Ultimate Travel Bucket List for 2019

Ultimate Travel Bucket List for 2019

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While 2018 was a fantastic and fascinating year for travel, a new year means new beginnings and new discoveries, even if you’re traveling back to a place you’ve been before. Savvy travelers know to plan ahead for their dream vacation, and planning ahead first and foremost means knowing where to go in 2019.

With so much going on around the globe and so much coming up in the calendar year, it wasn’t easy to figure out just which destinations you should pay most attention to this year. Some classic travel destinations such as Italy and Tokyo are always good for a visit, but this year, they seem to shine even brighter. Other spots are farther off the beaten path; if you’re looking to visit Africa, you’ll find that there’s much more happening on the continent this year outside of Kenya and South Africa, and tourists visiting South Asia will find they should look outside of India and Nepal.

2019 is seeing more accessibility, innovation, renovation, and security in many parts of the world, which means it’s a great time for travelers to be a bit bold and find themselves in corners of the globe that they hadn’t considered before. Get a start on your travel plans for the year, and consider a trip to at least one or two of the destinations on this ultimate travel bucket list for 2019.

Belize

Belize

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Belize continues to be a top destination, offering up an affordable Central American vacation with Caribbean beaches and relatively untouched beauty, although the latter may soon not be as enjoyable as more and more tourists discover its gorgeous beaches and growing list of beautiful hotels. Luckily, the national government is working to protect Belize’s notable marine environment, featuring the second-largest barrier reef in the world, which was removed from the UNESCO World Heritage site danger list in June 2018 thanks to those efforts. Enjoy delicious Belizean cuisine, visit Ancient Mayan ruins, and stay at some truly magnificent eco-resorts that give you the chance to enjoy the country’s amazing caves and jungles before they’re filled with crowds of tourists.

Berlin, Germany

Berlin, Germany

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Discover the rich history of a city, as well as the country as a whole, in Berlin’s 175 museums, and an equally rich culture through its art, music, and food scenes. This year sees the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Bauhaus design movement, and all of Germany will be celebrating all year long, with Berlin in particular having some fantastic festivals and galleries dedicated to the artistic style. Iconic landmarks such as the Brandenburg Gate and the remnants of the Berlin Wall are also worth a visit, especially since 2019 will be the 30th anniversary of the fall of the latter. Don’t leave the city without a taste of its famous currywurst — you can even find vegetarian versions, as Berlin now has more vegetarian restaurants than any other capital city in Europe.

Bhutan

Bhutan

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A small South Asian nation bordered by India and Tibet, the kingdom of Bhutan is a highly underrated tourist spot located in the eastern Himalayas. Known for its natural beauty and serving as the perfect site for hiking and mountain trekking, Bhutan has been actively seeking international tourists, but also understands the importance of preserving the picturesque quality of country that draws those tourists in the first place. Its “High Value Low Impact” tourism policy imposes a daily visa fee — $250 during the high season (March through May and September through November) and $200 during the low season — which includes accommodations in city hotels or country resorts, transportation, tour guide service, and meals. Full of monasteries and fortresses as well as subtropical plains and steep mountains and valleys, Bhutan is utterly captivating, and its capital city of Thimphu is a great place to explore the country’s unique culture and history. Stay at one of many top-tier hotels with breathtaking views, notably the new Six Senses Bhutan, which will start accepting reservations in February for five different resorts opening up in 2019, offering up guests experiences such as hiking the famous Snowman Trail and visiting dzong temple-fortresses.

Botswana

Botswana

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The ultimate destination for nature lovers and wildlife enthusiasts, Botswana is a great place for some serious glamping. Observe amazing creatures such as antelopes, elephants, lions, leopards, zebras, and over 450 kinds of birds while on a horseback safari or game drives and bushwalks while staying at world-class all-inclusive resorts such as andBeyond Xaranna Okavango Delta Camp or gorgeous lodges such as the recently reopened Belmond Savute Elephant Lodge, located within Chobe National Park, and camps like the new Qorokwe Camp — where you can stay in tented suites — and the recently rebuilt Mombo Camp within Moremi Game Reserve.

