Time to start planning a year of great adventures. To help you fill out your calendar, we compiled our list of the top places to visit in 2019, but we also went to travel advisors, specialists, and travel company CEOs for their insights on the hottest emerging destinations of the year. Here's where they think intrepid, trend-setting travelers should go.
Why Go Now? With newcomers Singita Kwitonda Lodge and Kataza House (opening in fall 2019) and One & Only's Nyungwe House — in addition to new flights making it easier to connect Rwanda with the Serengeti and Maasai Mara regions of Tanzania and Kenya — we anticipate a growing interest in the country, and gorilla trekking in particular — as an additional stop in a larger East African itinerary.
Insider Tip: It's totally doable to tack this on for a quick two-night addition, particularly if a one-way helicopter transfer is included (which is nice on arrival to get a lay of the land).
- The Team at Local Foreigner
Why Go Now? For years, Ischia has been seen by many as the poor man’s Capri. No longer, with the opening in April 2019 of the Hotel Mezzatorre, under the guardianship of the Pellicano Hotels group and its brilliant creative director Marie Louise Scio. Overlooking the ocean and tucked away on its own private estate (like Il Pellicano), we have big hopes for Marie Louise to hit that perfect balance of Slim Aarons style and warm service that has made the Pellicano one of the great cult hotels of the world.
Insider Tip: Anyone visiting Ischia must include a visit to the nearby fishermen’s island of Procida. This picturesque island is the real deal, with a strong fishing culture, deserted beaches, and ancient Baroque churches. Don’t miss Ristorante Caracalè down in the harbor, where on my last visit I shared a plate of the freshest fried anchovies with a table of priests, followed by an unforgettable spaghetti with swordfish and green peppers picked that morning from the owner's garden.
- Emily FitzRoy, founder, Bellini Travel
Why Go Now? Hampi is now more easily accessible, thanks to new direct flights from Bengaluru to Hampi and Hyderabad to Bellary, which is under two hours from Hampi, and is rapidly evolving to accommodate travelers from all over the world. The area recently introduced Kishkinda Camp, a luxury mobile tented camp, the first luxury accommodation to be offered in this region. Hampi is home to countless wonders, including Virupaksha Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a fascinating local bazaar, and ancient temples dating back to the Vijayanagara empire, such as Hazara Rama and Chandikeshwara.
Insider Tip: For a very special perspective on Hampi, rise early when it's still dark and climb the 250 steps up Matanga Hill to watch the sun rise over the ancient temples, halls, monuments, and adjacent banana plantations and emerald rice paddies. Matanga Hill, which is looked after by a local priest and his family, is little visited and is especially peaceful at dawn. Those who climb to the top are rewarded with 360-degree views. Take a camera but don’t forget to simply watch without a lens to absorb the atmosphere.
- Rachel Cooper, India and Australasia travel specialist at Red Savannah
Why Go Now: Mongolia is the ultimate refuge from the modern world, where the layers of history and the vastness of the natural landscape combine to remind us of our relatively modest place in the universe. It is one of the last places on earth where it is still possible to live a truly nomadic existence, traveling across the steppes, living off the land, and leaving no footprint behind. Unfortunately, the nomadic tradition feels precarious and under threat. On our nine-day trip, we traverse mountains, desert plains, grasslands, and valleys in the steppes, learning about the history and present-day lives of the Mongolian people as we travel alongside them in our private mobile ger camps.
Insider Tip: The Mongol people are incredibly gracious hosts, and whenever they invite you into their home (which happens all the time) you will be expected to share their offering of airag (also known as koumiss), a sour, bitter tasting alcoholic drink made from fermented mare's milk, so be prepared.
- Norman Howe, President & CEO, Butterfield & Robinson
Why Go Now: This is the year to see Romania, before it gets “discovered” and overrun like so many corners of Europe (think Croatia or Iceland). Romania still offers the fairytale Europe that so many people are looking for, but without the tourist hordes or high prices. You get charming country villages, elaborate Art Nouveau architecture, 13th-century UNESCO World Heritage sites, and talented artisans willing to take the time to show you their centuries-old tools and techniques and invite you to create a keepsake alongside them.
