It’s hard to believe, but 2018 is almost here and in keeping with my year-end post traditions, I thought I’d share a few places I think everyone should visit in 2018. Some are obvious choices, others a little more unexpected but all are amazing places to discover for one reason or another. Also, these are in NO PARTICULAR ORDER. I don’t want to see anyone complaining that one destination is ranked higher or lower than another one; they all have my love and admiration.
People don’t normally need to be convinced to visit the Caribbean, but we don’t live in normal times. No doubt you’re aware of the terrible hurricanes that swept through the region in 2017, destroying not only infrastructure and buildings, but lives in the process. It was a terrible event but the warm-hearted people who call the Caribbean home are trying to rebuild and they need our help. Much of the Caribbean was left unaffected by the hurricanes and even those islands hardest hit are already welcoming back tourists. Make 2018 the year that you visit, contribute to the local economies and help this beautiful part of the world get back on its feet.
I’m fairly certain that this isn’t on your bucket list, but it honestly should be. I get it, I understand, I never imagined I would visit this country in Central Asia, but once I did it quickly became a personal favorite. Tourism is new to Kyrgyzstan, but it exists and is growing every day. It’s also an unexpectedly fun country to visit, no matter your interests. Long famous for its outdoor experiences, nature lovers can enjoy everything from alpine treks to visiting starkly beautiful deserts. Kyrgyzstan’s cities are also a fun way to experience the country, including some of the largest – Bishkek, Osh and Karakol. Thousands of years of history are on clear display anywhere you go and go you must, I guarantee it’s an experience you’ll never forget.
Within the last year I’ve had the good fortune to visit the Alsace region of France twice, and it’s those visits that have convinced me that it is not only one of the best regions in France, but in all of Europe. One of the most contested areas of Europe, this sliver of land has passed hands between France and Germany probably more times than anyone can count. The result is the very unique Alsatian culture, which is a mix of German and French customs and traditions. Strasbourg is the largest city in the region, and a few days exploring are well spent. But the many towns and villages of Alsace are just as important and best seen along the Alsatian Wine Route. Whether you spend 2 days or a week exploring it, you won’t be disappointed, especially ending in the picture perfect city of Colmar. Colmar is the quaint town of our collective dreams and even after a couple of visits I still yearn to return and explore even more of the city.
At first blush, Hong Kong seems little more than a flashy city full of people. But once you delve a little deeper, then you start to discover the real city that lies just beneath that shiny veneer. The best way to better understand Hong Kong is through the city’s favorite pastime, eating. Whether it’s 3-star Michelin restaurants, or some of the best dim sum in the world, you won’t walk away hungry or disappointed. Also be sure though to explore the city, visiting Lantau Island and even the newish PMQ, a cultural hub showcasing some of the best emerging creative minds in the city.
I have spent a fair amount of time exploring Canada and almost never have I had a bad experience. But not all parts of the country get equal attention by international tourists, which is one reason why I want to highlight the provinces that comprise the Maritimes. Specifically, over the last couple of years I’ve had the great opportunity to explore two Maritime provinces, Newfoundland & Labrador and Nova Scotia. Made famous by the ultra-luxury hotel on Fogo Island, Newfoundland has had its fair share of press lately, but there’s so much more to the province than a nice hotel. Whether it’s St. John’s or taking a coastal road trip, the scenery, food and people will quickly endear you to the province. Many of those qualities aren’t endemic to Newfoundland though, they’re part of the overall Maritime experience, as I learned this year spending a week in Nova Scotia. Those same kind and very curious people made the trip remarkable, accentuated by natural wonders like the Bay of Fundy and a surprisingly high level of great food. So skip some of the more flashy provinces and instead plan to spend some time along the gorgeous Atlantic seaboard of Canada.
When talking about Scotland it seems that the Highlands and Edinburgh get all of the love, and honestly they deserve it. Both are amazing destinations to visit and rank amongst my most favorite spots on the planet. But I think that Glasgow deserves some of that love as well. It’s a city on the upswing, changing and evolving like so many other urban centers around the world. Glasgow is not Edinburgh and you shouldn’t arrive into town expecting bagpipers on every corner and more woolen shops than you can count. Glasgow is Glasgow, it’s large, dynamic, diverse, edgy, artistic and more. It is very much its own city and likes the fact that it’s a little bit different from the rest of the country and ultimately that’s why you should visit. Not to see the stereotypes of Scottish culture we’ve all come to know (and love) but to learn about modern Scotland and to see what the country is really all about, instead of the cartoon image that seems so prevalent at times.
I have long been promoting travel to Jordan and want to continue doing so because it really is THAT amazing. Many people know the country thanks to the massive ancient site Petra but, while it is certainly spectacular, there’s much more to see and do around the country. The Dead Sea, the Red Sea, Wadi Rum Desert, Amman and more all come together to create a fun and dynamic place to visit. Add in some of the kindest people in the world and a food culture that ranks among the most delicious, and it’s obvious to me why everyone should plan a trip.
Australia is almost too big for its own good. About the same size as the United States, it takes many trips to fully explore the width and breadth of this gorgeous continent, but one of those visits should be to Western Australia and its capital city, Perth. Over the years I’ve found that Perth doesn’t get the respect it deserves, many times overshadowed by cities like Sydney and Melbourne. And until recently, it probably didn’t deserve a lot of attention, but that’s all changing. With new restaurants, bars and cafes opening all the time, the food scene has never been more interesting. Combine that with great outdoor adventures, fascinating museums and a massive annual Fringe Festival and you’ll soon see there’s a lot to love about Perth. It’s also the jumping off point to further explorations around the state, including nearby Fremantle, Rottnest Island and even the Margaret River wine region.
