The best places to visit in 2018: What's hot in travel
Looking for cool new places to visit this year? Here are the best tours, hotels and attractions in the world for 2018, as well as the hottest destinations
- By Lydia Winter -
With the new year well and truly underway, it’s about time you sat down and planned your year ahead. No, we don’t mean goals and resolutions for 2018, we mean holidays, adventures, travel plans and cool places to visit that’ll see you flying off around the globe. Whether that’s hopping over to Belfast for a city break or exploring Chile's national parks. From new hotels to attractions, here's what to look out for in 2018.
What's hot in travel 2018: The best new hotels and places to stay
Wild Coast Tented Lodge, Sri Lanka
If camping brings to mind mildew and soggy sleeping bags, it's time to pay a visit to the recently opened Wild Coast Tented Lodge in Sri Lanka, where the canvas tents are kitted out with teak floors, four-poster beds and freestanding copper bathtubs. If that hasn't convinced you, the resort's setting in Yala National Park just might – as will the unfettered access to the wilderness that's home to elephants, sloth bears and leopards. The property is the latest in the Resplendent Ceylon portfolio, owned by premium tea producers Dilmah – not the place to order a mug of builders' with your brekkie, then.
Sanders Hotel, Copenhagen, Denmark
Copenhagen's brand-new Sanders Hotel looks the way we'd want our house to look – though if it did, we doubt we'd ever leave. The design takes its cues from the Royal Danish Theatre just over the road, bringing together Parisian flair, English eccentricity and Scandi cool thanks to wooden floors, whitewashed walls and suede-covered furniture. Our favourite part is the Rooftop Conservatory – a glass-walled space filled with greenery, overlooking Copenhagen's rooftops.
The Titanic Hotel, Belfast, Northern Ireland
Long before Jack and Rose got it on in the 1997 disaster-romance movie Titanic, it turns out there was an actual ship (also called Titanic, would you believe) that struck an iceberg in the North Atlantic Ocean and sank, just like the one in the film. We know! Spooky! And now you can stay in the former HQ of the firm that designed the real RMS Titanic, in the historic Belfast shipyard it was built in. The Titanic Hotel was the subject of a £28m restoration, supported by National Lottery Funding, so you can expect to find plenty of luxury alongside some neat details – the tiles in the main bar, for example, are the same as those used in the Titanic's pool.
1898 The Post, Ghent, Belgium
If you like boutique, design-forward hotels housed in historic buildings – and we're pretty sure you do – 1898 The Post in Ghent, Belgium, hits all the right notes. Occupying an old post office (hence the name), it's top-to-toe gorgeous and full of design quirks. Stay in The Stamp – the smallest room, though it feels anything but cramped – The Letter, a duplex with dramatic enormous windows, or any of the 36 other rooms and suites and you'll be in for a real treat. It helps that the medieval city of Ghent is pretty damn beautiful too, with a world-renowned jazz festival every summer.
Oblu Select at Sangeli, Maldives
A holiday to the Maldives will never be described as a bargain, but you can at least make sure you're getting the most out of your money. Enter Oblu's clutch of award-winning, value-focused resorts, with Oblu Select at Sangeli opening on 1 July. It'll have all the diving and snorkelling you'd expect, plus 137 villas on the beach and over the water. Sure, it's still expensive, but go on – you deserve to treat yourself.
The Ramble, Colorado, US
Fast-rising Denver's been on smart travelers' radars for a while now, but this cool new hotel with an even cooler food and drink offering makes the US city even more appealing. Opening this spring, The Ramble will offer drinks – from the lobby bar to the room service – from Death & Co, one of NYC's award-winning drinking dens, plus food from Denver's beloved Latin American joint Work & Class. The only problem will be making sure you still take advantage of the brewpubs, art galleries and bars you'll find on your doorstep.
What's hot in travel 2018: The best new tours
Up your Insta game in Canada
If you're always the one slowing the group down so you can get that perfect shot when you're on holiday, we have a solution. Contiki's ten-night Snap Canada tour is tailor-made for photographers, taking in the incredible vistas of British Columbia and Alberta, ambling through Whistler, the Lillooet Mountain Range, Jasper, Banff and Vancouver. If your Instagram skills are more selfie than sophisticated, there'll be a trip manager/professional photographer to give you a helping hand, too. From June 2018.
Need to know: From £1,559 per person, including accommodation and sightseeing tours of all major destinations. contiki.com; Air Transat flies from London Gatwick to Vancouver from £429. airtransat.com
Drive the North Coast 500 in a Tesla, Scotland
Why not start the year by spanking a load of money on your very own electric luxury car and driving it all the way to Scotland? Well, because you could just join McKinlay Kidd's tour of the Scottish North Coast 500 aboard a brand new Tesla Model S instead. The travel agent has pulled together a suitably high-end itinerary that'll take you around the best bits of the Scottish coast, from Inverness to the Applecross peninsula, with stops at cute-as-you-like B&Bs (and charging points) along the way.
Need to know: From £1,750 per person based on two sharing, including seven days' rental of a Tesla Model S and six nights B&B. Runs March to October. mckinlaykidd.com
Explore south-west Russia by train
The past is a foreign country and, as we know, they do things differently there. The future, though? That's a foreign universe, and we don't even know who they are. So climb aboard the gloriously old-fashioned Golden Eagle train tour for a 15-day, 3,500-mile schlep from Moscow via the North Caucasus to the Caucasian Riviera on the Black Sea coast, and forget all about the scary new world that awaits us. You'll get to explore a fascinating area of this vast country in the lap of luxury, hauled by 21 Soviet-era steam locomotives for maximum Poirot/murder-mystery vibes.
