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10 Best Holiday Destinations to Watch for 2018

10 best holiday destinations 2018 - from Malta to Mexico, Bologna to Bali and Japan to Georgia

The buzziest hotspots in the world right now


By David Crookes, Condé Nast Traveler

Malta

How strange it seems now that this former British colony was, until recently, considered most remarkable for expat retirees and red phone boxes. Though its fortified, honey-gold capital, Valletta, is in the spotlight as a 2018 European Capital of Culture, top tastemakers have been quietly rediscovering the history-soaked Mediterranean island of Malta for a while, knocking it to the top of our 'best-holiday-destinations-2018' list. Cool kids come for Annie Mac’s Lost & Found festival - pitching up for a third go-round this year, with Diplo and Jamie XX in tow - and stay for a sceney new bundle of forts-turned-clubs and what our writer Juliet Rix calls 'centuries-old palazzi transformed into high-design hotels'. The most visionary of these, Iniala Harbour House, opens in January. Millionaire philanthropist Mark Weingard enlisted a trio of designers to reimagine several townhouses, flaunting original features like stone walls, cupola ceilings and basement vaults. For the guest who thinks they’ve seen everything: in-room 'experience-ometers' can be set to desired activity levels; the hotel plans an itinerary to suit.

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The Seychelles

The Seychelles’ brand of barefoot luxury is that bit wilder, more elemental, than its similarly Eden-esque neighbours, the Maldives and Mauritius. Primeval jungle fringes white-coral sand; postcard-blue surf pounds dramatic black rocks. The Indian Ocean archipelago zealously lends itself to castaway fantasies: local lore about buried treasure and haunted sea caves abound. But paradise comes at a price: marooned 1,600km off Africa’s east coast, reaching this remote refuge can be an ordeal. Not so in 2018, when British Airways launches the UK’s first non-stop flights to the Seychelles from March.

There could hardly be a better time to go. As Condé Nast Traveller magazine’s senior editor Peter Browne reported, several islands have smartened up their resort game: self-sustaining Frégate, a conservation success with its own hydroponic farm, recently rebooted its villas; the beach lodge on North Island, where William and Kate honeymooned, has been refurbished with glamorous embellishments (soft silk rugs; hand-beaten brass headboards). Not forgetting the splashy new Six Senses Zi Pasyon, scattering vast villas across densely forested Félicité. Go get lost.

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Japan

It’s an interesting time for this fiercely insular island nation. Long-entrenched traditions are suddenly hot in the West: reverence for nature (in Japan,'shintoism'); a meticulous eye for design; precisely crafted food; fearless fashion. Call it a millennial’s Pinterest board made flesh. And boy, has Gen Y figured that out: tourism to Japan doubled in the past three years alone. The challenge, then, is to discover the country’s dual draws of quiet spiritualism and frenzied urbanisation a touch further from the well-worn trail. Sapporo, capital of northern Hokkaido, teems with trends: brewpubs pairing beers and gyoza; repurposed subway passageways and abandoned basements turned galleries; a new outdoor Art Park. The parallels with sister city, Portland, Oregon, are plain. And as Charles Spreckley wrote for us, undervisited Kii Peninsula is ripe for a pilgrimage to shrines on misty mountains and hilltop farmstays - not to mention the Kaatsura fish market, where the tuna is fresher than Tokyo’s.



Bologna, Italy

[post_ads]Forgotten for Florence. Rejected for Rome. Passed over for Pisa. Bologna is forever overlooked in favour of flashier Italian brethren. That’s a mistake: this terracotta-hued town doesn’t just have history - medieval towers, porticoed walkways, cobbled piazzas - but a spirited present to boot. Via Pratello’s annual April street party is a motley melee celebrating resistance, communism, and gay pride (though Pratello buzzes year-round with modern osterias serving slow food and organic wine between dives). Progressive and rebellious, Bologna’s nickname, La Rossa, is a play on both the ubiquitous red brick and a penchant for socialism.

Its other claim to fame is food - though they’d prefer you call spaghetti bolognese tagliatelle al ragu. Much-hyped new opening, 'foodie theme park' Fico Eataly World, offers a 20-acre complex of gastro workshops, rides and restaurants. Better still, seek out that counterculture: in the hip little art bars of the Jewish Ghetto; at art-squat-turned-warehouse-club Link; or the yearly Robot digital arts and music festival. Co-working collective Kilowatt recently turned the Giardini Margherita park’s derelict greenhouses into fairy-lit spaces for live music, film screenings and cool cocktails; nearby, a converted 14th-century convent makes boutique lodgings.


Mexico's Pacific Coast

If Tulum is where A-listers go for a fix of glam Zen, the Pacific coast is more the preserve of the Gypset. Sayulita, 20 miles from major resort Puerto Vallarta, may be a sleepy beach town, but doesn’t want for style. It’s an easy, sand-and-salt-in-your-hair scene, where wandering bohemians wash up in search of surf, then stay to open vintage board shops or hammock-strung guesthouses. Among bargain beach-shack Margaritas and cheap taco stands, designers from New York and Paris run brightly painted boutiques.
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Further south, the fabled Mexican Pipeline makes Puerto Escondido a premier surf spot - now, it’s also a hive of design. The new Casa Wabi, a vision of Mexican-born, Brooklyn-based artist Bosco Sodi, and drawn up by self-taught Japanese architect Tadao Ando (see Naoshima island’s concrete museums), it’s part artists’ residences, part gallery space, and sure to draw an interesting crowd. Neighbouring Hotel Escondido matches palapa-thatched bungalows with plunge pools; Casa Insparacion, beachfront villas and boot camps. Close by, Mazunte is less drowsy, a popular refuge for tattooed yogis.



