It’s time to start thinking about the destinations that savvy travelers should put on their wish lists for 2019. From new hotel openings and landmark anniversaries to major sporting events and relaxed visa requirements, there are myriad reasons to visit these 12 destinations around the world. Here, cities, regions and countries from near and far that’ll be in their prime during the months ahead.
The deserts, bushland and coastline of this southwest African nation have seen the arrival of several new stylish, eco-minded lodges in the last few months, with more to follow. Hoanib Valley Camp boasts a partnership with a local conservation organization, as does Omaanda, whose owner set up shop in Namibia after Angelina Jolie suggested the idea. The 12 rooms of Shipwreck Lodge, meanwhile, on the Skeleton Coast, look like boats floating atop the dunes. New flights on Eurowing (via Munich) and increased service on Qatar Airways (via Doha) make it easier to get to the capital city of Windhoek.
Tourism to this ancient land is very much on the upswing, with the country welcoming about 55 percent more visitors this year than last, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organization, making it the fastest-growing destination in the world. In 2019, all eyes will be on Giza for the opening of the Grand Egyptian Museum’s stunning new home, inspired by the nearby Pyramids and designed by Heneghan Peng Architects. The 5.2 million-square-foot space — the largest museum on the planet dedicated to one civilization — will be home to newly restored and repatriated relics.
Japan begins a two-year stretch of worldwide attention next year: first for 2019’s Rugby World Cup, which will be played across the country, and then for 2020’s Summer Olympics in Tokyo. This coming April also brings the abdication of the emperor — the first in the nation’s history — as octogenarian Akihito makes way for his son, Crown Prince Naruhito. Expect much pomp and circumstance. Visitors to Tokyo will also want to check out the modern new home of the wholesale fish market, famed for its early-morning tuna auction and now in the waterfront Toyosu district, and to check in to relatively affordable new stays like Hoshino Resorts Omo5 and the spring-opening, pod-style Hotel Zen Tokyo.
Thanks to newly relaxed visa requirements, this Central Asian nation and former Soviet Socialist Republic proves top of mind in 2019 for travel outfitters — including G Adventures, Remote Lands and Wild Frontiers — that specialize in intrepid journeys to more off-the-beaten-path destinations. Uzbekistan’s ancient Muslim monuments, in such cities as Samarkand and Bukhara, also provide an alternative to those of other Islamic countries, which have recently seen their historic sites destroyed and are now even harder to reach because of war. Also of note: This past April, Uzbekistan Airways increase service between JFK and Tashkent, the capital, from one weekly flight to two.
This coming June marks the 75th anniversary of D-Day, when American, British and Canadian troops stormed the beaches of northern France, beginning the months-long battle that would eventually bring victory to the Allies in Europe and a close to World War II on the Continent. To commemorate this, a full slate of events and commemorations have been programmed for the area, but these Norman sites can also be visited throughout the year, and several institutions are expanding or creating new exhibitions, including the Overlord Museum and the D-Day Experience. Tour companies are offering trips during this anniversary year, too, Jacada Travel and Smithsonian Tours among them, and Avalon Waterways has a special Paris-to-Normandy river cruise on the Seine in D-Day’s honor.
One of the year’s two European Capitals of Culture (the other is Matera, in southern Italy), picturesque Plovdiv is probably the biggest Bulgarian city you’ve never heard of. It’s the country’s second largest, in fact, and its history includes rule by pretty much every empire since ancient times, from the Persians to the Romans to the Turks. Now, it’s celebrating its year in the spotlight with some 500 festivals, exhibitions, performances, shows and other events not only in town but throughout the Bulgaria’s South Central Region. A few new hotels have opened, like the Residence City Garden in a newly built, classically styled structure next to Tsar Simeon’s Garden, and more are on the way.
Los Cabos, Mexico
It feels like no beach destination is experiencing more tempting resort openings than the tip of the Baja Peninsula — especially for travelers looking to splurge. Marriott’s Luxury Collection debuted the 34-acre waterfront Solaz in September, while the Montage dropped over the summer, on one of the only swimmable beaches in the region. Coming in December is the all-suite, slightly more wallet-friendly Garza Blanca, and by the middle of next year spots from Nobu, Four Seasons, Ritz-Carlton and Hard Rock will all have burst onto the beach.
A new bucket list-ready journey in the furthest reaches of northwest Canada offers the opportunity to garner some serious bragging rights. Sure, other people travel to see the Northern Lights by boat or snowcat, cross-country skis or dog sled, staying in everything from ice hotels to igloo-like clear plastic bubbles. But have any of your friends witnessed the aurora borealis from a chartered plane? Probably not. But now you can. Consulta Meta’s Aurora 360 Experience will bring guests up to the lights in a Boeing 737 — the only flight in the world to take off within the aurora oval. Book now: The trip will happen one time only in 2019, from February 8 to 11.
More than 14 months after Hurricane Irma, this string of islands off Florida’s southern coast are finally hitting their stride again. The adults-only Bungalows Key Largo is opening later this year on 1,000 feet of shoreline as the region’s first all-inclusive hotel; most all of its 135 rooms have private outdoor plunge pools or tubs. Then, in March, Isla Bella Beach Resort lands on 24 acres at the western tip of Knights Key, just before Seven Mile Bridge. Set at the end of a winding drive, it’s designed to feel worlds away, with 199 water-view rooms, five pools, several restaurants and its own sandy beach. Speaking of sand, the beautiful Loggerhead Beach will finally reopen, post-hurricane, in Bahia Honda State Park, and, in other good news, as of October, United operates daily nonstop service between Newark and Key West, with a second flight added during high season from February through March.
The force awakens at Disneyland Resort this summer, when Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opens, nearly seven years after the House That Mickey Built bought Lucasfilm for more than $4 billion. Many details are still under wraps, but CEO Bob Iger has promised this will be Disney’s largest “single-themed land expansion” ever. The immersive world recreates the planet Batuu, complete with a replica of the Millennium Falcon you can pilot and a Star Destroyer you can board. In the fall, the Jedi return to Disney World in Orlando, Fla., where another Galaxy’s Edge will debut, followed later by a Star Wars-themed hotel.
Long ignored by travelers who otherwise explored so much of South America, Bolivia is coming into its own of late, especially in La Paz, the capital, where fine new hotels are rising, and in the barren expanses of the salt flats, where adventure-ready lodges and camps are launching. Infrastructure has steadily been improving, and now 2019 will see the Altu Qala design hotel arrive in La Paz, its mid-century-modern interiors sitting within a neoclassical building. In February, the bubble-like pods of Kachi Lodge will launch as the first permanent luxury hotel on the Uyuni Salt Flats. Set at nearly 12,000 feet, at the foot of Tunupa Volcano, the Buckminster Fuller-style domes dot the area like a space station’s pavilions — an aesthetic befitting the Martian landscape. Complementing its Airstream pop-ups on the Uyuni flats, the British outfitter Steppes Travel, meanwhile, will debut a mobile tented experience that takes guests to many of the country’s most remote corners.
Those who missed the full solar eclipse last year won’t have to wait very long for another — though we won’t be able to see this next one from as close to home. On July 2, an eclipse will be visible from a narrow band of South America, most of it in Argentina. That’s a boon for the cost conscious, since travel in the country remains inexpensive, thanks to the strength of the dollar against the peso. You’ll be able to see the eclipse from 4:35 p.m. to 5:45 p.m. local time, with a full minute of totality in the middle, from just south and west of Buenos Aires. There, great AirBnBs start in the low double digits, and a three-bedroom penthouse (with pool!) in the chic Palermo neighborhood goes for $150.
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