15 Places You Need to Go in 2019, Recommended by Travel Experts
Get ready to fill your travel bucket lists to brimming for the upcoming year with our swoon-worthy selection of destinations to visit in 2019, hand-picked by the top experts in the travel world. Buckle up for a year filled with terrific travel adventures.
As Tokyo gears up for the 2020 Summer Olympics, all eyes are on this fascinating country full of amazing food and well-preserved arts and culture, yet as modern as modern gets, says Larry Olmsted, author of Forbes column "The Good Life." There is simply no other place on Earth that boasts this side-by-side duality of tradition and cutting-edge. Tourists are starting to look beyond just Tokyo and Kyoto, and skiing in Japan has emerged as the hottest winter sport destination on earth, while more and more visitors are following culinary routes to Hokkaido, Osaka, and the Noto Peninsula. "The thing about Japan is that while it surprisingly spread out and varied, the excellent high-speed rail infrastructure makes it easy to explore," adds Olmsted. Don't miss these 10 under-the-radar hidden gems you can only find in Japan.
There's a reason Portugal keeps making all the best-of lists, says Laura Begley Bloom, a senior contributor at Forbes and chief content officer at familytraveller.com. It's affordable, loaded with culture, and beautiful, too. Its capital, Lisbon, is one of the world's oldest cities—and one of the sunniest spots in Europe. For families, there's no better destination in 2019, especially if you're staying at the new Martinhal Chiado, which was built with little ones in mind. There's a baby concierge who will set you up with anything you need (crib, baby bath, safety gates), plus all the rooms are marketed as apartments, complete with kitchens and washer-dryers, which is always a welcome amenity when traveling with children. Most city hotels have a business center. Not here. Instead, you'll find a free kids' club for ages six months to nine years. And it's open late, so mom and dad can take a night (or two or three) to go out and experience Lisbon's red-hot food scene. It's easy to reach Lisbon, too, with direct service on TAP Air Portugal from an array of U.S. cities, which will be rolling out brand new Airbus A330neos, the first airline in the world to fly these advanced aircraft. Lisbon is also one of our favorite 11 most affordable cities in Europe.
Turkey is back! According to Darshika Jones, director of North America for Intrepid Travel, the country is currently the travel company's fastest growing destination, showing a 214 percent increase in global bookings over the last year. The renovated Ataturk Cultural Center is slated to open in 2019 and will house the new Istanbul Opera House, designed to serve as a multi-venue performing arts center with a 2,500-seat capacity. The newly opened Troy Museum commemorates the naming of Troy as a UNESCO site. Given the recent developments in the Turkish economy, the exchange rate is very favorable right now for travelers. Additionally, Turkish Airlines serves the most countries in the world and the new Istanbul Airport just opened, which is set to be the biggest airport in the world by completion. Where's best to visit in Turkey? According to Intrepid, the city of Kaş is a less crowded alternative to the Greek islands; it's a hub for sailing, diving, and exploring the Mediterranean vibrant sea life.
Rwanda, known as the land of a thousand rolling hills, is an East African country filled with incredible wildlife encounters, bucket-list–worthy experiences (mountain gorillas!), and amazing cultural insights, says travel writer Hillary Richard. It's also one of Africa's greatest success stories; it was rated as the safest country in Africa in a World Economic Forum report. Kigali, which was decimated after a horrific genocide two decades ago, is often called the safest and cleanest city in Africa, and modern restaurants and hotels, including the new Retreat at Heaven boutique hotel, are making the friendly urban center a draw for travelers in the know. And through the country's concentrated conservation efforts, Rwanda's main tourist attraction, the mountain gorilla, has seen its population increase from approximately from 680 to more than 1,000. Seeing the silverbacks in their home in the green mountains of Virunga National Park now has a luxury angle, with plush properties sprouting throughout the destination including the iconic Virunga Lodge, Wilderness Safari's Bisate Eco Lodge, and the newly opened One&Only Nyungwe House. One hotly anticipated opening in 2019, luxury safari company Singita will open the penultimate gorilla trekking camp, Singita Kwitonda Lodge, and private Kataza House on the lush border of Volcanoes National Park. Rwanda is also one of these 11 unforgettable bucket list trip that won't break the bank.
