This article was originally sourced from statravel.com.au
New Year, new you, new countries. STA Travel asked and you voted for the countries that are top of your wanderlist this year. Without further ado, here’s 2019’s front-runners:
Canada | Dubai & the UAE | Morocco | New Zealand | Japan | Peru | Jordan | Egypt | Western Australia | Mauritius & The Seychelles
And the up-and-comers:
Uluru | Mongolia | French Polynesia | Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan & the Silk Road | Iran
From scenery that makes you feel like you’ve been dropped into a film set, to ski spots fit for high-rolling celebrities, it’s no wonder that Canada hit the top spot, at 1382 votes. Canada isn’t just about stunning picture-perfect landscapes and donut-loving locals though – it’s home to quirky neighborhood’s, a vibrant arts scene, and of course, Justin Trudeau: potentially the nicest man on earth.
- Banff National Park – Canada’s oldest, and some would say most beautiful, national park.
- View the Northern lights from Yukon, Northwest Territories, Quebec or British Columbia.
- Ottawa’s Poutine Fest – one for the foodies. If you don’t know, Poutine is basically chips, gravy and cheese… the dream combo. It’s May 2nd – 5th 2019, FYI.
READ MORE: 150 reasons to visit Canada
TRAVEL GUIDE: read here
No longer just a stopover destination, Dubai and the rest of the United Arab Emirates has climbed up to second place on your wanderlist and it’s easy to see why. Dubai isn’t just about flashy lifestyles and skyscrapers that defy gravity, it’s also got a bit of an edge – due in part to their creative expat community (check out the Dubai Design District, their annual Sole DXB festival and their all-you-can-drink/eat brunch culture). Of course, we don’t want to forget the fast-paced cultural hub of Abu Dhabi, with its lavish mosques and sugar-white stretches of beach, or the other-worldly landscapes of Oman across the border.
- The water fountains at the Burj Khalifa: they put on an impressive dancing show to music every evening from 6pm – 11pm.
- A safari in the Arabian Desert is the perfect way to escape the city: dune bashing, desert wandering, camel riding and an authentic dinner under the stars. Magic.
- Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi is a serious sight – all white marble with gold and intricate detailing, and it makes for an insane Instagram shot.
READ MORE: The best places to eat in Dubai
TRAVEL GUIDE: read here
This north African gem managed to get 1137 votes. Why? It could be to do with the fact that it’s wildly different to the rest of its African counterparts (no Big 5 spotting here). It could be to do with the fact there’s a city that’s completely painted blue in the Rif Mountains, Chefchaouen. It could be to do with the fact that Moroccan food is, well, amazing – so where better to feast than the native country? Or it could just be that the mixture of intricately designed Riads, the beautifully eerie desert, imperial cities, mountains, and history combining to make the country seem completely magical. Yup, we totally get it. We’re in love too.
- Chefchaouen, as mentioned, is painted in vivid blue and is a stark contrast to the rest of Morocco. Also bonus points for the fact that the locals don’t harass tourists here.
- Stay in a riad – a traditional Moroccan house.
- Put a peg on your nose and visit the 11th Century Chouara leather tannery in Fes: loads of leather paint pots in the open air. You’ll have seen pictures.
TRAVEL GUIDE: read here
A firm-favourite, New Zealand snagged a whopping 1057 votes from you guys. It’s an absolute dream for those who love an adventure: it’s got a ridiculous amount of adrenaline-fuelled activities, the winter sports are next-level, you can actually visit Hobbiton, the epic roadtrip potential is up there with the best of them, the scenery rivals that of Canada, and the best part? It’s right next door!
- Rotorua, situated on the north island, is the perfect place to learn about the Indigenous Maori culture as there’s a living Maori village there.
- Go caving with glow worms in Waitomo, because it looks like something straight out of Avatar.
- Anawhata Infinity Pools: the not-so-secret ‘secret’ natural infinity pools on Auckland’s West Coast, overlooking the Anawhata beach.
READ MORE: 9 amazing New Zealand experiences
TRAVEL GUIDE: read here
Traveller’s across the globe have Japan firmly in their sights for 2019, with the country getting 1039 of your votes. From the excitingly chaotic streets of Tokyo to the enchanting natural landscapes, Japan manages to perfectly fuse age-old traditions with cosmopolitan living, offering traveller’s an experience they’re unlikely to get anywhere else. Also – they make the best ramen, obv.
- The nationally named ‘Historic site and place of natural beauty’ Arashiyama has got everything: monkeys, bamboo forests, temples and shrines – all on the outskirts of Kyoto.
- Mount Fuji: former pilgrimage site, sacred mountain, and active volcano.
