The world keeps getting bigger. Every traveler I know says their wish list grows longer, not shorter, every time they dip into a new region or even hear about one.
So how to decide? What’s newly (or still) safe or newly uncovered? What’s hovering between charming sleepiness and overdeveloped soullessness? What must we see before it changes forever? What will transform us?
I put those questions to experts at several high-end travel companies. These super-agents knows what they’re talking about, keeping their ears on their clients’ interests and their eyes on the adventures they themselves have in every corner of the world. Here (in alphabetical order) is what on their radar for next year, report agencies.
The Azores, Portugal
“Resembling the otherworldly landscapes of Avatar, the Azores islands, an archipelago in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, are topping the lists of adventure travelers for 2019,” says Melissa Biggs Bradley, the founder of the members-only travel company Indagare. “With new direct flights from New York—the journey takes just five hours—the islands have volcanic crater lakes, natural hot springs and black-sand beaches. The high-thrill activities include scuba diving, kayaking, hiking, whale watching, birding, surfing and more. And while five-star luxury isn’t easy to find, there are some lovely hotels such as the contemporary-chic Furnas Boutique Hotel, urban Azor and minimalist White Exclusive Suites & Villas.
“International tourist numbers to Bhutan are creeping up every year but the majority of travelers visit the well-known areas of Western and Central Bhutan,” explains Brent Olson a destination specialist for the luxury adventure travel company GeoEx. “Eastern Bhutan is opening up, and there is quite a bit that is truly off the beaten track. I'm organizing a trip focusing on these more remote regions for November, including a short trek in Merak Sakten and a visit to the ancestral village of the Royal Family. We will also be looking at some of the many worthwhile projects funded by the Bhutan Foundation and meeting the Bhutanese involved in facilitating them.”
Cabo/Los Cabos, Mexico
This longtime weekend escape for Los Angelenos is no stranger to luxury resorts, with dozens of five-star properties, including the new Montage Los Cabos and Solaz, a Luxury Collection Resort, Los Cabos,” says Biggs Bradley. “But over the next two years, the destination will welcome new properties, including the Nobu Hotel and the 1 Hotel, that will secure its place on the luxury travelers’ map. Perhaps the two most exciting openings are the Four Seasons Costa Palmas, which recently welcomed Gwyneth Paltrow and her friends, and Amanvari, set to debut in 2020.”
In 2017, the president received the Nobel Peace Prize, and the country has “quickly gone from one of the most dangerous places on the planet to a nation on the verge of discovery,” says Biggs Bradley. “Tourists have not yet arrived en masse, and the guarded optimism of the Colombian people is palpable. Bogotá doesn’t have the breezy appeal of Cartagena or the financial might of Medellín, but it has been home to artists and creative sorts for decades. You see a spirit of celebrating life in the street art, the weekend cycling parades and frequent family celebrations. Bogotá is also one of the most exciting culinary destinations in South America.”
“This East African nation is stepping on to the world’s stage as a crucible of ancient culture, where travelers have the opportunity to experience the intersection of Christianity, Judaism and Islam through unparalleled cultural immersion,” says Biggs Bradley. “The country is home to rock-hewn churches built into incredible landscapes, rare 4th- and 5th-century antiquities and tribal villages that have lived the same way for centuries. In the past two years, new lodges (such as Limalimo Lodge and Lale’s Camp) have opened and flight connections are being added to previously out-of-reach locations like the Omo Valley.”
“The world’s fourth largest island feels more like an unexplored planet than an unchecked item on your bucket list,” says Norman Howe, president and CEO of the luxury walking and biking company Butterfield & Robinson, which has recently begun offering bespoke trips to the country. “This wondrous world has so much biodiversity to discover, both in terms of natural beauty and unique terrains. For flora and fauna, with more than 90% of the wildlife endemic to Madagascar, it’s unbeatable.” The famous lemur is only the beginning of the weird and wonderful biodiversity.
“With its wide-open spaces, dramatic landscapes, and warm nomadic culture, Mongolia has long held a special place in our hearts,” says Tina Liadis, an Asia specialist with GeoEx. “Traveling there still feels like visiting the ends of the earth! Our custom journeys provide ample opportunities to hike, bike, rock climb and stay in welcoming, comfortable ger camps. We love arranging remarkable Mongolia adventures for our travelers, lining up access to authentic experiences, such as time with nomads, outings with Kazakh eagle hunters and visits with local shamans.”
“Explore the valleys of Hunza, Shigar and Khaplu via the renowned Karakoram Highway,” suggests Sara Barbieri, another specialist with GeoEx. “This little-visited region in the far northeast of the country offers the kind of startlingly striking scenery that compels you to gaze from the window of your 4WD without blinking, for fear of missing a moment of the majesty of the landscape—or one of the astounding suspension bridges that cross the surging rivers filled with snow melt. Add to this the warm welcome of the people, the glacial blue of Attabad lake, the centuries of history, the juxtaposition of granite to greenery, the chance to walk through an age old-apricot orchard along water channels cut by hand, and the blazing snow-covered glory of Rakiposhi, and you must acknowledge there is a grand adventure to be had.”
“This East African country has emerged as a leader in conservation in recent years, notes Biggs Bradley. “In addition to intimate wildlife experiences, including gorilla trekking and tracking golden monkeys in Virunga, the luxury lodge offerings are impressive: Wilderness Safaris’ Bisate Lodge has views of Volcanoes National Park; One & Only Nyungwe House, on the edge of Nyungwe Forest National Park, opened recently; and Magashi, another Wilderness Safaris lodge, will open soon in northeastern Akagera.”
The Turkish Riviera
“Open-minded travelers are slowly returning to Turkey, parts of which had been no-go zones for the past few years,” explains Biggs Bradley. “The chic beach resort of Bodrum has been enjoying a moment in the spotlight, with the recent opening of the Six Senses Kaplankaya and the Bodrum Edition. These stylish properties are situated on the beautiful Aegean coastline—which has been likened to that of the South of France—and days here are best spent sailing, visiting ruins and scuba diving. Plus, you can fly directly to Bodrum from Berlin and London.”