Shetland has been named one of the top 10 destinations in Europe this year by a leading travel guide.
The archipelago is placed sixth in Lonely Planet’s Best In Europe 2019 list which highlights must-see places.
The guide praises Shetland’s “awesome coastal trails, wicked wildlife watching, and fabled fish and chip shops”, and suggests visitors “spot otters and orcas from craggy headlands, then ease into the evening at one of Lerwick’s local pubs” or experience the Viking-inspired Up Helly Aa festival which “bursts into fiery life each January”.
Slovakia’s High Tatras tops the list, followed by Madrid in Spain, the Arctic Coast Way in Iceland, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Bari in Italy.
Shetland, which consists of more than 100 islands, only 15 of which are inhabited, is also a Unesco Global Geopark and is said to be more geologically diverse than any similar sized area in Europe.
VisitScotland chief executive Malcolm Roughead said: “Shetland’s appearance as the only UK destination in Lonely Planet’s prestigious Best In Europe 2019 is testament to the islands’ strong pull for visitors.
“Shetland, a Unesco Global Geopark, has something for everyone – it boasts breathtaking scenery, unparalleled opportunities to see amazing wildlife and birds, a stunning coastline, delicious local food and drink, unique culture and heritage, and an incredible historical and archaeological story to tell. It is somewhere you can enjoy both a relaxing break and an activity-fuelled trip.
“We can’t be complacent, however, and it is important that we encourage the tourism industry to provide world-class service, facilities, events and attractions to keep up with ever-changing consumer demands and ensure visitors continue to have memorable experiences in Shetland.”
Lyon in France is in seventh place on the list, followed by Liechtenstein, Vevey in Switzerland, and Istria in Croatia.
Steven Coutts, leader of Shetland Islands Council, said: “Shetland has long been known as a welcoming destination for travellers, and it’s great to have made Lonely Planet – and Europe’s – top 10 this year.
“Those of us who live here know how fantastic the islands are, with stunning scenery and incredible wildlife on our doorstep.
“We’re an outward-looking community and there’s a growing number of local businesses and organisations showcasing the best of our islands to visitors.
“We’ve a vibrant economy, tremendous natural resources and a beautiful environment, all of which makes Shetland an excellent place to live, work, study and visit.”