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TPG staffers are avid travelers, and we’re always on the hunt for the next hot destination. To help you plan next year’s travels, we put together a list of the 12 best places to visit in 2019 — a trip for every month of the year. We took into consideration new flight routes, exciting restaurant openings and hotel debuts, as well as annual festivals, once-in-a-lifetime events and, of course, took stock of our own travels and plans. From the South Pacific to the American South, we’re sure this list will inspire you to travel more in the new year.
Where to Go in January: St. Barts
There’s no better way to fight the post-holiday winter blues than a seriously glamorous escape to the Caribbean island of St. Barts.
“St. Barts has been on my list of places I’d love to visit for a long time, but 2019 is going to be the year,” TPG social media editor Samantha Rosen said. “The island has energetically rebounded from Hurricane Irma.”
The French island has always been known as an impossibly chic retreat, but hoteliers took their time following the hurricane to not just repair but completely reimagine their properties. (Such as the relaunch of Hotel Manapany, a B Signature Hotels & Resorts property on a private beach now billed as the island’s first ecohotel).
“I’ve got my eye on Le Sereno … and Eden Rock, where all of the menus at the hotel are under the direction of chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten himself,” Rosen said. And at Le Barthélemy, which reopened in October 2018, guests can enjoy the cuisine of legendary French chef Guy Martin.
Le Sereno will welcome back guests in December 2018 after being completely demolished following Irma and rebuilt from the ground up. The island’s Cheval Blanc is also rumored to be opening at the end of 2018, and Eden Rock is expected to reopen in late 2019.
Plus, the island will be easier than ever to get to in January, too, as American Airlines plans to amp up its service to the gateway island of St. Martin (SXM). American’s nonstop flight from Charlotte (CLT) began in November, and flights from New York-JFK and Philadelphia (PHL) resume on Dec. 19, 2018. St. Martin is just a quick puddle jump away from St. Barts.
“I’m looking forward to being able to fly into Princess Juliana Airport, the airport on every AvGeek’s bucket list, to practice my newfound planespotting skills (the airport also closed and later reopened after last year’s tumultuous hurricane season). From here, I can hop on a shuttle flight to the equally awesome Gustaf III Airport (SBH) on St. Barts, known for its terrifying but awesome landings: abrupt descents on a skinny, short runway between steep mountains and the clear, blue ocean.”
Where to Go in February: Mexico
With nonstop flights launching from Dallas (DFW) to Oaxaca (OAX) on American Airlines beginning Dec. 19, 2018, in addition to the flights that launched over the summer from San Antonio (SAT) and Houston (IAH) to Guanajuato (BJX) on Interjet, it’s easier than ever to explore beyond Mexico’s better-known resort areas.
Of course, these pleasure destinations shouldn’t be overlooked. There are new hotels opening all over the country, such as the highly anticipated collection of so-called cocoons called Awakening, near Tulum. And following the entrances of Montage, Viceroy and Solaz, A Luxury Collection Resort in 2018, Los Cabos will also welcome an opulent Ritz-Carlton Zadún Reserve, the Nobu Hotel Los Cabos and a Four Seasons in 2019.
But for Alyssa Haak, research editor at TPG, her plans to visit Mexico in February have nothing to do with grand hotels or nonstop flights. Instead, she’s planned her trip around a natural phenomenon.
“We originally timed our trip to catch the annual monarch butterfly migration,” Haak said. “The more I research, the more excited I get about escaping to the country’s colorful and warm capital from gray, wintery New York City. My guideposts in planning are a new book, “This is Mexico City,” with its vibrant photographs, and the concise and practical site, “Mexico City for Gringos.”
Where to Go in March: Taiwan
While pretty much nothing can top the relaunch of EVA Air’s Hello Kitty 777-300ER jet between LAX and Taipei (TPE) this 2018, Taipei is now serviced by 30 new routes from various hubs in Japan, China and Indonesia, making connecting Taiwan more accessible than ever.
Hilton recently returned to the Taipei market after 15 years with its newly opened Hilton Taipei Sinban, which debuted in October 2018. And Kimpton’s first-ever property in Taiwan will have a soft opening at the turn of the year. Hyatt has also taken an interest in Taiwan: Both Park Hyatt and Andaz will manage the new 46-story, 500-room Taipei Sky Tower, though it won’t be open until 2020.
Until then, there are plenty of other reasons to enjoy Taiwan this year — especially March. The island has been a longtime favorite for TPG editor-at-large Zach Honig, who plans to return in the spring.
