Our experts reveal their top 20 picks for the year ahead, from the beaches of Turkey to the rainforests of Nicaragua.
1. Turkey's Turquiose Coast
Sunshine-soaked and with a glittering blue seaboard, Turkey’s glorious “turquoise” coast wouldn’t normally rank as a newly rising star. The 300-mile loop of coastline that unfurls like an iridescent ribbon between Marmaris and Antalya has long been a favourite for holiday-makers, with UK visitors in particular flocking to its picture-perfect fishing villages and chic little bougainvillea-laden resorts. But over the last couple of years, following a wave of terror attacks and political unrest, things have taken a well-documented nosedive. Between 2014 and 2016 Turkey’s visitor numbers slumped from 42 million to 25 million. And now? Maybe we’ve all simply had to accept that no country is guaranteed terror-proof. Maybe people have realised that the Syrian border is hundreds of miles from Turkey’s main tourist areas. Whatever the reason, tourism is back on the up, with the first half of 2017 showing a 28 per cent rise compared to the doldrums of 2016.
So there’s never been a better time – particularly with sterling strong against the lira – to steal a march on the returning crowds and enjoy the unique magic of this beautiful region. What’s more, and against all odds, a new Turkey specialist company, Fairlight Jones, has risen Phoenix-like from the ashes of the several much-loved small-scale operators that went bust during the crisis. Formed by members of the team behind former Turkey experts Exclusive Escapes, it offers a portfolio that includes brand-new luxury properties and enticing “Special Tester” offers.
How to go
Fairlight Jones (020 3875 0351; fairlightjones.com) offers seven nights in one of two new “Lighthouse Loft” seafront villas on the Kas peninsula from £800pp based on four sharing, including return flights with BA from London Gatwick to Dalaman, transfers, and seven days’ car hire.
Linda Cookson is a regular contributor to Telegraph Travel and has been writing about her journeys around Europe and North Africa for nearly 20 years.
Last May, when RwandAir launched direct flights from London Gatwick to Kigali, this small, safe and forward-looking nation in the heart of Africa suddenly became accessible. Slightly larger than Wales, Rwanda has moved on from the genocide of 1994 to become a welcoming English-speaking country that can teach us a lesson or two: the majority of its MPs are women, city buses offer free Wi-Fi, and plastic bags were banned a decade ago.
Almost everyone goes, of course, to admire its mountain gorillas, a conservation success story that sees trekkers paying $1,500 (£1,120) a head for an hour-long, close encounter. It’s a well-organised and, at times, strenuous experience, but Rwanda is by no means just about apes. Several enterprising Brits have jumped in, such as Steve Venton, who offers kayaking tours on lake Kivu (kingfisherjourneys.com), and Oli Broom, who organises cycling adventures (theslowcyclist.co.uk). And the quality of accommodation is rising.
Next year, luxury hotelier One&Only (oneandonlyresorts.com) launches Nyungwe House, set amid the tea plantations of the mountainous south. While safari first-timers are better off in neighbouring Tanzania, veterans will appreciate the efforts being made to re-establish Akagera National Park. Perhaps the best reason to add Rwanda to your 2018 wishlist is that, with no jet lag, you only need a week or so to see its highlights. This is the year to say hello to a little nation that’s bringing a big smile to the face of Africa.
How to go
A 10-day Authentic Rwanda and Gorillas tour with Tribes (01473 890499; tribes.co.uk) departing 16 January 2018 costs from £6,555 per person, including flights from London Gatwick, gorilla trekking, visits to Nyungwe, lake Kivu and Akagera plus transfers, private guided activities and most meals.
Nigel Tisdall has been writing about travel for The Telegraph for more than 30 years and is addicted to wild and wonderful places.
3. Andaman Islands
The sea is a dreamy shade of turquoise. Pure white sands fringe rainforest that is home to a rich profusion of wildlife... It all sounds suitably idyllic to be the Seychelles or Mauritius, but India’s remote Andaman archipelago ticks even more boxes of blissed-out delight.
Located in the Bay of Bengal, 850 miles east of the mainland, these 300 little-known islands are surrounded by fabulous coral (no commercial fishing has been allowed for 40 years) and are barely developed, with only a dozen open to tourism. Over the past 18 months or so the archipelago has become more accessible thanks to an increase in flights to the capital, Port Blair, from four of India’s major cities. So it’s now relatively easy to combine a cultural trip with a beautifully sequestered beach break, flying to the islands from Chennai (with the nearest mainland airport), Kolkata, Delhi or Bangalore.
