TouRest' Best Places to Go in 2018

TouRest' Best Places to Go 2018
Each year, TouRest confers with its writers and editors from around the world to ask which places should be named as the hot destinations of the year. It's no easy task—but we have our winners. Some places were chosen because 2018 will be a banner year for them, and some were picked because the timing has never been better for a cheap vacation. Some made the list because they're ripe for discovery by a wider audience. And some have been named because they're undergoing tough times and would benefit from more visitors. 

With great reluctance, we had to shave a few worthy destinations from our final list of 18 places for 2018, but we'll still be traveling there anyway: There's Montgomery, Alabama, where a new memorial to American lynching is consecrated; the forested Temples of Sambor Prei Kuk of Cambodia, an alternative to Angkor Wat that was just made a UNESCO World Heritage site; the Czech Republic and Slovakia, which are marking a quarter century since the dissolution of Czechoslovakia in the Velvet Divorce; and Florida's Everglades National Park, which has been declared endangered by the United Nations and is in dire need of an ecological turnaround. But we love travel and we always will, so there will always be countless places we think you should go. But we think that 2018 is the best time to discover—or rediscover—these 18 incredible places that will give you the trip of a lifetime. Here they are, in no particular order.
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Best Places to Go 2018: The Lake District, England Copyright John Hodgson
Outdoorsy British folks have been vacationing here, in northwest England, for years, but only now has international acclaim put the Lake District squarely on the international radar. In designating the region a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2017, the U.N. committee praised it for its "harmonious beauty," which blends mountains, lakes, and postcard-perfect vistas of centuries-old farms. The committee also took the unusual step of honoring the Lake District's uncanny knack for inspiring the entire world with that beauty, from the landscapes of Picturesque painters to the yearnings of Romantic writers like Wordsworth. It even shaped the visual pastiches of Frederick Law Olmsted, who duplicated its rocky, ramshackle personality in New York City's Central Park. For such a pristine place, the menu is full: You can tour Hill Top, Beatrix Potter's cottage, tramp up and down miles of well-trailed terrain between glassy lakes and mossy mountains, ply the waters in a steamship at Coniston, ride horses or classic railroad engines, or cycle the modern Lakes and Dales Loop, which meanders for 196 miles through two national parks, Lake District and Yorkshire Dales. There's even an official local snack: Kendal Mint Cake, the sugar-packed confection that Edmund Hillary famously brought from the English mountains to power him up Mount Everest. The entire region is stocked with places to stay—from farmhouses to B&Bs to "caravan" RV parks—both among the crags, in the historic villages of Keswick and Penrith, and on its west coast, where three rivers (the adorably named Esk, the Irt, and the Mite) meet, family-run kitchens serve seafood, and England's most dramatic topography simmers into the Irish Sea.
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Rappelling down a waterfall in Estelí, Nicaragua Scarleth Marie / Flickr

Often overshadowed by the Central American tourism juggernaut that is Costa Rica, during the first three quarters of 2017. It’s not hard to see what draws those travelers to Nicaragua, less than three hours by plane from Miami: beautiful surfing beaches lined with palm trees; secluded Caribbean islands like Calala and Yemaya, which have luxury resorts that are new or refurbished, respectively; and a lush interior ideal for adventures such as ziplining through jungles, rappelling down waterfalls (pictured above), or even surfing down the side of an active volcano. Despite the tourism boom, crowds remain rare and prices low. At least for now.  

