Travelers saw some incredible sites in 2017. From snapshots of the Northern Lights in Iceland, to the stunning greenscapes of Bali, Indonesia, our wanderlust was officially sparked. But according to 2018’s predicted travel trends, our globe-trotting counterparts have a few less-traveled destinations in mind this year. In fact, with a royal wedding on the horizon, those frequented European hotspots we love so much (oh hey, London) promise booked-solid hotels and crowds of tourists that you’d probably rather avoid.
We pored over 2018’s reported travel trends, forecasts and predictions, and used travelers’ own patterns of bookings to whittle down our lists to the following must-see spots. Our selections fall into the category of travel’s top niche markets, ranging from eco-tourism’s hotspots to urban destinations across the globe. Of course, green, adventure-themed trips, which are soaring in popularity right now, make travel to remote destinations a must. The non thrill-seekers among us can choose from wellness-themed jaunts in laid-back locales, while city-dwellers can still get their fix of urban living.
To help us plan our upcoming excursions abroad, we spoke with two industry insiders: David Ourisman, the owner of a luxury travel agency affiliated with Brownell Travel, and Bob Romano of Canyon Crest Travel.
Here are our top 5 trending 2018 travel destinations, as well as exclusive tips from seasoned travel industry experts.
5.) Let New Zealand’s natural beauty help you find your inner-Zen this year.
With eco-tourism and sustainable travel on a roll in 2018, New Zealand and its stunning landscapes are beckoning tourist foot-traffic. Frequently cited as being a life-changing travel experience, the natural sites offer breathtaking scenery alongside the richness of Maori culture and cuisine.
“New Zealand is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been,” David shares.
“Nothing surpasses the experience of flying into Queenstown [through] a valley of snow-capped mountains. Be sure to get a window seat.”
Note that while Winter falls between the months of June and September there, many love to visit the region in these cooler months. You can take part in myriad winter sports and activities to satisfy your adventurous cravings, or simply bask in the meditative lull that comes from immersing yourself in nature. If cold temperatures concern you, New Zealand’s coastal regions offer milder climates.
Come February, nature-lovers with luxurious tastes can check into one of Pure Pod’s highly anticipated, off-the-grid abodes, featuring high-end, glass-walled cabins that immerse you in nature from a comfortable vantage point.
4.) Take in Patagonia’s stunning landscapes in honor of Chile’s 200th anniversary of independence.
Chile truly offers the best of both worlds, with a bustling urban atmosphere in the capital, Santiago, along with breathtaking landscapes in remote Patagonia. Plus, 2018 holds special significance for the South American treasure. As Chile’s 200th anniversary of achieving independent rule, you can make it a point to celebrate with the locals before rejuvenating in Patagonia’s solitude.
According to David, “Patagonia is so remote but so beautiful… and windy! If you can, stay at Explora Patagonia Hotel – Salto Chico. It has the most stunning views of any hotel in the world.”
There, you’ll spot the Andes mountain range as you enjoy hikes and treks through nature’s bounty — all from the “southernmost tip of the world.” If you’re lucky, you might even see a couple native alpacas. While there, you should also plan to visit the Chilean territory of Easter Island to take pictures of its iconic stone monuments.
3. Prioritize your wellness while visiting Portugal.
Nestled between Spain and Morocco, Portugal is becoming Europe’s newest wellness-centric destination. The sentimental culture’s laid-back mentality has allowed this travel-gem to fly under-the-radar for far too long. While its capital, Lisbon, picked up speed among travelers in 2017, there are countless marvels to be enjoyed outside of the city-center.
“Portugal is a European destination to consider — not nearly so crowded as France and Italy,” David explains. “If you’re an oenophile, stay at Six Senses Duoro Valley for great food and a spa in the midst of wine country.”
Offering everything you could possibly hope for — including a newly emerging clean eating scene to go along with their growing wellness retreats and resort destinations — the geographical diversity of country also gives you plenty of terrain to cover on your journeys. After sunbathing at the beach and perusing its countless beach towns and ports, consider sailing to its volcanic islands, or taking a trek through its mountainous regions.
No matter where you go, the welcoming Portugese culture will steal your heart.
2.) See Seoul, South Korea, then take a train to the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.
This is bound to be a big year for South Korea. Pyeongchang will be hosting the 2018 Winter Olympics, which means countless tourists are already starting to make their travel arrangements. Even if you’re there to catch the games, you’ll definitely want to take their high-speed train to check out the booming, modern city of Seoul.
While there, David advises, “Book a guided tour of Seoul’s Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines — it will help you understand and appreciate Korea’s history and culture.”
Meanwhile, in 2017 the Seoul-lo 7017, an elevated park on an unused highway, was unveiled. Not unlike NYC’s famous highline, you can take in the city sights while you stroll, or stop by a cafe for a bite. All the while, you can enjoy the city’s futuristic design and — once its dark — the gorgeous city lights. The unique blend of history-meets-pop-culture is unlike anything you’ll see anywhere else. Plus, beauty lovers can pick up some top-of-the-line skincare products while abroad.
1.) Head to the Mediterranean island of Malta, Europe’s Capital of Culture in 2018.
Malta is a European country located in the middle Mediterranean between Sicily and the North coast of Africa. With its tourism rates ever on the rise, you’d better check out the English-speaking island before it becomes a total tourist trap. Beloved for its scenic appeal, rich history, and varied attractions, this tiny country — which houses nine UNESCO World Heritage sites — is definitely worth exploring.
Bob Romano of Canyon Crest Travel tells us, “Malta cannot be missed. [It has] perfect weather, almost everyone speaks English, and offers sight-seeing from busy cities, to peaceful countryside, to history dating back thousands of years.”
Culture-junkies can get their fill by visiting its history-rich capitol, Valletta, full of architecture, artwork and museums interspersed throughout the 16th century city. Plus, as one of the sunniest spots abroad, you can comfortably enjoy the best of island life for up to as many as 300 days per year. This means that adrenalin junkies can scuba dive to check out underwater ruins and WWII wrecks, while history buffs check out the churches, temples and monuments above ground.
Considering its promise of some of the world’s cleanest waters and beaches, the only “bad” time to go is the winter. Though, frankly, its mild weather and budget-friendly rates make wintertime travel fair game, too.
Where will you be heading in 2018? Tell us in the comments below!