Accommodation options are limited, but in March the Taj group will open a sensitively conceived beachside hotel here, bringing new levels of luxury. Set on Havelock Island, renowned for its dive sites and lush hinterland, the Taj Exotica Resort & Spa has a prime position on Radhanagar Beach, said to be one of the most serene – and pristine – beaches in Asia. Facilities are spot-on, with three restaurants and a signature Jiva spa, and the 75 rustic-chic villas offer five-star comfort. But it’s the activities that guests will particularly relish, from underwater photography to kayaking through mangrove forests and exploring reefs teeming with marine life.
How to go
A 10-night trip costs from £3,300 per person with Ampersand Travel (020 7819 9770; ampersandtravel.com), including flights from Heathrow to Chennai and onwards, three nights at Taj Coromandel in Chennai and seven nights at Taj Exotica Resort & Spa on the Andaman Islands.
Harriet O’Brien is a regular contributor to Telegraph Travel. She lived in India as a small child and has written extensively about the country.
4. Valletta, Malta
Malta’s 16th-century citadel capital, the Unesco World Heritage city of Valletta, is one of the European Capitals of Culture 2018 (valletta2018.org). A melting pot of European influences since it was built by the Knights of St John following the Great Siege of 1565, Valletta has long packed a historical and artistic punch well above its weight. In 2018 this will be true in spades, with hundreds of events – art of all kinds, theatre, dance, opera and music, fireworks, food and fun – in Valletta and across the country.
Valletta itself is tiny, a perfect place to wander beneath painted wooden balconies and baroque facades, as well as a few edgier new constructions by Renzo Piano, architect of the London Shard. Preparation for this year has included extensive restoration, leaving fortifications and palazzi glowing. The tourist map has gained fortresses and museums, sparkling interiors (especially at St John’s Co-Cathedral) and a new National Art Gallery (Muza) due to open in the Auberge d’Italie later this year.
Historic homes have been converted into new boutique hotels such as The Coleridge, Ursulino, SU29 and The Saint John. More openings are coming, including luxury boutique Iniala Harbour House overlooking the Grand Harbour – where a spectacular sea pageant will play out on June 7.
From the Valletta 2018 opening week (Jan 14-21) onwards, national and international theatrical and art events will be popping up in venues both iconic and unexpected, while the islands reverberate with music from rock to baroque. The Maltese know how to party – and everyone is welcome at this year-long festa.
How to go
Malta’s Thirties colonial hotel, The Phoenicia, favourite of British royals, has just been refurbished with a new spa opening in 2018. Doubles from €150/£130).
Juliet Rix is an award-winning journalist who caught the travel bug early. She is the author of Malta and Gozo (Bradt Guides) – 2018 version just out.
5. St Helena
Until four months ago, few had heard of St Helena. One of the world’s most-remote islands – more than 3,218 miles (2,000km) west of Africa – this British Overseas Territory was accessible only via the Royal Mail ship St Helena.
However, the October 2017 launch of a weekly Saturday flight from Johannesburg has slashed travel time from five days to just four hours.
The island’s isolation reaps rewards. Billed as the “Galapagos of the Atlantic”, its fern-clad forests, volcanic plains and rocky shores are home to 2,932 species, of which 502 are endemic. The star on land is the mottled St Helena plover – known locally as the wirebird – that scuttles among the scrub and can be spotted on a 4x4 tour offered by Aaron Legg.
But it’s beneath the waves that the majority of endemic species thrive – and with large swathes of St Helena’s marine environment unmapped, it provides a new frontier for experienced divers and competent snorkellers.
A total of 20 dive sites, including eight wrecks, are home to unique fish such as the St Helena wrasse, parrotfish, flounder and marmalade razorfish. Larger visitors include dolphins, devil rays and green and hawksbill turtles. The biggest are the migrating humpback whales that cruise offshore between June and December. Just as they are disappearing, the whale sharks turn up and stay until March. These gentle giants are the undisputed highlight of a trip to St Helena.
Travellers can stay at the new four-star Mantis hotel in the capital, Jamestown. Here Wi-Fi is still limited and expensive, offering travellers a rare chance to unplug. There are concerns the airport and the arrival of a submarine fibre-optic cable in 2020 will change that, so visit soon.
