New Year, new plans, new holiday allowance.
We’ve pulled together our list of the top destinations to visit this year, whether they be an up and coming country or an old favourite making a resurgence. All these destinations are longing to be explored by your wandering souls this year…
Why? At the time of writing this, Sri Lanka is ahead in our customer poll by double any other country. Continually upping its game, this teardrop-shaped island is the Asian hotspot of 2018, home to a diverse range of natural beauty and ancient wonders, and you travellers can’t get enough.
- Ride the winding train tracks that skim the tea plantation-clad valleys between Kandy and Ella, frequently awarded the title of ‘the best train ride in the world’. *sigh*
- Sit amongst the clouds after successfully traversing Adam’s Peak. The 7000 steps are best climbed in time for sunrise.
- Head north to Sigiriya and the cultural triangle, full of ancient temples, city ruins and buddha-clad caves buried inside cliffs.
- Take to the crashing waves on the white sand surf meccas of Unawatuna, Hikkaduwa or Arugam Bay.
Take a walk on the wild side! Get lucky with a sighting of grazing elephants and leopards in Yala National Park, or have your own Life of Pi moment aboard a boat, spotting whales at sunrise in Mirissa or Trincomalee. (Psst, there’s turtle nesting spots, too).
Read more: Surf it up, Sri Lanka style
Netflix’s may be responsible for a peak of interest in Colombia’s shadier past, but there’s so much more that makes this colourful and biodiverse country contender for South America’s most up-and-coming tourist destination.
- If you travel here in 2018, La Ciudad Perdida (The Lost City) needs to be on your bucket list. Colombia’s answer to Machu Picchu, but with a lot less tourists, the Lost City is the destination of the four or five-day trek into the steamy Sierra Nevada jungle.
- If trekking ain’t your thing, the port city of Cartagena surely will be. Think cobblestoned streets, colonial history, cocktail bars, rich culture and colour everywhere… This is a traveller’s paradise.
- The locals. (although you don’t have to literally ‘do’ the locals). What will strike you most about Colombia, is how welcoming the people are. English isn’t that widely spoken still, so brush up on your Español and ask the Colombians what they love most about their home.
- Tayrona National Park is your typical slice of Caribbean paradise. There’s amazing marine life, rainforests and plenty of palm-shaded beaches to get stuck on, Pina Colada in hand.
Why? This is an untouched world away from the well-trodden path of Australia’s East Coast. Bordered with an idyllic coastline, home to vast deserts blanketed by the mind-melting Milky Way and teeming with incredible wildlife, Western Australia is a marvel of its own.
- Head to Rottnest Island, near Perth to meet the residents – the cheery, curious quokkas, who we predict will be the next huge animal trend to sweep the world with sloth-levels of magnitude.
- Hire a camper van and tour Western Australia’s incredible national parks (Karijini, Kalbarri and the Pinnacles to name a few).
- Stop off in Ningaloo Reef in Coral Bay – where you can swim with gentle, ginormous whale sharks and manta rays.
- Meet wild dolphins on the shores of Monkey Mia.
- The town of Broome, where you can embrace the natural phenomenon of the Staircase to the Moon and ride camels across the extensive tidal flats, before blazing off in a cloud of red dust into the beautiful, unchartered territory of the Kimberleys.
Read more: Western Australia camper adventure
Why? The last few years, everyone has been banging down Croatia’s pristine, wave-lapped doors to get in, but this year, it’s northern neighbour Slovenia where we predict a travel trend emerging. When they said ‘hidden gem’, they meant to say ‘hidden-in-the-most-stunning-picturesque-paradise-in-the-Balkans-gem’. This impeccably beautiful country is a gift to the eyes… and the camera. Slovenia is bursting with history, culture, turquoise swimming spots, Venetian style architecture and snow sprinkled peaks. If you aren’t shredding powder or hiking through thick snowfall in the Julian Alps, then you can explore the Hungarian style farmhouses in the harbour towns (located a few hours away from both Venice, and northern Croatia), or bless your soul with a little bit of Lake Bled. #onefortheoutdoorstype!
- If you came to Slovenia for one reason alone, it would have to be Lake Bled. Nestled in the Julian Alps, this crystal clear lake houses Bled Island. Hike, swim, and marvel for a few days amidst one of Europe’s most picture-perfect spots on the map.
- Spend 24 hours in the capital city, Ljubljana, which is full of cool clubs, riverside bars and a pretty epic castle.
- Explore the 24km long Postojna Caves. These contain weird and wonderful rock formations and even a concert hall fit to hold 10,000 spectators. Skocjan is another awesome cave system you could visit as an alternative.
Read more: Slovenian slap hunting
Why? ‘It’s the cirrrrrrcle of liiiiifeeee!’. Need we say more?! Prepare to walk onto the set of the Lion King, as Namibia is home to the largest red sand dune desert in the world.
- Explore the giant sandpit of the Sossusvlei desert, fringed on all sides by giant dunes.
- Climbing up ‘Big Daddy’ (the largest dune in the world), and hiking your way along the famous Dune 45. Extra brownie points for those who make it there for sunrise.
- The Caprivi Strip. Here you will not find yourself sipping on cocktails or dancing the night away but instead experiencing a wetland wildlife paradise, where water-loving animals live out their days. Expect to see hippos, crocodiles and buffalo bathing in the pounding heat of the African sun. No humans allowed in the water!
- Those who dare can blaze down the Skeleton Coast via a tour, or overhead in a helicopter. Dotted with decrepit shipwrecks, this vast stretch of coastline is where the desert meets the unforgiving ocean.
- Creep, climb and crawl (with your camera firmly in hand) around the eery and surreal sand-filled houses in the abandoned town of Kolmanskop.
