The beauty of the world is right at your fingertips, and for many people, 2018 was the year they explored it. Traveling is a thrill; it offers you opportunities to get out of your comfort zone, experience different cultures and educate yourself in ways you never knew possible. Whether you dream of relaxing on the beach at a luxury resort in the Maldives, snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef, admiring the northern lights in Finland, or partying the night away in Los Cabos, the hot spots on this list of 2018's top travel targets will serve as your inspiration for 2019.
Regardless whether you desire a peaceful destination or you're interested in wild adventures, don't keep telling yourself you will travel someday - get out there and explore the world now. Knock off some of the exciting things on your bucket list while you still can. For direction as to where you should go, here are some of the latest travel hot spots that proved to be the top destinations of 2018.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
With over 300 sunny days a year, it's no wonder Albuquerque is one of the best travel destinations in 2018. Many tourists travel for the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta - the largest ballooning event on Earth. It's a nine-day celebration that features more than 500 elaborately colored hot air balloons flying over New Mexico. Other things to do in Albuquerque include exploring the Old Town, taking a scenic drive on Route 66 and hiking the Sandia Mountains.
Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Home to one of the most beautiful hotels in the world, Abu Dhabi has become one of the most famous hotspots in 2018. With the world's largest indoor theme park, World Abu Dhabi, being opened this year and the world's widest flight chamber and tallest indoor climbing wall, CLYMB, also opening this year, it's no wonder tourists are flocking there.
Andaman Islands, India
Located more than 620 miles off the eastern coast in the middle of the Bay of Bengal is India's most remote territory, the Andaman Islands. Adrenaline enthusiasts will love the abundance of water sport adventures, some of which include scuba diving, snorkeling, jet skiing, kayaking, sailing and water-skiing. Visitors also travel to this destination to view its abundance of wildlife, relax on the beaches and explore the deep green tropical forests.
Whether you choose to cruise or fly here, this Caribbean destination will take your breath away. With 700 unique islands, tons of entertainment and amazing weather, it's no wonder tourism here has seen solid growth in 2018. It is home to one of the largest outdoor marine habitats in the world with more than 50,000 aquatic animals and 250 species. Head to Big Major Cay and swim with the pigs, go snorkeling and scuba diving among a variety of marine life, party the night away on Paradise Island and learn about history at Fort Charlotte.
Tourist arrivals in Indonesia increased by approximately 11 percent this year, compared to last. Bali, also known as "the Island of the Gods," is the most visited destination. Some of the most popular attractions include the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary, Tanah Lot Temple, Ubut Art Market, Bali Safari and Marine Park and the Elephant Cave, also known as Goa Gajah. Also make sure to experience a scuba diving or snorkeling excursion from one of their stunning beaches.
Located within Banff National Park, this resort town is full of outdoor adventures. Children received free admission in 2018, making this destination popular among families. Visitors head here for wildlife viewing, hiking, biking and rock-climbing opportunities. Banff is also home to one of the most stunning scenic drives in the world - Icefield Parkway. The viewing station at Lake Louise is also a popular attraction that boasts mesmerizing views.
Bangkok is one of the world's most fun-filled cities. Hundreds of thousands of visitors flock to the capital city of Thailand every year for its vibrant beauty, stunning architecture, breathtaking beaches and adventure opportunities. From giant skyscrapers to gorgeous temples, splendid shopping and grand palaces, there are many things to do and explore. Make sure to visit the Grand Palace, Wat Arun and the art collection at the Jim Thompson House.
Belfast, Northern Ireland
"Game of Thrones" enthusiasts will understand why Belfast made the list - parts of the popular TV series are filmed here. Fans traveled in 2018 to revel in the beauty of this now-famous location. Various tours that take you to the television show's hotspots can be experienced. Tourists also enjoy attending a day at the races at the Down Royal Racecourse, exploring the Botanic Gardens, walking across Cave Hill Country Park, and golfing at the Castlereagh Hills Golf Course.
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Famous for its seemingly infinite collection of shops, Buenos Aires was frequented by retail-lovers around the globe. Tourists also love this city for its abundance of adventure and sightseeing opportunities. Visitors traveled to the Argentinian capital for the 2018 Summer Youth Olympics, Polo Championships, Buenos Aires Festival of Independent Cinema, Lollapalooza and the famous International Tango Festival.