How to go
An 11-day trip to St Helena costs from £2,795pp, including flights, accommodation and 10 dives with Dive Worldwide (01962 302087; diveworldwide.com). More information: sthelenatourism.com and St Helena: The Bradt Travel Guide (bradtguides.com).
Emma Thomson spends roughly three-quarters of the year on assignment covering off-the-beaten-track destinations. She travelled on the second-ever flight to St Helena and spent a week there.
6. Picos de Europa, Spain
It is clearly absurd to describe a mountain range as “hidden from view”, but as far as the majority of British travellers are concerned, the Picos de Europa might as well be. Next year will see the centenary of the official opening of this national park, which makes it one of the oldest in Europe; it’s easily accessible via Brittany Ferries from Portsmouth to Santander, or the UK’s many flight connections into Bilbao; and yet we find ourselves more easily distracted by all the other things Spain is so good at (roasting-hot beaches, football, tapas, exotic Moorish architecture, etc).
However, anyone who loves the great outdoors should ensure they make tracks for the Picos in 2018. Yes, there’s that anniversary to mark, but far more importantly these shark’s-teeth limestone peaks, stretching over a 250 sq mile (647 sq km) chunk of Asturias, Cantabria and Castilla y León, deliver the perfect adventure playground. There’s canyoning, canoeing, mountain-biking, via ferrata – and even good old-fashioned walking, in the form of one of the great day hikes in Europe, the Garganta del Cares, which follows the course of a hydroelectric pipeline through some of the most dramatic scenery that will ever hit your eyes.
And after all that, you can drive 12 miles (19km) north of the park boundaries to the Asturian coast for your sea-kayaking, paddle-boarding, or lounging-around-on-the-beach fix.
It’s like the Italian Dolomites have been tethered to the coast of south Cornwall, with lashings of green cider thrown in. They’re called the “Peaks of Europe” for goodness sake: if they’re hiding from you, then they’re doing so in plain sight.
How to go
Pura Aventura (01273 676712; pura-aventura.com) offers a week-long Picos de Europa Explorer self-drive holiday from £970pp based on two sharing, including seven nights of B&B accommodation, two days’ private guiding, and car hire.
Ben Ross is The Telegraph’s deputy head of travel editorial. Spain is his favourite country on Earth.
During Liverpool’s reign as the 2008 European Capital of Culture, the city showed off a regeneration that had been years in the making. But as the celebrations came to a head, with the 49ft (15m) mechanical spider La Princesse disappearing into the Queensway Tunnel beneath the Mersey, it was clear this was not a culmination, but a cue.
And Liverpool took it with gusto, ramping up a drive to transform a city with pride in its heritage to be excited about its future. The year ahead, 2018, now feels like a culmination.
The city has launched an “18 for 2018” campaign to showcase its refound swagger with a roster of world-leading events and exhibitions. From the arrival of the Terracotta Warriors at its World Museum, returning to UK shores for the first time in 10 years, to the introduction of a “fire festival” in March and April and the return of the Tall Ships Festival in May, Liverpool has a busy year ahead.
How to go
Try Aloft Liverpool, the new brand from Starwood Hotels for tech-savvy, urbane travellers which finds its first home outside London in a historic building at the heart of Liverpool’s Dale Street district. Doubles from £67 per night.
Hugh Morris is Telegraph Travel’s news editor. He was born in Birkenhead and grew up across the Mersey from Liverpool on the Wirral, where he returns regularly.
It’s set to be a big year for Prince Harry, and Botswana is where he camped out under the stars with Meghan. He first went there at the age of 13, since when its incomparable wildlife and unique wild places have continued to lure him back. As he says: “Africa is where I feel more like myself than anywhere else in the world” – so no wonder he took his bride-to-be to Meno a Kwena, a quirky, offbeat safari camp run by old Africa hand Hennie Rawlinson.
Its name translates as “Teeth of the Crocodile” and its nine luxurious en suite tents are perched on a cliff top from which you can watch elephants and zebras coming to drink at the Boteti river below without leaving your bedroom. Located around a two-hour drive from Maun airport, it is also an ideal springboard for longer trips into the Okavango Delta and Central Kalahari Game Reserve, mobile safaris in the Makgadikgadi and Nxai Pans national parks, scenic flights over the Makgadikgadi salt pans, close-up encounters with meerkat families and whole-day visits to Baines Baobabs.
