This year, instead of 10 destinations, we've chosen 12 can't-miss spots to spark your wanderlust. Scroll through this page to uncover scenic vistas and cultural hubs, historic sites and modern cities. As you find out more about each of these remarkable places, we hope you’ll be inspired to seek out your own must-see moments in the year ahead.
From the mainland to the islands.
A trip through Greece is like taking a step into the past. Timeworn ruins in Athens and Delphi harken back to an ancient age of empires and mythology while a sojourn on the islands reveals the country's geological history. Mainland Greece is where the gods once walked and Western culture took root. Today, you can still catch glimpses of Classical times at places like the Temple of Apollo and the Acropolis. Had it not been for the Minoan eruption 3,500 years ago, the Greek landscape might look very different today. The catastrophic event is what gave Santorini its crescent shape and may have inspired the legend of Atlantis.
Why go now:
To see a country on the rise. Ever since its economic downturn came to an end, Greece has been making a comeback as a top destination. Visit in 2018 to experience the warmth of Greek hospitality, laid-back island lifestyle, and fresh Mediterranean flavors.
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A feast for your eyes—and your appetite.
Even though it may be the second-largest city in Portugal, the hometown of Port wine has managed to maintain its small-city charm. A UNESCO-listed historic center, flourishing culinary scene, and relatively inexpensive prices are all added bonuses. Wander through the Ribeira district to see colorful homes and intricate tilework. Or, cruise along the Douro River beneath the arching bridges, Ponte Maria Pia and Ponte Dom Luís I. With ready access to fresh ingredients, it's no surprise that Porto has also become Portugal's culinary capital. A local favorite you've got to try? The francesinha, a meat-filled sandwich, washed down with a glass of Port.
Why go now?
To holiday like the Europeans do. With its burgeoning culinary scene, a relaxed atmosphere, and world-class wine, Porto is a popular destination for European vacationers. Why not take a page out of their book and join them?
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Enjoy a day at the museum and a nice Chianti.
No matter your interests, you'll find what you're looking for in Tuscany. From Renaissance roots to charming hilltop towns and all the vineyards in-between, this region offers a bit of everything. Florence was once at the heart of one of the most prolific periods in history: the Renaissance. Its legacy can still be seen in the city's many galleries, most famously the Accademia, home to Michelangelo's David. For wine lovers, Italy is a can't-miss. To deserve the title, a Chianti Classico must come from the Tuscan region of the same name and contain at least 80 percent Sangiovese grapes. These guidelines are what ensure the wine maintains its signature cherry notes and dryness year to year.
Why go now?
To get the full Italian experience. When you think of Italy, you're most likely envisioning the rolling hills of Tuscany. For years, this quintessentially Italian region has been welcoming visitors with its delicious food, historic cities, and flowing wine. With different destinations rising in popularity, fewer people are returning to the places they've already traveled. Head here in 2018 to rediscover a classic while the rest of the world is somewhere else.
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Where old world meets modern times.
An up-and-coming food scene and abundance of UNESCO World Heritage sites are reasons to add Poland to your list. What really makes the country a must-visit is its ability to have its feet planted in the past while looking to the future. For a peek into Polish history, look no further than Kraków. The city's UNESCO-listed Old Town was the center of government until 1596. It's also home to national treasures like Wawel Castle and St. Mary's Basilica. If you're looking for a cosmopolitan vibe, Warsaw is the place to go. Here, skyscrapers dominate the skyline, art galleries (contemporary and classic) abound, and the theater scene is not to be missed.
Why go now?
To get a taste of Eastern Europe. With its old-world character, low prices, and hospitable people, this area has seen an increase in visitors during recent years. In Poland, you'll find all the charms Eastern Europe has to offer. Try an authentic kielbasa or a couple pierogies at a locally owned restaurant and stroll through historic city centers, taking in a few centuries worth of architectural styles as you go.
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A welcoming oasis in a desert landscape.
Nestled in an arid environment, this hidden gem is anything but dry. It's home to a friendly culture and tucked-away villages that cling to their authenticity, set against a backdrop of sand dunes and soaring mountains. Inviting and open-hearted, the Omani people are known for their warm hospitality. This genuineness of spirit comes down to a matter of culture, one where new acquaintances are treated like old friends. Desert covers 82 percent of the country's territory, but don't let that fool you—the terrain is breathtakingly beautiful. Watch the wind draw ripples in an outcrop of dunes and stumble upon pockets of palm trees and pools.
Why go now?
To get a taste of Arabian culture in a place untouched by time. Standing in stark contrast to Middle Eastern destinations like Dubai that have been hyper-modernized, Oman is a nation that has stayed in touch with its past. Here, the Bedouin lifestyle and traditional architecture still remain.
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Get in touch with nature in your own backyard.
From the majestic mountains that anchor the skyline to dense pine forests, the 49th state earns its nickname: "The Last Frontier." Here, breathtaking scenery, a sparse population, and an untamed spirit make for a true wilderness that's ready to be explored. Not only is Alaska home to scenic vistas and diverse wildlife, but 51 million of its acres are protected national parklands. Catch sight of Denali, North America's tallest peak, and keep an eye out for bald eagles and whales in the Kenai Fjords. The best part? You don't even have to leave North America to get there—all of these natural wonders are right around the corner (in a manner of speaking).
Why go now?
