As the new year quickly approaches, many of you are probably starting to plan a getaway (or two) for the year ahead. But with 195 countries in the world and thousands of cities to choose from, picking just one or two can be a challenge. Especially if you want to travel everywhere like I do!
In October 2018, Lonely Planet released its Best in Travel for 2019. After collecting nominations from editors, researchers, locals, and influencers, each year Lonely Planet narrow down their top 10 cities, top 10 countries, top 10 regions, and best value destinations into one list of ultimate travel experiences for the year ahead. For 2019, they recommended places to visit like Jordan, Zimbabwe, Panama, and Sri Lanka (read on to find out why Sri Lanka is so hot right now).
Feeling inspired by Lonely Planet, I began compiling my own list of the best holiday destinations to travel to in 2019. However, there are so many places that I still haven’t experienced yet.
So, I decided to ask some friends from my travel blogger network, which destinations they would recommend and why. So…
From these fantastic travel blogs, here is a list of their Ultimate Travel Experiences for 2019!
Explore a Winter Wonderland in Banff, Canada
Michelle Halpern – Live Like It’s the Weekend
One of my favourite winter destinations so far is Alberta, Canada – specifically Banff National Park. It’s stunning in summer as well but visiting in winter is an amazing experience, and the snow gives the little mountain town a magical feel. There are still beautiful hikes and walks that can be done in the wintertime.
A must is a visit to the top of the Banff Gondola which gives stunning 360-degree views of the snow-covered treetops below and the Canadian Rockies in the distance.
Stay in a Dreamy Overwater Bungalow in the Maldives
Christina Vidal – Jetset Christina
When thinking of ultimate travel experiences, in my mind, the Maldives reign as one of the most beautiful holiday destinations in the world. It’s definitely one destination that should be on every traveller’s bucket list this year.
I mean how can you beat dreamy resorts, overwater bungalows, and perfect sun-soaked days filled with endless ocean activities and topped off with sunset sails.
The Maldives is a dream come true for any beach lover. I was blown away by just how much I loved this piece of perfect paradise. The food, the resorts, the drinks, everything was top-notch, making the Maldives a once in a lifetime experience!
The Maldives is a perfect honeymoon destination, group travel destination, couple’s getaway or even an idyllic solo disconnect trip.
Swim with Humpback Whales in Tonga
Jennifer Simpson – Wanderlost & Found
My number one holiday destination for 2019 is Tonga in the South Pacific. These tiny islands are set in a sparkling turquoise sea and are virtually undiscovered by mass tourism.
Swimming with humpback whales as they migrate to these warm, protected waters to give birth to their young (July-October) is one of those amazing life experiences you won’t forget.
You can also snorkel in the crystal-clear waters, gaze up at the stars and see a stunning display of the Milky Way, or just forget about the real world for a while and let yourself sink into island time.
Time has a way of standing still on these islands. Because the masses haven’t yet discovered this South Pacific paradise. You can expect a bit more of a “rustic” approach to life, but the trade-off to escape the crowds is worth it.
For a truly luxe ultimate travel experience, stay at Fafa Island Resort, an off-the-grid eco resort only a 20-minute boat ride from Nuku’alofa.
Sleep Under the Stars in Australia’s Red Centre
Sarah & Amy Todhunter – Mooski Adventures
Looking for the ultimate adventure getaway, a place with a bit more magic? Then look no further than Australia’s ‘Red Centre’. Unlike any other place on earth, this sunburnt land in Australia’s outback is the most interesting travel destination and will make you feel so connected, yet it will blow you away!
You can choose to bike, Segway or even Skydive Uluru, hike through Kata Tjuta (Uluru’s bigger brother), witness a full-sky sunrise or sunset over both, and drive through endless outback colours in every shade of red, orange and yellow.
Take a dip in the refreshing waterholes and gorges in the West and East MacDonnell Ranges, and Kings Canyon Rim Walk is an absolute must-do when visiting!
There are endless ways to experience this stunning region, and it couldn’t be easier.
Depending on your itinerary, fly into Alice Springs or Yulara, book a tour or hire a car, stay at the iconic Sails in the Desert, or for the ultimate travel experience do as we did, and sleep under the stars – boy are there trillions!
Take a Road Trip Around Iceland’s Ring Road
Christine Wheeler – Live Love Run Travel
Otherworldly landscapes, rushing waterfalls, Northern lights (in winter) and adorable puffins (in summer) are just some of the reasons Iceland is one of the best places to visit in 2019.
