1. ChileLonely Planet writer Mark Johanson explores the extraordinary landscapes of Chile.
Chile is a sinewy sliver of a nation, isolated from the rest of South America (and indeed the world) by the soaring Andes to the east, the vast Pacific Ocean to the west, the bone-dry Atacama Desert up north and the impenetrable wilds of Patagonia down south. From its disparate extremes to the ever-trendier capital of Santiago at its heart, the country’s citizens will unite in 2018 to mark 200 years of independence. Thanks to new non-stop flights from both London and Melbourne, it’s never been easier to catch a plane, raise a glass of pisco sour and toast the celebration.
2. South KoreaThe traditional rubs up against the futuristic in South Korea’s capital, Seoul.
South Korea is a compact playground of Asian modernity. High-rises soar in the futuristic capital city, Seoul, which in 2017 received a huge facelift with the opening of its new Seoul-lo 7017, a high-line park with cafes, bars and libraries along a disused elevated highway. South Korea has embraced its hosting of the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, and a new high-speed railway line will whisk travellers across the country to the Games. So don your hats and gloves to cheer on the best and brightest as they swoosh their way to glory. Or wait until it warms up and experience mountainous delights followed by steamy urban nightlife.
3. PortugalSintra’s hilltop Castle of the Moors was constructed in the 8th and 9th centuries.
Portugal has emerged from the long shadow cast by neighbouring Spain, seizing the spotlight as a dynamic centre for art, culture and cuisine. A spate of artfully designed museums have opened in the past two years, there’s now a celebrated microbrewery scene, and rock-star Portuguese chefs are creating culinary buzz from Lisbon to the glittering beaches of the Algarve (seven new restaurants received Michelin stars in 2017). Heightening Portugal’s appeal are its incredible affordability and its natural wonders: in 2016, more than 300 beaches earned the coveted Blue Flag rating and two new biosphere reserves were named. It’s no surprise everyone is talking about this small, seafaring nation.
4. DjiboutiCamel farmers haul palm tree leaves past Lake Assal, the lowest point on the African continent.
Positioned for dramatic effect, the petite nation of Djibouti is in the process of being ripped in three by diverging tectonic plates. Magma seethes beneath ever-thinning crust; Martian-like deserts spew steam from fumaroles; and sunken lake shores glisten with huge salt crystals. In geological terms, this is a sprint finish. But in human terms, this is spectacularly slow motion – a reason to make travel plans, not cancel them! Add intoxicating culture, beckoning beaches and incredible whale shark diving, and you have even more reasons to hop on a plane, or ride the brand new train, to witness Mother Nature at her brutal best in 2018.
5. New ZealandThe eighth wonder of the world? Rudyard Kipling thought so: Milford Sound, on the west coast of New Zealand’s South Island.
Twenty-five years ago, long before it was retrofitted to resemble Middle-earth, New Zealand began actively attracting adventure-seekers. A sweet suite of trails, the Great Walks, encouraged exploration of the country’s exquisite topography, taking tramping travellers through some of the world’s most extraordinary wilderness. Now, for the first time since the nine-track network was launched, a new Great Walk is under construction. The Paparoa Track and Pike29 Memorial Track, which commemorates the 29 miners killed in 2010, will form a magnificent multi-day trail through the South Island’s wild and wonderful west coast. Hikers can get a taster of the walk’s dramatic scenery on four existing trails.