2018 Hot Spots
From jungles to mountains, more and more of the world is open for travel. Here are our picks for where to send your clients before the crowds hit. Written by Nina Karnikowski.
The outdated images of a nation struggling with famine and war are fading in Ethiopia. With new airline links, new highways, and an airline terminal and light rail in Addis Ababa making it more accessible than ever, travellers are discovering how remarkable this African nation truly is. The home of coffee, the Queen of Sheba and the planet’s oldest known ancestor, Ethiopia is where you come for the ancient monolithic rock-cut churches of Lalibela, trekking in the Simien Mountains amongst walia ibex, gelada monkeys and Ethiopian wolves, the Ethio-jazz scene of Addis Ababa and more. Get off the tourist trail next year and visit the ancient, UNESCO-listed walled town of Harar, where you’ll find 368 alleys squeezed into just one square kilometer filled with colourful buildings and centuries-old mosques and, if you’re adventurous, the lowest, driest and hottest place on the African continent, the volcano-pocked Danakil Depression.
In a year when sustainability in travel is said to be on the rise like never before, all eyes will be on Costa Rica in 2018, one of the world’s most sustainable and eco-friendly tourism destinations. The peaceful green heart of Central America, Costa Rica is where it’s at for deserted beaches with world-class surfing and diving, lush rainforests scribbled with hiking trails, prolific wildlife including toucans, sloths, caimans and dolphins, active volcanoes, powerful waterfalls and more. Dance the night away to reggae in Puerto Viejo, canoe down the jungle-fringed canals of Tortuguero national park, surf at Mal Pas and Santa Teresa or, simply slow down and sink into the pura vida (pure life).
Travellers are only just starting to realise that Israel is so much more than a pilgrimage destination or a conflict zone, and that it’s a place worthy of putting on the bucket list in 2018. As you traverse this tiny country that’s 367 times smaller than Australia, you’ll have the opportunity to float in the hyper-saline waters of the Dead Sea, hike through valleys of golden stone in the Negev Desert, visit Mediterranean towns like Akko dating back to the time of the Crusaders, and party all night long in one of our planet’s most buzzing cities, Tel Aviv. There’s also the ancient city of Jerusalem, one of earth’s most holy places and a pilgrimage point for Jews, Christians and Muslims, the pristine nature reserves of the Galilee region up north, an incredible culinary scene that extends well beyond tahini and hummus, and so much more.
The 2015 earthquakes caused devastation in Nepal, but what is most striking from a traveller’s perspective is not how much was lost, but how much remains. As travellers head back to this land of snowy peaks, medieval towns and monasteries in 2018, they will be helping the local culture and people bounce back from what has been a tough few years. Whether you come for the Himalayan hiking through the rugged trails of Everest or the Annapurnas, a safari in the rhinoceros haven of Chitwan National Park, or a cultural pilgrimage through the medieval city squares of Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur, Nepal is a destination you can’t help but be transformed by. Staying a few nights in one of the country’s many monasteries, experiencing a nightly aarti spiritual ceremony, or spending the night in a local’s home will help you enter into the sacred heart of the country.
With travellers becoming ever-more adventurous, tourism numbers to New Zealand, the real-life version of Middle Earth, are set to keep on growing next year. Dotted with magnificent forests, mountains, lakes and beaches, bold travelers can do everything from kayaking, hiking and cycling here, to the more extreme white water rafting, bungee jumping, or zip lining. New Zealand also offers a thriving indigenous Maori culture and some of the world’s best cities, including Auckland and dreamy Waiheke Island, the global adventure capital of Queenstown, and windy Wellington, dubbed “the coolest little capital in the world” with its vibrant arts, music and sustainable food scene. First-time visitors could start with a road trip from Christchurch to Queenstown, stopping off for hiking, kayaking and hot spring adventures in picturesque towns like Aoraki Mount Cook, Lake Tekapo and Lake Wanaka.
The Gulf’s undiscovered gem has never been more ready for visitors, with a rich Bedouin culture, stunning landscapes from the mountains and majestic deserts to the pristine coasts, and some of the world’s most opulent hotels (think Anantara’s Al Jabal Al Akhdar) just waiting to welcome travellers. Whether you take a sunset stroll along the muttrah corniche, Muscat’s vibrant seafront area lined with 19th-century merchants’ houses and colourful minarets, meet Bedouin tribes in the Wahiba Sands desert where you can also hike, quad bike and camel ride, or take a dip with dolphins in the beaches along Salalah in the south, you’ll find what you’re looking for in Oman in 2018.