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Where to go in 2018

Put these places on your travel wish list

From the world's happiest country to vast swathes of unspoiled natural beauty, this is the ultimate travel bucket list for 2018.

View over Mt. Hood, Oregon at sunrise © Dreamstime.com/Diro

South Africa

It looks set to be a big one for South Africa: 2018 marks the centenary of Nelson Mandela’s birth so expect the country to celebrate with boundless energy and passion. 

Among much else, arts exhibitions, sporting events, and educational programs will honor the country’s renowned leader. At their heart, each of these celebrations will focus on the values this remarkable man lived by—integrity, respect, transparency, and transformation. 

Add to this mix the country’s vibrant cities and lush vineyards, its rugged coastline and incredible wildlife, and you have one of 2018’s most enticing destinations.

Aerial view over Cape Town and the 12 Apostles © Dreamstime.com/Benjaminboeckle

Chile

Chile is a land that begs to be explored. Separated from Argentina and Bolivia by the towering Andes, the world’s narrowest country encompasses an incredible variety of landscapes. Here, you can encounter the barren plateau of the Atacama Desert (the driest on earth), the twisted peaks and icy glaciers of Torres del Paine National Park, and the vast aquamarine lakes, ancient forests, and conical volcanoes of the Lake District.

Such immense expanses of untouched nature are the perfect place to get off the beaten track. And, with the country well on its way to gaining several new national parks, soon it’ll be even easier to adventure into the wilderness. These new additions—the result of unprecedented land donations from both Tompkins Conservation and the Chilean government—will protect over 10 million acres of land, from glacier-robed mountains and arid grasslands to lush forests and wild coastline.

With so much more of the country to explore, there’s never been a better time to visit Chile.

The windswept landscape of Torres del Paine National Park in Chile © Dreamstime.com/Dmitry Pichugin

Malta

Malta has it all. Surrounded by the sparkling blue waters of the Mediterranean, this rocky archipelago boasts hidden coves, golden beaches, and abundant marine life, plus 300 days of sunshine a year.

It’s not just sun and sea that makes these islands worth visiting. Malta is also home to 7,000 years of history and culture, and its islands are peppered with a variety of incredible sights, from prehistoric temples to traditional British post boxes. 

Visit in 2018 to see Malta’s spectacular fortress-capital, Valletta, celebrate its role as European Capital of Culture. Starting with its music-and-dance-filled opening ceremony in January, Valletta’s medieval streets will be filled with countless lively festas throughout the year, from colorful carnivals to spectacular light shows.

Aerial view of Valletta, Malta © Brighter PR and Beautiful Destinations

Norway

With its majestic fjords and snowcapped mountains, Norway is home to some of the world’s most dramatic scenery. Such an abundance of natural beauty may help explain why it was crowned the World’s Happiest Country in 2017. Or perhaps it’s their laid-back approach to life (it shares the concept of hygge—coziness and comfort—with its Danish neighbor) that keeps Norwegians smiling. Whatever the reason, Norway is the perfect place to soak up some happiness in 2018.

Why not make like a local and get back to nature? Kayak the blue waters of its awe-inspiring fjords, pull on your walking boots and hike among its mountains, or simply hunker down in a comfy log cabin. You can also spy the aurora borealis without the crowds (sorry, Iceland) from multiple locations across the country—arctic Svalbard and the unspoiled Lofoten Islands are two of the best.

The Northern Lights shimmer over Norway's Lofoten Islands © Dreamstime.com/Hellen8

Northern France

In 2018, Northern France will honor the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I with a packed calendar of events. 

One of the biggest will commemorate the Battle of Amiens, which, as part of the 100 Days Offensive, helped bring the war to a close. Alongside these events, you can also visit the historic battlefields of Dunkirk and the Somme, or tour the Circuit of Remembrance. This 40 mile (92 km) route is peppered with cemeteries, memorials, and museums, alongside well-preserved trenches, poignant reminders of the region’s bloody past.

Beyond the battlefields, the region is home to some fascinating cities (such as charming Lille), countless UNESCO World Heritage sights (including the magnificent Mont-St-Michel), and miles of rugged coastline.

