The top 12 destinations of 2018
"Once a year, go someplace you've never been before." Dalai Lama
Looking to the future is a natural reaction to finding ourselves in a new year, and for us that means starting to imagine what our travel itinerary will look like in the next 12 months. To this end we've compiled a list below of the #top12 travel destinations we're longing to see for the first time, or get back to for another look.
12/ Hoi An, Vietnam
Hoi An is a city known as a melting pot with a culturally rich and turbulent past. Wandering through this imperial former capital is an education in its history; from ornate Vietnamese houses to Chinese temples, antique Japanese structures to French colonial buildings. It is a well-preserved celebration of its vibrant past and present, and it is number 12 on our wish list this year.
Visit ancient houses, temples, churches and covered bridges in the old town. Explore the city and countryside on a cycle tour. Hit the beach by day and one of the many great bars by night, and taste the culinary delights of the city's specialty dishes and barbecue street food.
11/ Normandy Coast, France
The Normandy Coast is a spectacular place to explore, with beautiful medieval towns, quaint coastal villages, soaring cliffs and hilltops, stunning beaches and sweeping vistas sure to capture your heart. It is a place rich in fascinating history both recent and ancient, making it feel untouched in parts by the march of modernity.
Visit breathtaking Mont Saint-Michel, D-Day landing sites, Monet's house and gardens in Giverny, Bayeux and the remarkable Bayeux tapestry, the idyllic pastoral bastion of the Pays d'Auge, the city of Rouen with its modern and medieval attractions, and the delightful Cotentin Peninsula.
10/ Valletta, Malta
Valletta is an ancient cultural capital of Europe, with a long history going back to the Stone Age. It's stunning streets are a wonder to explore, with the Medieval military grid structure interplaying with grand Baroque buildings and more modern additions, all flowing from the shockingly pristine waters of the Mediterranean Sea lapping at its harbour.
Visit the Baroque masterpiece of St Johns Co-Cathedral, where some of Caravaggio's most famous work resides. Take in the sparkling harbour view at the Upper Barrakka Gardens. Sample Malta's best Mediterranean restaurants and vibrant performing arts scene, and swim in the crystal blue waters of Sliema Harbour.
09/ Chefchaouen, Morocco
Chefchaouen is famous for its blue-washed houses, a practice dating back to its early days when Jewish refugees fleeing the Spanish Inquisition settled there, bringing with them their tradition of mirroring the sky in the blue of their houses to remind them of God. It is a striking walled city dating back to the Middle Ages, and until the 1920s its steep cobbled lanes and shady town squares were closed to outsiders. It is fascinating to wander the streets of this Moroccan wonder, particularly the Old City which remains largely untouched since the 15th century.
Visit the Old City and Medina for a spot of shopping, get lost in the tranquility of the stunning Andalusian Gardens, and learn about the long history of the city at the Kasbah Museum. Wander down to the Plaza Uta el-Hammam for amazing street food, or relax at a restaurant to admire the Arab and Spanish influenced architecture. See the Grand Mosque and the Res el-Ma, or if you fancy a more natural setting take a walk to the Cascades d’Akchour or hike the Rif Mountains.
08/ Glasgow, Scotland
Glasgow is a port city with a grand industrial history in trade and ship building, and a reputation for friendliness the world over. The city's magnificent streets are lined with the signs of a prosperous past, with Victorian and Art Nouveau buildings gifting the city its distinctive flavour, along with a rich and varied cultural scene making Glasgow a national hub for art, dance, theatre and music.
Visit Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum to find out about Glasgow's fascinating past, and the Gallery of Modern Art to peek into its artistic future. Revel in the mastery of Charles Rennie Mackintosh at the Glasgow School of art (reopening this year after extensive reconstruction), and relax at the Willow Tea Rooms to experience living in an art nouveau world. Any of the fine parks and gardens are worth wandering, particularly Glasgow Green, Pollock Country House, Rouken Glen Park and Glasgow Botanic Gardens. Take a stroll through the weird and wonderful at the Sharmanka Kinetic Theatre, House for an Art Lover, Riverside Museum and the Titan. Finally, be sure to get to the West End, known for hipster hangs, great food and coffee, and the Hunterian Art Gallery.
07/ New Orleans, USA
New Orleans is a steamy, sultry port city with a vibrant melting pot of cultural influences. Including French, Spanish, Haitian, Cuban, African and Creole, these influences are overlaid with more modern and equally varied flavours. Walking the streets of the city is a visual journey through it's colourful history, with architecture spanning all ages and influences of its turbulent past. It is the cradle of music in the USA, and this cultural heritage proudly lives on today.
