2019’s top destinations – as voted by you!
New year, new countries, new adventures!
Back throughout December, we hosted a poll and got you wanderlusting lot to share with us where in the world you wanted to visit most in 2019.
Entries came in their thousands, which is why it’s taken us most of January to count them all! And although the ultimate bucket list destinations like New Zealand and Hawaii are still firmly at the top, there are some interesting new entries climbing their way up the travel charts.
Where will you be headed this year? Not sure yet? Scroll down to follow us on a whistle-stop tour of the hottest destination, or skip to the places you’re most interested by clicking below…
1. New Zealand
Yet again, New Zealand snagged over a quarter of your votes in the Australia and South Pacific category and had the most votes overall, proving these two perfect islands in the Pacific will eternally be nirvana for adventure seekers.
Skydiving, canyon swinging, bungee jumping and drifting through caves illuminated by glow worms are all in a day’s work here. So is glacier climbing, volcano scaling, and swimming with wild dolphins. Then, there’s the curious Hot Water beaches (yes, really – bring a spade), the hikes through the Remarkables (hello, award for the world’s loveliest mountain range name), and the road trips down Route 80 in the shadow of Mt Cook (pictured above).
We could honestly list a hundred things that knock the wind right out of our chests in New Zealand. We won’t… that would make our blog too long. But we will say this. If you could only ever travel (and we mean properly travel) anywhere once, it would have to be New Zealand.
Psst. They do great wine, too.
New Zealand must-sees:
• Rotorua, situated on the north island, is the perfect place to learn about the Indigenous Maori culture. There’s hot springs there, too.
• Go caving with glow worms in Waitomo Glow Worm Caves, because it looks like something straight out of Avatar.
• Cruise through Milford Sound as waterfalls crash overhead. Nature lovers, be warned – the drive to get there alone will make you weak at the knees.
Check out our New Zealand adventures
Or see the best of both islands in 17 days with our Big Tiki tour around the whole thing.
This north African gem skyrocketed to the top of our African destinations poll. Why?
It could be because, alongside ancient cities and incredible medinas ripe for exploration, there are beaches with crazy-good surf.
It could be that the shopping in Marrakech is some of the best in the world. Think premium quality leather, spices, jewellery and beautiful homeware.
It could be to do with the fact that Moroccan food is, well, amazing. And you’ll likely be served it whilst sat on plush cushions, surrounded by rugs, live bands and belly dancers.
Or it could be because all of this is still just a one-hour boat trip from Europe. We’re serious. There are heaps of ferries a day – so you can easily hop over for a few days on your European adventure.
• In stark contrast to the rest of warm and sandy Morocco, the city of Chefchaouen is painted in a blue you’ve only ever seen before in your dreams. Instagrammers, brace yourselves!
• Explore the souks and soak up the spice of Marrakech. This vibrant city is the perfect mix of cosmopolitan art, and Arabian magic. Plus, you’ll get to stay in one of the many traditional riyadhs, most of which have fashionable rooftops, plush furnishings and courtyard pools. Hello, best holiday ever.
• Head up into Africa’s answer to the Alps, the Atlas Mountains,to soak up the scenery, experience local culture and hang out with camels. Lots, of camels. Did you know that during winter, locals can even ski here?
Check out our Morocco travel guide
Pharaohs, tombs, mummies, Cleopatra – if you grew up playing Tomb Raider or watching the film The Mummy, then this historical jewel in northeast Africa will be high up on your list. Mummified high priests and Brendan Frasier aside, there are a heap of other reasons to visit this huge North African tourism hub.
Like awe-inspiring monuments and pyramids, vast alluring desert landscapes, world-class diving in the Red Sea, and the mighty, yet serene and peaceful Nile River put Egypt at the very top of your Africa agenda this year.
• What trip to Egypt would be complete without a visit to Cairo’s Pyramids of Giza? These gravity-defying monuments were constructed almost 3000 years ago as a gift to the gods. To this day, scientists are stumped on how they managed, and when you see the sheer scale of these three beasts, you’ll understand why. If that kind of mystery doesn’t draw you in – maybe Giza’s elaborate tombs, temples and solar boat pits will. Don’t know what a solar boat pit is? Go find out!
