TOP 20 PLACES YOU NEED TO VISIT IN 2018
Looking for your next adventure? We present our top picks which will have you discovering new trails, tasting local foods, and spotting vibrant wildlife around the world.
is myriad alleys (and treasures)
World Heritage–listed Harar (ሐረር) is a place apart. With its 368 alleyways squeezed into just 1 sq km, it’s more reminiscent of Fez in Morocco than any other city in the Horn. Its countless mosques and shrines, animated markets, crumbling walls and charming people will make you feel as if you’ve floated right out of the 21st century. It’s the east’s most memorable sight and shouldn’t be missed. As if that wasn’t enough, there are many chances to get up close and personal with wild hyenas. It’s a rare traveller who doesn’t enjoy it here.
Hang with nature-made rock stars.
Located in outermost northwest Argentina, Jujuy is home to the Quebrada de Humahuaca World Heritage site. The narrow valley is cloaked in colorful rock bands crafted over millennia. Elevate your Instagram with shots of Cerro de los Siete Colores (Hill of Seven Colors).
is history in colour
Tbilisi has come a long way since the Rose Revolution of 2003 ousted the post-Soviet Shevardnadze government. To Tbilisi’s eternal charms of a dramatic setting in the deep valley of the swift Mtkvari River, picturesque architecture, an ever-lively arts and cultural scene, and the welcoming Georgian lifestyle have been added a whole new 21st-century dimension of inviting cafes and restaurants serving ever better food, up-to-date lodgings from backpacker hostels to international five-stars, funky bars and clubs, spruced-up museums, galleries, parks, plazas and whole streets, modernised transport and a sprinkling of eye-catching contemporary architecture. All of which make it a much easier, and more fun, city to visit and live in than it was less than a decade ago.
But the old Tbilisi is still very much here too. The Old Town, at the narrowest part of the valley, is still redolent of an ancient Eurasian crossroads, with its winding lanes, balconied houses, leafy squares and handsome churches, all overlooked by the 17-centuries-old Narikala Fortress. Neighbourhoods not far from the centre still retain a village-like feel with their narrow streets, small shops and community atmosphere. Small traders still clog up the pavements around metro stations selling fruit, vegetables, cheese and nuts fresh from the countryside.
The bus stations are still rooted in about the 1930s, too – but you can’t have everything. Modern and ancient, Tbilisi remains the beating heart of the South Caucasus and should not be missed by any visitor.
is iconic cityscapes
Sydney, spectacularly draped around its glorious harbour and beaches, has a visual wow factor like few other cities. Scratch the surface and it only gets better.
On the Wild Side
National parks ring the city and penetrate right into its heart. Large chunks of harbour are still bush-fringed, while parks cut their way through skyscrapers and suburbs. Consequently, native critters turn up in the most surprising places. Clouds of flying foxes pass overhead at twilight and spend the night rustling around in suburban fig trees; oversized spiders stake out corners of lounge-room walls; possums rattle over roofs of terrace houses; and sulphur-crested cockatoos screech from the railings of urban balconies. At times Sydney’s concrete jungle seems more like an actual one – and doesn’t that just make it all the more exciting?
After a lazy Saturday at the beach, urbane Sydneysiders have a disco nap, hit the showers and head out again. There’s always a new restaurant to try, undercover bar to hunt down, hip band to check out, sports team to shout at, show to see or crazy party to attend. The city’s pretensions to glamour are well balanced by a casualness that means a cool T-shirt and a tidy pair of jeans will get you in most places. But if you want to dress up and show off, there’s plenty of opportunity for that among the sparkling harbour lights.
Making a Splash
Defined just as much by its rugged Pacific coastline as its exquisite harbour, Sydney relies on its coastal setting to replenish its reserves of charm; venture too far away from the water and the charm suddenly evaporates. Jump on a ferry and Sydney’s your oyster – the harbour prises the city’s two halves far enough apart to reveal an abundance of pearls. On the coast, Australia ends abruptly in sheer walls of sandstone punctuated by arcs of golden sand. In summer they’re covered with bronzed bodies making the most of a climate that encourages outdoor socialising, exercising, flirting and fun.
