As avid travellers, we hail the arrival of a new year with much glee; after all, it presents fresh opportunities to pursue novel experiences and explore more places in the world. But, there are only that many vacation days, so it really is a tough choice deciding just where exactly you should go.
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This time around, we’ve whittled down to eight places worth exploring in 2018 that we hope can inspire you to satisfy your wanderlust for the next 12 months. For some destinations, it might be their first time in the spotlight, while other more well-known cities may surprise you with what they will be up to.
Lauded as the World’s Most Liveable City for the seventh time in a row, Melbourne has long registered on travelphiles’ radar with its indulgent café culture and strong creative scene; graffiti-covered walls and live bands are common sights along the streets. The city’s already bulging dining scene is due to grow even more with a slew of new openings in 2018 such as Ryne by Donovan Cooke, famed for his skills with European food, and a new venture by Chris Lucas, who manages reputable restaurants such as Chin Chin and Kisume.
Also joining the city skyline and broadening your accommodation options are two Novotel hotels, one of which is a collaboration with the ibis group. What’s more, Australia’s first surf park, URBNSURF Melbourne, will launch in 2018 with the aim of giving enthusiastic riders a way to surf all year long. Besides offering lessons for all skill levels, the attraction will also have a LED-lighted lagoon that is meant to facilitate night surfing. Whether you’ve already fallen for Melbourne or not, there are surely more reasons for you to take a trip there in the coming year.
Bordered by Estonia, Lithuania, Belarus and Russia, Latvia is a dark horse in the European travelscape. The Baltic state is, however, set to silence its naysayers with a massive five-year celebration from 2018 to mark 100 years of independence from Russian rule. This country with a million folk songs is commemorating its historic milestone the way it knows best — through a nationwide song and dance festival set to take place from 30th June till 8th July.
Also in the line-up are art and history exhibitions in Riga, Latvia’s capital. In fact, Riga is an open-air museum in its own right, with more than 800 Art Nouveau buildings, a medieval Old Town inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and a Central Market where you can buy fresh local produce from stalls housed in former WWI German Zeppelin hangars. Many of these buildings will be illuminated by light art projections and installations during the Staro Riga Light Festival in November.
As if the allure of bustling souks, colourful riads and centuries-old palaces and tombs aren’t reason enough to visit Morocco, the African country is set to up the ante in 2018 with exciting advances. Over in Marrakesh, the 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair will further jazz up the art scene with its African debut in the city in February, adding to the momentum created by the recent opening of the much-anticipated Yves Saint Laurent Museum.
Marrakesh is also possibly the best gateway for seeking Moroccan gems in the year ahead. Drive westward for over 2 hours and you will find the ancient coastal city of Essaouira; its crumbling Jewish Quarter is on the 2018 World Monuments Watch list — an urgent call to see it while you still can. On the flip side, Marrakesh’s famous competitor for tourist numbers, Fes, will see more than 3,000 buildings in its historical centre spruced up as part of a major restoration project set to be completed in the coming months. The launch of Africa’s first high-speed railway between Casablanca and Tangier in 2018 also means shorter travel times to the northern tip of Morocco.
The city of lights and romance is an eternally popular destination that already effortlessly draws the crowds. Look forward to the French capital making more headlines in 2018 — an immersive art experience where visitors can step inside digital recreations of famous pieces, the L’atelier des Lumieres, will be opening alongside a €53 million (S$84 million) steampunk-inspired theme park by LVMH, which will comprise 17 new attractions. That’s not all; a new river cruise along the Seine that’s targeted at millennials is also coming to town. With brunch, unlimited Wi-Fi and excursions to Parisian icons included on your cruise, you’ll never have a dull moment.
If you’re hankering to explore more of France after having had your fill of Paris, consider heading to Nimes. The Roman ruins at the historical site, which is currently awaiting entry on the coveted UNESCO World Heritage list, will inspire and charm. Time your visit well and you can even watch a reenactment of the Great Roman Games, a massive event that showcases gladiator fights and chariot races, among other highlights.
Known as the biggest city in China, Shanghai exudes an irresistible metropolitan energy. In 2018, the vibrant city is barreling towards establishing itself as a theme park wonderland. Two new theme parks will join the existing Shanghai Disneyland, which has already logged more than 10 million visitors since it opened mid-2016. One of them is the Shanghai Polar Ocean World, which will have four marine animal interactive programmes and 15 entertainment facilities. The “Pearl of the Orient” will also be home to China’s first indoor Hello Kitty Theme Park spanning three storeys of the Shanghai Mart shopping mall.
Rapid developments have also taken place on the hotel front; W Shanghai – The Bund, Capella, Amanyangyun and two properties from The Leading Hotels of the World, Bellagio Shanghai and The Anandi Hotel and Spa, have all begun operating in 2017. With new openings, such as the Bulgari and Shanghai Edition, joining their luxury counterparts come 2018, the city shows no signs of slowing down.
Malta’s capital is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that possesses a total of 320 monuments dating back to the times of the Greeks, Romans and Byzantines, making it one of the most concentrated historic areas in the world.
As the designated European Capital of Culture for 2018, Valletta has much in store for visitors. From an International Baroque Festival where opera shows are held in historical locations to theatre plays to an International Art Festival with live performances and exhibitions, there’s a good variety of entertainment to keep travellers excited– in fact, the calendar year is packed with some 400 events! A new national museum of fine art, the MUZA, is also due to launch in time to commemorate the city’s long-awaited title. The community art museum located in a revamped historic building will be powered by renewable energy.
And with 300 days of sunshine annually, Valletta is surely primed for uninterrupted exploration.
Chile‘s capital and its largest city, Santiago boasts natural and colonial beauty but is perhaps more renowned as a gateway to the magnificently unspoilt and wild landscapes in the country. In a timely signal to its rise as an up-and-coming hotspot, Hyatt and Mandarin Oriental will both be launching new properties in Santiago in 2018. Add to the developments a widened highway that improves access to the northern part of the city and you’ll understand why it’s unsurprising that Santiago, which accounted for half the country’s tourism revenue this year, is set to grow even bigger and better.
2018 is also a special year for Chile’s citizens, who will be marking 200 years since Chile achieved its independence. Though it’s not clear yet how tourists can be a part of the festivities, 2018 in Chile is bound to be a lively affair for all. Grab a glass of local wine and join in the fanfare if you are there; the Carmenere, Chile’s national grape, will also be commemorating its twentieth year as an officially recognised variety in the country.
Cape Town, South Africa
Cosmopolitan yet rooted in native culture, and rich in cuisine and natural beauty, Cape Town has an inimitable allure representative of South Africa‘s wonders. In 2018, a series of events ranging from a choral festival to sports items will be held in the city as part of Nelson Mandela’s Centenary celebrations — the honoured former leader would have turned 100 in July. The creative ones amongst us will no doubt be intrigued by the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa, which only unveiled its prized pieces this past September. With the largest collection of contemporary African art in the world, the museum’s launch further elevates the capital’s cultural scene.
On the wilder side of things, Natural Selection is touting a whale of a time with its new lodge at the De Hoop Nature Reserve, which is a three-hour drive away from Cape Town. Both a UNESCO World Heritage Site and an endangered plant kingdom, the reserve is said to be a prime location for stellar land-based whale watching. If you’re game to venture further east, keep an eye out for andBeyond’s new lodge, the Sabi Sand Game Reserve, and the reopening of the Phinda Homestead, which are scheduled for the second half of 2018.