• The Pyramids of Giza were built by pharaohs of the Old Kingdom, but pharaohs of the New Kingdom set up their cribs (or crypts, to be more historically accurate) in a valley in Luxor. The Valley of the Kings is often named the World’s Greatest Open Air Museum, due to the sheer expanse of ruins still present. Don’t worry – there’s still shade, inside one of the dozens of tombs, once home to Tutankhamun.
• The White Desert National Park is a mystifying sight: it basically looks like it’s snowed in the desert. The best time to visit? Sunrise or sunset when it goes all pinky-orange. Or camp there for an all-encompassing experience.
Check out our Egypt adventure tours here.
For the North America part of our poll, this outdoor lover’s wonderland sitting pretty in the Pacific came tied first place with Canada. But hey, it’s January and it’s cold, and so right now, we’re more inclined to swoon over hot, sandy beaches and surf than we are snowy mountains (sorry Canada. We still really love you, but we’ll give Hawaii the limelight in this blog).
Although still part of the United States, these eight islands couldn’t be more unique from the rest of the mainland. Hawaiians maintain deep rooted traditions, such as practicing aloha ‘aina (love for the land), and holding annual festivals filled with local music, boat races and surfing.
But what the locals have in chill, nature makes up for in buckets here. Giant waves crash against huge cliffs and lava flows freely from volcanoes, still changing and moulding the shape of the ever-changing landscape.
Chilled in the truest sense of the word, but still somehow still so wild and rambunctious… Sound ideal? Book that flight and get ready to experience real island life.
– Hike the Na Pali coastline on Kauai and take in the dramatic landscapes. Just be aware that well over half of this wilderness is inaccessible on foot. The best way to see it, therefore? Fly over it in a helicopter.
– Volcanoes National Park on Big Island is home to two active volcanoes, Kilauea, and Mauna Loa. Oh, and some pretty epic opportunities to see lava up close.
– Get wet! Whether its surfing lessons or just dipping a toe in the waves, Hawaii’s beach life is the real reason why so many America’s absolutely love it. We recommend diving – as well as fantastic coral, you’ll spot sharks, manta rays and turtles offshore.
Check out our Hawaii travel guide
At one time the holy grail of off the beaten track destinations, Peru is now becoming more and more accessible by the year. Nevertheless, this South American adventureland is an incredibly diverse and complex place, throwing out Amazonian jungle treks, great beaches, rainbow mountains, and of course, Wonders of the World left, right and centre. Basically, its everything you’d ever want from South America, all rolled up into one country.
• The Inca Trail is the main reason traveller’s head to Peru – the magic of Machu Picchu, the challenge of a good hike, and the jaw-dropping scenery on the way up… prepare yourself!
• The Sacred Valley stretches around 60km through the Andean highlands and used to be at the centre of the Inca Empire. Now it’s all about rural villages, mountainous backdrops, and ancient ruins. And don’t forget to visit Rainbow Mountain.
• The biodiverse and lush green Amazon Rainforest. Because it would be INSANITY not to visit the Amazon while you’re out there.
Get to grips with the country on our Peru travel guide
Or hop straight on the Inca Trail with tours starting from just $485.
“Insane”, “another world…”, “mind-bending” are just a few ways we’ve heard you wide-eyed lot describe the world’s downright coolest destination. Now that we’ve got frequent flights departing for Tokyo for under £500, it’s topping everyone’s 2019’s travel list.
Japan is a land where impeccably preserved ancient traditions meet the future… in all its full-beam neon glory. An urban explorer’s Disneyland (but roughly 17,180 times bigger), it’s a curious world where geishas and sumo wrestlers still roam, where bullet trains travel at 150 miles per hour and where entire buildings are dedicated to gaming and interactive digital art.
• Get lost in Tokyo’s Shinjuku and Shibuya neighbourhoods. Glowing and teeming with life, Tokyo’s countless lanes hide a million discoveries – awesome food, cocktail bars, ultra-modern arcades, karaoke booths and galleries galore.
