Best countries and cities to visit in 2018: The 18 places you should visit this year

Stuck for travel ideas for the next 12 months? Can’t figure out where to go or what to do next? Check out the list below for my picks of 2018’s best destinations. And start packing.

COUNTRIES

Russia

Despite its fairly questionable human rights record, and the looming prospect of a presidential “election” (cough) in March, Russia is still one of the places to visit in 2018, purely because it’s hosting the biggest sporting party of the them all: the FIFA World Cup. All the glitz, glamour and definitely not corrupt sporting officials will arrive in June.

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Indonesia

Ten new Balis. Depending on your opinion of the original Bali, that could be a very good thing, or very bad. Regardless, it’s happening. The Indonesian government is planning to encourage tourists away from its infamous island hotspot and into other parts of the country, from Lake Toba in North Sumatra to Borobudur in Java, by creating “10 new Balis”. It might be worth getting to those places before everyone else does.

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Turkey

Maybe it’s time to give Turkey another chance. As the brutal wars in neighbouring Iraq and Syria appear to wind down, this amazing country could once again be a tourism hotspot, with its cosmopolitan cities, beaches and resort towns, its blend of European and Middle Eastern cultures, and its endlessly photogenic lunar landscapes there to be enjoyed.

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France

This is another country that has suffered recently due to factors beyond its control – in France’s case, terrorist attacks. However, statistically your chances of being involved in any sort of incident here remain very small, and this is still an amazing part of the world. Best time to visit is July, when the weather is warm and the Tour de France is there to be followed.

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Chile

It’s never been easier or cheaper to get to Chile, with air carriers now offering bargain-basement fares. Make the most of them and check out everything this country has to offer, from the heights of the Atacama in the north, to the Lakes District in the middle, to Patagonia in the far south. It’s an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise.

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Singapore

Those flying the classic “Kangaroo Route” from March this year will find themselves stopping over in Singapore, rather than Dubai. The change in Qantas’ routing means travellers once again have the chance to explore Singers, and eat themselves into a stupor. Don’t miss the Michelin-starred Hainanese chicken rice at the hawker stand Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice – at $2 a pop, you can afford a couple of helpings.

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South Africa

It seems like I bang on every year about how great South Africa is, and I’m still not sure anyone is listening. “Oh yeah, that sounds cool,” people usually say, dubiously, before booking a trip somewhere else. So here I go again: South Africa is amazing. This is the country you want to visit in 2018, or 2019, or any year beyond. It’s got cities, it’s got landscapes, it’s got food, wine, wildlife, culture, hiking, diving, adventure, luxury … everything. Go there.

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Germany

Pop quiz: how many Michelin-starred restaurants are there in Germany? Ten? Twenty? Maybe up to 50 or so? Wrong. As of this year, there are 300 restaurants in Germany that can boast at least one of the coveted stars. That’s pretty impressive for a country that’s not exactly renowned for its cuisine. Time to get over there and look past the bratwurst mit brot (though admittedly, sausage in bread is a thing of beauty).

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Uzbekistan

Why go to Uzbekistan in 2018? Why not? In this age of mass tourism, of huge queues and crowded streets and grumpy locals, it might be time to get off the beaten track, to explore countries that not everyone has already been to. Plus, there’s plenty to see in Uzbekistan, from ancient Silk Route trading centres such as Samarkand and Bukhara to more modern culture in Tashkent.

CITIES

Pyeongchang, South Korea

Pack your giant cowbell and your thermal underwear this February as the Winter Olympic carnival arrives in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Even if Australia fails to match its haul of two silver medals and a bronze from Sochi, there will be plenty to see here, from downhill madness to figure skating grace.

Bilbao, Spain

There are plenty of reasons to visit this Basque city in 2018, not least of which is that Bilbao is hosting the annual 50 Best Restaurants awards. Anyone who caught the extravaganza in Melbourne in 2017 will know that that means a whole lot of tasty food and big culinary events featuring the world’s best chefs.

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New Orleans, US

Is there ever a bad time to plan a trip to the Mardi Gras? Hardly. However, as 2018 marks New Orleans’ tricentennial celebrations – 300 years since the city was founded – this year’s festivities will be especially big. Better hurry: Mardi Gras weekend begins on February 9.

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Valletta, Malta

This year the city of Valletta is one of two European Capitals of Culture (sharing the honour with Leeuwarden in the Netherlands), which means 12 months of cultural events. Even without the festivities – which, admittedly, aren’t always that exciting – the Maltese capital is worthy of a visit for its heritage-listed old town and Mediterranean shores.

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Gold Coast, Australia

While we’re on the subject of celebrations, the Gold Coast is hosting one of its own this year: the 21st Commonwealth Games. Catch some of the world’s best athletes competing in the likes of athletics, swimming, diving, and, ah, lawn bowls – or just hang out on the beach and read the results in the paper.

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Lisbon, Portugal

There’s no specific reason to make 2018 the year you visit Lisbon – except that Lisbon is just freaking great. This is one of Europe’s best cities, a friendly, vibrant place with historic sites, affordable accommodation, great bars and restaurants, a thriving live music scene, and pasteis de nata, or Portuguese tarts, everywhere you look. What more do you need?

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Buenos Aires, Argentina

Good news for lovers of this Latin American metropolis: Air New Zealand now flies Auckland to Buenos Aires direct, meaning it’s never been easier to get yourself sat in front of a steak and a glass of malbec in the Argentinian capital. Of course, there’s also the shopping and the tango shows, the football mania and the classic architecture to look forward to. But also, the steak.

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Jaffna, Sri Lanka

Travellers heard the word on Sri Lanka some time ago – almost everyone you know has been to Kandy, or Galle, or Colombo, right? However, there’s a new frontier in Sri Lanka: the formerly war-torn, Tamil-dominated north. The city of Jaffna is worth visiting for the incredibly good food alone, but once you throw in friendly locals and a sultry, rough-and-ready vibe, you have yourself a great new destination.

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Perth, Australia

Ditch Dubai. Give Singapore the sling. Your stopover destination for a European holiday in 2018 is Perth, Western Australia. In March this year, Qantas will begin its 17-hour direct service from Perth to London, meaning east coast travellers can hop over to the west, hang out on Cottesloe Beach for a day or two, sample some wine in the Swan Valley, have a few meals in Freo, and then be in London in less than a day.


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