There are few places on the planet that could be considered new travel destinations, but there are plenty that for one reason or another have remained under the radar or only recently come into their own. Perhaps there are new cultural offerings, or a recent round of investment or improvements, or an emerging culinary scene. With the new year upon us, here are some of the places around the globe being buzzed about within the travel industry and landing on 2018 travel bucket lists.
A country dominated by vast wilderness, Tanzania is most famous for being home to Serengeti National Park (where visitors can see the big five: elephants, rhinos, lions, leopard, and buffalo). The less-explored south has Ruaha National Park -- the country's biggest but also its least visited -- and Selous, an immense game reserve largely undisturbed by human encroachment.
A once corrupt city has morphed into an artistic and lively destination, according to Eric Bravo, creator of the travel site Let's Go Bravo. Attractions include colorful houses reminiscent of Italy's Cinque Terre, a network of alleyways, and age-old cobblestone streets that have remained intact because the city made it illegal to remove them. There's also long sets of stairs leading to surrounding mountainsides, a historic city center with small plazas, and colonial-era mansions. One last stop worth noting: the local mummy museum, with naturally mummified bodies found between the mid-19th and 20th centuries.
Sure, plenty of people have visited Australia. But few have made it to rugged and remote Tasmania, which has not only picturesque wilderness but a vibrant arts scene, trendy food offerings, and impressive local wines. A variety of hotels have recently opened in the region, among them Macq 01 Hotel (along Hobart's waterfront) and Truffle Lodge (perched on the banks of the Derwent River, with views of the mountains).
Just north of iconic Santa Barbara in the heart of the Santa Ynez Valley wine country, Buellton is a hidden gem for travelers seeking to spend slightly less money but still experience all California has to offer. Just 10 miles from the Pacific Ocean along historic Highway 101, Buellton offers visitors a rich culinary scene, wine tastings, art galleries, live theater, and even an ostrich farm where guests are invited to feed the giant birds.
More and more tour operators are putting Chad on their list of offerings for 2018. The country, largely unexplored by tourists, has much to offer. GeoEx, bringing clients to Chad for the first time this year, highlights Zakouma National Park, boasting one of the world's most diverse grassland ecosystems and a massive herd of rehabilitated elephants.
This destination in southeastern Arizona, about an hour and a half from Tucson, is known as the "Land of Legends" for its ties to the Old West, and offers ranches and hiking trails once used by cowboys and conquistadors. But it also has art galleries, locally made craft beer, and award-winning wines. The historic former mining town of Bisbee, one of six major communities in the county, was recognized by Frommer's as one of the best places to go in 2018 since becoming an offbeat artist's hamlet.
Enchanting and relatively unaffected by tourism, the breathtaking Setouchi region includes the Seto Inland Sea and the coastal areas of Honshu, Shikoku, and Kyushu -- three of the four main islands of Japan. A scenic four-hour train ride southwest from Tokyo is part of the experience, followed by boat rides on the inland sea, tours of historic towns and exquisite Japanese gardens and the pleasures of museums, hot springs, and fresh seafood.
The "Paris of the Prairies" in Saskatchewan has long had a sophisticated arts scene. But it's the recent opening of the stunning Remai Modern, a 130,000-square-foot museum dedicated to contemporary art, that has attracted increased attention. The museum houses 8,000 works, including more than 400 Picasso linocuts. National Geographic has described Saskatoon as a place of culture, vitality, and welcoming spirit with streets alive with new restaurants, breweries and bars, and included it in its list of "Canada's 50 Places of a Lifetime."
Known for its varied and unusual scenery, ranging from the Salar de Uyuni salt flats to the Andes mountains and Atacama desert, Bolivia also offers cultural hubs such as La Paz, which has grown to be a foodie hotspot. This fascinating country is the highest and most isolated in South America and has the largest proportion of indigenous people -- they make up about two-thirds of the population.
Another destination that remains relatively unknown, Kyrgyzstan's popularity is soaring as host of the World Nomad Games. Held biennially, the games showcase traditional central Asian sports including eagle hunting, horse racing, and kok-boru, a variation of polo. Kyrgyzstan is a ruggedly beautiful country along what was once the Silk Road trading route. Its Tian Shan mountains are home to snow leopards, lynx, and more.
Tiny Mauritius in the Indian Ocean offers a unique mix of cultures, including an English system of government and a population that's a blend of African, French, Chinese and Indian, which materializes in cuisine as well as local traditions. The island has the distinction of once being home to the dodo bird -- a stuffed specimen of the extinct bird can be seen at the Mauritius Institute in Port Louis. Need more reasons to visit? This year is the island's 50th anniversary of independence, which means there will be many special events.
Often overlooked in favor of nearby Kerala, Tamil Nadu is famed for its many temples, some of which date back centuries. The city's skyline is dominated by the Meenakshi Amman Temple's 14 colorful gopurams, or gateway towers, covered in vibrant carvings depicting Hindu gods, and the southern city of Madurai has the distinction of being the oldest continually inhabited municipality on the subcontinent.