The surprisingly popular destinations of 2018
Spanning the Middle East to South America, these 30 popular travel destinations would make a fine addition to any traveller’s bucket list and saw unexpected increases in tourism during 2018.
The new V and A design museum is a popular destination for travellers to this coastal Scottish town, and is a major contributing factor to tourism bookings increasing nearly twofold during 2018. More than $1.2 billion has been invested in redeveloping the waterfront, but there are also plenty of castles further inland that are worth exploring.
After having a few down years due to political unrest, Egypt experienced intense growth in arrivals, both in absolute and relative terms, according to data from the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). Popular travel destinations in the country include millennia-old monuments like Giza’s colossal Pyramids and Great Sphinx, as well as the Valley of the Kings tombs.
Like Egypt, Turkey experienced a sharp decline in tourism due to political unrest in 2017, but rebounded with more than four times the bookings in 2018. There are plenty of ancient ruins, delicious food, and stunning coastline to keep visitors busy in this popular tourist destination.
Recent research by Euromonitor International found that tourism to the popular travel destination of Jerusalem rose 38 per cent in 2018, a nearly twofold increase since 2016. Visitors can easily hit all the major landmarks in a day, including the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Via Dolorosa, the Western Wall, and the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, as well as the Dead Sea.
The mountainous kingdom of Nepal is a popular tourist destination for those who enjoy adventure travel experiences, thanks to its many mountains and hiking trails. Must-see sights include Kathmandu Valley, which is home to seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including the ancient cities of Patan and Bhaktapur.
It’s no real surprise that Iceland is a popular tourist destination, but what is surprising is how it continues to maintain its high tourism growth year over year. In wintertime, visitors can enjoy stunning northern lights displays, while the summer season offers the unique experience of 24-hour daylight. Other major attractions include Thingvellir National Park (where the North American and European tectonic plates meet), Gullfoss Waterfall, and the original Geysir.
Tourism was up nearly 50 per cent last year in the small West African nation of Togo, located on the Gulf of Guinea and known for its palm-lined beaches and hilltop villages. Must-visit destinations within the country include Mount Agou, Lake Togo, and Koutammakou, a traditional settlement inhabited by the Batammariba people.
Located on the southeastern tip of the state of Florida, Miami is a popular travel destination for those who can’t get enough of the sun, sand, and nightlife. South Beach offers plenty of nightlife excitement, while Ocean Drive features ample art and shopping opportunities. Bayside Marketplace showcases many restaurants where the Cuban influence on the area can be tasted, and the Miami Seaquarium is always a solid bet for families.
This French island features plenty of white-sand beaches to satisfy warm-weather-seeking travellers, along with historic fortified towns for the history buffs. The capital city of Ajaccio boasts an Instagram-worthy tree-lined waterfront and pretty pastel buildings, and is the birthplace of the famous French emperor Napoleon—whose family home is now a national museum.
Las Vegas, USA
One of the top 10 cities with the biggest growth in tourism for 2018 according to data from Euromonitor International, Las Vegas maintains its reputation as a popular travel destination. The Vegas strip has all the entertainment, food, and shopping a traveller could desire, including replicas of an Egyptian pyramid, the Venetian Grand Canal, and the Eiffel Tower.
Jersey is the largest of the Channel Islands, and was a popular tourist destination in 2018 thanks in large part to the value of its currency. Plenty of beaches and summer-like weather make this a great destination for beachgoers, while adventure seekers will enjoy the cliffside walking trails, inland valleys, and historic castles. The island’s five-year German occupation during World War II is documented in the Jersey War Tunnels complex, located in a former hospital excavated by slave labour.
Chennai took the runner-up spot on Euromonitor International’s list of 2018’s fastest-growing tourist destinations with 30 per cent growth year over year. Situated on the Bay of Bengal in the eastern part of the country, popular tourist attractions include Edward Elliot’s Beach, the Government Museum, Kapaleeshwarar Temple, and Marina Beach.
Renowned for its beautiful beaches, vast network of rivers, Buddhist pagodas, and bustling cities, Vietnam is quickly becoming a popular tourist destination thanks in large part to visa exemptions and improved air connectivity. In Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon), the stunning Notre-Dame Cathedral is made entirely of materials imported from France. The capital of Hanoi is known for its centuries-old architecture, including famous temples such as Bach Ma.
Osaka was named one of Euromonitor International’s must-watch cities for the coming year, and is sure to be one of the most popular travel destinations in 2019. This large port city is a blend of ancient and modern architecture, with the Osaka Castle being a central tourist hotspot. The Dōtonbori district is a popular spot for dining and theatre lovers.
As the country has become increasingly safe for travellers, the stunning beaches of Palomino in Colombia have found themselves a surprisingly popular travel destination. Booking.com found it to be one of the 10 destinations with the highest year-over-year increase of travellers. Visitors enjoy the beaches framed by lush jungle and jagged mountains, where spotting a toucan or monkey isn’t out of the ordinary. Dine on super fresh seafood before exploring the lost city ruins of Ciudad Perdida.
