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Often referred to as South Korea's "second city," coastal Busan has taken a giant step out of Seoul's shadow.
Lonely Planet just named it the number one destination on its 2018 Best in Asia list.
Busan, about a 2.5-hour journey from Seoul, is the country's second largest city and a popular summer destination famous for delicious seafood and picturesque beaches.
"A stunning confluence of scenery, culture and cuisine, Busan packs an eclectic offering of activities to suit all travelers: hike hills to Buddhist temples, settle into sizzling hot springs and feast on seafood at the country's largest fish market," reads Lonely Planet's top 10 list.
"Poised to steal the spotlight, Busan is East Asia's Culture City for 2018 and will be at its most vibrant with colorful events showcasing the country's cultural heritage, from street art festivals to traditional dance shows."
Lonely Planet's annual Best in Asia list, now in its third year, features the travel guidebook publisher's top 10 recommended destinations to visit in the year ahead.
"Asia is such a vast and diverse continent for anyone dreaming of an escape," says Lonely Planet Asia-Pacific media spokesperson Chris Zeiher in a statement.
"Our experts have combed through thousands of recommendations to pick the best destinations to visit over the next 12 months."
Coming in behind Busan is Uzbekistan -- cited for its mosaic-clad mosques and Silk Road lore. Third place goes to Vietnam's Ho Chi Minh City, which it calls "a supercity that somehow keeps getting cooler."

A mix of up-and-comers and old favorites

Much of the list highlights destinations that aren't considered travel hotspots. For instance, Sri Lanka's Arugam Bay -- a surf town on the east coast -- is applauded for managing to "retain its cool as holidaymakers swarm the rest of the country's ancient citadels and hiker-strewn hill stations."
Or India's Western Ghats, which offers "an atmospheric mirror to Shimla and Darjeeling, with added jungle appeal."
But there are some more-than-familiar inclusions, too, such as Chiang Mai. Long one of Thailand's most popular destinations, this northern city has added a few new attractions in recent years that make it worth a repeat visit. Among these are the newly opened, award-winning MAIIAM Contemporary Art Museum.
Other places were lauded for their improved infrastructure. For example, Indonesia's Komodo National Park, number 10 on this year's list, is more accessible than ever thanks to new flight connections.
"Aside from laying eyes on the illustrious Komodo dragon, visitors to this cerulean-silhouetted archipelago can hike to hallowed viewpoints on Padar, sample laid-back beachside living on Kanawa and dive with a mind-boggling array of marine life in the reefs," says Lonely Planet.
For more on the 10 Lonely Planet picks, click through the above gallery.

Lonely Planet's Best in Asia 2018

1. Busan, South Korea
2. Uzbekistan
3. Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
4. Western Ghats, India
5. Nagasaki, Japan
6. Chiang Mai, Thailand
7. Lumbini, Nepal
8. Arugam Bay, Sri Lanka
9. Sìchuan Province, China
10. Komodo National Park, Indonesia

 

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