With the whole year ahead of you, now is the perfect time to pack your bags and head off on a new adventure or at least plan the new places you are going to see over the next few months. But where should you jet off to? The LuxPad has scoured the planet for the top destinations to visit in 2018 that are either celebrating a special year this year, are up and coming as holiday hot spots or are classic firm favourites…
1. South Africa
South Africa offers visitors a wealth of landscapes and activities for lovers of all types of holidays. One of Africa’s best safari destinations, it has a host of accessible reserves including the famed Kruger National Park where you can spot the Big Five (lion, buffalo, elephant, rhino and leopard) through guided tours or driving in your own car. South Africa’s Winelands are also a huge draw for the country where some of the world’s finest wines are produced. The coast’s beaches provide yet another unique landscape to explore and Cape Town’s penguins are a must-see for any visit to the area.
South Africa’s tumultuous past can also be discovered with many museums and exhibits on the country’s apartheid era available to visit to help visitors understand the history of the nation. There is no better time to learn about South Africa’s past as 2018 marks the country’s most famed leader’s would be 100th birthday which will be celebrated throughout the year with the Nelson Mandela Centenary 2018: Be the Legacy programme of events.
Owned by the More family, the Lions Sands Game Reserve is the only private reserve to have its feet in both the Sabi Sand Game Reserve in and Kruger National Park. With both the Sand and Sabie Rivers flowing straight through it, it has one of the most biodiverse wildlife populations in Africa, making a stay in one of the reserves luxurious properties a magical one. with a selection of exquisite safari lodges to choose from, each lodge has multiple suites overlooking unique areas of the reserve and rivers and for an extra special trip, there are also secluded tree houses to spend nights under the stars.
With some of the best guides in the country, a Lion Sands stay will be filled with both Landrover and walking safaris where you are sure to spot many if not all of the Big Five and with two main safaris running each day (one in the morning, the other at dusk) you will be able to see the wildlife at their most active. A magnificent reserve that manages to offer the utmost luxury whilst still maintaining the unspoilt feel of the wilderness around it, it is one of the best places from which to experience what the country has to offer.
Further reading on South Africa...
Lonely Planet have called Chile a ‘land of extremes’ which best describes the scenery you will witness on a trip to this South American country. Spanning over half the length of the continent, Chile offers a diverse climate from arid deserts to snowy mountains with volcanoes, glaciers and forests in between. A key destination for wine lovers and adventurers, there are numerous vineyards, national parks and cities to explore and even the capital city of Santiago is still surrounded by breathtaking mountain views, to show you are never far away from the great outdoors. Travelling to Chile is set to get even easier in 2018 thanks to the launch of direct flights from London and Melbourne and this year will also mark the country’s 200th anniversary of independence so expect even more events on offer.
The only lodge in the San Pedro region of Chile to be completely enveloped by natural surroundings, the Alto Atacama Desert Lodge & Spa is located in the lush Catarpe Valley of the Salt Mountain Range. With a design influenced by local village architecture, it has been conceived to blend seamlessly into the natural environment and appears as part of the rocky ridge rising behind it. With sweeping views from outdoor lounges, environmental sustainability and a strong connection to local culture, it is a unique property in the region allowing you to delve right into the Chilean landscape.
Alto Atacama has its own unique ‘Andescape’ hotel concept which was created by Veronica Poblete and involves the implementation of decorative flora, a stable of friendly llamas and alpacas, local cuisine and Leave No Trace-schooled guides. The Paris-trained landscape designer, botanist and ex-Harvard lecturer developed this original concept using local flora and ancient agricultural techniques, making a stay at the resort one to remember.
Further reading on Chile...
Austria is a beautiful destination to visit at any time of the year. The Austrian Alps are home to some of the world’s best ski resorts to traverse in the winter, whilst the sun touched rolling hills and fields are a beautiful sight to see in the summer months. The country has also been the birth place of many celebrated cultural figures over the centuries and 2018 will mark the 100th anniversary of the deaths four of the key figures in the Viennese Modernism movement. A series of year-long, city-wide exhibitions will take place in the Austrian capital dedicated to Klimt, Wagner, Moser and Schiele to celebrate their 100 year legacy making this the perfect year for art and culture lovers to visit. Classic film fans should also head over to the city of Salzburg to cycle the routes of Fraulein Maria and the Von Trapp children in The Sound of Music, meadow singing and spinning optional.
The grand Vienna Park Hyatt is a historic landmark in Austria’s capital thanks to its majestic presence right in the city centre. The perfect position for those that want to explore the city but be able to escape the hustle and bustle in a world of luxury, it has 143 carefully appointed rooms and 35 suites each combining contemporary style with local Viennese accents
Every space within the hotel has been decorated with local artwork, high-quality materials and chic furnishings. Also within the hotel is the Arany spa with indoor infinity pool, four authentic dining outlets and the Vienna Park Hyatt is even dog friendly so your pampered pooch can also make the most of the Austrian sights.
Further reading on Austria...
