If you love to travel, you know your list of must-see places gets bigger all the time. Flights to new destinations are more affordable, and many people are jumping on the digital nomad train. In fact, more people are exploring new places that hold new mystique and experiences. No matter how much you travel, it seems like more amazing places are popping up all the time.
So how do you decide where to go? Should you go to an undiscovered place that will soon be full of tourists? What places will change the way you feel about society or your perceptions? And what places allow you to get away from it all, so you can just be?
These 15 cool places all fit the bill to excite your senses. Experts in travel have delved into these areas of the world and found them to be the next big thing. These hidden gems have enough tourism to get fed and find places to sleep. Better yet, tours for these highlighted spots in the area are do-able, but not tourist traps.
Cambodia has long been recognized as one of the places to visit before you die, thanks to Angkor Wat. It’s the largest temple of its kind in the world and can take up to three days to see. In 2018, there is a new addition to Cambodia’s offerings. Now luxury hotels are making an appearance in this once war-riddled country. They will allow travelers to see some of the less traveled areas of Cambodia.
Six Senses and Alila are on Krabey Island and Koh Russey. And the beaches there have the finest white sand. Rosewood is opening hotels in the main cities of Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. There is also a glamping opportunity that is a big deal on a worldwide scale. Also, Bill Bensley’s Shinta Mani Wild is going to be a tented camp in Siem Reap. This is no ordinary camping ground, though. It’s pure luxury among nature.
If you know anything about Cambodian history, you’ll see this development as a victory. It’s also a testament to the people who have moved on and prospered. While there is a lot of outside investments going on, it’s a good sign these big hotel chains see Cambodia as a safe, peaceful place for tourism.
Travel experts believe that Bolivia is on the verge of becoming the next big place to visit. With its dramatic scenery, there are things to discover here that you’ll never see elsewhere. If you’ve seen a picture of the Salar de Uyuni salt flats, it’s like it’s another planet altogether. In fact, some have deemed it the southern hemisphere’s Iceland.
La Paz is where the culture is at, too. It’s becoming well-known as the place to indulge in incredible food, as well. And luxury hotels like Atix are emerging, making your nights cozier. But, there is a heart you won’t find in most other places. The encounters of the people and the scenery are unique and ever-changing around every corner.
Bolivia may not be fully set up for tourism, but that’s part of its charm. If you let the planning and organization go, you’ll find many photo opportunities, adventures, and eye-opening cultural experiences. The people in Bolivia are some of the friendliest, despite the poverty. They want to show you the best parts of their country. If you show them respect, they’ll let you into their world despite the language barriers.
Bolivian smiles are warm, and they’ll banter with you in a friendly way. You can visit many historical spots there, too. But, Bolivia has been occupied for over 2,000 years and has faced many ups and downs. There is the spiritual and traditional where you can take in the culture and learn about beliefs. It also has many colorful festivals for the adventurous traveler.
3. The Yucatan Peninsula and Mexico City
In the Yucatan, there are white sandy beaches and turquoise seas. With the Mayan ruins, the Yucatan sits on many people’s bucket lists. The Cenotes in Yucatan are natural sinkholes that occur because of the collapse of limestone bedrock underneath. The water is filtered by earth, so it creates a natural mineral rich, clear turquoise water phenomenon.
If you are a cave diver or underwater photographer, you can experience the natural beauty. The Cenotes hold historical Mayan significance. They consider these Cenotes as a portal to the gods and sacrificial offerings were once held there.
The interior of the Yucatan comes with adventures, like a full-day helicopter trip to see the Monarch butterflies migrate. The deluxe resort, Chable, allows you to live life in luxury among the pristine beauty of the area. You can also ride a private hot air balloon over the Teotihuacan ruins, too.
The flight routes have made it easier to visit Tasmania if you’re flying from the U.S. Tasmania is remote, especially the region of Hobart. But if you’re a traveler that likes to get off the beaten path, this is the place to go. However, there is untouched wilderness alongside a thriving art scene.
