The travel media company Lonely Planet has released its Best in Travel 2019 report, detailing the places its authors think travellers should visit next year. This being the UAE, many of the places are within easy reach.
Just a four-hour flight away, Sri Lanka is the number one country to visit for next year, Lonely Planet says, because "there's now more than ever for families, adrenaline junkies, eco-tourists, wellness seekers and foodies of all budgets. Even the north and east, including areas previously off limits, difficult to reach or lacking in services, deliver new discoveries."
Next come Germany, Zimbabwe, Panama and Kyrgyzstan, which is becoming a favourite for independent travellers seeking "unspoilt natural beauty" thanks to 2,700km of newly marked trekking routes, a countrywide push of community-run tourism projects, a revamped national road system cutting transit times and a simplified e-visa system.
Jordan and Indonesia are 6th and 7th on the list, thanks to the newly expanded Jordan Trail, at 650km in length, and, in Indonesia, new eco-resorts, "substantial investment in new air, sea and land connections, plus visa-free access for nationals of 169 countries."
Copenhagen, a direct seven-hour flight from the UAE, tops Lonely Planet's list as "capital of cool" with "groundbreaking" restaurants, a "booming" street food scene and expanded metro system. Shenzen, the "Silicon Valley of China", is "swarming with creatives" and comes second on the list thanks to its proximity to Hong Kong and a "strumming indie-music scene, cool cafes and a whole new arts district", which includes the openings of Design Society, in partnership with London's V&A museum, the Museum of Contemporary Art & Planning Exhibition and OCT-LOFT, a heritage art village.
Third on the list of must-visit cities is Novi Sad in Serbia, easily accessible from Belgrade, which hosts the annual EXIT music festival, is next year's European Youth Capital. "Headlining this revival, the Petrovaradin Citadel's Lower Town is getting a facelift, the dilapidated Chinatown has blossomed into an alternative-culture district. Bursting with creative energy, new Gradić Fest is reinvigorating Petrovaradin through music, film, theatre and art."
Fourth on the list is Miami in the USA, a long but still direct flight from the UAE, which has become "a burgeoning centre for the arts, a foodie destination and an innovator in Urban design." Closer to home at number 5 is Kathmandu, Nepal, where "the narrative is all about reconstruction and rejuvenation" and moves to calm the city's traffic have made it more liveable. Next on the list are Mexico City, Dakar, Senegal: "a new travel hub in West Africa" thanks to a $600m new airport, Seattle, where Amazon has created an exciting new downtown business district, Zadar, Croatia, a Flydubai route which has a charming old town, Roman ruins and an "imagination-stirring promenade". In Morocco, the "under-appreciated imperial city" of Meknes, close to Fez but receiving far fewer tourists.
Piedmont, in the landlocked, northwestern corner of Italy is the top region to visit for 2019 because of Turin's towering cultural scene, the area's "exquisitely bucolic villages" and superb food, which may no longer be "just the savvy, arty, foodie traveller's secret for much longer." Also in the top 10 are "Russia's far east", accessible via a number of new routes from the UAE and centering around dynamic Vladivostok with newly opened spaces in the Hermitage and Mariinsky Theatre and the Fabrika Zarya arts complex. Outside the city, "the region's pristine nature and dramatic volcanoes are all more accessible than ever."
Topping the list for affordability is Egypt's Southern Nile Valley, "the flag-bearer for the country's return to travel's super league, and its near-incomparable historical itinerary represents a superb deal for travellers in 2019." Also listed is the Maldives, also just four hours away from the UAE, "as word gets out about a network of inexpensive places to stay on the islands."
An increasing number of inhabited, non-resort islands have their own locally run guesthouses, bypassing the expensive resort scene and bringing visitors close to what can be the otherwise elusive Maldivian culture. "Costs are typically around US$90 per night and meals, diving and other activities can be arranged. Popular islands for independent travellers include Maafushi, Rasdhoo, Thoddoo and Dhigurah."
Bangladesh, another short flight from the UAE, is also listed in the top 10 places for value, and "offers travellers that 'out there' feeling that's harder to find in many neighbouring countries." Vistiors will find "exciting cities", wild national parks and lightly-visited Unesco World Heritage sites such as the historic city of Bagerhat.