Another of Harry’s favourite haunts is the Panhandle, the upper reaches of the Delta’s waterlands which, like him, you can explore on-board the Kubu Queen (kubuqueen.com), a double-decker houseboat based at Shakawe on the Okavango river. Alternatively, you may prefer to enjoy a more conventional taste of life under canvas at Selinda Explorers, the coolest, most affordable, small uber-luxury camp in Botswana. Hidden in a private wilderness almost the size of Greater London, its palm-tree islands and grassy floodplains teem with lions, leopards, wild dogs and elephants.
How to go
Yellow Zebra Safaris (020 8031 1192; yellowzebrasafaris.com) offers seven nights at Meno a Kwena from £3,370 per person, or seven nights at Selinda Explorers from £5,460, both including return international flights.
Brian Jackman is acknowledged as Britain’s foremost writer on African wildlife safaris and has spent four years of his life under canvas in the bush.
While many of us will travel thousands of miles to witness a new day dawning over the savannahs of Africa, “new dawns” of the political variety rarely seem to live up to their early promise. But in the case of Zimbabwe, the fall of President Robert Mugabe has been greeted around the world with optimism. Tourism, like many other sectors of the economy, has struggled in recent years. Fears about personal safety, often over-stated, and an unwillingness to support the Mugabe regime in any way have been a particular deterrent for travellers from the UK. But, as usual, it’s the people themselves who have really suffered.
Zimbabwe’s catalogue of natural attractions rivals the very best in Africa. While well-known draws include Victoria Falls, Hwange National Park and the Great Zimbabwe Ruins, frequent visitors also cite Mana Pools National Park (a Unesco World Heritage Site), the incredible rock formations of Matopos (grave of Cecil Rhodes), Lake Kariba (the world’s largest man-made lake), Nyanga National Park in the east and remote Gonarezhou National Park. The latter is popular with guests staying at nearby Singita Pamushana, a top-end safari lodge running some of the best conservation and community initiatives in rural Africa.
Zimbabwe is celebrated for the high quality of its safari guides, who have set the standard for training across the rest of the continent, and there are a wide range of accommodation options available from simple camps to five-star luxury abodes. At both ends of the spectrum, you can expect to pay up to a third less than the equivalent offering in Botswana or South Africa.
How to go
Luxury Safari Company (01666 880111; theluxurysafaricompany.com) offers a nine-night safari package staying at Hwange (Linkwasha Camp), Mana Pools (Rukomechi) and Malilangwe (Singita Pamushana), which costs from £8,000 including international and internal flights.
Richard Madden has travelled extensively in Sub-Saharan Africa over many years, and wrote the “Bush Telegraph” safari column for Telegraph Travel.
10. Moscow, Russia
Exactly 100 years ago, the soon-to-be exiled Russian writer Ivan Bunin was wandering sadly through the streets of Moscow, taking his leave of the city. War and revolution were annihilating the country he loved. Seeing the statue of Pushkin in Tverskaya Street, Bunin thought that the country’s greatest poet seemed to be saying: “Good Lord, how sad my Russia is!”
Whatever adjectives you’d apply to Russia today – meddlesome, resurgent, vast? – “sad” would be low on the list. Visiting at any time is extraordinary – but 2018 will be an especially amazing time to go. Moscow will be celebrating its 100th anniversary as Russia’s capital. And nationwide, the football World Cup is going to be a chance for the country to celebrate, swagger and demonstrate the tremendous warmth of Russian hospitality.
The staging will be loaded with political significance – one of the state-of-the-art stadiums is in Volgograd, the city that, as Stalingrad, turned the tide of the Second World War; another is in Kaliningrad, the strange enclave between Poland and Lithuania. But the opening game and final will be at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, so visitors will naturally gravitate there.
Huge changes in the past decade have increased the city’s allure. Red Square remains an awe-inspiring highlight, but public spaces like Gorky Park have been given family-friendly makeovers. While the need for Russian visas remains a frustrating obstacle for travellers (World Cup ticket holders will be spared this), Uber and Airbnb have made visiting much easier – and the food is good.