New York City
According to Resonance Consultancy's annual "Best Cities" report, the Big Apple tops the list of American cities to visit in 2019 for a number of reasons. One draw to make your visit in 2019: the "pride" New York will be showing in June when it becomes the first city in the United States to host the LGBTQ celebration WorldPride. The international festival, which includes a massive Pride March on June 30, was planned to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising, which is credited with giving birth to the modern gay movement in the United States. Also on the roster for NYC in 2019 is the opening of Hudson Yards, a monumental new city within a city on the West Side, an expansion of the landmark Museum of Modern Art, and a new Statue of Liberty Museum on Liberty Island.
Qui Nhơn, Vietnam
These days, many hotels claim that they are authentic, but the Asia-based hotel group Anantara pretty much invented the concept, explains Bloom. Each property provides a window into the local destination, so it's no surprise that one of the newest hotels in the collection is in Qui Nhơn, an up-and-coming coastal city in Vietnam that was once the capital of the ancient Cham dynasty. Qui Nhơn is known for its buzzing beach promenade, seafood-centric cuisine, gorgeous temples, and still unspoiled vibe. The just-opened, 26-villa Anantara Qui Nhơn Villas has a modern design that reflects the local aesthetic. It's in the perfect setting—a private cove with mountains on three sides—for the ultimate in tranquility. But you can also take martial arts classes, learn to cook Vietnamese food, or borrow one of the free hotel bikes to explore the quiet coastline. Here are more of the most underrated travel destinations in the world.
Ranthambore National Park, India
Wildlife viewing is hot, and to see the biggest of the big cats and arguably the most gorgeous creatures on earth, the Bengal tigers, you have to look beyond traditional African safaris in 2019 and go to India, advises Olmsted. One of the best places to see these big cats in their natural habitat is Ranthambore National Park, a former maharajah's private estate that looks like something out of Raiders of the Lost Ark, filled with tigers, as well as leopards, monkeys, crocodiles, and lots more wildlife. The park is close to the jeweled city of Jaipur and easily combined with Indian highlights like palaces and the Taj Mahal. The best tour operator for navigating the confusing Indian national park and permit bureaucracy and all things in the country is Micato Safaris, an outfitter based in New York that offers tours in India and African countries.
Royal Caribbean's newly revamped Perfect Day at CocoCay private island destination is sure to impress with its all-encompassing thrill-filled island set to open in 2019, says cruise expert Zach Laks. Expect to be wowed as your day-long adventure goes from the thrills of North America's tallest waterslide, to the best views of The Bahamas via a helium balloon 450 feet in the air, all before relaxing in a hammock in the first and only overwater cabanas in the Bahamas. The only way to reach this water-filled paradise, which also boasts the largest freshwater pool in the Bahamas, is on a Royal Caribbean cruise, including aboard the newly launched Symphony of the Seas, the largest passenger ship at sea, which is also filled with the ultimate in entertainment, including a ten-story slide, the Ultimate Abyss. These are the best cruises for every type of traveler.
La Serena, Chile
For anyone who was lucky enough to catch the 2017 total eclipse in the United States or who has been dreaming of seeing one if they missed it will have another chance to experience the magic in 2019 in South America, says Jones. La Serena, located 300 miles north of Santiago, is on the path of totality for the total solar eclipse that will take place on July 2, 2019. Not only is La Serena one of Chile's top beach destinations, but it is also Chile's second oldest city. Revel in the beauty that the city has to offer, suggests Jones, while witnessing one of the most amazing natural occurrences in the world.
Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
In terms of hot new travel destinations, it really doesn't get much better than Abu Dhabi, says travel journalist Michelle Gross. Sure, it's a place that exudes luxury and opulence at every turn, but beyond that, there's been a huge effort to showcase the city as a cornerstone for art and culture in the Middle East. At the heart of this movement is the recently opened Louvre Abu Dhabi, a project that reportedly cost more than $1 billion, which must not be missed. And in 2019, the Louvre is also set to display one of the most expensive paintings in the world: the Salvator Mundi, a Leonardo da Vinci masterpiece that was last sold for $450 million.
Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Jackson Hole just keeps getting better, says Bloom. This season will see the opening of a new 11,800-square-foot lodge that's just a two-minute ride up the Sweetwater Gondola and caters to beginners and families. Solitude Station will have a ski school for ages seven and up, plus a dedicated kids' dining room to keep youngsters entertained during mealtime. Want to roll out of your room and right onto the mountain? The Four Seasons Jackson Hole is your place. The hotel recently welcomed a furry new team member, Tillie, a Bernese mountain dog who is named after the wife of one of the earliest climbers to summit Grand Teton in 1898. Tillie will be doing afternoon cuddle sessions and has her own book coming out soon. And of course, some things never change. You can't beat Jackson Hole's location, right next to the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone National Park.
Antarctica is a destination unlike any other, proclaims Gross. Sure it's cold and starkly beautiful, and yes, there are thousands of adorable penguins waddling about. But what might really capture the imagination of travelers in 2019 is the fact that it's completely autonomous from any governing body, something that can be as refreshing as the cold Antarctic air. While there are a number of ways to visit the southernmost continent, Gross recommends Quark Expeditions, a leader in polar adventures; it's eco-friendly and boasts a highly qualified team of expedition leaders who are extremely knowledgeable about the destination. Check out 11 of the best off-season travel destinations.
Easter Island, Chile
Simply the most uniquely interesting place on earth, Olmsted says of Easter Island. "It's a vanished civilization and we still don't know what happened, but they left behind lots of intriguing evidence, especially the famous towering stone moai statues," Olmsted adds. It is also one of the the most isolated inhabited places on earth, yet it's surprisingly easy to reach. For 2019, try to time your visit with the Tapati Rapa Nui Festival in February, a combination of daring local tribal events by day (including sliding down a volcano), and Polynesian song and dance by night. Olmsted recommends Explora Rapa Nui, a fantastic all-inclusive eco-hotel that has expert guides and includes excursions by foot, horse, or boat, along with great local food and Chilean wines.
For that certain je ne sais quoi without the transatlantic flight, Montréal exudes its own old-world charm, enthuses Heather Mikesell, executive editor of American Spa magazine. As the second largest French-speaking city in the world outside of Paris, it captivates visitors with its cobblestone streets, multicultural cuisine, thriving street art, and welcoming neighborhoods. One highlight not to miss in 2019: the Montréal Cirque Festival, which takes place in July. And for spa enthusiasts, the city's many Nordic spas are the perfect way to warm up in the winter months as is the city's Bota Bota, spa-sur-l'eau, a floating spa on the St. Lawrence River. It's the ultimate French fix.
Batuu, Galaxy's Edge
"For 2019, I can't wait to pack my lightsaber and my wampa repellent, and head to Black Spire Outpost on the distant planet of Batuu," says Arthur Levine, a theme parks and travel journalist. "In order to get there, I'll have my choice of two ports of embarkation: Disneyland in California or Walt Disney World in Florida." Both theme park resorts will open the highly anticipated Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge lands (in the summer at Disneyland and in the late fall at Disney World) and will transport visitors to the mythical, far, far away galaxy. Disney Imagineers will unveil two attractions that are likely to be groundbreaking. Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run will empower galactic guests to direct a mission aboard Han Solo's famous bucket of bolts. For Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, earthlings will find themselves embroiled in a high-stakes battle as the First Order and the Resistance duke it out. After all of the turmoil, visitors will be able to retreat to Oga's Cantina and chill out with some blue milk. These are the Disney VIP vacations everyone should take in their lifetime.
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