Why? We’re not talking about the American state, here. Sandwiched between Europe and Asia, Georgia is an unknown treasure and a dip into Eurasia’s beauty and humble local life. Visiting this country will provide your travel-lusting soul with fresh perspectives, rugged mountains, carpets of yellow and green meadows and unexplored valleys.
- The Caucasus mountains are a travel photographer’s dream. Head to the foothills of them for hiking, skiing or straight-up chilling.
- The country’s capital city Tbilisi is home to the mesmerising Narikala Fortress, and some seriously crazy nightlife. Who knew Georgia had nightclubs to rival Berlin’s!?
- Georgian cuisine. Rich, comforting and varied, traditional Georgian cuisine blends traditional Eastern European food, such as beef stew and cheesy khachapuri (pancakes), with Middle Eastern spices.
Why? The Jewel of Europe, Norway offers a dazzling mix of history and stunning natural wonder. The old meets the new seamlessly within the surrounding mountains, fjords and gorges. You could allow yourself weeks of exploring here. Must-dos:
- Spot the Midnight Sun. Iceland might have trended as a destination in the past few years due to the mysterious glow of the Northern lights, but you’ve got just as high a chance of spotting them in Norway from September to March, too. (#topofthebucketlist)
- Head to Bergen, the picturesque southwest city and jumping off point for Norway’s famed fjords. Be sure to climb the most popular of many ‘city mountains’, Mount Floyen.
- Cruise the fjords like the Geirangerfjord region, home to unmissable sights such as Seven Sisters waterfall.
- Be careful and don’t look down as you pose for the ultimate travel’gram 1,100 metres above the fjords below, atop of Trolltunga.
- The beautiful capital city of Oslo – you can even check out an epic Viking ship here…
Why? Guatemala is the beating Mayan heart of Central America. A hop over the border from Mexico and with charming colonial streets, jungles, ruins, culture, history and some mad volcanoes, this country is bursting at its seams. Are you ready to fall in love? We already did, years ago.
- Play Indiana Jones amidst the ancient Mayan ruins of Tikal, deep in the dense northern rainforests. Get in early, wander through it while it’s still empty and feel like you’re discovering it for the first time.
- Chill on the ginormous Lake Atitlan, fringed by cute hippie villages, three volcanoes and the Sierra Madre mountains. This could just become your favourite backpacker spot in the Americas.
- Sharpen your salsa moves and gorge on delicious street food in the lively markets of Chichicastenango.
- Hit the coast! Guatemala’s surf is insane and the beaches are perfect. We recommend El Paredon and Sipacate.
Why? Prepare your eyes for a whimsical fairy-tale dream. This marvellous lava-sculpted chimney fortress in central Turkey is one of the most unique landscapes to be seen on the planet. Spend your trip exploring the hundreds of pinnacles, caves and underground cities, like Derinkuyu. Or soar above the moonscape areas in a hot air balloon and experience a bird’s eye view of this captivating and interesting place. If Cappadocia isn’t on your bucket list, then it should be.
- Explore one of the dozens of underground cave cities; beeline for Kaymakli.
- If you can’t afford to stay in a cave hotel a la @Doyoutravel and @Gypsea_lust, make sure you drink or dine atop of one for the amazing views.
- Take a hot air balloon ride above the formations to watch the sun slowly illuminate the whacky landscape.
- Check out Pasabag, an area famed for its chimney-like formations, shooting up from the ground like mushrooms. Inside one of these, there’s a chapel!
Why? A visually spectacular, mountainous island, Taiwan is a natural splendour waiting to be travelled. Although its neighbouring countries – Japan, The Philippines and China offer exciting elements as well, Taiwan is surely not too missed from any travellers list. Pack your swimsuit, your hiking boots and your appetite…
- With a capital city such as Taipei, there is an abundance of history, tradition and new modification to uncover within the culture of Taiwan. Take in the views from Taipei 101, then head to the night markets or Yongkang Street to feast on some of the best and most varied traditional east Asian fare.
- Discover sweeping mountain ranges and awesome hiking trains in Takoro Gorge
- Taiwan is full of natural hot springs – our favourites are Chingchuan, Guguan, and Beitou – the latter is easily accessible, being just a short train ride outside of central Taipei.
Why? Utah is an up and coming ‘must-do’ for the Instagrammers, the nomads, and the adventure-lovers. It is a world-class outdoor recreation spectacle, with vast expanses of desert and national park. Hire some wheels or jump on a tour and prepare to hit the vast open road…
- Who said rocks were boring? Zion, Bryce Canyon and Monument Valley National Parks all offer landscapes to rival their big, famous cousin over in Arizona. Be sure to also explore the Dali-esque melted rock formations in Goblin Valley.
- Wasatch Mountain range, which offers a top of the range Skiing experience up in the snow-dusted peaks.
- Kick back and enjoy the high-life dining and nightlife scene in Salt Lake City.
Read more: USA destination guide
Why? The last great Himalayan Kingdom, Bhutan is overflowing with magic and more mystery than pretty much anywhere else on Earth. If you’re thinking of packing your bags and heading to uncover this spiritual land, expect to pay around £180 ($250 USD) a day to stay, but that will provide you with an all-inclusive, once in a lifetime trip, complete with your own guide.
- Get some zen. Be guided through the many traditional towns of the deeply Buddhist country, soaking up genuinely untouched culture and customs. The open-minded people of Bhutan are ready to welcome you with open arms.
- Absorb the majestic fortresses and the famous monastery of Paro Takstang placed beautifully on the side of a cliff known as Leaping Tiger Gorge.
Do you have your heart set on a new destination? Maybe you’re in the flow of being inspired and want some more. Check out our new 2018 destinations hub to fill your travel-hungry boots!