The Top 35 Places to Travel in 2018

5 years ago

Where should you be traveling in 2018? We consulted travel experts, got the inside scoop on the hottest new cultural institutions and hotels opening, and scoured the globe for the most exciting emerging destinations. From idyllic islands and remote mountainous regions to bustling metropolises, these 35 destinations are at the top of our list for 2018.

Photo: Getty Images/EasyTurn


With a spate of new development, Shanghai seems poised to become mainland China’s most exciting place to be. Long a fusion of East and West, the city has steadily been welcoming cultural attractions, from the Power Station of Art(mainland China’s first state-run museum dedicated to contemporary art) to the striking new Fosun Foundation designed by Foster + Partners in collaboration with Heatherwick Studio. Last year saw the opening of Bellagio Shanghai and the urban resort Capella Shanghai, Jian Ye Li, both members of Leading Hotels of the World. This year, the city’s hospitality scene will explode, with the new AmanyangyunMiddle House designed by Piero Lissoni, the ultra-luxe Bulgari Hotel Shanghai, and the scene-making Shanghai EDITION.

Photo: Getty Images

Porquerolles, France

Never heard of this tiny island off the coast of St. Tropez? The Fondation Carmignac is about to change that when it opens a nonprofit arts venue this year featuring works by some of the 20th century’s most important artists. Until now, Édouard Carmignac’s collection of pop art by Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, and Roy Lichtenstein has been seen by few people outside of his family and the employees who work in his offices. All that will change this spring, when his gallery and sculpture garden opens to the public.

Photo: Getty Images/Hiroshi Higuchi

Buenos Aires

It should be little surprise that Art Basel chose Buenos Aires as the first participant in its new Art Basel Cities initiative. The Argentine capital thrums with creative energy, from street-art-filled Palermo to Puerto Madero, the neighborhood Alan Faena revitalized when he opened his namesake hotel in a former silo—now home to the new Alvear Icon Hotel & Residences. The program launched in November with a series of talks and events at the Art Basel Cities House and will continue to support cultural exchange with residences and a weeklong event of programming in September directed by Cecilia Alemani, director and chief curator of the High Line in New York and curator of the Italian pavilion at the 2017 Venice Biennale.


An island paradise known for its lush tropical jungles, Hindu temples, and traditional craftsmanship, Bali is set to debut a spate of new and updated resorts in the coming months. In March, Uluwatu—the village famous for its temple perched atop a cliff overlooking the sea—will get a new resort by wellness-focused brand Six Senses and the Cliff, an addition to Alila Villas Ulutawu. Also this year, Capella Ubud will debut with a series of luxury tents designed by acclaimed architect Bill Bensley. The island will soon be easier to reach, thanks to an expansion of the international airport in Denpasar.

Photo: Getty Images/Sylvain Sonnet


Despite the recent Catalan independence movement, architecture fans have several new reasons to visit Barcelona in 2018. The most exciting is the restoration of prodigal son Antoni Gaudí’s Casa Vincens, which opened to the public in November for the first time in its 130-year history. A colorful confection of Moorish architecture, Casa Vincens was Gaudí’s first commission. Also coming this year, the EDITION Barcelona is set to open in the heart of the city with Ian Schrager’s signature design panache, a yet-to-be-announced restaurant, and rooftop bar.

Photo: Getty Images/PefoStudio

Dundee, Scotland

Perhaps you’ve been to Edinburgh and Glasgow, but what about Dundee? Set to open this year, the V&A Dundee will be the U.K.’s only outpost of the Victoria & Albert Museum outside of London—not to mention Scotland’s first major design museum. Created by award-winning architect Kengo Kuma, the waterfront museum will showcase the most innovative design from Scotland and beyond. If you go, be sure to check out Dundee Contemporary Arts, a complex housing two art galleries, two cinemas, a print studio, a café, and a stylish gift shop.

Photo: Getty Images/Sean Pavone Photo

Washington, D.C.

Politics aside, there are plenty of reasons to visit the nation’s capital this year. Opened last fall, the Wharf—a $2 billion, mile-long development along the Potomac—is bringing new life to the riverfront with a new hotel by InterContinental, the Anthem concert venue designed by the Rockwell Group, and more than 75 shops and restaurants. Meanwhile, a culinary renaissance has been quietly taking place and was validated in 2016, when the Michelin Guide launched its first D.C. guide, bestowing stars upon the city’s best restaurants. Stay at the Line, the just-opened hotel by the hitmakers behind New York’s NoMad Hotel, the Line in L.A., and the Freehand hotels throughout the U.S. Activists will have a hip new place to gather later this year, when Eaton Workshop launches its hotel/co-working space aimed at social progressives.

