AWOL’s many excellent contributors are a well-travelled bunch.
And while we’ve all been devouring their tales and savouring their sage advice all year, we asked them to peak into their proverbial crystal balls and predict where we’ll all be jetting off to in 2018.
Portland, Oregon, USA
With San Francisco to the south and Seattle to the north, easily-accessible Portland is a sweet spot for a low-key break away from the crowds. Make 2018 the year you resist the magnetic pull of places like New York and Los Angeles, to spread your wings and see one of the USA’s most kickass cities for pop culture connoisseurs.
Go down the rabbit hole at Powell’s City of Books (the largest independent book store in the world), have your mind blown during the trippy Pink Floyd laser show at the OMSI planetarium, and rekindle your love of ’90s video games at Ground Kontrol bar.
Next-level coffee, craft beer, wine, dude food, vintage shopping and live music experiences are par for the course in Portland. Just go.”
“You know that dreamy, white sand and turquoise water beach on the Windows 98 desktop background? There is a 99 per cent chance that it was a Mauritian beach.
Just off the east coast of Madagascar, this incredibly diverse, creole-speaking island is a paradise you must see to believe.
Dancing the sega at sunset on the pristine shores of Trou-aux-Biches is just the start. Take in the sights of the seven-coloured earth and stunning waterfalls in Chamarel, head to Britannia to explore sugar cane country (yes, Mauritius is built on rum!), or seek out the best dhal puri from the street vendors in the capital Port Louis.
For the adventure buffs, Gris Gris in the south is a known kite surfing hotspot. And, if you have the time, you won’t regret taking a short jet boat ride out to the relatively untouched paradise of Ile Aux Cerfs. Don’t forget to bring your togs for a swim in the waterfalls, before some parasailing and fresh pina colada drinking on the sand.”
The Aquitaine Region, France
“Nestled (and seemingly hidden) between the border of northern Spain, Bordeaux in the north, and the Atlantic Coast in the west, for some remarkable reason, the French Aquitaine is frequently overlooked by tourists opting for the glitz and glam hotspots of southern Riviera.
Those in the know, however, prefer to head here: Aquitaine features a coastline of golden sand and surf and delightful provincial French landscapes, all a convenient hop and step to the coastal cities of the Spanish Basque, the spectacular Pyrenees and the Bordeaux wine region.[related_articles]48632[/related_articles]
In short: surf, beach and mountains; cheese, wine and stunning rural scenes. Add gorgeous historic inland cities Pau in the Pyrenees-Atlantiques and convenient proximity to major hub Toulouse.”
Belize, Caribbean Islands
“For a tiny Central American nation, Belize punches well above its weight when it comes to things to see and do. Postcard-perfect turquoise waters are only a short drive from dense jungle rainforests dotted with ancient Mayan cities and fantastic adventure activities – there’s nothing else in the world like the ATM Cave Tour.
“Relaxed Caribbean vibes and super-friendly people make it a breeze to get around, and it’s an English-speaking nation, just to make things really simple.”
Mexico City, Mexico
“A grimy metropolis with a heart of gold, Mexico City is experiencing a renaissance as a travel destination for lovers of art, history, food and culture. The city is bursting with energy and constantly changing; taking in everything from Frida Kahlo’s birthplace to the bohemian streets of Condesa to the lucha libre.
With over 20 million people living in the metropolitan area, there’s no other place in the world quite like it.”
British Columbia, Canada
“If you’re planning a trip to Canada’s west coast next year, prepare to be spoilt by picture-perfect natural beauty. Take the “Sea-to-Sky Highway” (Highway 99) from Vancouver to Pemberton, stretch your legs along the way and soak in the views from various vantage points. Snow-capped mountains and plush green forests abound – the vista is flawless all year round.”
“Fast becoming the ‘new’ Japan, this emerging travel destination has everything you need for an amazing getaway: it’s not too far off Aussie time zones, it has amazing food (hello, fried chicken and hotpots), beautiful wild landscapes, and 5000 years of history.
Hurry up and book, though – the 2018 Winter Olympics is sure to bring some attention.”
“In Seoul, you can feast on fried chicken and beer, spicy stews cooked in hotpots and steaming dumplings straight from the hotplate – plus a little bit of kimchi with everything. Shopping strips are the best place to lose yourself – you can get everything, from scientifically-proved miracle moisturisers, to the latest sneakers, to some amazing technology you haven’t even heard of yet.”
“All eyes will be on South Korea as the Winter Olympics take place in the high-altitude region of PyeongChang this February. Yet, beyond of the ski slopes, South Korea has a wealth of cultural, architectural and natural wonders to discover. Vast Buddhist temples, glittering neon cities, beautiful beaches, a cherry blossom season that gives Japan a run for its money, and a foodie scene that tickles your taste buds in all the right places are just the beginning.”