Need to know: From £9,995 per person based on two sharing, including two nights in Moscow and 12 nights on the Golden Eagle, meals and drinks. goldeneagleluxurytrains.com; Aeroflot flies to Moscow from £395 return. aeroflot.ru
Eat your way around Mexico
Got the bug for tacos and, er, insects thanks to London's current verve for all things Mexican? Intrepid's solo-only, eight-night tour of Mexico's Oaxaca region – also hitting up picturesque Puebla, Mazunte and bustling, vibrant Mexico City – will get you up-close and personal with local delicacies in situ, from grasshoppers to chillies and chocolate. It's the latest in Intrepid's range of solo-only tours, designed for female travellers who want to get out and explore but don't have a travel buddy. Not only is it a safe way to travel alone, but it also means you'll avoid single supplements by pairing up with another solo traveller.
Need to know: From £1,315 per person, including accommodation, some meals, transport and most activities. intrepidtravel.com; Aeromexico flies from London Heathrow to Mexico City from £690 return. aeromexico.com
Trek through medieval and modern Japan
Grab a pair of hiking boots and hop on a flight to the glittering city of Kyoto, the starting point for Travel Local's ten-day Nakasendo Trail itinerary. After a day exploring the modern metropolis, you'll spend five days hiking through lush forests and medieval Edo-period villages, working up an appetite for all the food you'll be hoovering up at various ryokans along the way. The trip is capped off with time in Tokyo too, making this the ideal way to get inside Japan's fascinating culture.
Need to know: Ten-day itineraries from £2,160pp, including accommodation, internal transportation, excursions, as well as some meals and the services of a local guide; travellocal.com. KLM flies from Heathrow to Osaka from £589 one-way. klm.com
What's hot in travel 2018: The best new attractions to visit
Chile's Route of Parks
Chilean Patagonia is one of the most extraordinary stretches of landscape anywhere in the world, let alone South America, and the Carretera Austral highway slices right through it. Now known as the Ruta de los Parques (or Route of Parks) the highway unites 17 Chilean national parks with 1,500 miles of roads – largely double-width dirt tracks – that wind their way through more than ten million acres of jaw-droppingly beautiful wilderness. This comes after Chile's decision to create five new national parks, placing them under strict environmental protection. Sounds like it's time to get planning that epic road trip.
Need to know: Iberia flies to Santiago via Madrid, from £862 return. iberia.com
Experience the American South
With civil rights higher on the US and global news agenda than they have been in years, the timing feels appropriate for Travel South USA's Civil Rights Trail, launching on 15 January – Martin Luther King Jr's birthday. The route takes in famous landmarks across 14 states, from the Woolworth's store in Greensboro, North Carolina where four black college students launched the sit-in movement by sitting on "whites-only" stools in 1960, to the Lorraine Motel, Memphis, where King was assassinated 50 years ago. Aside from being a new route around parts of the US you might not have visited before, it's a stark and inspirational reminder of a struggle that's still going on today.
Make sure you stop off in New Orleans en route – 2018 marks 300 years of the high-spirited city, which you can bet will be celebrated the only way they know how: with music, booze-packed cocktails, incredible food and one hell of a party.
Need to know: You can start anywhere you like, but we'd recommend Birmingham or Montgomery, Alabama. civilrightstrail.com; Virgin Atlantic flies from London Heathrow to Atlanta from £695 return. virginatlantic.com
Valletta, Malta, Capital of Culture
Striking buildings designed by starchitect Renzo Piano? Check. Paintings by Old Masters including Caravaggio? Check. Boutique hotels aplenty? Check. Yep, when it comes to a city bursting with character, Valletta, Malta is right up there – so much so that it's the 2018 European Capital of Culture. The city will be flaunting all its beauty to celebrate, making now the perfect time to go – but if you'd rather avoid the crowds, use Valletta as a jumping off point for discovering these richly varied islands. Oh, and Valletta gets 3,000 hours of sunshine every year. Sign us up.
Need to know: Ryanair flies from London Stansted to Malta from £55 return. ryanair.com
The Grand Egyptian Museum, Cairo, Egypt
With travel to some areas of Egypt finally opening up to tourists again, there's just a bit of excitement around the partial opening of The Grand Egyptian Museum in Cairo this year – probably something to do with the fact that it's been two decades and nearly a billion dollars in the making. The design-led building will be home to the complete Tutankhamun collection, displayed to feel like you're actually in King Tut's tomb.
Need to know: Egypt Air flies from London Heathrow to Cairo from around £407 return. egyptair.com
The Commonwealth Games, Australia
If you ever needed an excuse to visit the Gold Coast's gorgeous beaches and verdant hinterlands, you're in luck: the Commonwealth Games kick off in the Queensland city in April. Even better, a bumper crop of bars, restaurants and hotels have been popping up in preparation, so pack your swimming togs, some sunscreen and your Union Jack flag and away you go.
Need to know: BA flies from London Heathrow to Gold Coast via Sydney from £719 return. ba.com