Rounding out the top three fastest-growing tourist destinations for 2018 on Euromonitor International’s list, Agra saw 24 per cent year-over-year growth. No visit to the city is complete without a trip to the iconic Taj Mahal. Slightly off the beaten path are other mausoleums worth visiting, including the Tomb of I’timād-ud-Daulah and Akbar’s tomb. The richly decorated semi-circular red sandstone ramparts and monuments of the UNESCO World Heritage Site Agra Fort are another must-visit spot.
Mestia is located high in the Caucasus Mountains of Georgia, and offers plenty of stunning landscapes and excellent trekking trails for intrepid travellers. The six-hour hike up to the Chalaadi Glacier is one of the most popular draws for tourists to the region, while the Svaneti Museum of History and Ethnography provides a look at the local history and culture.
A coastal city in the northwestern part of the country, Porto is known for its stately bridges and port wine production. Iconic sights include the Dom Luís Bridge, Livraria Lello, Clérigos Church, and the Palácio da Bolsa, which is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Palestine is yet another country on this list that is rich in history, and has become a popular travel destination this year. Must-hit spots for tourists include the seven historical quarters of Bethlehem, and Jericho, which is believed to be one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world.
Located on the west coast of the country, Mumbai is the largest city in India and home to the iconic Gateway of India stone arch, built by the British Raj in 1924. The nearby Elephanta Island is home to ancient cave temples dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva. Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, Flora Fountain, High Court, and Taj Hotel reveal the deep British influence on the area.
Northern Mariana Islands
Located to the northeast of Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands are an American territory known for sandy shores and mountainous landscapes. Nature lovers will enjoy snorkelling and scuba diving here, where glimpses of beautiful coral and majestic turtles are common. Garapan provides ample shopping, while Saipan features several World War II memorials.
One of the fastest-growing, surprisingly popular travel destinations in Western Europe, the Netherlands is well known for its network of canals, vast tulip fields, iconic windmills, and enviable cycling routes. The capital city of Amsterdam is home to the house where Anne Frank hid during World War II, as well as the Van Gogh Museum, which houses many of the famed artist’s pieces.
A small island located in the South Pacific Ocean, Niue is popping up on the radar of travellers in the know, and features stunning limestone cliffs and coral-reef dive sites. Visitors may get lucky enough to spot migrating whales between the months of July and October, while the Huvalu Forest Conservation Area boasts trails through fossilized coral forests which lead to the Togo and Vaikona chasms.
Republic of Moldova
A former Soviet republic, Moldova is home to some of the largest wine cellars in the world. It boasts a rich landscape and history that is a hit with visitors from all parts of the world. Popular destinations include Chișinău’s neoclassical Nativity Cathedral, Tiraspol’s Monument to Suvorov, and Old Orhei’s historical and archaeological complex.
The Moroccan coastal city of Agadir was another popular travel destination in 2018, according to data from Lastminute.com. It features a 10-kilometre (six-mile) stretch of golden-sand beach, year-round good weather, and cheap prices. Tourist hotspots include Agadir Oufella, Agadir Medina, Agadir Birds Valley, and traditional Berber villages in the Anti-Atlas mountain range.
Nestled in the Balkan Peninsula in Southeast Europe, Macedonia has seen some of the largest tourism growth in southern Europe during 2018. Known for its old towns and stunning nature, the country also boasts a solid wine production. Located on the banks of the Treska River, Vrelo Cave is the world’s deepest underwater cave and a must-stop for adventure-seeking travellers.
Located along the Silk Road, Samarkand is one of the world’s most ancient cities, and as such is home to plenty of historical landmarks including Bibi-Khanym Mosque and Gur-e-Amir. Booking.com found it had one of the highest year-over-year increases of any city, making it a surprisingly popular travel destination for 2018. The UNESCO-listed centre is home to many minarets, bazaars, and ancient ruins.
One of the world’s oldest republics, San Marino is home to historic architecture and is surrounded by north-central Italy. The fortress of Guaita offers breathtaking views of the city of San Marino, while nearby Monte Titano is the highest peak in the microstate, in addition to being a UNESCO World Heritage Site. De La Fratta is the third and final peak overlooking the city, and features a historic tower with a small weapons museum sure to captivate history buffs.
Nusa Penida, Indonesia
Dubbed the hidden paradise, the Nusa Islands of Indonesia have been gaining in popularity as an affordable and less busy alternative to the picturesque beaches of Bali. There are plenty of sights for tourists to take in on the largest of the three islands in this archipelago, including the secluded Crystal Bay, the Giri Putri Cave temple, and Angel’s Billabong rock formation, in addition to plenty of delicious local cuisine.
While it used to be that Mongolia was only referenced when talking about a remote place one had never been, it’s been slowly becoming a very popular travel destination. The country is known for its vast landscape and nomadic people. Popular attractions including the Gobi Desert, sleeping in a yurt, and the Buddhist monasteries of Kharkhorin. Gorkhi-Terelj National Park is another popular spot, featuring hot springs and the Tuul River.
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