The Best Places to Travel in 2019

Feb 18, 2019

When we sat down to hash out this list, we knew the debate would be lively, the possibilities would be endless—and the result would be something we were excited to share. What we didn't know was just how much wanderlust we we'd self-inflict in the process. So while we can promise that each of these 12 places is worth a visit in 2019— whether you want to travel 7,000 years into the past, check out the greenest hotel of the future, or just chill on the moment's hottest beach—we can't promise you won't bump into us there. But hey, we'll happily share the kushari, kabobs and cuvée.

Egypt

Just when you think you know one of the oldest civilizations on earth—7000 years and counting, in this case—someone stumbles across a new tomb of mummies or the odd 4400-year-old royal priest and we see just how shallow our awareness really is. That’s Egypt: ancient, and ever-changing. The better part of a decade has passed since the Arab Spring raised questions in travelers’ minds, and we say that’s long enough. Our members agree: Tour packages to the region were in high demand throughout 2018. (That’s not to say there’s no need to be vigilant—incidents are not unheard of. But the same can be said of New York, where tourism has been breaking records for nine straight years.)

Cairo’s a must-see, of course—not just for the antiquities, but for the day-to-day delights of a thriving global city. Visit the Khan el-Khalili bazaar; eat a bowl of kushari with a side of mish. Check out the Nilometer on Rhoda Island just to see how the ancients did their agriculture. But then, of course, get out of town. Our rec is a cruise on the Nile, which isn’t just a great way to see—well, the Nile—but also a mighty fine passage to Luxor and Aswan and their historic wonders. Pro tip: Taking your cruise on a smaller ship (go for a dahabiya) will not only give you a taste of how ancient aristocrats sailed the river, but will also get you to the ancient sandstone quarries and shrines of Gebel Silsileh—among other stunning spots where the big boats can’t fit.


Nashville

It’s not just the club scene that’s booming in Music City, where new residents have been arriving at a rate of 100 a day. Pretty much everything is, meaning more direct flights (including, for the first time, from London on British Airways); more hotels (among the 20 projected to open in 2019 are two spring debuts from the hot-and-hip Moxy Brand); and even more restaurants (the Catbird Seat, the famous chef incubator founded by Noma alums,  just reopened under the auspices of—you guessed it—two more Noma alums). Of course, for all the news, Nashville’s classics still rock, from the Grand Ole Opry, where the next month alone will see performances by Trisha Yearwood, Brad Paisley, and Alison Krauss to Prince’s Hot Chicken, where the 70-something “Queen Mother” of Nashville Hot Chicken continues to turn down TV show and franchise offers.  You should also check out some local classics whose rep hasn’t yet spread as far outside city limits: the flat breads, kabobs and nisk (lentil soup) of Little Kurdistan, home to the nation’s largest Kurdish community.


England

The UK’s on anyone’s list of places to visit, but the basket of reasons to go (or better still, go back) looks especially full in 2019—particularly for us Yanks. The British Pound Sterling’s trending near 40-year lows against the US dollar. Since that’s due mostly to Brexit-related uncertainties, it won’t last forever—but while it does (and with apologies to our British friends), take advantage of increased buying power with every hotel night, trendy restaurant outing, lovely box of Fortnum & Mason tea—even admission to the Tate Britain, where you’ll find another compelling reason to go now:  Sixty Years, the museum’s biggest show of 2019, which retells the story of modern British art through a female lens, with works by everyone from Op-art icon Bridget Riley to the genius installation artist Anthea Hamilton. We’re also hoping to check out the Christian Dior exhibit at the Victoria and Albert Museum (one of whose namesakes is having a yearlong 200th birthday party)—and the nerdy-great gathering of writers and cultural leaders from the UNESCO Cities of Literature that is Nottwich 2019. And while we’re across the Pond, we’re taking a side trip across the Scottish border to Edinburgh’s charming Old Town pubs (with maybe a side-trip-to-the-side-trip out to historic Gleneagles in Perthshire, where the women’s golfing world will gather in September for the prestigious Solheim Cup).


Los Cabos, Mexico

This sun-splashed stretch at the tip of the Baja Peninsula has multiple personalities, and though the one that dances on tables at Cabo Wabo to Pour Some Sugar on Me has tended to dominate popular imagination, a rival’s about to take over—one that leans seriously luxe. On the heels of last year’s high-end boomlet, 2019 brings a slew of hotel openings that will seal Cabo’s rep as a swank-seeker’s paradise: Four Seasons first marina resort; Zadún, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve; a Nobu Hotel (along with the chef’s signature sushi restaurant); and the eco-chic boutique brand 1 Hotel. Go for the early-adopter bargains you’ll find along the coast (Four Seasons, for one, will give you 15% off  or a fourth night free); stay for the likes of farmer-led organic agriculture classes (Four Seasons); chef-led local market visits (1 Hotel); Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Ambassadors of the Environment-led nature excursions (Ritz-Carlton); or butler-tended teak soaking tubs en-suite (Nobu). No matter where you stay, make sure you get to the colonial Plaza Mijares in San Jose del Cabo,  Flora Farms (order a wood-fired pizza and the heirloom carrot Farmarita), and El Arco (the natural arch you know from photos—see above—and that will still leave you gobsmacked in real life).