Visit the French Quarter and Bourbon Street for a taste of New Orleans of old. Take in the baroque beauty of the oldest part of the city, home to Jackson Square, Faulkner House and the Cabildo. For a more authentic bite of the city wander down to Frenchmen Street, where the eats and drinks are inexpensive and the bands play all night and day. While you're there stroll through the Frenchmen Art Market for locally made finds, then float down river to Bywater for the most avant-garde art spaces in town. Head to the famous bayous for a swamp tour, and St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 or Lafayette Cemetery No. 1 for a spot of fascinating local history. Take a stroll through the historic and beautiful Garden District, and explore the Warehouse District's plethora of art galleries and museums, including the National World War II Museum.
06/ Gold Coast, Australia
The Gold Coast is a place of geographic extremes, stretching down the southern east coast of Queensland in a sprawling mass of high rises, hedonistic shopping strips, dazzling sandy beaches, sparkling waterways, lush mountains and pristine world heritage forests. The building boom of the 80s is charmingly evident in this retro paradise, giving each neighbourhood a quaintly distinctive and yet unifying aesthetic. It is a place of salty summer dreams, melting in the hot sun of an almost permanent Australian summer.
Visit the national parks for a stroll through verdant sub-tropical rainforests, take a treetop walk and visit glow worm caves. Brave the wonderfully kitsch theme parks, shop some of the unique stores and boutiques, laze on spectacular beaches and take a surfing or kite boarding lesson. Visit a local animal sanctuary to cuddle cute Australian wildlife, and do a spot of whale watching to see giants of the deep up close and personal. Drop into a spa, head to Miami Marketta for delicious street food with a side of live music, and try any number of amazing cafes and restaurants dotted along this sun-soaked city.
05/ Naoshima, Japan
Naoshima is an island paradise for artists and art lovers, nestled in the sunny embrace of the Seto Inland Sea. With an atmosphere somewhere between rural Japanese and Mediterranean, stunningly simple modern architecture as well as traditional Japanese buildings, not to mention beautiful sandy beaches and enviable weather, Naoshima is the perfect place to relax and be inspired by the art and design scattered across the island.
Visit the Lee Ufan Museum, Chichu Art Museum, Ando Museum and Benesse House to take in some truly remarkable art, and marvel at the creative vision of famous Japanese architect Ando Tadao. Stay in Benesse House, or a traditional minshuku (Japanese guesthouse), or if you're feeling adventurous a yurt. Hire an electrical bike and take a tour of the island, wander through Miyama Park or Honmura, home to the Art House Project. Relax at I Love U, a kitschy Japanese sento (bath house) and art gallery, and travel hop a ferry to the nearby art islands of Teshima and Inujima.
04/ Moscow, Russia
Moscow is the most artistic and cosmopolitan city in Russia, widening in majestic concentric circles from the Moskva River. It is a city steeped in turbulent history, with a past proudly kept alive in every onion dome, tall tented roof, gilded accent and wonderfully garish buildings bursting with colour. It makes our top 12 this year because with one of the fastest growing tourism industries in the world, and hosting the 2018 World Cup, it is quickly becoming one of the most fascinating and beguiling destinations on Earth.
Visit the Kremlin to take in the gilded history of its Armoury and bright red walls, wander across the famous Red Square, the very heart of the city, and take in the colourful riot that is the celebrated St Basil's Cathedral. Pop to the Bolshoi Theatre for a spot of some of the best ballet in the world, and stroll through the avant-garde communist utopia of Gorky Park, to feel the winds of change that have swept the country again and again throughout its history. Take in some visual history at the Pushkin Museum of Fine Art, the 19th and 20th Century Art Gallery and the State Tretyakov Gallery Main Branch. Pay your silent respects at Lenin's Mausoleum, and learn about the heavy hitters in Russia's Communist past. This is a city with too many galleries, cathedrals and fascinating buildings to name, and well worth including in your 2018 plans.
03/ Loch Ness, Scotland
Loch Ness is a landscape of pure magic stretching through the heart of the Scottish Highlands. The loch itself holds more water than the lakes of England and Whales combined, and nestled about its shore are some of the most spectacular views and scenic villages in the whole country. Whether you're wandering through lush green forest, traipsing the streets of perfectly picturesque villages, hopping a boat for a different perspective or visiting ageing ruins, there is a special kind of wondering beauty unique to this peaceful pocket of Scotland.
