Make Your Next Trip Extraordinary

Where to Travel in 2018

Billie Cohen | December 30, 2017

There are so many exciting, beautiful, relaxing, delicious, educational, awe-inspiring, adrenaline-pumping, perspective-shifting places to see—and so little time. That’s why we’re here with our annual list of recommendations for where to go next. The following places are worth seeing in 2018 for reasons that range from blockbuster events and noteworthy anniversaries to the fact that they’re at that delicate tipping point between buzz-worthy and overrun. See them before the tourist hordes beat you to it. No matter where you decide to roam this year (and you’ll find additional ideas here, based on which month you can get away), we wish you safe and extraordinary travels.

Romania

Valena Zalanului, guesthouses, Romania

Valena Zalanului, guesthouses, Romania

Romania turns 100 years old in 2018, a centenary marked by cultural celebrations that will give travelers even more reasons to explore this underrated but increasingly popular country dotted with 13th-century villages and UNESCO World Heritage sites. Mark your calendars for the Transylvania Film Festival (May 25–June 6), the Full Moon Horror & Fantasy Film Festival (August 10–13), or the annual Electric Castle music festival (July 18–22). Be sure to make time for Romania’s other homegrown activities, such as hiking in Central Europe’s largest forest or watching artisans ply their craft using the same tools and techniques used for centuries.

To be marked as a VIP traveler and get the best Romania trip possible, contact Wendy here.

Puebla, Mexico

Museo Internacional del Barroco, Puebla City, Mexico

Museo Internacional del Barroco, Puebla City, Mexico. Photo: Journey Mexico

This charming colonial city has been on savvy travelers’ radar for a while now, what with its fresh crop of sophisticated hotels (including a Rosewood and a Cartesiano) and tourism improvements such as a sightseeing cable car and a train connecting Puebla City to Cholula, where you’ll find trendy new eateries and pop-up markets that give that town a Oaxaca vibe. All of this is on top of Puebla State’s historic and cultural legacy, born from its UNESCO World Heritage monuments, its internationally renowned cuisine, and its beautiful pottery. Most visible on the city’s undamaged skyline is the undulating white façade of the new Museo Internacional del Barroco, which houses exhibitions about the artistically rich (though often underrated) Baroque aesthetic of the 17th and 18th centuries—a period that had a major influence on the look of Puebla City itself. If you’re thinking that the 2017 earthquake made all of this irrelevant, we’re happy to report that you’re wrong: The museum withstood the quake, and so did this resilient city, where hotels remained open, reconstruction began immediately, and tourism rebounded quickly. Get there soon before everyone else realizes it’s ready for them.

To be marked as a VIP traveler and get the best Puebla trip possible, contact Mexico travel specialist Zach Rabinor through our site. Here’s why.

Antarctica

Adelie penguins jumping in to sea in Antarctica

Adelie penguins dive into the water in Antarctica. Photo: ExpeditionTrips

New and improved Antarctica voyages are on tap for 2018, with upgraded ships, cutting-edge itineraries, and program enhancements. The tricked-out World Explorer will debut in 2018 with classic Antarctic peninsula itineraries but with the new option to fly there directly from Chile rather than brave the choppy Drake Passage by water. The recently refurbed 114-passenger expedition vessel Hebridean Sky will offer kayaking, camping, and a citizen-science program for families. For those looking for even more unusual routes, Le Boreal and Le Soleal will venture to South Georgia Island and the Falklands, and the Silver Explorer will journey to those destinations plus the rarely visited South Sandwich Islands.

To be marked as a VIP traveler and get the Antarctica expedition cruise best suited to your specific trip goals and needs, contact Antarctica travel specialist Ashton Palmer through our site. Here’s why.

Angra dos Reis, Brazil

boat in the water Angra dos Reis, Brazil.

Angra dos Reis, Brazil. Photo: Pixabay/gabrielvannini

Many Brazilian elites own beach homes two hours from Rio in Angra dos Reis, which is known for its beautiful coastline. “The bay has more than 300 islands covered in Atlantic rainforest, many of them uninhabited, with picture-perfect beach coves and very calm emerald-colored waters,” explains Brazil travel specialist Martin Frankenberg, one of the Trusted Travel Experts on Wendy’s WOW List. The reason more travelers don’t go to Angra dos Reis is that, until now, there has not been a hotel of the same caliber as the beach homes for rent. That’s about to change, with the opening of the Fasano Angra dos Reis in early January. The resort will have 54 suites—all with sea views—plus an 18-hole golf course, two restaurants, and nightlife options. It will now be easier to combine Rio and Angra dos Reis into one quick trip that introduces you to both Brazil’s energetic urban vibe and its blissful beaches.

To be marked as a VIP traveler and get the best Brazil trip possible, contact Martin through our site. Here’s why.