Some say the MONA is one of the coolest art galleries on the planet. It stands for the Museum of Old and New Art. It’s been built underground with a mix of ancient Egyptian art to a room full of TVs blasting with Madonna’s greatest hits sung by a mix of random men and women.
Hobart has a population of 200,000 people. There is no lack of things to do, though. You can take in the botanical garden and the open air markets. There is an old brewery, as well as many distilleries and wineries.
Tasmania is an outdoorsy person’s fantasy vacation. The island is full of National Parks and heritage sites. There is a 40-mile trek through Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair National Park. They offer row boating tours, as well. Every step you take allows you to see even more picturesque natural beauty.
Travelers have said that it’s one of the most unique experiences they’ve had while seeing the world. You can drive for hours without seeing anyone. There are lush rainforests and flatlands. The people are warm and friendly and there truly is something for everyone. White sandy beaches are also a part of the itinerary if you’re into that sort of thing.
5. Southern Tanzania
Tanzania is a highly undiscovered place, but Asilia recently developed the Japali Ridge in Ruaha National Park. It’s the biggest national park in the country, yet the least visited. The lodge is ultra-luxurious, bringing a whole new experience to the area. The game reserve in the South is also something to consider. There is a luxury tented camp, Roho Ya Selous where incredible walks and boating safaris take place.
If you care about eco-travel, Tanzania is right up your alley. And they also have seven official World Heritage Sites. The wildlife is superior, and they have the largest unbroken, unflooded volcanic calderas in the world. The Serengeti is a must see. Gorges, and caves with rock art are all part of this pristine space in the world.
The wilderness is remote, so you’ll be able to take in elephants and even a rare African pack of wild dogs. Lake Tanganyika is one of the most beautiful lakes in the world. In Tanzania, you can take in beautiful beaches. Fanjove is a private island or you can escape to a lazy lagoon.
A tour company will bring its first clients to Chad. There is no tourism in Chad currently, but the chance to take in Zakouma National Park is too appealing to pass up. It is the world’s most diverse grassland ecosystem. There is also a huge herd of rehabilitated elephants.
If you’re lucky enough to see them, you’ll be taken aback by the 500 elephants that coexist together. It’s been considered a success story when it comes to wildlife conservation. GeoEx has been awarded weeklong trips into the parts that are private. There are plenty of lions, buffalo and antelope to see.
It’s a true victory to be able to take in this area since there were years of civil war in the area. Currently, you have the opportunity to take in this park exclusively. Tourism here is still new, so you won’t encounter many other people on the journey. It isn’t costly either, but you’ll feel like a king with such a small group joining you in this unique experience.
7. Asheville, North Carolina
The southern cities in the U.S. are stepping up to the plate to be the next interesting places to stay. And Asheville, North Carolina is a mix of hipster and classic America. The Blue Ridge Mountains are breathtaking. The city has incredible scenery and a beautiful botanical garden. And there are historic mansions that date back to the 19th century.
The history is fantastic if you’re fascinated with old school America. You can visit the Biltmore Estate, which is the largest private home in the world. And the Woolworth Walk hosts a lot of local artisans. So, if you want to sink into retro American culture, take in a milkshake at the luncheon counter. Asheville has their own cuisine, but they also offer tapas and Asian food, to name a few.
Many authorities have been raving about Asheville recently. It sits on plenty of “best lists” for being super friendly, a great foodie destination and one of the best beer cities, too. Conde Nast Traveler, Travel + Leisure, Fortune, Thrilliest, and Lonely Planet are saying that Asheville is a top city to visit in 2018.
The streets of Asheville are center stage for musicians of all kinds. Buskers fill the air with whatever kind of music exists out there. This brings a beautiful vibe to the street life and you can take in free entertainment anytime, including cold winter days. Along the banks of the French Broad River is one of the most creative places in the U.S.
The public is welcome to the River Arts District, where there are more than 200 artists that work in studios within a historic textile mill. You can take classes or watch artists creating beautiful pieces. There are breweries and restaurants nearby when you’re ready to chill after an art attack afternoon, too.
