It’s my great pleasure to host the 10th Lonely Planet Blogsherpa Blog Carnival. For this edition, I asked my fellow bloggers: Which is your favourite place on earth? Is it a country, a city, a village, a beach, a hut, a mountain, a hotel? Do you return all the time – or do you dream of returning? What draws you there? In short, why is it your fave?

Easy, right? Well, you’d think. But not so. Most found it a bit of a challenge, rating one spot above all others. We all adore so very many places, and favourites may depend on any number of factors. My favourite place often tend to be where I visited last.

Nevertheless, most of the contributing bloggers managed to choose one place. What follows is a long, delicious list of wonderful spots around the world: a market, several cities and towns, music, beaches, a hidden corner, a temple path, a castle, a fountain and a garden, a busy city square, islands, landscapes, a mud festival even. So grab a cuppa (or an apple), sit down, relax and enjoy all these great posts:

Julie Falconer, known as A Lady in London, loves Beijing’s 798 Art District.

  • Tucked away in the northeastern corner of the city, the 798 zone is a former factory complex that is now packed with contemporary art galleries, chic cafes, boutiques, and exhibition spaces. Interspersed among the converted warehouses and modern buildings are massive sculptures and public art displays, making every street a surprise for the visitor… Giant red dinosaurs in cages gave way to cavernous warehouses full of thick red paintings. An exhibition of Socialist Realism from North Korea transitioned to a courtyard full of menacing clay wolves.

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Sounds fabulous. I had never heard about it before Julie described it so temptingly, but now it tops my Beijing list.

David Hogan jr of the snazzily-named website Malaysia Asia adores Luang Prabang.
So does UNESCO, listing this former Laotian capital among World Heritage properties particularly worthy of preservation and protection. David says:

  • Luang Prabang was built by the European colonials in the 19th and 20th century era and houses one of the best collection of French provincial style homes which many have been converted into cafes, restaurants or even boutique hotels. The beauty about Luang Prabang is that due to the UNESCO status (which was awarded in 1995), is there are absolutely no modern buildings here making it a perfect place to enjoy the natural culture and heritage of Laos. … When I was walking around the main town of Luang Prabang, I could not help notice the pure French Indochinese architectural marvels of that era. Some of them stand out in the night as they are beautifully lit.

Suddenly, I can’t understand why I haven’t I been to Luang Prabang – or indeed, Laos – yet. Definitely time for a visit.

In Home, Sweet Home, Ragne from Destination Anywhere shares her love for Morocco.
She does make this North African country – and magical Marrakech especially – sound very enticing.

  • First time i visited Morocco was in June 2008. I would never have guessed that this noisy, loud, hot and difficult country will have such a hold over me that even before the year passes i’m going back for the 3rd time. And i feel so pleased to be back – amidst all that roller-coaster of color, art and people. It feels like i’ve been away for way too long already, though it’s only been 5 months since my last visit. I can’t explain the hold Morocco has over me. It’s like a love-story that keeps burning with a bright flame, enticing and intoxicating me. I feel so unbelievably comfortable here.

Sounds dreamy, doesn’t it?

Kerry Dexter of Music Road shares this evocative post about music and hope in Derry.

Reminding us of the events of Bloody Sunday 38 years ago, she writes:

  • People lay dead on the streets of Derry then, and it is one of the events which deepened the divisions and struggles across the political and personal landscapes of Ireland… Music has always been a part of the conflict, and the grieving, and the reach for reconciliation

before optimistically concluding:

  • when people sing together, there is the possibility of hope.

Beautiful post. Also, check out this post for a video of local Derry girl Cara Dillon singing There were Roses, Tommy Sands’ haunting song, setting the political struggles in the context of everyday life.

Over at LeX Paradise, LeX Tan Yih Liang has an unusual favourite: The Boryeong Mud Festival

  • The mud is dug up near Boryeong, trucked to the Daecheon beach area, and dumped at a ‘Mud Experience Land’. The mud is considered rich in minerals and used to manufacture cosmetics.… Some of the final weekend participants are foreign tourists, and especially American GIs, but most of the participants during the week are Koreans, attracted by clever marketing by the town. The town fathers and mothers discovered that the mud is more lucrative as a tourist attraction than using the muddy fields for agriculture.

LeX tells us about his experiences at this action-packed Korean festival and gives useful information on how to get there. The festival attracts a whopping 1.5 million visitors every year! Looks fun. Dirty, but fun.