France

Okay, when don’t want to go to France? It’s the most elegant of Europe’s Big Four, and maybe the most reliable, whether you’re poking through the timeless alleys of Paris’ Latin Quarter or matching Van Gogh’s footsteps on the banks of the Rhône in Arles. But 2019 brings the best excuse to visit in ages: the women’s edition of soccer’s World Cup. Starting June 8—prime weather, with the chills of spring in the rearview and summer’s heat still a month or more away—the Cup is a truly global celebration of a truly global sport: 52 matches between the best national teams from around the world, including three-time and current reigning champs Team USA. Best of all, the matches are scattered across the country, from Rennes and Le Havre in the west to Reims and Valciennes in the north to Nice and Monpellier in the coastal south—and, of course, Paris.

On the more solemn side, 2019 also brings the 75th anniversary of the Allied D-Day invasion and the Battle of Normandy that followed. The commemorative events begin on June 5 with a recreation of the paratroopers’ flight across the English Channel, and will continue throughout the summer.


Boracay, Philippines

Of the 7,000 islands that make up the Philippines, Boracay is arguably the most infamous—at least since President Duterte declared it a cesspool and shut it down last year with almost no warning. But whatever you think of his methods (or his motives), the opportunity to see a formerly glorious island that’s been trashed by tourism, shuttered for a six-month power-washing, then reopened with strict new eco-guidelines just doesn’t come along very often. Or ever. So now’s your chance. Expect crowds cut by half (the new daily tourist max is 19,000, down from a peak of 40,000-ish); a beach free of booze, smoking, bonfires and hawkers; an island-wide ban on single-use plastics; electric “jeepneys” and e-trikes in place of diesel-burning models; and mechanized watersports kept at a distance. And it's not just human visitors who are headed back to Boracay: aquatic wildlife much prefers those cleaned-up turquoise waters, too. As for your digs, while some hotels have closed, a few old favorites—like the Shangri-La, which has its own reef restoration project, plus a sublime spa on a private bay—are back in action.


Bolivia

Unless you’ve logged time as a backpacker or eco-adventurer, you probably haven’t ranked Bolivia near the top of your to-do list. But if you’re even a casual fan of hallucinatory beauty, this is the year to reconsider: While roughing it has been a waning requirement of Bolivian travel over the last few years, 2019 will see the first full-time eco-luxury digs—Kachi Lodgeat the world’s largest salt flat, whose rainy-season sky mirror and dry-season geometry-fest would alone be worth the trip. And right in the middle of that desert dreamscape, you’ll discover another new draw: Gustu, the latest outpost of the La Paz hotspot and social project launched by Noma cofounder Claus Meyer (those Noma alums do get around). In fact, Bolivia’s haute-indigenous food scene has even sprouted an award-winning vegan variant: La Paz’s three-year-old Ali Pacha—from Bolivia-born, London- and Copenhagen-trained chef Sebastian Quiroga—has gained such fame, he’s exporting the concept to DC this summer. (We remember a time—not so long ago—when you had to go to the Hare Krishna restaurant to get a decent veggie meal here.) Another new must-do to add to your list (in addition to the old favorites): a tour of Freddy Mamani’s “Neo-Andean” facades in the outskirts of El Alto.  Then head for the jungle to see where a lot of the food you’ve been eating in La Paz  hails from. Though your digs themselves admittedly won’t scream luxury, the surrounding Amazonian awesomeness—emerald canopy, red rock canyons, roaring waterfalls—is luxuriant in the extreme. Plus: pumas and macaws and monkeys, oh my!


Turkey

One of the surest signs a country’s on the tourism rebound after a period of uncertainty: the return of the major cruise lines. And right on cue, Royal Caribbean and Regent Seven Seas have added Turkey back to their itineraries for the first time in several years—and a new port is planned for the city’s Galata waterfront. If you’re traveling by plane, Istanbul’s fabled new airport, with the capacity to handle up to 200 million passengers annually, should be operational this spring—all welcome news for anyone who’s been waiting for the right moment to visit the Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque, among Istanbul’s other cultural heavyweights. Our suggestion? Once you’ve soaked up the East-meets-West vibes at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, head southeast to check out a lesser known draw: Göbekli Tepe, a temple so ancient, it makes Stonehenge and Giza look like young upstarts (no disrespect to anyone else on our list). Newly added to the UNESCO World Heritage roster, the site has also been acknowledged by the Turkish ministers of Culture and Tourism, who—along with Erdogan himself—have declared 2019 the Year of Gobekli Tepe. And if it’s a beach vacation you want, now’s also an ideal time to hit the Aegean beauty that is Bodrum—where new hotel openings and reimagined wellness resorts expand your already considerable menu of home bases from which to explore one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, and other nearby lures.