La Paz, Bolivia

Cascading down a bowl-like canyon in the shadow of snow-dusted, triple-peaked Mount Illimani, La Paz has always numbered among the world’s most spectacular-looking cities. The highest capital in the world, it’s literally breathtaking. But a lack of sparkly veneer and seedy party scene shunted it into the domain of scruffy backpacker. No longer. In the words of our writer Chris Moss, La Paz is now 'tireless and unstoppable on its way to a new future'.

[post_ads]Influential hoteliers and restaurateurs have lately landed in La Paz to reinvent a place rich in tradition, but begging for new blood. The spoils include destination dining, like Noma co-founder Claus Meyer’s Gustu, plating inventive riffs on local dishes (llama tartare). Or the city’s first boutique hotel, Atix, a glass parallelogram designed with New York studio Barofsky Architecture, where the bar mixes craft cocktails from native firewaters. In short, La Paz at last has the elevated style a city at 12,000ft deserves.



Tbilisi, Georgia

The Caucasus seems an unlikely place to find the next great city break. Lucky for us, there are plucky explorers to do the hard work for us. In last summer’s Channel 4 series, From Russia to Iran, long-distance walker Levison Wood revealed the ancient charms of Georgia. His advice: 'If you only visit one city in the Caucasus, make it Tbilisi.' Right-oh.

As 2018 marks 100 years since the Eurasian nation’s first bout of independence from Russia, it feels like the right time to celebrate the unique appeal of this unruly capital - just as joyously muddled as it looks. An anarchic jumble of primary-coloured balconies, crumbling Art Nouveau facades and Eastern Orthodox churches, old nanas hustle at flea markets and dish up dumplings, while handsome young artists convene at apartment cafés and ironic, KGB-themed restaurants. Rooms, a Soho House-inspired hotel in a former publishing house, should dispel any doubts about 'Caucasus cool'.

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Bali

In Canggu, boho Bali is reborn. Or, as Brigid Delaney quipped in our recent feature on the Indonesian island’s hottest new hangout, Canggu, you might call it 'Brooklyn-On-Sea'. Tanned hotdeskers tap at MacBooks in airy cafes serving vegan breakfast bowls and cold-pressed espressos; come sundown, they’re mixing hibiscus martinis with old-school hip-hop at laid-back beach club The Lawn. And where beautiful nomads go, hot hotels follow. The Slow’s retro-modernist suites make a tough booking, but soon face competition from COMO Uma Canggu, where duplex penthouses come with rooftop pools. It’s a new energy, and a new Bali.

Not to be outdone, in 2018 Bali’s other big-ticket haunts step up. Capella Ubud, where luxury tents have accompanying Jacuzzis, is all spiritual-wellness tucked into tangled rainforest; upcoming Six Senses Uluwatu perches Balinese villas atop a spectacular cliff south of Kuta.

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United Kingdom

The rock-bottom pound is bringing tourists to our chilly isles in droves - and they’re finding a kingdom that’s cooler than ever. London has undergone a super-trendy transformation in recent years: Soho and Covent Garden stuffed with exciting restaurants invariably run by sleeve-tattooed chefs; craft cocktail bars now as commonplace as pubs in the East End. At least six superb new London hotels have opened in the past year, while old classic the Bloomsbury also shows off a spruced-up image - and it’s a triumph.

In Bristol, alternative art collectives and community-run cafes have courted creatives tired of the capital (it’s the home of Banksy, after all). Along with its growing foodie reputation and new photography gallery from Martin Parr, in 2018 the city gets an Artist Residence hotel, offering the same hipsterish whimsy that made the Brighton and Pimlico versions so well-loved.

A surprise entry this year: Dundee. Its soon-to-be-launched V&A Museum of Design, large populations of galleries and art students, and plum spot on the Firth of Tay make a strong case for a highland fling.

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Botswana

Harry’s chosen spot to woo Miss Markle on that all-important third date was a masterstroke: who could fail to fall for a prince in Botswana? The Southern African nation’s vast inland Okavango Delta overflows with wildlife, offering not only one of the continent’s greatest safari destinations, but also a rare chance to track the Big Five by dugout canoe. Having converted 30 percent of its total land to protected park or game reserve, this isn’t a country in which you’ll struggle to see what you came for. But following the royal’s revelation about his whirlwind getaway in an internationally syndicated TV interview, it may yet be a destination you’ll struggle to book.

Wilderness Safaris picked a fine time to open its all-new Qorokwe Camp on the banks of an Okavango lagoon. There are just nine luxury tented suites, all bleached timbers and rust and brass, with private decks; located on the border of Moremi Game Reserve, guests have their pick of walking, boating and 4x4 sojourns. Plus, the whole joint runs on 100 percent solar power. A camp fit for a fifth-in-line-to-be-king.


See more at: Condé Nast Traveler

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Travel Magazine: 10 Best Holiday Destinations to Watch for 2018
10 Best Holiday Destinations to Watch for 2018
10 best holiday destinations 2018 - from Malta to Mexico, Bologna to Bali and Japan to Georgia
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