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Best Places to Go 2018: Mauritius Tourism Mauritius
As Western life becomes more frustrating and challenging, it's tempting, when planning a vacation, to select the most far-flung outposts possible. Give in to that indulgence, and head to Mauritius, a speck of an Indian Ocean island 1,200 miles (2,000 km) southeast of Africa's mainland that, due to the vagaries of location and fate, presents a curious mix of cultures quite unlike any resort island you've ever visited. It has an English government system and dominant tongue, but its architecture is Continental and the population reflects a broad blend of African, Chinese, French, and Indian cuisine and traditions—it's the only African nation to predominantly practice Hinduism. It's as if the entire world gathered together to create a paradise. Even the animals are unique: the dodo, the legendary flightless bird, lived and went extinct here, and the Mauritius Institute is one of the only places you can view a stuffed complete specimen. 2018 is the year to go, for it marks the 50th anniversary of its independence after long periods of colonization by the Netherlands, France, and the United Kingdom—there will be exhibitions and festivals, of course. Authorities are building its airport into a major hub for journeys to Asia, too, so more of our planes will be stopping on the island in the future. The core reasons to escape here, its lazy resorts and serrated jungled mountain peaks, are seemingly the only constants on Mauritius.
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Men perform a flag dance at a medieval-style festival in Mdina, Malta ViewingMalta.com
Malta sits smack in the center of the Mediterranean, and that perch has made it a prize. For many millennia, this little island has been overrun—by the Phoenicians, the Romans, the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem, the British, and on and on. But in 2018, a friendlier invasion will occur. Some 1,000 artists will descend on Valletta, taking part in 400 events to celebrate Valletta’s designation as one of two “European Cities of Culture.” New operas will be performed, art installations built, concerts and theater events mounted, with top names at the helm of many of the projects. Amid the artistic banquet, visitors can wander this storied isle, which charms with exquisite Baroque architecture; some of Europe's best-preserved pre-historic sites; medieval hill towns (Mdina, pictured here, has a starring role in Game of Thrones); soaring white cliffs; a famed blue grotto; and reddish-gold sand beaches. Add to this cityscape-shifting new buildings (like Renzo Piano’s new city gate in Valletta) and a raft of new hotels and restaurants in 16th-century mansions, and you start to wonder why anyone would skip Malta in 2018.
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Loop Head Peninsula in County Clare, Ireland Marlis Börger/flickr

The rugged western coast of Ireland isn’t just one of the best places to go in the world; it’s among the best in the galaxy. Just ask the location scouts for Star Wars: The Last Jedi. The latest installment of the iconic space opera uses the dramatic cliffs and crashing waves of the Skellig Islands and along the Wild Atlantic Way—a spectacular drive linking Counties Donegal, Mayo, Clare, and Kerry—as a striking backdrop for another round of lightsaber-waving. County Clare is used to attention; tourists have been flocking to its majestic Cliffs of Moher and the eerie, stony plain known as the Burren for generations. But to walk in the footsteps of Skywalker and company, you’ll need to go a bit south to the far more secluded Loop Head Peninsula, a rocky finger of land pointing into the Atlantic. You don’t have to look hard to find IMAX-worthy scenery at this wild, watery spot, from crescent-shaped Kilkee Beach at one end to the stately lighthouse topping the seaside bluffs at the other.

