You’ve ticked off Portugal, France, Italy and Morocco and traced the real life Game of Thrones filming locations in Croatia. Now where to go? Read on for the destinations to watch for in 2019.
The Turkish Riviera
A chic-but-affordable alternative for the beach-party crowd that have been and done Ibiza. A couple of years ago the Turkish Riviera was all but off-limits for British travellers – so what welcome news that this glorious coast is back with a bang. British Airways has resumed its direct flights from London to Dalaman, making secret beach spots such as Datça and Bozburun super accessible. Meanwhile, the Bodrum Peninsula is all of a flutter with smart new developments that are taking the scene up a notch. With the value of the Turkish lira having fallen significantly, the Turquoise Coast is currently a well-priced, chic alternative for Europeans who want to swim, sail, eat and party.
The opening of the game-changing Grand Egyptian Museum has been delayed again, the latest word is until 2020. And yet, the news from the ground is for the first time in 8 years, there’s a waitlist for city hotels and boat trips along the Nile. After a tumultuous few years, Egypt, it seems, is back on the map. It had been hoped that the $1 billion, sleek, marble temple to the country’s antiquities would have swung open its doors by now, revealing, among a wealth of other national treasures, most crucially King Tutankhamun’s entire burial collection – more than 5,000 pieces – displayed to the public in an exact replica of the tomb itself. Which means visitors will be able to see everything – bejewelled sandals, embroidered tunics and the Boy King’s death mask – just as Howard Carter did when he made his milestone discovery in 1922.
The Peloponnese, Greece
While the starriest Greek islands – such as Santorini and Mykonos – grapple with over-tourism, forward-thinking visitors are heading to the mainland and discovering the wide-open spaces of Greece off-season. The Peloponnese has been bubbling just below the radar since Costa Navarino opened in 2010. Soon afterwards, the local airport at Kalamata opened up to international flights, shaving off several hours’ driving time from Athens and boosting arrivals to the region by 15 per cent last year. In 2019, the rail service linking the port of Patras with the town of Pyrgos, in the south-western Peloponnese, will resume after a seven-year halt. A train ride is the perfect way to explore this laidback region which has been a destination for wellness and fitness since Hippocrates prescribed therapeutic olive oil massages and naked athletes limbered up in Olympia.
The west coast of the Peloponnese is rippled with mile upon mile of sand dunes. The Peloponnese has more wineries and grape varieties than any other region in Greece. It’s a tradition you can taste at Eumelia, a farmstead set among 50 acres of organic olive groves and vineyards, which has quietly built a reputation for immersive foodie and creative retreats. Stay at Villa Vager Mani, which has hiking and archery to kayaking and scuba diving. This family-run guesthouse has four suites in a fortified mansion built in 1858. It’s a 20-minute drive from the village of Kardamili, where the most desirable property in the Peloponnese will be available to rent for three months of the year from 2020: the peachy stone house poised above a private cove was built by travel writer Patrick Leigh Fermor in the 1960s – ‘a world of utmost magical beauty’ where he wrote, swam, and entertained poets and painters until his death aged 96.
Down in the arch of Italy’s foot, Matera is built into the rock of a ravine. This strange, prehistoric-looking city is miles from anywhere, and so out of time that it has been used as a set for films needing an authentic Jerusalem: Ben-Hur, and The Passion of the Christ, for which a crucifix was made that remains on the hillside. But Matera’s sassi are what people come to see, the troglodyte cave dwellings where, even in the mid-20th century, its impoverished citizens lived in dank darkness until it was eventually abandoned. In 1993, UNESCO declared Matera a World Heritage Site. Slowly its fortunes changed, and now, as in Santorini, they’ve become hot property among travellers keen for an immersive stay. Many sassi are being rented out on Airbnb or turned into galleries, restaurants and charming cave hotels, upscale hideaways in limestone grottoes, such as the Palazzo Gattini, Corte San Pietro, Relais La Casa di Lucio and Sextantio Le Grotte della Civita, one of the most romantic digs in all Italy. A short drive away, in Bernalda, is Francis Ford Coppola’s splendid Palazzo Margherita. In 2019, Matera will be thrust into the light of the 21st century as a European Capital of Culture. The year’s cultural programme kicks off on 19 January with more than 2,000 musicians and dozens of brass bands, all marching to their own tune around the city’s ancient candlelit streets.
