Best New Places to Vacation in 2019


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Sardinia, Italy
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Each year brings a new crop of up-and-coming destinations around the globe, places that are suddenly getting their 15 minutes of fame or are returning to the spotlight after a long hiatus for one reason or another. For 2019, the focus among globetrotters appears to be turning toward destinations that allow for more authentic travel experiences and an escape from the overcrowding plaguing many of the planet's top haunts. Here are 20 places to put on your radar for 2019.

The Lost Coast, California
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A remote stretch of northern California beyond the end of State Highway 1, this mostly undeveloped and natural region was given its name after going through significant depopulation in the 1930s. Today, the Lost Coast is home to the nearly 25-mile Lost Coast Trail, which is on the bucket list of many avid hikers. In fact, with no major roads to access this region, the Lost Coast is mostly explored by foot or bike.
Black Sands Beach, The Lost Coast, California
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Black Sands Beach is a picturesque and unusual sight. The northern end of the beach offers great beachcombing while the southern end is home to Little Black Sands Beach. About 45 miles south of Eureka, the entire area is protected by the Bureau of Land Management and is part of the King Range National Conservation Area.
Tomonoura, Seto Inland Sea, Japan
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The location of the upcoming Setouchi Triennale art festival in April, Japan's stunning Setouchi Region includes the Seto Inland Sea and some 3,000 islands, many of which barely see visitors. During the festival, several of the islands will feature art exhibits.
Benesse Art Site Naoshima, Setouchi Region
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Naoshima Island or "Art Island" has been described as one of the most remarkable art and architecture destinations in the world. The island is dotted by structures designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Tadao Ando. Don't miss the Benesse Art Site Naoshima, which showcases artwork, as does the island's Chichu Art Museum.
The Falkland Islands
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A remote southern archipelago, the Falkland Islands are small and the sparsely populated neighbors of Antarctica. Darshika Jones, Intrepid Travel's regional director for North America, said the islands are gaining favor with travelers who are drawn to their remote lands teeming with wildlife that's more accessible than Antarctica. There's also some effort taking place behind the scenes among several countries to establish a new weekly scheduled air service to and from the Falkland Islands. With new flights on the horizon, Jones said the destination will likely be easier than ever to get to in 2019.
Rockhopper Penguin Colony, The Falkland Islands
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At Volunteer Point, travelers will have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to spot penguin colonies, including king (Aptenodytes patagonicus), gentoo (Pygoscelis papua papua), and magellanic (Spheniscus magellanicus) penguins. Explore the area on foot, snapping photos of some of nature's most enchanting birds.
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A relatively unknown, landlocked Eastern European country, Belarus is another destination that's about to become easier to travel to (depending on where you live), said Jones of Intrepid Travel. The Belarus government signed bilateral agreements with 74 countries in December, which means travelers are able to visit visa free, without a need for an invitation letter. Why visit? The Eastern European country features Stalinist architecture and primeval forests, among other highlights.
Belovezhskaya Pushcha National Park, Belarus
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A national park adjacent to the Polish border, Belovezhskaya Pushcha National Park is a preserved part of the UNESCO Bialowieza Forest, which is the last primeval forest fragment of Europe's woodlands. Wildlife in the forest is abundant too, Jones said. More than 55 species live in the park including European bison.
Hong Kong's Southern District
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One of Hong Kong's 18 districts, the Wong Chuk Hang neighborhood was originally a fishing village. In 2016, the area underwent something of a rebirth and is now known as Hong Kong's creative epicenter. The suddenly hip and trendy neighborhood offers views of the South China Sea and is a great way for visitors to experience another side of Hong Kong.
Komune, Hong Kong's Southern District
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One of the best ways to take in the views in this neighborhood is via a comfortable perch at Komune, a rooftop bar that is a day-to-night venue. The terrace offers sweeping views that encompass Repulse Bay (one of the most expensive residential areas of Hong Kong) and the South China Sea.
