Saturday 19 January 2019

See more of the world in 2019 with these top travel experiences

From the colour-splashed streets of steamy Havana to the frozen lakes and fjords of Norway and palm-strewn beaches of Sri Lanka, we’ve picked some of the best must-see destinations to visit in 2019.

Savvy travellers want to gain memorable insights into next year’s must-see destinations. Instead of just ticking a location off a list, they want to completely immerse themselves in their destination. Sampling homegrown food and speciality wines, stepping off the beaten track and gaining insight from local guides is the best and most authentic way to truly experience a destination.

Tour operator Travel Department understands this trend and specialises in a range of escorted tours to 2019’s unmissable spots. It has experienced, local guides who know their destinations inside out, can break down barriers and uncover hidden gems.

You can find a range of carefully curated tours in the following hotspots.

For natural beauty: Norway

Norway’s epic landscape has long inspired the country’s painters, writers and poets and lured streams of tourists with its spectacular beauty. The snow-capped mountains, breathtaking fjords and colourbox towns are best viewed by train and boat on a guided tour. That way, you can take your eyes off the road to soak up the views, visiting the fjords by cruise and the main cities by rail.

Capital Oslo is exceptionally clean, functional and trendy with excellent museums and cutting-edge restaurants, while Bergen - the gateway to the fjords - is more laidback, with neat rows of colourful buildings, flower boxes and cosy bars. Witness glaciers, waterfalls and reindeer-filled national parks with a cruise along the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Nærøyfjord and the former Viking stomping ground of Hardangerfjord, while filling your lungs with clean Nordic air.

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The new hotspot: Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka was voted “best country to visit in 2019” by Lonely Planet in the guidebook publisher’s annual Best in Travel awards.

“Already notable to intrepid travellers for its mix of religions and cultures, its timeless temples, its rich and accessible wildlife, its growing surf scene and its people who defy all odds by their welcome and friendliness after decades of civil conflict, this is a country revived,” says Lonely Planet author Ethan Gelber in the Best in Travel 2019 book.

The island formerly known as Ceylon is filled with endless beaches, prime for surfing, snorkelling and bathing. It also has a wealth of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including the walled city of Galle, Lion's Rock citadel in Sigiriya and the sacred city of Anuradhapura, which is home to ‘Bo Tree’, the oldest known tree in the world. All of these can be experienced with a tour. Yala National Park is another top pick where you can see elephants, leopards, water buffalo, sea turtles and exotic birds roam freely.

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Best of old and new: China

China will be the world’s top tourist destination by 2030, when a vast network of high-speed rail services will link the country. But rewind to 2019 where you can already see the vast and diverse country’s best bits by exceptional rail and boat services. Begin in Beijing and see Tiananmen Square, The Forbidden City and the Great Wall of China. Get up close with the famous Terracotta Warriors and Horses in Xi'an before travelling south to Guilin to see the Reed Flute Cave.

Stop off in Chengdu, home of hotpots and panda bears, with a visit to the Giant Panda Breeding centre and cruise the Yangtze River, China’s largest waterway, before ending your trip in glittering Shanghai, the city of sky-rises that is the cutting edge of contemporary Chinese culture.

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The arty pick: Russia

For a holiday steeped in the arts, the Russian cities of Moscow and St Petersburg are a perfect fit. The new-ish wing of the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow is a top pick for Russian 20th-century art and avant garde works and you shouldn’t miss the chance to experience an opera on the stage of the Bolshoi (although the city has three other spectacular opera houses). Other highlights include the Kremlin, a huge compound of government buildings containing the Kremlin Armoury, home to some of the most valuable jewels in the world.

Built as a show city in 1703 by Peter the Great as Russia’s “Window to Europe” St Petersburg is the country’s “culture capital”. Candy-coloured streets of art-nouveau and 18th century baroque architecture lead to galleries, exhibition halls, theatres and museums. Summer is a great time to visit as the sun never sets, giving you ample time to explore. Don’t miss a trip to the ballet or the nearby town of Tzarskoye, where you can visit the Catherine Palace, which boasts some of the most opulent architecture and interior design you are ever likely to see.

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Romance and revolutions: Cuba

There’s never not a good time to visit Cuba but we recommend sooner rather than later to capture the country in its most authentic state before the tide of change has fully seeped in. Guided sightseeing expeditions are a great way to see the Cuba’s architectural gems, and give you plenty of opportunity to interact with the locals to understand the history and future of the “Pearl of the Antilles.”

In Old Havana, you can travel by vintage car through the streets that inspired the writing of Ernest Hemingway and visit his home and the fishing village of Cojimar, setting for The Old Man and the Sea. Another excursion will bring you on the ‘Tobacco Route’ in the west of the island. Head to the coastal area of Varadero where you can interact with dolphins or relax on the pristine beaches.

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For the adventurous spirit: Alaska

In 2019, Alaska celebrates its 60th anniversary of statehood with plenty of events and activities planned, making it the perfect time to visit. Alaska’s main draw is its fantastic scenery, national parks and the opportunity to see the Northern Lights. A guided cruise with Travel Department will take you to the country’s most alluring spots, including Juneau, Skagway, Glacier Bay and Ketchikan, while breathing in air scented with alder.

While there, there’s time for a stopover further south in Seattle, Washington, a city of new trends, cutting-edge cuisine and Pacific Northwest charms. See its bustling waterfront, historic Pioneer Square and the iconic Space Needle, while satisfying your rumbling belly in one of the many restaurants, cafes and bars.

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Unplug and unwind: Vietnam and Cambodia

Recharge the batteries with a cruise along the Mekong River, taking time to visit Vietnam and Cambodia. Travel Department offers a 14-night holiday package that includes a seven-night, full-board river cruise with guided shore excursions and five-star hotel visits in Ho Chi Minh City and Siem Reap.

Ho Chi Minh City pulsates with energy and is filled with local markets, hidden riverside bars and traditional restaurants. You’ll enjoy a city tour that takes you around some of the most striking sites of the city, before setting sail on your cruise towards Siem Reap. The cruise gives you the perfect chance to unplug while taking in some of Asia’s most breathtaking scenery. The tour also includes a visit to the Killing Fields in Phnom Penh and the temple of Angkor Wat, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Let’s see more of the world in 2019. To plan your next bucket-list adventure, visit the Travel Department website to see one of these incredible locations. The travel company offers a wide range of escorted tours led by expert travel guides who will give you a unique and unforgettable, experience-centric trip.

Sponsored by: Travel Department

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