Jan 17, 2017 / By Shyla Esko Bare
From wine producing meccas to off the beaten path gems. From nations emerging after wars to countries known for historic sites. The top destinations of 2018 are far-flung and fascinating. To make this list, a country had to not only be a great place to visit, but have a specific reason to see it this year, 2018, even if that reason is just tourist buzz.
#12 – Ireland
If you are among the millions of people that have seen Star Wars: The Last Jedi, then you have recently traveled to Ireland. At least visually. The island retreat of Luke Skywalker is Skellig Michael, an island off of Ireland. For 600 years, this rugged outpost was a retreat for monks who built those amazing stairs going from see to cliff in the movie. Some entrepreneurial tourist companies already have boat trip to this remote island. You will no longer see Christian monks, or Jedi ones either, however you are bound to see lots of tourists flocking to Ireland this year.
Not into Star Wars? Don’t worry, Ireland is still a wonderful destination. I especially enjoy turning up in a small town and finding the local pub. For in-depth information on traveling in Ireland as well as insider secrets, take Ireland for Travelers by Wild Spirit Travel, available at https://wild-spirit-travel-courses.teachable.com/p/ireland-for-travelers
#11 – Myanmar
When Myanmar put out the welcome mat to tourists a couple of years ago, they really were not ready. Travelers found a shortage of accommodation that meant they could be overcharged for the lodging that was available. To meet the demand, hotels were built. However, the tourist level has already dropped. In fact, Myanmar’s tourist arrivals have been declining since peaking in December 2015. That means 2018 may be the ideal time to visit. The sites are not over-run by tourists, and there is reasonable infrastructure to manage the people that are visiting.
One of the reasons, there has been a decrease in tourist arrivals is fear of safety and a belief that visiting this country is not ethical. There are current issues in Myanmar; primarily the violence against Muslims that is happening in several states. However, the main tourist sites are not in these areas. According to the US Government’s travel.state.gov website, Myanmar is a level one, their safest travel advisory level. Ethics have long been an issue with visiting this country. But before boycotting, remember that most Burmese are not involved with the violence. And the Burmese working in the tourist industry could benefit greatly right now from tourist dollars. For more information, read “Is it time for travelers to boycott Myanmar?” by Hugh Morris, Travel News Editor, The Telegraph, 17 November, 2017. Myanmar is one of the countries covered in the Wild Spirit Travel class “SE Asia for Travelers” available at https://wild-spirit-travel-courses.teachable.com/p/traveling-to-se-asia
#10 – Malta
Malta is on every “where to travel in 2018 list” that I have read. Malta is a Mediterranean island, that is, according to Wikipedia, one of the world’s smallest and most densely populated countries. The reason it has been picked as a tourist hot spot for this year, is Valletta, the capital of Malta, has been named one of the 2018 European Capitals of Culture.
In a normal year, there are already three times more tourists than residents. So, I may wait till the crowds move on to next year’s capital of culture. Still, Malta does belong on this list, as the country has ramped up for tourists and has special events throughout the year. Try visiting outside of the peak travel time of summer.
#9 – South Korea
South Korea is hoping to win tourist gold this year when they host the 2018 Winter Olympics. I have long felt that this is a delightful yet under-rated destination. Seoul is a modern easy to navigate city with one of my favorite airports in the world – Incheon. The city offers many delights such as Gyeongbokgung Palace and an abundance of jjimjilbangs (public bathhouses.) All this plus, delicious foods, friendly locals, a safe atmosphere, and oden heated rooms, makes Seoul a top city destination.
The Winter Olympics are sure to also highlight the natural beauty of the entire country. If you do not already have tickets to the Olympics, then you may want to wait and visit in the spring once the crowds have left. The shoulder seasons, of spring and autumn, are a nice time to travel around South Korea. In October 2018, South Korea will be hosting the International Conference for Servas – a travel club that promotes world peace through travel.
#8 – Iceland
For the third year running, I have heard from an incredible number of travelers that Iceland is on their shortlist. This is especially true for people from the Pacific Northwest, who are increasingly interested in this island destination since there are now direct flights from Seattle to Reykjavik. According to a Lonely Planet article, the number of American tourists in 2016 was higher than the local population.* And tourist numbers went up 35% in 2017.
That is a lot of people to bathe in the Blue Lagoon with. As such, I plan to leave Iceland on my bucket list for another year. Nevertheless, 2018 is bound to see lots of tourists flocking to this geothermal island. So many, that the government is considering limiting numbers or adding higher fees to people that journey there.* If you want to visit before these restrictions, you may want to go this year. Although, I recommend avoiding the main tourist months of June through August.
*”Iceland considers limiting tourist numbers to protect its natural wonders” by Annemarie McCarthy, Lonely Planet writer, 20 March 2017.
#7 – Colombia
From sandy beaches to Andes mountain peaks, Colombia has diverse regions. The country is also loaded with museums, art, and historic sites such as Cartagena, which is on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Even though it has a lot to offer, tourism in Colombia has been low compared to Peru and other South American countries. A main reason that tourist have skipped this destination is safety. For decades, this country was known more for cartels and kidnappings than for its beaches and colorful cities.
However, on December 1, 2016, a peace accord went into effect. Last year many tourists waited and watched. After a year of peace, they are now buying flights to Colombia. The numbers are still low, but are bound to increase as word gets out about this beautiful destination. It is high on my bucket list.
