Travelers today are more aware than ever of all the world has to offer. It’s thrilling to be confronted with so much possibility — but daunting, too. Each year, we curate a list of the best places to travel in the months ahead.
From a remote, idyllic island to the world’s design capital, these destinations have never been better. Start planning your 2018 travel now, these are the 18 best destinations to discover in 2018.
1. Solta, Croatia
The jewel of the Adriatic Sea, Croatia is home to more than 1,200 islands, but travel between them has long been dictated by expensive yacht charters and sluggish public ferries. Often overlooked in favor of more-developed, splashier neighbors like Hvar or Brač, Šolta’s under-the-radar nature has proved a boon: The stony islet has become synonymous with pristine nature, medieval villages, winemaking, and family-run olive oil purveyors like Olynthia, a fourth-generation producer.
2. Tallinn, Estonia
Estonia’s capital is compact, fashionable and terrific value. Explore one of Eastern Europe’s loveliest old towns on foot for free, stay in good-value dorms, guesthouses or private homes, and take in Baltic Sea views and a superb panorama of the city from the flat roof of the vast Linnahall. If you want a taste of Tallinn to yourself then head to Kalamaja, a fast-changing neighbourhood home to Telliskivi Creative City. The food trucks here offer Instagrammable fill-ups that won’t tax your wallet.
3. Lanzarote, Canary Islands, Spain
Over the past decade, in-the-know independent travellers are increasingly heading to Lanzarote. Awaiting them is a well-developed infrastructure that makes it a doddle to find affordable lodgings, food and car rental. There’s plenty of no-nonsense holiday fun, but Lanzarote also revels in its uniqueness. The moon-like scenery of Parque Nacional de Timanfaya, unspoilt beaches of Órzola and black-sand wineries of La Geria reward those who come here for more than a traditional seaside break.
4. Greenville, South Carolina
Once a sleepy second fiddle to Southern culinary powerhouses like Charleston and Nashville, Greenville is stepping into the limelight with hot new restaurants. The town will soon be home to an outpost of Sean Brock’s heirloom-crop-focused Husk and a food-centric market hall called the Commons.
Grenada, known as Spice Island, remains one of the Caribbean’s under-the-radar gems, even though it’s got what every traveler wants: uncrowded beaches, preserved rain forests, and a lively local culture and cuisine. The island, which was spared from last fall’s brutal hurricane season.
6. Buenos Aires, Argentina
This year, Buenos Aires becomes a hub for art, sports, and politics: the inaugural Art Basel Cities program, the Youth Olympic Games, and the G20 will all take place in the city, beginning with the yearlong Art Basel initiative. Though the Argentinean capital is already home to an eclectic collection of galleries, Art Basel Cities promises to elevate Buenos Aires’ reputation in the global art scene by offering professional support for local artists, as well as lectures and workshops throughout the year to draw art lovers to the city.
7. Arizona, USA
For affordable and accessible adventures in Arizona, aim for simple roadside motels, then camp and hike. Visit Saguaro National Park on a day or overnight trip from Tucson. Over in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument you’ll find fewer fellow visitors to compete with for views. Shoulder season unlocks great value: visit the South Rim of the Grand Canyon from March to May and September to October for cooler temperatures and lighter crowds. For the less crowded North Rim, go in May or October. Aim for Scottsdale’s spas and golf courses between June and August. Sure, it’s hot by day – but there’s always the poolside for those sizzling hours.
8. La Paz, Bolivia
Spectacularly situated at 3660m, La Paz is one of South America’s best value places to linger, whether you’re keen on acclimatising, learning Spanish or simply enjoying the colourful street life and Andean setting. La Paz also has a fast-emerging yet affordable upscale scene, epitomised by superb dining at places such as Gustu, founded by Noma’s Claus Meyer. Boutique hotels and hip coffee joints are popping up too, all at lower prices than their equivalents elsewhere. Move fast: La Paz is on the rise. Reach La Paz’s El Alto International Airport – the world’s highest, at 4061m – by flights from Miami and Washington DC.
Poland somehow manages to remain affordable and relatively under-visited. Sure, Kraków grabs the crowds, but you can explore here for less than in Prague or Berlin. Beyond Kraków is a roll-call of Europe’s least-appreciated highlights. In the north, explore Gdańsk’s rebuilt old town and haunting coastal scenery. Elsewhere, Lublin, Toruń and Tarnów’s historical beauty can form the basis of a wonderful week. If you have more time, consider exploring the mountain playground around budget-friendly Zakopane or bison-spotting in Białowieża National Park.
