A new year is approaching, which means it’s time to start looking for your next adventure to cross off a few more destinations from your 2018 travel bucket list. Today, travelers are more aware than ever of all the world has to offer and it’s exciting to confront all the possibilities — but daunting, too.
For the past two years, at the end of each year, I have curated a list of the best places to travel in the coming year. Some of them were chosen because timing could have never been better for an affordable family holiday. Some made the list because they are ready for exploration by a wider audience. And some have been mentioned because they have gone through tough times in recent years and could benefit from tourism. Scroll on to discover the 10 best places to travel in 2018.
1. Oʻahu, Hawaii
Oʻahu is certain to cast a spell on all your senses. It has everything; verdant rain forest, sandy beaches, expansive ocean views; spectacular ridge-hikes, plus so much to do. The island out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean is home to Pearl Harbor and proudly maintains its own identity apart from the US mainland. World-renowned for its genuinely large waves, the North Shore is the rural neighbor of the rapidly sprawling Honolulu. Oahu maybe Hawaii’s most packed island, but its natives from different ethnic mixes, sunseekers from the mainland, surfers from all over the globe — makes it unlike any other place in the world.
2. Samarkand, Uzbekistan
No other name reminisces the Silk Road as better as Samarkand and it never fails to impress its visitors with their stunning mosques, medressas and mausoleums. The clean and tidy modern city could be covered in a two or three-day visit. The recent renovations of the old town and the pedestrianization of some areas has brought in a Walt Disney theme park look, but there’s still grandeur left and Samarkand remains an awe-inspiring place to visit. Despite being a well-ordered and tightly regulated state, Uzbekistan is a friendly country where its visitors can feel safe and taken care by its locals and hospitality remains an essential element of its people’s daily lives.
3. Raja Ampat Islands, Indonesia
Graced with white-sandy beaches, lush tropical greenery, hidden caves and pellucid turquoise waters. The strange mushroom-shaped islets of Raja Ampat boast some of the most beautiful island chains in Southeast Asia as well as the most biodiverse marine habitat on the planet. Comprising over 1,500 small islands, cays and shoals, the biological hotspot is also referred as the Amazon of the Oceans. There are more than 200 diving spots that are still pristine and it is said to contain more species within its reefs than the entire Caribbean Sea. It’s no wonder why underwater enthusiasts keep coming!
4. Jeju Island, South Korea
Just off the coast of the Korean Peninsula, Jeju Island pulls in holidaymakers in huge numbers. Featuring Hallasan, a dormant volcano and the tallest mountain in South Korea that has an altitude of 1,950 meters above sea level. The island has a humid subtropical climate, warmer than the rest of the country, with four unique weather seasons. There are plenty of adventures for everyone on the island, such as climbing the archetypal tuff cone Seongsan Ilchul-bong, also known as the ‘Sunrise Peak, rising straight from the sea, to watch the sun rise from the ridge of a crater. For a less strenuous experience, zigzag the Jeju Olle trails and explore tangerine-trimmed country roads. The ocean is never far away, so plunge into the blues to see corals in brilliant pinks, ravaging reds, and dazzling oranges just like the sunsets you chase.
5. Jamestown, Saint Helena
St Helena, the faintest flourish of green on the big blue canvas of the Atlantic Ocean, is one of our planet’s most isolated speck of land. Jamestown, it’s capital, is neatly wedged in the steep sides of a narrow ravine. This seemingly lost island in the middle of the South Atlantic was where Napoleon Bonaparte spent his final days in exile, but for intrepid travelers that’s part of its eccentric charm. A long-awaited airport opened in October 2016 with one scheduled weekly flight operating from Johannesburg, opening the country to the world. There is so much more here for the traveler – hike past soaring crags and through alpine meadows, take to the seas by boat, or explore historic villages, or chit-chat with welcoming Saints (locals) at each passing.
6. Luang Prabang, Laos
Nestled at the sacred confluence of the Mekong River and the Nam Khan, Luang Prabang radiates serenity and splendour, with its mix of world-class comfort and spiritual healing. The tiny mountain kingdom aged over a millennium is a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1995 and is endowed with a legacy of ancient red-roofed Theravada Buddhist temples, French–Indochinese shop-houses and royal mystique. It conjures up the ancient image of Laos – streets of ochre, turquoise row colonial houses and swaying bamboo trees, hundreds of saffron-robed Buddhist monks marching through the mornings to the sounds of the temple bells. Most visitors spend only a few days during a whistle-stop tour of Laos; however, Luang Prabang is best savored at leisurely pace.
7. Siberia, Russia
Unpassable coniferous forests stalked by tigers and grizzly bears, unforgiving winters that never end, never thaws. Prepare for contrasts and extremely icy conditions, from glaciers to underground clubs and cafes, contemporary art museums to gentle forest hikes. It is the perfect destination for travelers who appreciate the true beauty of untouched landscapes, its visitors who possess the willingness to brave it are rewarded with an insight into this inimitable region – more importantly – receive a dose of the locals’ legendary hospitality.
8. Tbilisi, Georgia
Tucked in a river valley between the North and South Caucasus Mountains, Tbilisi is the engine driving Georgia’s economy and the country’s capital. The fascinating old town boasts vibrant, winding alleyways and narrow streets, wooden balconies and vine-draped colonnades. Although it has welcomed visitors for hundreds of years, a lot of the country’s picturesque scenery still remains untouched. There has never been a better time to go, either; with more international flights operating than before, restaurants and cafes serving ever better food, up-to-date accommodation options from backpacker hostels to five-star hotels, chic clubs and bars, and modern public transport. It’s Mediterranean vibe and balmy climate ensures that any visit here is one that will always be treasured.
9. Shiraz, Iran
As the spiritual home to thousands of years old craft of Persian rug weaving, Shiraz, the cosmopolitan and historical city of Iran oozes art. It has several art galleries and museums showcasing the best of the Iranian cultural heritage, and takes pride as the famed birthplace of the country’s heroes. It’s also home to buildings decorated with intricate mosaics, well-manicured rose gardens, Islamic calligraphy, and so much more. Despite its history, etched on exquisite mosques and found in remnants of the ancient world, Shiraz has plenty to offer for everyone.
10. Valletta, Malta
Valletta, Malta’s lilliputian capital has been off the tourist radar for years. Surrounded by the towering bastion walls with soul-flipping views of the Mediterranean sea, it maybe small, but it’s a true cultural capital packed with rich, historic sites and was once known as a World Heritage City and a European Art City. There’s so much to take in, as the city is easy to traverse. A walk from one end to other through the narrow streets takes about half an hour, so there is time to relax while sightseeing. Whether you’re after a city break, a gastronomic journey, sun chasing, a high-octane party week or simply a warm welcome for families and couples, Malta can satisfy everyone.