Photo courtesy of Borgo Egnazia.
The post-summer, pre-holiday lull is the perfect time to start daydreaming and planning for travel in the upcoming year. To help us get inspired—and focus our wanderlust—we asked five travel experts to share the destinations that are topping their must-visit lists for 2019. Whether you’re in the mood for an exotic adventure, a romantic getaway for two, or a family spring break for the memory books, we’ve got you covered. Read on to start planning your next excursion.
Photo courtesy of Borgo Egnazia.
A luxury getaway for the multiple generations. When you’re dealing with toddlers and grandparents, it can be difficult to find the perfect spot that makes everyone happy. Robert Merlin, travel advisor at Saint Louis, Missouri-based SmartFlyer, reports that Borgo Egnazia in Puglia, Italy checks every box. This luxury resort is the place where Justin Timberlake tied the knot, and for a good reason. You can choose from private villas or more traditional hotel rooms, and it’s the perfect home base from which to explore a less-traveled part of Italy that has so much to offer. Every room gets its own butler who can assist in booking excursions, but with a kids’ club, world-class spa, fine-dining, and activities like horseback riding, kite surfing, cooking classes, and beach lounging, you’ll be hard-pressed to leave the resort.
Indulge in an adventure-lover’s paradise. Kimberly Georgi of Memphis-based For Travelers Only reports that the Azores in Portugal are the spot to visit now. “This chain of islands off the coast of Portugal are full of all kinds of outdoor activities—snorkeling, diving, hiking, kayaking—as well as opportunities for exploring beautiful cliffs, hot springs, and natural swimming pools formed in volcanic craters,” Georgi says. With Delta airlines now flying nonstop from New York’s JFK Airport to Lisbon, travel is a breeze, and a year-round temperate climate makes the area enjoyable any time of year. For accommodations with a modern edge, Georgi recommends the Azor Hotel, situated in Ponta Delgada City Center, which features its own whale-watching bar and a wonderful concierge service to customize the many outdoor activities. For a more rustic experience, book Pedras do Mar Resort and Spa, which is scenically located outside of town with cliffside views of the north coast of Sao Miguel.
Photo courtesy of Sanctuary Retreats.
Archeology has never been so cool. With the much-anticipated Grand Egyptian Museum opening at the end of the year at the edge of the ancient pyramids of Giza, Egypt will become a must-visit destination. The 5.2-million-square-foot structure will be the world’s largest museum devoted to a single civilization, and travel experts like Jamie Jones, COO of Main Line, Pennsylvania-based Whirlaway Travel, project that interest will skyrocket. “Visiting Egypt now is a no-brainer for archeology buffs,” Jones shares. “With exclusive, behind-the-scenes museum tours of the areas devoted to artifact restoration and access past the fence to touch the Sphinx, we can deliver experiences that were impossible before.” After taking in the pyramids, Jones recommends a four-night luxury cruise on the Nile River between Aswan and Luxor aboard Sanctuary Sun Boat IV to round out your trek to the cradle of civilization.
Channel your inner Dian Fossey. When the noted naturalist was communing with the gorillas, she certainly wasn’t sitting in the lap of luxury. But according to For Travelers Only’s Kimberly Georgi, you can be. There are several luxe properties to choose from if you’re looking for a comfortable stay in the East African country of Rwanda, including One & Only Gorilla’s Nest and Singita Kwitonda Lodge and Katza House, which are opening to great acclaim next year. Meanwhile, One & Only Nyungwe House has just opened in the rainforest in southwest Rwanda, where you can experience chimpanzee trekking, colobus monkey trekking, birds, waterfalls, and the magnificent canopy of the African jungle.
Photo by Bryan Stockton, courtesy of Clayoquot Wilderness Resort.
Enjoy a romantic glamping experience. When you really don’t want to rough it, but still want to be up-close-and-personal with nature, Robert Merlin of SmartFlyer says Clayoquot Wilderness Resort in British Columbia is a true glamping experience like nothing you’ve ever imagined. This seasonal resort nestled on the Clayoquot Sound on the wild west coast of Vancouver Island is open May to September, and features deluxe tents complete with heating, electricity, and plumbing. With every outdoor activity you can imagine, along with five-star dining and a world-class spa, this remote spot is ideal for an unforgettable romantic getaway.
