Where will you go this year? If your idea of a fun holiday is a week on a sunlounger, this article isn’t for you. But If you’ve got the spirit of adventure running through your veins, keep reading. These are our top picks for travel in 2018. Explore rainforests, glaciers, lost cities and ancient villages. It’s a beautiful world...
1) Machu Picchu, Peru
Machu Picchu is a fairytale of a city, and a popular one. A set of atmospheric ruins that sits high in the clouds above the Peruvian jungle, the city’s visitor numbers stretch to a million a year. Despite the crowds, Machu Picchu retains its mysterious charm. Built by the Incas in the 15th Century, it is a tiny slice of civilisation surrounded on all sides by wilderness. Arrive at sunrise for an unforgettable experience before the crowds ascend.
2) The Red Sea
The Red Sea is home to some of the world’s best diving, with everything from sheltered reefs that are perfect for beginners, to challenging wreck dives. Many travel to the Red Sea just for the diving and if that’s your bag, take a look at one of the vast number of liveaboard dive trips available. If you’re not a diver, the Red Sea is a great place to learn, or you can simply enjoy the beauty of the deep with a snorkel. While some tourists have been put off travelling to the Red Sea because of terrorism in the region, Egypt’s Red Sea resorts (such as Sharm El Sheikh and Hurghada) are considered safe.
3) Cinque Terre
This picturesque stretch of Italian coastline has been a favourite of travellers for many years. While they’re certainly not short of crowds in high season, the villages of the Cinque Terre still have a magical feel of somewhere wild and authentic. The five fishing villages, their brightly-painted houses perched high on steep cliffs, were once almost inaccessible to the outside world, reached only by water or a perilous trek across the mountains. Today, most come by train to explore the medieval cobbled streets and hike the trails beyond. If you want to get a feel for the Italian Riviera of old, Cinque Terre is the place to do it.
Nepal’s deadly 2015 earthquake was a disaster for this beautiful country, but that shouldn’t put anyone off travelling there today. There’s still rebuilding to be done, but this mountain paradise is just as jaw-dropping as it ever was, with colourful Buddhist prayer flags strung out over its deep, snowy valleys. Take a teahouse trek, staying in a different traditional Nepali mountain refuge every night, enjoying the country’s famous hospitality and hearing the stories of its resilient people.
Venice is a magical city of marble palaces and waterways. Built on a series of islands linked by bridges, it is a place to wander and explore on foot (and perhaps in a gondola). It certainly has its tourist traps, not least the famous St Mark’s Square and the cathedral of the same name, but Venice is not a museum. Stay a night and wander its narrow streets after dark, mingle with locals over a glass of prosecco in a back-street square and see the place as it is when the day-tripper crowds leave. But be quick, because Venice is slowly sinking back into the lagoon on which it was built at a rate of 2 mm a year.
6) The Maldives
Lying in the Indian Ocean, the Maldives are a collection of over a thousand coral islands, many of which are self-contained resorts. You can stay in a villa built right out over the clear warm water, and watch tropical fish and turtles swim by every time you step out of your door. The beaches are long, soft and white, and there is nothing to do except relax and enjoy the sunshine and a spot of snorkelling or diving. It’s one of the most relaxing places on earth. Sadly, rising sea-levels mean that the Maldives will eventually disappear under the waves, but the country is expected to be inhabited for another 80 years.
Madagascar’s status as one of the world’s largest islands means it has a unique ecosystem, full of animals and plant life that aren’t found anywhere else. Most famously, it’s the only place on earth you’ll find lemurs, and they (all 33 species) run wild across the island. There are many tour companies operating specialist wildlife holidays in Madagascar, which include jungle treks, canoe trips through mangrove swamps and visits to the eerie baobab forests. When you’re done with trekking, head to one of the island’s many incredible white-sand beaches for some R&R.
Often forgotten by travellers to South-east Asia, Laos is a world away from its brasher neighbours. This sleepy, mountainous country is achingly beautiful and seriously laid-back. Much of it is very rural, with people living as they have done for thousands of years, in little stilt houses among the rice paddies. Even the capital, Vientiane, feels like a backwater. The real draw, though, is Luang Prabang. This town of teak houses, temples and palaces, surrounded by mountains on the banks of the Mekong River is a UNESCO world heritage site an absolute must-see. Despite being firmly on the tourist trail, it still feels sleepy and real and is a wonderful place to soak up Laos’ rich culture and history.
If you’re in the market for an African Safari, Tanzania is where it’s at. Home to the famous Serengeti National Park and Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania is a showcase of the very best Africa has to offer. Wide open spaces and an incredibly rich wildlife mean that Tanzania is the world’s favourite safari destination. But if all those game drives get too much, head to the mystical island of Zanzibar for a few days on the beach.
Alaska is sheer paradise for anyone who loves wildlife and even wilder views. Everything in Alaska is on an awesome scale, from the glaciers to the bears. It’s a place you can utterly lose yourself in. You can hike across wilderness and climb mountain trails that few human feet have ever stepped on. In winter, the northern lights shine over, and Alaska one of the best places in the world to see them.