January is always a mad rush to get those travel plans booked in. Your holiday allowance has been renewed at work, your bored of bad weather and you need something exciting to look forward to. With some amazing sales bringing people through the doors of STA this last week I’ve been starting to see some trends in the top travel destinations this coming year and not wanting you to miss out on all the excitement I thought I’d share my insider knowledge with you lovely budding travellers.
This isn’t an up and coming destination but it is just as popular as ever! People are drawn to the magnificent beaches, cheap prices and incredible culture – not to mention flights from anywhere between £300-500! But should you add this to your travel list for 2018?
Even though Thailand was not one of my personal top favourites to visit in South East Asia there is no way I would tell you to keep it off your travel list. If the reasons above haven’t sold you already how about the amazing national parks where you can stay on floating houses overlooking a river you can kayak on or jump right in anytime to cool off? Or the Treehouse hotel that will offer you a unique stay just outside central Bangkok? How about getting up close to elephants while also knowing that you are helping to put a stop to cruelty by adapting views and making a long standing tradition better for animals and people alike? Thailand has so much to offer that one visit will only scratch the surface. It is a place to return to again and again. Go, break away from the tourists, find those unique places to stay and come back with a fresh perspective on this popular destination.
Whenever I tell people about my trip to Borneo I get a 50/50 response as to whether people have heard of it and been or are totally clueless as to where it is in the world. I pictured this country as just a huge expanse of jungle – which it is for the most part – but there is also paradise islands, amazingly clear water for scuba diving and adventurous activities to get the adrenalin pumping. In Kota Kinabalu you can hike Mount Kinabalu and watch the sunrise over the impressive view. Wildlife projects that protect endangered orang-utans will give you a chance to see these elusive creatures in the wild. Not to mention Bako National Park where you can see proboscis monkeys up close, take night time guided walks to spot scorpions in tree logs and flying squirrels sailing over your head. There is zip lining, bamboo rafting and trekking opportunities. If you’re looking to see wildlife in it’s natural environment while getting off the beaten track and delving into traditional culture, look no further than Borneo.
If you’re looking for a cheap European break somewhere a bit different then Poland is somewhere you should definitely consider this 2018. Krakow is a beautiful historical city where you can visit Oskar Schindler’s Enamel factory and learn his incredible story of how he saved over 1,200 Jews. If you want to delve deeper into this terrible era of history you can take a haunting visit to Auschwitz and Berkenau. However Poland has so much more to offer such as the Wielickzka Salt Mines that are filled with carvings, sculptures and even a cathedral! If your a foodie you’ll also be amazed at the restaurants on offer, especially when you can grab a three course meal for under £15! Tasty!
If you’ve ever dreamed of walking the streets of King’s Landing then that’s reason number one to go to Dubrovnik, one of the many sets of Game of Thrones. Then there is the history, sunshine, diving and great food. I mean how many reasons do you need? If you want to do something different try a sailing trip. Feel like a superstar stepping off the boat and onto the island of Hvar and ducking into some of the top restaurants around. If you want to take in the culture head to the hilltop fortress from the 13th century that will offer you spectacular views of the harbour town below. In Korcula there is more medieval architecture to wonder at, including the Cathedral of St Marks. If its natural beauty your looking for, sail to Mljet where much of the island is made up by national park land and you can hire bikes to cycle through the forest searching for glistening lakes. And when you’re not exploring new places you can always be topping up that sun tan on the deck.
Japan is a place like no other and the only way to experience it is to fully immerse yourself in the culture. Tokyo is where you want to be to really get to grips with Japan and if you want to experience the full “neon madness” the Shibuya crossing is the place to go. If your interested in seeing the extremes of female fashion then stop off at Shubuya 109 while you’re there. Step straight into Lost in Translation with a visit to New York Bar and Grill at the Park Hyatt. For more traditional Japanese culture take a visit to Kyoto early in the morning to avoid tourist crowds and see the beautiful old temples that reside there. There are plenty of great restaurants serving typical Japanese food (delicious!) down the side streets Gion, where you might even catch a glimpse of a geisha in this old ‘geisha district’ if your super lucky! Getting around Japan is easy as almost everywhere is well connected by train. You can get 7, 14 or 21 day rail passes that include the use of bullet trains but you can’t purchase these passes in country so make sure you’ve planned ahead. You can use it to catch a bullet train to Nagano, taking just 90 minutes, if you want to hit the slopes. If skiing isn’t your thing this is also where you can see the famous onsen snow monkeys having a spa day in the hot springs. If Japan wasn’t on your travel bucket list it is now!
Peru has always been a popular destination in South America but as more travellers set off to discover the famous Machu Picchu, they are also discovering there is so much more to Peru. See condors soaring above your head at the Colca Canyon or visit the fascinating floating islands at Lake Titicaca. Get really off the beaten track and immerse yourself in local life at a homestay. People are looking for alternatives to the popular tourist sites, and of course Machu Pichu is a must-see, but if you want to get away from the crowds head to Choquequirao. These ruins are still largely untouched by tourist feet but sometimes you can even catch an archeologist at work unearthing these ancient ruins.
I have seen trips to South America picking up traction in the last few months and with amazing overland journeys taking you from Quito to Lima and on through Peru, Ecuador is a great place to start. Visit the middle of world and stand on the equator or even feel like your at the end of the world on a giant swing out across a valley with spectacular views – if you’re not too scared to open your eyes! There is a Darwin museum to visit or you can make a side trip to the Galapagos Islands where he explored his ideas of evolution. I know that Ecuador offers one thing that is definitely on my bucket list – a trip to the Amazon jungle. Tena is possibly one of the cheapest places to make a trip into the wild (and rapidly shrinking!) Amazon jungle. There are loads of different tour options available and while most lodges will be fairly rustic there are also options to stay in beautiful thatched buildings on the edge of murky rivers or you can rough it with Amazon trekking and camping trips. And if you find yourself getting jungle fever head to the coast for white sand, blue seas and maybe the odd iguana.
As for me and my travel plans for 2018, there are so many options they are yet to take shape but I’m sure I’ll think of something…