It’s a new year, which means it’s time for fresh new perspectives! What better way to gather perspective than to travel the world? A chance to explore places and cultures, and meet people unlike yourself. At AirTreks, we believe that travel is the pathway to transformation.
What does it take to get started on stepping out and into the world? A spark of curiosity, a willingness to step outside of your comfort zone, and a dose of inspiration. That last part is where we come in! We pinged our travel planning experts to find out which destinations should be on your 2019 travel list. We pulled together a compilation of our favorite places in the world. Not unlike our travel team, the destinations are quite diverse; some mainstream popular stops, some off the beaten path, and other destinations take you outside of where you thought you could go. Enjoy! And let our dreams be inspiration for a 2019 filled with transformative experiences!
A mixture of eastern and western influences, Belgrade is one of the most up and comping cities in all of Europe. Hapsburg and Ottoman architecture sit alongside each other with the storied Danube flowing in between. A nightlife scene to rival any of Western Europe’s, Belgrade can also provide a quiet afternoon in one of the elaborate coffeehouses along Knez Mihailova. Its strategic position has long made Belgrade a center of trade and commerce, and has evolved into one of the financial centers of Eastern Europe.
With cobblestone walkways and ancient ruins covering Lisbon’s trademark seven hills, your camera arm will be busy while here. A foodie’s paradise, Lisbon is also famous for its rowdy and vivacious nightlife scene – check out Bairro Alto of an evening. Snap some photos from the famous miradouros (terrace viewpoints) and enjoy wandering the alleys and walk-able streets. A historic port and trading center, Lisbon is still one of Europe’s wealthiest and most impactful economic influences. Still the country’s chief seaport, the city has grown rapidly recently and is a hub for the media, technology, finance, and manufacturing industries.
Santiago is the capital of Chile and rightfully so. Not only does 40% of the entire country’s population live in Greater Santiago, but the city is the country’s cultural, financial and political center. Surrounded by the snow-capped Andes and the Chilean Coast Range, this picturesque city is full of unique neighborhoods, museums, and parks, as well as a constantly growing startup scene thanks to the incredible Start Up Chile organization. A summer month spent in Santiago is sure to keep you on your feet and on the move as you explore one of the largest South American cities.
Seoul, South Korea
Seoul is both the capital and largest city of the Republic of Korea, also known as South Korea. A truly international city, Seoul has the best of both worlds in not only combining ancient history with modernity, but also life in a big city with nature. From navigating the exceptional public transport system to exploring the local start-up scene to learning the true meaning of Gangnam style and seeing if sheep cafes really do exist, Seoul will both surprise and charm you.
Known locally as Floripa, Florianopolis is a juxtaposition of beautiful beaches, lush forests, and the bustling industrial city across the bay. A favorite spot of surfers world wide, the area offers plenty of activities for those less athletically inclined as well as waterfalls, snorkeling, and laying out with a caipirinha to name a few. Floripa is rated as one of the highest qualities of life among Brazilian cities; the local government successfully balancing a booming economy with the need to preserve natural flora and fauna.
Roma, the city of love, will welcome you with open arms along with permission to eat, drink, and stroll the colorful cobble stoned streets. Whether you decide to explore the ancient Roman Forum, Colosseum, or wander the streets of Trastevere, you’ll be sure to feel the essence of love that this beautiful city exudes. A foodie’s delight, don’t miss out on the best pasta, pizza, and gelato, known to humankind.
Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Situated where the Tonle Sap, Bassac, and Mekong rivers collide, Phnom Penh is the vibrant, bustling city of Cambodia. Many consider it to be one of the friendliest capitals in Asia. The Khmer temples and monuments found here are some of the most stunning examples of Buddhist architecture and art in the world. Once known as the ‘Pearl of Asia’, Phnom Penh’s light was dimmed by the war and revolution. But the city has since risen to take its place among the hip capitals of the region with a world-class café, bar, and foodie scene.
Chiang Mai, Thailand
Perched in the mountainous northern region of Thailand, Chiang Mai is the northern capital of the country and maintains a decidedly laid-back atmosphere compared to the wildness of the southern cities. Plan on visiting plenty of temples, as monasteries and stupas abound in the historic city center. Drive outside of the city to experience the green countryside of northern Thailand, or hike up to one of the many waterfalls or hot springs in the region. Despite it’s calm demeanor, Chiang Mai is positioned to grow into a major player in industries both local and foreign.
