LAURA FOWLER AND CONDE NAST TRAVELER IDENTIFIES THE TOP 19 HOLIDAY DESTINATIONS IN 2019
THE TURKISH RIVIERA-
A chic-but-affordable alternative for the beach-party crowd
A couple of years ago the Turkish Riviera was all but off-limits - so what welcome news that this glorious coast is back with a bang. British Airways has resumed its direct flights from London to Dalaman, making secret beach spots such as Dacta and Bozburun super accessible. Meanwhile, the Bodrum Peninsula is all of a flutter with smart new developments that are taking the scene up a notch.
Around the corner from the superyacht-filled Yalikavak Marina is Ian Schrager's all-white Bodrum Edition, which launched in summer 2018 with a restaurant by El Bulli's Diego Muñoz, a full-on disco (including a giant pink glitter ball), and a non-stop deep-house soundtrack that resonates from the pool to beach club .
With the value of the Turkish lira having fallen significantly, the Turquoise Coast is currently a well-priced, chic alternative for those who want to swim, sail, eat and party.
The New Art Pilgrimage
The opening of the game-changing Grand Egyptian Museum has been delayed again - until when, we're no longer exactly sure (though the latest word is 2020). And yet, the news from the ground is for the first time in 8 years, there's a waitlist for city hotels and boat trips along the Nile.
After a tumultuous few years, Egypt, it seems, is back on the map. It had been hoped that the $1 billion, sleek, marble temple to the country's antiquities would have swung open its doors by now, revealing, among a wealth of other national treasures, most crucially King Tutankhamun's entire burial collection - more than 5,000 pieces - displayed to the public in an exact replica of the tomb itself. Which means visitors will be able to see everything - bejeweled sandals, embroidered tunics and the Boy King's death mask - just as Howard Carter did when he made his milestone discovery in 1922.
THE PELOPONNESE, GREECE-
A go-slow corner of the Mediterranean
While the starriest Greek Islands- such as Santorini and Mykonos - grapple with over-tourism, forward-thinking visitors are heading to the mainland and discovering the wide-open spaces of Greece off-season. The Peloponnese has been bubbling just below the radar since Costa Navarino opened in 2010. Soon afterward, the local airport at Kalamata opened up to international flights, shaving off several hours' driving time from Athens and boosting arrivals to the region by 15 percent last year.
This year, the rail service linking the port of Patras with the town of Pyrgos, in the south-western Peloponnese, resumed after a seven-year halt. A train ride is the perfect way to explore this laidback region which has been a destination for wellness and fitness since Hippocrates prescribed therapeutic olive oil massages.
The west coast of the Peloponnese is rippled with mile upon mile of sand dunes.
A romantic ravine in Italy attracting travelers looking for an immersive experience
Down in the arch of Italy's foot, Matera is built into the rock of a ravine. This strange, prehistoric-looking city is miles from anywhere, and so out of time that it has been used as a set for films needing an authentic Jerusalem: Ben-Hur, and The Passion of the Christ, for which a crucifix was made that remains on the hillside.
But Matera's sassi are what people come to see, the troglodyte cave dwellings where, even in the mid-20th century, its impoverished citizens lived in dank darkness until it was eventually abandoned. In 1993, UNESCO declared Matera a World Heritage Site. Slowly its fortunes changed, and now, as in Santorini, they've become hot property among travelers keen for an immersive stay. Many sassi are being rented out on Airbnb or turned into galleries, restaurants and charming cave hotels, upscale hideaways in limestone grottoes, such as the Palazzo Gattini, Corte San Pietro, Relais La Casa di Lucio (which has a new royal apartment) and Sextantio Le Grotte della Civita, one of the most romantic dios in all Italy.
PERTH, WESTERN AUSTRALIA-
The wild West Coast's riverside capital
The Margaret River region is well established as a foodie destination, with its Gourmet Escape pulling in international chefs (Rick Stein, Nigella Lawson) every November. Now its top-notch produce and wines are fuelling a proliferation of independent new cafés, bars and restaurants in the state capital.