Parma, Italy

winding colorful street in Parma Italy with biker on it

Parma, Italy. Photo: Shutterstock

Yes, this is where the famous ham comes from. But prosciutto di Parma is not the only reason to go. Parma is in Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region, where you can find the best of what Italy’s pantries have to offer, including Parma’s Parmigiano Reggiano, Modena’s balsamic vinegar, and Bologna’s egg pasta. A trip to Parma is delicious anytime, but in 2018 you’ll be able to sample its culture via the Festival Verdi, an annual opera series dedicated to the maestro, who helmed several of his most famous productions in Parma. This year’s fest will showcase four rarities, including an early ‘comedy,’ the Shakespearean tragedy Macbeth, and Le Trouvere, a rewrite in French of one of his most popular works, Il Trovatore. “You can pair all of it with a plate of the finest Culatello di Zibello, torta fritta, and a glass of bubbly Lambrusco to fulfill an Italian opera-food-lover’s nirvana,” notes Italy travel specialists Maria Landers and Brian Dore, who are opera singers in addition to being Trusted Travel Experts on Wendy’s WOW List.

To be marked as a VIP traveler and get the best Emilia-Romagna trip possible, contact Maria and Brian through our site. Here’s why.

Gdansk, Poland

Gdansk, Poland. Photo: Poland Tourist Organization

Gdansk, Poland. Photo: Poland Tourist Organization

For years it was just another Baltic cruise port—one overrun with tourists and not that interesting. Thanks to recent investments, Gdansk has new hotels (the stylish Puro is already open and two four-star properties are on their way), trendy restaurants (Piwna47 and Mono Kitchen are standouts), and three new museums that have put its rich and complex history back at center stage. The Emigration Museum shares stories of Polish émigrés all over the world, especially to the U.S., while the Solidarity Center focuses on the struggle for freedom and democracy in Poland and beyond. “The collection is very interactive and not just a bunch of names and dates,” points out Gwen Kozlowski, an Eastern Europe travel specialist on Wendy’s WOW List. “Poland somehow creates super-interesting museums like this (such as the Warsaw Uprising Museum, Schindler’s Factory in Krakow, and the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews).” This curatorial talent is demonstrated particularly well at Gdansk’s third new museum, the World War II Museum—where, for example, a kids’ section shows the same Warsaw apartment on the day WWII started, one year later, and toward the end. The Museum garnered a lot of attention when it opened in March 2017, as much for its exhibits about Gdansk’s former life as Danzig, the contested “free city” where Germany invaded Poland in 1939 and started WWII, as for the current Polish government’s role in trying to dictate how that history is portrayed. “Gdansk is now much more than souvenir shops, mediocre pierogi, and amber jewelry stores,” says Gwen. “It’s a city that should be on your radar.”

To be marked as a VIP traveler and get the best Poland trip possible, contact Gwen through our site. Here’s why.

Northeastern France

WWI war cemetery in Verdun, France

Verdun, France. Photo: Pixabay

November 11, 2018, marks the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day and the end of WWI, which will be commemorated across Europe. But Northeast France is where the Armistice was signed—at the Clairière de l’Armistice in Compiegne—so that’s a good place to include in an itinerary focused on “The War To End All Wars.” Verdun is a must, so you can see where the largest and longest battle on the Western Front was fought between the German and French armies. Today, you can walk through the fort and what’s left of the trenches, comparing the beauty of present-day farm country with wartime fields that were so heavy with shells that it made the mud bounce. Other stops might include the Museum of the Great War, in Meaux, which has Europe’s largest collection of artifacts from WWI; the open-air Montsec American Monument, which features a bronze relief battle map of military operations in that area; the Thiepval Memorial, which pays tribute to the thousands of missing soldiers of the Battle of the Somme; and the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery in Romagne-Sous-Montfaucon: It’s the largest American cemetery in Europe, not far from the 200-foot granite American Memorial that commemorates the U.S. army’s victory during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive.

To be marked as a VIP traveler and get the best France trip possible, contact Wendy here.

Hoh Xil, China

Wild horses in Hoh Xil, China

Wild horses in Hoh Xil, China. Photo: Wild China

Out in China’s western province of Qinghai, Hoh Xil remains one of the last untouched natural landscapes on Earth. This plateau, which is the largest and highest in the world, was just named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This is a smart time to see it because foreign passport holders can now visit the edge of the national park with an exclusive permit. Be among the earliest adventurers to explore this wilderness—home to more than 230 rare species of animals.

To be marked as a VIP traveler and get the best China trip possible, contact China travel specialist Mei Zhang through our site. Here’s why.