“Just an hour’s flight from Hong Kong, Taiwan — especially Taipei — is one of my favorite destinations in Asia. It’s far cheaper and less crowded and touristy than Hong Kong or Bangkok, with diverse geography, phenomenal food and many English-speaking locals. You can also venture out and explore Tainan, known as Taiwan’s cultural capital, a two-hour bullet-train ride from Taipei. It’s affordable even by Southeast Asia standards (think: less than $70 per night for a standard room at a decent hotel, including breakfast for two).”
So why March?
“Many people may not know it’s an alternative destination to Japan to see the cherry blossoms, which are just starting to bloom in March,” Honig said. It’s also a month known for “mild, pleasant weather.”
Where to Go in April: Egypt
“Few destinations have compelled me to visit quite like Egypt has,” said TPG‘s reviews editor, Nick Ellis. “Since I was a child, the country’s storied history, replete with pharaohs, pyramids, sphinxes and, of course, mummies, has captured my imagination and created a strong desire — you could say an actual need — for me to visit.”
Though the nation suffered years of instability after the Arab Spring, things have been slowly returning to normal. In the first half of 2018, tourism surged 41%, and new attractions (a recently unearthed sphinx; the partial opening of the Grand Egyptian Museum in the first quarter of 2019) promise to bolster those figures.
“I think 2019 will finally be the year I make my way to the banks of the River Nile to see everything I’ve daydreamed about since I was a child: the Pyramids of Giza, the priceless treasures in the Egyptian Museum and the rock temples at Abu Simbel. I plan to go all out, adding a relaxing stop at a pristine beach along the Red Sea.”
“Perhaps even more exciting,” Ellis added, “is that all of this can be done in style. Cairo already features an impressive roster of luxury properties including a Ritz-Carlton, two Four Seasons, a Conrad and more, but the city will get another boost early next year with the opening of the St. Regis in February. And it’s relatively cheap for Americans to visit, too. At the time of this writing, a single US dollar will get you about 18 Egyptian pounds.”
Where to Go in May: Israel
Israel is at the top of a number of travel itineraries this year, including Nicky Kelvin, TPG’s director of content, and The Points Guy himself, Brian Kelly.
For one, new airline routes are making it easier than ever to reach the Middle Eastern nation. There are a number of flights launching from Europe in 2019, including TAP, which will fly from Lisbon (LIS) to Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport (TLV) in April, and El Al, which will connect Manchester (MAN) and Tel Aviv in May. Even low-cost carriers like Ryanair, EasyJet and Wizz Air have been launching a dizzying number of flights to Israel from cities across Europe, with more on the way. Plus, DC-based travelers can also enjoy increased connectivity: United is launching its fourth nonstop route between Washington Dulles (IAD) and Tel Aviv on May 22, 2019.
But a new flight from the US capital is hardly the only reason to book a trip to Israel in May.
“With Israeli Independence Day and the Eurovision Song Contest falling within a week of each other, May is the month to go get your hummus on,” Kelvin explained. “Alongside the vast history and breathtaking landscapes, the Israel of today is a hotbed of dining and partying experiences. Tel Aviv claims a huge number of restaurants that will blow your taste buds away after a day of watermelon and matkot (a bat and ball game) on the beach. Desert escapes, a float in the Dead Sea and a walk back in time in the Old City of Jerusalem are easy day trips in this country, which is roughly the size of New Jersey.”
Even those day trips became more doable when Israel opened a high-speed rail linking TLV and Jerusalem in September 2018, more than halving the travel time.
Where to Go in June: Peru
With brand-new hotels such as Hilton’s DoubleTree Iquitos and Peru’s first Aloft, as well as a new Holiday Inn coming to Lima in 2019, the South American nation will be more welcoming to points travelers in the new year.
And Peru’s seriously hip dining is also a draw. The power couple Virgilio Martínez and Pía León, who started Central Restaurante (which recently relocated to a larger space), just launched a restaurant in Moray, called Mil, that specializes in traditional Andean cuisine. And their next project, a restaurant in the Amazon rainforest, is already in the works. Only dedicated epicures should make the journey, however, because it involves flying from Lima (LIM) to Puerto Maldonado (PEM) and then boating down the river for lunch. (The restaurant will be closed for dinner, as the river is too dangerous to navigate after dark.)
And while The Points Guy, Brian Kelly, has stopped briefly in Lima, he can’t wait to get back to Peru in 2019 and finally visit Machu Picchu, which has been on his bucket list for years.
“A trip to explore Peru has been a long time coming,” Kelly said.
But Peru’s allure goes well beyond the ruins of Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley. Other roads less traveled include seeing condors fly at Colca Canyon, exploring the islands of Lake Titicaca and trekking through less popular, but equally impressive, Inca ruins such as Choquequirao, the so-called sacred sister of Machu Picchu.
