As the year draws to a close now is the perfect time to start planning your travels for next year. So, where will 2019 take you? I’ve put together a list of seven countries which I think won’t disappoint. So what are you waiting for? Get exploring and start ‘Doinit’.
1.Russia (The Big One)
Really? I hear you question. Yes really; but I’m not talking about Moscow or St Petersburg. I’m talking about the 99% of the rest of this humongous country. Russia spans a whopping 11 time zones, with that in mind, the scale of what there is to see, explore and experience is mind blowing! You could spend a lifetime seeing it all – Russia’s Far East, the forests of Siberia, The Caucasus mountains, Lake Baikal, Kaliningrad (Russia’s exclave in Europe). The country even has its own Seven Wonders (of Russia). You can even take the ‘road of bones’ to the coldest place on earth, Oymyakon; ride the Trans-Siberian Express or head a bit more off the beaten track with the Baikal-Amur Mainline (BAM). Go where few wander, and discover this great land and endless possibilities for yourself.
2. St Helena (The Newly Accessible One)
A remote spec of land in the Atlantic Ocean remains a British Overseas Territory. Up until recently the only way to visit was by boat, but now, with thanks to a new airport, regular yet pricey flights from Johannesburg have begun (2017). So instead of spending days, or even weeks at sea, you can actually get there in a matter of hours. So with the barriers of time somewhat lifted you can be one of the first outsiders to see this outstandingly beautiful island and get to know its population of about 4,500 Saints. Other than the spectacular nature popular attractions included Napoleons Tomb, Jacobs Ladder and meeting Jonathan, the tortoise.
3. Macedonia (The Name Change One)
I’ve been to Macedonia twice, and I’m itching to go back for my third instalment of great food, fantastic landscape, and rich history. Tourism has been growing, but still the country maintains a charmingly ‘rough around the edges’ appeal, with welcoming people and plenty to see in a relatively small area. But why is 2019 special? Well it looks like the country is heading for a name change, which will see its long running dispute with Greece finally put to rest. Depending on when you visit, you might well be one of the last people to visit the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYRM); or one of the first to visit the new (drum roll…) North Macedonia.
4. UK (The Close to Home One)
Who knows what BREXIT will actually mean? Will us Brits be welcomed in Europe? Will it be more expensive for us to travel? Will we have to apply for EU visas and queue at passport control with the rest of the world? Probably not but, perhaps 2019 is the year to explore closer to home! The UK punches well above its weight when it comes to attractions, its got real history and character, along with some spectacular scenery. Oh, and islands, so many islands, great beaches, sheer cliffs, and remote trails. The UK packs in a great four for one deal with England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland with each constituent country having plenty to offer.
5. Iran (The ‘Bad’ One)
Ah, Iran; geo-politics’ bad boy. Some media outlets would have you believe that this is a county brimming with evil, but don’t be fooled; Iranians are known for their hospitality. Politics aside, Iran has long and fascinating history. Visitors will be wowed with ancient cities, spectacular UNESCO World Heritage ruins and spiced exotic foods to delight any palate. Chill in the cosmopolitan Tehran or get lost in the labyrinths of Tabriz; cast any pre-conceptions aside as you visit Shiraz, birthplace of the tipple of red we all enjoy (despite now being a dry country). Follow the Silk Road in the footsteps or Marco Polo, Alexandre the Great and good ol’ Joanna Lumley; a visit to Iran will no doubt be your highlight of 2019.
6. Ghana (The One in Africa)
Not been to Africa yet? Well then, let Ghana be your introduction to this continent. Tourism in Ghana is growing fast and with good reason. Decent infrastructure, stable government, and laid-back attitudes enable you to explore the coastline, forested hills and savanna plains. So whether you want to relax on the beach, have an adventure in the rainforests, or get up close to sobering colonial castles you can’t really go wrong with a visit. 2019 has be proclaimed as the ‘Year of Return’ a massive campaign aimed at the diaspora enticing them to return to the country of their roots with the whole year being celebration of the resilience of the African spirit, so why not join in?
7. Laos (The Laid-Back One)
When you think about South East Asia, Laos is often not the first country that comes to mind, but the country does still attract large crowds of tourists; so the trick here is to get off the beaten track. What Laos has or rather doesn’t have is the major industry and developments of its neighbours. The relatively sparsely populated country has mostly a rural lifestyle that can be quite hard to find in this day and age. Laos is well known as having a much laid-back feel but these days could be numbered as industrialisation is inevitable. A Chinese rail project which cutting through the country is due for completion in late 2019 and similar projects will follow, so perhaps now is the best time to visit before the country transforms.