The majestic Mont-St-Michel in Normandy, France © Dreamstime.com/Ejespo

Japan

An intriguing combination of ancient and ultra-modern, Japan is indisputably unique. With the country currently gearing up for the Rugby World Cup in 2019 and the Olympics in 2020, this year is the perfect time to visit before the crowds descend. 

The country’s innumerable festivals are the perfect way to immerse yourself in local Japanese culture. In Numata see long-nosed goblins parade through the streets; in Morioka dance to the beat of taiko drums; or admire lantern-bedecked Kasuga Taisha Shrine in Nara. There’s even a belly button-themed dance festival in Hokkaido.

Possibly Japan’s most popular celebration, the Sapporo Snow Festival, sees the creation of towering snow and ice sculptures—visit at night to see them beautifully illuminated in a kaleidoscope of colors.

Illuminated ice sculptures at Japan's Sapporo Snow Festival © REX/Shutterstock/EPA/ Kimimasa Mayama

Pacific Northwest

Linked by the towering peaks of the Cascade Mountains, the Pacific Northwest encompasses the US states of Oregon and Washington, plus Canada’s British Columbia. 

Nature dominates here, and even the region’s major cities—Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver—are surrounded by pristine wilderness. In fact, much of the Pacific Northwest is blanketed by national parks: mountainous Yoho, forested Olympic, and isolated Pacific Rim. These parks have managed to avoid the rush of visitors hitting others such as Zion and Yosemite, meaning you can enjoy all this natural beauty without any of the crowds.

Winding its way through Oregon and Washington to the Canadian border, the Pacific Crest Trail is a great way to get to grips with the region. As you pass some truly iconic sights, from the placid blue waters of Crater Lake in Oregon to Washington’s towering Mount Rainier, raise a glass to the National Trail System Act, which helped create the trail: it turns 50 in 2018.

Wizard Island reflected in the clear blue waters of Crater Lake, Oregon © Dreamstime.com/Peteleclerc

Singapore

With eco-friendly travel becoming an ever-growing necessity, travelers are thinking more and more about the green credentials of the world’s cities. If this is on your radar, consider traveling to Singapore in 2018.

Surprisingly, this tiny island-nation is actually one of the world’s greenest urban environments. Nicknamed “the city in a garden,” around 30 per cent of its land is covered by vegetation and, in 2018, it looks set to become greener than ever with the city implementing a zero-growth policy for cars. The innovation doesn’t stop there: within the next few years it also plans to have driverless buses (and possibly cars) cruising its roads. 

For a taste of the future, visit the city’s spectacular Gardens by the Bay. These incredible gardens are home to the futuristic Supertree Grove, towering metal sculptures covered in verdant foliage.

The futuristic Supertree Grove in Singapore's Gardens by the Bay © Dreamstime.com/Irynarasko

Great Britain

There’s so much more to Great Britain than its cultural capital and 2018 is the perfect time to explore it—thanks to a diminished pound, a trip here won't break the bank.

Start in Liverpool to get your culture fix: the city will celebrate 10 years since it was European Capital of Culture with a plethora of music and arts events. You can also take part in some of the country’s quirkier celebrations—why not try Europe’s largest Viking Festival in York or enter the bog-snorkeling world championships in Wales? Fans of the great outdoors should head to the Lake District, named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2017—visit for the region’s rolling mountains, picturesque lakes, and pretty villages.

In fact, we think there’s so much to shout about that we’ve given Great Britain its very own 2018 bucket list.

View over peaceful Derwent Water in the Lake District © Dreamstime.com/Philipbird123

India

Long considered a traveling rite of passage, no traveler’s bucket list is complete without a visit to chaotic and colorful India. 

A cacophony of sights, smells, and sounds that can bewilder even the most experienced travelers, India has everything you could ever want: bustling cities full of life, kaleidoscopic festivals, amazing wildlife, and world-famous landmarks.

Whether you plan to relax on Goa’s white-sand beaches, stand awestruck before the Taj Mahal or intricate Amber Fort, negotiate Delhi’s hectic streets, or sail along the peaceful waterways of Kerala, make 2018 the year you explore this fascinating country.

Woman sweeping in one of the Amber Fort's courtyards in Rajasthan, India © 123RF.com/Don Mammoser