The 10 weirdest places featured in Lonely Planet's Best in Travel 2018

 It's traditional for the world's best guidebook publisher, Lonely Planet, to court controversy when naming the next best places to visit.

Sure, you might struggle to locate these places on Google Maps at first, but these destinations will give you endless bragging rights if you ever make it out there.

We look at 10 of the most bizarre destinations they've named in their annual Best in Travel for 2018.

Djibouti, Africa

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Photo: VUSLimited

Named as the fourth best country to visit in 2018, little-known Djibouti, situated on the north-east coast of Africa, sure has some interesting neighbours. Somalia, which specialises in piracy; Ethiopia, fascinating but famine looms ominously on the horizon; and Eritrea, one of the world's poorest countries. You can practically wave to the war-ravaged population of Yemen across the gulf. So why should you go? It's their position between three tectonic plates that creates fascinating desert landscapes and sunken lakes. Add to this an "intoxicating culture, beckoning beaches and incredible whale shark diving", giving you "even more reason to hop on a plane to witness Mother Nature at her brutal best in 2018", according to Lonely Planet.

See also: How Djibouti became Africa's hottest tourist destination

Kaohsiung, Taiwan

<i>Dragon Tiger Towers in Kaohsiung</i>

Dragon Tiger Towers in Kaohsiung Photo: Sean3810

Often overlooked in favour of the capital Taipei, little-known Kaohsiung is Taiwan's second-biggest city, which not only houses bigger markets than those found in Bangkok, fantastic shopping, incredible art, and the country's biggest temple, it's also got a sleek 36-station light rail system which makes it easy to get around and take in all its sights. Kaohsuing is located in southern Taiwan and is Lonely Planet's fifth best city to visit in 2018.

See also: Taiwan - the world's next great foodie destination

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Georgia

<i>Vardzia cave city complex in Georgia.</i>

Vardzia cave city complex in Georgia.

North of Turkey, east of Azerbaijan and Armenia and south of Russia, Lonely Planet claims Georgia welcomes its visitors with a stamp of the passport and a bottle of wine, so proud it is of its wine region. And if that doesn't entice you, perhaps its "otherwordly" sites will. Dirt cheap and unscathed by tourism, visitors to the city named as the seventh best country to visit will be gobsmacked by its "dramatic terrain, orthodox churches on soaring mountains, medieval monasteries tucked into green valleys, and cities carved into cliff faces."

Canberra

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Australia's least popular city has been named as Lonely Planet's third best city to visit in 2018. Yes that's right, the "criminally overlooked" city of Canberra has been ranked higher than Melbourne or Sydney or any other Australian city ever has. Here is what Lonely Planet has to say about Australia's capital.

"National treasures are found round almost every corner and exciting new boutique precincts have emerged, bulging with gastronomic highlights and cultural must-dos," explains Lonely Planet's spokesperson. "Revitalised precincts such as NewActon and Braddon best illustrate Canberra's new lease of life.

"The deliciously decorated Hotel Hotel in NewActon is the epitome of new Canberra style, with materials such as reclaimed wood evoking the Australian landscape. NewActon is also home to A Baker, where the five-course 'Just Feed Me' and 'Just Wine Me' selections offer a perfect array of locally sourced produce and wine. Meanwhile, a brilliant blend of pop-up shops and lively cafes are sprinkled along Lonsdale Street in boutique Braddon."

See also: 20 reasons Canberra is our new capital of cool

Julian Alps, Slovenia

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Photo: ZM_Photo

In the far north-eastern corner of Slovenia, tourists have never been bothered with the Julian Alps - they were just too difficult to access. However, this is all about to change. While still protected by the Triglav National Park mandate, local operators are about to open doors to treks and stylish homestays in a region already discovered by Hollywood, featured in The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, plus a slew of other movies. Lonely Planet also claims locals are ready to welcome tourists with open arms, and it has been named as the third best region to visit in 2018.

See also: Choose your own adventure - Slovenia by bicycle

San Juan, Puerto Rico

<i>Street of San Juan, Puerto Rico.</i>

Street of San Juan, Puerto Rico. Photo: mikolajn

While the island was left devastated in the wake of Hurricane Maria, Lonely Planet doesn't seem to think this is any reason to avoid the Caribbean island's capital, with much to still offer visitors, naming it the eighth best city to visit. Colourful colonial buildings, leafy plazas and dazzling beaches await, together with "new innovative restaurants, exuberant nightlife, boutique shops and high-end hotels". While not everything is back up and running on the island, businesses such as hotels are operational, even though they might be running on generators instead of electricity. However, the good news for visitors is, according to a CNN report, "They will treat you like royalty because they want every dollar".

Kii Peninsula, Japan

<i>Nachi, Japan at Seigantoji Pagoda and Nachi Falls.</i>

Nachi, Japan at Seigantoji Pagoda and Nachi Falls. Photo: Sean Pavone

We all know everyone wants to go to Japan, but is anybody heading to the Kii Peninsula? Apparently not, despite the fact that tourism has tripled in the past three years. According to Lonely Planet, you should come here to visit the Japanese temples set against sublime natural, lush scenery - the effect of being one of the wettest places north of the tropics. As an added bonus travel here is remarkably easy. Kii is ranked as the fifth best region to visit in 2018.

See also: Japan named 'Destination of the Decade' by Traveller writers

See also: See the best of Japan on our exclusive Traveller Tour

Lahaul & Spiti, India

<i>Ki Monastery in Spiti Valley, Himachal Pradesh.</i>

Ki Monastery in Spiti Valley, Himachal Pradesh. Photo: Arun Bhat

Located due north of Ladakh and right on the border of Jammu and Kashmir, this might have been a good enough reason to avoid this Indian region in the past. However, with "supernatural" landscapes described by Lonely Planet and some of India's most spectacular Buddhist art, along with tourist-free temples from which you can sip salty butter tea with novice monks has earned it eighth place on the best regions list. One look at the map will tell you it's no easy feat getting there, which could just make it one of the world's most amazing adventures, and one few have experienced.

See also: India for beginners - what you need to know before you go

Belfast & the Causeway Coast, Northern Ireland

<i>Setting sun over the The Giants Causeway, County Antrim, Northern Ireland.</i>

Setting sun over the The Giants Causeway, County Antrim, Northern Ireland. Photo: Stuart Stevenson photography

We all know about Belfast's sordid past, so what could propel the Northern Irish city to the top of the list of Lonely Planet's regions to visit in 2018? While its Troubles are long over (you can get a sense of just how bad they were at Crumlin Road Gaol), Lonely Planet lauds its transformation into a vibrant city "bursting with bars, restaurants and venues to suit all tastes". Just north of Belfast is the Causeway Coast - rugged, distinct and beautiful, heralded by the heavily-traversed Giant's Causeway. Back in Belfast, don't forget to take in the Titantic Experience, which LP calls an "unmissable multimedia extravaganza".

See also: How Game of Thrones transformed Northern Ireland

Los Haitises National Park, Dominican Republic

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Photo: Guenther Dr. Hollaender

Sharing an isle with Haiti and alongside Puerto Rico, the Caribbean region's coastal national park appears to be "plucked from prehistory, with craggy islets, blue canals and verdant forest". Its beauty is no secret, with upgrades includings airports, roads and big hotel projects in the pipelines, which is why LP urges would-be travellers to get here in 2018 before the hordes descend upon it, ranked the 10th best region to visit in 2018.

See also: The 18 least-visited countries in the world

See also: The most surprising countries Australians can visit without a visa

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