Claire Algarme of First-time travels shares her favourite place, lovely Coron Island in the provice of Palawan in the Philippines.

  • Though not as hyped as Bali or Boracay or Phuket or any beach destination in Southeast Asia, Palawan is a favorite among foreigners who come to this tropical country of 7,107 islands because of its beauty and serenity. Tourists get a close brush with nature, exciting adventures, and a large dose of peace and quiet.

Claire is not the only one who loves this spot:

  • Famous international personalities and celebrities privately sneaked to this part of the globe to get away from the maddening crowd and enjoy the sun and the sand without the threat of paparazzi.

I haven’t been to the Philippines yet, but when I go, I’d like to hit one of those Coron beaches.

Vibeke Montero of Photito’s Blog has fallen in love with Oslo all over again
. In Oslo for free, she recounts a lovely summer day full of pleasant surprises. In the most expensive city in the world, she encounters a bus driver who lets her ride for free, an Italian cafe owner who offers a latte on the house, a fruit seller charging only a symbolic sum for his apples…

Vibeke writes:

  • … I was made to feel so welcome by a city I haven’t lived in for a good few years. It was as if Oslo herself wanted to remind me that she can indeed be a charmer, a real sweet talker with plenty of charisma. And I know exactly why. Look to the sky for the answer. If it is full of grey skies and drizzle you don’t get this kind of treatment. When the snow is inches deep and people are freezing and cars have to be undug to be used, I can assure you there are no free rides. You’ll be lucky to catch someone smiling from the depths of their scarves and woolly hats. However, when the sun is shining, magic happens.

So true! At the first sign of summer, Norwegians cast off their inhibitions – along with most of their clothes – and magic does indeed happen!

Oh, and by the way: Norwegian apples – best in the world! Totally objectively speaking, of course 😉

Renee King of the cleverly named A View to a Thrill shares her love affair with Prague and heaps of great photos.
Renee calls this city on the banks of the River Moldau one of the rarest jewels in the European Union.

  • I managed to leave enough of my heart in Prague which would necessitate my going back someday to reclaim it, says Renee. Prague promised not only to court my senses to sublime ecstasy, but to ensure that I would fall hopelessly in love with it. So who was I to refuse?

Who indeed? Prague is like a fairy tale, drawing you in.

Liz Borod Wright from Travelogged tells us about Red Beach: The Best Beach in Santorini near the ancient, Minoan site of Akrotiri.

    • We were intrigued by the name of the Red Beach and by the idea of red sand. We didn’t know much about it beyond that and we didn’t want to get our hopes up because of Kamari. However, it turned out to be among the most spectacular beaches I have ever seen. It has to be best beach in Santorini.

No wonder you like it, Liz. Santorini is already high on my go-to list. I’m thinking Greek island-hopping (with kids), definitely including Santorini. After all, it’s said to be the last remnant of mythical Atlantis. Heaps of interesting history, philosophy and mythology here. And with this unusual red-sand beach near Akrotiri, I’m even more intrigued.

Jason of Alpaca Suitcase loves the Tuscan countryside, specifically the Val D’Orcia region
around Pienza between Montalcino and Montepulciano. Jason says:

  • We recently drove through the Val D’Orcia and marveled at the harmonious blend between natural beauty and man’s best efforts. The green rolling hills were so lush that the texture resembled a soft baby’s blanket, fresh out of the dryer, left to fall gently on the terrain. From that blanket a patchwork quilt is created. Start with a square of twenty-five trimmed olive trees standing in a perfect 5-by-5 formation, then a wild section of pine, chestnuts, cork oak and myrtle, and then patch in a small vinyard of grapes, the parallel lines wrapping tightly over a small hill. Everywhere you look, man has added to the natural beauty. We saw many straight gravel driveways with perfect lines of trimmed cypress trees on both sides leading to stone farmhouses with vegetable gardens of tomatoes, zucchini, peppers, basil, and sage. And wheat fields everywhere…manicured to perfection.

La bella Toscana: she does indeed inspire poetry.

Erin Ridley of La Tortuga Viajera proves choosing only one favourite is very difficult indeed.
In there’s no place like …, she gives us two faves. The first is a perfect vista in San Francisco. Erin takes us to a little spot on the water side of Broderick Street, from where you can see the Marina, Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge.

  • Here, in this little piece of heaven on earth, you can just sit while your skin gets kissed by the crisp marine air, and everything around you seems to stand still. I’ve spent countless moments in this very spot, reflecting on a stressful day, pondering life changing decisions (to move to Spain or not to?), or simply just reminding myself how grateful I am to be at that very place with such a special city wrapped around me like a familiar hug.

