We look forward to this day the way kids look forward to Christmas. While the man in red squeezing down a chimney and filling an old sock with gifts puts a smile on many dials, it’s the Lonely Planet Best in Travel list that always gets us beaming. And today marks the release of their 2018 list.
So without further ado, break open the piggy bank, update your passport, and start planning your next adventure. Here are seven of our favourite Best in Travel destinations for 2018, and the trips that’ll take you there:
The sliver of land sandwiched between Argentina, Bolivia and the Pacific Ocean, Chile is a 4,300 kilometre stretch of snow-tipped mountains, parched deserts, glacial plains and the occasional volcano. Most travellers head to Chile for the incredible nature – the hot springs, lagoons, geyser fields, herds of roaming llamas, and otherworldly Atacama Desert – but the cities are worth exploring as well. Capital Santiago, back-dropped by the Andes Mountains, is a wonderful city to wander, eat, drink and admire, while port town Valparaiso, famous for its brightly coloured houses, is a perfect spot to sip ancho reyes with the locals.
Without giving too much thought to its northern neighbour, South Korea is finally getting some time in the sun as a truly dynamic destination full of spirit, surprises, and some of the spiciest food on the planet. In the past 12 months, interest in South Korea on the Intrepid website has increased by whopping 244% – huge! Capital Seoul may seem worlds away from Korea’s moniker – the Land of the Morning Calm (so named because of its beguiling natural beauty) – but is an exciting, non-stop city of glittering lights and towering skyscrapers, where nothing really ever seems to quieten. But out of the city, discover a land filled with temples, pagodas and palaces, lush green landscapes, and cuisine that goes beyond the ubiquitous kim chi.
Portugal has been topping the hot lists for a while now, and for good reason. The tiled facades, convivial festivity, and speeding tuk tuks of Lisbon (watching the sun set from Miradouro de Santa Catarina is hard to top), the medieval majesty of Porto, the architecture, the beaches, the food (oh, the food)… This historic heavyweight begs to be explored; if you haven’t already been there, make haste – even if just for the world famous tarts. It’s hard to stop at just one.
The tiny speck on the Horn of Africa, kissing the mouth of the Red Sea, Djibouti is a little like the moon (a possible destination on next year’s travel list?). With volcanic salt lakes, sunken plains, rock-strewn canyons, limestone pillars emerging from baths of steaming sulphur, there’s nothing like it on earth. When you factor in a night belle etoile (otherwise known as ‘camping under the stars’) in a traditional Afar hut overlooking a surreal desert landscape (followed by an epic sunrise the following morning), volcano hikes, mangrove treks and whale shark encounters (true!), you’ve got an adventure that’ll make your friends green with envy.
With magnificent landscapes, a culture rich in tribal tradition, and a local sense of humour that’ll have you doubled over with laughter (or scratching your head in confusion), and magnificent landscapes, New Zealand has stepped up to the plate of hot destinations lists. Adrenalin chasers will find their mecca in adventure hub Queenstown, hikers will swoon over spectacular trails through remote wilderness areas, and wildlife lovers will experience those ‘pinch me’ moments at every turn in the Land of the Long White Cloud.
What do you get when you mix natural beauty, medieval history and strong Soviet influences? Georgia, one of Eastern Europe’s most intriguing destinations. Long shielded behind ‘the curtain’, the country has emerged as a top travel spot for intrepid travellers: think hilltop monasteries, meandering cobbled streets, colourful houses and undulating fields of grape vines (Georgia has a wine region even the French would envy). Hike through wooded forests and past glaciers, stroll the ramparts of the Narikala Fortress, discover the fascinating history of the region, and sip the famous local drop for maximum Georgian immersion. We’ll drink to that.
It’s a cliché to call it a country of contrasts, but we’re hard-pressed to find another way to describe South Africa. Where else can you watch prides of lions languishing in the sun, and waddles of penguins rushing along the beach? Where else can you feel the heat of burnt red desert sands underfoot, then feel the wind in your hair as you drive cinematic switchbacks of coastal roads? In a relatively small country, it’s easy to fit in a whole lot of exploring in a short amount of time – wildlife safaris, beachside relaxation, winery tours (Stellenbosch is the oldest wine industry outside Europe) and active adventures. Enjoy your safari with a side of sauvignon.
Ready for new horizons? Find your perfect 2018 adventure now!