The quirky island nation of Malta in the Mediterranean has a long and important history, but it’s one not many people actually know a lot about. Long considered by Europeans as a sunny getaway, others from around the world are learning about this small country not just for its beaches and turquoise blue waters, but also for its art, architecture, cities and incredible history.
I find it a little odd that I’m including this great Northern Italian city on the list, because my own experience with it is so very limited. Five years ago I spent 1 day there, but it was so impactful that I feel the need to include it on this list. In a country famous for its food, Bologna has the special designation as being the culinary heart (or stomach) of Italy. More foods started here than you can possibly imagine, including Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, lasagna, ragu sauce, tagliatella and even Balsamic vinegar. Visitors should eat everything they can in and around Bologna, spend some time at the Lamborghini factory and museum and brace themselves for the newly opened Eataly theme park. Also, the city of Bologna is amazing in its own right with plenty to see and do and an impressive history to learn more about.
Former Rustbelt, U.S.
I hate this term, but in the past couple of years fate has found me exploring the cities of Middle America, what we usually call the Rustbelt. It’s a horrible term, but it refers to the region straddling the Great Lakes and Midwest States and alludes to the economic decline and urban decay of the 1980s due to a vanishing industrial sector. At one point, yes, the term was an apt one but not anymore. Recent wanderings have proven to me that these cities are undergoing a powerful renaissance, a dramatic change in their urban cores and it’s a beautiful thing to see. At first led by creative artists and enterprising planners, today cities like Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Detroit and Cleveland have emerged into destinations in their own right. So get out there and experience the ingenuity that is purely American and enjoy these once forgotten cities for the urban treasures that they are.
Luxury Safari in Tanzania
Going on safari is one of those special travel experiences everyone should enjoy at least once in their lives. Thanks to a few trips visiting sub-Saharan Africa, I have been on several safaris but nothing prepared me for the luxury safari in Tanzania I enjoyed with Abercrombie & Kent. A&K literally invented the concepts of luxury safari and experiential travel, so I knew I was in good hands as we toured the amazing national parks of Tanzania. Whether it was sneaking up on a herd of elephants, or admiring the power of the Great Migration, I know I will always treasure the memories from this luxury safari experience. You should take a luxury safari in Tanzania in order to get as close to wildlife as possible, enjoy amazing vistas and be pampered in high style throughout the journey, from transportation to those stunning lodges where guests spend the night.
I have been fortunate enough to have spent a lot of time exploring Germany over the last few years and while I’ve enjoyed almost every new place I’ve toured, a few cities meant more to me than others. Hamburg is one of those cities and is so unique that I think warrants a visit in its own right. The cities lining the northern coast of Germany are very different from other parts of the country, thanks in part to their long histories as independent city-states. Hamburg in particular has been an important port city for a very long time, which in turn has developed a level of diversity that’s still evident today. With unusual architecture, great food and fun experiences, like the Beatles tour, there’s a lot to see and do in this slightly quirky but lovable German city.
Since I’m from Virginia, I may be a little biased but I honestly think that the state is a great addition to this list. Surprisingly large, the types of experiences available to visitors run the gamut from beach-side wanderings to mountain treks and urban escapes. Whether it’s history, culture, wine, hiking, Virginia has you covered and really is a fantastic place to spend some time.
No, Colombia probably isn’t what you think it is; it’s so much more. I’m not entirely sure what I expected before visiting earlier this year, but I was pleasantly surprised at almost every turn. Delicious food (and coffee), gorgeous landscapes, vibrant cities, there’s a lot to love about Colombia, but when you visit you have to visit more than one place. Spend time in Bogota and Cartagena, but also in the rural coffee growing regions with small but colorful villages dotting the hills. You’ll leave just as enamored by this South American country as I was and also vowing that your first visit won’t be your last.
Chiang Mai, Thailand
I’ve longed loved Thailand but it was only recently that I finally visited the northern city of Chiang Mai and I almost instantly fell in love. The largest city in the region, Chiang Mai has long been an important outpost attracting people from around the world for generations and in 2017 nothing has changed. Whether you’re a luxury or budget traveler, there are plenty of options and the list of things to see and do in and around the city is extensive. For something a little different, devote a day and volunteer at the Elephant Nature Park which rescues elephants in abusive situations from around the country and gives them a happy and healthy life. No matter what you choose to do in Chiang Mai, I think you’ll be just as impressed as I was.
For whatever reason, remote destinations fascinate me and I love visiting them perhaps more than even the largest cities in the world. I usually tend to visit Northern areas though when it’s cold outside, but cold doesn’t even begin to describe the Arctic temperatures I found in Rovaniemi, deep in Finnish Lapland. This huge region is mostly woods, lakes and streams, but it’s also home to Santa Claus. In what can only be described as a brilliant marketing move, years ago Rovaniemi lauded itself as the official home of Santa Claus, a moniker that stuck. You should visit Rovaniemi not only to see Santa Claus, but also to spend time outdoors whether it’s snowmobiling, mushing with sled dogs or spending the night in a remote cabin learning about the Finnish obsession with both sauna and nature.
Northern California’s Wine Country
Not unlike the Caribbean, northern California also lived through a horrific natural disaster, although a much different kind. The wildfires that ravaged the state this year also nipped at the heels of Napa and Sonoma counties, the heart of America’s most popular wine growing region. Luckily, much of wine country was left untouched by these horrible fires, and yet many tourists are staying away. The TV imagery convinced people that Napa was leveled by fire, which couldn’t be farther from the truth. So if Northern California is on your travel bucket list, make 2018 the year you visit in order to not just have a great vacation, but to help support this beautiful part of the world as they rebuild and move on.
What other destinations would you add to this list?