Dakar, Senegal

Dakar, Senegal

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The capital of Senegal, Dakar is a stylish West African hub that’s more accessible than ever after a brand new $600 million dollar airport opened up in December of 2017. Visit its beautiful mosques and colorful markets and enjoy the African sun on its beautiful beaches alongside wrestlers, surfers, sheep, and other tourists. A fascinating fashion scene mixes Western and African influences, as does its lively nightlife, with clubs playing both mbalax and Senegalese hip hop.

Elqui Valley, Chile

Elqui Valley, Chile

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A lesser known region of Chile, those travelers who do have the Elqui Valley on their radar often look to it as a wine region. This gorgeously sunny location will be getting extra attention this year, however, as the sun gets blocked out in a total solar eclipse on July 2. While solar eclipses aren’t completely rare, the Elqui Valley is the perfect spot to witness one, as the remote area — which gets 320 days of sunshine per year — has more than a dozen observatories and was designated the first International Dark Sky Sanctuary thanks to its lack of artificial light, which allows astrotourists to enjoy the sky in all its glory. When not taking in the jawdroppingly clear sky, visitors can also revel in some of the best wine in the world, go on distillery tours, and take on nature trails among the Andes Mountains.

Florida

Florida

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There’s a lot more to Florida than Walt Disney World and the beach (although both are still always great draws that one shouldn’t miss), and this year is a great year to explore all over the Sunshine State. Miami has increasingly become a fantastic destination for food and art lovers, and the new Philip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science is worth a visit, as is the city’s Design District with its ever-expanding list of public art installations and cultural events. Enjoy the stunning white sand beaches, clear waters, and 16 beach communities of South Walton County on the panhandle, home to four artificial reef systems that are being built as a home for marine life and an opportunity for snorkeling. The Florida Keys are also making a strong comeback in the wake of Hurricane Irma, with beautiful hotels and resorts opening up to tourists, and the Greater Fort Lauderdale Area is also worth a visit, particularly due to its thriving culinary scene full of upscale restaurants and an impressive craft beer scene with 32 craft brew pubs and 15 nano- and micro-breweries along the new Greater Fort Lauderdale Ale Trail. An LGBT+ Visitor Center also opened up in June 2018 in Wilton Manors, a city in the area known for its remarkably high concentration of gay residents and businesses.

French Polynesia

French Polynesia

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French Polynesia is a South Pacific nation made up of 118 islands and atolls spread out over 1,200 miles, known for famously stunning destinations such as Tahiti and Bora Bora. If you’re looking for a tropical paradise, this is it. The most populous island, Tahiti, is more accessible and affordable than ever with newer flight routes popping up from the west coast of the United States. Just a 20-minute flight north from there lies The Brando, an amazing all-inclusive eco-resort on the atoll of Tetiaroa that has managed to get rid of the Zika problem thanks to researchers on the island. Get to the Tuamoti Archipelago for July 2 and you’ll be able witness a completely dark sky as the solar eclipse passes directly overhead.

Grand Canyon, Arizona

Grand Canyon, Arizona

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Grand Canyon National Park will be celebrating its centennial in 2019, which means a visit to the national landmark this year will be even more eventful as the park plans more tours and events at the canyon. Take part in all sorts of special exhibitions, talks, and concerts throughout the year in order to celebrate the park and this amazing American natural landmark, and explore the lesser known corners of the canyon with special new tours.

Houston, Texas

Houston, Texas

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Celebrate the 50th anniversary of the moon landing at NASA’s Johnson Space Center where the Apollo Mission Center will be fully restored by July. Enjoy even more intellectual pursuits throughout Houston’s Museum District, home to 19 museums, 10 of which are free with the other nine offering free admission on certain days. Make sure you check out the newly expanded Museum of Fine Arts and the renovated Menil Collection and the brand new Menil Drawing Institute, the first of its kind in the country. Enjoy the most diverse place in America through its food scene, too; you’ll find deliciously authentic Mexican food anywhere in the city, as well as great Chinese food in Chinatown, and mouthwatering Indian or Pakistani fare in the Mahatma Gandhi District. Check out Koreatown for some good Korean cuisine, Midtown for Vietnamese food, Bissonette Street for something Ethiopian or Nigerian, and the predominantly Jewish Meyerland for anything kosher. To make things even easier for foodies, five food halls are opening up in Houston, full of amazing food.

