New Year Travels: Top 10 destinations to visit in 2018
Gearing up for New Year travels but feeling overwhelmed by all the possibilities? To help, Gafencu has chosen 10 destinations that speak to the spirit of adventure and discovery:
Son Doong Cave, Vietnam
Son Doong has only been open to the public since 2013, and fewer people have stood inside it than have scaled Mount Everest. Getting to the cave itself won’t be easy, but it’s worth the effort. Spelunkers must walk 25km through jungles, wade across rivers and complete a 90m rope climb up the “Great Wall of Vietnam”. You might want to start training…
Where to stay: Campsites are provided inside the cave
Best time to go: February to August
San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
This charming city is just the ticket for those looking to detox both body and mind. Head to La Gruta Spa’s hot springs, followed by a steam bath in a temazcal (sweat lodge). For a true fiesta experience, visit the city during Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) on 1 November. Don’t miss the Spanish colonial churches and cheerful shops lining the cobblestone streets.
Where to stay: Rosewood San Miguel de Allende
Best time to go: November through April
Madikwe, South Africa
Despite being the fifth largest game reserve in South Africa, Madikwe is still somewhat of a hidden gem, making it an ideal spot to embark on your own private safari. The Big 5 can be seen here – lions, leopards, elephants, rhinos and buffalo –.and reassuringly, the reserve is malaria-free, so there’s no need to go dousing yourself in smelly repellent!
Where to stay: Makanyane Safari Lodge
Best time to go: May to September
Lapland, the country’s northernmost province, is truly a winter wonderland. Guests can watch the aurora borealis from the comfort of their glass-roofed igloo, or through the window of a cosy log chalet. The region’s capital, Rovaniemi, happens to be the “official hometown” of Santa Claus, and visitors can also partake in an array of winter sports, including snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, snowmobile riding and sled dog touring.
Where to stay: Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort
Best time to go: Mid-August through early April
Komodo National Park, Indonesia
There are two camps of people drawn to Komodo: those who want to snap selfies on the island’s pink beach, and those who nerd out over the chance to see the world’s largest lizard. In addition to housing some 5,700 komodo dragons, the national park encompasses 29 islands, with plenty of pristine beaches and places to dive or snorkel through colourful coral reefs.
Where to stay: Plataran Komodo Beach Resort
Best time to go: April to October
New Orleans, USA
While The Big Easy’s Mardi Gras festivities are world-famous, equally worth attending are the St Patrick’s Day parade and the French Quarter Festival. If Bourbon Street debauchery isn’t your cup of tea, check out the charming Frenchmen Street for its art market and live music venues. For something off the beaten path, there’s the Voodoo Museum and the 18th-century Lafayette Cemetery.
Where to stay: The Ritz-Carlton, New Orleans
Best time to go: 13 February for Mardi Gras (book well in advance); 17 March for St Patrick’s Day; 12-15 April for French Quarter Festival
Queenstown, New Zealand
Adrenaline junkies likely already have Queenstown – dubbed the world’s adventure capital – on their list of holiday hopefuls. Nestled between Lake Wakatipu and the Southern Alps, this resort town hosts an extensive menu of extreme sports: skiing, bungee jumping, canyon swinging, whitewater rafting – you name it. Non-sporty types will still enjoy the stunning vistas and renowned wineries in the region.
Where to stay: Azur Lodge
Best time to go: Any time, but summer (Dec-Feb) and winter (June-Aug) are busiest
This port city doesn’t typically top bucket lists, but as a tourist destination it’s on the rise. Luxury resorts have cropped up here in recent years, with travellers drawn to the allure of a city surrounded by mountain, desert and sea. For those looking to stay a while, luxury tour operator Scott Dunn offers a 10-day tour of Oman, which includes excursions to the desert and to mountainside villages.
Where to stay: The Chedi
Best time to go: October through March
We couldn’t pick just one city in Malta, but luckily, this archipelago nation in the Mediterranean is small enough to see it all. Malta boasts historic sites, ornate baroque architecture, crystal clear waters and sunny winter days. Its capital, Valletta, was designated a 2018 European Capital of Culture by the European Union, meaning it will host a series of community events throughout the year.
Where to stay: Corinthia Palace Hotel
Best time to go: May to July (peak season) or September to October (cooler, less crowded)
Arenal, Costa Rica
Lush rainforests. Tranquil waterfalls. An imposing volcano. Arenal is teeming with natural wonders. This Central American paradise is a good fit for those looking to relax or indulge in adventure sports – or some combination of the two. Visitors will likely spot some wildlife while zip lining through the rainforest, or while hiking around Arenal Volcano (it last erupted in 2010 and has since been dormant).
Where to stay: Nayara Springs
Best time to go: Arenal is lush throughout the year, but there’s less rain January through April
Text: Emily Petsko