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 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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.”
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
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.
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
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
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 local artisanal chocolate. Visit now before it becomes overcrowded.
To be marked as a VIP traveler and get the best Costa Rica trip possible, contact Wendy.
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.
The Northwest Passage
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.
Cabo Pulmo, Los Cabos, Mexico
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.”
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.
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.
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