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.

READ MORE: Bid to ban maps of Scotland which put Shetland in a box takes step forward 

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.

HeraldScotland:

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.”

READ MORE: Start of production from giant Shetland oilfield nears 

Lyon in France is in seventh place on the list, followed by Liechtenstein, Vevey in Switzerland, and Istria in Croatia.

HeraldScotland:

Eshaness, Shetland

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.”

Lauren Doughton, Project Manager for Promote Shetland. 

"We're absolutely delighted to learn that Shetland has been included in Lonely Planet's best in Europe 2019. Shetland is a very special place, and to have this acknowledged by a trusted publication like Lonely Planet is a recognition of its distinctiveness and quality as a destination.

Shetland is proving to be increasingly popular as a visitor destination, partly due to the popularity of recent TV series such as the BBC1 crime series Shetland, the Island Medics ​documentary series, and a range of other programmes focussing on everything from food & drink to wildlife.​ 

It's always been a very popular destination for wildlife lovers .  We've got spectacular seabird colonies and plenty of opportunities to spot seals, and otters (there are local guides who can show you the best spots for this), and if you're really lucky you might get an encounter with Orca or even Humpback whales.  ​

We've also got miles and miles of spectacular coastline (including some absolutely stunning sandy beaches) which are brilliant for walking, or if you're a little more adventurous, kayaking or coasteering. 

HeraldScotland:

Scatness, South Shetland

It can also be an amazing place to visit in the winter months.  Off-season there are some spectacular festivals - events like Shetland Folk Festival and Wool Week draw people from all over the globe to immerse themselves in local culture - and nobody throws a party quite like Shetland. 

READ MORE: Islanders asked to help shape first National Islands Plan

There's also something really exhillirating about a Shetland winter storm, complete with moody skies, crashing waves, howling winds and the taste of salt in the air (best enjoyed at a brisk walk, and then home to relax in front of a good fire with a glass of local gin or beer), and, on a clear dark night there a huge expanses of starry skies, and if you're lucky, a chance to see the Northern Lights, or Mirrie Dancers as they're known locally - really something to behold.

I think one of the most attractive features of Shetland however, is that despite this increasing popularity, it still feels like a very well kept secret.  It's a fantastic place to visit if you're looking to slow down, reconnect with yourself and experience a sense of space and peace. 

HeraldScotland:

A humpback whale seen off the islands in 2016

For the ultimate Shetland experience you can come and live like a local - grab some fish and chips from award winning takeaways, try the local lamb and beef, eat cake at one of our regular Sunday teas (a Shetland phenomenon not to be missed), and listen to local music in a local pub or community hall.

Shetland is a really warm and welcoming place - once you've experienced it, it tends to take a hold of you and find a way of drawing you back again and again. It really is somewhere not to be missed."