We spent a week driving around the Ring Road. Everywhere you drive in Iceland takes longer than you would expect, but not because of the traffic. In Iceland, there are so many different places to pull over and take in the scenery or a random waterfall. You’ll end up adding an hour or two to your journey.
If you are willing to get off the beaten path, you can find some hidden gems and have them all to yourself.
Just be aware that while it is pretty cheap to get there with a number of budget airlines, it won’t be cheap once you arrive… But one thing is for sure, it will be one of the most memorable ultimate travel experiences!
Eat Your Way Around Israel
Anytime that I talk about Israel, the first thing I mention is the food! There were, of course, lots of reasons I loved Israel, the beauty of the desert, the dead sea, visiting Jerusalem – but honestly, the one thing that made my travel experience amazing was the delicious food available throughout the country.
In Tel Aviv, make sure to visit Levinsky Market and take a food tour to discover all the culinary delights this area has to offer. In Jerusalem, try eating hummus at one of the local eateries in the old city, like trendy Valero for unique cocktails or Menza for contemporary cuisine.
If you want some more unique dining experiences, you can enjoy a traditional Friday Night Dinner with a family in Tel Aviv organised through a company called Betzava or even have lunch with a Bedouin family.
As well as being a foodie’s paradise Israel offers many ultimate travel experiences, some of my favourites and most highly recommended are; glamping in the desert with Happy Glamper, hiking the Ramon Crater, and of course, swimming in the dead sea! If you want to find the exact spot of this incredible salt formation in the dead sea you can read my guide here.
Go on a Safari in Sri Lanka
I visited Sri Lanka at the beginning of 2018 and have to admit that it has quickly become one of my most recommended destinations when someone asks me where they should travel to next!
Why Sri Lanka? Despite Sri Lanka being a small country, it is absolutely jam-packed with things to see and do. I recommend spending about 10-14 days to allow you to travel all over the country and see the main highlights.
Start by heading down to the Galle a Unesco World Heritage site, then onwards to the beach at Matara, followed by a safari in Yala National Park to go leopard spotting. Then you leave the coast and head up into the centre of the country, visiting Ella and Kandy and taking in one of the world’s most beautiful train rides. Finally, if you have time, you can keep going north to the famous Sigiriya or Lion Rock. But my number one recommendation for visitors to Sri Lanka is to make sure that you eat all of the food!
Photograph the Penguins in Antarctica
Marielena Smith – Epic 7 Travel
Antarctica is a life-changing destination and experience. It touched my soul deeply and inspired me to pivot from a medical device marketing career to chase a dream related to travel photography, writing, and conservation. Just imagine reveling in pristine yet stark white and crystal blue landscapes while laughing at the curious and fearless wildlife. Picture journeying to the end of the world and visiting one of the last untouched places on this planet. There is simply nothing else like it.
Alternating between meditative silence and the cacophony of penguins calling or massive icebergs calving will delight your senses at every turn. If finances and vacation time allows, I highly recommend a three-week trip that includes both the Antarctica Peninsula and South Georgia. To learn what it feels like to land on a beach with 250,000 King Penguins as fur seal pups scoot along the sand to greet your zodiac read more about 25 Surprising Things to Do in Antarctica.
Returning to Antarctica (Snow Hill Island) last month to photograph the stunning Emperor Penguins and adorable chicks satisfied another lifelong dream.
Drink Sangria and Eat Tapas in Madrid
Dana Williamson – Wandering Donut
Spain is one of the most underrated European destinations, especially for the summer. Seriously, I ended up spending half of my Summer here! With an abundance of history that has shaped the world we live in, not to mention SANGRIA, Spain needs to be on your bucket list.
Believe it or not, this beautiful part of the Iberian Peninsula is so much more than Barcelona, Christiano Ronaldo, that strange tomato throwing festival (La Tomatina) and yes, overpriced Ibiza too. In fact, it is filled with mesmerising cultural practices in forms of activities and food. From Jamon (ham), any and all of the tapas, sangria and its several spin-offs (my personal favourite) to the powerful art of flamenco dancing and so much more, there will always be something new for you to experience around every corner.
