With 2017 drawing to a close, our sights are firmly set on where to travel to next. Don’t get us wrong, we love going to our favorite little spots nearby, but 2018 is all about going big on the travel front.
Air travel has never been this affordable, and with new routes opening up to farther flung destinations across the world, now’s the time to cash in on the wanderlust. So we went in search of the 10 destinations travel writers are most excited about to give you a sneak peak into what your next holiday destination should look like.
Below are the countries, cities and regions you need to add to you 2018 to do list.
1. Lisbon, Portugal
Historically overshadowed by its larger neighbor, Spain, Portugal has been quietly opening its doors to travelers looking for medieval castles, golden beaches, incredible food and thriving cities.
Portugal’s history is a rich tapestry involving Celts, Romans, Visigoths, Moors and Christians, spanning some 20,000 years. A pleasant consequence of that history has lead to UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Tomar, Belém, Alcobaça and Batalha.
The jumping off point for many is Lisbon, where you’ll find restaurants nestled in the tiny cobblestone streets serving fresh bread, olives, cheese, vinho verde and seafood stew. But head out of the city and you find mist-covered woodlands, craggy clifftop castles and stunningly preserved Medieval town centers.
2. Djibouti, Africa
Located in the horn of Africa, this tiny country, nestled next to Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia boasts Martian like deserts, stunning beaches and whale shark diving unlike any other. It’s one of the few places on earth that are genuinely unlike anywhere else.
The former French outpost was, until recently a battered and forgotten outpost. Today, thanks to its strategic location along major international shipping routes has brought prosperity and rapid change to the tiny country. Djibouti City is a perfect mix of both the country’s past and present: Afar tribesmen rubbing shoulders with local businessmen in the bustling markets of the European Quarter.
But head further afield and you’ll find salt lakes, extinct volcanoes, limestone chimneys belching out puffs of steam next to huge plateaus and jaw-dropping canyons. If adventure is what you’re looking for in 2018, this country has it all: hiking, diving and whale-shark spotting in the Gulf of Tadjoura.
3. Matera, Italy
Matera is one of Italy’s best known secrets. Situated in the little-known southern region of Basilicata, Matera is one of the oldest in the country, and is best-known for its fascinating UNESCO-honoured sassi; or ‘old town’. But it’s not like your usual quaint buildings and souvenir shops.
This sprawl of stone houses and caves is believed to be the homes of Italy’s first settlers, dating back some 9,000 years. Today those caves are filled with a mix of homes, cafes, hotels and even art galleries.
Outside of Matera, Basilicata is distinctive for its ravines and hills, which in Matera are cut with old rock churches, mostly in the Byzantine style and all incredibly atmospheric. This being Italy, you can expect the food to be impeccable, with senise peppers - a longish pepper used in the making of local cheese and cured meats - Lucanica sausages, Matera bread and cheeses that locals have refused to share with the rest of the world. So you know they’re good.
4. Kaohsiung, Taiwan
Not more than 20 years ago, this harbor town in Taiwan was seen as just another unremarkable heavy industrial coastal conurbation. More recently its become the experimental architecture capital of the world.
Among the the cities most spectacular new additions include a 100,000-square-meter cultural and music complex, the Xiaogang Shan Recreation Area, and the new 88-meter 'Eye of the Mountain' skywalk.
Beyond the architecture, warehouses by the old harbor are rapidly becoming galleries and theaters and young chefs from across the region are reinventing Taiwanese cooking for a new international crowd of artists and musicians flocking to the town.
5. Guanajuato, Mexico
Mexico has been on the up and up for travelers, but Guanajuato is arguably one of the most spectacular cities to feature on many travelers lists in 2018. Originally founded in 1559, it was a city born thanks to the rich gold and silver deposits nearby.
As a result, the city is replete with opulent colonial buildings, tree-filled plazas and brightly colored houses crammed onto the steep slopes of a ravine.
The city is beautiful all year round, but steps things up a gear around the time of Festival Cervantino - a celebration of art, music and theatre every October. If you want to get a flavour of what Mexico is upto culturally, this is the place to go.