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Best Places to Go 2018: Bisbee, Arizona Gretchen Baer
Some 5,200 feet up in the mountains near the Arizona-Mexico border, the former mining town of Bisbee is the sort of artist's hamlet that Key West and Sundance used to be before the jet set moved in—antique, offbeat, affordable, and genuine. Homes cling to canyon walls, vintage cars putter up the slopes, and historic saloons like Brewery Gulch's St. Elmo, Arizona's oldest bar, put the brakes on life with bohemian-pioneer spirit. Think of the retro vibe of Radiator Springs from Cars, but with mountain temperatures that are 15 degrees cooler than Phoenix or Tucson. Mining for gold and copper began in 1877 and lasted a century, but now only visitors go down in the hole for guided tours (its Bisbee Mining & Historical Museum is a Smithsonian Institution affiliate), and creative craftsmen turn desert minerals into art and wearable treasures. It's not just artists who love Bisbee—birders flock here, too. Near the village, 50 protected miles of the San Pedro River lie along a major migration corridor—Audubon prizes it as the best river desert ecosystem in America. Twelve decades ago, Bisbee was a city of 20,000. Today, only around 6,000 independent souls live here, yet outsiders are still welcome in this desert dream village, so there are more than two dozen places to stay. Most American artists' towns have been mined for tourism and become overly twee, but Bisbee is proof that there's still gold to be found in the desert.
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Diana's Peak in St. Helena St Helena Tourism
One of the world's most remote tropical paradises finally became more accessible in late 2017, when the  landed on St. Helena, a lush, mountainous island in the South Atlantic, between Brazil in South America and Angola in southwestern Africa. Though the British territory is largely neglected by tourists at the moment, the airport could change things. That makes this a good time to sample the island's blissful seclusion while hiking up the fern-covered Diana’s Peak (pictured above), sunbathing on the beaches of Sandy Bay, catching sight of endemic butterflyfish or luminescent wrasse in coral reefs, watching whales off the coast, and touring the Plantation House to spot Jonathan the tortoise—at 186, the oldest living member of his species and, incidentally, the world's , too: In 2017, researchers discovered that Jonathan’s longtime mate, Frederica, is in fact a Frederic. The island's all-time most famous resident, however, is still Napoleon Bonaparte, exiled here after losing the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. He died six years later on St. Helena and was buried in a peaceful, garden-surrounded gravesite that today sits empty, the troublesome Corsican's remains having since been moved to Paris.
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A view of the Treasury building at Petra, through a crack in the canyon wall.
Travel to the Middle East has, arguably, never been as popular. Mega-tour operator Intrepid Travel recently announced that requests for travel to the region grew some 70% in just the past year. That may be partially because the Eurasian nation of Turkey has fallen off the touristic map. But we think that the real reason may be the urge to understand this part of our planet, a region that’s crucial to forging world peace. Of the many nations to visit in the Middle East, we think that Jordan will be a particularly intriguing option in 2018, thanks to the 2017 opening of the Jordan Trail. A 400-mile-trek, from the archeological wonders of to the Red Sea, the trail runs the length of the country, taking in its wonders. The ancient city of Petra (pictured) is on the route, with its magnificent edifices carved into cliff faces (you’ll remember it from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom). So are the Dead Sea and Wadi Rum, a deep red desertscape—the movie The Martian was filmed here—that T.E. Lawrence (of Lawrence of Arabia fame) roamed and called "vast, echoing and God-like." Those who don’t have the 40 days it takes to walk the entire trail can tackle a section of it. The U.S. State Department does urge caution in other sections of Jordan, but its advisories concentrate on areas that tourists don’t visit—and that are not on the Trail, where visitors stay with local families and in Bedouin encampments, enjoying the same hospitality strangers in these parts have for centuries. 
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Best Places to Go 2018: The Gotthard Panorama Express, The Alps, Europe Swiss Travel System
