Monday, June 24, 2024

REVIEWED: Lonely Planet – The Best Place To Be Today by Sarah Baxter

Can you put a date on the Northern Lights? This well researched coffee table book attempts the impossible, but proves invaluable for both inspiration and action


This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Travel is about luck. Mostly it’s about being born or living in the right place and time, and thus earning a globally strong currency that makes foreign travel possible. It’s also about being in the right place at the right time, something that requires some research but a lot of luck. The Best Place To Be Today tries its best to give the canny traveller the maximum chance possible of seeing or experiencing something specific with a 365-day list of what to do and when.It’s all here, from pilgrimages to temples and festivals to a visit to Glastonbury Festival and an animal migration (the latter two are surprisingly similar events, but only one has a definite date).

Editorial construct

It’s all a bit of an editorial construct because while humans might adhere to annual dates, animals and Mother Nature certainly do not. Want to experience the Northern Lights? Go to the Arctic Circle, Northern Canada or Alaska anytime between the equinoxes and stay outside from midnight until 3am, and you might get lucky. However, in The Best Place To Be Today the phenomenon is given Scandinavia as a location and 18 March as the date, which is extremely arbitrary. Cleverly, the three-way Why Now/Where/Dates structure does give a get-out clause that makes it clear that September to April is the true viewing period, though it also reveals what this book really is about; inspiration and a starting point for some serious research.

Seasonal activities

It’s a similar story for a lot of the activities mentioned in The Best Place To Be Today, with arbitrary dates given to seasonal activities including watching sea otters in Monterey Bay, Estonia’s watery ‘fifth season’, and viewing migratory birds. We do wonder whether each monthly section should include some of the activities without dates, with specific dates given only to events such as music festivals, marble championships or the Thai New Year, because the structure it can feel a little imposed. After all, many of the activities are related to weather, crowd-avoidance at honey-pot tourist sites (climb the Inca Trail on 24 May to dodge the June rush), or included because they just have to be in a guide like this (climb Everest on 29 May, for example).

Little-known gems

However, The Best Place To Be Today is packed not only with ideas and memory jogs for events you always meant to visit, but stacks of events TravGear has never heard of. The Best Place To Be Today is at its best when it’s revealing the more esoteric attraction across the globe, such as the few specific days when it’s possible to hike through China’s Wolong Nature Reserve to the sounds of mating pandas (17 April), that camel-wrestling takes place in Turkey on the third Sunday of the year, or that a voodoo-style Day of the Dead happens on 1/2 November in Haiti.

Well researched

Have you ever arrived in the world’s best place for snorkelling, but during the rainy season when the seas are full of sediment? Or arrived in a safari park a few weeks after a mass-migration of wildebeest has swept through? TravGear has, and is sick of having nowhere to go to get the lowdown on when, as well as where, to go. The Best Place To Be Today changes all that. Great travel experiences demand money, time, patience and luck, but before any of that some research is required. By delivering a highly readable, incredibly well researched and nicely illustrated coffee table companion, Sarah Baxter’s The Best Place To Be Today will get you reaching for your diary, too. 

Price as reviewed: £14.99, paperback
Buy The Best Place To Be Today or visit the interactive calendar to search and browse all 365 travel experiences from the book