6. Oslo, Norway
Oslo has been loved by European travelers for years, but with the 50th anniversary of King Harald and Queen Sonja in 2018, the cosmopolitan city is set to become a giant year-long festival.
On top of that, there’s the small matter of the city being European Green Capital for 2019, thanks to its ultra low carbon footprint, large number of parks, and the Oslofjord’s waterways and islands just minutes away from the centre, as are the ski slopes and forests of Nordmarka. If you go in winter don’t be surprised to see commuters with skis in their hands on the tram home.
It’s also jostling for position to be Scandinavia’s food capital, thanks to the three Michelin starred Maaemo and a surprising penchant for Icelandic-Korean fusion food.
7. Belfast & the Causeway Coast, Ireland
Anything that Game of Thrones touches turns to gold, and the Causeway Coast is no exception. The windswept part of Northern Ireland is stuffed full of epic vistas, black basalt cliffs and huge, empty beaches.
Giant’s Causeway is just one of the iconic locations on this coastline. The UNESCO World Heritage site is made up of 40,000 basalt columns stretching out to sea. Nearby there’s the Carrrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, which sways 30 metres above the ocean connected to a small island and coastal cliffs.
Belfast, the capital of Northern Ireland has been undergoing a Renaissance since hostilities ended in the 1990s with bars, restaurants and art galleries springing up across town. From the city, the 146-mile drive up the Causeway Coast takes in towns like Glens and Antrim, another set of gems in a place worthy of a king.
Normally pursuing the Northern Lights involves long treks into the darker spots of the Arctic Circle. In Alaska, you can do it from the comfort of a hot tub. In the tiny village of Manley Hot Springs, it’s possible to watch the lights from the comfort of a spring-fed hot tub. Beat that, Sweden.
But that’s not all Alaska has to offer. Few other places in the US conjure ‘wild’ as much as the 49th state. It’s the kind of place you can tackle mountains climbed by no one, or walk through national parks that have fewer visitors than the International Space Station.
But the MO for Alaska is to immerse yourself in the unexpected. Hire a bush pilot to take you to untouched glaciers or a go in search of the gold panners and dive bars dotted around the state that look like they’ve been trapped in a timewarp from the 1980s.
9. Julian Alps, Slovenia
When you think of the Alps of Europe, we think of the towns of Chamonix and Zermatt in France and Switzerland respectively. What many of us don’t realize, is Europe’s most famous mountain range stretches into Slovenia, taking on the title of the Julian Alps.
Among this lesser known part of the range, are spectacular sights including Lake Bled which has a fairy tale-esq island with a castle neatly perched in the middle, historic towns like Kamnik, Škofja Loka and Radovljica are architectural treasures, while the road over the spectacular Vršič Pass is a beautiful, but a cautious reminder of the region's war torn past.
As for food, if you caught Netflix’s Chef’s Table, you might have seen chef Ana Roš and her restaurant Hiša Franko (meaning Frank's House) inn and restaurant feature. This small restaurant in an Alpine corner of the Soca Valley, just a few miles from the Italian border represents Slovenia’s rising star in the food lovers world - and has helped put Slovenia on the foodie map.
10. Los Haitises National Park, Dominican Republic
There are many beautiful tropical beaches and inlets across the world, but none quite so well preserved as the Los Haitises National Park. It’s a 1,375-square kilometer tapestry of craggy islets, blue canals and verdant forest, an ecosystem that appears plucked from prehistory.
Nicknamed the 'Caribbean Halong Bay', this park features mangroves, caves ornate with pre-Columbian rock drawings, a lush tropical forest, multi-coloured tropical birds and manatees. The coast is peppered with little islets concealing frigatebirds and pelicans. For a park of this size, that diversity is almost unparalleled in other parts of the world.
Los Haitises is a favorite among locals, and international travelers have also caught the bug. The area is changing, but thankfully, a lot is being done to improve conservation of the area, with boutique eco-hotels and improved trails and facilities springing up next year.
Irrespective of where you travel in the new year, having the right footwear is an absolute must for the modern man. Which is why Blake McKay only selects the best shoes from around the world to make wearing the right footwear effortless, no matter where you are.