A winter ago, when Swiss Federal Railways opened the longest train tunnel in the world, the 35-mile-long Gotthard Base Tunnel, some people worried that the scenic Alps journey from Lucerne through the Reuss Valley had been made obsolete, literally driven underground. Instead, a dazzling railway round-trip was created—one captivating scenic rail aficionados worldwide. The original line, which wends its plodding but stupendously scenic way through Switzerland’s peaks, has been re-christened as the Gotthard Panorama Express and outfitted with gorgeous bubble-windowed carriages (pictured). At the end of the line, from the towns of Lugano or Bellinzona, visitors close the loop between old and new, returning to Zurich by express train through the record-smashing new tunnel, and back to Lucerne an hour after that—a symmetrical way to absorb both the natural and technological bounty of Switzerland in a single, eye-popping rail journey.
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A turbot floats down San Antonio's Riverwalk Bob Howen/Visit San Antonio
For most of its story, San Antonio was the largest city in Texas. It ceded that title in the 1920s to both Houston and Dallas, but visiting has remained an outsized pleasure. Whether you’re strolling the fab River Walk (pictured), one of America’s first and most important works of citizen-led urban planning; touring one of the city’s history-rich founding missions; eating some of the best Tex-Mex fare in the nation; or paying your respects at the Alamo, a San Antonio vacation feels like a real holiday. That will be especially true in 2018, the 300th anniversary of the city’s founding. In commemoration, San Antonio is hosting a robust, year-long calendar of events. Arguably, the most exciting time to visit will be in May, when Tricentennial Commemorative Week brings free museum admissions, candlelight vigils, and a five-mile trail of celebrations from the city’s diverse populations, including free historic tours, concerts, performances, and art installations and fireworks at the five historic missions. At the height of the celebrations, a new park will be dedicated, proving that many of San Antonio's triumphs are still ahead of it. 
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A man sits with his granddaughter in Colombia's coffee growing region Hugo Pardo Kuklinski/Flickr
Colombia is a smart choice for visitors considering South America for the first time. It’s at the northern tip of the continent, making it the most accessible from the United States (a growing number of flights are scheduled each year). It offers a variety of classic South American experiences—colonial cities, soaring mountains, pristine beaches on both the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans—all in one small, easily explored package. And the greeting visitors receive is unusually warm, the culture they witness unusually traditional, because for many decades, Colombia was cut off from the rest of the world by a shadow of violence, now eased. The U.S. State Department still warns about some remote areas of the country, but not about serene "Eje Cafetero" (or Axis of Coffee). The nation's famous java is grown here on cloud-tufted mountains of vivid green, with small, friendly towns nearby. The region is home to Los Nevados National Park, which shelters one of the most eye-popping stretches of the Andes range, with cloud forests on the slopes and glaciers up high. And in just the last few years, a number of fincas (coffee plantations) have opened doors to tourists, providing cozy lodgings, education on the cultivation of coffee, and of course, steaming cups of Arabica on demand. 
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A visitor is blessed by an elephant at the Meenakshi Temple in Madurai, India. Vinoth Chandar/Flickr
Travelers considering Southern India are usually steered to sensual Kerala, with its luxe houseboat vacations, tea plantations, and pretty beaches. But you’re missing out if you skip the neighboring state of Tamil Nadu, which is blessed, pun intended, with awe-inspiring temples. Foremost among them is the takes visitors around neighborhoods at sunrise to watch housewives painting a daily blessing in colored sand on their doorsteps, cows being milked, and the other morning activities.   
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A couple dance to a band on the streets of New Orleans Z Smith
Laissez les bons temps rouler! NOLA turns 300 in 2018, and as you'd expect, it's throwing a party. Make that 160 parties, which is the number of festivals this jubilant city holds each year. For 2018, each will have a Tricentennial theme or element. So the 28 hand-painted , which covers all areas of the city with sculptures, massive murals, and more (it's like an art scavenger hunt) will adopt the city's history as its muse. New Orleans has also just completed two major projects that will make visiting here even more beignet-sweet: After decades of blocking the Mississippi River with unsightly warehouses and railroad tracks, New Orleans has planted lovely riverside parks, serene and wonderfully breezy respites from this bustling and often humid burg. Plus the North Rampart Street cable car line has been extended, making it easier than ever for visitors to get from Downtown and the French Quarter to the trendy Bywater District with its galleries, clubs, and restaurants.
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Waterfront in Hamburg, Germany Patrick Baum/Unsplash