Perth, Western Australia
For the first time ever you can fly direct on Qantas’s new 17-hour London-Perth route. The country’s west coast is booming right now. The Margaret River region is well established as a foodie destination, with its Gourmet Escape pulling in international chefs (Rick Stein, Nigella Lawson) every November. Now its top-notch produce and wines are fuelling a proliferation of independent new cafés, bars and restaurants in the state capital. There’s culture in the form of Sculpture by the Sea, an annual exhibition held in March (in 2018 Damien Hirst’s giant inflatable head in snorkel and mask emerged from the bone-white sands of Cottesloe Beach); while on Rottnest Island, so close you can swim over from Cottesloe, Pinky’s new tented eco-retreat will welcome guests from February 2019. North of the city there’s been £100-million investment in Scarborough Beach with a smart new pool and restaurants such as The Peach Pit. Beyond the city Perth is the jumping-off point for further explorations into Australia’s wild west: Ningaloo Reef where you can swim with whale sharks; and the dramatic Kimberley, with wilderness escapes such as El Questro homestead.
The Scottish Highlands
Travellers walk the earth to find monumental landscapes, a sense of complete isolation – yet relatively few go looking in their own back yard. Perhaps (when/maybe) if Britain leaves Europe in March 2019, that will change, and we will finally head for the Highlands, our own true wilderness, for our country kicks and skiing breaks. Certainly, Europeans can’t get enough of the place. The Danish team behind the exquisite Killiehuntly Farmhouse and Kinloch Lodge – clothing billionaire Anders Holch Povlsen and his interior-decorator wife, Anne – are busy revamping additional tumbledown properties with their Scandi-Scot good taste. Additionally, down in the Lowlands, Dundee’s culture credentials are multiplying. The V&A opened here in September 2018, and now a former mill is being turned into a massive multi-venue arts destination.
St Barth’s, Caribbean
In 2017 the most powerful storm ever to sweep the Atlantic, Hurricane Irma, struck the Caribbean – swiftly followed by the equally devastating Hurricane Maria. Several entire islands were wiped out. St Barth’s was one of the worst hit. One year on, and the breezy-breathe-easy island is definitely, defiantly open for business again. Renovation efforts have been phenomenal as islanders have beavered away to rebuild lives, homes and infrastructure, as well as the hotels and beach bars we cross oceans for – so going to the Caribbean in 2019 is a philanthropic act, too. Hôtel Le Toiny, which was relaunched only three years ago by new English owners Charlie and Mandie Vere Nicoll, has been revamped again. At the other end of the island, Villa Marie Saint-Barth (sister hotel to the St Tropez original) has been restored to its former French-tropical, palm-print glory with two brand-new villas. Meanwhile, the legendary Eden Rock St Barths is set to reopen for next Christmas, in November 2019, after a complete face-lift. It’s owned by the Matthews, Pippa Middleton’s in-laws. Across the water, in the British Virgin Islands, Richard Branson has also reopened his Great House on Necker Island in October and will be gradually adding newly rebuilt villas and rooms throughout 2019.
Vincent Van Gogh’s dream is finally coming true. It was his vision for Arles to become a kind of utopian refuge for a collective of artists – and now, with a major new arts venue being created, including a centrepiece by Frank Gehry, this Provençal city in the Camargue is set to become an important art destination for Europe. He was hugely prolific during his year in the city’s ‘Yellow House’, where he lived, painted and cut off his ear after a row with his housemate, Paul Gauguin. Philanthropist Luc Hoffmann launched the Foundation Vincent Van Gogh here in 2014; and now Luc’s billionaire daughter Maja Hoffmann is transforming a disused railway site into a vast arts campus called the Parc des Ateliers with the Luma Arles foundation and Gehry’s gleaming tower at its centre, and studios and exhibition spaces in the old engine sheds. An exciting programme is already underway with shows and site-specific installations in its finished spaces.
The international photography festival Les Rencontres de la Photographie expands year on year; while the Roman amphitheatre (Arles was a provincial capital of Rome) will host progressive cultural events; and the beautiful new art hotel Le Collatéral, a Design Hotel set in a medieval church, showcases international contemporary art in its public spaces and bedrooms, including one inspired by van Gogh’s blue and yellow ‘Bedroom in Arles’.
Valle de Guadalupe
This boulder-strewn bronze sweep of Baja California has been luring wine-lovers and weekending West Coasters for some time. Now it’s earning itself the lofty billing of Mexico’s Napa Valley, for its architect-designed tasting rooms and complex bottles – many of them innovative organic, biodynamic and minimum-intervention. The foodie landscape has been maturing as well, drawing on farm-to-table ingredients and seafood from the nearby Pacific. With the annual Valle Food & Wine Festival and following in the tradition of Napa and Sonoma, the area is well on its way to having a restaurant scene as world class as its vineyards.
