The 35 Places You Need to Visit in 2018 Gallery
The 35 Places You Need to Visit in 2018
2017 was an interesting, if controversial, year in travel. We've covered the top 20 destinations of the past year, but what about the year to come? If you’re as forward-thinking as we are, you'll want to know where you should travel in 2018. And in the coming year, there’s a lot going on in a lot of different places.
After paying attention to what’s been going on around the globe and checking our calendars for what’s coming up this year, we’ve pulled together a list of the top destinations for 2018. That includes a couple cities celebrating their tercentennial (that’s 300th birthday) and a few countries where they’re observing the anniversary of their independence. Some cities are celebrating the opening of new attractions whereas others have simply become more accessible or comfortable in 2018, thanks to the addition of flight routes and new luxury hotels. Some places on this list are simply coming into their own after disasters or decades of decline, whereas others are already popular but will likely be doing particularly well in the coming year.
Spanning literally seven – yes, all seven—continents, these 35 places are the ones you absolutely need to visit in 2018.
For the first time ever, there’s a branch of the Louvre outside of Paris, and this past November, it opened its doors in the safest city in the world, Abu Dhabi. With over 700 exhibits, the Louvre Abu Dhabi is gorgeous inside and out, but it’s not the only architectural marvel the city holds. The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, one of the largest mosques in the world, is meticulously kept, its bright white exterior and 82 domes positively sparkling. Take a ride on the world’s fastest roller coaster at Ferrari World on Yas Island, just off the coast, where you can also visit the water park and gigantic shopping mall.
It may sound a bit preposterous to suggest a vacation to the continent that holds 90 percent of ice on Earth, but Antarctica has actually become much more accessible over the past decade or two, thanks to the first-ever commercial flights there, added in 2017, as well as multiple cruises headed for the continent from South America. One of the wildest spots on the planet, Antarctica offers the chance to experience truly unspoiled nature (although global warming seems to be doing the job of spoiling it fast). Despite its seeming barrenness, there’s plenty to do here, such as camping, sea kayaking, swimming in hot springs, and visiting the penguins and other indigenous creatures. A visit here is sure to inspire you to kick into action in order to save the planet and this vast, awe-inspiring continent. Hurry before it gets too popular; currently, fewer than 200,000 people visit every year.
Brussels and Bruges aren’t the only Belgian destinations you should have on your list. Antwerp Baroque 2018 celebrates the city’s most famous son, Flemish artist Peter Paul Rubens, and the Baroque tradition with street art, workshops, concerts, parades, and more. Fashionistas are sure to love Antwerp, known for its fashion industry and as the world’s leading city for diamonds, as 70 percent of the entire world’s are traded here.
With several flights added to its list of daily arrivals and multiple lavish hotels and resorts opened this past year or set to debut in 2018, the clear blue waters and pale pink shores of the Bahamas are more accessible than ever. It’s also worth checking out thank to its rising food scene, particularly in Baha Mar and Nassau, where visitors can enjoy the best of junkanoo, sky juice, rum cake, and more. Next year will also see the debut of a direct flight from Chicago as well as a four-hour ferry ride to Freeport from Miami-Fort Lauderdale.
Experience a vacation that’s both Caribbean and Central American in vibe and location alike, in the small yet charming country of Belize. We strongly suggest that if you wish to visit Belize, you do it now, because the country is quickly becoming popular and its untouched beauty is part of that charm. In addition to the gorgeous beaches, delicious Belizean cuisine, and fantastic resorts, this destination also offers a bit of culture and history in its renowned Ancient Mayan sites.
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Buenos Aires was recently dubbed the first ever Art Basel City, and in celebration, this Argentinian capital will be hosting a week of public arts events in September in celebration. Lovers of arts and culture will relish this city any time of the year, however, as Buenos Aires is known for its dance, design, and galleries. Visit in May to enjoy the pride and joy of 300 artists from 50 countries at ArteBA or come in the summer of August’s BA Fashion Week. Try some Argentinian cuisine while you’re there, too, as the locals sure know how to eat right.