• Marvel at the Kinkaku-Ji, Ginkaku-Ji, and Fushimi Inari-Taisha in Kyoto. And, if you’re really lucky, spot a glimpse of a geisha gliding by in the historic Gion neighbourhood.
• For an authentic experience, spend the night in a traditional Japanese ryokan – these delicate and ornate mini-motels require guests to wear yukata robes and slippers, sleep on tatami mats and futons, and sometimes even bathe in communal hot springs, known as onsens.
Check out our Japan travel guide
Sprawling out across the Mediterranean, Greece’s 6000 islands and 10,000 miles of coastline are some of the most iconic images of Europe. No surprise then, that you guys voted for Greece over any other destination in this continent.
Are you planning on spending two weeks, a month, or even a summer sailing through these pristine specks of land, soaking up all the sun, ouzo, and ancient mythology? Lucky, lucky you.
– Island hopping is the name of the game here. Pull up a pew at Skaros in Imerovigli (well, book one in advance if you want a good spot), grab a cocktail, and watch as the sun sets over Santorini’s white painted houses. Want more excitement? Head to Mykonos or Ios, for backpacker budget accommodation, all-night parties, and countless beaches to rest up on the next day.
– Don your culture vulture hat and head to Athens to check out the ancient Parthenon, and Acropolis, before feasting on fresh Greek seafood.
– Got more time to explore the mainland? Good. Because as much attention as the Greek islands get, in our opinion, the real Greek showstoppers are on dry ground. Take for instance, Meteora. Here, the monasteries of Great Meteoron, Roussanou and Tiny St. Nikolaos (and there’s more) perch enchantingly atop column-like clifftops overlooking the verdant, village speckled hills below. Yep. Summer in Europe is more than just a fling – it’s a fairy tale.
Check out our Greece travel guide
No longer just a stopover destination, Dubai and the rest of the United Arab Emirates has climbed up to second place on your wanderlist and it’s easy to see why. Dubai isn’t just about flashy lifestyles and skyscrapers that defy gravity, it’s also got a bit of an edge – due in part to their creative expat community (check out the Dubai Design District, their annual Sole DXB festival and their all-you-can-drink/eat brunch culture). Of course, we don’t want to forget the fast-paced cultural hub of Abu Dhabi, with its lavish mosques and sugar-white stretches of beach, or the other-worldly landscapes of Oman across the border.
• The water fountains at the Burj Khalifa: they put on an impressive dancing show to music every evening from 6pm – 11pm.
• A safari in the Arabian Desert is the perfect way to escape the city: dune bashing, desert wandering, camel riding and an authentic dinner under the stars. Magic.
• Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi is a serious sight – all white marble with gold and intricate detailing, and it makes for an insane Instagram shot.
For a country so small, Israel packs in more history than anywhere. Don’t let the sensitive political situation deter you – instead, you should let yourself get lost amidst it’s spellbinding markets and minarets, under it’s domes and in it’s deserts – it’s a diverse land, packed with the ancient, and the hyper-modern. And it’s it’s just next door to Jordan, you could even combine a trip to the two together, knocking off two Middle Eastern trending destinations off the list in one go, this 2019…
– The fact that Jerusalem is the spiritual homeland for Christians, Jews and Muslims makes it a city unlike any other on Earth. The place practically hums with religious devotion, and each market (don’t Mahane Yehuda Market) acts as a melting pot of delectable Middle Eastern fare. Watch devoted Jews worship at the Western Wall, head to Bethlehem to hunt down the birthplace of Jesus, then visit the Church of the Holy Sepulchure, to find where he was resurrected.
– Away from religious tradition lies the cosmopolitan capital of modern-day Israel: Tel Aviv. Here, you can spend days chilling on one of its many beaches, taking in hipster art galleries and café culture of Old Jaffa and Neve Tzedek, devouring your way through a food scene that rivals London or New York’s, or partying all night long to techno.
– Wander through Bahá’í Gardens, also known as the Hanging Gardens of Haifa, near Acre.
Check out our Israel, Jordan and Middle East tours here.
Did we miss anywhere you’re desperate to travel to? Tell us in the comments below or via a message on Instagram: @STATravel.