Every autumn, the travel gurus at Lonely Planet release their recommendations for where we should all be booking our holidays the following year. The destinations are chosen from a longlist compiled by hundreds of travel writers, editors and bloggers, before being whittled down by Lonely Planet’s in-house panel of experts – who consider criteria such as “topicality, excitement and wow-factor”.
Must-see countries in recent years have included Singapore, Botswana and Canada. The rankings for 2018 have just been released – meaning that it’s officially time to add destinations including Chile, Djibouti and Georgia to your bucket list.
Lonely Planet’s Best Countries to Visit in 2018 (in descending order)
10. South Africa
Next year marks 100 years since the birth of Nelson Mandela, the revolutionary anti-apartheid activist who went on to become the most famous South African of all time (and the president). If you’ve never been before, head to Cape Town (above), which is nature-filled, cosmopolitan, rich, poor, exciting and relaxing all at once.
“The world’s most populous country is big, beautiful and full of mystery and adventure,” says the Lonely Planet team. High-speed rail tracks now criss-cross much of the country, making it relatively easy to explore. Visit Beijing’s imperial palace, the Forbidden City, or have your mind blown in super-modern Shanghai.
In 2018, this tropical island in the Indian Ocean will celebrate half a century years of independence from Britain. It’s an idyllic destination if you want to lounge on white beaches, swim in crystalline blue seas and hike through lush green jungle (above) – a once-in-a-lifetime kind of holiday.
Interest in Eastern Europe as a tourist destination has been building in recent years, and Georgia is a fascinating place to start your journey. The scenery is stunning – all shining turquoise lakes, snow-capped mountains and rocky green hills – and Georgians are so proud of their country’s wine that airport officials often welcome visitors with a bottle of red, according to Lonely Planet. We think that’s as good a reason to visit as any.
Malta, a small island in the Mediterranean Sea between Sicily and Tunisia, has a rich, intriguing history – and with more than 300 days of sunshine every year, the weather’s not bad either. Stay in the baroque capital city of Valletta, the most southern capital in Europe (above): it’s the European Capital of Culture 2018, so there’ll be lots going on.
5. New Zealand
One of the more obvious choices on the list, New Zealand is the place to head if you’re after an exhilarating nature-filled holiday. Hikers can tramp their way along the country’s many Great Walks; The Hobbit fans can pretend they’re on their way to Middle Earth.
A tiny French- and Arabic-speaking country on the Horn of Africa, Djibouti is nestled between Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia and stretches out towards Yemen across the Gulf of Aden. It’s earned its spot on the list for its breathtaking national scenery: think rugged beaches, galactic-looking deserts, salt lakes (above) and the chance to dive with whale sharks.
The easiest country on this list to reach from the UK, Portugal’s star has been on the rise for some time, thanks in no small part to the ever-increasing hipness (and relative affordability) of Lisbon. Great food, brilliant museums, gorgeous weather and it’s not too expensive: what more could you want?
2. South Korea
It seems that Lonely Planet haven’t been put off by Donald Trump’s regular threats against South Korea’s northern neighbour. The small country is described as “a compact playground of Asian modernity”, particularly the futuristic capital of Seoul. Visit during the 2018 Winter Olympics, which are being held in the north-western town of Pyeongchang.
The South American nation clinched the top spot as the ultimate country to visit next year. September 2018 is a great time to visit, as that’s when Chileans will be celebrating their country’s 200th anniversary of independence from Spanish rule.
It’s also now possible to fly direct from London to Santiago, making that long flight a little more bearable. Per the Lonely Planet team: “It’s never been easier to catch a plane, raise a glass of pisco sour and toast the celebration.”
Lonely Planet has also named its top 10 cities to visit in 2018, and ranked of the top places to visit if you’re travelling on a budget. Tallin in Estonia topped the list of purse-friendly destinations, followed closely by Arizona in the States and the Bolivian city of La Paz. For more holiday ideas from Lonely Planet, click here.
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Images: Ruben Santander / iStock / Pixabay / Peter Winckler