At the end of each year, travel experts across the globe publish much-anticipated lists that aim to excite readers about upcoming travel trends. Our 2018 list spans five continents and urges travelers to explore new cities, try new foods, embrace new cultures, and gain new perspectives. And while there are thousands of destinations around the world that are worthy of traveling to, the following 10 places feel particularly pertinent in 2018.
For years, travelers have overlooked Chile in favor of neighboring countries like Argentina and Peru. But in 2018, Chile stands poised to become a chart-topper. This long, skinny slice of South America packs a powerful punch, with an up-and-coming cosmopolitan capital in Santiago, quirky charms in Valparaiso, excellent wine in the Maipo Valley, and diverse landscapes across the Atacama Desert, Chilean Patagonia, and Easter Island. Thanks to the 2017 expansion of Teniente Julio Gallardo Airport (PNT) in Puerto Natales, travelers can now reach one of Chile’s most popular destinations, Torres del Paine National Park, more efficiently. LATAM offers seasonal service (December to March) between Santiago and Puerto Natales, a tiny city about a one-hour drive from Torres del Paine. This significantly cuts down travel time -- the only other significant airport in the region is located in Punta Arenas, a whopping four-hour drive from the national park.
Traveling around Chile can be tricky, considering popular destinations like the Atacama Desert and Patagonia are located on opposite sides of the country. Flying is the most convenient way to get around, but flights aren’t cheap. Buses are more wallet-friendly, and Chile’s bus system is efficient, but bus journeys can easily take 17 to 36 hours. Hotel options run the gamut in big cities like Santiago, Valparaiso, and Viña del Mar, but luxury lodges are the star of the show in Torres del Paine and San Pedro de Atacama. Explora, Tierra, and Relais & Chateaux are excellent all-inclusive options with stunning interiors, top-notch food and amenities, and incredible destination-specific activities. Explora even has an outpost on Easter Island. EcoCamp Patagonia has also made a name for itself as the region’s first fully sustainable hotel -- its Instagrammable green dome accommodations are another added benefit.
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Montenegro, a tiny nation that shares a border with Croatia, offers an authentic Balkan experience with fewer crowds than its wildly popular neighbor. The country’s coastline is its best feature, and its swerving coastal roads and mountain-meets-ocean scenery create the perfect backdrop for a road trip. Sleepy seaside towns along the Bay of Kotor are home to mom-and-pop eateries and quaint hotels, while the walled city of Kotor offers the quintessential red rooftops of the Adriatic. Further south, the popular resort town of Budva is known for its sandy beaches and happening nightlife. In our opinion Podgorica, Montenegro’s no-fuss capital isn’t worth a visit, unless you’re supremely interested in Soviet-era architecture. In the summer of 2018, hotel enthusiasts are anticipating the opening of The Chedi Lustica Bay, GHM’s second luxury hotel in Europe -- the wildly popular Chedi Andermatt is one of Switzerland’s most exclusive properties.
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Is it just us, or is everyone’s Instagram ripe with pictures of Nashville lately? Music City has long been popular with country music fans -- it’s home to iconic sites like the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Grand Ole Opry. But, Tennessee’s capital is making a name for itself with its thriving art and food scenes as well. Nashville is home to a variety of contemporary art galleries and is known for its beautiful street art, including the famous “I Believe in Nashville” mural in the 12 South neighborhood, and artist Kelsey Montague’s “WhatLiftsYou” wings in the Gulch. In October 2018, Nashville will further solidify its presence in the art world by hosting Art Nashville, an international art fair a la Art Basel Miami and Expo Chicago.
Art and music aside, Nashville’s emerging food scene is reason enough to visit in 2018. The city’s most iconic dish, hot chicken, is becoming so popular, imitations are popping up on restaurant menus across the country. The fiery, deep fried, cayenne-smothered goodness is best served at two area institutions: Prince’s and Hattie B’s -- the former a no-fuss strip mall joint with little elbow room, the latter a modern fast-casual chain with three locations across the city. But Nashville isn’t all about hot chicken and southern staples. Celebrity chef Maneet Chauhan’s namesake restaurant Chauhan Ale & Masala House serves Indian fare and local craft beer. The “Chopped” judge is also the founder of Tansuo, a Cantonese restaurant inspired by Chinese night markets, and The Mockingbird, a global take on diner fare.
