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My suggestions for 2019 travel destinations!
It’s a new year, and that means a new you! Right?
Well, if that seems like a bit too much effort, how about just putting the old you in a new place?
In January, I always find myself dreaming about my travel plans for the year. The whole world is out there waiting for us to visit it – but, no matter how ambitious your new year resolutions, it’s not going to be possible to go everywhere.
That’s why I thought I would give you a hand by putting together some suggestions for the best places to travel in 2019.
Fancy trekking into the jungle to find an ancient civilisation? Well, that’s one of my recommendations.
Or perhaps you would prefer to sip cocktails on an island where celebrities go to escape.
How about taking a ride on the world’s fastest zip line? Relaxing in hot springs? Exploring castles? Eating amazing street food? I’ve got all those things on the list!
All of the ideas I’ve put together for places to visit in 2019 are destinations that I have personally been to in the past few years. Everything I’m going to recommend is from my own experience and I absolutely loved every one of these places – for different reasons.
From endless sand dunes to Soviet-era edifices; glaciers to beaches; ancient cities to hipster neighbourhoods, there’s something here for everyone.
Travelling this year can be whatever you want and I’m sure this list of 2019 travel destinations will have something to inspire you!
A few of my suggestions are from experiences I had travelling with G Adventures in the past year. As you may know, I am a ‘G Wanderer’ and a big supporter of the company. It’s having a huge sale at the moment so, if there’s a good deal for one of my suggested destinations, I’ll let you know below!
Canada is a big country and it’s impossible to do it all on just one trip. You’re better off focusing on just one particular region – and one of the most interesting at the moment in Alberta.
The province’s capital city, Edmonton, has had a rejuvenation of late with a very cool eating and drinking scene. It’s also got a renewed focus on the arts, with the highlight undoubtedly the Art Gallery of Alberta and its First Nations collection.
It’s the nature that’s the real drawcard in Alberta, though, and the jewel in the crown is the twin national parks of Jasper and Banff.
The best way to discover them is to do a drive through Jasper and Banff, with Edmonton and Calgary as the start and end points. The 232 kilometres road that goes through the two national parks is called the Icefields Parkway and is one of the most spectacular drives in the world.
You’ll see spectacular mountains and glaciers along the way, you can stop to walk to waterfalls and lakes, and there’s the famous Columbia Icefield. Plus the towns of Jasper and Banff offer charming spots to rest for the night.
Antigua and Barbuda
The Caribbean is another part of the world where you’re spoilt for choice and it can sometimes be hard to choose which island to head to for a holiday. For something that has the best of everything, you should Antigua (the main inhabited island in the nation of Antigua and Barbuda).
Antigua has anything you want without feeling pretentious or commercialised. The beauty of the beaches blends nicely with the local culture and even the colonial heritage.
It’s worth checking out Antigua’s most important historical area, Nelson’s Dockyard, which is also the country’s only World Heritage Site. This collection of colonial-era buildings is from the period when the British used Antigua as an important Caribbean port.
Antigua is known for its maritime culture and you can head out for a day of sailing (drinking). The island also holds the Antigua Sailing Week each year around April/May, which is a good time to visit.
Ultimately, it’s the laidback lifestyle that you’ll probably fall in love with the most. Hang out at some local bars, do a cooking class, or go cycling through the coastal communities.
With recent changes to the visa rules, 2019 is definitely a good year to head to Belarus. It used to be very hard to get into this rogue European country but you can now visit for 30 days without a visa if you fly in and out of Minsk.
The first obvious thing about the country is the Soviet influence, which is probably still more evident here than anywhere else in the world (possibly including Russia). Belarus is like a time capsule of the USSR, where you’ll find concrete monolithic buildings, grand boulevards, displays of war machinery, and cheap vodka.
But there’s another side to Belarus – and that’s the pre-Soviet history. Head out of Minsk and you’ll come across World Heritage-listed castles from the 16th century, enchanting rural villages, and lush green forests.
Belarus hasn’t had a lot of tourism and so that adds to the sense of adventure. There can be a few challenges with transport and language but it’s one of the safest countries in Europe and the locals always seem up for a (usually drunken) chat.
When it comes to Central America, Belize is a bit of an odd country.
It’s the only one where English is the official language (and still has Queen Elizabeth II as the head of state). It’s the only one that has its entire coast on the Caribbean. And it also has a very small population and low crime rate.
What you end up with is a safe destination with an island/coastal vibe that is very easy for tourists but still feels exotic and adventurous.
The coast is the biggest drawcard and the Belize Barrier Reef, considered to be some of the best diving in the world, is the highlight. But the beaches around Hopkins and on Caye Caulker offer a mix of relaxation and fun.
Add in experiences with indigenous communities and lots of other cultural and food activities, and you can see why Belize has so much to offer – and why I’m planning to go back again this year myself!