Charleston offers up some of the best of Southern cuisine and hospitality, the latter apparent in the growth of luxury hotels. Just this past year, The Dewberry opened its doors and in spring of 2018, Hotel Bennett is slated for an opening right across from it in Marion Square. Go off-the-beaten path for some of the city’s culinary gems and try local delicacies such as crab rice, crispy quail, po’ boys, or shrimp and grits.
The capital of Sichuan province, Chengdu is a city perfect for people who love spicy food and breathtaking scenery. The addition of non-stop flights from New York and Los Angeles over the past year make it easier than ever to get to there. Most of the world’s wild giant pandas also reside in Chengdu, and a visit to the nature parks and reserves may give you a peep at them as well as at the area’s beautiful mountains and outdoor landscapes.
America’s Comeback City really is coming back with a vengeance as a world destination after decades of suffering from both its economy and population taking a hit. Detroit has seen a revival thanks to both new additions and attractions as well as renovations in its many histortic buildings and sites. Birthplace of Motown and home to a strong automobile culture, the city’s abandoned buildings have been turned into art galleries, distilleries, and more thanks to growing scene of artists and young upstarts. Recent additions to the city include a hockey and basketball arena, and multiple parks and hotels are set to open over the next couple of years.
Although already a popular European destination, Dublin is ramping up its game with multiple new hotels set to open their doors in 2018 (and a further 3,500 hotel rooms becoming available in 2019) and a new expansion to its light rail system. In addition to the traditional pub life and historic squares of Dublin, the city also has seen a renovation of its National Gallery of Ireland as well as a newly constructed Irish Emigration Museum to offer tourists an even deeper look at Irish history. Dublin is also set to become even more of a bucket list spot for whiskey-lovers, as the Dublin Liberties and Roe & Co. are set to open up whiskey destinations to rival the newly-opened Pearse Lyons Distillery in what used to be St. James’s Church.
Quito is not only beautiful but absolutely fascinating. Ecuador is so named because of its location directly over the equator, and when you stand on Mitad del Mundo — a yellow line painted on the ground to designated the equator itself — on either the fall or spring equinox, you can watch your shadow disappear for three minutes. Quito also offers attractive colonial and Latin American architecture that echoes its fascinating history, and from here you can explore the rest of the country’s stunning natural environs, such as the Bellavista Cloud Forest, the snow-capped Cayambe volcano, and of course, the famous Galapagos Islands. Other cities of note include Cuenca, a beautiful and historic city with Incan ruins and cafés serving amazing Ecuadorian cuisine, and Guayaquil, Ecuador’s largest city, famous for its great seafood, a beautiful riverfront, and great music.
After the 2011 revolution hit Egypt, tourism in the country was greatly affected. Of course, in a land that’s home to world-famous sites such as the Great Sphinx and the Pyramids of Giza, tourists weren’t going to stay away for too long and this year should put Egypt back on the map. A partial opening of the Grand Egyptian Museum is ready to welcome visitors who can see over 100,000 artifacts from the time of the pharaohs, including the mummy and funeral mask of King Tutankhamen. Egypt’s magic doesn’t stop in Cairo, however. Visit the enchanting Siwa Oasis, historical Alexandria, cosmopolitan Port Said, and Luxor, said to be the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world.
Go back to where you came from and visit the place said to be the origin of modern man: Ethiopia. Africa’s oldest independent nation, and the only one on the continent to have never been colonized, Ethiopia has an impressive history, both politically and religiously, as the second oldest officially Christian nation in the world and the destination of the First Hejira, the first flight of Muhammad's followers from Mecca. Chinese assistance has helped the country become a better tourist destination, with the construction of new highways and a new terminal at Addis Ababa Bole International Airport. Start in the capital of Addis Ababa, a great shopping destination and home to a wonderful museum chronicling the nation’s ancient history and housing the skeleton of the famous early hominid, Lucy. But make sure you visit other places, too, such as the monasteries of Lake Tana, rock-hewn churches of Lalibela, medieval castles of Gondar, and the ancient city of Aksum, home to the Ark of the Covenent. The ancient walled city of Harar is also worth a stop; it's home to 82 mosques and some of the world's best coffee (and beer).