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When travel experts lament the effects of global climate change, destinations like the Maldives, Alaska, and the Great Barrier Reef immediately come to mind. But climate change is also rapidly impacting Madagascar, the world’s fourth-largest island and one of the most biodiverse places on the planet. Increased cyclone activity across the Indian Ocean threatens the island’s ecosystems, rising ocean temperatures affect endemic coral and fish species, and increased/decreased rainfall on different parts of the island lead to severe flooding and drought. Plus, deforestation is causing the rapid extinction of Madagascar’s most famous animal species, the ring-tailed lemur. But climate change shouldn’t deter travelers from visiting Madagascar. Visiting the country can serve as an excellent educational opportunity for travelers who want to understand the perverse effects of global warming and irresponsible human actions. Plus, many tour providers add eco-conscious elements to their itineraries, which focus on education, preservation, and giving back to local communities. Some can’t-miss experiences in Madagascar include swimming and snorkeling around Nosy Be, spotting lemurs in Ranomafana National Park, admiring the rocky landscapes of Isalo National Park, and taking a sunset stroll along Avenue of the Baobabs. Visitors should be made aware that traveling across Madagascar can be challenging, as roads are poorly maintained and distances are long. Plus, its national airline, Air Madagascar, doesn’t have the best reputation.
Editor’s Note: “Due to concerted national and international response the current and unprecedented outbreak of plague in Madagascar, which started on 1 August 2017, has been contained,” according to the World Health Organization.
The 2018 Olympics are set to take place in PyeongChang, a mountainous region in northeastern South Korea. As of December 6, 2017, Gangneung, South Korea, was Airbnb’s top trending destination, with a 2175% increase in bookings over the course of the last year. For those unfamiliar with the Olympic schedule, Gangneung will host all of 2018’s ice events. But if you can’t make it to PyeongChang for the Olympics, South Korea hopes to welcome an influx of visitors after the February games. Seoul, South Korea’s buzzy capital, is an excellent starting point for international travelers. The city is a beautiful blend of ancient and modern. Dynastic palaces sprawl across leafy parks, while skyscrapers rise above the clouds in Gangnam. Korean obsession with K-pop is infectious, and tourists can join the fun with K-pop tours that include hologram concerts and dance lessons. Thanks to Seoul’s excellent public Wi-Fi, travelers can share their experiences instantly. Other top destinations in South Korea include Busan, a southern port city, and Jeju Island, a volcanic island known for its beautiful mountains and rugged coastline.
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After 10 years of planning and nearly $2 billion in start-up costs, the Louvre Abu Dhabi celebrated its grand opening on November 11, 2017. Now, lovers of art and architecture are racing to the United Arab Emirates capital to see its newest feat of modern design -- the product of French architect, Jean Nouvel. The Louvre Abu Dhabi’s slogan “see humanity in a new light” draws attention to the museum’s mission to emphasize the commonalities and celebrate the differences between Eastern and Western art. Throughout the museum’s 12 galleries, visitors might encounter a Madonna and Child engraving next to a statue of Shiva, or a Japanese wood-block print next to an English pastel. The Louvre Abu Dhabi is the first major installment of a larger cultural complex known as Saadiyat Island. The man-made island is the future home of the Zayed National Museum, the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, and a performing arts center designed by Zaha Hadid. While in Abu Dhabi, travelers can also check out the city’s other notable architectural wonder -- Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque -- which was rated the world’s second-best landmark in TripAdvisor’s 2017 Travelers’ Choice Awards.
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San Miguel de Allende
In 2017, San Miguel de Allende ousted Charleston in the city category of Travel + Leisure’s “World’s Best” awards. The award-winning colonial city is located in the Mexican state of Guanajuato, about 75 miles southeast of Leon and 170 miles northwest of Mexico City. San Miguel de Allende charms visitors with its cobblestone streets, colorful buildings, and beautifully landscaped El Jardin -- the city’s central plaza and communal gathering space. Stylish boutique hotels are popping up by the minute across San Miguel, and many offer stunning views of Parroquia de San Miguel Arcangel, the city’s pink neo-Gothic church and most iconic landmark. Some of our favorite boutiques include Hotel Nena, Casa 1810 Hotel Boutique, and Hotel Matilda. Head to San Miguel de Allende in April, when the weather is pleasant and the city’s jacaranda trees add purple vibrancy to the skyline.