Insider Tip: Go in May or June for the optimal combo of best weather and fewest tourists. And while there are no true five-star hotels yet, Transylvania has plenty of charming guesthouses serving exceptional home-cooked meals made with produce from their gardens.
- Wendy Perrin, travel expert and founder, WendyPerrin.com
Niseko Village, Japan
Why Go Now? Once a secret escape, travelers are now flocking to Niseko Village, located on Japan’s northern Hokkaido Island. With an average snowfall of 50 feet per year and more than 2,000 acres of skiable terrain, Niseko is a winter mecca for sports enthusiasts. As mid-December through March is the snowiest season, book a stay at Kasara Niseko Village Townhouse for close proximity to world-class ski runs and lifts. Guests of Kasara also receive complimentary access to enjoy the onsen (hot spring) at neighboring Green Leaf and Hilton.
Insider tip: Considered the best soba in Japan, head to Rakuichi Soba for some of the most sought-after noodles. If you’re looking for izayaka, travelers can discover Niseko’s newest restaurant, Kumo, a ski-in and ski-out experience.
- Joan Roca, founder and CEO, Essentialist
Why Go Now: Egypt is officially back. It's been nearly a decade since the peaceful revolution and with so much pent-up demand, travelers are returning in droves. Not to worry though, we get our clients away from the tourist groups for authentic, memorable experiences, like home-hosted meals or having the Sphinx or Egyptian Museum opened-up just for them for a more private moment. The new St. Regis Cairo is scheduled to open later this year and it's looking fabulous. Oberoi recently renovated their amazing boats, and Mena House is updating their historic palace section.
Insider Tip: Last-minute bookings and bargain basement prices are a thing of the past. For October through April travel, you should start planning six months in advance for the best hotels and guides. Don't buy your flights until speaking with a travel professional, because it may make sense to bundle international and domestic tickets.
- Eric Monkaba, founder, TripScaper
Why Go Now: Once a one-and-a-half-day bucket list stopover, Cambodia has become a destination in its own right — beyond Angkor Wat. There has never been a better time to explore this truly remarkable country. The introduction of the greatly anticipated Shinta Mani Wild promises to be a true game-changer. Located in the remote Cambodian countryside, it gives guests a chance to explore remote (non-Westernized) local villages through a host of recreational activities with incredible luxury tents to come home to at the end of a day. And if that is not enough, the Aqua Mekong delivers the only way to explore remote villages with plush digs and incredible food in a boutique setting (just 20 rooms) aboard a river cruise on the Mekong. What’s best is that it almost forces you to discover the riveting history in Phnom Penh with the Raffles Hotel Le Royal and new Rosewood Phnom Penh standing as comfortable western homes. When you are done exploring, head to Song Saa, a gorgeous eco-resort with overwater bungalows that attracts adventurers looking for a sexy reprieve from exploring.
Insider tip: While Angkor Wat is the main attraction in Siem Rep, don’t miss the secondary temples, which many find more fascinating than the tourist-laden main attraction.
- Jack Ezon, founder, Embark Lifestyle
Why Go Now: For the longest time, visitors to Colombia have stuck to Bogota, Cartagena, Medellin, and the coffee areas — setting out any further was considered too dangerous. Now there are entire new areas open to tourism. Like San Agustín, the largest necropolis in the world, which sits upon impressive tombs that predate most major empires. I'd venture to call it the Egypt of Colombia. It's located in my favorite part of the country, Huila, where you can tour coffee cooperatives and see how coffee is made away from the crowds. Villavicencio, a quick flight or drive from Bogota, is short on tourist infrastructure (there's only one hotel in town) but is my favorite place to track jaguar and ocelot. You go out with local biologists, set up motion-sensing cameras, and check the data the next day to catch what happened the night before. The footage of these animals coming right up to the camera is just amazing.
Insider Tip: In San Agustin, visit the indoor food-trading market in the city center in the morning before heading out to the coffee communities. You'll see what Basurto Market in Cartagena would have looked like before television made it famous. Consider spending extra time to visit Popayan, where the active Purace Volcano is located. It's a five-hour drive, but well worth the trip, especially when you have lunch in a hacienda that at one point was an original residence of Simón Bolívar.
