20 destinations that you must add to your bucket list in 2018, as chosen by our experts
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2018 is here, and we’re looking forward to the year ahead – and in particular, towards the potential for fresh adventure that a brand new year brings.
From iconic safari destinations to cool cities that are only just hitting our travel conscious, there are hundreds of exciting things happening across our world in 2018.
Want a European city with a buzzing underground scene that your friends definitely haven’t visited? What about a previously overlooked enclave of one of the world’s top tourist destinations, brimming with new art for you to discover? Or a country that values its residents’ happiness above all else?
It’s a big world out there, filled with endless possibilities - and it’s time you discovered it.
So, without further procrastination: The National Student’s Top Destinations 2018. Get ready to find your bliss.
Our top cities for 2018 are accessible, vibrant, regenerated – and above all, fun. From the sleek skyline of Toronto to the historic heart of Belfast to the colourful abodes of Buenos Aires, these are cities to lose yourself in. Get ready to be overwhelmed.
Canada is cool, and its cities vie with its mountain ranges for a place in our attention. Toronto takes the mantle this year, with its 225th birthday looming, a light festival brightening up the sky until March, and North America’s biggest documentary festival (the wonderfully named Hot Docs) making us all think in April. In June, we’ll see a million people parade through the city for Toronto Pride – one of the world’s best-attended Pride marches.
Heading out of the city, you’ll find the historic Agawa lake train (an opportunity to get creatively inspired, as artists did here in the 1920s), and the Algonquin Provincial Park, sitting pretty just over two hours away.
Who said you can’t combine city and country in one trip? Not us...
Pittsburgh is Pennsylvania’s second city, often overshadowed by Philadelphia’s gargantuan history and even bigger cheese steaks. Pittsburgh is opening up to British travellers, though – a new route with hilarious (really, you need to fly with them) Icelandic budget airline WOWair is widening its potential for an alternative city break. Lonely Planet hails it as a new “food and brew mecca”, and cites its museums, gardens and parks as reasons to visit. We’ll take that.
Why Buenos Aires?
It’s the bookshop capital of South America. Need more? Ok, fine. It’s home to La Boca, which is probably the most brightly coloured town you’ll ever see in your life, so get ready for your eyes to pop. It also goes without saying that, if you’re a fan of steak and wine, you’ll be in your element wherever you eat in the Argentine capital. Grab an empanada and wander the colourful streets.
Two decades on from the troubles, Belfast has reinvented itself as a top city break and an uber-cool party destination. It’s all centred on the Titanic Quarter, whose museum dedicated to the ill-fated vessel was named the world’s best tourist attraction in 2016. Add cosy pubs, live music, stunning architecture, art aplenty and a waterfront that puts much more established tourist cities to shame, and you’ll start to see what we’re talking about.
The “hidden paradise of Fiji”, which is pretty much a hidden paradise already, is how this little enclave introduces itself. Want some serious Instagram appreciation? You could do a lot worse than this thriving town, known for its diving, snorkelling and its strong local community. It’s time to get authentic...
History, spirituality and a thriving underground party scene come together in Jerusalem, a city that’s worth your time even if you’re a committed atheist. Beguiling, diverse, romantic, sacred, edgy... wander through the souks and drink in the atmosphere as church bells collide with Muslim calls to prayer, and try to get your head around the many, many layers of history that reside here.
From sunbathing alongside wild ponies in North Carolina (they’ve been there for half a millennium, swimming in from a shipwrecked Spanish fleet during a failed invasion attempt) to snorkelling one of our greatest wonders at the Great Barrier Reef, these regions will leave you enthralled. After all, some countries are so big you’ll need to visit again and again – so why not use this year to really let yourself fall in love with just one part of them...?
Florida’s Crystal River is the only place in the world you can swim with manatees, which should be enough to get you booking flights straightaway.
With a reputation as the theme park capital of the world, it might seem like there’s little in the Sunshine State for those who are a) not children or b) not obsessed with Disney. But that’s one of the biggest misconceptions you could make. There’s the Everglades for a start – one of the most endangered parts of the whole country. There’s world class art in the St. Pete/Clearwater region. There’s Anna Maria Island, where you can kayak the Gulf Coast alongside dolphins.
Finally convinced there’s more here than just Mickey? Yeah, us too.
A long-time leader in eco-tourism, Quebec is playing host to the G7 summit in 2018. With all eyes on the territory come June, we thought it’d be a good time to highlight the many, many reasons to visit. It’s the only place in the world where you can go ice canoeing, for example. Afterwards, why not try to track down the Quebec Big 5: the snowy owl, grey wolf, moose, black eagle, and blue whale? Plus, did you know that an influx of European chefs is firmly putting Montreal on the foodie map? Its street art is also something to behold. Don’t forget to try and fit in the 14 unique experiences of Quebec whilst you’re here, too... more on those later.
Quite simply because we can’t afford not to include it. The Great Barrier Reef is under a substantial and constant threat, and needs to be protected. Visiting Queensland and educating yourself about the dangers its most prized attraction is facing is one step. Before you plan a trip, though, sign up to the Citizens of the Great Barrier Reef project to learn exactly what’s at stake. This, my friends, is a call to arms.
