Where to go in 2018
We believe an important part of travel is being in the right place at the right time, so we've racked our brains for the destinations that have something new and exciting to offer in 2018. This is where we think should be top of your bucket list right now...
Known as the Land of the Rising Sun, Japan is certainly rising to ever more prominence in the eyes of avid travellers, looking to branch out from the familiarity of Southeast Asia and explore this enigmatic island nation in the Pacific Ocean. As hosts of the Rugby World Cup in 2019 and the Olympic Games in 2020, Japan is set for a huge influx of tourists over the next few years. If you’ve got this mysterious land on your bucket list we urge you to go this year, before the crowds descend, the prices increase, and availability is stretched. A land where Shinto shrines, Buddhist temples and beautifully-clad geisha all happily co-exist alongside bullet trains, hi-tech gadgetry and sophisticated shopping malls, Japan seamlessly blends past and present.
While we would recommend a trip to South Africa at any time, 2018 is set to be particularly special as it marks the centenary of Nelson Mandela’s birth. There will be lots of celebrations, exhibitions and sporting events going on throughout the year to honour his memory, so it’s a great time to discover the country he fought so hard to protect. South Africa is so much more than just a safari and beach destination, so while you can see the Big Five, you can also explore the winelands, enjoy cosmopolitan Cape Town, or get to grips with the history of the Battlefields. What’s more, for British tourists, South Africa offers great value for money and minimal time difference or jet lag.
Chile is a land of contrasts – from the world’s driest desert in the north, to the lush vineyards of the Central Valley, and the glaciers, fjords and glistening lakes of the south. Extending like a frayed ribbon down the west coast of South America, the world’s longest and narrowest country has been making waves as one of the top travel destinations for 2018, so you’ll need to book early to avoid disappointment. With two solar eclipses due in 2019 and 2020, the availability of quality accommodation is already tight, so this year is a great time to explore Chile, ahead of the rush. What’s more, an impressive conservation initiative has led to Chile adding 11 million acres of land to its network of national parks, making some of the country’s most remote regions more accessible than ever before.
India’s Western Himalayas
The magical Himalayan kingdom in the north of India operates at a completely different pace of life from much of the rest of the country. From the famous Golden Temple of Amritsar to the spectacular mountain scenery in Shimla, the summer capital of British India, the foothills of the Himalayas are a wonderful place to unwind. Although prices have risen in India recently owing to tax increases, we’re still finding lots of affordable options in the Western Himalayan region, making it one of our hot destinations for 2018. This mystical area is still fairly free of mass tourism, but we recommend going sooner rather than later because its popularity is set to soar. Be sure to take a journey on board the Toy Train, which climbs some of the steepest stretches of railway in the world through spectacular scenery.
With the end of 2017 marking a major turning point in Zimbabwe’s political situation, we feel very positive about what lies ahead in 2018 and are excited for the revival of the country’s tourism industry. Offering great value for money and some of the best guides in Africa, Zimbabwe is an exceptional safari destination, and with lots of exciting new camps due to open this year, there’s no better time to plan a trip. Having said that, the lack of travellers in recent years means that Zimbabwe remains unspoilt, and if you choose to travel here this year, you’ll still beat the crowds and experience a real sense of intimacy and authenticity. Aside from going in search of game in Hwange National Park and Mana Pools, be sure to soak up the thundering flow of Victoria Falls and explore the fascinating caves and rock art in the Matobo Hills.
There is a hypnotic other-worldliness about Antarctica, with its sculptural icebergs, creaking glaciers, dramatic snowscapes and amazing wildlife. Recently showcased in Attenborough’s awe-inspiring documentary series Blue Planet II, we’re tipping the coldest place on the planet to be one of 2018’s hottest destinations for travellers, as more people want to experience the eerie beauty of Antarctica for themselves. Embarking on an expedition cruise ship to the White Continent is a once in a lifetime journey; this is one of the few places you really can escape the rest of the world. In this icy wilderness, you’ll mingle with penguins, identify numerous bird species and spot humpback, minke and killer whales. For the really intrepid explorers, there’s sea kayaking, snow-shoeing and hiking to enjoy, or the ultimate Antarctic thrill of camping overnight on the ice.
Malaysia is a fascinating country which blends Malay, Chinese and Indian cultural influences, along with a wonderful fusion of old and new. Kuala Lumpur is a great example of this, a city dominated by the iconic Petronas Towers, where contemporary bars, restaurants and shopping centres rub shoulders with outdoor bazaars and seasoned markets. Away from the capital, the idyllic beaches of Langkawi and rolling hills of the Cameron Highlands are well worth a visit, while the tropical rainforests of Borneo are for us the jewel in Malaysia’s crown. With the chance to see the famous orangutans, proboscis monkeys and, if you’re lucky, pygmy elephants, this far-flung paradise is becoming an increasingly popular destination for families. The Malaysian government is planning to invest a lot of money in tourism between now and 2020, and we’re expecting to see this destination boom.
Uganda is one of the few places in the world where you can track mountain gorillas, chimpanzees and golden monkeys, while at the same time it offers the more traditional safari experiences that many travel to Africa for. If gorilla trekking is on your bucket list, we strongly recommend taking a trip to Uganda in 2018. The price of gorilla permits has shot up in Rwanda, making Uganda a favourable choice for anyone keen to tick off this iconic wildlife experience. The lush green forests of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park are home to half the world’s remaining mountain gorilla population. While Uganda has currently not expressed any intention to raise their permit prices in line with neighbouring Rwanda, there is a chance this could become necessary in the future to fund conservation, so there really is no time like the present to go in search of these majestic creatures.
Guatemala has so much to offer – from history, culture and colonial charm, to the steamy jungle, beautiful birdlife and impressive ruins which were once home to the Maya people. Take in the cobbled streets and brightly coloured markets of Antigua, the beautiful Lake Atitlan, circled by volcanoes and quaint bustling villages, and the sacred temples and Mayan ruins of Tikal National Park. In recent years, Guatemala (and neighbouring Belize, which it is often combined with) have been becoming increasingly popular with travellers. We’ve recently sent two of our specialists Sarah and Sinead out to explore these Central American gems, so we’re confident we have the expert knowledge and inside info to create some truly special holidays to Guatemala and Belize this year, while they’re still off the beaten track.