I’ve always found it interesting how travel trends work in Europe. A particular destination can suddenly become trendy and full of visitors – but very similar and nearby areas are virtually untouched. The Czech Republic is a perfect example of this.
The Czech capital, Prague, is packed full of tourists these days. It’s an amazing city full of beautiful historic buildings and well worth visiting. However, I wouldn’t normally have put it on this list because it is too crowded to recommend.
But I have included the whole Czech Republic country because as soon as you get out of Prague you’ll discover incredible sights and beautiful countryside without the crowds.
Go hiking in the Bohemian Paradise region, explore World Heritage-listed palaces like Kromeriz and Litomysl, see charming towns like Telc, visit modern architectural gems like the Tugendhat Villa in Brno, and stay in historic cities like Kutna Hora and Olomouc.
It’s a very affordable destination with great food and (extremely cheap) beer, it’s very easy to get around, and I can guarantee you’ll be pleasantly surprised with everywhere you go!
If you’ve followed Time Travel Turtle for a while, you may know that Japan is my favourite country. I would happily suggest it every year because there’s so much to do- but 2019 is a special year.
Later in 2019, Japan will host the Rugby World Cup (as a bit of a warm up for the Olympics in 2020). It means there’s lots happening across the country and it’s a good excuse to visit some regions that aren’t normally on the tourist trail.
Other than Tokyo, some of the most important games will be held in Yokohama, a multicultural city with a great food scene and some fantastic things to do for the whole family.
On the island of Kyushu, the city of Oita will also host some important games. Oita is famous for its onsen (hot springs) but there’s also a vibrant art scene and some amazing local seafood.
If you’re going to visit Japan, I recommend seeing more than just the standard tourist cities. If you don’t want to travel too far, you could consider the southern side of Mount Fuji where there’s a lot of heritage. Or head over to Shikoku island to see the nature of Kochi or the history of Ehime.
The Middle East is clearly a volatile part of the world at the moment but there’s no reason to fear a trip to Jordan. It’s a safe country that seems to always stay out of regional conflict and I found it to be such a friendly place when I visited last year.
There are so many reasons to visit Jordan but the obvious one is to see Petra. This ancient city from the 4th century BC is much larger and more impressive than any photo can do justice and even a whole day of exploring won’t seem like enough.
But Jordan has much more to offer. There’s the Roman city of Jerash that is one of the best preserved outside of Italy, there’s the desert landscape of Wadi Rum full of incredible colours and shapes, and you can even go diving or snorkelling in the Red Sea from Aqaba.
The country is full of history and I would also suggest seeing some of the medieval desert castles, ancient World Heritage-listed mosaics, and even the spot where Jesus is said to have been baptised.
Lisbon is so on trend at the moment – and it’s easy to see why. This coastal city has stunning historical buildings, a delicious food scene, cool bars, and is a friendly place that’s easy to get around (if you don’t mind the hills).
The real question is why it took so long for Lisbon to become this popular! So, although tourist numbers are increasing, it certainly hasn’t reached its peak and I would recommend going sooner rather than later.
Spend some time visiting the historically-important sites at Belem, see the old neighbourhoods of Alfama and Graca, eat at amazing restaurants in Bairro Alto, and try to spot as much street and tile art as you can.
If you can handle waiting in the queue, take a ride on one of the famous trams or hike up to one of the beautiful viewpoints. There are also lively little local bars which are perfect places to rest when you’re tired of exploring on foot.
Lisbon is also the perfect base for a day trip to Sintra, the enchanting landscape of colourful palaces and castles where the wealthy made a community inspired by Romantic artists.
I used to always think of Malaysia as the boring neighbour of its more interesting Southeast Asian countries like Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. But when I finally spent some time there, I was so impressed with the variety on offer.
Kuala Lumpur is still a rather underwhelming city but, if you leave the capital quickly, you’ll find stunning tropical escapes like Tioman Island or the Perhentian Islands, where there aren’t even cars!
Smaller cities have a vibrant personalities, like Ipoh with its hipster cafes and street art, or Kuala Kangsar with its royal and colonial history. There’s hiking in the tea fields around the Cameron Highlands or trading heritage in Malacca.
Malaysia is a very affordable destination and, with your money going further, it means you can experience great food, comfortable transport, trendy accommodation, and fun activities.
It has good tourism infrastructure but hasn’t been corrupted like some other parts of the region, making it a joy to spend time there!
Wow! Namibia absolutely blew me away and I can see why it’s a destination that a lot of people are talking about as a 2019 destination.
Where to start? Well, how about the amazing sand dunes and salt pans that make up the Namib Sand Sea and roll down to the Atlantic Ocean and meet the brutal Skeleton Coast.
There’s also the dramatic Fish River Canyon, one of the largest canyons in the world. And there’s the coastal activities around Swakopmund with colonies of seals and whale and dolphin watching.
There are also fantastic safari options in Namibia (it is Africa, after all) and a few days in Etosha National Park will get you up close with lions, elephants, giraffes – and even the black rhino.
