In the spirit of resolution and looking at the year ahead, I’ve come up with 19 trips across the world that will not only make you a better traveler but also push you out of your comfort zone—and make all your friends jealous of your vacation.
These 19 trips of a lifetime are brand-new tours or offer something special in 2019.
Cruise Western Africa in Senegal and the Gambia
Tour the lesser-known part of the African continent with Peregrine’s eight-day Cruising the Rivers of West Africa tour. You’ll see wildlife like dolphins, crocodiles, manatees, and more while aboard the company’s small cruise ship. Then you’ll head inland for a visit to The Gambia National Park to see chimpanzees and make a humbling stop at the island of Kunteh Kinteh, where the American slave trade began. A new airport in Dakar makes travel even more accessible this year.
Witness the Great Elephant Migration
For another amazing wildlife experience, book Wilderness Travel’s new trip, The Great Elephant Migration. This 11-day tour takes you through Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Victoria Falls. It’s timed with the elephant migration (July and August departures only) that takes place in Hwange National Park. You’ll also have the opportunity to find leopards, lions, spotted hyenas, jackals, giraffes, buffalo, antelope, and sable, and even participate in night drives for some nocturnal animal sightings. Accommodations include luxurious camps like Camp Kuzuma and Zambezi Sands.
Be a Nomad in Mongolia
Experience nomadic life in Mongolia on G Adventures’ 10-day tour through the northern part of the country. You’ll ride horseback through the countryside and stay overnight in a homestay at a nomadic camp where you get to sleep in a ger (similar to a yurt). Visit Mongolia now while it’s still a relatively untouched tourist destination; the government recently said it wants to increase tourist visits to 1 million per year in 2020.
Trek the Hidden Himalayas
Head to Dolpo, a part of the Himalayas that’s only accessible by foot. Wilderness Travel’s 13-day trek takes you to the untouched trails and villages of this part of Nepal as you see how ancient Tibetans lived (this part of the region is culturally Tibetan). Highlights include Phoksundo Lake, Kathmandu’s temples, and of course plenty of mani (prayer) walls and chortens (shrines).
View Japan in a Different Light
Many visitors flock to Japan’s tourist hot spots in spring (to see cherry blossoms) or fall (to enjoy the vivid foliage), and with the country drawing increased attention thanks to the upcoming 2020 Olympics, these times of year are even more crowded. Instead, opt for something different and take a tour of Japan in winter with Topdeck’s seven-day Japan Winter tour. You’ll get the chance to ski at the country’s famed resorts, visit a historical theme park, enjoy sulfuric hot springs, and take a city tour of less-touristy Sapporo.
See a Different Side of Mexico Than You Did on Spring Break
Mexico’s heartlands are literally the heart and soul of authentic Mexican culture. While the coastal beaches are breathtaking, opt for a more immersive experience on Intrepid’s 15-day tour throughout central Mexico. You’ll visit a pueblo magico, explore the trendy city of San Miguel de Allende, taste tequila in Guadalajara, take a walking tour of Mexico City, and see the Pyramid of the Sun in Teotihuacan up close.
North Africa/Middle East
Explore Undiscovered Oman
SmarterTravel named Oman an emerging destination two years ago, and the country is starting to see more visitors for its blend of culture, beaches, and natural landscapes. G Adventures offers an eight-day tour that takes you through highlights like the Wadi Kakhr (Oman’s version of the Grand Canyon), desert camping in the Wahiba Sands, a visit to a turtle reserve, and a tour of the capital, Muscat.
Discover Australia Without Going to Sydney
While Sydney is an amazing part of Australia, there’s so much more to the country than just its East Coast. G Adventures’ affordable North to South trip includes the unspoiled national parks in the Northern Territory and makes overnight stops in the Outback at Alice Springs and Uluru before heading down to South Australia’s urban hot spot, Adelaide. Most of the accommodations on this budget-conscious trip are basic, but they include experiences like camping in the Outback and sleeping underground in an opal-mining town.
Eat (and Hike) Your Way Through Italy’s Boot
If you’re an Anthony Bourdain fan, you may remember the season 10 finale that aired in late 2017, Southern Italy: The Heel of the Boot, which has inspired travelers to get off the beaten path in Italy ever since. Wilderness Travel’s new tour this year, Hiking Puglia and Calabria, visits some of the same mystical towns Bourdain did in what’s sure to be the next popular tourist spot in Italy. Activities range from culinary experiences like wine and olive oil tastings to excursions like cliffside hiking and cave exploring. You’ll also see two UNESCO World Heritage sites: the cave dwellings of Matera (also a European Capital of Culture this year) and the famed trulli houses in Alberobello.
Float Down the Danube on a Reinvented River Cruise
A river cruise is one of the best ways to see Europe, and U River Cruises is shaking things up for the industry. With ships and itineraries designed for the “young at heart,” this isn’t your grandparents’ river cruise. My pick for 2019 is the Danube Flow cruise, which covers three countries in eight days: Germany, Austria, and Hungary. There are also departure dates with special itineraries that overlap with Oktoberfest, Sziget Festival, and the holiday Christmas markets and New Year’s Eve celebrations.
