valparaiso

From the colourful coastal towns of Chile to Lanzarote’s wild north via Toronto’s creative scene and a cultural revival in Mostar, in no particular order we’ve picked out our must-visit destinations for 2018.

Valletta, Malta

Rocky coves, aquamarine lagoons and low prices make us think of Croatia a decade or so ago. A less obvious holiday choice for sun-seeking western Europeans, wander through 4000 years of history in the tiny capital of Valletta, which is packed with palaces, churches and museums offering an idyllic snapshot of Europe’s past.

Tallinn, Estonia

Estonia’s capital is the country’s cultural hub, where medieval architecture and cobbled streets meet contemporary living in the form of skyscrapers and an emerging food scene. Tick this Eastern European city off your list before the stag dos arrive – English-speaking locals, activities such as ziplining over the Jägala Waterfall and low prices mean it won’t be long.

The Peloponnese, Greece

Steeped in myths and legends as the birthplace of both Hercules’ and the archipelago where Athens fought Sparta, this mountainous area in southern Greece overflows with relics from its colourful past, seen in fortresses, temples and palaces which draw influence from across the Byzantine Empire. The southerly location means a longer summer season, while the climate lends itself to the production of some of the country’s best food and wine. When you’ve had your culture fix, head to the idyllic pedestrianised island of Spetses for undisturbed beach vibes.

Valparaiso, Chile

Colombia has been the South American darling of the past few years and now it’s Chile’s turn, with British Airways’ launch of a direct flight between London and Santiago ensuring it’s very much in the spotlight. Stretching nearly 4,300km from north to south, the country is a land of extremes, boasting diverse landscapes and abundant wildlife. Beyond the capital, vibrant cities such as Valparaiso offer colourful cliff-side houses and quirky charm, while the Atacama Desert for salt plains and starry skies.

Moscow, Russia

As is often the case with places under strict political regimes, rebellion arrives in the form of creativity. Such is the case in Moscow, where a young generation is going against the grain, resulting in an underground art scene which spills over into nightlife and fashion. The city is also cleaning up its act in preparation for the World Cup, with its gilded metro stations set to be restored to their former glory.

Toronto, Canada

The “Kate and Will effect” of the royal duo visiting for their honeymoon saw the country jump to the top of many travellers’ wishlists. While many visit Canada for adrenaline-fuelled adventures through its dramatic landscapes, Toronto is a cosmopolitan metropolis with an exciting music scene, and countless bars, clubs and restaurants are popping up all over town.

Buenos Aires, Argentina

An oldie but a goodie, Buenos Aires’ pretty streets, lively neighbourhoods, top-notch restaurants and late-night culture never grow old. You may have been before, but the capital is seeing a return of visitors wanting to explore beyond tourist attractions and delve deeper into Argentinian living, while a thriving art scene is reflected in the arrival of Art Basel. Beyond the capital, Mendoza is the gateway to the province of the same name – a promised land of bodegas and gauchos.

Lanzarote, Canary Islands

Long tarred with the brush of package holidays and all-inclusive resorts, Lanzarote’s wild north offers volcanoes, wineries, architecture and adventure. Dismiss images of high-rise buildings and boozy Brits; whitewashed houses are scattered across lush landscapes, attracting a new demographic of open-minded travellers.

Krakow, Poland

This pretty city in south Poland has an effervescent atmosphere championed by a motivated younger generation resisting the current government’s conservative grip. A wealth of independent coffee shops, eclectic bars and innovative concept stores contribute to a lively scene for a low-cost, high-value Euro city break.

Hamburg, Germany

Chances are you’ve visited Berlin – and no doubt loved it. Hamburg channels a similarly effortless cool, with late nights, world-class museums and on-trend locals. There’s a constant sea breeze, but Germany’s second-largest city lacks any air of pretension; you’re just as likely to rub shoulders with old sea dogs as urban creatives in the bars which line the waterfront.

The Azores, Portugal

An established port of call for yachties, this Atlantic archipelago is set to be a big-hitter for those looking for something more than a standard beach break. A year-round destination overflowing with nature, expect black-sand beaches, cascading waterfalls, national parks and the chance to spot whales and dolphins. Faial Island and Flores are two of the best.

Chandigarh, India

This Le Corbusier-designed city serves as the capital of the northern states of Punjab and Haryana, and is heralded as an example of a “perfect” metropolis. Yet India’s wealthiest, happiest and cleanest city is often overlooked by visitors. If you’ve done Rajasthan, this architectural beauty with its brutalist buildings will give you a different perspective on the endlessly surprising subcontinent.