It’s such a magical country with jaw-dropping landscapes that constantly change as you travel through different parts.
Namibia is not too far from Cape Town in South Africa, offering convenient access from around the world. It’s also next to Botswana and not far from Victoria Falls, meaning you can combine a trip to Namibia with a couple of other destinations.
Italy is one of the most popular countries in the world for tourism and you don’t need me to suggest a visit there. However, most people concentrate on the north of the country where you’ll find an easy experience.
For something a bit more authentic, I would recommend Naples.
The city has a reputation for being dirty and dangerous and, unfortunately, it’s true. But look just beyond the grit and there’s a beautifully-majestic old city full of emotion and heritage. It’s not the tourist cliche you get in places like Florence.
What makes Naples such a great destination, though, is the access to other sites. It makes a lot of sense to use it as a base to explore places like Caserta Palace, Pompeii, and Mount Vesuvius. You can also easily do day trips to Capri and parts of the Amalfi Coast (although you may want to spend a night or two there).
Naples has easy access to Rome and other parts of Italy so it doesn’t have to be the only part of a trip to Italy but there’s easily enough to do for a week or more.
It’s been a few years since I was last in Peru but it’s still one of my favourite trips ever. I love it because I discovered the huge variety that the country offers – much more than just Machu Picchu and the postcard photos we’ve all seen.
Obviously you can’t go and not visit Machu Picchu, one of the world’s best sites. There are a few different routes you can take to get there and spending a few days hiking is a very special experience.
Beyond the Incas, there are the remains of many other civilisations at archaeological sites like Caral Supe, Chavin de Huantar, and Chan Chan. There’s lots to explore in cities like Cusco, Arequipa, and Lima. And there’s plenty more nature!
You’ll never be able to fit it into just one trip so, even if you’ve already been to Peru, put it back on the list for a return visit to see a different side.
After a few visits over the years, I have developed a soft spot for the Baltics. This collection of small former-Soviet countries are such interesting places with strong cultural identities, stunning nature, delicious food, and lots of historical places to visit.
Each of the three Baltic countries – Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania – have their own unique characteristics and it’s worth seeing all three. But my favourite part of the region is Tallinn and I thought it deserved a special mention.
The historic centre of Tallinn is beautiful, with castles, palaces, cobblestone streets, and grand squares. But go beyond the old city walls and you find a modern city full of fun.
The hipster area of Kalamaja is full of great bars and restaurants and it’s easy to lose yourself for an afternoon here. Nearby is the incredible Maritime Museum – one of the best in Europe.
From here, you can access the coastline, a perfect part of the city to spend long sunny evenings in summer. Follow it along to the Kadriog neighbourhood with its imperial grandeur.
I would suggest a trip to the Baltics to see all three countries – but make sure you leave enough time to enjoy the sights AND the vibe of Tallinn.
Now, I want to take this opportunity to give a special shout-out to Wales. I had always thought of the country as a slightly more boring version of England (I’m sorry!) but I am now happy to report that I was completely wrong.
Wales has always been famous for its castles and its nature – two things that it should rightly be proud of.
Four coastal castles of King Edward are part of a World Heritage Site and they are really special. And, when it comes to the nature, the dramatic mountains of Snowdonia and the coastline of northern Wales in particular are much more striking in person.
But Wales has also carved out a new identity as an adventure destination and it’s done it really well! It’s home to the World’s fastest zipline that shoots you down from a mountain for more than a minute.
There are toboggans, inland surfing, kayaking, mountaineering and even coasteering – a sport that originated in Wales where you jump off rocks as you make your way around a rocky coast.
After all the exertion of adventure sports, hiking, and exploring castles, Wales has also got the perfect pub atmosphere to relax beside a fire with a hearty meal and a local gin. Who could ask for more?!
OK, that was going to be the end of my list but now I’m going to mention one last bonus destination – Mexico. It’s a bonus because I’ve never been before but it’s going to be my first major trip of 2019 so I wanted to give you a preview of my January plan.
I’ll be going with G Adventures on a Mayan Discovery trip, seeing the history of this civilisation in Mexico, Belize, and Guatemala. And then I’ll be spending a bit more time on my own exploring the southeast of Mexico.
I can’t wait to go to a new country and it looks like a really exciting trip, with a good mix of adventure, discovery and relaxation.
Right now, there’s also a sale on the Mayan Discovery tour and you can get a really good bargain (plus flights seem to be quite reasonable too). So if you feel like a trip through Mexico and Central America, have a look at the savings you’ll make on this trip:
Aside from all the destinations I have mentioned above, there are also some other amazing trips with G Adventures that are on sale at the moment. These ones caught my eye in particular:
- Uncover India – Delhi to Goa
- Bali on a Shoestring
- Sailing Italy and Croatia
- Best of Sumatra
- Central Mexico Adventure
Whatever you end up doing this year, I hope you have some great 2019 travel. Bon voyage!