Brash is the word that inevitably gets bandied around when it comes to describing the Harbour City, and let’s face it, compared to its Australian sister cities, Sydney is loud, uncompromising and in your face. Fireworks displays are more dazzling here, heels are higher, bodies more buffed, contact sports more brutal, starlets shinier, drag queens glitzier and prices higher. Australia’s best musos, foodies, actors, stockbrokers, models, writers and architects flock to the city to make their mark, and the effect is dazzling: a hyperenergetic, ambitious, optimistic and unprincipled marketplace of the soul, where anything goes and everything usually does.
is colonial charm
A cultural colossus fit to rival anywhere in Latin America for history, gastronomy and colorful manifestations of indigenous culture, Oaxaca is a complex but intensely attractive city whose majestic churches and refined plazas have deservedly earned it a Unesco World Heritage badge. Lovers of culture come here to indulge in the Mexico of Zapotec and colonial legend. Flowing through handsome yet tranquil streets, life pulsates with an unadulterated regional flavor. See it in the color palate of historic boutique hotels, a meet-the-producer artisan store or an intentionally grungy mezcalería(plying locally manufactured alcoholic beverages). But what makes Oaxaca especially interesting are its undercurrents. While largely safe and attractive by Mexican standards, snippets of political protest in recent years have lent the city a grittier edge. It bubbles up in satirical street art, bohemian bars, or been-around-forever street markets. Trust us; there’s far more to this city than just pretty churches.
is imperial history
Baroque streetscapes and imperial palaces set the stage for Vienna’s artistic and musical masterpieces alongside its coffee-house culture and vibrant epicurean and design scenes.
Vienna’s imperial grandeur is the legacy of the powerful Habsburg monarchy. Their home for more than six centuries, the Hofburg palace complex, incorporates the Burgkapelle (Imperial Chapel), where the Vienna Boys’ Choir sings Sunday Mass, and the famed Spanish Riding School, where Lipizzaner stallions perform elegant equine ballet, along with a trove of museums, including in the chandeliered Kaiserappartements (Imperial Apartments). Other immense palaces include the baroque Schloss Belvedere and the Habsburgs’ 1441-room summer residence, Schloss Schönbrunn, while 19th-century splendours such as the neo-Gothic Rathaus (City Hall) line the magnificent Ringstrasse encircling the Innere Stadt (inner city).
One of the Habsburgs’ most dazzling Rinsgstrasse palaces, the Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna, houses the imperial art collection. It’s packed with priceless works by Old Masters, and treasures including one of the world’s richest coin collections. Behind the Hofburg, the former imperial stables have been transformed into the innovative MuseumsQuartier, with a diverse ensemble of museums, showcasing 19th- and 20th-century Austrian art at the Leopold Museum to often-shocking avant-garde works at the contemporary MUMOK. Meteorites, fossils and prehistoric finds fill the Naturhistorisches Museum, while exquisite furnishings at the applied-arts Museum für Angewandte Kunst are also among the artistic feasts in store.
With a musical heritage that includes composers Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Josef Haydn, Ludwig van Beethoven, Franz Schubert, Johann Strauss (father and son), Johannes Brahms and Gustav Mahler, among countless others, Vienna is known as the City of Music. Its cache of incredible venues where you can catch performances today include the acoustically renowned Musikverein, used by the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, the gold-and-crystal main opera house, the Staatsoper, and the multistage Konzerthaus, as well as the dedicated home of the Vienna Boys’ Choir, MuTh. Music comes to life through interactive exhibits at the captivating Haus der Musik museum.