La Serena, Chile
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Located in northern Chile, La Serena dates back to 1544 and is the second-oldest city in the country behind Santiago. It also happens to be on the path for a total solar eclipse on July 2, 2019, according to Jones. Revel in the beauty that the city has to offer while witnessing one of the most amazing natural occurrences in our world. With low-cost flights from Santiago, Intrepid experts say this destination is not one to miss in 2019.
The Paranal Observatory, La Serena, Chile
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With the total solar eclipse coming to La Serena in 2019, make sure to check out The Paranal Observatory, an astronomical observatory located in the Atacama Desert. By total light-collecting area, it is the largest optical-infrared observatory in the Southern Hemisphere.
aurora borealis over Finnish Lapland
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Lapland is Finland's northernmost region, the perfect winter destination for travelers to check out the Northern Lights away from the crowds. The area is a yet-to-be discovered winter wonderland, said Jones of Intrepid Travel. Home of the indigenous Sami people, Lapland is a place full of pristine peaks and snow-dusted woodlands.
Kolari, Ylläs, Finnish Lapland
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A more than 2,300-foot mountain in the municipality of Kolari, Ylläs (Yllästunturi in Finnish) boasts some of the longest downhill skiing runs and visitors can also immerse themselves in the indigenous Saami culture. It is also home to a reindeer farm that's been operating since 1861, and travelers can visit with the family that runs the farm and learn about their daily routine.
Lake Ohrid, Macedonia
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While Greece's ancient history and fabled islands often steal the lion's share of the travel world's attention, 2019 may be time for its neighbor to the north, Macedonia, to shine, says Lindsay Bradley, co-founder of The Vacation Project. Specifically, Bradley is referring to the Lake Ohrid region of Macedonia. The lake, which straddles the mountainous region between southwest Macedonia and eastern Albania, is known for its pristine waters, beautiful vistas lined by monasteries, and also its nightlife. One of Europe's deepest and oldest lakes, think of it as the Lake Como of the Balkan Peninsula.
Ohrid, Macedonia
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While Lake Ohrid is surrounded by many charming small towns, do yourself a favor and spend some time exploring the small resort city of Ohrid. The atmosphere of its old quarter is unforgettable. It's a community made up of medieval churches, monasteries and open-air ruins, all of which mixed with the town's traditional houses with red-tiled roofs.
Boracay, Philippines
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An often-overlooked island destination in Southeast Asia, Boracay is increasing in popularity, according to Bradley of The Vacation Project. Its charms include "one of the best white sand beaches in the world, terrific bars, possibly the best nightlife in the region, and of course, great places to stay," Bradley said.
White Beach, Boracay, Philippines
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White Beach, along Boracay's west coast, is one of the top attractions here. Renowned for its stunning natural scenery, the beach is also popular for swimming and snorkeling in its shallow waters.
Bosnia and Herzegovina
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A nearly landlocked country (except for a 2-mile stretch of coast line), Bosnia and Herzegovina is a Balkan Peninsula country dominated by medieval villages, rivers, lakes and the Dinaric Alps. "It's one of those places that you can't believe isn't overrun with tourist once you visit," said Bradley of The Vacation Project. Up until now, its uber-popular neighbor, Croatia, has been attracting all the crowds.
Gazi Husrev-bey Mosque, Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina
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The country's capital of Sarajevo is home to a very well-preserved old quarter that includes such landmarks as the Gazi Husrev-bey mosque, which dates back to the 16th century. Its Latin Bridge, meanwhile, is the location of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, an act that ignited World War I.
Cape Verde, Africa
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As a small collection islands on a volcanic archipelago off the coast of northwest coast of Africa, it can be easy to overlook Cape Verde. But once you set foot on islands like Sal or Sao Vicente, you will never overlook this country again, said Bradley of The Vacation Project. "Volcanoes give islands like Sao Vicente an otherworldly landscape," Bradley said. "Fresh caught seafood at local restaurants also exhibits out of this world qualities." Come here to meet some of the nicest people in the world, and while you're here, enjoy hiking, walking, and swimming in settings like you've never seen.