To see glaciers and snowcapped mountains (before they all melt). As the northernmost state in the country, one of Alaska's claims to fame is its arctic scenery. This landscape is sadly in danger of being lost forever as the snow and ice recedes a little bit farther each year.
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Quiet moors and lively culture.
Images of misty hillsides, glassy lochs, and storybook castles abound when thinking of Scotland. But there is so much more to this country than meets the mind's eye, with its spirited pub culture, whisky tradition, and chatty locals. You'll be treated to awe-inspiring scenery no matter where you go within the country, but it's the Highlands that will really take your breath away. This otherworldly landscape paints a majestic picture. Plus, if there's anything that the Scottish know how to do, it's celebrate their traditions. Look no further than the feats of strength on display at the Highland Games, or a cèilidh where people gather for folk music and dancing.
Why go now?
Scotland is a country of many charms—castles, captivating landscapes, and a rich history to name a few—and the world has taken notice. In recent years, it's become an increasingly popular destination. Plan your trip now to beat the growing crowds.
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A gorgeous country, in touch with its heritage.
There's a reason why New Zealand is a destination that's at the top of many a bucket list. Stunning landscapes plus welcoming locals and deep Māori roots combine to make a visit here the trip of a lifetime. Milford Sound, Queenstown, Fox Glacier—it's jaw-dropping places like these that consistently earn New Zealand the title of one of the world's most beautiful countries. In addition to its stop-in-your-tracks sights, the nation is firmly rooted in its heritage. Even today, the customs of the Māori (New Zealand's indigenous people) are still alive and well. Keep an ear out for the Māori language and sit down to a hangi, a traditional feast that's been prepared in the ground.
Why go now?
To unplug and get back to nature. In an increasingly connected world, there's something refreshing about cutting the cord every now and then. New Zealand is the place to do just that. Its enchanting wilderness and rugged energy invites the adventurer in you to immerse yourself in the journey.
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A strong connection to the past and to the sea.
New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island—these provinces bring their own unique culture and sense of identity to eastern Canada with their pioneering spirit and ties to the ocean. Acadian and British settlers began arriving in the area in the 17th century. The French and Celtic influences that these early migrants brought along continue to be a celebrated source of regional pride for those who live here today. Surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, it's no surprise that the water has played an important role in Maritimes culture. Here, the echoes of a shipbuilding heritage can still be felt and fishing continues to be the main industry.
Why go now?
To immerse yourself in a different culture a little closer to home. Over the past few years, domestic travel has had a revival of sorts. If you want to stay close while getting the international experience, a trip to the Canadian Maritimes is just like a trip overseas. Nova Scotia is Latin for "New Scotland," and you can still hear Gaelic being spoken here. For a peek at the area's French roots, look no further than New Brunswick. It's an officially bilingual province, where Acadian French is used in the north.
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Go for the history, stay for the food.
Once at the center of a conflict that defined a generation, this resilient country has emerged as a proud nation in the decades since. Now a cultural hotspot with an upbeat spirit and strong connections to its traditions, Vietnam is a can't-miss. Journey back to the time of the emperors with visits to ancient pagodas. Then trace the country's modern history from French colony to independence in Hô Chi Minh and Hanoi. While you're there, don't forget to sample the local specialties. Whether you grab a bite from a street vendor or learn techniques in a cooking class, there's no wrong way to enjoy the diversity of Vietnamese cuisine.
Why go now?
To get the most for your money. Here, you can really make your dollar stretch. To give you an idea of just how far, an authentic noodle dish made fresh at a market or from a street vendor will set you back about $3 and a one-hour massage can cost as little as $20. As the country continues to establish itself as an economic power, prices will continue to inflate.
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11
Ecuador & the Galápagos
The Galápagos, a naturalist's paradise.
Don't let its small size fool you, Ecuador's appeal is anything but. The Andes Mountains, Amazon jungle, and Galápagos Islands offer visitors a wide variety of natural landscapes to explore. From 2007 to 2010, the legendary cluster of islands was placed on UNESCO's list of at-risk sites due to threats that invasive species and unchecked tourism posed on their landscape. Thankfully, it's no longer on the list, but visits here continue to be closely regulated. The archipelago is also prized for its unique biodiversity and is home to species that can't be found anywhere else. Stay on the lookout for marine iguanas and the giant Galápagos tortoise.
Why go now?
To get up close to nature. Thanks to conservation efforts, areas of the islands remain in almost the same condition as when Charles Darwin made them famous. However, due to increasingly strict regulations to maintain the environment, travel here is becoming more difficult.
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12
Wild Atlantic Way
Head out of the city and into the past.
It's usually on the roads less traveled that you'll find the most hidden gems, and this 1,500-mile route in western Ireland is no different. Friendly locals, dramatic coasts, and green landscapes beckon. There's nowhere quite like Dublin or Galway, but sometimes a change of scenery is just what you need. Discover sights like the Slieve League Cliffs, Glenveagh National Park's mountains, and rugged vistas on Achill Island. The Wild Atlantic Way also passes through nine counties, which makes this an ideal place to unearth family roots. Trace your heritage through rural towns set against some of the country's most scenic backdrops.
Why go now?
To take in beautiful scenery off the beaten path. As you head down the Wild Atlantic Way, you'll be treated to breathtaking beauty in the form of green vistas, rocky coastlines, and towering sea cliffs—all without the crowds that can be found at some of Ireland's more famous locales.
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