Palm Springs, California, USA
“You’ll leave Palm Springs with more than just a tan. The self-described ‘Playground of the Stars’ is not just another gimmicky Hollywood play pen – it’s a genuine oasis in the middle of the desert.
AWOL readers will love Palm Springs for its mid-century modern architecture and proximity to LA (which is just 90 minutes drive away).”
“Naples could be considered a controversial choice, since Pompeii, Sorrento and the Amalfi coast are only a stone’s throw away. But, if the opportunity to try the world’s best pizza isn’t enough to allure you (trust me, it should), the opportunity to immerse yourself in a true Italian experience should be. All of the above can be easily explored by day trips, and the money that you save on accomodation can be used towards experiences like visiting the Blue Grotto on Capri island.”
“Where most travellers to the US concern themselves with the states of California and New York (and the national parks that fill the space between the two), Kentucky has stacks to offer the food and drink-motivated Aussie traveller. This is the spiritual home of bourbon, after all. And the good stuff can be found across a slew of micro (and major) distilleries, and in ice creams pizzas, sweets, burgers and more. You name it, they’ll put bourbon in it. Just take a stroll along Lexington’s historic (now rejuvenated) Distillery District for proof (or overproof, if that’s your thing).
Then, of course, there’s the fried chicken. Pull up to almost any local restaurant, grab a plate, and there’s a 95 per cent chance it’ll be the best Kentucky Fried Chicken you’ve ever had.
There’s history here, too: Louisville, once home to The Greatest, is now home to the Muhammad Ali Center. Fill up with a Hot Brown from the legendary Brown Hotel, or swing by Harvest restaurant for a delicious farm-to-fork experience. And don’t forget the horses. A day at the races in either Louisville or Lexington is a time you won’t soon forget — just ask old mate Hunter S. Thompson.”
Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
“With white-sand beaches, palm trees, and lush rainforests, Punta Cana is picture-perfect – but that’s just the beginning. You can spend the morning hurtling through the wilderness on a quad bike, and the afternoon soaring through the sky, whether that’s windsurfing or zip-lining from tree-to-tree.
If you prefer to keep your feet firmly on the ground, explore the local villages, taste-test some strong Dominican coffee, or frolic in the Hoyo Azul (Blue Hole) cenote. For animal lovers, there are monkeys, dolphins and horseback rides on the beach, while sun-seekers can stretch out on the sand and cradle a pina colada.
The best part? All of this is done on the Dominican dime, so treat yourself!”
“In many ways, Sri Lanka boasts a distinctly tropical Southeast Asian feel with its verdant palm fronds, ubiquitous tuktuks and vivid colour palette brightening its streetscapes. But there’s is a pervading tranquillity and spirituality that underlies this predominantly Buddhist country that will spellbind any traveller, whether new or seasoned.
Take the famous train journey through the tea plantations of the soaring hill country and hike Adam’s Peak, surf at one of the sublime coconut-tree-lined beaches, spot leopards on a wildlife safari, and take in the ancient ruins and archaeological sites of the revered Cultural Triangle.
Sri Lanka might well be the perfect option for those who have well and truly done the South-East Asia circuit and are keen for a new challenge.”
“Beyond the novelty of hobby horses and Darude, Finland has a wealth of understated charm. In summer, Helsinki is the perfect base camp for day trips to scenic gems like Porvoo and Nuuksio National Park. When the mercury drops, head north to the snowy gingerbread wilderness and chase the northern lights. Whatever adventure you choose, it’s likely to be wholesome and serene.
The Finns are somewhat melancholic by reputation, but also kind and compelling in conversation. And, if you’re not a sauna person when you arrive, you almost certainly will be by the time you leave.”
“Uganda is for the thrill-seekers. From gorilla tracking through dense jungles, taking on the rapids white-water rafting down the Nile, hoisting your head high to spot lions on safari and catching a glimpse of a blood orange sunset over the Savannah, Uganda will undoubtedly capture your adventurous spirit.”
“Malta is one of the smallest countries in the world and is made up of three islands – Gozo, Comino and Malta – which are nestled into the Mediterranean sea. It’s a little-known destination often overlooked by Australian tourists, but the crystal-clear water, incredible history and the buzzing little capital, Valletta, should put Malta firmly on your 2018 bucket list.”
“The island is renowned for stunning glaciers, monumental waterfalls, and the Blue Lagoon, but there’s so much more to Iceland. Every November a multi-day music extravaganza called Iceland Airwaves consumes the capital Reykjavik. And there are events and parties at every turn — in bars, book stores, hostels, churches; you name it.
Head north to Akureyri and experience the northern lights from your front door or check out Siglufjörður and learn about the herring industry that dominated this small town in early 20th century.”
(Lead image: Deanna Ritchie)