Discover Europe’s undiscovered foodie—and fashion—paradise. “There are many reasons to visit this area of Belgium, which incorporates Brussels, Bruges, Antwerp, and Ghent,” Jamie Jones of Whirlaway Travel says of Flanders. “But some of the best are the most delicious chocolate, crispy French fries, and thirst-quenching beer in all of Europe.” The history, art scene, fine dining, and Instagram-worthy architecture make this often-overlooked area of Europe worthy of exploring. As an added bonus, all the cities are easily accessible to one another by train. Jones recommends spending a few nights in Brussels at the Hotel Amigo and then city-hopping to Ghent, Bruges, and Antwerp for a night or two in each location. Perfect for fashion aficionados, Antwerp is home to one of the most renowned fashion colleges, Royal Academy of the Fine Arts Fashion Department. In fact, the shopping is so phenomenal in Antwerp that Whirlaway Travel has created five distinct itineraries to guide travelers through the ultimate shopping experience.
Photo courtesy of Ulusaba.
The safari just went luxe. The African safari has always been a great travel experience, and now serious luxury can accompany this opportunity to explore. Niki Hollis, owner and travel advisor at Oklahoma City-based Rove & Roam Travel, recommends Cape Town as the perfect jumping-off point for your adventure, with a stay at the newly opened, five-star hotel The Silo, where you’ll be able to take in this chic, metropolitan city while ensconced in a glass tower. Next, venture into Kruger National Park for the true safari experience and a stay at Ulusaba, Richard Branson’s private reserve. No amenities have been overlooked, and you’ll be able to commune with nature while experiencing the utmost in pampering and relaxation. The best time to visit is June to September, when you have the greatest chance to spy the big five game. Beyond safari treks, you can enjoy spa treatments, exemplary cuisine, and volunteering experiences.
The secret Caribbean island you want to tell everyone about, but keep to yourself. Whether you have adventure or relaxation on your agenda, picturesque Grenada has it all. The unique location is mountainous, volcanic, and lush, comprised of 45 sandy beaches that abut pristine turquoise waters. “The hills are dotted with colorful, pastel, wainscoted cottages set amongst jungle-like vegetation filled with waterfalls,” Lee McCarthy of Naples, Florida-based MAD Travel says, adding, “The island is rugged, unpretentious, and naturally breathtaking.” McCarthy recommends visiting in March to catch the leatherback turtles nesting, or in July when the hatchlings swim out to sea. From visiting exotic spice markets to sailing to nearby islands, zip-lining, canyoning, hiking, and rappelling, there is no lack of activities for the thrill-seeker. Of course, if lounging on the beach and enjoying the area’s legendary rum are more your speed, luxurious options abound. McCarthy recommends the Calabash and Spice Island Beach Resort, small boutique hotels that give visitors a feel for what the area used to be like before the large, all-inclusive hotels took over.
Cabo San Lucas
Now’s the time to reconsider our neighbor. The beauty of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, lies in its proximity to the United States, so you feel like you’re a world away without having to travel a great distance. But the real draw is the people, shares Lee McCarthy of MAD Travel, praising the locals’ warmth and willingness to serve as hosts to Mexico’s visitors. After Hurricane Odile devastated the area in 2014, new properties have sprung up all along the corridor. According to Kimberly Georgie of For Travelers Only, Auberge’s new Chileno Bay Resort & Residences is a real stunner, and The Montage Los Cabos has just opened a beautiful new property. McCarthy recommends legendary favorites like One & Only Palmilla and Esperanza for your stay, which were almost completely rebuilt after the hurricane. If you tire of lazing poolside, have your concierge book an excursion. Options include desert ATVing, deep sea fishing, and snorkeling and scuba diving at Cabo Pulmo Marine Preserve. Of course, the world-renowned cuisine is legendary for a reason, and many resorts feature Michelin Star chefs. Finally, your safety need not be a concern. In response to a travel warning for Mexico last year, Los Cabos invested millions to upgrade security. The warning has since been lifted, and according to experts, the tourist area is safer than ever before.
Ecuador & Peru
Opt for a naturalist spring break with luxurious benefits. In 2019, think beyond the obvious spring travel destinations and book a trip to Ecuador and Peru instead. Robert Merlin of SmartFlyer recommends four nights at the Mashpi Lodge for a true jungle experience. Situated 3,117 feet above sea level, the lodge is nestled between the lower montane rainforest and the cloud forest. There, you are literally immersed in a magical world, with guides who can help you identify hundreds of species. Then, head to the Pikaia Lodge in the Galapagos—the only land-based, five-star hotel Galapagos experience—where you can take excursions during the day to see the flora and fauna. Next up, fly to Lima for a four-night Aqua Expeditions Amazon cruise. End your adventure with two nights at Explora Lodge in the Sacred Valley and a visit to the ancient ruins of Machu Picchu.