4. New Orleans, US
One of the United States’ most vibrant and unique cities, New Orleans is celebrating its tricentennial (300 years) this year and will be marking the milestone with its citizens and opening its doors to the rest of world. A full events programme is set to take place throughout the year which will triumph the city’s history, its peoples’ resilience and set the course for the future. Whether enjoying a hurricane cocktail on the infamous Bourbon Street, exploring the bayous on a swamp tour, or delving into the history of Voodoo, there are is so much to do and see in the city that you could be there for a month and not see all it has to offer. Along with the countless renowned New Orleans dishes you need to try (beignets, gumbo and po’boys, to name a small few), there is also music around every corner waiting to be discovered, making New Orleans one of the top destinations to visit every year, but 2018 will be particularly spectacular.
Located in the historic French Quarter of New Orleans, the W is in the centre of the excitement. Embracing the city’s illustrious past, whilst still offering a forward-thinking hotel experience, the W is an oasis amongst the hubbub of the French Quarter. A spacious and stylish hotel, it has a signature Creole-inspired restaurant called SoBou and there is also an outdoor courtyard pool to escape the famed Louisiana heat.
With special packages for events such as Mardi Gras (including cocktails), it is the perfect way to enjoy all of New Orleans’ most spectacular sights with the comfort and style of a luxury boutique hotel. Rooms have been split into two distinctive themes both with a nod to the city’s cultural heritage. The blue tarot rooms features eye-catching artwork and striking geometric patterns, whilst the jazz themed rooms offer more fluid design and a golden colour scheme.
Further reading on New Orleans...
Named as the European Capital of Culture for 2018, this Mediterranean archipelago is a colourful cornucopia just waiting to be explored. With an ancient history spanning thousands of years, the rocky landscape combined with azure blue waters make the island instantly recognisable, leading to it becoming a popular filming location with movies such as Troy and Gladiator filmed there and more recently it was the location of Kings Landing in Game of Thrones. Malta’s historic temples and ancient defences above and below ground speak of the archipelago’s prime location in the Mediterranean and over the years it has been inhabited by a mix of cultures which have now infused the Maltese culture, for example the traditional food is a blend of Sicilian and Middle Eastern flavours.
Set within 7.5 acres of mature gardens, The Phoenicia Malta sits pride of place at the entrance of the capital city of Valletta. With an elevated position overlooking the port, it commands glorious views of the city and the bright blue Mediterranean and was Malta’s first luxury hotel. Within walking distance of the island’s shopping and business districts along with the bustling waterfront with its restaurants and cafes, the majestic building was built in 1939 and is classed as one of Malta’s sights in its own right.
Designed by architect William Binnie and built by Lord and Lady Strickland, it was designed as Malta’s premier luxury hotel to rival the grandest European hotels of the time. The guest rooms are decorated with simple yet stylish Mediterranean splendour in the classic white and blue colour scheme and the key feature of the hotel is the Bastion pool which can be found at the end of the grounds with panoramic views of Marsamxett harbour.
Further reading on Malta...
6. South Korea
A heady mix of state of art design interspersed with traditional practices and architecture, South Korea is one of the most unique countries to visit in the world. A fluid blend of ancient and modern, the cities, particularly Seoul are hubs of technology but the nation’s small size means countryside tranquillity can be found in just a short journey thanks to the superb transport links. Pyeongchang will host the 2018 Winter Olympics, putting the country in the global spotlight and a new high-speed rail line is also being implemented to help transport the legion of Olympic spectators across the country with ease. Outside of the cities visitors can experience a wealth of different landscapes including mountains transformed into ski slopes in the winter, thickly forested national parks and rolling hills and rice fields.
The Four Seasons Seoul is a fascinating blend of the Old World tradition and new-wave cool for which South Korea is known. The first Four Seasons to open in Korea, it is just steps from the city’s must-see historical sites and areas whilst still firmly entrenched in Seoul’s business district. Effortlessly combining form and function with modernised Korean motifs, the hotel’s design is proudly contemporary and unashamedly forward-thinking.
The five star hotel has 317 guest rooms and luxury suites, each with oversized, spa-like bathrooms to sink into a world of indulgence after a busy day exploring. With seven dining and lounge experiences, there is a space to suit every mood and taste thanks to the different menus and for an extra special treat there is also an authentic Korean sauna.
Further reading on South Korea...
In Jordan you can explore a plethora of natural and man-made wonders and the country is so much more than just the location of one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World. Whilst Petra is undoubtedly worth a visit on any tour of Jordan, there are numerous other wonders to discover too from the Dead Sea, to the mesmerising Wadi Rum desert and ancient cities. A safe haven in a conflicted region, Jordan has sadly seen a large dip in tourism in recent years making 2018 one of the quietest times to visit this beautiful country and its pink hued landscape. According to Lonely Planet, Jordan has a long history of welcoming visitors from all walks of life from Roman legionnaires and zealous crusaders. This sense of hospitality remains true today, positioning Jordan as a fantastic way to experience both the ancient and new Middle East at its finest.