Renowned Drinking & Dining
The Viennese appreciation of the finer things in life extends to its opulent coffee-house ‘living rooms’ serving spectacular cakes; its beloved pub-like Beisln dishing up hearty portions of Wiener Schnitzel, Tafelspitz (prime boiled beef) and goulash; elegant restaurants; and its fine Austrian wines served in vaulted Vinothek (wine bar) cellars, and in rustic vine-draped Heurigen (wine taverns) in the vineyards fringing the city. Local and international delicacies fill the heady Naschmarkt stalls, and creative chefs are experimenting with local produce and fresh new flavour combinations in innovative, often repurposed venues.
North Shore,Oahu, Hawaii
is an adventurer’s dream
It’s easy to see why Hawaii has become synonymous with paradise. Just look at these sugary beaches, Technicolor coral reefs and volcanoes beckoning adventurous spirits.
Snapshots of these islands scattered in the cobalt blue Pacific Ocean are heavenly, without the need for any embellishment by tourist brochures. Sunrises and sunsets are so spectacular that they’re cause for celebration all by themselves, such as atop Haleakalā volcano on Maui. As tropical getaways go, Hawaii couldn’t be easier or more worth the trip, though be aware that visiting these Polynesian isles isn’t always cheap. But whether you’re dreaming of swimming in crystal waterfall pools or lazing on golden-sand beaches, you can find what you’re looking for here.
Just as in days of old, life in Hawaii is lived outdoors. Whether it’s surfing, swimming, fishing or picnicking with the ʻohana (extended family and friends), encounters with nature are infused with the traditional Hawaiian value of aloha ʻaina – love and respect for the land.Go hiking across ancient lava flows and down fluted pali (sea cliffs). Learn to surf, the ancient Hawaiian sport of ‘wave sliding,’ and then snorkel or dive with giant manta rays and sea turtles. Kayak to a deserted offshore island or hop aboard a whale-watching cruise. Back on land, ride horseback with paniolo, Hawaii’s cowboys.
Floating all by itself in the middle of the Pacific, Hawaii proudly maintains its own distinct identity apart from the US mainland. Spam, shave ice, surfing, ukulele and slack key guitar music, hula, pidgin, aloha shirts, ‘rubbah slippah’ (flip-flops) – these are just some of the touchstones of everyday life, island style. Pretty much everything here feels easygoing, low-key and casual, bursting with genuine aloha and fun. You’ll be equally welcome whether you’re a globe-trotting surf bum, a beaming couple of fresh-faced honeymooners or a big, multigenerational family with rambunctious kids.
Hawaii is as proud of its multicultural heritage as it is of former US President Barack Obama, who was born in Honolulu on Oʻahu. On these Hawaiian Islands, the descendants of ancient Polynesians, European explorers, American missionaries and Asian plantation immigrants mix and mingle. What’s remarkable about contemporary Hawaii is that harmonious multiculturalism is the rule, not the exception. Boisterous arts and cultural festivals keep diverse community traditions alive, from Hawaiian outrigger canoe races to Japanese taiko drumming. Come here to see what the future of the USA could be.
is Old Town grandeur
Sweden’s third-largest city is a place where old meets new: from its proud castle and showpiece squares Stortorget and Lilla Torget, in the heart of Gamla Staden (the ‘Old Town’), to the cosmopolitan promenades of Västra Hamnen’s vibrant redeveloped waterfront. Here, Scandinavia’s tallest building twists its way skyward, gazing down over the vast Öresund bridge – both are modern engineering marvels reflecting multicultural Malmö’s progressive outlook.
‘The bridge’, connecting the city to cool-cat Copenhagen’s downtown and busy international airport, has helped forge a dynamic urban conglomeration. This, and the fact that Germany is just a short hop across the Baltic, helps explain why more than 150 nationalities call Malmö home.
It’s no wonder then that Malmö is so fabulously worldly – Middle Eastern markets, Italian coffee culture, edgy international eateries and cruisy, chic bars counter its intrinsic Nordic reserve, while its classical and contemporary fine-arts and theatre scenes are thriving.
is a moment to treasure
A safe haven in a region of conflict, Jordan has delighted visitors for centuries with its World Heritage sites, friendly towns and inspiring desert landscapes.