Belize

In a world starved for good news about its ailing oceans, Belize is a literal bright spot, as anyone who’s experienced the jewel-toned gradations of the Great Blue Hole knows. Of course, the sink hole is just a tiny part of the Belize Barrier Reef—a 190-mile-long coral corridor that recently (and amazingly) made headlines for being removed from the United Nations list of endangered world heritage sites, thanks to a new ban on nearby oil exploration and increased protections for critical mangroves. So go revel in this almost unheard-of turn of events—a reef on the rebound! The coast is dotted with illustrious eco-resorts, but the most anticipated opening of the year (date still TBD) is Leo Dicaprio’s off-the-grid eco-utopia on Blackadore Caye.  


Slovenia

In much the same way that most Central American nations have been declared “the next Costa Rica,” nearly every former Yugoslav republic has had a recent turn as the “next Croatia.” And while we say forget the comparisons—go see each of these places on its own merits—we also can’t help but notice that gorgeous little Slovenia is slated for a hell of a year. Okay, we admit a soft spot for any country that counts a poet among its national heroes (you’ll find tributes to the guy everywhere). But this year, to commemorate the 170th anniversary of his death, Slovenia recommends an entire Prešeren-themed itinerary, from his birthplace at the foot of Mt. Stol (the tallest of the Julian Alps that separate Slovenia from Austria) to his adult stomping grounds of Lubljana. While you’re in the capital, check out an additional trio of anniversaries: At the National Gallery, which just turned the big 1-0-0, look for the early modernist works of cofounder Rihard Jakopič, whose 150th birthday will be celebrated this year—along with the 110th would-be birthday of fellow modernist Zoran Mušič. If you want to throw way back, head to the nation’s oldest recorded settlement: Ptuj, where this year’s Roman Games will commemorate the 1950th anniversary since the first known written mention of the town, by Tacitus, no less. But whenever you visit Slovenia, there are a few must-dos: the real-life fairy tale that is Lake Bled, this crazy castle and cave corridor—and the devastatingly beautiful valley that’s home to one of the world’s best chefs.  


The Island of Hawaii  

A national park freshly remodeled by volcanism isn’t something you see every day, but now’s your chance: After Kilauea’s epic run last year, the skies have cleared, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park has reopened, and a new tour by Hawaii Forest & Trail will walk you through (or at least around) the notable changes—down to the first ohia trees to sprout from the hardened lava. Another of the island’s rare attributes: You’ll find a majority of the world’s climate zones here—what?—from Mars-like desert to snow-capped summits to lush rain forest. To see the greatest variety, book a helicopter tour of the peaks, waterfalls, black-sand beaches and, yes, that volcano. A few more must-dos: Hit the bayside restaurant at the Sheraton Kona Resort & Spa at Keauhou Bay, possibly the best spot on the island to see the famed local mantas without getting in the water with them (though that’s cool, too); see the ancient refuge that is the Pu’uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park  (so much the better if you’re here in June for the park’s cultural festival)—and visit the birthplace of Kona Coffee.


South Africa

The 25th anniversary of apartheid’s demise is so significant, you’ll find commemorations around the world. But of course, the best place to mark the occasion is South Africa itself, where you’ll find a lot to celebrate about the present—even as you look back in disbelief on the past. In Johannesburg (your first stop if you’re flying from the U.S.), don’t miss the Apartheid Museum, where just the side-by-side front doors—one labeled “Whites,” the other, “Non-Whites”—will get you in the gut, to say nothing of the exhibits inside. Also make sure to visit nearby Soweto’s bullet-pocked Mandela House, where the freedom-fighter-turned-Nobel-winning-president spent much of his life. Now a museum, 8115 Vilakazi Street houses old family photos, honorary doctorate diplomas from around the world—and one of Sugar Ray Leonard’s championship belts (Mandela was a boxing fan). Make your way to Cape Town—where serious water conservation measures have helped offset last year’s infamous drought (here’s how to be part of the solution). Departing from the city’s V & A Waterfront, ferry out to Robben Island to tour the two-square-mile World Heritage Site in Table Bay where Mandela was imprisoned for 18 years—and where your guide will likely be a former prisoner. On an exponentially happier note, go see the just-restored statue on the City Hall balcony where he gave his first post-prison speech

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