Once a well known pirate haven, Rabat is now the charming capital city of Morocco. Visit the UNESCO heritage listed medinas or if you’re not feeling up to sightseeing, simply sit and drink the famous mint tea Moroccans use as an excuse to relax and socialize. Herbs and spices are used abundantly and subtly in the local cuisine, so be sure to sample liberally. Although Rabat is the administrative center of the country, the city also has a strong economic presence in the services sectors; primarily telecom and finance.
Mexico City, Mexico
With an exploding culinary scene, a proliferation of new public spaces, and a booming arts movement, Mexico City is experiencing a bit of a renaissance right now. With a contemporary and cultured edge, the city still retains much of its storied history and colonial architecture. Go check out one of the many murals, or drop by an old-school cantina when you have some free time. One of the most important financial centers in the Americas, Mexico City is the eighth richest metropolitan area in the world.
Medellín’s impressive skyline is the filigree of a sophisticated commercial center with a passionate Latino pulse. Half metropolis and half natural resource, jagged peaks enclose the city at the heart of a dramatic valley. Energy and innovation are the name of the game in Medellín. This city is a hot spot for fine dining, trendy bars and, of course, world-class coffee.
St. Petersburg, Russia
Don’t miss an opportunity to visit Russia’s capital of culture. Venture down canals and amaze at the grand scale of this imperial city. Get lost exploring the endless salons of the Hermitage, the second largest art museum in the world. St Petersburg is all polished up after hosting the World Cup. Now it’s all yours to explore without the crowds. You can even visit for 3 days without a visa by taking an affordable round trip cruise from Helsinki.
An interesting blend of east and west, enjoy the Chinese and French influences while you explore the capital city of Vietnam. Relatively unscarred despite decades of war and seclusion, Hanoi is currently enjoying a booming economy and robust development surge. Find your way past the honking scooters and trinket vendors to the old city where you can enjoy a noodle snack and bargain with some vendor on local handmade wares. One of the fastest growing cities in the world, Hanoi’s main industries include real estate, manufacturing, and banking.
Nestled in the northern reaches of the Andes, Bogota is the energetic and chic capital city of Colombia. Much of the city’s colonial past lives on in the architecture of its churches, museums, hotels, and cobblestone streets. Rich with bars and restaurants, foodies will find themselves with a multitude of options to choose from before heading out for drinks and dancing. A country rocketing out of poverty, the local economy has grown and diversified greatly in recent decades.
Perhaps not the first destination that jumps to mind, but Inverness is the the starting point for the North Coast 500 – experience Scotlands stunning northern coastline over 500 miles by car, bike or even foot! Imposing castles, dramatic mountains, sweeping bays. You’ll need a scarf to keep you warm, and maybe the odd Scotch whisky snifter, but it’s one of the best ways to explore what makes this wild and historic country so special.
Spain’s 3rd city, often overlooked after Madrid and Barcelona, has a lot going for it both to visit and live. Beautiful architecture, a compact city centre great for walking, a thriving digital nomad community drawn by perfect weather year round. But be there in March, and you can be part of Las Fallas – a 5 day festival of clearing out the old and rebirth for the new season – by setting on fire giant paper statues, lots of fire and pyrotechnics so loud they come with a health warning. Like nothing else.
Penang, Langkawi, and the Andaman Islands
Island-hop your way north from ‘The Pearl of the Orient’ of Penang in Malaysia, through gorgeous, nature-filled Langkawi then take a speedboat up through the Andaman sea to the Thai islands of Koh Lipe and Koh Lanta. Keep heading north by ferry to Krabi and Phuket. From street art and hawker markets, to deserted beaches; from jungle-clad mountains to crystal blue sea. Embrace the diversity and warmth of two lovely, lively cultures. And eat eat eat!
Take a stopover in Muscat or drive across the border from Dubai into the Sultanate of Oman. Retrace the 1001 Arabian Nights as you travel through a network of ancient forts, sparkling beaches and lush oases scattered amongst the backdrop of barren sun scorched mountains. In Oman you will find genuine, friendly locals who can show you the true meaning of Arab hospitality.
Is 2019 the year Pakistan reemerges as a viable tourist destination? Long considered a “no go” country, Pakistan’s security situation has improved dramatically in recent years. News from the recently elected government gives promise of a new visa on arrival option for visitors from most Western countries. Fantasy itinerary: Start in the ancient bustling city of Lahore, make your way up to the modern capital of Islamabad-Rawalpindi then ascend through mountain valleys to Gilgit, Swat, Hunza or Chitral. Take the Karakoram Highway all the way past the Khunjerab pass and into Western China. Continue to Kashgar after!