If you’re planning your next trip for 2018, look no further than our definitive list of the best places to travel this year. Put as many on your must-see list as possible. With over 600 trips in more than 130 countries, Explore has the world covered. Here are the company’s top picks for 2018.
Once home to an exiled Napoleon Bonaparte, St Helena is one of the most remote inhabited islands on the planet, some 2,000km off the coast of West Africa on the borders of Namibia and Angola. Previously visitors had to travel for five days by Royal Mail ship from Cape Town, but since the launch (and relaunch) of the new airport, the tiny speck of land and its stunning biodiversity are now more accessible. Landing at St Helena is an adventure in itself, but you’ll also discover fantastic whale watching and remnants of French history.
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After extensive relief efforts following the devastating earthquake of 2015, the country is welcoming back visitors with open arms, particularly to the trekking trails which largely escaped serious damage. Visit now and you’ll help to rebuild and repair the country’s infrastructure and crumbled temples with the income it needs to reconstruct, supporting its culture and people. In the immediate aftermath of the earthquake the border with Tibet was closed and remained so for two years, but it’s now reopened making it possible to drive the Friendship Highway once more.
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Generally thought of as Europe’s ‘last secret’, Albania is still emerging from relative isolation after many years of communist rule – two decades have passed since the Iron Curtain fell, time needed for the country to catch up with the rest of Eastern Europe. If you love Greece, you’ll spot the similarities in the country’s unspoilt Ionian Sea coastline, Mediterranean cuisine and ramshackle charm, with the added bonus of plentiful opportunities for adventure: with its snow-capped peaks, peaceful lakes, historic sites and villages unchanged for generations, Albania is waiting to be explored.
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The largest and wealthiest of the ‘stans’, Kazakhstan is a remote outpost with a surprisingly robust infrastructure thanks to its abundant reserves of oil and minerals. Cities like Almaty and the capital, Astana, are packed with showpiece architecture of Dubai proportions – albeit on a smaller though no less extravagant scale. Reasons to visit include the opportunity to view a rocket launch at Baikonur Cosmodrome, observing the irreversible effects of climate change on the beached ships of the Aral Sea, and discovering the rich tapestry of Silk Road history in Turkistan, home to the blue domes of Samarkand.
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Stepping out of Spain’s shadow, Portugal has gone from strength to strength in recent years. In 2017 the country was voted as the cheapest holiday destination (for the last two years running) in the Post Office Travel Money Survey of Holiday Costs; awarded Blue Flag ratings to more than 300 of its beaches; announced two new biosphere reserves; and seven of its restaurants received coveted Michelin stars. The largest of Portugal’s regions, Alentejo is one of the best places in Europe for active breaks, including walking the coastal paths of the Rota Vincentina.
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Belarus is a hospitable country with a welcoming outlook that begins with its visa policy: since the beginning of 2017 the country has permitted visa-free travel for visits of five days or less, making it quicker, cheaper and easier to organise trips. Even short breaks are ample enough to get a taste of the country and its Soviet past. Spend just five days in Belarus and you can cram in time in Minsk, visits to historic castles and the undulating countryside. The country has some notable quirks, such as colourful Brazilian-Belarusian street art, and is easily explored by bicycle too.
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Recent reports of shortages in the Prosecco crop were met with widespread consternation, but we can happily report that in the rolling, vineyard-clad hills of the Veneto the harvest is as well as it’s ever been. While the Amalfi Coast, Tuscany and Puglia remain consistently well-visited, it’s the north that has seen a rise in popularity – and not just due to the humble grape. The views here are incredible – think exploring the shores of Lake Garda with its mountain backdrop, or rambling through the historic streets of Venice or Treviso, best done on foot or by bicycle.
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Variety is the spice of life in Indonesia – much like its flavoursome cuisine. With a plethora of tiny islands to choose from, would you pick one with dragons, volcanoes, beaches or jungles – perhaps a mix of all four? Indonesia’s variations make it the perfect destination for families. Imagine exploring paddy fields, smouldering volcanoes, tangled jungle and ancient tribal villages as a family on the adventure of a lifetime, spotting Komodo dragons in the archipelago with which it shares its name, and relaxing on the sands of Lombok and the tropical Gili Islands. As a taster for a future gap year, it doesn’t get much better.
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The jewel in West Africa’s crown, Ghana has had much to celebrate in 2017 as its toasts 60 years of independence. One of the best ways to see the country is on foot, when the beautiful beaches, varied wildlife and vibrant culture come into their own. Climb the country’s highest peak (Afadjato, at 885m), discover the virgin rainforest of Kakum National Park and trek to the tumbling waterfall of Tagbo. The country also has a fascinating history of voodoo, so don’t miss the chance to take part in ceremony.
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The Olympics effect has done well for South Korea, which hosts the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang in February. The event is set to be a game changer for the country, with a new high-speed railway line cutting the journey time between Seoul and the Olympics hub on the east coast. With its northern neighbour at the forefront of the news, exploring South Korea’s history is as relevant as ever; experience the contrasts of neon-lit Seoul and one of the last frontiers of the Cold War, the Demilitarised Zone which separates North and South Korea.
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