DK, publishers of the beloved Eyewitness Travel guidebooks and maps, have selected their top ten destinations for travelers in 2018. How many are on your bucket list?
1. South Africa
It's the 100th birthday celebration of anti-apartheid icon and South African president Nelson Mandela. To celebrate the centennial of the country's beloved Madiba, there will be numerous exhibitions, programs, sporting events, parades, and happenings delving into the life, history, and heroics of the remarkable man.
Separated from Argentina and Bolivia by the towering Andes, the sliver of a country has remarkable biodiversity, landscapes, and natural phenomena. From the barren plateau of the Atacama Desert (the driest on earth) to the conical volcanoes of the Lake District to the icy glaciers of Torres del Paine National Park, the destination is a wild dream for enthusiasts of the great outdoors. Even greater: ten million acres of newly minted national parklands, including glaciers, forests, and wild coastlines, will be added to the already immense region of preserved and protected area thanks to unprecedented land donations from Tompkins Conservation and the Chilean government.
Its new title as European Capital of Culture brings the Mediterranean archipelago into the spotlight, starting in January with an opening ceremony on the streets of Valletta. Visitors will come for 7,000 years of history, prehistoric temples, preserved medieval architecture, sparkling blue waters with hidden coves, and a whopping 300 days of sunshine a year.
The World’s Happiest Country of 2017 is doing more than a few things right. The winning combination of nature, commerce, and laid-back vibes makes it a great place to spend time and meet new (happy) friends. With easy, unfettered access to its city center (Oslo), Scandi neighbors (Stockholm, Copenhagen), unspoiled islands (Lofoten), and the Arctic Circle (hello, aurora borealis!), there's no way to lose.
5. Northern France
Northern France commemorates the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I with a packed calendar of events that include celebrations of the Hundres Days Offensive, happenings at the historic battlefields of Dunkirk and Somme, and visits to landmarks like the Circuit of Remembrance, a 40-mile route that takes visitors through memorials, cemeteries, and preserved trenches. Beyond war history, the area is rich with UNESCO World Heritage sites (like the remarkable Mont-Saint-Michel), charming towns and coastal cities, and excellent cuisine.
The island nation is nearly always trending. And although the 2020 Olympics will generate new interest, the time to visit is now, while destinations to see and cultural events to experience are still under-the-radar for most Western travelers. Beyond Tokyo and Kyoto, must-see highlights would include Numata (where goblins parade through the streets), Morioka (where you can hear the beat of the taiko drum), and Hokkaido (home of a belly button-themed festival).
Nature is king in this pocket of North America (Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia). City slickers in Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver can quickly escape to the national parks and Pacific Rim for hikes, biking treks, and trail running. The area is less trafficked than Zion and Yosemite but no less gorgeous. Another cause to celebrate: The National Trail System Act, which helped create the famous Pacific Crest Trail, turns 50 in 2018.
The tiny island-nation, nicknamed the "city in a garden," is one of the world’s greenest urban environments. Soon to come: a zero-growth policy for cars and driverless buses. You're looking at the future.
9. United Kingdom
A stronger dollar-to-pound ratio means a better bang for the buck. Explore the area: It's been a decade since Liverpool was a European Capital of Culture, and they'll be celebrating with music and arts events. And don't miss the Lake District region, 2017's UNESCO World Heritage Site of rolling mountains, picturesque lakes, and pretty villages.
It's all about the energy. India has one of the fastest-growing economies and populations in the world. Its cities are bustling, its festivals are kaleidoscopic, and its landmarks are outrageous. From the white-sand beaches of Goa to the pink salt mountains of the Himalayas, the subcontinent is full of wonder and awe.
A version of this story originally appeared on traveldk.com.