Italy

Italy

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Italy has so much to offer, particularly this year, that the entire country deserves a spot on the list, and no matter where you go, you’re sure to have an unforgettable vacation. There are, of course, the classic stops of Rome where you can explore a rich history going back to ancient times alongside a thriving modern Italian culture; the fashion mecca that is Milan where you’ll find an iconic duomo as well as access to Leonardo DaVinci’s famous Last Supper; the romantic yet sinking Venice with its gorgeous canals; and some of the world’s greatest artistic masterpieces in Florence, with nearby Pisa and Pompeii as must-stops. The city of Matera in southern Italy, however, is definitely having a moment after it was designated the 2019 European Capital of Culture; this year will be filled with celebrations in the city, and you should definitely go back 9,000 years in time by visiting the caves of Sassi di Matera or exploring its famous churches carved into volcanic rock. Explore the Piedmont region, famous for its wines and amazingly delicious (and expensive) truffles, home to beautiful rural villages, remote trails winding through the Alps, and the city of Turin, with a thriving contemporary art and electronic music scene. Off the coast of the mainland, you’ll also want to explore the Sicilian capital of Palermo, where you’ll find the finest of Sicilian cuisine as well as a burgeoning arts scene, as well as Ischia, a picturesque volcanic island full of thermal spas and wonderful resorts.

Los Cabos, Mexico

Los Cabos, Mexico

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Located at southern tip of Baja California, Los Cabos is made of up two resort towns, Cabo San Lucas and San José del Cabo, and has earned its name as a destination of choice for the rich and famous. Anyone can enjoy this Mexican paradise, however, known for its beautiful beaches and plentiful opportunities for golfing and sport fishing. It continues to grow as a destination, with many hotels opening their doors this year, including the beachfront Zadún, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve with private plunge pools, the Four Seasons Costa Palmas, Nobu Hotel Los Cabos, and the luxurious eco-friendly 1 Hotel.

Madeira

Madeira

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Located about 320 miles off the coast of Africa and about an hour and a half by plane from Lisbon, Madeira is an archipelago under Portuguese rule that will be celebrating the 600th anniversary of its discovery in 2019 through a series of events, celebrations, and exhibitions. A popular destination year-round thanks to its mild weather, Madeira offers vacationers the remote location, weather and beaches of a subtropical island with the food and culture of a European destination. New hotels are popping up all over the island this year, such as Les Suites at The Cliff Bay, Pestana Churchill Bay Hotel, and Savoy Palace, featuring an oceanfront location, beautiful gardens, and a spa, as well as a rooftop pool.

Mexico City, Mexico

Mexico City, Mexico

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One of the most exciting destinations you can discover, Mexico City is the largest Spanish-speaking city in the world and the oldest capital city in the Americas. With a great amount of history and culture, there’s a lot to do in this city of 9 million people. Explore its historic center on foot and get on a bike to cruise down the Paseo de la Reforma. To rest your feet, you can try a hot air balloon ride over the famous pyramids of Teotihuacán, and at night, the city really comes alive in its buzzing clubs and restaurants full of delicious Mexican fare. This year will bring even more life to Mexico City, as new hotels open up, including new additions by Kimpton and Sofitel.

Montenegro

Montenegro

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Situated on the Adriatic Sea, Montenegro is a small country characterized by amazing beaches, beautiful mountain scenery, and picturesque medieval villages. Tourists are rediscovering this Balkan nation as it recovers and comes back to life after the Yugoslavian civil war of the 1990s. Discover the Bay of Kotor, one of the most picturesque spots on the planet, known for its spectacular views and Instagram-worthy towns and churches, and visit the underrated Durmitor National Park, where you’ll find glacial lakes, limestone peaks and a 4,265-foot-deep canyon — and maybe even see some bears and wolves in the distance.

