With new and easier routes to far flung destinations and the spotlight on less-travelled cities, we’ve rounded up the best places to visit in 2018 – get there before everyone else does!
Sightseeing in Malta
Malta is set to top the must-visit destinations lists this year thanks to the announcement that its capital, Valetta, has been crowned the European Capital of Culture 2018. Beginning with its opening week in January (14th-21st), and continuing throughout the year, the city will be the backdrop to a host of theatrical and arts events, with a packed calendar of celebrations and music to come. A highly underrated holiday destination for a while now, Valetta is a UNESCO World Heritage site home to some of the most magnificent historic buildings and museums in the world. Much of the city has been restored in preparation for its year in the spotlight, offering visitors the chance to discover its sights in all their former glory, while new galleries and chic boutiques have opened to breathe new life into its streets.
Exploring South Korea
South Korea is a dream destination that perfectly balances high-tech cities with 5000 years of tradition and culture, but there is another reason to make it one of your places to visit in 2018. This year, the country is going to be the focus of everyone’s attention, as the unassuming little mountain region of Pyeongchang welcomes one of the biggest sporting events in the world: the 2018 Winter Olympics (9th-25th February). Beyond its snowy mountain slopes, visitors to the area can discover a beautiful landscape of peaceful Buddhist temples amid dark and sleepy forests. A little further afield, pay a visit to one of South Korea’s 12 UNESCO sites – from palaces and shrines to volcanic islands and lava caves – or explore the bustling capital Seoul.
Relaxing in Southern Italy
Ever-popular for its sublime scenery, its Mediterranean climate and, of course, its food, Italy tops many a holidaymaker’s travel list. But step away from the tourist hot spots of Florence and Rome and head further down, to lesser-travelled Southern Italy, where you’ll find the perfect setting for a laid-back, slow-paced vacation. Take a break in Metera, a honey-hued jewel of a city and contender for the title of third oldest, still-inhabited town in the world. This knockout destination is due to be European Capital of Culture for 2019, making it a must-see now before the crowds arrive. Or, just a stone’s throw off the toe of Italy’s boot, a short boat ride will land you in the Aeolian Islands. Rich in natural volcanic beauty and sparkling coastlines, these photogenic isles offer a quiet paradise off the beaten track.
Walking in the Azores
Described as a cross between the Peak District and Jurassic Park, the Portuguese islands of the Azores are a hidden gem in the Atlantic Ocean, long protected from mass tourism and over-development. A patchwork of UNESCO biospheres and marine reserves, scattered with colourful old towns, only five per cent of the land here has built upon. This nine-island archipelago provides a myriad of activities for nature lovers, from whale watching and diving to bathing in the geothermal pools at Terra Nostra Garden. A hiker’s paradise, the Azores offer around 60 marked trails that criss-cross the various islands, with mountain highs, sheer gorges, volcanic lakes and lava caves waiting to be explored. Once an expensive destination, the Azores are now served by low-cost airlines EasyJet and Ryanair, both of which offer regular flights to Ponto Delgado on the largest island of Sao Miguel.
Diving in St Helena
Formerly one of the world’s most remote islands, accessible only by a five-day Royal Mail ship, St Helena stepped into the public conscience last October thanks to the introduction of four-hour weekly flights from Johannesburg. More than 3,218 miles (2,000km) off the west coast of Africa, and home to a massive 2,932 different species, the island has been described as the “Galapagos of the Atlantic”, with its red, volcanic slopes and fern-filled forests. Beneath its waves, St Helena provides a new frontier for divers and snorkelers, offering a total of 20 dive sites, eight wrecks and marine life unique to the island. Parrotfish, rays, dolphins and turtles make way for humpback whales and whale sharks, with a visibility of up to 50 meters guaranteeing jaw-dropping underwater sights.
Cruising around Norway
What better way to discover the towering cliffs and sparkling fjords of Norway’s imposing landscapes than by boat. Sail through the harbours of Bergen, the majestic waters of Trollfjord or take in the awe-inspiring views of the Lofoten archipelago. For the more intrepid, kayaking and trekking though scenic Scandinavian countryside is a must. Be sure to stop off at Norway’s capital Oslo, especially because this year marks the King and Queen’s 50th anniversary, meaning a full calendar of events will be embracing the city. In addition, the 10th birthday of Oslo’s famous Opera House brings with it a season of celebratory concerts and performances, making it a top European destination for culture lovers this year.
Dining in Seville
The historic city of Seville, resplendent with its mix of Mudéjar palaces, modern architecture and baroque churches, offers a stunning backdrop to discover some of the best examples of Spanish cuisine. Head straight to the markets where you can buy plenty of local delicacies and try different tapas while relaxing with a glass of wine. Visitors will also benefit from the fact that Seville has transformed over the last few years, a metamorphosis that has taken it from a congested urban area to a poster city for sustainable transport (and star setting of the TV fantasy drama Game of Thrones). This year, the city also plays host to the 2018 European Film Awards, as well as celebrating the 400th anniversary of local Baroque painter Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, with exhibitions continuing into the year.
Stargazing in Tenerife
Perennially a popular tourist destination for its year-round good weather and southern resorts specialising in fun, sun and clubbing, Tenerife has a lot more to offer than it may seem. The largest of the seven Canary Islands, step away from the usual stomping grounds and you’ll discover its extraordinary cultural and natural diversity. The island provides fantastic hiking opportunities, from its tropical forest walks and black lunar landscapes, not forgetting the snow-capped peaks of Pico del Teide. At an altitude of over 3,550 metres, the surrounding national park is a wonderful spot for stargazing, with practically no light pollution making it a stunning natural spectacle for visitors.
Sunbathing in Rome
If Italy is a firm destination on your list of places to visit in 2018, but you have your heart set on a cultural city break, then Rome is the ultimate choice. Offering sightseeing, history and art in abundance, with a plethora of gastronomic delights alongside, few cities can rival its experience. In addition, this year Rome is getting its very own beach, set to give residents and tourists alike somewhere to lie back and enjoy the sun. Inspired by Paris Plage, the sandy beach will run alongside the Tiber River, with prime sunbathing spots and the chance to cool off during the midday heat.
Escaping the crowds in Vienna
By far one of Europe’s most underrated destinations, Vienna is home to some of the best museums, and greatest music, in the world. Yet despite this, the city suffers far less from the crowds of tourists that seem to flock to every other capital, making it ideal for a stress-free European city break. Vienna boasts splendours such as its neo-Gothic Rathaus (City Hall), its imperial Hofburg palace and baroque churches. Access to the city’s main museum, the Kunsthistorisches, is queue-free despite it housing one of the best collections of Old Masters in Europe. Not only that; in 2018 the city is putting on a whole succession of exhibitions to celebrate three of its greatest artists Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele and Koloman Moser as well as architect Otto Wagner.