In 2019 the Ritz-Carlton Perth opens on redeveloped Elizabeth Quay, joining the new Westin Perth (which launched in 2018 in the heritage-listed Hibernian Hall and has 2,000 artworks, including aerial photography of WA, and a great rooftop pool) and other relative newcomers COMO The Treasury and Alex Hotel (founded by the brewers behind Little Creatures, stars of the city's enthusiastic craft-beer scene).
THE SCOTTISH HIGHLANDS
A sweep of visionaries are shaking up the Scottish Highlands
The Danish team behind the exquisite Killiehuntly Farmhouse and Kinloch Lodge- clothing billionaire Anders Holch Povlsen and his interior-decorator wife, Anne - are busy revamping additional tumbledown properties with their Scandi-Scot good taste. Kyle House - a former smokery turned Danish-minimalist masterpiece, with mountain views from every seat in the house, including the bath - has just opened.
Set to follow soon are lovely lochside Hope Lodge and Lundies, a restored manse aimed at bikers and hikers on the North Coast 500, which is bringing new life to this beautiful area. The Povlsens have also just opened Kennels Cottage, in the Cairngorms, while the village of Braemar, across the peaks, is all abuzz as the Swiss gallerists behind Hauser & Wirth undertake their epic makeover of the Fife Arms, transforming it into a top-notch, 46-room hotel with Jinny Blom gardens, a spa, a restaurant and, of course, a bar - plus a knockout collection of Scottish and international art and installations.
ST BARTH'S, CARIBBEAN-
The Caribbean comeback
In 2017 the most powerful storm ever to sweep the Atlantic, Hurricane Irma, struck the Caribbean - swiftly followed by the equally devastating Hurricane Maria. Several entire islands were wiped out.
Now the breezy-breathe-easy island is definitely, defiantly open for business again. Renovation efforts have been phenomenal as islanders have beavered away to rebuild lives, homes and infrastructure, as well as the hotels
and beach bars we cross oceans for - so going to the Caribbean in 2019 is a philanthropic act, too.
Hotel Le Toiny
which was relaunched only three years ago by new English owners Charlie and Mandie Vere Nicoll, has been revamped again. It reopened in October with eight new suites added (all with pools and ocean-view terraces) and its beach club has been so well re-landscaped that it's hard to believe it was destroyed; just in time for the Saint Barth Gourmet Festival, which took place in early November.
A city flexing its artistic muscles in honor of its most famous resident
Vincent Van Gogh's dream is finally coming true. It was his vision for Arles to become a kind of utopian refuge for a collective of artists and now, with a major new arts venue being created, including a centerpiece by Frank Gehry, this Provençal city in the Camargue is set to become an important art destination for Europe.
He was hugely prolific during his year in the city's 'Yellow House', where he lived, painted and cut off his ear after a row with his housemate, Paul Gauguin. Philanthropist Luc Hoffmann launched the Foundation Vincent Van Gogh here in 2014; and now Luc's billionaire daughter Maja Hoffmann is transforming a disused railway site into a vast arts campus called the Parc des Ateliers with the Luma Arles the foundation and Gehry's gleaming tower at its center and studios and exhibition spaces in the old engine sheds
VALLE DE GUADALUPE-
New flavors for Mexico's wine country
This boulder-strewn bronze sweep of Baja California has been luring wine-lovers and weekending West Coasters for some time (it's just a 90-minute drive from the U.S. border). Now it's earning itself the lofty billing of Mexico's Napa Valley, for its architect-designed tasting rooms and complex bottles - many of them innovative organic, biodynamic and minimum-intervention.
