The New Year is definitely around the corner (you can practically hear the fireworks and champagne bottles popping), and soon enough you’ll want to sashay to the places in Lonely Planet’s Top 10 Countries 2018 list. A number of influencing factors garner each destination a spot on the list: something big in the works for the year, recent development, buzz, new attractions, or perhaps it’s underrated or overlooked, and Lonely Planet suggests traveller visit before the crowds come in.
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Pro: New non-stop flights to Chile from Melbourne and London.
A true one-off, Chile is tucked in by the Andes, Pacific Ocean, Atacama Desert and Patagonia. Talk about a change of scenery. Where else can you go paragliding in the driest place on earth, trek to glaciers, visit the stone statues at Easter Island and hike some of the best trails in the world? Chile also celebrates 200 years of independence next year.
#2 South Korea
Pro: The 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang and a new high-speed railway line.
What makes Seoul, Seoul, is its marriage of rich history and urban city life. Just a couple of enticing attractions to note include the Gyeongbokgung Palace built in 1395, tall mountains to hike, traditional villages and the tallest building in the world; the brand new Lotte World Tower! To top it off, the high-line park, Seoul-lo 7017 just opened up with an array of cafes, bars and libraries (yes, libraries) set along a highway. That’s a lot to pack in one place without being showy.
Pro: Seven new restaurants received Michelin stars in 2017.
There’s a lot to celebrate about Portugal these days. In just the recent years, the country has seen an emerging microbrewery scene, cuisine that proves why Portugal has its permanent spot on the culinary map, and more than 300 beaches earning the Blue Flag rating along with two new biosphere reserves.
Pro: It’s one of Africa’s youngest and smallest nations, and it’s free from conflict of neighbouring countries.
Djibouti might be little, but it has might. That being said, it is in the process of being ripped into three by diverging tectonic plates. Behind the scenes (or below it), magma is seething and salt crystals shine from the sunken lake, Lac Abbé. But that’s absolutely no reason to diminish plans because you’ve got ample time to experience beach life and whale shark diving. A little drama can sometimes be good…
#5 New Zealand
Pro: If you’re craving warm sunshine during the cold winter elsewhere, summer in New Zealand takes place from late December to March.
Middle Earth does look like the world’s playground — but with a very laidback vibe (just not when it comes to rugby and the All Blacks!). Lakes, mountains and incredible heights make the perfect setting for all kinds of adventure. Jump off the highest bungee point and get your heart racing, or dip into a warm outdoor pool and enjoy a glass of Pinot Noir.
Pro: Valletta is European Capital of Culture for 2018!
The Azure Window may be gone, but Malta’s got a lot more to shout about — in a language that’s a mix of Arabic, Sicilian and English. Its stunning coastline of towering cliff faces and beaches are postcard-perfect, baroque, pop, art and international film festivals are taking place, and you never have to worry about bad weather in a place that receives 300 days of sunshine in a year.
Pro: 2018 marks 100 years since Georgia was declared an independent state in the wake of the Russian Revolution.
Two things stand out in this Eurasia gem: streets and buildings that look like you’ve stepped back into time, and wine. So proud is the nation of their wine, that travellers are often welcomed at the airport with a bottle of red wine, and that’s reason enough. Some experiences to behold in Georgia include the countryside and Tbilisi’s nightlife.
Pro: Flights via Air Mauritius make it easier than ever to visit!
There needn’t be more to Mauritius than blue waters and luxe resorts to nab a spot in this list… but there is. First, there’s the small village called Chamarel with its seven-coloured layers of sand. At the Grand Bassin, a natural lake within an extinct volcano crater, where it’s considered auspicious to take a dip in during the Shivratri festival. And there’s also the bustling capital Port Louis for a taste of colonial French architecture.
Pro: The largest high-speed rail network in the world since 2016.
The Chinese civilization is one of the oldest in the world, but you’re never too late to the party. The famous Great Wall, Forbidden City and Terra-cotta Warriors are some of the most recognisable attractions in the world. But, if it isn’t your first time, seek out the Tianzi mountains that stand like tall, thin rocks, the colourful Zhangye Danxia landform in Gansu, and where the wall actually ends into the Bohai Sea.
#10 South Africa
Pro: ‘Nelson Mandela Centenary 2018: Be the Legacy’ will feature sporting, educational and art events in honour of the legendary leader.
The heart of the action is in Cape Town, with its jostle of mountains and rugged landscapes entrenched by the Cape Floral Kingdom. Closer to the city, a colossal of food, culture and art has truly boomed in the last 10 years. Yes, the Mother City is jaw-droppingly stunning, but venture a little further and you’ll see that the scenery extends beyond Table Mountain, such as Chapman’s Peak and Stellenbosch Winelands.