Choquequirao won’t be off the radar for long, however, as the Peruvian government has announced plans to install a cable car and construct a road that will give tourists an easy lift to the archeological site. (Right now, it’s only accessible by an intense, multiday hike.) Whether you want to explore less-crowded Choquequirao or the iconic citadel of Machu Picchu, June is squarely in the middle of the cool, dry season in the Andes: perfect conditions for hiking.
Where to Go in July: Chile
Another South American destination on our must-go list this year, Chile is also singing the siren song of exciting new hotel openings. On Sept. 1, 2018, the Lakes District welcomed the andBeyond Vira Vira — the brand’s first lodge in South America — and in late 2019, the Grand Hyatt Santiago will emerge from a significant restoration and redesign as a luxe Mandarin Oriental.
But for TPG’s travel editor, Melanie Lieberman, a return trip to Chile in 2019 was written in the stars.
“After spending a week backpacking around Chile’s remote Aysén Region last year, I realized this is a destination I’d have to visit countless times to fully experience. This long, narrow stretch of South America has vast deserts and glacier-capped mountains, old-growth rainforests and pristine lakes, and bustling cities, salt flats, serene islands — you get the idea. But in 2019, Chile will also be the best place on Earth to view the next total solar eclipse. The path of totality will cross the Elqui Valley north of Santiago on July 2, and I’m dying to witness the phenomenon.”
The solar eclipse isn’t the only reason Lieberman has a strong sense of urgency about revisiting Chile. Tiny, isolated Easter Island is being threatened by overtourism and rapidly rising sea levels, and new visitor restrictions were put in place in 2018.
Where to Go in August: Sri Lanka
After years of civil unrest, tourists are starting to flock to Sri Lanka, the small island nation south of India. Lori Zaino, a senior writer at TPG, spent a month there last August and is already craving a second adventure.
“I’m counting the days until I return to Sri Lanka — it’s paradise! The sheer diversity of the landscapes and climates within the country is fascinating. You can ride the train through the highlands of the tea plantations, wander the [ruins] of ancient civilizations and end up at a serene, white-sand beach all in the same day. Nature and wildlife buffs will adore the country, too: Between 4,000 and 5,000 wild elephants roam the land.”
You can stay in family-owned guesthouses for less than $30 per night, but it’s no surprise that large hotel chains are taking an interest in Sri Lanka. Hilton loyalists will be glad to know the brand, which already has one property in Colombo, is rolling out six new hotels across the country, starting in 2019 with the DoubleTree by Hilton Negombo. And IHG is also planning a return to Colombo, with the 307-room InterContinental Colombo expected to open in 2019. Sri Lanka is also upping its luxury game, with the debut of the six-suite Harding Boutique Hotel, designed by architect Jonathan Ashmore. Guests are expected to arrive in the the the fall of 2019.
If you can’t wait, though, plan your trip to Sri Lanka in August.
“You can find spots in Sri Lanka that are warm and sunny at any time of year,” Zaino said. “But I chose August, when rain was falling in the more traversed, southern areas of the island (like Galle and Weligama). This forced me to explore less-touristy areas in the east and north in search of adventure — and sunshine — like the beaches at Trincomalee, the surf haven of Arugam and the cities of Anuradhapura and Jaffna.”
Where to Go in September: Kenya
Kenya Airways’ ambitious new nonstop daily flight from New York-JFK to Nairobi (NBO) makes getting to East Africa much faster. And thanks to a close partnership with Delta Air Lines, you can easily earn and spend SkyMiles on this particular adventure.
Alberto Riva, TPG’s managing editor, was astounded by the beauty of the country during his review of the new flight, which launched on Oct. 28, 2018.
“The wildlife wonders of Kenya’s national parks and nature preserves are legendary — you’ve seen the Tsavo National Park and the Maasai Mara in documentaries since you were a kid,” he said. “This is where safaris were invented, and the Big Five animals of the African savanna — lions, leopards, rhinos, elephants and buffalo — are all here. The diversity of environments is amazing, too. From perennial snow at 17,000 feet on Mount Kenya to beach delights on the Indian Ocean, you are spoiled for choice. And the most unique national park in the world sits right at the edge of Nairobi, where you can go for the mind-boggling experience of seeing wild lions with the city’s skyscrapers in the background.”
Though travelers can always bed down at the perennially popular Giraffe Manor, where you can sleep surrounded by giraffes, there’s also the spectacular andBeyond Bateleur Camp in the Mara plains, which reopened in 2018 after an extensive refresh. The Cliff, a new tented camp in Lake Nakuru, also opened in 2018 for safari goers seeking exclusive experiences.
Riva suggests visiting Kenya in late summer or early fall: “The March-to-May rainy season tends to be very wet; avoid it. Wildlife viewing is at its prime during the northern hemisphere’s summer, but you will find lower prices and lots of animals during early fall as well.”
