It’s a big wide world out there — and so many destinations beckon. At the top of the globe, the Northern Lights flicker; towards the bottom, the penguins cavort. The Middle East shimmers; Iceland glimmers. From Asia to Russia, Japan to the Middle East, American tourists are more welcome than ever before. So where to go first?
Well, who would know better than a travel agent? TMR asked some of our favorite travel professionals where they want to go in 2018.
Not surprisingly, the “Three I’s” of Ireland, Iceland and Italy scored high. France and Germany came highly recommended, too; many yearn to sail on river cruises, especially to the Christmas markets. But here are some of the more surprising, top-scoring destinations, and the reasons that travel agents chose them.
“South Africa was by far my most favorite destination this year and I would go back in a heartbeat. The people, culture, cuisine, history, wine, nature and the safaris. Spectacular!!” — Sylvia Isaac, Travel Professionals International, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
“I would have to choose Ethiopia. It’s been popping up on a lot of up-and-coming destination lists. Seeing a place before it becomes too popular is always exhilarating.” — Rose O'Connor, Rose O’Connor Travel, Calif.
“I would love to visit South Africa. There is so much to see and do there — wineries, history, wild life on land and sea. There are a few tour operators that have amazing itineraries. If I don't get there in 2018, it won't be long!” — Diane DeWitt Frisch, Diane Frisch Destinations, LLC, Frisco, Texas
“I'm hoping to get to Iceland in 2018. It's a quick flight and wonderful opportunity to see magnificent scenery and wildlife. I need to take an active trip before I need a walker to get around.” — Moira Carapico, Journeys Travel Inc., Richmond, Va.
“Bora Bora is my very favorite place in the world. The food is incredible, the people absolutely wonderful and it’s the only place I’ve ever been able to disconnect.” — Estelle Legeai Wilkinson, Wanna Get Away Travel, Scottsdale, Ariz.
South & Central America
“Nicaragua really is such a special place; I've spent time there over the past few years, just returned last night from my most recent trip. For my families who are looking for something fun that isn't Mexico or the Caribbean, Nica is a perfect option, easy to get to.” — Sarah Fazendin, A Family Travel Blog, Denver, Colo.
“Merida’s cultural wealth makes it an ideal destination, plus it is close to architectural wonders and breathtaking beaches.” — María Mayte Hoover, Family Vacation Planners, Clearwater, Fla.
“Ecuador is the most authentic, unique and exciting vacation experience for the adventure traveler!” — Paulie Wimbert, Forward Momentum Travel, Bardonia, N.Y.
“Lake Titicaca in Peru and the Uros Island people. Life-changing visiting that place!” — Beth Malloch Schulberg, Cruise and Travel Specialists, Portland, Ore.
“Definitely the Galapagos! Cannot wait to see the blue-footed boobies.” — Kristina Raykinstein, KVR Travel Group, West Bloomfield, Mich.
“There are so many different ‘zones’ on an island that it's difficult to explore in a shorter time span. They have everything from Pete's Dragon to Lord of the Rings, as well as everything from jungle huts to luxurious over-water bungalows.” Heather Howard DiPietro, Travel Sales Group LLC, Matthews, N.C.
“Especially the northern peninsula of Istria. It is often referred to as the ‘other Tuscany,’ with vineyards, olive groves, truffle hunting, and amazing culinary experiences. The best part is that it’s still undiscovered!" — Belkys Lastra Pastor, Distinct Vacations, Fairfield, N.J.
“It was, to date, one of my favorite destinations because it was not a popular 'tourist' destination, and the culture was beyond amazing. It is one of the 2018 up-and-coming hot spots for sure. Cannot wait to go back!” — Niki Rakowitz, CARE Travel, Manhattan, Kan.
“I spent two months traveling through rural China. It absolutely blew my mind. The hospitality, kindness, landscapes, history, loved it so much. I felt like I was in an ancient novel. Such a contrast from the ultra-modern cities like Shanghai that look like they belong on another planet!” — Jord Ana, Tripzter Travel, Vancouver, Canada
“It's not a new destination, but I want to support the islands. They need tourism income and jobs to help the region's recovery after the hurricanes.” — Betsy Bouche, Largay Travel Inc., Somerville, Mass.
“180 degrees different, first-world destination from the U.S., with rich history and culture.” — Sean McClinton, Kirkland, Wash.
“The food, the beauty. [I] have always wanted to go.” — Eva Grodberg, Epic Experiences, New York, N.Y.
“Dubai has always been on the radar just to say 'yup, been there done that.'” — Mary Lynn, Travelonly, Brockville, Ontario, Canada
“Dubai and Oman, specifically a stay in the desert and Alila or Six Senses Zighy Bay. The rugged beauty of Oman looks breathtaking. Seems so exotic.” — Erica Broeckel Gindele, Inspiration Travel, Saint Michael, Minn.
“While there are many places I'd like to go, San Miguel de Allende Mexico always wins out. Once the city stakes a claim to your heart, you'll always be called home.” — Trenia M. Logan, Querencia Travel Consulting, Mexico
The Middle East
“Despite all the controversy surrounding this wildly unique slice of the world, Israel is way up on my list to revisit. Linguistically, culturally, geographically, Israel is one of the most fascinating places I've ever visited and I can't wait to return with my family.” — Jord Ana, Tripzter Travel, Vancouver, Canada
“Because it is still unvisited by many, which means undisturbed. Want to give an elephant a bath and see the monkeys, temples, waterfalls and relax on beautiful beaches.” — Melissa Cornett Moatts, Travel With Melissa, Peachbottom, Pa.
“I will return to Greenland — off the beaten path, not a destination for everyone — but one of the most wild and beautiful places I have been to with its majestic fjords and glaciers, a unique culture, and adventurous food.” — Ami Greener, Greener Travel, Washington, D.C.
“A ‘new’ destination I am visiting this year. Saint Helena, which just got its first commercial flight. The island has an interesting story. Napoleon was sent there after being defeated and he died on it. It also has beautiful marine wildlife all around and it’s still the most remote island in the world.” — Daniel Santiago Díaz, Boston, Mass.
“Who wouldn’t want to go where development and progress is measured by Gross National Happiness? Tiger’s Nest Monastery has been on my bucket list for some time.” — Kiron Dhaliwal, Concierge Vacations Inc., San Ramon, Calif.