Cidade Velha, Cape Verde, Africa
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On the island of Santiago, don't miss Cidade Velha and its fortress Forte Real de São Felipe, which offer a step back in time. Cidade Velha dates back to 1462 and is the oldest settlement in Cape Verde. Forte Real de São Felipe, meanwhile, is a 16th century structure situated on a plateau above the town center. In 2009, it was made a UNESCO World Heritage site.
coastline, El Salvador
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From Costa Del Sol to El Tunco beach, this tiny nation's coast is completely overlooked compared to its other more famous Central American neighbors, said Bradley of The Vacation Project. "The Pacific coast is a paradise for surfers and beach loungers alike," she said. "Shrimp pupusas on the beach are a must from the restaurants that dot the Costa Del Sol beach."
El Tunco, El Salvador
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Travel about 37 kilometers from San Salvador to El Tunco for world-class surfing that hasn't been discovered by the masses yet. The area has become a big draw for those in search of fun, sun, sea, and live music, which ranges from reggae to salsa and rock concerts. And while you're there, enjoy $1 beers at the area's laid-back bars and watch the sunset.
Kuelap, Peru
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The crown jewel for travel to Peru has always been the Inca enclaves of Cusco and Machu Picchu. The vast majority of inbound leisure travelers find their way to these popular locations, said Brian Bultema of Dargui Tours & Destination Management. But some lesser-known Peruvian destinations have recently been receiving their due attention, among them Kuelap. A walled settlement in the mountains of Peru, Kuelap was built in the 6th century. Since a cable car to the settlement was opened in March 2017, visitation has doubled each year, but there are still only about 120,000 annual visitors, Bultema said.
ruins of Kuelap, Peru
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In this case, Kuelap is its own must-see attraction. Built 600 to 900 years before Machu Picchu. There are more than 550 structures on the site and its walls, 10 to 20 meters high, are made with finely worked limestone blocks. But while you're in the area, you may also want to consider taking in the Gocta Cataracts, a picturesque, perennial waterfall, Bultema said.
town in Bavaria, Germany
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Germany's famed city of Berlin has been a hotspot for years now. But Greg Geronemus, co-CEO of smarTours, expects Bavaria to steal the show in 2019. "Travelers are starting to notice more of what Germany has to offer and in particular Bavaria," Geronemus said. What does Bavaria offer exactly? An opportunity to escape the never-ending chaotic news cycle and travel back to medieval times, the region's history stretches back to its earliest settlement in the 6th century.
Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Bavaria, Germany
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One of Geronemus' favorite Bavarian towns is the former imperial town of Rothenburg ob der Tauber, where highlights include narrow towers, twisting alleyways, and ornate oriel windows. Visitors will also find timber-framed houses beautifully decorated with hanging baskets as well as colorful gardens. And don't miss the exploring the town's numerous historic churches.
Islamic architecture in Samarkand, Uzbekistan
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Visitor numbers to Uzbekistan are up 40 percent in 2018 compared with the previous year, and the trend is expected to continue in 2019, said Jonny Bealby, founder of Wild Frontiers. There are several reasons for the increased tourist attention. "A number of passengers are traveling to see stunning Islamic architecture in Uzbekistan rather than the less stable Middle East. Uzbekistan's Silk Road cities of Samarkand, Khiva, and Bukhara are littered with turquoise domes, intricately carved mosques, madrassas, and forts," Bealby said. "Secondly, there's a resurgence in interest in the Silk Road." Add to these factors a dramatically easier, new e-visa program for the country, (which reduces the cost to visit) and the recently increased airlift from Uzbekistan Airways, and you begin to understand why Uzbekistan may be 2019's Croatia.
Bukhara, Uzbekistan
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Uzbekistan is the quintessential Silk Road country, lying at the center point of the main route. Don't miss exploring oasis towns such as Khiva, Bukhara, and Samarkand, which, thanks to the Silk Road, grew into cities of unparalleled grandeur, Bealby said.