The beautiful islands of Fiji are about to become even more beautiful with the addition of multiple luxury resorts ready to open their doors in 2018. Seaplanes and helicopters will take you on scenic flights to appreciate the waterfalls, beaches, and mountains of Fiji from high above, and the island is full of opportunities for relaxation as well as adventure, via hiking, biking, and watersports of all kinds. Fijian cuisine offers a mix of South Asian and East Asian flavors, and kava, a mildly intoxicating root-based drink, is popular on the islands as well.
While neighboring Iceland was one of the hottest (if also coldest) destinations of the past few years, Greenland has slowly but surely seen its star rise. This northernmost North American country (yes, it's considered part of that continent geographically) is known for the so-called Big Arctic Five: dog sledding, pioneering people, whales, the Northern Lights, and ice and snow. Enjoy all of it, as well as a unique cuisine, at an island destination that’s both relatively undiscovered and ripe for adventure.
Grenada’s underrated status as a Caribbean destination has served it well, making for relatively untouched rainforests and beaches that aren’t laden with tourists. We suggest you make a trip sooner than later, however, as it won’t stay that way for long; 33 cruise ships have added the island to their itinerary, and just last year, Jet Blue added a daily, direct route to New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport. Resorts and hotels are popping up all over the island to accommodate the growing tourism, as visitors arrive to enjoy the Spice Isle’s chocolate, rum, and of course, spices.
Both the tech industry and tourism are booming in Guadalajara and for good reason — this rising city has much to offer in the way of both modernization and history. Mexican art and culture is at its best in Guadalajara, which hosts the country’s biggest film festival in March and the Mariachi Festival in September. Visit the largest indoor market in Latin America, Mercado San Juan de Dios, or walk through Colonia Lafayette, a fantastic neighborhood for art and food-lovers alike full of gorgeous modern and colonial-era architecture. Hospicio Cabañas, one of the oldest and largest hospital complexes in the Western hemisphere as well an UNESCO World Heritage site, is also worth a visit, decorated with amazing frescoes by José Clemente Orozco.
Berlin, Munich, and Frankfurt are all destinations that come straight to mind when planning a trip to Germany, but Hamburg should definitely be on the list starting this year. The newly constructed Elbphilharmonie concert hall took nearly ten years and cost €790 million ($940 million), and as one of the largest and most acoustically advanced music halls, it was worth the wait and worth a visit. Located in the relatively new waterfront HafenCity, you’d be remiss not to check out one of the many hotspots for gastronomy nearby or the city’s many impressive churches and other architectural marvels.
While we do advise caution when traveling the Middle East, that doesn’t mean travel is completely inadvisable in the region as a whole. Jordan, in particular, remains a stable nation with much to offer in the way of history and activity. The historical city of Petra, possibly established as early as the fourth century BC, is a site to marvel at with its gorgeous, rock-cut architecture and impressive water conduit system. Jordan is also home to both the Dead Sea and Red Sea, as well as Wadi Rum, an impressive, Martian-like red desert, and many Bedouin camps where you can experience true native Jordanian cuisine and culture. Hiking enthusiasts will love the new Jordan Trail, a route that runs 400 miles from north to south and takes you through most of these sites as well as some of Jordan’s most breathtaking nature. Lovers of religious history will revel in it too – Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed all supposedly walked this trail too.
Luang Prabang, Laos
Luang Prabang used to be the capital city of landlocked Laos, and it still remains a leading cultural and historical destination in the country. While there are plenty of budget accommodations, new luxury resorts have also been popping up in this city and will continue to do so in 2018, giving you plenty of options to choose from when looking for a place to stay as you explore this emerging Southeast Asian destination. Eastern and western architecture here are awe-inspiring, from buildings dating back to the French colonial area to sparkling Buddhist temples. Visit a nearby elephant sanctuary or the many jaw-dropping waterfalls and caves just outside the city. Luang Prabang is also a place dedicated to preserving its cultural heritage, with museums and performance theaters.
This coming year is the best time to visit the picturesque southern Italian destination of Matera, in the southern Italian region of Basilicata, before tourism booms with the celebrations accompanying its naming as a 2019 European Capital Culture. Visit the caves of Sassi di Matera to travel 9,000 years back in time or explore the churches carved into the volcanic rock. The gorgeous town is full of caves actually, such as Casa Grotta di Vico Solitario where you can see how an eighteenth-century family lived, or the city’s many cave B&Bs where you can stay yourself. (You can also dine in a cave, sampling traditional local fare at L'Abbondanza Lucana.)
