Are you planning a trip for 2018? Lonely Planet just ranked the top destinations for 2018, and if you have plans to travel this year, these are the ones you will want to have on your list. Yet simply visiting the country is not enough to create the trip of a lifetime. You have to dig a little deeper to find the true gems in these destinations. Here’s your guide to the best countries to visit in 2018, and how you can find the ultimate adventure in each one.
Chile may be small when compared to its South American neighbors, but it provides a significant amount of adventure. The Andes, which serve as its eastern border, and the Pacific Ocean, which boarders the west, make it possible for adventurers to find something to fit their tastes.
If you are desiring a good old fashioned road trip, consider a trip along the Carretera Austral, which will take you off the beaten path as you travel a road that connects the remote villages and towns of Chile. Starting in Balmaceda, drive south through Cerro Castillo National Park, then on to Lago General Carrerra. Throughout the drive you will find many opportunities to explore the glaciers and mountains. The road trip ends in the tiny town of Villa O’Higgins, which has a lake and glacier nearby.
One of the most popular, but still exotic, destinations in Chile is Easter Island. while the answers to the famous Moai carvings are still unanswered, seeing the carvings and the island itself, with the ruins of a long-past culture, is worth the trip.
If you have an extended time to visit Chile, consider a stop in Valparaiso. This city is known for its stunning street art. You will want to spend several days traveling its alleys and streets to see the colorful murals and artwork that covers every exposed wall.
Portugal has long sat in the shadow of Spain, but recently it has gained new popularity as people have discovered its charm and culture in their search for something unique to do for their travel. With over 300 beaches to explore, the small nation is quickly growing into a popular tourist destination. It’s considered one of the best countries to visit in 2018 because it’s still not quite as well-traveled as some of its neighbors, but offers quite a bit of variety in things to see, do and experience.
While the capital city of Lisbon has the city experiences you may be looking for, Portugal has quite a few hidden gems that are well worth exploring. One of these is the Magic Mountains. This meeting of the Montemuro, Arestal, Freita and Arada mountains provides hiking, swimming holes and some of the best views you will find in the country of rolling green mountains and verdant valleys.
For more natural wonders, the Geres region and Geres National Park are a must-see. Plenty of crystal clear pools of water with trickling or roaring waterfalls crashing nearby will invite you to swim, and when you’ve cooled off sufficiently you will find hiking trails awaiting.
For a city-based exploration, consider Coimbra. Home to one of the oldest universities in Europe and exceptional examples of Portuguese gothic and Romanesque architecture, history lovers will appreciate their chance to explore away from the crowds. Many ruins from the original Roman city are still standing and in excellent shape.
3. New Zealand
The natural beauty of New Zealand is the stuff of legend. There’s a reason this country has been the setting to epic movies like the Lord of the Rings. Towering cliffs, lush, green valleys, brilliant blue lakes and plenty of trails to connect them all are one of the biggest draws of this popular destination. Because of its wide open spaces, New Zealand is particularly popular with backpackers.
If you’re not quite up for backpacking, rent a car and head to the Forgotten World Highway 43. This road will take you deep into the rural side of New Zealand, with stunning views of the mountains and forests around you and quaint villages to explore along the way.
If you love the coast, the New Plymouth Coastal Track is a great place to take a driving trip along the coast, where you can stop at favorite local surfing spots or check out the Wind Wand kinetic sand sculpture. This particular drive has black sand beaches, which is a rare find as well.
The island nation of Malta is colorful and filled with history. Here you can explore prehistoric temples on the top of a hill, then head back into town to see air-raid shelters alongside underground catacombs and 17th century forts along the coast. The city of Valletta has been named European Capital of Culture for 2018, so it provides plenty of cultural experiences. It also serves as a melting pot for cultures, so you will find the people just as colorful and diverse as the architecture.
Though Malta is small, you will find that it has an ample number of landscapes and historic sties for you to explore. Be sure to plan time to visit the fishing village of Marsaxlokk, where colorful boats bob along the shore. Coffee here is cheap, so get your fill of your favorite drink.
Walking the Great Wall or seeing the Forbidden City – a visit to China is simply exotic, so it’s no wonder this country makes it on the best countries to visit in 2018. Head to the top of the world’s highest observation deck in Shanghai Tower, or jump on board a bullet train to head to some of the outskirts and see the historic culture of China.
If you are looking for unique experiences in China, you will want to visit Jiuzhaigou. This unique lake actually changes color throughout the day due to the algae and calcified rocks on the bottom of the lake. If you visit in the autumn, the rainbow of hues will truly delight.
Rice is central to the food and economy of China, and you can see it being farmed in a visually stunning way in the Yuanyang Rice Terraces, located in the southern Ailao Mountains. Here the Hani people have dug terraces into the landscape to grow rice, and as the terraces reflect the colors around them, the land comes to life in brilliant hues.
6. South Africa
Take a walk with a rhino, or spend your days lounging on the beach or exploring the culture of Cape Town. In South Africa, you can choose your own adventure. In 2018, the country will add Nelson Mandela Centenary 2018: Be the Legacy, which brings sporting, educational and artistic events to the country to honor the legend of Nelson Mandela.
If your visit to South Africa is because you’re looking for a quiet seaside retreat, head to Paternoster. This tranquil fishing village is the best place for fresh seafood, which you can buy straight off the fishermen, as well as enjoying some beach time. Colorful boats along the shore and on the beach make for a beautiful photographic experience.
For a wildlife experience, consider the North West Province’s Bush Babies Sanctuary, which houses quite a few varieties of primates in an attempt to protect the local population. Round out your visit to South Africa with time at Augrabies Falls National Park on Northern Cape.
Whether you’re looking for Asian adventure or want to explore the culture and people of South America, you will find something to fit your tastes among the best countries to visit in 2018. The year is almost here, so now is the time to start making your travel plans!
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