8. Northern Brazil
The direct flights from São Paulo to Jericoacoara are making Northern Brazil more accessible. Once a hard-to-reach part of the country, it’s now easier to get around. Still, there is a quaintness to this little fishing village on the northern coast. But it was recently only accessible by hearty vehicles like 4X4s, motorbikes and dune buggies.
So about 20 years ago, they introduced a road network and electricity into the area. Chili Beach is the best hotel to stay at currently. It’s a chilled-out boutique resort at the edge of the village. Some have called it quirky, but the service is professional. Thanks to changes in the Brazilian visa policies, American can apply online for electronic visas, too.
Jericoacoara is the kind of place where you can totally unwind. There is nothing to do but enjoy the beautiful beaches, eat lots of delicious food and drink up caipirinhas. If you need to relax, Jeri is the place to lose yourself in the splendor of tropical bliss. This sleepy fishing village tends to attract the wandering dreamer.
There is also kite and windsurfing thanks to strong gusty winds out on the sea. It is still not overrun by tourists and relatively unknown, so get there before the word gets out.
9. Aysén, Chile
If you’re into adventure in an untouched area, get to Aysén this year. Dubbed as Northern Patagonia’s final frontier, it’s remote so there aren’t many people living there. In fact, there are probably more glaciers than people. You can take in snow-capped peaks and fjords. You will feel like the only person on earth because it’s easy to get away from everything.
The landscape is breathtaking, so you’ll feel like you’re having an out-of-body-enlightened experience. Aysén is for adventure lovers because it has its challenges. The weather can be temperamental, but for those looking for a truly special experience with nature, it’s totally worth it. Perhaps it’s the fact that it’s hard to travel that keeps people away.
You will be rewarded with plenty of opportunities to be in solitude. It is the least populated area of Chile. You can also bike through it or road trip in a car. The road is mostly unpaved and offers plenty of curves revealing changing vistas along the way. So let reality go for a while and come discover this beautiful, secret nook of Chile.
10. Faroe Islands
The Faroe Islands are a part of the Kingdom of Denmark, but it holds its own identity. If you’re a lover of culture, this is a great place to visit. There are not a lot of tourists visiting yet. There are a total of 18 islands that sit in between the Norwegian Fjords, the Scottish Highlands and Iceland. You will feel a sense of calm and freedom here as there are only about 50,000 people inhabiting the island.
There are incredible restaurants for foodies. There is even a Michelin star restaurant. The seafood options here are world renowned. The landscape will blow your mind with mountains and stunning cliffs. You could just drive the road nestled between green hills all day.
There are rivers that run by the road, quaint houses with grass roofs, and rough oceans below drop off cliffs. You can live it up in style here and stay in luxury accommodations. They offer some incredible fishing trips, as well as hiking, biking, horseback riding, diving and bird watching.
It’s also getting easier to get there all the time. You can sail in from Denmark, or catch a flight from Iceland, Scotland, Denmark or Norway. Eventually, there will be tourists here. The infrastructure is in place for a perfect holiday for anyone.
Everyone knows that Milan is a city they built on fashion, so why isn’t everyone checking it out? Savvy travelers are starting to enjoy all Milan has to offer instead of considering it a stopover destination. It is the most modern metro city in Italy. They have fashion museums to honor their most celebrated designers like Prada and Armani.
There are plenty of lavish hotels and incredible Italian food. Some believe the best architecture in all of Europe exists in Milan. The nightlife is something to be a part of, too. Sitting outside on a warm night drinking wine is what you’d expect from Italy, and Milan does not disappoint.
While people are catching on to how great Milan is, it’s still not overboard like most areas of Italy. With their robust culture, walks along the canal, and a visit to the Last Supper, this secret must-visit travel spot won’t be secret for long.
Malawi is the place to discover national parks with lots of wildlife. A safari here is far from the usual crowds. Malawi is where you can visit the beach, and not just any beach, either. It’s a pristine area with white-sandy beaches as far as the eye can see. The crystal clear waters are perfect for snorkeling, too.