Erin’s other favourite is a magical Moorish castle. You have to stop by her blog to find out more 🙂

Jeff Funnekotter of Big City Blog
has numerous favourites as well: a beachfront cafe in Malaga, New Zealand’s Paihia and his parents’ kitchen (I love that!). But Jardin du Luxembourg – and particularly the Fontaine de Medicis – tops his list. Jeff says:

  • I’m guessing that Thomas Francini – the man who drew up the plans for the fountain in the 1600’s – could not have the imagined the happiness that his creation would elicit in a dorky Canadian tourist some 400 years later. But in case his descendants read random blogs about travel, thank you M. Francini. Sincerely.The place is just steps away from busy St-Michel boulevard in the heart of Paris, but it is an almost silent urban oasis any time of day.

I’ve spent many happy moments in the Jardin du Luxembourg myself, away from the hustle and bustle of the boulevards. Next time I’ll have a closer look at this amazing fountain.

In How I Know a Favorite Place, John Houser of The Dotted Route, counts down to his number one spot.
Runners-up include the stunning Tiger Leaping Gorge in China’s Yunnan province and Stuttgart’s lively Schlossplatz. But top billing goes to London’s Trafalgar Square.

  • When I stepped into Trafalgar Square, I just knew that I was in London. The red double-decker buses drove around the streets, the postmodernist architecture, and the throngs of people all just spoke to me an immediate feeling that I was in London. This is no where else that this could be. It was as if the city said to me, “Here I am, John. Feel right at home.” And I did. London stands out, in my mind, as the cosmopolitan city of the world and the Trafalgar Square was the cross-section of where millions before me have come before.

London – my favourite city in the world!

Jennifer LoPrete of Orange Polka Dot lists Northern California’s Sea Ranch as her “favourite place just to be”:

  • Created in the 1960s as a planned development that would have minimal environmental impact and a style that blended with the rugged natural surroundings. Sea Ranch is quintessential Northern California. Residential density is purposely low. Utilities lines are underground. Cars must not be parked in sight of others or on the streets. There are no fenced and landscaped backyards. But rather a simple deck over a common space of natural terrain, which is maintained by grazing sheep and deer.

I’ve never heard of Sea Ranch before, but it sounds absolutely wonderful. And very ahead of its time.

Over at Todd’s Wanderings, Todd Wassel’s favourite spot is the path behind the Iwayaji Temple, Japan
Here’s why:

  • The trail delivers the walker from a pristine wooded ridge line path into an ancient moss green forest with enormous cypress trees and age worn shrines and religious carvings. The forest is dark, damp and its enormity and silence creates an atmosphere were a Buddha or Shinto god could easily pop out from behind the next corner. It is also along this path that I came to a sudden realization about my life, where I want to be and what I love to do.… Not a week goes by that I don’t think about the path leading to Temple 45 and the effect it’s had on my life. I dream of going back, if for nothing more than to spend some time in that magical forest empty of humanity but full of gods, demons, enlightenment and bright green moss.

Todd provides fascinating background info and gorgeous photographs and is currently writing a book on the Shikoku Pilgrimage.

Wow, what a stunning secret temple path – almost enough to make one religious.

And finally, what’s my favourite, you ask?
Well, perhaps you’re not asking, but I’ll tell you anyway. Like so many, I had great difficulties choosing – but finally settled on a short-list of two. Both are remote islands, neither of them tropical. One is a new aquaintance: the enigmatic, verdant Faroe Islands in the North Atlantic. The other is the haunting – and haunted – Norfolk Island. For the number one spot, I’ll choose the latter.

Once Britain’s worst penal colony, Norfolk is now a self-governing Australian island – and home to the descendants of the Bounty mutineers ever since Pitcairn became too small. Exciting history, stunning landscape, ghosts, secrets, mysteries; a most excellent little speck in the Pacific.

On this carnival around the world, we have covered 5 continents. We’ve been in China, Laos, Morocco, Ireland, South Korea, the Philippines, Norway, the Czech Republic, Greece, Italy, the USA, Spain, France, England, Japan and Australia/Pacific. I hope you’ve enjoyed all these wonderful spots around the world. I know I have.

The last Lonely Planet Blogsherpa Blog Carnival was hosted by Claire of First-time travel and was all about first-time travel outside your country. The next blog carnival will be hosted by Kat over at Tie-Dye Travels and is about food around the world. Yum! See you there!