Mozambique was once sub-Saharan Africa’s answer to Havana – a hedonistic hideout with nightlife, naughtiness, and no limits. The fun was centred around the islands fringing its coast, especially the southernmost Bazaruto archipelago – home to the Santa Carolina hotel, a midcentury modern masterpiece with its own landing strip, and whose cocktail hour famously inspired Bob Dylan to pick out a few notes on the hotel’s piano, a love song to the place itself. Today, after two decades of civil conflict ending in the 1990s, the Santa Carolina survives, just; it bakes in the sun, an elegant ruin. But new high-end hotels are finally channelling its legacy, luring visitors with a similar, if less naughty, appeal: privacy in paradise, with pristine, palm-fringed beaches rolling out to the bluest Indian Ocean. Conservation is shaping off the beach, too. An investment from American philanthropist Greg Carr has resurrected wildlife numbers in once-depleted Gorongosa National Park, where waterfalls and marshlands are luring a particularly impressive crop of colourful birds. No wonder that next summer, Royal Portfolio will debut its first tented safari camp outside of South Africa here. After a few days’ lounging on the coast or animal trekking, tack on a weekend in Mozambican capital Maputo, renowned for its nightlife and Portuguese-flavoured seafood.
With its otherworldly landscapes and elemental emptiness (one of the most sparsely populated countries on earth), Namibia has always enthralled us. Its raw beauty is in the remarkable barrenness – of the desert, of the dunes, of the savage Skeleton Coast – the collision of earth, sky, sea and little else. There is a fresh focus on the Southern African nation right now as a pack of lodges have just opened this pass year across the country. Along the coast, on the windswept sands, numerous washed-up boats are scattered along these wild shores. Just a kilometre from the rolling Atlantic Ocean, it’s a base for dune-climbing, beach-combing for whale bones and spotting seal colonies. Namibia has earned its place as the most exciting African destination right now.
Chengdu’s lure for visitors has long centred on two Chinese clichés: giant pandas and hotpot. The Sichuanese capital is home to the world’s largest concentration of those doe-eyed bears, and its food has been exported worldwide. Yet there’s nowhere better to glimpse the future of New China than here, the Middle Kingdom’s coolest city. Domestically, it has a reputation for locals who are both laid-back and cosmopolitan. Come here to experience the cutting edge of contemporary Chinese culture. Stay at the Temple House next door, and book dinner at the Bridge, a Neri & Hu-designed cocktail bar and restaurant inside a converted walkway that spans the river.
The offbeat destination being whispered about by first-to-go travellers for 2019? Transylvania, the rural region of Romania known for its Gothic myths and dark fairytales. Its very name means ‘land beyond the forests’. A place where the Pied Piper lured Hamelin’s children, Bram Stoker’s Count Dracula drained blood and Vlad III impaled. Now, finally, it is beginning to attract visitors interested in more than just schlock-horror visits to Bran Castle to see a man in a cloak – its burgeoning wine scene, for one thing. Transylvania remains a land lost in time. Separated from the modern world for decades by the Iron Curtain, many of its inhabitants emigrated, and its 13th-century Saxon villages were left to crumble. As a result, its distinct character has remained intact; its forests and wildflower meadows gloriously untouched. Life is beginning to return and dilapidated buildings are being rebuilt. The Prince of Wales was way ahead of the curve. Since the 1990s, he has been gently overseeing the restoration of houses, and you can stay in his Prince’s Retreat, a rustic wood and stone house on his nature retreat in Zalán Valley near Brasov (zalan.transylvaniancastle.com). Across the meadows on Count Kalnoky’s estate (transylvaniancastle.com), more houses and cottages have also been rebuilt, similarly rough around the edges, featuring stone floors and dark Transylvanian antiques with a whiff of imperial fiddle-de-dee, and chairs like fairytale thrones. In winter there are horse-drawn sleigh rides; in summer the horses trot through green fields growing high as their bellies. A 100km gallop away in Mălâncrav, too, artisans have been slowly renovating buildings into guesthouses (experiencetransylvania.ro). Apafi Manor is the fanciest, a white-and-shell-pink confection of a country house from the days of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, with a veranda and handmade terracotta tiles on the roof and floors. Expert travel company Butterfield & Robinson (butterfield.com) is one of the first to offer trips in Transylvania, attracted by its emerging wine industry, glorious landscapes and undiscovered heritage. Its biking and walking tours take travellers to UNESCO-listed medieval villages such as Viscri, Sighișoara, Biertan, with accommodation in striking castles and cottages. ‘Transylvania leaves nothing to be desired from a natural perspective, whether it’s the vast forests interspersed with mountainous terrain, or its healthy populations of brown bears and wild boars,’ says Butterfield & Robinson’s Tom Abraham. ‘What is most delightful is the diversity of European cultures and history within Romania, from the German Saxon villages to the Roma communities that evoke an eastern influence, to the overlay of Hungarian and Italian cultures. The people and hospitality of Romania have me most excited to return.’
