In three weeks, you’ll be celebrating, for surviving 2018! And, before 2019 turns into the worst year of all time, you got to take precautions by preparing an emergency response plan – I mean, a holiday. But, when it comes to choosing a holiday destination, with the multitude of destinations to travel across the planet, narrowing down your options can be daunting. Taking into consideration: sights, culture, food and arts scenes, accommodation options and value for the money, plus reader and expert insight. And, because you work too hard, I am going to spare you the difficult work of choosing a destination for your future time-off. So, here’s my list of the most exciting places to travel in 2019:
1. Cappadocia, Turkey
Tucked away in the stark plains of Anatolia, the whimsical, fairy-tale-like landscape of Cappadocia has been captivating the hearts and imaginations of thrill-seekers for decades and now have become the #1 attraction and ultimate activity for all of Turkey. With colorful curiosities featured on Instagram and tourist brochures, the peculiar formations of dusty rocks, honeycombed hills and towering boulders has survived the test of time. The region’s major appeal has to be its startlingly dramatic vistas – light dancing over fields of fairy chimneys and still-inhabited rock caves and cave hotels, which is an otherworldly experience in the 21st-century cave living.
2. Bosnia and Herzegovina
Although many people still associate the country with a bloody civil war of the mid-1990s, Bosnia-Herzegovina today is one of the most visually stunning destinations in Europe. Despite of its visible scars from the war-torn era, today’s visitors are likely to remember for its unassuming human warmth, the turquoise rivers that carve through its beautiful mountains and sheep huddle on steep hillside, the numerous medieval castle ruins and the impressive waterfalls. The under-explored gem in the heart of the Balkans is also a fusion of East and West and are slowly emerging on the world travel map as a bona fide backpacking destination.
Located in the eastern end of the Himalayas, between the Tibet Autonomous Region of China and India, encompassed by deep ravines and sparse vegetation, the predominantly Buddhist nation is one of the least-touched by outsiders and tourists. Moreover, the country was only opened up to tourism in the 1970’s and its traditions continue embracing global developments. Shrouded in its mysterious charms, Bhutan pampers its visitors at the heart of adventurous and cultural travel.
4. Denali, Alaska, United States
Transformed into a ghostly, snow-covered peak during winter, the sheer bulk of its independent rise is what makes Denali (formerly known as Mt. McKinley) one of the world’s most picturesque mountains, shrouded in the clouds most of the time. Tour buses offer a glimpse of the 6-million-acre wilderness: stunning mountain views so immense they seem like a wall on the horizon; never-ending wildlife, from cinnamon-color Toklat grizzlies to large groups of caribou, to moose with antlers the size of coffee tables; glaciers with forests growing on them; autumn tundra the color of breakfast cereal. Denali National Park and Preserve is Alaska’s most visited attraction and visiting Alaska without experiencing Denali is unthinkable for most travelers.
5. Pyongyang, North Korea
Built almost entirely from scratch from the rubble to which the North Korean capital was reduced during the 1950s Korean War, Pyongyang has transformed over the years into a vibrant urban centre, much quieter then portrayed in popular culture. And although it is widely recognized as a totalitarian metropolis, a gentle stroll around the city will give a glimpse of their everyday life, unity and social harmony. Every direction glorifies aspiringly designed faceless community buildings, monuments and towers that compliment Kim Il-sung, Kim Jong-il and the Juche philosophy.
6. St Helena
About 2,000 kilometers off the southwest coast of Africa, lies one of the world’s most remote island paradise, and for avid travelers that’s part of its unusual charisma. It is also home to 500 endemic species and boasts a coastline frequented by marine life including dolphins and whale sharks. Two hundred years ago, Napoleon Bonaparte chose St Helena to spend his last days in exile, but modern-day travelers intentionally maroon themselves for its warm local hospitality, hiking and up-close wildlife encounters. With the opening of a new airport in March 2016, visitors are flocking than ever to explore the beauty of the volcanic island.
7. Namib Desert, Namibia
At 55 million years in age, the Namib Desert is the oldest desert on the planet, stretching 1,000 miles along the wind-lashed Atlantic coast of Southern Africa is one of the most inhospitable places on our planet. Barren of surface water, separated by numerous dry riverbeds, covering enormous swathes of Namibia and portions of South Africa and Angola. This arid hotspot boasts dunes scenery, dramatic mountains and lichen-encrusted gravel plains supporting a plethora of plants and animals, some of which are found nowhere else in the world.
8. Arashiyama, Kyoto, Japan
Renowned for its iconic bamboo groves and scenic beauty, Arashiyama is a district on the western outskirts of Kyoto, featuring national historic sites and the sprawling “Tenryuji” Zen temple. It is filled with old-world charms where thick green bamboo stalks continue endlessly in every direction with a strange quality to the light. Amidst the bamboo groves lays a small shrine called Nonomiya-Jinja, formerly known as a temporary sanctuary for an Imperial princess. Those seeking love offer their prayers at Nonomiya-Daikokuten and it is said that the god of matchmaking is enshrined there.
Landlocked between two of the world’s biggest powers, China and Russia, rugged Mongolia is an adventure aficionado’s paradise for nomadic culture and its vast, untouched landscapes. Its capital, Ulaanbaatar, contrasts modern life with the age-old traditional lifestyle. The country’s outback often seems as if they go on forever, uninhabited by humans, some with no town names, road signs, or boundaries of any kind – and what’s more surprising are resort hotels with green lawns popping out of nowhere, and their guests’ dining under canopies of stars. As its name evokes a sense of mystery, even in today’s hyper-connected world, this distant land remains little-known and relatively remote and out of the main tourism circuits.
10. Waitomo, New Zealand
If damp, pitch dark, gut-wrenching, soaking-wet tunnels are your idea of adventure, Waitomo can oblige. Bewitching visitors for over a century, the busy little village is a short drive from the State Highway 3 in the Marokopa River area – the name is derived from wai (water) and tomo (hole or shaft). Dotted across the region are a mix of native bush and verdant farmland above the ground, beneath the ground are the famous cave systems. There are over 300 mapped limestone caves, three of the major caves are Glowworm, Ruakuri and Aranui. One of North Island’s premier attractions are the thousands of glow-worms that light up the Glowworm Caves using chemical reactions.