10. Essaouira, Morocco
Love Morocco? Been to Marrakesh? Us too. If you’re seeking another, still affordable side of this safe slice of north Africa then Essaouira might just be the place for you. A popular day trip from Marrakesh itself, Essaouira can now be reached direct by low-cost flights from the UK and France. The walled city’s narrow alleyways, traditional hammams and medina pile on the sensory delight. The breeze allows for superb wind and kitesurfing, as well as bracing beach strolls. Characterful riads are affordable, especially if you’re travelling with family or a group. Best of all, the food is sensational even on a low budget, in particular the just-landed seafood.
11. Jacksonville, USA
Jax, as locals call it, hasn’t drawn international praise like other destinations in Florida – despite 35km of beaches, surfing, art and live music. There are long stretches of the St Johns River, the Intracoastal Waterway and America’s largest urban park system to explore on foot, by bike or, best of all, on a guided kayak tour. Barbecue joints and beachside cafes offer good-value and family-friendly dining, while a pint of craft beer at one of eight local breweries can be priced as low as $3.50. Not only is Jacksonville affordable for sleeping, but you can feel as if you’re discovering somewhere new.
12. Hunan, China
Hunan’s highlights come thick and fast. At Zhangjiajie, an amazing sandstone canyon with almost 250 bizarrely shaped peaks, the world’s longest glass bridge opened in 2016. Another don’t-miss is Fenghuang, a stunning historic town that quite literally hangs over the Tuo River. If you’re not sold yet, the provincial capital Changsha happened to be Mao Zedong’s home town. This being China, costs can be very low indeed: budget meals and accommodation are in the sub-$10 range, and even slap-up servings of fiery Hunan cuisine in the flashiest Changsha digs cost not much more than double that.
13. Walla Walla Valley, Washington
With more than 300 days of sunshine each year, the southeastern corner of Washington state is home to three flourishing viticultural regions: the Columbia, Walla Walla, and Yakima Valleys. But in recent years Walla Walla has come into its own as the next must-visit destination for oenophiles, golfers, and cyclists. With more than 140 wineries producing European-style Syrahs, Cabernets, and Merlots, there’s no shortage of tasting rooms in the valley, which hosts four weekend-long wine events each year. The region gets its first high-end resort in February, when Va Piano winemaker Justin Wylie and James Beard Award–winning chef Jason Wilson open the 10-suite Eritage on a 300-acre plot north of the city of Walla Walla.
Political strife and economic woes have taken a toll on Egypt’s tourism industry in recent years, but travelers will soon have a new reason to visit. On the arid plains of Giza not far from the Great Pyramids, a modern monument is under construction that’s more than two decades and nearly $1 billion in the making. The Grand Egyptian Museum will showcase the finest treasures of the pharaohs — including the body and golden funeral mask of Tutankhamen — in a structure spanning nearly 650,000 square feet.
It’s no secret that Fiji is home to some of the world’s most spectacular scenery — powdery beaches fringed with palms, crystalline waters with colorful reefs, and rugged coastlines covered in greenery. But the islands’ new crop of luxury accommodations is making a case for the archipelago’s man-made phenomena as well. At the exclusive, family-owned Kokomo Private Island Resort, which is spread across 140 acres of dense tropical rain forest and white-sand beaches, guests will have their pick of 21 beach villas and four hilltop residences featuring infinity pools and walled tropical gardens.
16. Albuquerque, New Mexico
Rising above its associations with the annual hot-air-balloon festival, Albuquerque will this year set out to prove itself as a fully-fledged destination. The Sawmill District, just north of the historic Old Town, is being revived as a creative center, anchored by the arrival of the Hotel Chaco. The design of this boutique property, which opened in April, is inspired by the state’s indigenous culture, with handmade Navajo wool textiles and pueblo-inspired motifs.
Zambia has had little recognition as one of Africa’s great safari destinations. Yet experts know it as the birthplace of the walking safari — as well as the home of some of the most highly trained guides on the continent. In South Luangwa National Park, visitors can expect to see more animals than baobab trees, while Liuwa Plain National Park is the setting for the world’s second-largest wildebeest migration, when tens of thousands of the creatures head across the plain from neighboring Angola.
18. Archipelago Sea, Finland
Finland’s Archipelago Sea is the world’s largest, with 25,000 miles of shoreline and innumerable islands. Still off the beaten track for international tourists, who gravitate toward Helsinki in summer and Lapland in winter, the archipelago is the well-kept secret of the Finns, generations of whom flock to family-owned islands.