The foodie landscape has been maturing as well, drawing on farm-to-table ingredients and seafood from the nearby Pacific. One of the area's best-loved chefs is Javier Plascencia, who set up in the Valle in 2012, when it first turned heads as an emerging wine region. His Finca Altozano now encompasses the original outdoor grill restaurant, an Airstream tortas truck, an ice cream shop and a pop-up space under a 100-year-old oak tree.
Hip hotel openings lead a revival parade
In New Orleans, a city of sensory overload, you can pick up wafts of chicory, spilled rum, warm beignets and stale cigarettes in the same breath. But in the lobby of the new Hotel Peter & Paul in Marigny, it's more like... gardenias. There's a feeling of lightness here, from the extra-high ceilings that give the rooms a bright glow to the cheery canary-yellow check-in desk.
This is one of the most anticipated hotel launches in a city that really needed a hotel resurgence. Fusty places with antique-cluttered rooms were the standard here. Properties either nailed the bar and courtyard or had great rooms. Finding both seemed impossible. Until now. Peter & Paul is actually a bundle of buildings: a 19th-century Catholic church, schoolhouse, convent and rectory reimagined by ASH NYC, with gingham curtains woven in Switzerland.
A barefoot beach-shack island with smart new places to stay
There are certain signs that new tribes of travelers are making their way to French Polynesia. Nicolas Malleville and Francesca Bonato, the lithe and lovely couple who founded the boutique hotel brand Coqui Coqui and helped turn Tulum from a sleepy Mexican beach town to the haute hippy utopia it is today, are opening an outpost on Bora Bora a little later this year. No doubt, this will be a dog whistle to Isabel Marant-wearing sun-seekers across the globe.
Families looking to escape the tyranny of proper sit-down dinners with kids - and the constant lobbying for $26 poolside mocktails - will have the opportunity for more pared-down experiences (and their own kitchens) as new family-operated, Tahiti Tourisme-vetted guesthouses on some of the region's most gorgeous, less-trafficked islands and atolls.
Louche and luxe: two words that sum up a trip to the islands off Mozambique's coast - and all thanks to an unlikely combination of history and new hotels
Mozambique was once sub-Saharan Africa's answer to Havana- a hedonistic hideout with nightlife, naughtiness, and no limits. The fun was centered around the islands fringing its coast, especially the southernmost Bazaruto archipelago - home to the Santa Carolina hotel, a midcentury modern masterpiece with its own landing strip, and whose cocktail hour famously inspired Bob Dylan to pick out a few notes on the hotel's piano, a love song to the place itself.
Today, after two decades of civil conflict ending in the 1990s, the Santa Carolina survives, just; it bakes in the sun, an elegant ruin. But new high-end hotels are finally channeling its legacy, luring visitors with a similar, if less naughty, appeal: privacy in paradise, with pristine, palm-fringed beaches rolling out to the bluest Indian Ocean. The first, and Beyond Benguerra Island, debuted three years ago next to the Santa Carolina; the luxury safari company just overhauled a sister site in the northern Quirimbas cluster, on Vamizi Island, and added a lodge to its 20 private villa-style rooms in 2019.
Sharp new lodges in the outback of the outback
With its otherworldly landscapes and elemental emptiness (this is one of the most sparsely populated countries on earth, ranking only marginally behind Mongolia), Nambia has always enthralled us. Its raw beauty is in the remarkable barrenness - of the desert, of the dunes, of the savage Skeleton Coast - the collision of earth, sky, sea and little else.
But there's a fresh focus on the Southern African nation this month as a pack of lodges have just opened across the country. Serious new safari outfit Natural Selection, whose founders previously set up the much-respected Wilderness Safaris, is behind two of them: tented Hoanib Valley Camp in Kaokoland in the remote north-west, and high-design Shipwreck Lodge on the Skeleton Coast.
A joint venture between local communities and the Giraffe Conservation Foundation, Hoanib Valley Camp was designed by Cate Simpson of Reflecting Africa, riffing off the color and textures of the setting. The interiors also incorporate the geometric patterns of the Himba people, whose temporary settlements dot the landscape between roaming endangered rhino, desert-adapted elephant and giraffe, oryx, springbok and jackal.