Jordan has a tradition of welcoming visitors: camel caravans plied the legendary King’s Highway transporting frankincense in exchange for spices while Nabataean tradesmen, Roman legionnaires, Muslim armies and zealous Crusaders all passed through the land, leaving behind impressive monuments. These monuments, including Roman amphitheatres, Crusader castles and Christian mosaics, have fascinated subsequent travellers in search of antiquity and the origins of faith. The tradition of hospitality to visitors remains to this day.
Petra: A World Wonder
Petra, the ancient Nabataean city locked in the heart of Jordan’s sandstone escarpments, is the jewel in the crown of the country’s many antiquities. Ever since Burckhardt brought news of the pink-hued necropolis back to Europe in the 19th century, the walk through the Siq to the Treasury (Petra’s defining monument) has impressed even the most travel weary of visitors. With sites flung over a vast rocky landscape and a mood that changes with the shifting light of dawn and dusk, this is a highlight that rewards a longer visit.
Take a ride through Wadi Rum at sunset, and it’s easy to see why TE Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) was so drawn to this land of weathered sandstone and reddened dunes. But Jordan’s desert landscapes are not confined to the southeast: they encompass a salt sea at the lowest point on earth, canyons flowing with seasonal water, oases of palm trees and explosions of springtime flowers scattered across arid hills. Minimal planning and only a modest budget is required for an adventure.
It takes tolerance to host endless waves of incomers, and Jordan has displayed that virtue amply, absorbing thousands of refugees from the Palestinian Territories, Iraq and most recently Syria. Despite contending with this and with large numbers of tourists who are often insensitive to conservative Jordanian values, rural life in particular has managed to keep continuity with the traditions of the past. While Jordan faces the challenges of modernisation and growing urbanisation, it remains one of the safest countries in which to gain an impression of the quintessential Middle East.
is cobbled streets and classic pubs
A small capital with a huge reputation, Dublin’s mix of heritage and hedonism will not disappoint. All you have to do is show up.
Layers of History
Dublin has been in the news since the 9th century, and while traces of its Viking past have been largely washed away, the city is a living museum of its history since then, with medieval castles and cathedrals on display alongside the architectural splendours of its 18th-century heyday, when Dublin was the most handsome Georgian city of the British Empire and a fine reflection of the aspirations of its most privileged citizens. How power was wrested from their hands is another story, and you’ll learn that one in its museums and on its walking tours.
Personality Goes A Long Way
Dubliners will admit theirs isn’t the prettiest city, but will remind you that pretty things are as easy to like as they are to forget…before showing you the showstopper Georgian bits to prove that Dublin has a fine line in sophisticated elegance. True love is demonstrated with brutal unsentimentality round here, but they’ll go soft at the knees when talking about the character and personality of the ‘greatest city in the world, if you ignore all the others’. Garrulous, amiable and witty, Dubliners at their ease are the greatest hosts of all, a charismatic bunch with compelling soul and sociability.
A Few Scoops
Even in these times of green juices and heart-monitoring apps, the pub remains the alpha and omega of social interaction in Dublin. The city’s relationship with alcohol is complex and conflicted, but at its very best, a night out in the pub is the perfect social lubricant and one of the highlights of a visit to Dublin. Every Dubliner has their favourite haunt, from the never-changing traditional pub to whatever new opening is bringing in the beautiful people. With more than 1000 of them spread about the city, you’ll be spoilt for choice.
All the World is Dublin
For as long as it’s been around, Dublin has looked beyond Irish shores for inspiration. Once the second city of the (British) empire, Dublin has always maintained a pretty cosmopolitan outlook and in the last two decades has conspicuously embraced diversity and multiculturalism. You’ll hear languages and eat foods from all four corners of the globe, and while it used to be said that ‘real’ Dubs had to be born within the canals like their parents and grandparents before them, these days you’re just as likely to meet a Dub whose parents were born in Warsaw, Lagos, Cairo or Beijing.
is where nature shines
Lemurs, baobabs, rainforest, desert, hiking and diving: Madagascar is a dream destination for outdoors enthusiasts – half the fun is getting to all these incredible attractions.
