Auckland is Lonely Planet’s number one city to visit next year. Photo / Supplied, ATEED
Auckland is the first city to visit in 2022 according to Lonely Planet editors.
Tāmaki Makaurau was recognized by the Best in Travel list for its diverse landscapes and people, claiming that Kiwi Town has what international tourists are looking for for the coming year.
Absence clearly makes the heart more loving. Almost 600 days after New Zealand closed its borders to international tourists, the city is championed as the top destination for post-pandemic travel.
“Auckland doesn’t necessarily realize what it has,” says Chris Zeiher, senior director of commercial sales and marketing for the publisher.
“It’s not just about that little patch in the CBD,” he says. “Travelers are rewarded for going a little further.”
Conservation islands such as Tiritiri Matangi and Peter Gordon’s Māori kai and the Homeland Pacific Cooking School are heralded as unique experiences in Auckland, but also as sustainable destinations that any city would be fortunate to have.
After putting all his eggs in one basket, closing his London restaurants to move to Auckland permanently in 2019, chef Peter Gordon was delighted to be mentioned.
“I am just in love with Auckland and the way we got through the pandemic,” he said.
“Even though Auckland has taken a beating right now, we’re going to be fine and it will be great to be in the coolest city in the world.”
The city’s outdoor spaces, variety of activities and response to Covid have given a silver lining to tourists planning their return to international travel.
Gavin Oliver of Waiheke Island Tourism and the city’s regional tourism forum said it was “precious good news” for the whole city, not just downtown.
“The Hauraki Gulf is extremely diverse,” he said. “You have world class restaurants, beaches and wine regions near the city.”
Whether it’s a 35-minute ferry ride to Waiheke or a drive north to Kumeū, Oliver says Auckland’s accessibility to these areas is something that the other cities of the world can only dream.
The eyes of the world have been on Auckland especially during the America’s Cup, record-breaking concerts at Eden Park and in the run-up to the Women’s Rugby World Cup in 2022.
Nick Hill, CEO of Auckland Unlimited, described the title of Best City as “a real boost and informs our plans to welcome visitors from around the world”.
The return of international visitors may still be a long way off, but the most immediate value could be a change in the way Kiwis view the city.
“There is no doubt that Auckland has been damaged by the local Covid restrictions and we have a lot of work to do to show the rest of the country,” Hill said.
Mayor Phil Goff said it was “very good news” and hoped the international attention would help New Zealanders see the oversight in a new light.
“Auckland is extremely underrated by the rest of New Zealand,” says Goff.
“Before Covid, we contributed a third of the tourism sector’s GDP and employed 69,000 hospitality workers.”
As home to the world’s largest Maori and Pasifika populations, Lonely Planet guide describes Polynesian influence as being at the center of Auckland’s “thriving cultural scene”.
Since the Cook Islands have also been named as the first country to visit by Lonely Planet in 2022, guides have high expectations for the region.
Auckland’s strong cultural and tourist ties with Rarotonga are likely to put both destinations on the radar of international travelers.
As a destination rarely visited by tourists outside of Australia or New Zealand, Graeme West, Regional Managing Director of Cook Islands Tourism, said he was “extremely happy” to hear the news.
Across the divide, the Scenic Rim in the subtropical Queensland hinterland is among the top 10 regions for 2022.
After removing a year from their Best in Travel list in 2021, Lonely Planet put special emphasis on this new list.
In their 17th year, the prestigious awards take into account reviews from Lonely Planet writers in more than 221 countries, before being compiled by an independent jury.
Auckland last appeared on the list eight years ago, but never in the top spot.
The entry praises Auckland’s “local swagger”, developed during the city’s much-vaunted “pandemic response”.
The recognition is bittersweet for Aucklanders, who have been subject to regional Covid restrictions since August 18.
Lonely Planet acknowledged that they were aware of the danger of how quickly guidebooks date, especially at this time.
“We’re going to use a lot more local authors,” Zeiher said. “They know their backyard best.”
Lonely Planet’s Best Trips in 2022 is available to order starting today.
The top 5 of Lonely Planet in Auckland
1. A day in Piha and the black sand beaches of the west coast.
2. Head to the Hauraki Islands to spot takahē on Tiritiri Matangi or taste wine on Waiheke.
3. A walk around the Auckland Museum and Estate.
4. Discover the forefront of the city’s culture at the Auckland Art Gallery.
5. Maungawhau or Rangitoto, admire the view of the city from one of the 53 volcanic cones.
Lonely Planet Top 10 for 2022
Top 10 cities
1. Auckland, New Zealand
2. Taipei, Taiwan
3. Freiburg, Germany
4. Atlanta, United States
5. Lagos, Nigeria
6. Nicosia / Lefkosia, Cyprus
7. Dublin, Ireland
8. Mérida, Mexico
9. Florence, Italy
10. Gyeongju, South Korea
Top 10 countries
1. Cook Islands
Top 10 regions
1. Westfjords, Iceland
2. West Virginia, United States
3. Xishuangbanna, China
4. Kent’s Heritage Coast, United Kingdom
5. Puerto Rico
6. Shikoku, Japan
7. Atacama Desert, Chile
8. The Scenic Rim, Australia
9. Vancouver Island, Canada
10. Burgundy, France