Cutting-edge culture in New China
Chengdu's lure for visitors has long centered on two Chinese clichés: giant pandas and hotpot. The Sichuanese capital is home to the world's largest concentration of those doe-eyed bears, and its food has been exported worldwide. Yet there's nowhere better to glimpse the future of New China than here, the Middle Kingdom's coolest city. Domestically, it has a reputation for locals who are both laid-back and cosmopolitan - it was on the Silk Road, after all. In a country where the LGBT population is often invisible, Chengdu is a rare, rainbow-colored exception. Come here to experience the cutting edge of contemporary Chinese culture: Check out the Higher Brothers, a rap group at the vanguard of the emerging domestic hip-hop scene, and the city's independent boutiques such as the newly opened Kerry RC, more adventurous than their coastal counterparts. Head to the Eastern Suburb Memory complex for an impressive roster for fashion and art; some of those artists double up as tattooists, making the adventurously inked millennials who stroll around the new Tai Koo Li luxury shopping hub the center of the country's new tattoo culture.
A corner of Romania steeped in folklore and superlative beauty
The offbeat destination being whispered about by first-to-go travelers is Transylvania, the rural region of Romania known for its Gothic myths and dark fairytales. Its very name means 'land beyond the forests'. A place where the Pied Piper lured Hamelin's children, Bram Stoker's Count Dracula drained blood and Vlad III impaled.
Now, finally, it is beginning to attract visitors interested in more than just schlock-horror visits to Bran Castle to see a man in a cloak - its burgeoning wine scene, for one thing.
Transylvania remains a land lost in time. Separated from the modern world for decades by the Iron Curtain, many of its inhabitants emigrated, and its 13th-century Saxon villages were left to crumble. As a result, its distinct character has remained intact; its forests and wildflower meadows gloriously untouched. Life is beginning to return and dilapidated buildings are being rebuilt.
The Prince of Wales was way ahead of the curve. Since the 1990s, he has been gently overseeing the restoration of houses, and you can stay in his Prince's Retreat, a rustic wood and stone house on his nature retreat in Zalán Valley near Brasov.
Across the meadows on Count Kalnoky's estate more houses and cottages have also been rebuilt, similarly rough around the edges, featuring stone floors and dark Transylvanian antiques with a whiff of imperial fiddle-de-dee, and chairs like fairytale thrones. In winter there are horse-drawn sleigh rides; in summer the horses trot through green fields growing high as their bellies.
A blossoming back-to-nature stretch of South America
While the rest of the world drives itself mad, Patagonia's still, epic landscapes increasingly appeal as one of the last true escapes left on earth. It is one of the least populated regions anywhere. Adventurers are drawn to the vast emptiness of its desert and the drama of its Lake District, where the snow-capped Andes are reflected in the bright water. So little pollution is there, so dark and clear the night skies, that the Milky Way is easily visible, and sometimes the southern lights.
That's not all. The new 1,700-mile Route of Parks has just opened - the world's longest hiking trail - passing through 17 of Patagonia's national parks, from Puerto Montt in the Chilean Lake District all the way down to Cape Horn. It's thanks to the Tompkins, the philanthropic founders of The North Face, who have donated vast tracts of protected parkland to help create the route and open up this spectacular part of the world to visitors.
In September, high-end safari company &Beyond opened its first property outside Africa, in Chile's Lake District just outside Patagonia's northern edge. Set on an organic working farm, &Bevond Vira Vira is all wood and modernism, low-slung in forest greenery with mountain views, and a sustainable ethos with farm-to-table food.
Patagonia's wine and food scenes are gathering pace too. Beside the Argentine coast, Río Negro's fertile soils make for honest-to-goodness farm produce, and also grapes: new winery Wapisa opened here last year, and Patagonia now rivals Mendoza in producing Argentina's best Malbecs.