Charleston, South Carolina
Charleston is famous for its Southern charm. Approximately 20 percent of the city's sales come from tourism. Visitors flocked there in 2018, and it's no surprise as to why. The city is well known for its culinary excellence, rich history and welcoming locals. There are various opportunities for sightseeing, shopping and entertainment.
Chile has seen a significant boost in visitors in 2018. It boasts a variety of architectural wonders and scenic views of snowcapped mountains. See magnificent views of the city from the 64th floor of the Costanera Center in Santiago's posh financial district. Popular year-round, Chile is one of the rare destinations where you can ski and surf in the same day. Visitors enjoy hiking through the Torres del Paine National Park. Easter Island and Anakena Beach are perfect locations for watersport fun - scuba diving snorkeling, diving and surfing, to name a few.
Within the first trimester of 2018 the number of visitors from the United States to Costa Rica increased by 6 percent, according to The Costa Rica Star. Located in Central America, Costa Rica has a year-round tropical climate which makes for a perfect anytime vacation getaway. Visitors enjoy relaxing at the beautiful beaches, exploring the spectacular jungles and admiring the beautiful national parks. Zip lining, whitewater rafting, surfing, hiking, cliff jumping, and skydiving are a few thrilling adventures travelers have the opportunity to experience.
Faroe Islands, Denmark
This remote destination in the North Sea between Norway and Iceland boasts colorful scenery, an immense amount of nature and a variety of adventure opportunities. Mountains and cliffs and stunning waterfalls provide a landscape nothing short of surreal. The Faroe Islands are popular for their music festivals, some of which include G! Festival, Summer Festival, Country Festival, Summartonar, and Voxbotn.
Also known as "Land of a Thousand Islands," Finland is home to one of the most spectacular light displays in the world, the northern lights. Luosto, located in northern Finland, is a popular northern lights viewing site. There you can view the spectacle from a bed inside an intriguing glass igloo. The country is also popular for its abundance of outdoor sports, some of which include hiking, dog sledding and ice fishing.
There are few places in Europe more beautiful than Frankfurt, especially during the winter. Although the city only has approximately 700,000 residents, tourists continue to flock there, especially over holiday break for unique sightseeing and entertainment opportunities. The city is also popular as an embarkation point for cruises along the Main and Rhine rivers.
Great Barrier Reef, Australia
The Great Barrier Reef is one of the seven wonders of the natural world. It is larger than the Great Wall of China and the only living thing on Earth visible from space. It is home to an abundance of colorful reefs and a variety of plants and animals; some of which include seven turtle species, dolphins, manta rays and whales. Visitors enjoy traveling to this World Heritage Area for world-class scuba diving and snorkeling.
In the past six years the number of annual foreign visitors in Iceland had drastically increased. Contrary to what many believe, Iceland is more than just a country full of ice. It's a destination for thrill seekers, nature lovers, photographers and individuals looking for peace of mind. Visitors enjoy the breathtaking views of spectacular volcanoes, mountains and waterfalls. While those who want to relax can go to a spa, thrill seekers are in for the experience of a lifetime. Stand inside waterfalls, ride a monster truck through a glacier, go on a dogsledding ride and even experience diving between two continents.
Iguazu Falls, Argentina and Brazil
In 2018 people made a point to visit one of the world's most incredible natural wonders, Iguazu Falls. This beautiful waterfall originates from the Iguazu River and forms a boundary between Argentina and Brazil. It spans two UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the Iguacu National Park in Brazil and the Iguazu National Park in Argentina. It is made up of 275 individual drops that stretch for 1.7 miles.
Key West, Florida
Embark on adventures, soak up the sun on some of the best beaches in Florida, or simply relax at a spa - all in Key West. Many people enjoy going during the winter months as the average high temperatures are around 75 degrees F, and average lows are around 70 degrees F. Take full advantage of the watersport opportunities; go scuba diving with living coral, snorkeling among vibrant marine species, and kayaking on calm waters.
Kotor Bay, Montenegro
Montenegro is a tiny European country that harbors crystal clear waters, white sand and breathtaking views of medieval towns. Kotor Bay, specifically, is an under-the-radar destination in this country; it has become popular among tourists in 2018. Visitors enjoy sailing through Kotor Bay and walking around Kotor Old Town. Some of the most popular landmarks to visit include Kotor's Castle of San Giovanni, the city walls, St. Tryphon Cathedral and the Piazza of the Arms.