How to go
The Four Seasons Hotel Moscow is a former Soviet-era hotel reimagined for the 21st century with an East-meets-West design aesthetic. Doubles from £455 per night.
Marcel Theroux has travelled widely in the former Soviet Union. He speaks Russian and has drawn on the region’s history and landscapes for several of his award-winning novels. His latest is The Secret Books.
11. Nashville, US
It could never be argued that, even on the vast tapestry of the United States, Nashville is a hidden jewel. But, much like the objects of unreciprocated desire beseeched in melody by its legions of country singers, the city has often been, for all its attractiveness, hard to reach.
That will change on May 4 – at least for travellers from the UK – when British Airways starts a non-stop service to the Tennessee capital from Heathrow. Scheduled to fly five times a week, this nine-hour connection will be the first direct air link between Britain and Nashville since an American Airlines flight from Gatwick ceased operations in 1995.
This musical playground – which has framed the musings of stars from Johnny Cash to Taylor Swift – has not been entirely inaccessible in the intervening 22 years. But it has always required a change of plane in another American metropolis. Of course, this has only added to Nashville’s romantic legend, casting it as Exhibit A in a classic road trip that might also venture to Memphis, Tupelo and New Orleans in search of further readings from the Southern songbook.
BA’s arrival will not dim this lustre – but it will boost Nashville’s appeal for visitors who wish to focus on the city alone. As well they might. If the enormous Country Music Hall of Fame (countrymusichalloffame.org) and the much-revered Grand Ole Opry (opry.com) do not make you want to don cowboy boots and dance all night, the unceasingly lively “honky-tonk” bars of Broadway (like the infamous Tootsies Orchid Lounge; tootsies.net) certainly will.
How to go
Flights cost from £783 return (0344 493 0787; ba.com).
Chris Leadbeater is a travel writer and specialist on America who has visited 35 of its 50 states – including Tennessee and its capital, Nashville.
12. Hong Kong
For a city that moves at a lightning pace, it’s been a surprising number of years since a notable luxury hotel debuted. That’s all set to change in 2018, however, with not one but three beautiful new hotels. The Fleming (thefleming.com) has just thrown open its little wooden doors. A boutique abode in a shadowy Wan Chai side street, its 66 rooms sport a cool, cleverly done Star Ferry theme, with forest-green walls, luxuriant dark woods and flashes of brass. Next to open in mid-January is The Murray, a Sixties office block radically remodelled by Foster + Partners to include 336 gold-trimmed rooms, a Fook Lam Moon restaurant, basement pool and dizzying views. In summer, Rosewood (rosewood.com) will reshape the Kowloon waterfront with a glam new building, one of the tallest in the area. Knock-out vistas are guaranteed. Throw in a burst of brilliant new bars and restaurants and it’s enough to keep anyone glued to the city, but should you need a reason to escape you could always venture over to Macau on the new 34-mile sea bridge, the world’s longest.
How to go
The Murray (marcopolohotels.com) has an offer rate on bookings made from January 15 to June 30 of 3,850 Hong Kong dollars (£368) for a deluxe room, with breakfast, minibar, a 4pm checkout and a space-available upgrade.
Lee Cobaj was raised in Hong Kong and returned to live in the territory three years ago. She specialises in writing about luxury travel around Asia.
13. Gold Coast, Australia
Sports-mad Australia will welcome some 6,600 athletes and team officials from 70 countries for the 21st Commonwealth Games in April.
With 33 miles of unbroken beaches, the Gold Coast is the country’s favourite holiday playground and will be the first Australian regional city to host the Games. Most overseas visitors will fly into Brisbane, an hour’s drive north; the Queensland capital will host cycling and shooting events and it’s worth discovering the city’s world-class galleries, riverfront seafood restaurants and wildlife attractions.
Held from April 4-15, GC2018 will see the Games’ first beach volleyball competition, a fitting inclusion for the beachside destination. While some matches will take place on the beaches, there is plenty of space to find a patch of sand for yourself, take a surfing lesson, hire a sailboard or kayak and hit the water. Visitors will also have the chance to experience Queensland’s beach culture, nightlife, dining and entertainment, with Festival 2018 featuring 11 days of arts and entertainment.
Beyond the Gold Coast, Queensland’s other attractions range from hand-feeding wild dolphins on Moreton Island, to walking in the wilds of World Heritage-listed Lamington National Park, or heading further afield to the undersea wonders of the Great Barrier Reef (you can even do it in a seaplane day trip from the Gold Coast).