Namibia

Namibia

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The southern African nation of Namibia only won its independence in 1990, but there’s a lot of history in this former German colony as well as plenty of amazing wildlife. One of the least densely populated countries in the world, it is home to the Namib Desert, considered the oldest in the world, on its western coast, as well as the Kalahari which extends into its eastern side. Nature lovers will find much to see here as well as Fish River Canyon Park and Etosha National Park, and the country is known for its diverse wildlife, particularly its large cheetah population. Multiple safari lodges are opening up this year, including Hoanib Valley Camp in the more remote northwestern part of the country, Sonop in the southern Namib Desert, and the more high-end Shipwreck Lodge, located on the stunning Skeleton Coast.

Northern Peru

Northern Peru

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Thanks to the presence of the Amazon rainforest, northern Peru is a truly fascinating destination characterized by some of the most diverse and wild landscapes on the planet, as well as some of the oldest cultures in South America. Flights to the northern part of the country have increased from Lima, and the ancient settlement of Kuélap now has a cable car to make it more accessible for visitors. Last year also saw the creation of Yaguas National Park in the northeastern Loreto region, preserving millions of acres of roadless wilderness and habitats for amazing flora and fauna. Local chefs are also properly utilizing the wonders of the Amazon in their kitchens, bringing about innovative cuisine and bold innovations in flavor, so food lovers will find just as much adventure here too.

Oman

Oman

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The Gulf country of Oman has become a rising tourist destination in recent years, with new hotels and resorts popping up as well as Muscat International Airport recently completing the first phase of a $1.8 billion expansion, which means more new flights into the nation’s capital. In Muscat, one of the safest cities in the world, you’ll find beautiful mosques and museums, as well as an impressive opera house and world-class resorts to stay in as you enjoy the Arabian Sea and mountain scenery. In the central part of the country, you’ll find picturesque dunes and old forts, whereas some superb hiking can be found in the Hajar Mountains of the north, or if you visit during the khareef, or monsoon season, the southern city of Salalah is an almost tropical destination which welcomes the season with a culture-packed festival.

Pakistan

Pakistan

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The Portuguese government recently issued a new advisory for its citizens, declaring that due to the efforts of the Pakistani army and law enforcement, the South Asian nation is much more safe for travel, particularly in tourist areas such as the Hunza Valley and Gilgit Baltistan. This is just one of the latest signs that Pakistan is set to become a surprise top destination this year, as after more than a decade, British Airways will be resuming flights to Pakistan in 2019, and the French government has also recently announced that it will work towards relaxing its own travel advisory. Explore historic Lahore, city of the Mughals as well as the country’s film and fashion industries, as well as the governmental capital of Islamabad and Karachi, the nation’s largest city and a bastion of food, music, and truck art. In the northern part of the country, you’ll find the famous Karakoram Highway, part of the historic Silk Road, as well as breathtakingly picturesque Hunza Valley, the Himalayan honeymoon favorite of Murree, and Skardu, famous for its magnificent Shangrila resort and access to K2, the second tallest mountain in the world. In order to further promote tourism, the Pakistani government has also indicated that it may soon grant visa on arrival status for 55 additional countries, most of them in Europe, after making a similar move in January of last year for 24 others, including the U.S. and the U.K.

Panama City, Panama

Panama City, Panama

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Referred to as “the Dubai of Latin America,” Panama’s capital is a thriving city with a growing number of wealthy residents, skyscrapers, and a thriving nightlife and restaurant scene. Known for its party spirit, Panama City is getting ready for its biggest party yet as 2019 will see the 500th anniversary of the city’s foundation. Visit the Panama Canal, where you can observe boats passing by or go for a ride on one of them yourself. If you’d rather enjoy the famous landmark from a drier vantage point, consider a luxury train ride alongside the canal or visit the Miraflores Visitors Center, which has a fantastic museum. Learn more of the city’s long and fascinating history at Panama Viejo, the ruins of the original city, and then Casco Viejo, the historic district of the current city and home to colonial-era government buildings, old cathedrals, and great museums.

Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico

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Over the past year, Puerto Rico has been the perfect example of rebuilding and resilience, and the reborn island has taken the chance to renew itself in the wake of Hurricane Maria. Not only are tourists more needed than ever in order to help the U.S. territory get back on its feet, but nearly all hotels have reopened their doors, many having taken the chance to do some seriously impressive renovations. The iconic El San Juan Hotel, which had gone under a $65 million renovation right before the storm, has restored its beachside villas and pools; Dorado Beach, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve, has refreshed its guest rooms and brought back more than 300,000 native plants to its own landscape; and more and more Airbnb listings are showing up as well. Newer hotels have also arrived on the scene in the past year, such as the Serafina Beach Hotel and the O:LV Fifty Five, and the delicious food scene continues to thrive as well. Best of all, Lin-Manuel Miranda will be reprising his role as Alexander Hamilton in a limited Puerto Rico run of his Broadway hit musical “Hamilton” with proceeds going towards promoting art initiatives in Puerto Rico.

Singapore

Singapore

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One of the absolute safest cities in the world, the city-state of Singapore is the second most densely populated city in the world, full of workers and expats from all over globe, making this a highly multicultural city with tons of things to do. A truly impressive food scene serves up mouthwatering dishes in high-end restaurants as well as on the streets, with influences from the Chinese, Indian, and Malay communities that have thrived here. You’ll also find quite a bit of glamour in the futuristic architecture, designer shopping malls, and luxurious hotels such as the Marina Bay Sands and Raffles, reopening in all its iconic glory this year after an extensive renovation, as well as newcomers such as the amazing new Six Senses Maxwell and Capitol Kepinski Hotel. Best of all, Singapore Airlines is now offering the world’s longest nonstop flight with its journey between Singapore and Newark.

Tokyo, Japan

Tokyo, Japan

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You should definitely visit Tokyo at least once in your lifetime, and 2019 may just be the year to do it. Boasting more than 13 million residents and made up of 23 different wards, each with its own personality, a single visit won’t really be enough to cover the entire city, however. Here you’ll find the best sushi in the world among other delicious and innovative cuisine in the most Michelin-starred city in the world, as well as shops full of funky fashions, the latest electronics, all kinds of anime paraphernalia, and snacks in every flavor you can think of. Right alongside the quirkiness, however, comes the best of traditional Japanese culture, as Tokyo is also home to many Buddhist temples, Shinto shrines, and opportunities to take part in martial arts, tea ceremonies, and calligraphy lessons. Visit this year, and you’ll not only beat the crowd of some 60 million people estimated to visit the next year due to the 2020 Summer Olympics, but you’ll still be able to take advantage of the city’s preparations for the big event, such as new hotel openings and more tourist-friendly infrastructure. This year will also see change at the highest level; the island nation will witness an imperial transition as Emperor Akihito is set to abdicate the throne on April 30, the first Japanese emperor to do so in two centuries.

Toronto, Canada

Toronto, Canada

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Already a bastion of culture within Canada with more than 200 languages spoken by its residents, more than half of whom are people of color, Toronto is rising as a cultural hotspot in 2019. The Toronto Biennial of Art, a 90-day multidisciplinary exhibition of contemporary art, will see its debut in September, and the Museum of Contemporary Art Toronto Canada recently reopened after a three-year and $13 million expansion and relocation. In addition to its many world-class museums, culture also presents itself in Toronto’s impressive culinary scene, as well as its many festivals and public events, and other must-see stops include the Toronto Zoo, the upscale shopping district of Yorkville, and the iconic CN Tower, the tallest structure in the Western Hemisphere.

Turkish Riviera

Turkish Riviera

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Known as the Turquoise Coast due to its breathtakingly blue waters, the Turkish Riviera is a coastal area in southwest Turkey that features world-class beaches, mountain landscapes, and a pleasant climate with more than 600 miles worth of stunning coastline along the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas. History has a strong presence here with the ruins of two of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World — the Mausoleum of Maussollos and the Temple of Artemis — lying within this region, but modern-day civilization is making its mark too as new hotels are popping up for tourists looking for a vacation spot with the best of Europe and the Middle East, particularly with recent renovations and openings by luxury hotel brands such as Mandarin Oriental, Aman, and Nikki Beach. Venture outside the big cities such as Bodrum and Antalya and to charming small towns such as Kaş, Çıralı, Gümüşlük, and Datça, where you’ll find untouched beauty and even more surreally clear, blue waters.

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