A shake-up in India's creative capital
The arrival of India's first Soho House is creating a scene in Mumbai right now. As ever, the group has nailed the hottest neighborhood in town to set up shop: Juhu, in the northern suburbs, where lately Mumbai's movers, shakers and creators have been flocking from the south of the city.
'Mumbai is one of the most creative cities in the world,' said Soho House founder Nick Jones. 'Our location in Juhu means we're close to the film industry, but our community is made up of musicians, artists, sculptors, illustrators, architects, jewelry designers, fashion designers and restaurateurs already.'
Overlooking Juhu Beach, Soho House Mumbai has 38 bedrooms, as well as elegant and light-filled members spaces and two restaurants, and the most gorgeous rooftop pool and bar (mint-green and white stripes here). Local design elements are incorporated into unmistakeable House style, with Rajasthani block-printed fabrics and antique saris, locally made furniture and works by artists from the subcontinent.
Mumbai has always been India's creative capital - where you find the movie makers, the models, the money. And in recent years it has become the culinary capital, too, with a new generation of young chefs and international players trying out brave and exciting things.
The diamond-studded backdrop for Crazy Rich Asians
loves to flaunt its assets. This city-state burns bright with light shows and flash designer shopping malls (shopping is the national sport), and made the perfect diamond-studded backdrop for Crazy Rich Asians.
The all-Asian blockbuster may have ignited a flame for Singapore as more than just a stopover city, for its tropical British colonial grandeur and futuristic architecture, for street food in the night markets and skyscraping sundowners in Marina Bay Sands' rooftop pool, and for slings at Raffles, the original grande dame of the Far East, which is undergoing a full facelift and will reopen with a bang in 2019. Joining the fray is the fabulous new Six Senses Maxwell, opening in a restored colonial building.
There's desert-island fun here, too. Yes, Singapore is a jumping-off point for the islands of Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia but it's also got a bunch of incredible private islands nearby. Hottest spots are eco-chic Cempedak, with its curving, modernist grass-roofed bungalows set among beach and jungle (hotelier Andrew Dixon also opened Nikoi island in the same archipelago), tiny driftwood-charming Pulau Joyo, and beautiful Bawah Reserve,accessed by seaplane from Singapore, with 35 teak overwater villas in the bright lagoons of a marine conservation zone.
From bogan to bohemian
Hasn't the backwoods bogan come a long way? Until recently, Tasmania was a national joke - the Isle of Man of Australia. Now, suddenly, savvy travelers are obsessing over its devastatingly handsome coastline, its wilderness lodges, and the out-there arts venue that started it all.
When weird genius David Walsh opened his subversive, edge-cutting Museum of Old and New Art in 2011, it set in motion a transformation of Hobart. Mona turned the world on its head - not just in terms of its upside-down architecture (three subterranean stories) but for its challenging collection and unusual happenings. It's just got an excellent new restaurant, and its arts festivals, Mona Foma and winter compatriot, Dark Mofo, are shaking up the island. In the pipeline: look-at-me Hotel Mona (potentially HoMo - very David Walsh), cantilevered over the sea in red steel like the beginnings of the Golden Gate Bridge, with a theatre, library, and outdoor concert venue - plus some sleek suites on the east coast.
There's nothing hokey about Tasmania's hotels. This island does a great line in all-out modernist luxury in isolated locations, from Saffire Freycinet to driftwood-artsy Satellite Island and every traveler's fantasy, Pumphouse Point (a jetty hideaway on a remote lake), which has just opened its brand-new shoreside Retreat. Also new for 2019 is the Three Capes Lodge Walk along Tasmania's incredible Tasman Peninsula, staying at a set of fabulous places en route.
Yes, it's about as far as you can get from Britain - but Qantas' new 17-hour direct flights to Perth coupled with a domestic hop to Hobart has made this dream destination a very real possibility.