The New Year is here, and with it comes resolution lists that more and more include travel plans to exotic destinations. But you don’t just want to go somewhere because it’s popular, do you? You want somewhere that’s steeped in culture, brimming with natural beauty, and won’t break the bank…
The biggest travel trends for 2019 are personalised itineraries and experiences. Include some of these destinations as you develop your unique list of places to visit in the year ahead.
Koyasan, Japan. Koyasan, one of the most spiritual places you may ever visit, will be made more accessible in 2019 with new cable cars up the mountainside. Koyasan is a secluded town full of temples on a forested mountaintop. You can stay in a monastery and rise with the monks for morning prayers before taking a stroll through the Okunoin‘s cemetery. The cemetery is the largest in Japan, with over 200,000 tombstones lining an almost two-kilometre walk. Koyasan is also the beginning of some of Japan’s remarkable hikes, including the Koyasan to Kumano Pilgrim’s trail.
Bagan, Myanmar. Having only recently opened its doors to tourism in 2012, much of Myanmar is still untainted by western culture and retains a mystical ancient eastern feel. Bagan’s landscape is dominated by the estimated 3,000 temples and pagodas in varying states of atrophy and renewed splendour. These temples are located in a 50-kilometre radius, best explored by readily available e-bikes, or with the aid of a horse-cart driver. You will see bull carts along the roads in timeless scenes of temples and trees. Watching the sunset over this remarkable landscape from the Nann Myint Tower is an unforgettable experience.
Luang Prabang, Laos. Luang Prabang, Laos’ first World Heritage Site, is set on a peninsula at the confluence of the Mekong and Nam Khan rivers. Rise early to give alms to Buddhist monks, visit the nearby Kuang Si waterfalls with their turquoise waters and visit the village of Xang Khong and peruse beautiful indigo fabrics. There’s a bustling night market and, because of the French colonial influence, fine dining experiences are available too. Add a dimension to your October visit by running in the annual marathon to raise funds for the Laos Children’s Hospital.
Sri Lanka. The island nation of Sri Lanka expects to open more of its northern territory to tourism in 2019. From national parks to beaches, colourful towns, and World Heritage sites like Sigiriya, Sri Lanka offers an array of cultural experiences. You can stay on a tea plantation, in the walled 16th-century town of Galle or take a remarkable rail journey from Kandy to Ella.
Israel. Travelling within Israel will be much easier in 2019 because of a newly opened high-speed rail link between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. A visit to the Western Wall in Jerusalem is an experience of a lifetime. In total contrast to Jerusalem, Tel Aviv is a thriving modern metropolis. Tel Aviv’s Bauhaus-inspired “White City” is being restored and is the centre of a thriving innovation hub and arts-scene. For the gay traveller, Tel Aviv now has one of the largest pride parades in the world each June. When in Israel, be sure to take a trip to the mineral-rich Dead Sea.
Capetown, South Africa. Cape Town has a stunning natural setting which can be viewed from atop Table Mountain. Renowned for its wine-making, Cape Town has added to its cultural offerings with the new Zeitz Museum of Contemporary African Art, located on the Victoria and Albert waterfront. The waterfront in Capetown is a major attraction for its beautiful setting and quality architecture built from recycled historic buildings.
The Great Barrier Reef, Queensland, Australia. One of the world’s greatest natural wonders, the Great Barrier Reef stretches along 1,600 miles of the Queensland coastline. Diving and snorkelling are just some of the ways of experiencing this wonderfully rich ecosystem. There’s also sailing and scenic flights. The Reef’s gateway towns and stunning islands offer shopping extravaganzas and simple quiet solitude. Every year, nearly 1.5 million tourists visit this unique ecosystem, helping to spread awareness for environmental conservation globally.
New Zealand. Known as the backdrop to the Lord of the Rings movies, New Zealand’s less-developed South Island provides dramatic landscapes, from snow-capped mountain peaks to fjords. An adventure seeker’s nirvana, Queenstown is known for its bungee jumping and skydiving. Six of the country’s 10 great walks are also in the South Island, including a new route in the Paparoa Range set to open in 2019. Further north there are wonderful food and wine experiences to be had in the Marlborough wine country, and the chance to visit unspoiled golden beaches in the Abel Tasman National Park.
The Grand Canyon, Arizona, U.S.A. The 100th anniversary of the national park dedicated to America’s most famous geological marvel is taking place in 2019 and will be marked by a series of talks, concerts, and special exhibitions. One of America’s most popular national parks, the Grand Canyon offers hiking experiences as well as the chance to traverse the Bright Angel Trail by mule. For a refreshing alternative, book a white-water trip down the mighty Colorado River. The wind-carved sand monuments and spectacular boulders of Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks are an easy drive away if you haven’t had enough of painted deserts.
The Amalfi Coast, Italy. The 13 cliffside towns that comprise this region cascade down the face of the Earth to the Mediterranean Sea, displaying a stunning scene. You can drive the narrow roads around the coast or take a boat tour to capture stunning views. Be sure not to miss the Isle of Capri at the southern tip of the Amalfi coast, where you can walk in the footsteps of famous folks like Winston Churchill, Brigitte Bardot, and Jackie Onassis. If you’re attending the world-class Amalfi Coast Music and Arts Festival in mid-summer 2019, be sure to book accommodation well in advance.
Add at least one of these destinations to your bucket list–or better still, tick it off in 2019. Whether it’s the arts, hiking, or viewing extraordinary landscapes–including newly accessible places–that drives you to travel, this list caters to all kinds of travellers. Happy trails!