HMS Caroline, the last surviving ship of the Battle of Jutland,. Image courtesy of HMS Caroline.
Lonely Planet has declared Belfast and the Causeway Coast as the number one region in the world to visit in 2018. So, what are you waiting for?
Northern Ireland makes for a memorable visit at the best of times - but in 2018 there will be more reasons than ever to visit.
From blockbuster attractions and a restaurant boom to international sporting events, we've rounded up 19 reasons to make the trip to Northern Ireland.
1. It’s affordable
The drop in the value of Sterling makes Northern Ireland a great value destination. Why not check out some of the special offers currently available.
2. Everything is accessible
You can drive from city to coast to countryside in just a few hours, getting a taste of Northern Ireland in a few days. Our capital, Belfast, is extremely compact and can be explored on foot.
3. We’re home to the World's Leading Tourist Attraction
Lonely Planet says "The rustling old docklands are now the vibrant Titanic Quarter, home to fancy apartments and a sensational museum." Titanic Belfast, museum and visitor experience is located in the heart of the city that built her. Unearth the story of the famous, fateful ship then explore the Titanic Quarter to learn about Belfast's shipbuilding history.
4. Breath-taking natural wonders
The UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Giant’s Causeway is our most popular attraction, but a stellar line up of natural wonders await for those who go off-the-beaten track. Visit the Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark, the idyllic Fermanagh Lakelands and the captivating Mourne Mountains, which inspired CS Lewis’s Narnia. Read about more of our natural wonders here.
5. Our scenic routes are made for road trips
Drive the spectacular Causeway Coastal Route - rated one of the Top Five Road Trips in the world. Navigate winding, rugged coastal road around the Atlantic Ocean, quaint villages and the basalt columns of the Giant’s Causeway. Or as Lonely Planet puts it "timeless beauty and high-grade distractions - golf, whiskey and some of the world's most famous rocks - are more popular now than ever." And there are many more scenic road trips to be explored.
6. Game of Thrones® is filmed here
Northern Ireland's epic landscapes have been used as the backdrop for the hit HBO series Game of Thrones®. If you're a fan of the show, embark on a tour of filming locations including Winterfell Castle, Kingsroad and Riverrun. Fill your passport on the Journey of Doors and explore the tapestry.
7. Incredible outdoor activities
Northern Ireland's lush green fields, dramatic coastline and tranquil lakes make an amazing outdoor playground. We have thrilling links golf, stunning cycle routes, some of the best wreck-diving in the world, and enclosed loughs and rivers that are perfect for beginner kayaking and paddleboarding.
8. Spectacular sporting events
In 2017 we hosted the Women’s Rugby World Cup, the Irish Open and the Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia. There is also the annual North West 200 if you want something to really get your pulse racing, and The Open in 2019. Find out why Northern Ireland is made for sport here.
9. Northern Ireland loves a festival
Annual events include popular big name music event ‘Belsonic’, Hillsborough based music festival ‘Sunflower Festival’, Belfast International Arts Festival, Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival, Pride festival, and many more.
10. Loveable locals
From the famous to the everyday, we have an iconic array of colourful characters that make a trip to Northern Ireland a fun one. Immerse yourself in their legends by visiting Seamus Heaney Homeplace, C.S Lewis Square, Belfast Music Exhibition & Tour, the Van Morrison trail and the George Best trail.
11. Legendary nightlife
Go out in Belfast or Derry~Londonderry at night to feel the buzz of our cities. From cosy traditional music sessions in pubs to electric atmospheres in nightclubs, you can count on us for a lively night out.
12. ...Or go off-grid for peace and quiet
13. We have the only remaining completely walled city in Ireland
The Walls, which are approximately 1.5km in circumference, form a walkway around the inner city and provide a unique promenade to view the layout of the original town which still preserves its Renaissance Style street plan to this day.
14. New attractions
Heaney’s HomePlace opened to great acclaim in 2016, paying homage to the talented life and career of the famous Irish poet ‘Seamus Heaney’. 2017 saw HMS Caroline open, the last surviving ship from the 1916 Battle of Jutland.
15. You can (and should) visit an Irish whiskey distillery
Northern Ireland is renowned for its whiskey, so pay a visit to The Old Bushmills Distillery or Northern Ireland's newest addition "Echlinville". If gin is more your thing, then take a trip to Rademon Estate Distillery where Shortcross gin is produced.
16. Superb stargazing
Northern Ireland’s most remote parts can reward you with superb stargazing. The Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) have dazzled the north coast in recent years, and there are designated dark sky sites - read about them here.
17. Exceptional accommodation
In Northern Ireland we use a five-level star grading system to indicate the standard of customer care, quality, condition and range of facilities on offer at accommodation providers. New spots like the uber-cool Bullitt and the iconic Titanic Hotel have already opened as well as quirky options like Finn Lough's forest bubble domes, and there are even more set to open in 2018.
18. Our food and drink is award-winning
Following a designated Year of Food and Drink in 2016, there has been a real restaurant boom. Our meat and dairy produce are among the highest standard in the world. Visit St George's Market or the BBC Good Food Show to taste the quality of local produce from this land - or try one of our Michelin-rated restaurants.
19. No tourist traps
The best part of all? You can pretty much do all of the above without being surrounded by other tourists, as we’re still a bit of a hidden gem. Need we say more?