Visit Fort Augustus to discover medieval Cherry Island and the historic and still functional Caledonian Canal. Follow the stunning shoreline to Invermoriston for a spot of forest bathing and pretty village views. Take in some history at the now ruined Urquhart Castle, and relax at Cafe Eighty2 in the nearby village of Drunnadrochit, where you will find the best coffee for miles. Head away from the loch into the surrounding mountains to Glen Affric, where some of the most exquisite scenes will greet you, including the awe inspiring Plodda Falls. Hop a boat tour to explore the loch from the water, or simply explore the Loch Ness shoreline by car and on foot, where each new mesmerising scene will take your breath away.
02/ Reykjavík, Iceland
Reykjavík is a modern, compact city cosying up against stunning Faxa Bay in the shadow of epic mountainous surrounds. It is an adventurer's dream; a technologically advanced, quaint frontier town with a lively atmosphere and thriving cultural scene. The streets of this unique city are a colourful riot of traditional Icelandic buildings, but they hide a love affair with avant-garde style and chic Scandi fashion. Reykjavík is a tiny city at the heart of a country of extremes, but the Icelandic people are expert at making the most out of what they have, and transforming the inhospitable into the enchanting.
Visit towering expressionist Hallgrimskirkja Church for a 360 degree view of Reykjavík. Take in the stunning glass Harpa Concert Hall, and while you're there see the Sun Voyager sculpture and scenic Old Harbour. Relax in one of the many city pools where you will find spas and saunas as well. Wander or cycle the quaint central city streets and stop for a spot of shopping in one of the main retail strips. For a peek at the local wildlife go on a whale and puffin watching tour, and get outside the city on an Icelandic horse tour. Visit any of the lovely city parks, and make the most of the epic natural landscape on Reykjavík's doorstep by visiting the Gullfoss (Golden Waterfall), Geysir National Park, Þingvellir (the site of Iceland's ancient parliament), or the Blue Lagoon. Absorb some of the country's unique culture at the Reykjavík Art Gallery, Kjarval Museum and the National Gallery of Iceland, and any number of the equally enthralling smaller galleries scattered around the city. Tour the vibrant street art scene popping up around the city, and for a chance to see the Northern Lights stroll along the seaside by night at Seltjarnarnes.
01/ Seoul, South Korea
Seoul is a dynamic city with a turbulent past and glittering future; a vibrant hub of industry, business and culture sitting proudly on the Han River as a testament to what hard work and determination can achieve. From the utter ruin of the Korean War to one of the most prosperous economies in the world, with some of the highest standards of living, and host of the 'Peace Olympics', the 2018 Winter Games, South Korea and its capital Seoul are a marvel of modern ingenuity. Seoul is an exciting city where the ultra modern meets the ancient past, where both are celebrated and respected in equal measure, and the arts and culture thrive. With homegrown K-pop, K-drama and film industries poised to burst onto the world stage, this is a city on the move, which is why it is number one on our list of #top12 travel destinations for 2018.
Visit N Seoul Tower on Mt. Namsan by cable car for a panoramic view of the city. Head to Myeongdong for a spot of high-end shopping, Dongdaemun for amazing wholesale finds and Gwangjang Market for some of the best street food in the city. Celebrate by night in vibrant Hongdae, the epicentre of Seoul's idiosyncratic nightlife, and by day shop for vintage bargains or visit Hongdae Trickey Museum, the world's first augmented reality facility of its kind. Take a tour at Gyeongbokgung Palace and watch the fascinating spectacle of the Royal Guard Changing Ceremony at Gwanghwamun Gate. While you're there take a walk through the nearby Bukchon Hanok Village, the largest cluster of traditional Korean wooden homes (hanok) in Seoul, with over 600 years of history. Wander a little further to Changdeokgung Palace, the last seat of imperial power in Korea, and then take in the majestic Heunginjimun, the east gate of Seoul's ancient capital. For the centre of traditional fine art and crafts in the city travel to Insadong, where galleries and stores selling traditional wares can be found. For a spot of nature head to beautiful Nami Island and scenic Seoraksan (Mount Seorak) National Park. For a bit of footloose fun head to Everland, South Korea's largest theme park, and Lotte World, including the world's largest indoor theme park. Explore the bustling, gritty streets of Seoul's first 'Special Tourism District' Itaewon, and be stunned by Jongmyo Shrine, the oldest and most authentic of the Confucian royal shrines.
For more amazing holiday destinations take a look at our range of être travel guides, designed by us to inspire your next journey.