How to go
Travel Places is offering 17-night Games supporters’ packages from £3,035 staying in a twin/double, including flights from Heathrow, 14 nights’ accommodation and transfers from Brisbane (01903 259133; travelplaces.co.uk).
Lee Mylne is Telegraph Travel’s Queensland expert. She divides her time between Brisbane and the Gold Coast.
14. Vienna, Austria
Vienna always gets my vote for Europe’s most underrated city. It is home to some of the world’s greatest museums, has a strong claim to be the classical music and opera capital of Europe, it’s compact, easy to get around, extremely beautiful, the food is good (and so are the wines), and despite all this, it suffers less from tourist crowds than any other major city. Sure, you will see plenty of coach tours flocking to the Spanish Riding School, and excited tourists bumping along the cobbled streets of the old town in open horse-drawn carriages. The Habsburg’s Hofburg Palace also attracts plenty of attention – but it is so enormous that it absorbs its visitors with ease.
Meanwhile, head for the main museum, the Kunsthistorisches, and you will be able to walk in without queuing. This despite that fact that it has one of the great collections of Old Masters in Europe. It easily rivals the Prado, the National Gallery, the Hermitage and the Louvre and yet it gets barely a 10th as many visitors. These are reasons enough to visit in any year, but in 2018 the city is celebrating the centenaries of the deaths of three of its greatest and most appealing artists – Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele and Koloman Moser – and its finest architect, the modernist, Otto Wagner. A whole succession of exhibitions and events are planned throughout the year. Go. You’ll never get a better insight into this wonderful city and its remarkable history.
How to go
Cultural specialist Martin Randall (martinrandall.com) has an escorted tour to Vienna celebrating the anniversaries of Klimt, Schiele, Moser and Wagner, from March 21-25 2018. It costs from £1,960 including return Heathrow flights, accommodation and most meals with drinks. To book an independent trip see our guide to the best hotels.
Nick Trend is the chief culture editor for Telegraph Travel. He first went to Vienna in 1980 and has been visiting regularly ever since.
15. Steamboat, Colorado, US
Ski resorts are becoming ever-more innovative in their quest to attract families. US resort Steamboat in Colorado (steamboat.com) has gone above and beyond this season by opening a roller coaster on its slopes. Operating all year round, the Outlaw Mountain Coaster descends more than 120 vertical metres on 5,900ft (1,800m) of tracks, built with dips, waves and 360‑degree circles that rise up to 40ft (12m) above the ground. The sleds carry two people, allowing children to ride with an adult, and include reassuring safety measures such as seat belts and an automatic braking system. For a different kind of high, the resort has also built a new 40ft (12m) climbing wall in the base area. There are three routes, ranging from beginner to expert. It too will operate year round.
Steamboat’s appeal to families is further cemented with its continuing Kids Ski Free programme, allowing children aged 12 and younger to ski for free when a parent, grandparent or legal guardian purchases a lift ticket for five or more days. There’s a similar deal for ski or snowboard rental equipment.
How to go
A seven-night B&B stay at the Steamboat Grand Hotel departing March 3, costs £1,515 a head with Ski Independence (0131 243 8097; ski-i.com) based on two sharing. Price includes direct flights with BA to Denver and transfers.
Henry Druce has been writing exclusively about skiing and snowboarding for 20 years. He loves discovering new resorts.
16. South Korea
While the north of the peninsula has been in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons in recent years, its southern half is poised to steal the show in 2018, with the opening act launching from the ski slopes, as it opens its doors to host the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang (February 9-25).
This is the follow-up act to the 1988 Summer Games held in Seoul, and the unassuming ski resort town has plenty to offer, including the new Alpensia Resort (built for the Games and where most of the Olympic events will be held) and the Yongpyong Resort (the country’s largest with 31 slopes). Beyond the white powder, visitors can take in a sleepy backdrop of Buddhist temples and scenic painting-like mountains, including the imposing Seoraksan, which forms part of the backbone of the peninsula’s mostly mountainous landscape – more than half of which is clothed in forests.