Located on the banks of the Dead Sea, the Kempinski Hotel Ishtar Dead Sea sits at the lowest point on earth. Providing uninterrupted views of the sea towards the west and views of religious sites and breathtaking countryside in other directions, it is the ideal place from which to explore the rich culture and history of the region. Decorated with sumptuous luxury at every turn, the luscious paradise is filled with tropical foliage and numerous pools in which to escape the Jordanian heat interspersed with restaurants and private spots to enjoy local delicacies.
With tastefully appointed rooms and suites, the Kempinski Hotel Ishtar Dead Sea Jordan is close to many interesting historical sites which can be explored with ease. The landmarks close by include the Wadi Mujib Gorge – Jordan’s most famous river canyon, the baptism site where John is said to have baptised Jesus Christ and Mount Nebo where the Prophet Moses was buried, Jordan’s most revered holy site.
Further reading on Jordan...
Slovenia’s compact size means it is readily explorable for travellers looking to combine numerous holiday types in one. Offering beaches on its Adriatic coast, which sweep a Mediterranean breeze across the country all the way to the Julian Alps, which is quickly becoming one of Europe’s newest hot skiing spots, Slovenia’s natural beauty is assisted with charming architecture to add to its thrall for tourists. Along with its increasingly popular ski resorts and sunny beaches, other top regions to visit in the country is the picturesque lakeside town of Bled with its iconic church topped island and clifftop castle, the capital city of Ljublijana with its terracotta roofs and emerald green rivers and myriad of natural wonders from caves and gorges, to mountains and forests.
The Vander Urbani Resort is nestled under Castle Hill on the banks of the River Ljublijanica. Made of four townhouses in the old town, they look just like any charmingly rustic building in Slovenia’s capital however on closer inspection you will see the spaces have been intricately redesigned with contemporary passion.
Inside the hotel has been given an industrial edge, in striking contrasting to the romanticism of the façade with stylish details in every corner from the leather headboard to the design-led accessories. Rare for a city centre hotel, the Vander Urbani offers a rooftop terrace complete with infinity pool for a quick dip after explore the city’s sights.
Further reading on Slovenia...
9. New Zealand
New Zealand’s mountainous landscape and greenery is synonymous with adventure holidays and a trip to the island certainly lives up to the expectation. With just 4.8million residents across the north and south island, the feeling of crowd-free space can be found everywhere and the terrain offers a multitude of activities from skiing and surfing, to hiking and biking. Māori culture is a huge part of the New Zealand identity and signs of this can be seen throughout the nation from the language and cultural performances, to food and of course the rugby world champions, the All Blacks. Offering a laidback sort of adventure, travelling throughout the country is simple thanks to their efficient transportation systems and even the most adrenaline filled activities can still be taken at your own pace to enjoy the scenery.
Consistently rated as one of the world’s best hotels, Huka Lodge is on the banks of Waikato River just upstream from the mighty Huka Falls. The 25 suite property is set in 15 acres of grounds with a garden so well-groomed it is ranked as a ‘Garden of National Significance’ deemed to be of regional importance by the New Zealand Garden Trust. Wonderfully elegant and sophisticated throughout, there are 19 suites in the main lodge along with the two suite Alan Pye Cottage and four suite Owner’s Cottage, favoured by celebrities.
Much of New Zealand’s outdoor adventure pursuits can be experienced whilst staying at Huka Lodge from jet boating and white water rafting, to horse riding and even sky diving. Virginia Fisher has been the long standing interior designer of the property since it was purchased in 1984 where she drew on the location’s heritage and beautiful location to create a look which is still as current today. Over the years she has added to the design and also been enlisted to create design concepts for the new buildings to ensure each space within the property exhibits the Huka Lodge signature style.
Further reading on New Zealand...
Perhaps most well-known for the awe-inspiring temples in the Siem Reap region of the country, Cambodia was drawn even more into the spotlight after the success of the Angelina Jolie directed film First They Killed My Father which further highlighted the atrocities the country was subjected to in the 1970s by the Khmer Rouge. Instead of shying away from this painful time, Cambodia embraces this history and aims to educated visitors through transforming the locations of the worst crimes into thought provoking museums as a lasting memorial to those that lost their lives. A country filled with history both modern and ancient to discover, you can tour the ruins of Angkor Wat and the many other temple complexes, take in the capital’s metropolitanism, then head down to the coast to soak up the sun on one of the country’s blissful beaches.
Towering 188m above the capital’s business district, Rosewood Phnom Penh resides in the top 14 floors or the Vattanac Capital Tower which is the city’s most iconic modern structure. A symbol of the new Cambodia, it is set to open early this year and will be the second Rosewood resort in the country after the Siem Reap property.
An ultra-luxurious hotel, it blends traditional Cambodian hospitality with contemporary sophistication and houses 175 rooms including 37 exceptional suites. With each room offering unparalleled views of the city below, the also include plush furnishings and intuitive technology providing a calming haven from the bustling city below.
Further reading on Cambodia...
Top image of Richterveld World Heritage Site by Ken Treloar via Unsplash