Uluru, Australia

Field of Light installation by Bruce Munro; at Uluru, Australia

Field of Light installation by Bruce Munro at Uluru, Australia. Photo: Mark Pickthall

Iconic Uluru and its ancient outback landscapes are perennial traveler favorites, but now is a compelling time to move them to the top of your bucket list. Travelers to Australia’s Red Centre will now be treated to something special at Ayers Rock: internationally acclaimed artist Bruce Munro’s Field of Light installation. The rock and the surrounding Red Desert were the original inspirations for Munro’s sprawling outdoor artwork, after a visit in 1992, and this iteration (which was supposed to close in March 2018 but was just extended to 2020) is the most expansive in all the years since—a carpet of 50,000 solar-powered stalks illuminating the landscape.

To be marked as a VIP traveler and get the best Australia trip possible, contact Wendy here.

Santiago de Cuba

Santiago de Cuba fort looking over the ocean

Santiago de Cuba. Photo: JimBerkeley

Yes, Cuba is still open to U.S. travelers: Here’s how to go. In fact, Cuba was one of our readers’ most popular destinations in 2017—and that popularity is not slowing down. Havana is a no-brainer stop on any Cuba itinerary, but don’t overlook the island’s second-largest city, Santiago de Cuba, on the far eastern side. It was here that Columbus first landed, where Spain’s first governor had his seat, where Teddy Roosevelt rode with the Rough Riders during the Spanish-American War, where Castro began his rebellion against Cuban President Fulgencio Batista in 1953, and where Bacardi rum was created. Visit now, since the city is bound to see more and more crowds and development as U.S. tourism expands there.

To be marked as a VIP traveler and get the best Cuba trip possible, contact Wendy.

Monteverde, Costa Rica

Monteverde Costa Rica

Monteverde, Costa Rica. Photo: Shutterstock

The Monteverde Cloud Forest, in the mountains of northwestern Costa Rica, is a lushly biodiverse reserve that nature lovers like to spend days exploring. For years the hotel and restaurant options in the town of Monteverde were limited, making it a destination for backpackers and die-hard naturalists only. But recently a range of new places to stay and eat have opened. “Monteverde now has several local craft beers, galleries where you can meet the artists, and some of the best local artisanal chocolate anywhere,” points out Costa Rica travel specialist Natalie Ewing, a Trusted Travel Expert on Wendy’s WOW List. “Visit soon before it becomes overcrowded.” We couldn’t agree more.

To be marked as a VIP traveler and get the best Costa Rica trip possible, contact Wendy.

Tbilisi, Georgia

aerial view of Tblisi Georgia

Tbilisi, Georgia. Photo: Georgian Tourism Ministry

It’s quickly becoming Eurasia’s creative and cultural center of cool. In fact, it’s hardly under the radar anymore, what with magazines reporting on its annual Fashion Week (Vogue wrote that Georgia is where the world’s best knitwear is being woven these days) and Anthony Bourdain touting its food and drink (Georgia is one of the oldest wine regions in the world). “At the turn of the 20th century, Tbilisi was a vibrant capital city that attracted artists, musicians, writers and travelers, and it has now returned to its roots,” explains Zulya Rajabova, a travel specialist on Wendy’s WOW List for Central Asia, where she grew up. “It began with the lure of fabulous food and wine, and now this relatively untraveled city is attracting more and more visitors.” Go while you can still get tickets to the city’s annual jazz and art festivals, sample its more than 500 varieties of wine in peace, or stroll its curving cobbled streets without being overwhelmed by parades of tour groups.

To be marked as a VIP traveler and get a superlative Georgia trip, contact Zulya through our site. Here’s why.

The Northwest Passage

Arctic Ice Bridge, Canada

The Canadian Arctic has jaw-dropping views including this ice bridge. Photo: David-McEown

As climate change progresses, media attention on the Northwest Passage has increased—and so has traveler interest. First traversed in 1906 by professional explorer Roald Amundsen (also the first person to later reach the south pole), the route through the Arctic Circle above North America has become increasingly popular for cruises. “Space is filling up at a record pace,” warns Ashton Palmer, expedition-cruise specialist on The WOW List, so book now. Of what’s still available, Ashton recommends the 92-passenger Akademik Sergey Vavilov’s itinerary through the Northwest Passage and Greenland, the larger 240-passenger MS Fram’s eastbound route, or the just-renovated Ocean Adventurer, which will loop from Ottawa to Greenland following in the footsteps of early Arctic explorer Sir John Franklin. More ice-ready ships are expected to launch in 2018 and 2019, so interested adventurers should expect more availability—and more people—heading through the Passage in the near future.

To be marked as a VIP traveler and get the Northwest Passage expedition cruise best suited to your specific trip goals and needs, contact Ashton through our site. Here’s why.