If you’re passionate about elephants, Malawi is also a must-visit because of the 500 Elephants Project. They completed the project in 2017. It is the biggest elephant translocation to ever happen in history. If you visit the Nkhotakota Reserve, you’ll see a herd of 500 elephants together.
The people are kind and welcoming. You’ll be met with warmth and people will want to help you every step of your stay there. There is a lot of culturally rich things of interest, too. Lake Malawi is the country’s proudest asset. There are golden sandy beaches that surround this inland freshwater lake.
You can do watersports if you’re into something more adventurous than sun tanning and swimming. There are many different landscapes including high mountains, seasides, plateaus, highlands, forests, river valleys and plains. When you land in Malawi, it’s like visiting a few different countries in one. In 2018, they are holding the Lake of Stars music festival.
13. Central Tibet
Most people dream about going to Tibet. There are incredible tours to experience all the beauty Central Tibet offers. You can visit the three largest old cities, which are Lhasa, Gyantse and Shigatse to see what Tibet stands for in culture and religion. The landscape along the way is magical, so you’ll enjoy the journey, too.
There are palaces and street markets that sandwich sacred temples. There is the Holy Yamdrok Lake and Karo glacier that are some of the must-see natural beauties. Also, be sure to see the Tashilumpo Monastery. It holds the largest copper Buddha statue in the world. In the city of Gyantse, there is Tibet’s largest stupa, which is a free-standing tower used in certain religions.
Inside, there are 100,000 Buddhist statues. The Potala Palace is the winter palace of the Dalai Lama. It’s been around since the 7th century where the 33rd king of Tibet used it as his dwelling. There are valuable collections there in the burial stupas of previous Dalai Lamas. You can visit the many monasteries that hold interesting histories.
The drive over Gampala pass is mesmerizing with the lake surrounded by high snow-capped mountains. There is also stunning views of Holy Mount Nyenchen Khangsar. You’ll see a roadside glacier and you’ll have the opportunity to hang a prayer flag at Simila Mountain Pass.
Gyantse will showcase more amazing monasteries and you can see the Gyanstse Fortress off in the distance. There is nowhere else like Tibet in terms of the overall feeling in the air. You will get a sense of the history and the deeply religious beliefs, all with one of the most stunning backdrops in the world.
Egypt is well-known to many, but as political unrest occurred recently, it’s taking tourists some time to get back there. Tourism has been increasing again over the past year, but currently the famed sites of Egypt are quiet. This allows you to get close to things in a way that hasn’t been possible for decades. You can horseback ride to the Great Sphinx of Giza. Egyptologists will take you on an intimate tour of the pyramids.
Everyone looks to go to Egypt for the incredible history. If you’re interested in Egypt itself, there are always new treasures being uncovered here. In 2017, archeologists found two artifacts that are of important historical significance – an ancient pyramid and a pharaoh’s head. It could be time to go to Egypt before all the tourists return.
15. Central Anatolia
Most people consider Turkey to be a place where they can hang out by the Mediterranean Ocean. One of the greatest treasures in the central Anatolia area of Turkey is Cappadocia. It is like a fairy tale to see in person. The naturally formed, jagged rocks, hills valleys and chimney formations are truly mind blowing. The “fairy chimneys” are tall, cone shaped formations.
You can see them from the ground or you can take a hot air balloon over the site. There are hundreds of hot air balloons taking off at sunrise. In fact, Cappadocia is the hottest place in the world for hot air balloon riding.
It is more traditionally Turkish here in terms of food, which makes for a culinary delight. The landscape is tranquil and it’s relaxed here. You will see people lounging around at outdoor terraces. There are Turkish baths here where you can take in the historical culture.
As travelers, we often don’t know how a place is going to feel in our hearts. The people you meet along the way and the adventures you take are what define a place. Many of the destinations or tours fall short in inspiring the heart. Yet, a simple afternoon of sitting in the park and chatting with a stranger can invoke something far more beautiful.
Did you find your next destination on this list of the 15 coolest places to go in 2018? If so, you’d better hurry up and book your ticket because the crowds will come.