Madagascar is unique: 5% of all known animal and plant species can be found here, and here alone. The island’s signature animal is the lemur of course, but there are many more weird and wonderful creatures: the eerie-looking fossa (a cat-like predator), colourful and camouflaged chameleons, oddly shaped insects, vivid frogs, graceful rays and turtles, several species of sharks, and humpback whales during the winter months. Trees and plants are just as impressive, be they the distinctively shaped baobabs, the fanning ravinala (travellers’ palm), the hundreds of orchids or the spiny forests of the desert south.
The remarkable fauna and flora is matched by epic landscapes of an incredible diversity: you can go from rainforest to desert in just 300km. Few places on Earth offer such an intense kaleidoscope of nature. There are sandstone canyons, limestone karsts, mountains, fertile hills cascading with terraced rice paddies, forests of every kind – rain, dry, spiny – and a laterite-rich soil that gave the country its nickname of ‘Red Island’. With 5000km of coastline, the sea is never very far, turquoise and idyllic in places, dangerous in others.
Making the best of Madagascar can be challenging (and expensive): it is the world’s fourth-largest island and its roads are dismal. For those who relish an adventure, however, this is a one-of-a-kind destination: the off-road driving is phenomenal, there are national parks that only see a few hundred visitors a year, regions that live in autarky during the rainy season and resorts so remote you’ll need a private plane or boat to get there. There are also more activities than you’ll have time for: hiking, diving, mountain biking, kitesurfing, rock-climbing, you name it. Oh, and there are plenty of natural pools, beaches and hammocks on which to recover, too.
Madagascar has been populated by successive waves of migrants from various corners of the Indian Ocean. This cultural melting pot has evolved into an intricate set of beliefs and rituals that revere ancestors’ spirits. For travellers, attending a famadihana (traditional exhumation and reburial when relatives can communicate with their forebears) can be the highlight of a trip. There is much history to discover, too, from Antananarivo’s sacred hills to the pirate history of Île Sainte Marie.
is a metropolis with a view
Surprising, cosmopolitan, energetic, sophisticated and worldly, Santiago is a city of syncopated cultural currents, madhouse parties, expansive museums and top-flight restaurants. No wonder 40 percent of Chileans call the leafy capital city home.
It’s a wonderful place for strolling, and each neighborhood has its unique flavor and tone. Head out for the day to take in the museums, grand architecture and pedestrian malls of the Centro, before an afternoon picnic in one of the gorgeous hillside parks that punctuate the city’s landscape. Nightlife takes flight in the sidewalk eateries, cafes and beer halls of Barrios Brasil, Lastarria and Bellavista, while as you head east to well-heeled neighborhoods like Providencia and Las Condes, you’ll find tony restaurants and world-class hotels.
With a growing economy, renovated arts scene and plenty of eccentricity to spare, Santiago is an old-guard city on the cusp of a modern-day renaissance.
Phnom Penh, Cambodia
is a feast for the senses
Phnom Penh (ភ្នំ ពេញ): the name can’t help but conjure up an image of the exotic. The glimmering spires of the Royal Palace, the fluttering saffron of the monks’ robes and the luscious location on the banks of the mighty Mekong – this is the Asia many daydream about from afar.
Cambodia’s capital can be an assault on the senses. Motorbikes whiz through laneways without a thought for pedestrians; markets exude pungent scents; and all the while the sounds of life – of commerce, of survival – reverberate through the streets. But this is all part of the enigma.
Once the ‘Pearl of Asia’, Phnom Penh’s shine was tarnished by the impact of war and revolution. But the city has since risen from the ashes to take its place among the hip capitals of the region, with an alluring cafe culture, bustling bars and a world-class food scene.