#6 – Vietnam
2018 marks 50 years since the infamous TET offensive. There is no better time to celebrate how far Vietnam has come since the war. It is a bustling country, with beautiful countryside, welcoming people, delicious food, and historic sites. All this and still it is a bargain. In fact, Rough Guide has it as the #3 Budget Destination in the world.
I already have plans to return to this magical country next January. Dan and I will be going with a tour organized by Marcia Miller of You Go Girls Travel. This will be a co-ed tour going to Dan and my favorite spots in Vietnam. Watch for details on how to travel with us to this exotic destination on our website www.WildSpiritTravel.com
. Vietnam is also one of the countries covered in the Wild Spirit Travel class “SE Asia for Travelers” available at https://wild-spirit-travel-courses.teachable.com/p/traveling-to-se-asia
#5 – Uganda
Looking for an off the beaten path destination? Try Uganda in East Africa. It is one of two countries for gorilla trekking. The other country Rwanda increased the government trekking fee to US $1500 in 2017.* That is three times the cost in Uganda. If people are willing to pay that, you can bet Uganda will eventually raise their fee as well. So, go now.
Gorillas are not the only primate you can see in Uganda. You can also track chimpanzees, colobus monkeys and mangabeys. Plus, of course, there are other animals as well. And don’t forget the opportunity to meet people of different African tribes, such as Karamojong.
*”Rwanda Doubles Its Fee For Gorilla Trekking” by Simon Calder, The Independent Travel Correspondent, 11 May 2017.
#4 – Georgia
I am talking the country, not the state. Georgia recently got on my travel radar as more and more people turned up at our travel meetup group having been there. They raved about the natural beauty, historic sites, and friendly people. This year, Georgia is celebrating 100 years since they first declared independence.
And for me, why Georgia is so high on my list, is this past year, they discovered there the oldest evidence of winemaking in the world. In fact, Georgians have been drinking wine for 8,000 years – since 6000 BC! The region still produces more than 500 local grape varieties. Now that is my kind of place. For more information on the Stone Age winemakers read: “Oldest Evidence of Winemaking Discovered at 8,000-year-old Village” by Andrew Curry, National Geographic, 13 November 2017.
#3 – The Caribbean, Dominican Republic
The 2017 hurricane season was devastating. In technical terms it was “extremely active” with 17 named storms, 10 hurricanes and 6 major hurricanes. The destruction caused by the storms made the news, and some places are still trying to recover. As such, you may be surprised to hear that a Caribbean country made my top destination list. Here is why it did. The region needs tourist money to rebuild; and, because of the extensive press of the storms, many travelers think that all islands were impacted so are not going.
But, they were not. A few countries in the region were unscathed completely, including Antigua, Jamaica, Martinique, St Kits and St Lucia. I picked Dominican Republic for my list since there was some damage, but limited, and they are most definitely open and eager for tourists. Purposeful Nomad, a travel company for women, has tours to the Dominican in February and October this year. Details at www.PurposefulNomad.com
#2 – Portugal
My Grandma, who did an around-the-world trip in the 1980s, once told me her favorite country in the world was Portugal. She loved the paving stones (you got to see the sidewalks there), the free roaming gentle dogs, and the friendly people. My Grandma may have been on to something, as there is a lot of buzz about Portugal right now. In fact, it has been labeled “Europe’s Best Retirement Haven” by International Living. And, Rough Guide, declared Portugal the “best bargain of Western Europe” for 2018. All that, plus sandy beaches, historic sites, delicious food (some of the best in Europe in my opinion) and amazing wines. Yes, it is easy to see why my Grandma loved this country.
I will be hosting a discussion on traveling to Portugal in February at the Talk Travel meetup for the International Travelers & Travel Dreamers meetup group. The meetup is on Tuesday February 20th in Portland. For more details, join the group on meetup.com or check the Wild Spirit Travel website www.WildSpiritTravel.com
#1 – Jordan
Some travel moments you never forget. For me one such moment was the amazing approach to Petra in Jordan. As such, I have a fond place in my heart for this country. And I am excited to say, I think this is the year they are really a stand-out travel destination. According to the World Tourism Organization, the Middle East is the fastest growing travel region in the world. And Jordan is a manageable country there.
Often, I hear safety concerns raised about Jordan, but except for the border region with Syria and Iraq, Jordan is considered safe. These concerns have impacted tourism, which is down by 60% since 2010. That is when I visited, and there was not a lot of tourists then, so definitely a place that is not overrun by tourists. And recent reports are their infrastructure has improved. In fact, the first Hilton opened in the country, on the Dead Sea, in 2017.
My main reason for making Jordan my top country to visit in 2018, is the opening of the 400-mile Jordan Trail. It was created so travelers can walk the entire length of Jordan in just over a month. Or you can just do a small portion for a day or two. This trail goes through 52 settlements, many of who got limited tourists in the past. Hikers are encouraged to meet the locals and even stay in Bedouin tents as they go. That sounds pretty fantastic.
If you hike the Jordan Trail in 2018, or visit any of the countries that made the top destination list, do share your experience in the Facebook group for Travelers – Wild Spirit Travelers (www.facebook.com/groups/WildSpiritTravelers
). This group is a great place to share photos, stories, and travel tips. You can also ask questions so other travelers can share their tips with you.
Shyla Esko Bare, 17-January-18 ©www.WildSpiritTravel.com
Want to share, email, or print this page?