While the rest of the world drives itself mad, Patagonia’s still, epic landscapes increasingly appeal as one of the last true escapes left on earth. It is one of the least populated regions anywhere. Adventurers are drawn to the vast emptiness of its desert and the drama of its Lake District, where the snow-capped Andes are reflected in the bright water. So little pollution is there, so dark and clear the night skies, that the Milky Way is easily visible, and sometimes the southern lights; though in July 2019, astronomers will be sun-gazing at a total eclipse arcing over Patagonia. That’s not all. The new 1,700-mile Route of Parks has just opened – the world’s longest hiking trail – passing through 17 of Patagonia’s national parks, from Puerto Montt in the Chilean Lake District all the way down to Cape Horn. It’s thanks to the Tompkins, the philanthropic founders of The North Face, who have donated vast tracts of protected parkland to help create the route and open up this spectacular part of the world to visitors. Patagonia’s wine and food scenes are gathering pace too. Beside the Argentine coast, Río Negro’s fertile soils make for honest-to-goodness farm produce, and also grapes: new winery Wapisa opened here last year, and Patagonia now rivals Mendoza in producing Argentina’s best Malbecs. Superb seafood comes from the nearby Atlantic or the lakes. King of the grill Francis Mallmann, who has his own secret island on Lago La Plata, cooks what he catches in what must be the world’s most exclusive cooking class (about £34,000 for four people for five nights). Butterfield & Robinson (butterfield.com) has a new seven-day Lakes & Volcanoes Active Expedition which hikes and paddles through the Patagonian Lake District, sleeping in luxury lodges along the way. And Explora, which pioneered Patagonia’s original luxury lodge in the Torres del Paine National Park 25 years ago, is working on an exciting new property in the region, set to open in 2020. The 50-room, $15-million hotel in the Argentinian Lake District will embrace the great outdoors – rooms have picture windows rather than TVs, while no WiFi encourages disconnection from one world and reconnection with another.
The arrival of India’s first Soho House is creating a scene in Mumbai right now. As ever, the group has nailed the hottest neighbourhood in town to set up shop: Juhu, in the northern suburbs, where lately Mumbai’s movers, shakers and creators have been flocking from the south of the city. ‘Mumbai is one of the most creative cities in the world,’ said Soho House founder Nick Jones. ‘Our location in Juhu means we’re close to the film industry, but our community is made up of musicians, artists, sculptors, illustrators, architects, jewellery designers, fashion designers and restaurateurs already.’ Overlooking Juhu Beach, Soho House Mumbai has 38 bedrooms, as well as elegant and light-filled members spaces and two restaurants, and the most gorgeous rooftop pool and bar (mint-green and white stripes here). Local design elements are incorporated into unmistakeable House style, with Rajasthani block-printed fabrics and antique saris, locally made furniture and works by artists from the subcontinent. Meanwhile, India specialist Greaves Travel tip that the big opening for 2019 is the Chedi Mumbai. Standing high above Powai Lake, the five-star hotel will have a firm culinary focus: six restaurants and bars, including an alfresco rooftop lounge. Mumbai has always been India’s creative capital – where you find the movie makers, the models, the money. And in recent years it has become the culinary capital, too, with a new generation of young chefs and international players trying out brave and exciting things. Akerkar’s new Mediterranean-influenced restaurant Qualia is set to open soon in Lower Parel, hotly anticipated after the success of his pioneering fine-dining spot in Colaba, Indigo, which closed in summer after 18 years.
This city-state burns bright with light shows and flash designer shopping malls and made the perfect diamond-studded backdrop for ‘Crazy Rich Asians’. The all-Asian blockbuster may have ignited a flame for Singapore as more than just a stopover city, for its tropical British colonial grandeur and futuristic architecture, for street food in the night markets and sky-scraping sundowners in Marina Bay Sands’ rooftop pool, and for slings at Raffles, the original grande dame of the Far East, which is undergoing a full facelift and will reopen with a bang in 2019. Joining the fray is the fabulous new Six Senses Maxwell in a restored colonial building. There’s desert-island fun here, too. Yes, Singapore is a jumping-off point for the islands of Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia (including Langkawi, where the Crazy Rich Asians cast headed for beach frolics and the zhushed-up Datai has just reopened) – but it’s also got a bunch of incredible private islands nearby. Hottest spots are eco-chic Cempedak, with its curving, modernist grass-roofed bungalows set among beach and jungle, tiny driftwood-charming Pulau Joyo, and beautiful Bawah Reserve, accessed by seaplane from Singapore, with 35 teak overwater villas in the bright lagoons of a marine conservation zone.