Photo: Courtesy of Mohamed Somji

Abu Dhabi

Jean Nouvel’s eye-catching design for the Louvre Abu Dhabi made quite a splash when it opened in November, and for art and architecture fans, that might be reason enough to go. But far from slowing down, the city is kicking up into high gear, with the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi by Frank Gehry and a new Performing Arts Center by Zaha Hadid Architects planned for the coming years. Hotelier Ian Schrager has taken note: He’ll be launching the Abu Dhabi EDITION this year. Can all this investment turn the city into the U.A.E.’s new cultural capital? Go this year to see for yourself.

Photo: Getty Images/Sean Pavone Photo

New Orleans

There’s never a bad time to visit the Big Easy, but 2018 is an especially good year, as the city is celebrating its tricentennial. Expect celebrations big and small, from a special edition of the Tennessee Williams Literary Festival to the opening of a new beverage museum by the Sazerac company. What better excuse to check into the Drifter, a boutique property in a repurposed motel that opened last summer and savor a few 25 cent martinis over a decadent lunch at Commander’s Palace, which is celebrating its own milestone anniversary—125 years of gumbo and grits.

Photo: Getty Images


Visitors to Belgium’s capital this year will have the unique chance to see the empty Citroën factory before it becomes the Citroën Cultural Center in 2019. The project is currently the subject of an architecture competition, and the winning firm will be asked to create a $125 million Euro complex comprising a modern and contemporary art museum, an architecture center, and public spaces for events. Starting in May, the building will host a year of cultural activities in partnership with the Fondation Kanal and Paris’s Centre Pompidou.

Photo: Getty Images/Mark Piovesan

McLaren Vale, Australia

Though this location is not on the typical Australia itinerary, wine lovers have plenty of reasons to flock to South Australia’s wine regions, which encompass the Adelaide Hills, Barossa Valley, Clare Valley, and McLaren Vale. Besides the excellent Shirazes, plenty of culinary delights await at places like the Lane Vineyard in the Adelaide Hills. Architecture fans will especially love the new d’Arenberg Cube, a boxy, futuristic building that seems to float above the vineyard with a restaurant showcasing the best regional ingredients and spectacular views.

Photo: Getty Images

South Korea

Despite rumblings from its neighbor to the north, South Korea is gearing up to host the winter Olympics in Pyeongchang this February, and a massive push for development throughout the country is accompanying the games. Case in point: In Seoul, the recently opened Lotte World Tower—the world’s fifth tallest building—is home to the ultra-luxe Signiel Seoul (a member of Leading Hotels of the World) and South Korea’s largest luxury department store, and the Seoul Station Overpass has been converted into an elevated park inspired by New York’s High Line called Seoullo 7017. Meanwhile, the volcanic island of Jeju (pictured) will welcome a Four Seasons resort in the upcoming Jeju Shinhwa Worldcomplex later this year.

Photo: Getty Images/Sedmak

Tel Aviv

Israel’s White City is heating up in more ways than one—as the country celebrates its 70th anniversary this year, Tel Aviv is gearing up to open a Heritage Center showcasing its Bauhaus architecture and a Museum of Natural History. The famed Dizengoff Square and beach boardwalk are also undergoing a pedestrian-friendly makeover. Plus, a buzzy new W Hotel, the Drisco Hotel, and a luxurious outpost of the Setai (the latter two are members of Leading Hotels of the World) will soon give visitors sleek new places to stay in historic buildings near the old city of Jaffa.

Photo: Getty Images/Slow Images

Salvador, Brazil

With so many cities around the globe erecting futuristic glass towers, it’s refreshing to see a place like Salvador, which is completing a five-year historic preservation initiative led by the government. The colonial city is chock full of colorful baroque buildings dating back to the days when it was a major stopover on the slave trade. To this day, it remains a nexus for Afro-Brazilian music. Soon visitors will be able to stay at the sleek new Fasano outpost in a former newspaper office.

Photo: Getty Images


Tourists are finally returning to Egypt in record numbers for the first time since the Arab Spring in 2011, which is good news for both the country’s economy and for archeology fans. Egypt was one of luxury tour operator Abercrombie & Kent’s most popular destinations in 2017 and they expect to see more growth in 2018, spurred in part by the secret chamber discovered inside the Pyramid of Giza and the tombs uncovered in Luxor. But the biggest news is certainly the upcoming opening of Cairo’s Grand Egyptian Museum, set to become the world’s largest archeological museum when it launches.