Madrid is full of life and stole my heart immediately, and I am already dreaming of my return. Not only did I feel extremely safe being a solo female wandering through the streets, but it was also straightforward to navigate by foot as many of the main attractions were all within walking distance. There is plenty of public transport available however I needed to work off all of that tapas somehow!
Check out these ultimate travel experiences in Spain’s beautiful capital city:
- El Retiro Park: Ultimate people watching, picnicking destination and you can even hire a rowboat!
- Palacio de Cristal del Retiro: Tucked away inside of the park, the Crystal Palace is a much see.
- Mercado de San Miguel: A little touristy and overpriced compared to many other food establishments in Spain but so worth a look and a bite.
- Plateau Madrid: a unique food court put together by several Michelin star chefs
Aprés Ski & Yoga in Austria
The Skicircus Saalbach is quickly becoming one of the most popular ski areas in Europe and is sure to be one of the hotspot ski destinations of 2019!
The Skicircus is one of the biggest ski areas in the Austrian Alps with one of the most sophisticated lift systems in Austria. The diverse range of blue, red and black runs make this ski area perfect for beginner, intermediate, and expert skiers. The mountain is also scattered with fun après-ski restaurants and bars where you can stop for lunch or cocktails with a fantastic view of the Austrian Alps!
Get Off-The-Grid in the Kootenay Rockies, Canada
Lisa Michele Burns – The Wandering Lens
Tucked over the ridges of the popular peaks near Lake Louise and Banff in Canada, the Kootenay Rockies region feels like a hidden gem of natural wonders. With ski fields, hiking trails, raging rivers, and waterfalls, the area is a must-see for nature lovers looking to escape the crowds and get off the beaten track. The towns of Golden and Revelstoke are great bases, Revelstoke is actually so pretty that it’s a regular set for Hallmark movies!
Those looking for the ultimate travel experience should head straight for Purcell Mountain Lodge where you can snuggle up in comfort while watching for bears wandering across the meadows. Purcell is only accessible via helicopter, features a private chef, mountain guide for outdoor adventures, and I promise it’s the kind of place you never want to leave.
Relax in an Onsen in Hakone, Japan
Amanda Twine – Fly Stay Luxe
Japan is, without a doubt, one of my favourite countries. It’s clean, easy to navigate, the people are friendly, the food is always good, the shrines and temples are absolutely stunning, the Ryokans are amazing, and it’s a really easy country to visit for first-time travellers. What’s not to like?
I’ve visited Japan twice in the last few years. Most people think that Japan is at its most beautiful during the cherry blossom season; however, I found the autumn colours to be just as spectacular. For a truly amazing trip, I recommend visiting for at least 10-14 days visiting the main cities of Tokyo and Kyoto, as well as Mount Fuji or my personal favourite, the Hakone region.
Staying in a Ryokan (traditional Japanese Inn) and soaking in an Onsen (hot springs) is one of the quintessential ultimate travel experiences you can have in Japan. And the mountain town of Hakone is peppered with them.
During our Hakone 2-day itinerary, we chose to stay at the Hakone Gora Byakudan. This was the perfect place to relax and soak up the crisp mountain air while exploring the amazing sights around Hakone, including the Hakone Open Air Museum, Mount Hakone Crater, and the Hakone Shrine.
Purchasing a Hakone Free Pass offers the best value for sightseeing around the region and gets you to access the Tozan Railway, Bus, Cable Car, Ropeway and Lake Ashi Cruise.
Can you recommend any other great destinations to visit in 2019? Let our readers know about them in the comments below.
Planning a trip soon? Here is a list of the websites and resources we use for booking everything from flights, to accommodation, tours, and more:
- Skyscanner for booking the best flight deals
- Booking.com | Agoda | Hotels.com for the best rates on hotels
- Airbnb | HomeAway to find the best apartment and home rentals
- Rentalcars.com for quick and easy car rentals
- Luxury Escapes for luxury package holiday deals and tours
- Get Your Guide for a great range of day tours
- Tourradar | Intrepid for multi-day experiential and adventure tours
- Priority Pass for airport lounge access in hundreds of locations around the world
- Skyroam to stay connected to WiFi everywhere I go
- iVisa to apply for entry visas for most countries in the world
- World Nomads for the most comprehensive worldwide travel insurance
About the Author:
Amanda Twine is the founder and creator of Fly Stay Luxe – a luxury travel blog sharing informative travel guides, food guides, hotel reviews, itineraries and tips about how to make luxury travel more affordable.