madagascar-baobab-avenuePhoto: Mark Leaver

While we’re wary of earmarking destinations as “hot” or “not” and the word “emerging” makes us shudder, we’ve drawn up a list of places that we’d like to visit in 2019 and think you would too. From the more familiar like Malta to those ripe for exploration such as Madagascar, this the ultimate holiday hit list.

Countries

Belize

Often overlooked in favour of Mexico and Costa Rica, beautiful Belize boasts dense jungle – where wild cats including jaguars and ocelots prowl among Mayan ruins – to the west and a Caribbean shoreline circled by the Belize Barrier Reef to the east. Needless to say, the diving is exceptional.

Kyrgyzstan

Following the World Nomad Games in 2018, news of this Silk Road country’s fabled beauty – snow-capped mountains and rolling summer pastures inhabited by yurt-dwelling shepherds with eagles swooping overhead – is fast seeping beyond the realm of in-the-know travellers. With thousands of kilometres of treks, plenty of homestays and the thrill of a real adventure, this is one to book pronto.

Chile

Stretching nearly 4,300km from top to toe, unsurprisingly Chile 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 is for salt plains and stargazing.

Ethiopia

Mountains, lakes, salt flats and volcanoes provide the backdrop for ancient cultures (including nine World Heritage listed sites), temples, castles and monasteries in a country with the second-fastest growing economy in Africa (after Ghana). With thriving cities and a youthful population, this is one for intrepid holidaymakers who like to be ahead of the curve.

Jordan

Arabic conservatism meets a relatively liberal air in the Jordanian capital of Amman, which has become increasingly buzzy in recent years attracting both foodies and a fashion crowd, while a visit to ancient Petra is one of those travel experiences that will stay with you forever. The only coastal city in Jordan, Aqaba is a triple threat for sea, sun and sand; head to nearby Wadi Rum for desert camps and Bedouin culture.

Madagascar

We travelled to Madagascar for our recent Pioneer issue and discovered a beautifully raw island-nation that has yet to be sullied by tourism. With waters akin to the Maldives, endless white coastlines – absent of hotel chains – and return flights from the UK from £350, it’s one of our favourite places right now.

São Tomé and Príncipe

In the last 500 years, these minute Atlantic islands have been: one of the main centres for the organised slave trade; the largest producers of cocoa in the world under Portuguese colonisers; and world leaders in sugarcane production. Today? They are among Africa’s most stable and democratic spots, as well as one of the continent’s best-kept secrets.

Malta

Golden-hued Valletta was named Capital of Culture 2018, but we’ve had an eye on this Mediterranean island-nation for several years now. Successfully throwing off its reputation as a slightly grotty package holiday spot for the blue-haired brigade, head here for boutique hotels, aquamarine waters and good food – at a fraction of the price of your usual summer getaway.

Transylvania

We cycled through the pretty Saxon villages that dot the Transylvanian countryside for our Slow issue and discovered a fairy-tale land of restored aristocratic manor houses and wildflower-filled pastures, only improved by top-notch organic cuisine and superb local wine.

Cities and Regions

Izmir, Turkey

Istanbul might a favourite for sprawling souks and mosques, but Turkey’s third-largest city, Izmir, is an experience that is slightly more feasible to take on for a weekend break. Bordered by the Aegean Sea, a vibrant beachside promenade and lively nightlife contrast to the Ancient Greek monuments scattered around this storied city.

Matera, Italy

A UNESCO World Heritage Site and European Capital of Culture for 2019, this strange city in southern Italy is famous for its sassi – ancient dwellings carved into calcified ravine rock, thought to be among the first human settlements in Italy. The habitations are becoming a tourist attraction, with boutique hotels being built in caverns. Combine with a trip to Puglia (an hour away) for Italian summer dreams come true.

Chennai, India

Mumbai may have been the name on everyone’s lips last year thanks to Soho House opening, but this year we’ve got our sites set on Chennai. Formerly known as Madras, this port city is the food capital of Tamil Nadu, where South Indian artistic and religious traditions are layered with contemporary cosmopolitan cool.

Novi Sad, Serbia

It might be Serbia’s “second” city, but this culture hotspot wears its badge with pride – and rightly so, considering its lively music, film, theatre and art scenes. The country’s “New Garden” has also got a makeover which has seen the Petrovaradin Citadel’s Lower Town redone, while Chinatown has blossomed into an edgy and eclectic enclave.

Minsk, Belarus

Minsk makes for an affordable weekend break that many overlook in favour of Prague or Budapest. A young, creative population has given rise to eclectic art and nightlife scenes that spring up in a cityscape of 19th-century and Soviet architecture.

The Azores, Portugal

Nature is very much in charge in this dramatic archipelago of nine volcanic islets adrift in the Atlantic about 1500km off the coast of Lisbon. Hiking, whale-watching, crystalline lagoons and ancient vineyards await – Flores, Faial and Pico are our favourite islands.

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Once most famous for sports teams and a distinctive accent, Andy Warhol’s hometown is making waves thanks to a industrious young population who are continuing his legacy via a cutting-edge art scene. Joined by interesting restaurants and a thriving tech stage, despite developments this American city stays true to itself, making for a local – and genuine – experience.

Pelion, Greece

This mountainous area of Thessaly is bookended by the Aegean and the Pagasetic, offering hiking trails, untouched lagoons and secluded beaches. Venture inland from the seaside towns for whitewashed houses clinging to the emerald-green flanks of Pelion Mountain and lush pine forests enclosing waterfalls. A direct flight to Volos launched in 2018, meaning Pelion won’t be under-the-radar for long.

Perth, Australia

Western Australians have known that their capital is a little-discovered gem for years. 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.

The Turkish Riviera

We told you last summer and we’ll tell you again; it’s all about Turkey. The country may have gone off the boil somewhat in recent years due to security threats, but licked by both Aegean and Mediterranean waters (the southern riviera is known as the “Turquoise Coast”) it’s winning our European summer vote this year. Boutique hotels are being joined by five-star resorts, and even package-holiday Bodrum is going boujis.

Tallinn, Estonia

The “hip” set are moving ever further eastwards in pursuit of “the new Berlin” and Tallinn is coming out trumps for the accolade. The capital of Estonia is the country’s cultural hub, blending medieval history of burnt sienna-coloured rooftops, intricate gothic churches and winding cobblestone streets with a contemporary edge in the form of skyscrapers and warehouses just waiting to be turning into pop-up rave caves.

Sitges, Spain

Twenty miles from Barcelona, this former fishing village is all winding streets and vanilla beaches coupled with a cosmopolitan air (in part thanks to an effervescent gay scene) that has earned it the moniker the “St Tropez of Spain”. Popular among wealthy Catalans, it’s not all glitz and glam, however; artists and writers follow in the footsteps of Picasso, flocking here for inspiration and giving the city a distinctly bohemian edge.

 

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