From designated cities of cultural importance to awe-inspiring resorts and regions enjoying improved accessibility, we round up the must-visit destinations around the world this year
Lonely Planet has ranked Copenhagen as the No 1 city to visit next year, with its architecture and gastronomy acting as major draws. It has restaurants boasting no less than 19 Michelin stars, the fantastical Tivoli Gardens and a cluster of new hotels set to open – plus a huge renovation project transforming a former brewery in the city’s Carlsberg District into Hotel Ottilia (pictured), a boutique hotel with amazing rooftop views. All this means Scandinavia’s most relaxed capital should be on your radar.
Namibia has been rising in the travel stakes over the past 12 months and, with off-grid holidays continuing to trend, this rise looks set to continue. Namibia is home to the world’s largest free-roaming black rhino population, the planet’s oldest desert and the shipwreck-dusted Skeleton Coast, and a spate of new lodges are set to welcome travellers this year. Among them is Andersson’s at Ongava near Etosha National Park, which will set new standards for eco-travel by connecting guests with conservation science. The rainy season from January to March offers amazing wildlife-spotting opportunities, but most people prefer to go between May and December to avoid the heavy downpours.
One of Mexico’s most glamorous beach destinations, the Baja California peninsula offers pristine beaches, rugged mountains and wild desert terrain, making it a winning all-rounder. This year, both Nobu and Four Seasons will join a swarm of newly opened luxury hotels, and there’s another handful earmarked for the following year. Nature buffs will love Ensenada, where improved dark-sky- friendly policies have been announced. Foodies should add Los Cabos to their visit lists – the culinary scene here is on point.
In Bollywood capital Mumbai, hotspot Juhu continues to ride its popularity wave after the opening of Asia’s first Soho House at the end of last year. Elsewhere in the city, the new Navi Mumbai airport is set to begin operations and the much-anticipated Chedi Mumbai hotel will open its grand doors high above Powai Lake. Add to this Mumbai’s reputation for being home to more than a few of the top restaurants in India, and you can see why it’s on our visit list. Avoid going during the hot summer months.
Long-standing tropical resort, Song Saa, will soon be joined by Six Senses Krabey Island (pictured), while other big hotel chains are rumoured to be on the way, opening up Cambodia as an island-hopping, standalone destination for the first time. With Phnom Penh airport recording a 30 per cent growth in traffic last year, and Khmer cuisine making waves in the culinary world, the next 12 months look like they could be big for this low-lying SouthEast Asian spot.
Where the luxury hotels go is often an indicator of what’s hot in travel so, with both Raffles Hotels and Rosewood announcing new openings, Shenzhen, is a city to watch. Known for its booming tech and fashion markets, it’s one of Asia’s most exciting cities and has been granted Unesco Creative City status. It also borders Hong Kong, making it a great dual-city destination. Go between October and December for the best temperatures.
If you like to get somewhere before the crowds set in, stick Detroit, a city very much still in transition, on your go-to list. Renovation is rife in the original state capital of Michigan, with the highly anticipated Atwater Beach project slated to open this summer, bringing a floating barge, waterside restaurants and sandy shores to the heart of the city. A boom in boutique hotels is already under way, with the Shinola Hotel and the Element Detroit at The Metropolitan both set to join the scene later this year.
Matera in Italy’s Basilicata region is an almost otherworldly place that’s renowned for its Sassi district, which has some of the best examples of cave-dwelling communities in the entire Mediterranean region. Named European Capital of Culture for 2019, it’s ready to showcase a whole programme of cultural events designed to complement its carefully renovated cave hotels and fantastic southern Italian food. If you crave snow-topped scenery, plan a visit in March.
The Jordan Trail
Carving a name for itself in adventure travel circles, Jordan’s 650-kilometre long-distance trail earns the Middle Eastern country a slot on this list. Walk, bike or hike through canyons and wadis, and alongside steep cliff faces, or trudge through riverbeds and clamber over rugged rocks. Visit between March and May for the best weather. This walk through history is so much more than the desert vistas that the country is typically famed for, and will boost the country’s efforts to increase tourist numbers to seven million by 2020.
In far southern Myanmar, Mergui, one of the world’s least explored archipelagos, will come into its own this year, with improved accessibility from southern Thailand, coupled with a cluster of luxury resorts set to follow the lead of the newly opened Awei Pila. Stunningly untouched and home to the indigenous Moken tribe, this 800-strong island paradise makes for perfect sailing exploration from November to April.
The least known of Morocco’s big cities, Meknes was listed by Lonely Planet as one if its top 10 cities to visit in 2019. Located in the northern part of the country, it is home to almost a million people and the towering remains of the country’s oldest Roman site. This year, a two-year restoration of Ismail’s elaborate mausoleum, which is something of a national treasure, will also be revealed. Get there before the crowds.
Part of the Lesser Sunda Islands, Flores is Bali’s undiscovered neighbour, but with the opening of its first luxury resort last year – the Ayana Komodo Resort at Waecicu Beach – it’s not likely to stay that way much longer. Your best bet is to visit between April and October, when you can see komodo dragons, dive into dense coral reefs and take in the view of the epic crater lakes from the heights of Mount Kelimutu.