Germany’s second city, northerly Hamburg, has been on a roll lately, unveiling a series of impressive projects that have given the place a fresh burst of energy. The most exciting developments are centered on HafenCity, a huge new waterfront district with inviting outdoor promenades, trendy restaurants, and the Elbphilharmonie concert hall (or Elphi for short), which looks like waves of glass from the outside and has some of the world’s most advanced acoustics inside. The area also encompasses the historic Speicherstadt, where handsome 19th-century red-brick warehouses now contain quirky attractions such as the Spice Museum and Miniatur Wunderland, an elaborate model railway. HafenCity serves as a lively complement to the city’s elegant side, visible in its blend of soaring church spires and Art Nouveau mansions along the Alster river. But don’t let that give you the impression that Hamburg is stuffy—the Reeperbahn red-light district still has some of the wildest nightlife on the continent. 

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Faroe Islands Kimberley Coole / Visit Faroe Islands

The Faroe Islands bear a striking resemblance to Iceland—a remote location, otherworldly scenery, lots and lots of sheep. But there’s a crucial difference: Whereas Iceland is reaching the tourism saturation point thanks to cheap U.S.-to-Reykjavik airfares and a horde of proselytizing Instagrammers, the Faroes remain as yet uncrowded and relatively untouched, which is why Iceland lovers are switching their allegiance to here. Floating in the North Atlantic about 450 miles southeast of Iceland (Norway and Scotland are further east and south, respectively), the restaurant, an important player in avant-garde Nordic cuisine incorporating local ingredients like sea urchin and fermented lamb.

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Mount Roberts tramway in Juneau, Alaska Greg Matthews/Flickr

Those who visit Alaska's capital city—perhaps by way of the many , where chef Lionel Uddipa creates the sort of innovative dishes that helped him win 2017’s . Pictured here is longtime favorite Red Dog SaloonThen, of course, there's the city's perennial selling point: some of the most spectacular scenery in the Western Hemisphere. Sandwiched between the Gastineau Channel and imposing peaks (including Mount Roberts, which you can scale partway via tram), Juneau is a gateway to outdoor explorations that culminate in gobsmacking panoramas of mountains and glaciers as well as closer glimpses of black bears or humpback whales. 

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Best Places to Go 2018: The Mekong River Avalon Waterways
2018 will inevitably be the year that Americans reflect on the Tet Offensive of a half-century ago, and other seminal campaigns in the Vietnam War. But we must also celebrate that our generation is now welcomed in Vietnam, and can go in numbers to a place that, for much of our lifetimes, was unthinkable to visit. Many are choosing to center their vacations on the Mekong River, and it's not hard to see why. The Mekong, fed by water flowing from melting Himalayan snow, wanders through a pageant of Southeast Asia's most colorful countries and is as long as the continental U.S. is wide. The Vietnamese segment flows through cities and countryside, past temples, floating villages, and subsistence fishermen, through a country that brims with life and progress. Most river tours start in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) and may combine a few other sights in the region such as Cambodia's Angkor Wat or the limestone pillars of Halong Bay, which only enriches the journey into a pan-Asian vacation of a lifetime.  This section of Vietnam has arrived as a principal tourist destination; the biggest river cruise companies, including Viking, Avalon, Uniworld, and CroisiEurope, have expanded into the wild Mekong River using specially designed shallow-draft luxury vessels that recall the colonial river steamers of a more peaceful past.
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The Caribbean, Best Places to Go 2018 Curacao Tourism Board
This year, more than ever. The double wallop of hurricanes Irma and Maria wrought devastation that no living person has seen there before. It will take years for the worst-affected islands to fully recover, and some islands will be forever changed. But the storms only barreled through a narrow corridor. Many vacationers don't realize that the majority of tourist islands were left unscathed, and they glitter on with the same food, fun, and festivals while that same warm azure sea still laps gently upon countless powdery beaches. It's time the rest of the world began seeing the Caribbean not as a collection of resorts and ports but as a constellation of cultures, where real people are pressing on with their lives and hoping you'll continue to join them. Because so many people mistakenly believe the entire region was slammed, crowds are currently thinner and prices are lower than they have been in years. Tourism is the foundation of the modern Caribbean economy, and if holiday-makers stop going because they wrongly think the entire region is damaged, then we'll be facing a second wave of disaster—an economic one. Pull up some beach and meet some locals this season.

Did this list give you some travel inspiration? Check out TouRest' choices in some of our previous Best Places lists: 20142015, 2016, and 2017.
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