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Known for its dramatic landscapes and ancient Buddhist monasteries, Bhutan is an emerging destination on many savvy travelers’ radars. It’s no easy feat getting to the country, but dedicated travelers will be rewarded with incomparable Himalayan scenery and a spiritually rich culture that is both enigmatic and endearing. Bhutan has one international airport in Paro, which is often ranked as one of the most dangerous airports in the world, thanks to its location in the middle of a steep, narrow valley. Bhutan’s two national airlines (Drukair and Bhutan Airlines) are the only air carriers permitted to transport international travelers in and out of the country. Direct flights to Paro are only available from a handful of Asian cities, including Bangkok, Delhi, and Singapore. All visitors must book their trip through a Bhutanese tour operator, which handles all mandatory visa arrangements, but costs a minimum of $250 per day.
So what makes Bhutan worth all the pre-arrival trouble? Travelers say Paro Taktsang alone is worth the hassle. Known at the Tiger’s Nest, Paro Taktsang is a 17th-century Buddhist monastery that sits precariously on the edge of a cliff, overlooking the upper Paro Valley. The Punakha Dzong is another can’t-miss monastery, while Thimphu, Bhutan’s colorful capital, is also worth a visit. For adventure enthusiasts, Bhutan’s Himalayan treks are unparalleled. Lodging options across Bhutan range from budget-friendly to luxurious. COMO has properties in Paro and Punakha, while Le Meridien has outposts in Paro and Thimphu. In the summer of 2018, Six Senses will debut a circuit of properties in Thimphu, Punakha, Gangtey, Bumthang, and Paro. Six Senses guests will have the opportunity to journey around the country and stay in each of its luxe lodges. With only 82 guest rooms across the entire circuit, Six Senses aims to offer Bhutan’s most private and exclusive accommodations.
The Oregon Coast is a best-kept secret Oregonians don’t want you to know about. The drive along Highway 101 rivals that of California’s Highway 1, albeit with cooler, rainier weather. Most road trippers begin their journey in Astoria (not Queens), a coastal city best known as the setting of “The Goonies.” From Astoria, travelers typically head south, where they’ll encounter landmarks like Cannon Beach, Devils Punch Bowl, and Bandon Dunes, one the country’s most sought-after golf destinations. Throughout the year, Cannon Beach hosts several events and festivals to encourage the interaction between community members and tourists. In 2018, visitors can look forward to Spring Whale Watch Week and Savor Cannon Beach Wine and Culinary Festival in March, the Cannon Beach Sandcastle Contest in June, the Dog Show on the Beach in October.
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Modern travelers, particularly millennials, are changing the look of Caribbean vacations. No longer wholly satisfied by infinity pools and frozen cocktails, travelers seek intriguing history and cultural appeal alongside secluded sandy beaches. Cuba attracts visitors with its stuck-in-time capital, Jamaica is growing a formidable foodie scene, and Trinidad wows with its annual Carnival celebrations. Now, Haiti, with its frenetic cities, untouched beaches, and sprawling green mountainsides, is ready to take the stage. Though Haiti isn’t quite polished -- its infrastructure can be dismal and its politics volatile -- the country’s imperfections are part of its appeal. Oyster hotel investigator Micah Rubin visited Haiti in 2016. “A huge plus of traveling there is feeling like you’re in a destination waiting to be discovered,” he says. “For me, as a traveler, I want an authentic experience that’s a little rough around the edges. In Haiti, it’s possible and rewarding to meet locals and learn more about their lives and culture.”
Travelers who aren’t quite ready to explore Haiti on their own can book group tours. Locally owned and operated My Haiti Travels offers immersive tours of Petionville, Cotes des Arcadins, and Cap-Haitien. The company is kicking off 2018 with tours starting on January 11. Canadian-based G Adventures offers a 10-day tour that includes visits to Port-au-Prince’s famed Iron Market, Cap-Haitien’s Citadelle Laferriere, and the Grotte Marie-Jeanne caves in Port-a-Piment.
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