Where to Go in October: Slovenia
Slovenia remains one of Europe’s most affordable destinations, especially if you visit in the off season. That’s precisely why TPG’s points & miles backpacker, Brian Biros, has visited a few times and can’t seem to stop going back.
“With the outskirts of the Alps, rolling alpine forests, scattered wine regions, captivating yet unassuming cities and a touch of the Adriatic Sea, Slovenia dabbles in every category but dominates in none,” he said. “Perhaps that’s how it has coasted under the radar. But borders with tourism heavyweights Italy and Austria, and up-and-comer Croatia, are bound to change that. The fantasy settings of Lake Bled and Lake Bohinj get crowded in the summer, but come fall, the tourists dwindle as the leaves turn, making October an idyllic time to visit.”
The country got its first five-star luxury hotel, the InterContinental Ljubljana, back in 2017, and other hoteliers are beginning to take interest as tourism numbers increase. Adria Airways, the largest air carrier in Slovenia, has recently launched several new summer routes within Europe, connecting many more European hubs with Slovenia. Fortunately, Adria doesn’t switch to its winter schedules until the end of October, meaning you can take advantage of the more frequent “summer” flight-route season to catch the leaves changing colors.
In 2019, Ljubljana Jože Pučnik Airport (LJU) will also begin construction on a new airport terminal and airport hotel.
Where to Go in November: The American South
From increased connectivity to a spate of new luxury hotels (the Perry Lane and The Alida, for example, both in Savannah) and, of course, the region’s ever-growing list of top restaurants, there’s no shortage of reasons to pack your bags for a getaway down South in 2019.
“If you’re looking for a break from the cold, [consider] a trip to the more mild-weathered American South,” said TPG weekend editor Jane Frye.
“More specifically, I’m talking about Savannah, Georgia; Nashville, Tennessee; Charleston, South Carolina; or Asheville, North Carolina, where charm runs high and prices run lower than an all-inclusive getaway to some exotic island. Plan your visit around Savannah’s Food & Wine Festival, Asheville’s Christmas at the Biltmore, or simply create your own adventure. Full of culture and history, these cities offer plenty to do during a weekend away — or a relaxing atmosphere to do nothing at all, if that’s what you please.”
In 2019, history and art buffs can enjoy new and upcoming attractions, too. There’s the recently opened Tennessee State Museum in Nashville, for example, and in November 2019, Atlanta’s High Museum of Art will host a Japanese art exhibit exploring Yayoi Kusama’s “Infinity Mirrors.” Meanwhile, the Asheville Art Museum is undergoing a massive renovation, reopening again in 2019 with a fresh and exciting collection and way more space.
Of course, the South isn’t just for Americans, either — travelers from the UK will soon be able to get there just a bit more easily. British Airways is launching a twice-weekly 787 flight starting in April of 2019 between London (LHR) and Charleston (CHS), which happens to be home to Boeing’s South Carolina Dreamliner facility. And in 2019, travelers can also enjoy a sprawling new, 13,000-square-foot Centurion Lounge in Charlotte (CLT).
Where to Go in December: New Zealand
Although it doesn’t get much farther from the US than New Zealand, a newly launched route on Air New Zealand from Chicago (ORD) to Auckland (AKL) will fly the 8,184 miles nonstop, giving Midwesterners “easy” access to the country: Just 15 to 16 hours and you’re there! Plus, if you’ve ever wanted to fly the Skycouch, the world’s first economy product that turns into a sofa, 2019 seems like a great time to do so.
“There’s something for everyone in New Zealand: terrific wineries, great food, natural beauty and plenty of outdoor activities to stay busy,” TPG‘s senior points & miles editor, Nick Ewen, said. “The country is roughly two-thirds the size of California but has just 12% of the population. For our next trip, my wife and I are hoping to taste the renowned sauvignon blancs of Marlborough and defy death (again) in Taupo, the bungee-jumping capital of the world.”
In addition to a new nonstop flight, New Zealand welcomed The Lindis in November of 2018: a luxury lodge on the South Island that signals a new, more luxurious turn for tourism in New Zealand. Also in November, the SO/Auckland (an AccorHotels property) opened its doors. In 2019, the country will welcome its first-ever Park Hyatt, and rumors are a debut Ritz-Carlton, also in Auckland, is on the horizon.
December is an excellent time to visit, as it’s the summer season with sunshine and warm temperatures. In fact, if you plan to celebrate the winter holidays there, expect to have a barbecue on the beach — that’s the New Zealand way, after all.
But what does Ewen appreciate most about the country? The kindness of its locals: “Most importantly, we’re looking forward to experiencing the genuine hospitality of the Kiwi population again, some of the friendliest people we’ve ever met.”
All images by Abbie Winters/The Points Guy
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