forever jostling for top spot. Bradt reclaims its place at the summit from DK, your winner last year, while walking and cycling specialist Cicerone completes your top three. Lonely Planet comes in at fourth by a country mile, but it’s great to see AA’s travel guides back in the mix. Back in 2012, their future was under review, so it’s good to see them make such a fantastic comeback and keep inspiring your travels.

Top UK destination

1: Northumberland 95%

2: Scottish Highlands 94.67%

3: Dartmoor 94.4%

4: Pembrokeshire 94.29%

5: Lake District 93.98%

6: Edinburgh 93.77%

7: Yorkshire 92.78%

8: Cornwall 91.02%

9: New Forest 90.32%

10: Peak District 90%

With one national park, two Areas of Outstanding National Beauty and one triangular chunk of impressive landscapes, it’s hardly a surprise you think Northumberland is the best bit of Britain. Combining dune-fringed beaches, high moorland, sweeping valleys and spectacular history, it’s no wonder this Scotland-nudging land is touted as one of the UK’s last great wildernesses – and your favourite. It has everything – 2,000-year-old history along Hadrian’s Wall, walking routes webbing its rugged interior, and dark sky status – meaning you’ll enjoy looking at another otherworldly canvas after dark.

Top TV or radio programme

1: Blue Planet II

2: Russia with Simon Reeve

3: Travel Man: 48 Hours In…

4: The Ganges with Sue Perkins

5: From Russia to Iran: Crossing Wild Frontiers

It had to be, didn’t it? Quite possibly the small screen event of 2017, the sequel to 2001’s Blue Planet effortlessly combined enviro-realism with highlighting how bloody brilliant the watery part of our Earth can be, from the hostile depths of the Mariana Trench to the glittering coral reefs around the world. To top it all off, the legend Sir David Attenborough silkily narrated the series – let’s face it, it was the best nature documentary out there.

Elsewhere, perennial Wanderlust favourite Simon Reeve impressively covered one of the planet’s most secretive states – Russia – and Richard Ayoade, Sue Perkins and Levison Wood still have you glued to the box.

Top equipment brand

1: Páramo 94.29%

2: Smartwool 93.53%

3: Fjallraven 91%

4: Rab 90.98%

5: Patagonia 90.17%

6: Osprey 88.54%

7: Rohan 87.32%

8: Arc’teryx 87.27%

9: Jack Wolfskin 85%

10: Keen 84.8%

In regards to ace apparel, there’s only one that fits the bill for you. Páramo’s unique combination of masterful rain-resistant clothing with an ethical manufacturing process that benefits at-risk Colombian woman clearly resonates, this being their third year as your favourite gear company. Perennial runner-up Rab is replaced by Smartwool, while third-placed Fjallraven, with its dose of Swedish innovation, is new to the table. Patagonia and Jack Wolfskin make a welcome return, with regulars Mammut, Sherpa Adventure Gear and Salomon missing out.


The results of the Wanderlust Reader Travel Awards are based on travel experiences between December 2016 and November 2017. For each main category our readers were asked to list up to four entries and score each one based on their own merits, of which an average was calculated and converted into a percentage (as shown).

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