Los Cabos, Mexico
Los Cabos, known as the No. 1 tourist destination on the west coast of Mexico, is a quiet town full of charm and luxury. Visitors flocked to this destination from July 30 through August 5 for the Los Cabos Open. Sunny skies almost all year round, a spectacular nightlife, world class golf, fishing, surfing, whale watching and delicious dining options, are more reasons why this destination was one of the best to visit.
Made up of more than 1,000 coral islands, the Maldives are known for spectacular beaches, extensive reefs, stunning blue lagoons and luxurious resorts. For a once-in-a-lifetime experience, consider staying overnight at the Hilton's Conrad Maldives Rangali Island Resort. It's an underwater hotel, situated 16 feet below the surface of the ocean. It's usually used for dining, but it can also be transformed into a place for sleep.
Maui is popular for its pleasant year-round climate. It offers the best of both worlds; a laid-back atmosphere and extreme adventure. The beaches here feature awesome breaks and amazing waves, making Maui one of the best places to surf in the world. Visitors enjoy taking a scenic drive on the Road to Hana, scuba diving, snorkeling, hiking, and rappelling down tropical rainforests. Wailea Beach in Maui made Trip Advisor's list of the World's Best Beaches in 2018.
Offering a luxurious honeymoon experience, Mendoza is often frequented by newlyweds. The most popular honeymoon resort is the Southern Ocean Lodge - it offers guests a personal Kangaroo Island experience. Tourists enjoy sipping wine in the many vineyards of Mendoza as well as photographing the breathtaking scenery and participating in a variety of outdoor adventures.
The total number of foreign nationals visiting Mongolia increased by 10.46 percent during the first 11 months of 2018, according to News.mn. Among them there was a 9.8 percent increase of tourists. Travelers enjoy visiting this destination for its great history and adventure opportunities. The Mongolia travel tour is popular, along with the Wild Mongolia trip where you will visit Khovsgol Lake, hike the peak of a volcano, watch cultural performances, explore palaces and relax in Tsenkher's hot springs.
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
Gorgeous weather, beautiful beaches and incredible attractions make Myrtle Beach one of the top family travel destinations in the U.S. With approximately 18 million annual visits each year, it is the most visited destination in South Carolina. There is so much to do and see. Take the kids to the Brookgreen Zoo, Ripley's Aquarium and the WonderWorks museum. For some water fun, plan a day at the Myrtle Beach waterpark, and experience Ocean Watersports; go parasailing, jet skiing, or spike your adrenaline on a banana boat adventure. Afterward, hop on the SkyWheel and capture views of Myrtle Beach from its highest point; and when you get hungry head to The Chemist for delicious modern cuisine and flavorful craft cocktails.
Tourism growth in Nashville has been increasing over the years, and for good reason. The city hosts plenty of free music, an abundance of cultural attractions and delicious food options. Visitors on a budget will be pleased to know there are many inexpensive entertainment options available. Listen to music at the famous Bluebird Café, visit the Tennessee Agricultural Museum, watch free concerts by the Nashville Symphony, and take a stroll along the Music City Walk of Fame - all for free.
Tourism in New Zealand has increased more than 5 percent in 2018. Visitors vacation here for the many opportunities for peace and relaxation and adrenaline-pumping fun. Navigate your way through the beautiful water in Milford Sound, visit Hot Water Beach and dig your own hot pool right in the sand and relax, bungee jump The Nevis in Queenstown - one of the most terrifying bungee jumps in the world, go camping in their national parks, and make sure you visit the slowly melting Franz Josef Glacier.
Tourism in Paris has increased this year, and it's easier than ever to get there from anywhere in the U.S. Direct flights from Seattle on Air France and non-stop flights on Delta for individuals in Indianapolis have become available. And like any year, 2018 has been a busy year for culture in Paris. The Marmottan Monet Museum now features masterpieces from Camille Corot, the Teatre La Scala music hall reopened in March, and L'Atelier des Lumieres - Paris's first digital museum of fine art - opened in the spring. Other popular tourist attractions and landmarks include the Eiffel Tower, Musée d'Orsay, Notre Dame Cathedral and Luxembourg Gardens.
Prague, Czech Republic
Frequently visited for its vibrant history, beautiful architecture, culture and enchanting atmosphere, Prague is known as one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Tourists enjoy touring the city to capture views of its historic sites such as Old Town, the St. Vitus Cathedral and the Charles Bridge. Also, make sure to capture views of the sunset over the Prague Castle.
Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
Puerto Vallarta has proven time and time again to be one of Mexico's most irresistible vacation destinations. In 2018 tourists enjoyed the festive Three King's Day, celebrated Mexico's Independence on Cinco de Mayo and partied on June 21 for the summer solstice. Adventure enthusiasts travel to this city for snorkeling, kayaking, scuba diving, windsurfing, and ziplining opportunities.
The Greek Island Santorini is one of the most photogenic places in the world. Visitors flock here for gorgeous views of the stunning blue waters and whitewashed villages and multi-colored cliffs. The Kapari Natural Resort is popular among tourists; it features a high-end restaurant, rooftop terrace and breathtaking pool. While you're there make sure to take a walk around the volcano of Nea Kameni and enjoy a spa in the Aegean Sea.
San Antonio, Texas
2018 marked San Antonio's 300th anniversary, and the city celebrated with new infrastructure, events and activities. San Antonio is home to the best Mexican food in all the U.S. - the food in the country's second largest state is outstanding, and the adventure and sightseeing opportunities never end. There is a lot to do and see - River Walk, the Alamo and SeaWorld are just a few. Explore history at the Spanish colonial missions, the first UNESCO World Heritage Site in Texas, and enjoy pulse-pounding rides at world-class theme parks.
San Francisco, California
Home to one of the world's most beautiful skylines, visitors love the iconic sites and neighborhoods in this city. Visit Battery Spencer for views of the Golden Gate Bridge and Twin Peaks for incredible views of Market Street and its adjacent towers. Then don't forget to grab a bite to eat at the Ferry Building Marketplace food hall and take a ferry to Alcatraz and capture a shot of San Francisco's complete skyline.
Savannah is one of the best places to go for a romantic getaway with your significant other. Frequented by visitors from all over the world, this destination was popular in 2018 due to its abundance of new businesses. The American Prohibition Museum opened this year, as well as a variety of new restaurants and cocktail lounges including Sugo Rossa Italian Kitchen and Edgar's Proof & Provision. Other things to do there include sightseeing in Forsyth Park, relaxing at Tybee Island Beach, taking a leisurely stroll through City Market, and hopping on a ferry to view the beautiful historic district.
Siesta Key, Florida
The state broke tourism records this year with more than 33 million tourists visiting during the first three months, according to Sarasota Magazine. Siesta Key Beach ranked as the No. 1 beach in America by TripAdvisor in 2017. This may have greatly contributed to its tourism numbers in 2018. The beach is very wide, 8 miles long and situated on a crescent-shaped barrier island. The four main areas of this beach include Siesta Beach, Crescent Beach, Turtle Beach and Siesta Key Village.
The Azores, Portugal
Waterfalls, hot springs and geysers, are just some of the many things you will find in this autonomous region of Portugal located in the middle of the Atlantic. The Azores is an archipelago formed by nine volcanic islands and a few islets. Adrenaline enthusiasts will find this destination thrilling. Rappel down rock faces, hike through dense forests and mountain bike around the crater of a volcano. The Azores is also one of the best sites in the world to spot whales and dolphins.
The Seychelles, East Africa
The Seychelles is frequently visited throughout the year, but mostly during the winter months to escape the cold. Visitors enjoy island hopping through the 115 islands, lounging on the white sand beaches and exploring the rich marine life and nature reserves. Adventure seekers will be happy to know that there are plenty of activities to participate in - kayaking, hiking, fishing, cycling and diving, to name a few.
Millions of people visit Vancouver yearly. 2018 offered both locals and tourists so many things to do and places to explore. Stanley and Seawall Park both offer opportunities to capture breathtaking views of the city. Some things to do while you're there include shopping on Grandville Island, visiting the Museum of Anthropology, exploring the Vancouver Aquarium, river rafting, tubing and whale watching.
This popular 2018 destination is full of must-see events and festivals. Washington, D.C., attracted tourists for the city's monthlong Women's Voices Theatre Festival, Memorial Day festivities and Winter Restaurant Week. Families travel there for entertainment and education. There is an abundance of museums and family-friendly activities. Take the kids to the Asia Trail, gaze up at the stars at Rock Creek Park, go shopping at the National Mall, and have some fun at the East Potomac Golf Course. Make sure you visit landmarks such as the Washington Monument and Jefferson Memorial, as well as the National Harbor and Capital Wheel. The National Museum of American History and National Gallery of Art are also just a few of the many fun indoor places you can check out if it's too cold or rainy outside.
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