Why the Peruvian Amazon?
It’s no secret that the Amazon is in danger, and that it must be protected at all costs. In Peru, the river meanders home east of the Andes, taking over more than half of the country with an area that Rough Guides calls “probably the most biodiverse region on Earth.” Join an organised trip and lend your hands to the mission that’s trying to save this natural wonder.
Why North Carolina?
500 years ago, an unsuccessful Spanish invasion saw a mass shipwreck off the coast of what is now Corolla on North Carolina’s wave-strewn Outer Banks. The horses that swam to shore are still roaming freely, albeit on a smaller stretch of land than they once did. 2018 also marks 300 years since the death of Blackbeard. The area hasn’t changed much in three centuries; at Springer’s Point you can kayak over the exact location of the battle and try to imagine the notorious pirate finally meeting his fate.
New York’s most diverse borough has found itself with a bad rep in the past, but that’s all changing – and we’re determined that you know about it. Think sculpture parks, contemporary art, and live music throughout the summer in a borough that just feels a bit more authentic than its neighbours. Catching the 7 subway line from Manhattan will take you through every Queens neighbourhood, including Flushing and Jackson Heights, giving an authentic slice of each community along the way. If you wanted to take a punt on the one hipster destination to emerge in the USA this year, you could even call Queens the new Brooklyn...
Our selected countries for 2018 are looking to the future – a sustainable, responsible future, led by conservation and care for their natural environments. Wander through the green forests of Cyprus, drink locally sourced Slovenian honey, and marvel at the many conservation efforts taking place on Costa Rica. And before you leave, make a commitment to save them in any way you can.
Why Costa Rica?
Costa Rica is a leader in sustainability, so much so that it plans to ban single use plastics entirely by 2021. That’s a laudable aim. The island is also home to the Osa Peninsula, which claims the title of most biologically intense place on the planet. In real terms, that translates as 2.5% of the world’s biodiversity in an area half the size of Rhode Island (that’s the USA’s smallest state, if you weren’t aware.) Look on it in awe.
Why South Africa?
South Africa was named one of ABTA’s top gap year destinations last year, and with big game stalking just outside the shadows of its vibrant cities, it’s easy to see why. Other events of note in 2018 include the 100th birthday of the late, great Nelson Mandela. Various celebrations will be taking place, including newly scheduled trips to the notorious Robben Island. History aside, we’re personally dreaming about wine and roadtripping along the country’s famed Garden Route...
Slovenia is on a mission to save the bees, feeding its visitors locally sourced honey from its 10,000 beekeepers and making sure their thirst is quenched with the country’s delectable wine. Lake Bled, with its tiny church jutting up from the centre, is utterly iconic – and might be one of the sites that tempted Lonely Planet to name the Julian Alps one of its top regions to visit in 2018. We can’t possibly disagree.
Bhutan might be one of the world’s last enigmas: a country that keeps almost entirely to itself, almost hiding in plain sight between its behemoth neighbours China and India. Undoubtedly, it’s difficult to reach – connecting flights are mainly available from international hubs in Asia, including Delhi. But honestly, won’t catching a glimpse of Tiger’s Nest monastery, clinging to the cliff-face like something from a lost fairytale, make it all worth it? The 45-minute mountain flight from Nepal, over the top of Kathmandu, also promises to be life-affirming.
Chile is a big one, stretching more than 6,000km from Ecuador to Patagonia and taking in mountains, deserts and wine lands. It’s been lauded as one of the world’s most enviable travel destinations over the past 12 months, and newly launched direct flights from the UK to arty capital Santiago (helpfully located in the middle of the country) are making Pacific coast roadtripping a definite possibility rather than a pipe-dream for adventurous Brits.
Mozambique has emerged from its turbulent recent history to become a holiday destination of choice for discerning young travellers with an itch to explore the unexplored. Home to some of the best diving in the whole of Africa as well as the hippy, laid back ambience of beach-side Tofo, this is one trip that your friends and parents would never have predicted – but that you yourself will never forget.
Forget the sun and sand package holidays of your childhood: there’s a whole other side to Cyprus, and it’s about adrenalin fuelled adventures, green tourism and a little bit of turtle conservation. The country is 25% covered in forest, but we bet you didn’t notice that from the beach bar. So come back to Cyprus in 2018 and reclaim it for yourself.
Ah, bonny Scotland. For years it’s been waiting in the wings, tempting visitors to its understated cities, wild islands and craggy mountain ranges without much fanfare. But recent months have seen Scotland take its place as one of the world’s top tourist destinations (it might have had something to do with Lonely Planet declaring it the world’s most beautiful country) and it’s been a long time coming. Catch a gig in Glasgow, absorb the history in Edinburgh, and then head north to sleep in a castle and celebrate the country’s Year of Youth. You could even go on a hunt for Nessie, whilst you’re there.
Look out for more reasons to visit our Top Destinations 2018 in the travel section throughout the year.