Georgia & The Caucasus
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Georgia (the country not the state) is having a moment, which is being triggered by increasing awareness of its fantastic cuisine, said Bealby of Wild Frontiers. The travel company saw passenger numbers double in 2018 compared to 2017 and expects similar gains in the year ahead. The country is also famously the birthplace of wine. "Georgia has lots to offer the cultural and adventure tourist, from the beautiful Caucasus mountain range to ancient churches, monasteries and mountaintop fortresses," Bealby said. "Beyond its epic mountain scenery, it has a fascinating history with the capital Tbilisi having been sacked 27 times; Arabs, Russians, Persians, Turks, Crusader knights, and Silk Road traders have all left their mark." And don't miss sampling some of the country's famed cuisine including cheesy breads, barbequed meats, walnuts, salads, and olives.
Stalin Museum, Georgia & The Caucasus
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The Stalin Museum, located in the Soviet despot's birthplace of Gori, is one of the world's most surreal tourist attractions, Bealby said. Spend some time exploring the museum, which was officially dedicated to Stalin in 1957 and still retains many Soviet-era characteristics.
Southern Cambodia
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For those seeking to escape the crowds of iconic Angkor Wat, southern Cambodia offers a host of new luxurious properties (such as Jaya House River Park), many of which opened at the end of 2018, others scheduled to open early 2019, said Wild Frontiers' U.S. director Andrea Ross. "There's something very special about getting away from the main tourist sites in Cambodia and getting to see this country away from the crowds," Ross said. "It used to be that Cambodia was a three-day add-on to a trip to Vietnam or Thailand, but with these new properties and just overall infrastructure improvements in the country, we're seeing Cambodia taking off as a single-destination vacation."
Kampot, Cambodia
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Kampot, a city on southern Cambodia's Preaek Tuek Chhu River, has become a hotspot to get away from the crowds and enjoy some adventures. Known for its pepper plantations and salt fields, the city is also home to many buildings that were constructed during the colonial period. This past year, the city hosted its first kite surfing festival, Ross said. Paddle boarding and hiking are also on the activity list here.
French Guiana
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The epic novel "Papillon" is considered to be a modern-day classic, telling the tale of a prisoner incarcerated in the French penal colony of Devil's Island, in French Guiana. And as it turns out, 2019 will be the 50th anniversary of the book's release, which just may help put this intriguing destination on the map, said Bealby of Wild Frontiers. "French Guiana, along with its neighbors Guyana and Suriname, receive the fewest number of overseas visitors in the continent," he said. "Yet intrepid travelers are rewarded with pristine rainforests and high chances of jaguar sightings."
Kaieteur Falls, French Guiana
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Located in Kaieteur National Park, Kaieteur Falls are the world's largest single drop waterfall by volume of water flowing over it. The 741-foot-high falls are in the Amazon rainforest. The combination of height and water volume is said to make Kaieteur one of the most powerful waterfalls in the world. As a comparison, Kaieteur is about four times higher than Niagara Falls.
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Recent years have seen Croatia and Albania become hotspots, but now it may now be Bulgaria's turn to take the Balkans' spotlight. "Over the years Bulgaria has been influenced by the Roman, Greek and Ottoman empires, and it has a host of ancient ruins to prove it," Bealby of Wild Frontiers said. "It also has a scenery of mountains, lakes, and a long Black Sea coastline."
Roman Theater, Plovdiv, Bulgaria
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The ancient city of Plovdiv will be the European capital of culture in 2019, introducing a host of overseas visitors to its delights. Plovdiv is one of the oldest cities in Europe and has a Roman theater, amazing food and wine, and excellent bars and restaurants.