And if you need a change of scene, the bustling capital – now accessed in just under an hour from Pyeongchang thanks to a new high-speed KTX train – offers a great base from which to explore the rest of the country’s treasures. Its ancient roster includes 12 Unesco sites that chart a fascinating 5,000-year history, from palaces, tombs and villages to the unsung Jeju Island, with its dramatic landscape of volcanic rock formations, waterfalls and the finest lava cave system in the world.
If that isn’t enough, an eclectic cuisine received its official stamp of approval in the high-end food scene last year with the Michelin Guide launching its first edition in Seoul. The food bible’s 2018 shortlist features 24 Michelin-starred restaurants, including two three-starred and four two-starred, from which to sample the country’s most creative dishes.
How to go
Explore South Korea’s historical highlights on a 11-night tour with Peoplestravel (020 7725 6774; peoples.travel/korea), a specialist in holidays to Asia, including visits to Seoul and the Demilitarised Zone, the Unesco sites of Gyeongju, and Busan, South Korea’s great second city. From £1,999 per person, including return flights from London to Seoul, 10 nights’ B&B and tour guide. Valid for travel dates between January 11 and April 30 2018.
Soo Kim is a Korean-American writer and content editor for Telegraph Travel. She is an expert on South Korea and her hometown of New York City.
17. Vendée, France
There’s scarcely a square inch of France that hasn’t been fought over, but the Vendée – in the west – has a particularly heroic past. It doesn’t appear that way initially. A long Atlantic littoral cedes to woods and undulating farmland untroubled by mountains or great rivers. No drama, then. Not now. But 225 years ago, it was here that local peasants, furious at Republican excesses, revolted. They first won, then lost, then were slaughtered in an ethnic cleansing episode over which modern France doesn’t linger.
Following the exceptional story around this deep green land is riveting. But, on a summer break, you need light as well as shade. That’s the job this year of the Tour de France, which starts from the Ile-de-Noirmoutier, off the Vendéen coast, on July 7. The cyclists then pursue the coast south, as you should, too. These are endless beaches, shelving so gently that you’re in sight of New York before getting out of your depth. My pick would be Veillon-Plage, south of Les Sables-d’Olonne. For day two, the Tour swings inland. Follow it again, into the boscage pastureland.
Here the Vendéens braved the revolutionary army. The story is told in the outstanding museum at Les Lucs-sur-Boulogne. Not far away, at Grasla, Les Brouzils, they’ve recreated a forest settlement where locals took refuge from republican savagery. And across at Les Sulpice-le-Verdon, the Chabbotterie manor house remains much as when Vendéen hero, General Charette was arrested there in 1796. The Puy du Fou history theme park at Les Epesses weaves Vendéen experience into a 96-acre pageant covering most of the past in extraordinary live shows and tableaux.
How to go
Train, London to La Roche-sur-Yon, from £104 return (0844 848 5 848, voyages-sncf.com). Or ferry to St Malo or fly to Nantes or La Rochelle. Oliver’s Travels has a cracking, 12-sleeper Château Flacellière pavilion, from £1,544/week (oliverstravels.com; 0800 133 7999). Or try vendee-gites.com, 0033 251 279799.
Anthony Peregrine left Lancashire for Languedoc 30 years ago and has reported from many parts of France ever since.
18. Galapagos, Ecuador
It’s a daily fight for survival on this cluster of volcanic outcrops that surged from the Pacific Ocean floor millions of years ago. Isolated from the rest of the world, 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador, species have floundered and flourished, with only the fittest surviving. Nature is left largely to its own devices, although a helping hand has been given in the form of legal protection to preserve this paradise as a wildlife idyll.
Next year marks the 50th anniversary of Galapagos being managed as a national park and 40 years since it was declared a Unesco World Heritage Site. But one of the most dramatic examples of evolution on the islands famously explored by Charles Darwin has been the growth of a local community, which is now very much part of the tourism picture.
In the past decade, the Ecuadorian government has encouraged visitors to spend more time on the inhabited islands (Santa Cruz, San Cristobal, Isabela and Floreana) with improved ferry services and the addition of small hotels, lodges and a safari camp. In 2016, the park authority also granted day trips to Espanola, the breeding ground for waved albatross, previously accessible only to cruisers. The benefits of staying put are plenty: rise at dawn to find marine iguanas basking in the surf, share sun loungers with curious sea lions, and watch moonlight paint black beaches silver.