Celebrate an industrial city’s revival.
Does it or does it not rock? That is the question. Drawing from its roots as a working man’s town, Cleveland has toiled hard in recent years to prove it does. Step one was to control the urban decay/river-on-fire thing – the Cuyahoga River was once so polluted that it actually burned. Step two was to bring a worthy attraction to town, say the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Step three was to clean up downtown’s public spaces and add hip hotels and eateries. The gritty city has come a long way. Even LeBron James deemed it happenin’ enough to return to.
is a pretty, mountainside town
That Spanish influence dates from 1912–56, when Tetouan was the capital of the Spanish protectorate, which encompassed much of northern Morocco. The town’s long relationship with Andalucia has left it with a Hispano-Moorish character that is unique in Morocco, as physically reflected in the white buildings and broad boulevards of the Spanish part of the city, known as the Ensanche (extension).
Seoraksan National Park, South Korea
Embrace the Olympic spirit.
Peak season is July and August, while in mid-October visitors flock to see the changing colours of the autumn leaves – best appreciated over a bottle of meoruju (wild fruit wine). Given the park’s size (nearly 400,000 sq km), sections are sometimes closed for restoration or preservation, or to prevent wildfires. Check with the Visitor Centre before you head out.
The park is divided into three sections, unconnected by road: Outer Seorak is the most accessible and popular area, nearest to Sokcho and the sea. Seorak-dong has hotels, motels, minbak (private homes with rooms for rent), restaurants, bars, noraebang (karaoke rooms) and general stores; Inner Seorak covers the western end of the park and is the least commercialised; Southern Seorak is the name given to the Osaek (Five Colours) area, which is famous for its mineral springs.
is unspoiled rugged coastline
Albania has natural beauty in such abundance that you might wonder why it took 20 years for the country to take off as a tourist destination since the end of a particularly brutal strain of communism in 1991. So backward was Albania when it emerged blinking into the bright light of freedom that it needed two decades just to catch up with the rest of Eastern Europe. Now that it has arguably done so, Albania offers a remarkable array of unique attractions, not least due to this very isolation: ancient mountain codes of behaviour, forgotten archaeological sites and villages where time seems to have stood still are all on the menu. With its stunning mountain scenery, a thriving capital in Tirana and beaches to rival any elsewhere in the Mediterranean, Albania has become the sleeper hit of the Balkans. But hurry here, as word is well and truly out.
San Antonio, Texas
is a stroll along the river
The biggest surprise for visitors? The fact that two of the state’s most popular destinations – the aforementioned Alamo and River Walk – are smack dab in the middle of downtown, surrounded by historical hotels, tourist attractions and souvenir shops. The rest of the city sprawls out beyond them, never impinging on the tourist trade.
Undulating, rocky, puddled expanses form the sparse, primeval landscape of Labrador
The simplest way to take a bite of the Big Land is via the Labrador Straits region, which connects to Newfoundland via a daily ferry. From there, a solitary road – the stark, rough Trans-Labrador Hwy – connects the interior’s main towns. The aboriginal-influenced northern coast is accessible only by plane or supply ferry. Here, the newly designated Torngat Mountains National Park offers a privileged glimpse into ultra-remote wilderness.
Labrador is cold, wet and windy, and its bugs are murderous. Facilities are few and far between throughout the behemoth region, so planning ahead is essential.
Ruaha National Park, Tanzania
Tanzania’s largest national park
Ruaha is notable for its wild and striking topography, especially around the Great Ruaha River, which is its heart, and which is home to crocodiles, hippos and wading birds. Much of it is undulating plateau averaging about 900m in height with occasional rocky outcrops and stands of baobabs. Mountains in the south and west reach to about 1600m and 1900m, respectively. Running through the park are several ‘sand’ rivers, most of which dry up during the dry season, when they are used by wildlife as corridors to reach areas where water remains.