Walk England Coast to Coast
Sleep in cozy countryside inns while you cross England by walking 192 miles over nine days. REI Adventures’ England Coast to Coast Hiking trip takes you through three national parks: Lake District, Yorkshire Dales, and North York Moors, where you’ll see grazing sheep, storybook villages, and stunning landscapes. Along the way, you rest at local pubs and teahouses, and the tour includes stops at the home of William Wordsworth, Richmond Castle, Easby Abbey, and more.
Bike the Causeway Coast
The adventurous and active can take a weeklong, self-guided tour through Northern Ireland. Viator’s Causeway Coast Cycle Self-Guided tour is ideal for travelers who want to go at it alone but need some help planning. The itinerary starts with a city cycle tour in Belfast, where you’ll explore iconic sights. You then bike along the coastline with stops in villages and castles to rest and sleep at small inns. The tour includes a ferry ride to Rathlin Island, Giant’s Causeway, Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, Bushmills Whiskey Distillery, an optional trip to the Dark Hedges, and return transportation to Dublin.
Explore Portuguese and Spanish Islands You’ve Never Heard Of
Portugal was 2018’s hottest destination, and tourism growth shows no signs of slowing down in 2019. Avoid the overcrowded spots with a 15-day cruise throughout the Portuguese and Spanish islands. Hurtigruten’s Atlantic Exploration itinerary is new this year and covers the Azores, Madeira, and the Canary Islands. The journey begins and ends in Lisbon, so you’ll have plenty of time to explore the capital. Stops include three areas of the volcanic archipelago—the Green Island (Sao Miguel), the Blue Island (Ilha Azul or Faial), and the Purple Island (Angra), as well the islands of Porto Santo and Madeira of Portugal, and two islands in the Canaries: Santa Cruz de Tenerife and the less-visited San Sebastian de la Gomera.
Visit a Rainforest in Canada
Home to fjords, rare wildlife, and, yes, a rainforest, is Canada’s British Columbia province. Maple Leaf Adventures’ Great Bear Rainforest trips are sailing-based and include tons of wildlife excursions with opportunities to see grizzly bears, spirit bears, black bears, baleen whales, orcas, gray wolves, and bald eagles. The itinerary also includes cultural experiences with First Nation villages, a trip to hot springs, and kayaking.
Go on a Snow-fari Adventure
If you’re into snow sports, then this trip should be on your bucket list. Topdeck’s 10-day Great White North tour takes you to Whistler, Big White, and the Big Three ski resorts in Banff. You’ll also experience some of Canada’s epic drives and sights, like the Sea to Sky Highway, Fraser Valley, the Coquihalla Pass, Kicking Horse Pass, and the Continental Divide.
Tour Chilean Wine Country
Chile is a hot destination in 2019 with Patagonia’s popularity and the 2019 solar eclipse, but you should visit this destination for another reason: the Casablanca Valley. The area is known for its Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Pinot Noir, but has distinct microclimates that growers are learning more about to produce other varieties, like Malbec and Merlot. This trip of a lifetime is just 90 minutes from Santiago by car. Use Upscape travel to plan your perfect trip through the region; activities can include cycling, a helicopter ride, dining with winemakers, and more.
Backpack Through Bolivia
Bolivia’s salt flats are otherworldly, and the country as a whole is on its way to becoming the next South American hot spot. Contiki’s 13-day Bella Bolivia tour covers tons of ground, starting in La Paz, the capital, and ending in Chile’s Santiago—the first nine days are spent in Bolivia with an included flight to Santiago on day 11. You’ll truly see it all: the cathedrals of La Paz, the Witches’ Market, the white stone buildings in Sucre, Salar de Uyuni (salt flats), Avaroa National Reserve, the Salvador Dali desert, and plenty more to make this trip of a lifetime worthwhile.
Go to the Remote Falkland Islands
Getting to these remote and almost-polar islands isn’t easy—or cheap—but this year marks the first new flight route to the U.K. territory since the late ‘90s. Though no date has been set, the flights will go from Argentina to the islands with LATAM Airlines. Intrepid is offering a new-to-2019 tour for eight days, Falkland Island Expedition: Past & Present, which will take you to beaches, nature reserves, and the battlegrounds from the war of 1982. And don’t forget about the wildlife; king, Magellanic, and gentoo penguins all call this place home.
Spend a Night on a Glacier in the Arctic Fjords
If Norway’s Arctic fjords are on your bucket list, take your vacation to the next level with a trip to Svalbard. Off the Map Travel’s summer trip to the archipelago includes dog sledding, kayaking, a glacier climb, and the once-in-a-lifetime chance to sleep on a glacier at the Nordenskiold Lodge. Note that you won’t see the northern lights this time of year, but rather experience the “land of the midnight sun,” which also happens to give you the best chance to see polar bears. If you’re looking for a northern lights experience, the tour company has a four-day All Day Aurora tour to the same region.
For more ideas, see Top Travel Destinations for 2019.
More from SmarterTravel:
- 4 Key Travel Trends for 2019
- 10 Cheap Tropical Destinations for 2019
- Genealogy Travel: How to Find Your Family Tree
We hand-pick everything we recommend and select items through testing and reviews. Some products are sent to us free of charge with no incentive to offer a favorable review. We offer our unbiased opinions and do not accept compensation to review products. All items are in stock and prices are accurate at the time of publication. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.