Photo: Courtesy of CDMX – Mexico City

Mexico City

It should come as no surprise that Mexico City has the honor of being named the 2018 World Design Capital. This bustling metropolis has been on the rise for the last few years, but is now a bona fide must-visit destination for design aficionados. If you missed this year’s edition of Design Week, plan a trip for 2018.

Photo: Courtesy of Azores Getaways

Azores, Portugal

You’ve heard the recent buzz about Lisbon, and maybe visited, but are the Azore Islands off the coast of Portugal on your bucket list? They should be. These nine pristine islands boast stunning natural beauty, charming villages, sandy beaches, and excellent cuisine. Book an island-hopping excursion with Azores Getawaysand take advantage of Delta’s new direct flights from New York.

Photo: Courtesy of MOCA


Shuttered since 2015, Toronto’s Museum of Contemporary Art is projected to open in a new location in Sterling Road’s Automotive Tower in spring 2018, giving art lovers a new reason to visit. The city is developing at a rapid clip, as evidenced by construction on what will be Canada’s tallest skyscraper, currently being built by Foster + Partners.

Photo: Courtesy of Belize Tourism Board


This tiny country bordering Mexico and Guatemala marries the best of Latin America and the Caribbean, with white sand beaches, lush tropical jungle, a wealth of Mayan ruins, and the world’s second largest barrier reef. Two new resorts, the eco-chic Itz’ana Resort and Mahogany Bay Resort & Beach Club, are offering laid-back, boutique alternatives to the Yucatán Peninsula’s big-box resorts.

Photo: Dennis Welsh / Courtesy of Baha Mar


Hurricanes Maria and Irma may have decimated Puerto Rico and a few other Caribbean islands, but that doesn’t mean the entire region is closed, and their economy is relying on tourism dollars. You can—and should—visit the Bahamas, where the massive Baha Mar resort debuted this year with a Grand Hyatt Hotel, a casino, a golf course, a spa, and nine restaurants. Next up, SLS Baha Mar is slated to open this fall, and Rosewood Baha Mar will open in spring 2018.

Photo: Taj Hotels

Andaman & Nicobar Islands

The Maldives may have been on everyone’s mind this year, but next year all eyes will be on the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in the Bay of Bengal. When Tajdebuts its new five-star resort composed of 75 seaside villas in the style of the area’s native Jarawa’s huts, it will be the standard-bearer of luxury in the archipelago.

Photo: Courtesy of Destination New South Wales

Byron Bay, Australia

Australia’s hippie-dippie beach town has always attracted surfers and beach bums, but now it’s growing up, with more sophisticated lodging and dining options. Stay at the beachy-chic Halcyon House, a member of Small Luxury Hotels, or one of the eco-chic villas at the Elements of Byron. Savor the ultimate farm-to-table lunch at Three Blue Ducks at the Farm and take in the sunset over the Byron Bay Lighthouse—the easternmost point of Australia.

Photo: Joe Vaughn

Detroit, Michigan

Motor City has been slowly gaining momentum over the last few years, but it seems the city will be ready for its close-up in 2018 thanks to improved infrastructure and several chic new hotels. This year, the QLine streetcar launched, making it easier to get around, and the Detroit Foundation Hotelopened in the former Fire Department Headquarters with 100 sleek rooms and a restaurant by Michelin-starred chef Thomas Lents. Stay tuned for more exciting openings, including the Siren Hotel and the Shinola Hotel.

Photo: Annie Ojile

Ischia, Italy

Italians have been flocking to Capri’s sister island for centuries, but it’s coming onto the radar now thanks to Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Novels, which are being transformed into a TV show by HBO in 2018. Known for its thermal waters, Ischia is a fascinating mix of picturesque Amalfi Coast landscapes and rough-around-the-edges grit. Tour the island with Personalized Italy, which is launching tours that include spa time and trekking in former volcanoes.

Ljubljana, Slovenia

Melania Trump may have increased awareness of this small central European country, but its capital is making strides of its own. Since emerging from the Communist bloc, Ljubljana has embraced its past while pushing sustainable development. Its car-free historic center mixes Secessionist, Baroque, and Art Nouveau architecture with ample green space, and new wine bars, restaurants, shops, and hotels—like the just-opened InterContinental Ljubljana—are spurring new reasons to visit.