This island destination 1,200 miles southeast off the African coast is oft-overlooked despite the unique mix of cultures that sets it apart from other beach-laden, biodiverse paradises. This may no longer be the case in the coming years as multiple airlines began servicing Mauritius towards the end of 2017. Just in time, too, as the country celebrates the fiftieth anniversary of its independence in 2018 with festivals and all sorts of cultural and historical exhibitions. Mauritius’s rich history is also reflected in its melting-pot cuisine, with strong Indian, Creole, Chinese, and French flavors, and the country’s many festivals, including Diwali in October and the Festival International Kréol in November. Nature lovers will be enthralled by the many different species of animals and plants as well as the chance to take on the waters with watersports and explore the surrounding volcanic mountains.
Morocco is set to become a hot destination in 2018 — figuratively in addition to literally. Offering the best of Middle Eastern beauty in terms of architecture and natural scenery, this country has plenty of must-visit stops. The city of Marrakesh is full of palaces and street markets to explore, and it’s home to the newly opened Yves Saint Laurent Museum where fashion lovers can visit the famous designer’s Marrakesh studio and home. Less than a mile from there lie the Atlas Mountains, perfect for hiking and taking on Kasbah Toubkal, the country’s highest peak. Visit Tétouan, known for its carpets and World Heritage Site medina and the site of a burgeoning modern Moroccan art movement, or Essaouira, a resort town with great beaches for windsurfing and kitesurfing, as well as a colorful and busy medina.
The Big Easy turns 300 this year, and over a decade after Hurricane Katrina, it’s ready to party hard in celebration. Enjoy the best of Southern and Creole culture and cuisine any time of the year, but visit mid-February for the fabled Mardi Gras or in late April and early May for the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. And those are just two of the 160 festivals held each year in this party city, all of which are sure to have do something special in honor of the tercentennial. New hotels are also popping up and old hotels are ready for you too, such as the historic Pontchartrain Hotel, which just went under a $10 million renovation.
The king and queen of Norway are celebrating their golden wedding anniversary this year, making 2018 a fun year to take a trip to Oslo, particularly since its airport just saw expansions this past year. Visit the royal couple’s Royaal Palace or the Oslo Opera House, which is also seeing an anniversary this year as it turns 10 years old, with many shows and events scheduled. The city is full of museums and parks, as well as restaurants and cafes full of good food and great Norwegian coffee.
While Machu Picchu has been growing in popularity as a bucket list landmark, tourists are also starting to discover the rest of Peru alongside it. Visit Trujillo, where you can learn about the Moche and Chimu, ancient civilizations from even before the Inca, by visiting the pyramids of the former and the adobe complex of the latter, before heading to the northern part of the country, where you’ll find a different kind of hiking experience on the jungle trails. Other must-sees include Leymebamba, home to around 200 Incan mummies, and Chan Chan, a city made entirely of adobe and the largest pre-Columbian settlement in South America. Make sure you don’t leave without visiting the food scene of its capital, Lima, or enjoying some marinera dancing alongside Peruvian music.
Another American city celebrating its tercentennial in 2018, San Antonio is an absolute must for foodies; UNESCO declared it a Creative City of Gastronomy this year for its amazing cuisine, a mix of Mexican, Latin American, North American, and European flavors. There’s also plenty of history for you to enjoy, and make sure you don’t leave without remembering the Alamo or taking a stroll down River Walk. A visit in May will be surely eventful, as the city’s museums offer free admission and the town is full of concerts, shows, fireworks, art installatations, and more at its five historic missions in honor of Tricentennial Commemorative Week.
San Juan, Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico is officially open for business and tourists are needed more than ever to help the island get back on its feet. Witness the rebuilding and resilience of San Juan, where old and new coexist in the architecture as well as the city’s culture. Nightlife, beaches, and a growing arts scene have all helped San Juan earn its reputation as a strong tourist destination, but it’s the food here that’s really worth coming for.
Southern Spain blooms in Seville, where the blend of Moorish and European architecture is so beautiful that the city’s royal palace, the Alcazar of Seville, was used as a set on the hit HBO show Game of Thrones. Whereas Seville used to be laden with traffic congestion, the increasing use of bikes and trams has made this city a lot more tourist-friendly. With more bars per inhabitant than any other city in Europe, Seville is also a great place for nightlife, and a flamenco show here is a must, as is a tapas tour.
