17 January 2019 by David Ward
Our expert consultants are constantly seeking out the new and re-evaluating the old. Each has worked, travelled extensively or even lived in their respective regions, so are perfectly placed to appraise. With that in mind, we’ve pooled their collective knowledge to draw up the ultimate compilation of the best in travel for 2019.
New flight routes from British Airways have opened up more of the Deep South, as well as KwaZulu Natal. It’s the South African province with it all, from Big-Five safaris to beach-clad cities and spectacular mountain scenery. Alongside a shared love of fine wines, South Africa has one more thing in common with another of our picks – Argentina. They both offer exceptional value for 2019.
We’ve also shone new light on old favourites, with California’s iconic Pacific Coast Highway and Japan – the soon-to-be host for both the Olympics and Rugby World Cup. In amongst it all there are some lesser-known gems, including Canada’s wild east coast and Italy’s Puglia and Basilicata regions.
Lastly, there are plenty of rising stars, including Norway's fjords, Antarctica and Sri Lanka – the Lonely Planet’s number one choice for 2019.
Spiritual and spectacular, Japan has long been a favourite among holidaymakers looking for something different. From its ultra-modern cities to its ancient shrines, from its verdant national parks to its world-beating ski resorts, it’s a country that truly offers something for everyone. And, with the Rugby World Cup taking place there in 2019, and the Olympics following in 2020, we’re going to be seeing a lot more of this incredible destination over the coming months.
2: California’s Pacific Coast Highway
It’s captured the public’s imagination with its starring role in countless Hollywood productions. And today, California’s Pacific Coast Highway continues to dazzle with its golden beaches, sweeping vineyards, plunging cliffs and bohemian seaside towns. Explore it all on what is one of the world’s truly great road trips – a spectacular 600-mile route which traces the coast all the way from north of San Francisco to Los Angeles and beyond.
3: Puglia & Basilicata, Italy
While the likes of Tuscany, Sicily and Venice grab many of the headlines, 2019 might well be the year when the under-the-radar regions of Basilicata and Puglia finally get their moment in the sun. Leading the charge is Matera in Basilicata – named a European Capital of Culture for 2019 – a hilltop city home to everything from ancient cave dwellings to a truly spectacular cathedral. But, there’s much more to see besides. A short hop across the border in Puglia, rural-town restaurants dish up delicious seasonal delights, sweeping vineyards produce wines to rival the country’s finest and towns and cities, from Alberobello to Bari, showcase some truly extraordinary cultural treasures. It’s all set to a backdrop of rolling hills, pretty beaches and a wonderful Mediterranean climate, best explored on an all-encompassing road trip.
4: KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
Offering Big-Five safaris, spectacular national-park landscapes, stunning beaches and cities brimming with culture, KwaZulu-Natal encapsulates everything that’s great about South Africa. It all begins in Durban – now serviced by a brand-new direct British Airways flight from London Heathrow. This seaside city is the ideal introduction to the region, host to golden beaches, superb dining and a unique culture influenced by its Indian roots. On its doorstep, the Drakensburg Mountains offer superb hikes and views out across soaring peaks while further afield, the Battlefields region provides insight into the province’s tribal culture and the chance to learn about the Boer War. And, no visit to the region would be complete without a safari. Head east for a stay at Phinda for the chance to see some of Africa’s wildlife icons.
It’s one of the world’s last true frontiers – a dramatic world of shifting ice and impregnable peaks. Cruise among its harsh landscapes to discover incredible wildlife, from breaching whales to thousands-strong colonies of penguins, with expert-led shore hikes and kayak excursions affording the chance to get up close to the action. And, with ships now offering everything from spa treatments to fine dining, as well as a host of sustainability measures, guests can enjoy the highest levels of onboard comfort while giving something back to the region and its environment at the same time.
With a new non-stop British Airways route launching in April, 2019 is set to be an exciting year for Charleston. As a destination in its own right, the city has plenty to offer, from civil war monuments to antebellum mansions and atmospheric cobblestone streets lined with colourful houses. Explore it all, perhaps on a horse-and-cart ride, before heading out to explore barrier islands, seaside communities and wildlife-filled deltas on a comprehensive South Carolina road trip.
7: Norway’s fjords
Since the 19th century, Norway’s western fjords have enticed visitors with their sparkling waters, lush valleys, pretty villages and towering peaks. And, having avoided the plague of mass tourism, the region’s accommodation is delightfully boutique. This does mean, however, that with limited rooms, you’ll need to book well in advance, especially if you’re planning to visit in the height of summer. Once you do secure your spot, you’ll be able to look forward to fjord cruises, spectacular mountain train rides and delicious food that’s both fresh and seasonal.
8: Sri Lanka
Having achieved the coveted number one spot on the Lonely Planet’s top destinations for 2019, Sri Lanka is certainly one to watch over the next 12 months, and beyond. After all, this teardrop-shaped island in the Indian Ocean really does have something of everything. Perhaps kick things off with a guided drive around the island’s central UNSCO World Heritage sites, then, take a trip high into the tea plantations following a stay amid the cultural wonders of lakeside Kandy. Finally, via a leopard safari in Yala National Park, wrap things up with a stay, depending on the season, on either the country’s southern or eastern beaches – there’s an option for all times of the year.
9: Atlantic Canada
Often unfairly overlooked in favour of Vancouver and the Rockies, the east-coast region known as Atlantic Canada – made up of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward islands and Newfoundland & Labrador – offers some of Canada’s finest travel experiences. Winding roads take in spectacular coastlines and dramatic national parks, whales breach from seas dotted with icebergs and unique and luxurious lodges look out over landscapes seemingly untouched by time and human hand. It’s a region best explored on a road trip, and can be reached in just six hours from London.
Last but by no means least, Argentina is a country impossible to ignore. Its cities are energetic and enticing, its food is superb – especially those succulent steaks – and its wines are world class. And that’s all without adding in the sheer drama of its landscapes, from the jungle-framed torrents of Niagara Falls to the rugged beauty of Patagonia. And, in between? The endless grasslands of the Pampas serves up authentic gaucho culture showcased in horseback rides and delicious asado barbecues. Best of all, however, is its unbeatable on-the-ground value, with the peso dropping 50% against the pound in the last 12 months.