Cabo Pulmo, Los Cabos, Mexico

underwater diver with fish in Los Cabos, Mexico

Diving in Los Cabos, Mexico. Photo: Los Cabos Villa Vacations

The southern tip of the Baja Peninsula will be turning heads in the coming year, thanks to the highly anticipated debut of posh new resorts such as Zadún, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve in San José del Cabo; Montage Los Cabos, on Santa Maria Bay; and a Nobu Hotel in Cabo San Lucas. But savvy travelers should look east of the tourist corridor, toward the less flashy East Cape area, home of Cabo Pulmo National Marine Park. This protected stretch of the Sea of Cortez is home to one of only three living coral reefs in North America, and its clear waters offer some of the best diving in all of Baja; the area was added to the UNESCO World Heritage list in 2005. In 2018, a Four Seasons resort will open a little farther up the coast at Costa Palmas, a two-mile beachfront campus that will include a yacht club, a marina, private villas and residences, a hotel, a Robert Trent Jones Jr.–designed golf course, and a beach club. Cabo Pulmo is an easy day trip from Los Cabos, but now visitors will be able to stay near the park in five-star digs. “This is definitely going to change the laid-back atmosphere of this untouched area,” says Julie Byrd, Trusted Travel Expert for Cabo on Wendy’s WOW List. “It will make the park more crowded but will also offer a high-end option in the area.”

To be marked as a VIP traveler and get the best possible trip, contact Julie through our siteHere’s why.

Sri Lanka

Elephants swimming during the Gal Oya boat safari, Sri Lanka

Elephants swimming during the Gal Oya boat safari, Sri Lanka. Photo: The Fabulous Getaway

In 2018 Sri Lanka will celebrate 70 years of independence, as well as 70 years of cricket. But the main reason to go soon is that a big tourism boom is coming that will likely change the undeveloped feel of the island. For example, right now, there is one lodge with access to Gal Olya National Park, where you can take a boat safari to watch elephant herds swimming in the Senanayake Samudra. Wendy and her family visited Sri Lanka a year ago and spent part of their trip at the island’s first big five-star beach property, the Anantara Peace Haven Tangalle Resort. (That trip was her family’s best Christmas vacation abroad.) More luxe hotels have been popping up around the country—including the Wild Coast Tented Lodge, a Relais & Chateaux property near Yala National Park—and a Shangri-La beach resort is coming soon to Colombo. Wendy’s family found still-unspoiled landscapes, rich local culture and traditions, delightful people, and even opportunities to give back. Go now.

To be marked as a VIP traveler and get the best possible trip, contact Miguel through our siteHere’s why.

St. Helena

Sandy Bay, St. Helena island

Sandy Bay, St. Helena. Photo: Ed Thorpe

Given its location in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean 1,200 miles west of Africa and 1,800 miles east of Brazil, St. Helena is one of the world’s most isolated islands—which is why, back in 1851, it made an ideal place to exile Napoleon to. Today, the 47-square mile British territory has a population of 4,600—who call themselves “Saints”—and they want you to know that there’s a lot more to do on St. Helena than just visit the house where the French emperor lived and died. You can dive to shipwrecks, swim with whale sharks, go on picturesque hikes to see some of the 500 endemic species of flora and fauna, and get to know them personally. And now that South African Airlines recently launched flights from Johannesburg and Cape Town—shortening the journey from five days at sea on a mail boat to five hours by air on a 76-seat Embraer—all of that’s going to be a lot easier. Plus, the long-distance trip will make for some pretty cool stories to tell your friends when you get back home.

Be a smarter traveler: Read real travelers’ reviews of Wendy’s WOW List and use it to plan your next trip. You can also follow her on Facebook, Twitter @wendyperrin, and Instagram @wendyperrin, and sign up for her weekly newsletter to stay in the know.

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3 Comments

  1. Billie Cohen Post author

    Hi readers, Some of you have been sending us comments that are actually personal travel-advice questions. To make sure Wendy sees those kinds of questions, please don’t leave them here. Instead, click over to the Ask Wendy page and submit it via the form there. That way it will go right to her inbox.

  2. Jon Twichell

    Field of Lights delights for about 30 minutes. Then you realize it is an expensive way to extract a few more dollars from people who came to see a rock in the desert. Might I suggest a trip to nearby Kata Tjuta and hike the Valley of the Winds. Step off the beaten path and drive up to Kings Canyon. The Garden of Eden is simply stunning, as is the hike to get there. Get out of Yulara and stare at the night-time sky (Kings Canyon is ideal for this as they have boardwalks out to see the sunsets far from the few lights that are there). September is the driest time without flys that are an issue in the spring (get a face net!) and not so brutally hot in the summer. So absolutely visit Yulara and environs, but Field of Lights? Meh.

    1. Wendy Perrin

      Well, art appreciation is a subjective thing, and the “Field of Light” installation has proven so popular that it’s now been extended until the year 2020. In our opinion, it’s a bonus to the natural attractions of the region. And Uluru and Kata Tjuta can both still be experienced and enjoyed as they always have been.

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