In addition to stunning Seoul, Pyeongchang County is at the top of the list for 2018 as it hosts the Winter Olympics in February. Many of the main events will be held at ski resorts Alpensia and Yongpyong, and two Olympic Villages have been built in Pyeongchang itself. In preparation for the games, Lotte World Tower has opened in Seoul, currently the fifth tallest building on the planet, and it’ll be easy to get between the two cities with a new, high-speed train. While in Seoul, make sure to check out the city’s famously quirky coffee shops, as well as the stunning palaces and temples throughout the city.
Estonia will be celebrating the hundreth anniversary of its independence from the Russian Empire this year, making its already culturally rich capital a top destination. One of the safest cities in the world, Tallinn is particularly popular in the summer, with a history that goes back to medieval times, as seen with the medieval houses and cobbled streets in its absolutely gorgeous Old City. Many luxurious or charming yet affordable hotels are available nearby, including the newly opened Centennial Hotel, named in honor of the aforementioned anniversary, for you to stay at while you enjoy the many different events in honor of the country’s centennial, such as Tallinn Music Week, Tallinn Medieval Days, and the My Free Country exhibit at the Estonian History Museum.
Luxury hotels are popping up to welcome you to yet another rising destination: Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia (the country, not state). Next year will see the opening of the beautiful Stamba Hotel as well as Kokhta-Mitarbi, a five-star resort right in the Caucasus mountains for those who love to take to the slopes. Despite all this modern construction, some traditional Georgia hospitality is still apparent in the country’s cuisine and famous 24-hour sulphur baths. Take a day trip just 30 miles south of the city to the site where archaeologists recently discovered the oldest known wine, dated at 8,000 years old. Gorgeous mountain and lake scenery isn’t too long of a drive from this emerging city either.
Following the death of president Islam Karimov, the current Uzbek government is making major strides for progress in Uzbekistan, particularly for its tourism industry. Perhaps that’s why it’s one of the happiest countries in the world. The Afrosiyob high-speed train line saw its debut in 2016, making it easier to travel between major cities, and a new segment on the Trans-Asian Railway, a Chinese train network connecting Europe and Beijing, should also loop Uzbekistan in through Kyrgystan. Another train system connecting the country to the Persian Gulf may be on the horizon as well, thanks to diplomatic relations with Iran, so there’ll be plenty of ways to explore the region. Visit the capital city of Tashkent, where you’ll find the mausoleum of some of the greatest rulers and thinkers in Islamic history, gorgeous mosques, and Chorsu Bazaar, a typical Central Asian farmers market where you can experience the best of local culture. The historic city of Samarkand is a must-see for anyone visiting Central Asia, particularly the UNESCO World Heritage Site city center, Registan and the supposed tomb of the Hebrew prophet Daniel.
Valletta is getting ready to celebrate for the whole year after being named a 2018 European Capital of Culture. Both the opening ceremonies for this year’s celebrations and the Valletta International Baroque Festival will be held in January, but the city’s Roman, Arab, and British influences can be seen year-round in its architecture, cuisine, music, and even language. Malta, another one of the happiest countries in the world, offers the best of the Mediterranean, as well as some seriously gorgeous architecture. UNESCO dubbed Valletta “one of the most concentrated historic areas in the world” due to the fact that the 136-acre city has a whopping 320 historical sites. Sites like Saint John’s Co-Cathedral and the Palace of the Grand Masters, which serves as the Maltese parliament building and the office of Malta’s president, are must-sees, and when you’re not in the mood for a tour, you can always hit the beach.
Another destination for some truly unspoiled nature, Zambia is the place to experience a safari in the birthplace of the walking safari, with a guided tour company or through a safari lodge such as the King Lewanika Lodge which just opened up as the first permanent camp in Liuwa Plain National Park. Visit in April for the Kuomboka Festival, which tourists can attend for the first time this year and partake in the festivities marking the end of the rainy season. If the idea of a safari resort interests you, check out the ones that made our list of the top 100 all-inclusive resorts in the world.