Emilia Romagna, Italy

Nestled between Veneto, Tuscany and Lombardy, this enclave in northern Italy has been little more than a stop-off between Florence and Venice. But its location between the Adriatic Coast and the chilly Alps with the warm Mediterranean to the south means fertile soil perfect for growing many of the country’s signature ingredients. Visit for an under-the-radar summer getaway, or go for truffle season in autumn.

Sayulita, Mexico

We’ve been singing the praises of Isla Holbox for the past year, but this town on the country’s west coast is our latest Mexican obsession. Popular among surfers since the 1960s, this laid-back beach bolthole reminds of us of Tulum before everybody discovered it. Think killer street food, bohemian bars, independent shops and a relaxed in-the-know crowd.

Thimphu, Bhutan

This tiny Buddhist kingdom’s refusal to jump on the globalisation bandwagon has earned it the title of “the happiest place on earth”. Shunning GDP and international franchises and only tuning into television in 1999, it’s also the only carbon-neutral country in the world. Go for a genuine experience of indigenous culture which is increasingly hard to find.

Alentejo, Portugal

Comporta on Portugal’s lesser-visited west coast was one of our favourite summer destinations of 2017 thanks to beach-shack vibes reminiscent of an undiscovered Ibiza or Jose Ignacio in Uruguay. But the entire Alentejo region is an untapped paradise of dramatic coastlines, perfumed citrus groves and charming local restaurants with barely a tourist in sight – yet.

Oslo, Norway

Somewhat overshadowed by Copenhagen and Stockholm, Oslo looks set to enjoy increased popularity by those looking to continue riding the Scandi wave elsewhere. A mix of urban cool and green spaces joins a thriving coffee culture, alongside a stylish streak championed by a host of fashion Instagrammers making it the city break for 2018.

Amman, Jordan

Arabic conservatism meets a forward-thinking spirit in this middle eastern capital. Its close proximity to the UAE give the country a relatively liberal air, while the current feeling is one of a desert town coming out of its shell. A visit to nearby Petra (dating back to 300 BC) is one of those rare experiences that will stay with you forever.

Sidi Bou Said, Tunisia

While Morocco is an all-time favourite, Tunisia remains an underrated holiday destination. An excellent option for a break that combines city and beach, diverse landscapes take you from Sahara sands to tree-lined coast. Fabled ruins such as those at the nearby Carthage are juxtaposed with a progressive government who are reforming laws to address a gender imbalance against women. Don’t miss the the UNESCO World Heritage city of Kairouan, while the jewel has got to be Sidi Bou Said, a blue and white seaside town and creative hub.

Perth, Australia

Western Australians have known that their capital is a little-discovered gem for years, and with Qantas launching direct flights between London and Perth from March, soon everyone else will too. Already worth a stop-over for endless beaches (there are 19 in easy reach) and a relaxed atmosphere, in recent years Perth has developed a buzzing art, culture and festival scene, complemented by a roster of innovative restaurants and quirky bars that seem to double in number with every visit.

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

One for intrepid travellers looking for something different, Ethiopia’s capital of Addis Ababa is a somewhat overwhelming mix of frenetic markets, fantastic food set against a backdrop of Orthodox Christian and Islamic beliefs. The result? A fascinating mishmash of cultures. Despite a thriving economy, poverty is still very real and your trip may not be plain sailing, but those who persevere will be rewarded by a wealth of new experiences encompassing people, places and things. Head to the Simien Mountains to unwind, hike and spot wildlife after the madness of the city.

Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina

This Eastern European capital offers an intelligent city break that promises to educate as much as entertain. Not so long ago crippled by civil war, the country has been rebuilding itself at an impressive speed. A new generation are channelling their energy into tourism, resulting in a culinary renaissance matched by unrivalled hospitality. Much like Tbilisi and Moscow, this relatively newfound freedom is also stirring a cutting-edge creativity, seen in emerging music and art scenes.

Valencia, Spain

While many return to Barcelona and Madrid time and time again, Valencia happily lurks in the shadow of its larger counterparts – and to its advantage, as a city with just as much to offer but fewer crowds to dodge as a result. With cultural institutions to rival its competitors, futuristic architecture meets an historic old quarter. With a stellar restaurant offering – this is the birthplace of paella, after all – alongside an effervescent nightlife, this is the Spanish sweetheart to have up your sleeve.

Beirut, Lebanon

Sitting at the confluence of East and West, Lebanon’s sprawling coastal metropolis is a glorious culture clash, most apparent in its striking architecture and diverse food scene. Religious conservatism meets a fashion-forward young crowd and heady nightlife – which largely escapes the flashiness of Dubai – making for an interesting Middle Eastern getaway.

 

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