How to go
A 10-day Galapagos island-hopping holiday with Journey Latin America (020 8600 1881; journeylatinamerica.co.uk) costs from £5,033pp, including luxury accommodation, international flights, a 30-minute flight from Baltra to Isabela, transfers and excursions.
Sarah Marshall is a regular contributor to the Telegraph Travel pages. She combines travel stories with wildlife adventures.
19. Amsterdam, Netherlands
In the glory days of its 17th-century Golden Age, Amsterdam was the hub of world trade. Gold poured into its coffers, paying for magnificent buildings, new infrastructure and great art. The tidemark left by this surge is what we now see as essential Amsterdam: grand canals, galleries of Old Masters, decorative gabled houses, a city hall so splendid it was labelled a “Wonder of the World” (now a royal palace). Along came rowdy tavern life, too, in a red-light district dating back to medieval times. Successive centuries added layers of innovation and new style, with our own era seeing a wave of bravura architecture and a culinary explosion.
So what’s happening in 2018? The big news is that the long-awaited direct London-Amsterdam train service is set to arrive at last. Starting in the spring, Eurostar will run direct trains from St Pancras to Amsterdam Centraal, stopping at Brussels and Rotterdam. Not having to change trains in Brussels will cut the journey down to a smooth four hours. Awaiting arrivals is the spanking new Hotel TwentySeven: just 16 super-opulent suites, a hip cocktail bar and the Bougainville restaurant with starred chef Pascal Jalhay. Around the corner, the recently opened Mad Fox has just picked up an award for best club in the Netherlands. And across town the art deco Café Americain, once a writers’ and artists’ hang-out, re-opens with a sleek new interior.
In a coals-to-Newcastle coup, the Amsterdam Hermitage brings more than 60 Dutch Masters from the St Petersburg Hermitage collection. The show runs until May 27 and has six Rembrandts and rare, delicately painted nudes by Gerard Dou.
How to go
Eurostar will begin a trial direct London-Amsterdam service early in the year and the route is due to be fully operational by the spring. Fares have yet to be announced; eurostar.com
Rodney Bolt, Telegraph Travel’s Amsterdam expert, has lived in the city for 25 years and written extensively about it.
Most Latin American countries are being rediscovered by a new generation of modern conquistadors, but none match Nicaragua for dash when it comes to reinvention. Given that people under 40 can remember the country hosting the Sandinista revolution (which only ended in 1990), it’s remarkable that this Central American country has become a byword for luxury beach holidays, expat havens, safety and security and even glamour.
Nicaragua offers regional variations of what its better-known neighbours do well: world-class coffee, rum and cigars; cone-shaped volcanoes for hiking up and boarding down; lush rainforests aflutter with butterflies, birds and monkeys; superb surf and dive spots. Colonial Granada is as pretty as any town in the hemisphere. The Corn Islands are gorgeous and, if popular with Americans, still dreamily quiet when compared to mainstream Caribbean destinations. On the mainland, properties such as Mukul and Nekupe – built by Nicaragua’s first billionaire, Carlos Pellas – are full-service super-resorts, and architectural landmarks such as the British-built Jicaro Island Lodge on Lake Nicaragua are drawing deep-pocketed travellers.
All these will sate the sybarite, the adventure-lover, the escapist. But Nicaragua has a unique cultural dimension, expressed through extraordinary religious fiestas, authentic folk music, thriving agricultural communities and the poems of “father of modernismo” Rubén Darío (as influential as T S Eliot or Borges, yet not known half as well). Arguably the most enthralling “sell”, though, is pride and dignity borne of resistance. All over art-loving university town León, walls are spattered with graffiti honouring national heroes. In the capital Managua, dedicated parks and striking monuments keep the memory alive. And, unlike in Cuba, you never feel you’ll choke on clichés. After a year in which over-tourism has come to the fore in Europe and old favourites like the United States seem suddenly jingoistic and unsafe, this welcoming, youthful, beautiful land is a shimmering alternative to the jaded mainstream.
How to go
A six-night private tour to Nicaragua, visiting León, Granada and Managua, with Cox & Kings (0203 642 0861; coxandkings.co.uk) starts at £1,695 per person including flights via Houston with United Airlines, private transfers, excursions and B&B accommodation. A three-night Corn Island extension costs from £575 per person.
Chris Moss has been visiting Central America since 1992 and has travelled through all seven countries overland.