- Ashish Sanghrajka, president, Big Five Tours & Expeditions
Why Go Now? Slovenia is a hidden gem within Europe: all the history and culture of the old world, without the throngs of tourists. The best reason to go, though, is that as a consciously green destination, Slovenia has emerged as a leader in sustainable tourism by preserving its natural resources and raising up its residents to improve their overall quality of life. Slovenia was the first country to be declared a green destination based on the Green Destinations Criteria, with Ljubljana named as the European Green Capital of 2016.
Insider tip: Through Virtuoso, travelers can experience a tailor-made itinerary that covers everything from the country’s most photographed spot, Lake Bled, to hard-to-snag reservations at Hisa Franko, the rural restaurant owned by Chef’s Table star (and 2017’s World’s Best Female Chef) Ana Roš.
- Matthew Upchurch, chairman and CEO, Virtuoso
Why Go Now: Mexico City already secured its spot on the international culture-and-style map, but with the Frida Kahlo show opening at the Brooklyn Museum in February (it had people beating down the doors of London's V&A this past fall) and a Mexican Modernism show debuting at Nashville’s Frist Museum in August, it can only get hotter. There’s no shortage of things to see, including architecture from Casa Barragán to David Chipperfield’s Museo Jumex and Fernando’s Romero’s Museo Soumaya — both art pilgrimage sites — to world-class restaurants, from Gabriela Cámara's Contramar for fish to Enrique Olvera’s Pujol, said to be among the best places to eat in the world. And there’s no shortage of great hotels, among them the recently renovated Four Seasons and the trendsetter favorite, the Condesa DF, and lots of stylish boutique hotels as well.
Insider tip: Many people say that two or three days should be enough to get a good sense of the city, but this could well mean making some tough choices and skipping the famous Museo Nacional de Antropologia and the Templo Mayor archaeological site, if your taste runs to the modern and contemporary.
- Nancy Novogrod, founder, Culturati Travel Design
Silk Road, Uzbekistan
Why Go Now: As the most culturally important trade route in history, there has never been a bad time to journey along the Silk Road, which runs from China to the West and whose formation and legacy has played a major role in shaping the world we live in today. But now more than ever, a trip along this essential trail is possible for everyday modern tourists, as the countries that span its length open up, improve their infrastructure, and remove barriers to travel. Uzbekistan, the latest Silk Road country to offer visas on arrival, is poised to see a big boom in visitors thanks to its stunning Islamic architecture, the likes of which would otherwise be found in less stable Middle Eastern countries, and an increase in Uzbekistan Airways flights to Tashkent from New York.
Insider Tip: Most visitors to Uzbekistan have their sights set on the splendors of Samarkand, but my favorite town in the country, if not the whole region, is Bukhara. It's a walkable, sleepy place brimming with magnificent sites, like the 150-foot high Kolan minaret, allegedly used as a means of execution in the 19th century by then-ruler Nazarullah Khan; the Arc, a 5th-century impregnable citadel; and Moschea Bolo-khauz, the mosque of 40 pillars. There's also great shopping, often in old caravanserais, or roadside inns, where carpets, shawls, spices, and trinkets of all types can be found.
- The Team at Wild Frontiers
Atacama Desert, Chile
Why go now? Atacama still remains undiscovered by many and you don’t get that feeling that is is overpopulated with tourists. You can truly connect with this pristine place and inspiring nature. It is one of the most majestic places on earth to watch for stargazing, and leaves everyone breathless.
Insider tip: Visit from December to February for the warmer months, although March-April is still very pleasant. The mistake people make not staying long enough. We recommend at least four nights to adjust and acclimate to the altitude, which will enable you to go up to the geysers, located at 14,500 feet. Our favorite property is Awasi, where guests are assigned a private guide and 4x4 vehicle. Being part of Relais & Chateaux, the cuisine is exquisite and focuses on local Andean ingredients.
- The Team at ITG
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