Photo: Courtesy of Monterey County Convention & Visitors Bureau

Monterey County, California

HBO’s hit show Big Little Lies put Monterey on the must-visit list of viewers around the country. After massive landslides cut Big Sur off from the rest of the Central Coast, the area is bouncing back and better than ever. With Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge reopened, travelers will once again be able to access the Pacific Coast Highway, and the area’s luxurious Ventana Big Sur reopened this fall as Alila’s first North American property after a massive renovation.

Photo: Richard James Taylor / Courtesy of Belmond


This incredibly diverse South American country has so much to offer, it’s impossible to choose just one region within it. Adventure-seekers and nature enthusiasts should explore the Amazon aboard a river cruise by boutique outfitter Delfin Amazon Cruises. The Belmond Andean Explorer is the luxe new way to experience Cuzco and the highlands by train. And Lima is worth a trip for its colonial architecture, stunning Pacific coastline, and hot restaurant scene.

Photo: Justin Weiler / Courtesy of Abercrombie & Kent


According to Abercrombie & Kent, Russia is the largest growth leader for Europe, and the tour company is introducing a new Imperial Russia itinerary to satisfy travelers’ curiosity. Whatever your feelings about the government, it’s impossible to deny that a culinary renaissance is sweeping Moscow, with chefs like Vladimir Mukhin (of Chef’s Table fame) leading the charge.

Photo: Bisate Lodge, Wilderness Safari


Travel experts like Red Savannah are hailing Rwanda’s recovery after the devastating 1994 genocide as Africa’s greatest success story. The changes implemented by President Paul Kagame are aiding locals and visitors alike, with mandatory education, universal health care, and new career opportunities in the tourism industry. Wilderness Safaris opened Bisate Lodge to much acclaim this year, and over the next couple of years, luxurious new lodges by Singita and One&Only will bring more options for visitors.

Photo: Courtesy of Abercrombie & Kent


Known for its Buddhist monasteries and breathtaking Himalayan landscapes, this sheltered nation was closed off to the outside world until the 1950s. Still under-the-radar, Bhutan will become much more appealing and accessible when Yonphula Airport adds a new runway and Six Senses opens a cluster of five new lodges in 2018. Discover the country with Abercrombie & Kent’s expert guides.

Photo: Nuwan Mahawattage

Sri Lanka

After more than 25 years of violence and conflict, this island nation formerly known as Ceylon has emerged from political strife and social upheaval to become one of South Asia’s most fascinating destinations. Tour operators like Nomadic ExpeditionsAbercrombie & Kent, and Red Savannah are bringing visitors to admire the Buddhist temples, tea plantations, wildlife (including endangered leopards), and beaches. Luxury hotels include AmanwellaAnantara Kalutara(opened this year), and the Owl & the Pussycat, which just won Small Luxury Hotels’ most Instagrammable hotel award.

Photo: Getty Images

Faroe Islands

This year, it seemed like everyone was visiting Iceland, but we predict that next year the Faroe Islands will be showing up nonstop on your Instagram feed, thanks in part to tour operators like Jacada Travel. Part of Denmark, the wild, rugged islands offer adventure-seeking visitors stunning natural beauty, hotels awash in Scandinavian “hygge, and a new Michelin-starred restaurant, Koks (the islands’ first).

Photo: Sean Gallup / Getty Images

Valletta, Malta

Named the 2018 European Capital of Culture, Valletta is a UNESCO World Heritage Site famous for its 16th-century fortifications created by the Knights of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem. The festivities planned will extend far beyond Malta’s capital, with some 400 events and 140 projects by 1,000 local and international artists, curators, performers, writers, designers, and filmmakers.

Photo: Jonas Gratzer / Getty Images

Hong Kong

There’s no bad time to visit Hong Kong, but in 2018 we recommend Kowloon specifically, and Cathay Pacific’s new direct flights from Newark will get you there more easily. Like Hong Kong’s version of Brooklyn, Kowloon has a more local flavor than the über-developed main island. Use the luxurious Peninsula Hong Kong (located in Kowloon) as your base to explore Sham Shui Po, which fashion designers love for its edgy street art, and the Tsim Sha Tsui shopping and nightlife district.

Photo: Getty Images

Marrakesh, Morocco

Morocco’s most visited city is seeing renewed interest thanks to the opening of the Musée Yves Saint Laurent near the Jardin Majorelle. Marrakech has been undergoing a creative renaissance, with a new generation of designers picking up where Saint Laurent left off, bringing traditional Moroccan and Berber craftsmanship into the present day.


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