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Most people can't spell it or point it out on a map, but Kyrgyzstan is one of Wild Frontiers' fastest growing destinations. "For many people today, travel is about getting as far away from the modern world as possible and enjoying nature. Kyrgyzstan offers the stunning natural beauty of Son Kul Lake and the Mountains of Heaven, combined with a nomadic way of life based around staying in yurts, horse games and clear mountain air," Bealby said. Forget Wi-Fi, this is a place to truly get off the grid and enjoy nature, making it a great destination to unplug from work emails and social media.
Mountains of Heaven, Kyrgyzstan
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Described as one of the most beautiful countries on earth, if you make it to Kyrgyzstan don't miss taking in the Mountains of Heaven (Tian Shan), which stretch grandly across the country's length and breadth. The lush mountains are dissected by sweeping steppe lands, primal forests and turquoise lakes. They're also home to glaciers, deserts, and alpine meadows.
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Not as well-known as neighboring Croatia, Montenegro offers spectacular natural beauty, affordable prices, and is known for its hospitality, said Mero Geesey, owner of travel tour company Carpe Mundo. As evidence of the destination's rising status, Geesey points to the recent arrival of resorts such as Chedi Lustica Bay and One & Only Portonovi. "Montenegro is definitely an up and coming destination with these two high profile resorts opening," Geesey said. "These are very high-end properties, which shows Montenegro is on the rise."
Our Lady of the Rocks, Montenegro
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Don't miss Our Lady of the Rocks, a church built on an artificial island created specifically for the church in the 15th century, Geesey said. "You can visit by boat or kayak from the nearby town of Perast," Geesey said.
Lagoon Coast, Mozambique
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Thanks to the recent opening of the Maputo-Catembe Bridge (the largest suspension bridge in Africa), it has suddenly become easier to access the rare, untouched and stunning stretches of coastal wilderness in southern Mozambique. The Lagoon Coast is a wildlife haven and home to turtles, sharks, dolphins, and hundreds of bird species.
Maputo Special Reserve, Lagoon Coast, Mozambique
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Created in 1960 in an effort to save elephants that had been so badly impacted by poachers, Maputo Special Reserve (formerly known as the Maputo Elephant Reserve) includes a variety of open plains, freshwater lakes and dune forests. The variety of ecosystems in the reserve provide habitats for birds ranging from albatrosses to eagles and terns.
Uluru in Northern Territory, Australia
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While most Americans are very familiar with Sydney and Melbourne, far fewer have heard of Australia's Northern Territory, a vast and relatively undiscovered region down under. Also known as NT, the Northern Territory offers an authentic Australian adventure and experiences that are unavailable anywhere else in the world. The region is made up of desert landscapes, and in the Red Centre, the iconic sandstone monolith Uluru or Ayers Rock.
Arnhem Land, Australia's Northern Territory
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From the domed rock formations of Kata Tjuta to the cliffs of Kings Canyon in Watarrka National Park, there are many "must-see" attractions here. But perhaps one of the most unforgettable is Arnhem Land, one of Australia's (and the world's) last true frontiers, said Mandi Hefflinger of Tourism NT. "It has remained the property of the Aboriginal peoples who have resided there for millennia, and requires a special permit for visitors to enter," Hefflinger said. "Arnhem Land is home to incredible scenery, rugged coastlines, remote islands, rivers teeming with fish, rainforests, and one of the most authentic cultures in all of Australia."
Sardinia, Italy
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Sardinia is another destination that's suddenly trending, said Loren Siekman, founder of Pure Adventure Tours, who says there has been a big increase in demand for visiting the Italian island in the Mediterranean Sea. With over 1,000 miles of coastline, sandy beaches, and rugged landscape that includes Bronze Age stone ruins, the island offers a fascinating getaway.
Carloforte, Sardinia, Italy
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The tiny town of Carloforte on the islet of San Pietro is one of Siekman's top recommendations for those who make it to Sardinia. "It's an out of the way place that's rich in tradition surrounding its tuna fishing and wine production," Siekman said. participates in affiliate marketing programs, which means we may earn a commission if you choose to purchase a product through a link on our site. This helps support our work and does not influence editorial content.