- Traveller’s often try to coincide their trip with cherry blossom season, which can be anytime between Jan-May depending on where you’re going.
READ MORE: Japan cheat sheet
TRAVEL GUIDE: read here
Llama’s, wilderness and lost ancient cities. Peru got 941 of your votes – no doubt for the allure of trekking the Inca Trail, visiting local villages, exploring the wonders of the Amazon and the lands of mythical beliefs. Or maybe you’re looking for a taste of authentic fiery ceviche, ziplining or rafting through the jungles, or joining in the celebrations of a cultural festival. Basically, Peru is one giant adventure. In every sense of the word.
- The Inca Trail is the main reason traveller’s head to Peru – the magic of Machu Picchu, the challenge of a good hike, and the jaw-dropping scenery are just a few of the reasons why.
- The Sacred Valley stretches around 60km through the Andean highlands and used to be at the centre of the Inca Empire. Now it’s all about rural villages, mountainous backdrops, and ancient ruins. And don’t forget to visit Rainbow Mountain.
- The biodiverse and lush green Amazon Rainforest. Because it would be INSANITY not to visit the Amazon while you’re out there.
READ MORE: The perfect Peru itinerary
TRAVEL GUIDE: read here
Close behind Peru is the Arabian treasure of Jordan. Not only is it number 7 on your list with 910 responses, it’s also been named in ‘Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2019’. In short, it’s a trending destination for traveller’s young and young-at-heart. The pink sandstone cliffs of the ancient city of Petra, the red dunes of Wadi Rum and the traditional hospitality give people a real feel for Middle-Eastern life, whilst being a safe place to travel.
- Petra (aka Rose City) is a mysterious ancient city carved into sandstone cliffs, and one of the new Seven Wonders of the World (and probably top of the itinerary for most visitors to Jordan).
- Follow in the footsteps of Lawrence of Arabia and go on a day-trip to the desert wilderness of Wadi Rum in the south (just to confirm, Lawrence was not wandering around on a tourist day-trip). Four words to describe it? Out of this world.
- Float for hours and soak up the skin-friendly properties of the beautiful Dead Sea. Top tip: don’t get water in your eyes and be prepared for any cuts or grazes to sting like a MF.
GO EXPLORING: with our Jordan tours
Pharoahs, tombs, mummies, Cleopatra – if you didn’t get all your Egypt knowledge from the film ‘The Mummy’ then this historical jewel in northeast Africa will be high up on your list. Or maybe you want to go after endless hours of watching the film as a kid (waking the evil dead just doesn’t do it for us we’re afraid). Ancient mummified high priests aside, magnificent awe-inspiring monuments and pyramids, vast alluring desert landscapes, world-class diving, and the mighty Nile put Egypt on the agenda for 903 of you explorers.
- Pyramids of Giza: these gravity-defying monuments constructed thousands of years ago by three Pharaoh’s were built as a gift to the gods, in a way no scientist can fathom. If that kind of mystery doesn’t draw you in – maybe the palaces, elaborate tombs, temples and solar boat pits will.
- The Pyramids of Giza were built by pharaohs of the Old Kingdom, but pharaohs of the New Kingdom set up their cribs (or more historically accurate, crypts) in a valley in Luxor, with a much cooler name: Valley of the Kings.
- The White Desert National Park is a mystifying sight: it basically looks like it’s snowed in the desert. The best time to visit? Sunrise or sunset when it goes all pinky-orange. Or camp there for an all-encompassing experience.
GO EXPLORING: we’ve got tons of Egypt tours on offer
The only destination to stay on the list since last year (GO TEAM) 733 of you are looking for an experience in Western Australia – and why wouldn’t you? The West Coast of Australia takes all the best bits of our country and combines them to make one epic destination; Sugar-white stretches of beach, crystal clear ocean that offers up amazing diving and snorkelling, a buzzing capital city, rural wine regions, an island inhabited with cute smiling mini-marsupials, whale-watching, cave exploring, surfing… we could keep going. Basically, we live in a great country.
- Rottnest Island – a short ferry ride away from various jetties (Fremantle is closest) is this protected nature reserve, home to the Quokka, loads of cycling routes, secluded bays, long stretches of beach and vivid turquoise waters.
- Esperance is world-famous for its collection of incredible beaches and surf breaks: Blue Haven, Lucky Bay, and even a pink lake (Lake Hillier on Middle Island).
- Fremantle is the seaside city of Western Australia – Victorian architecture, quaint port city life and great fish and chips!
READ MORE: Western Australia camper adventure: Perth to Esperance
An island paradise just had to make the list, and where better than the little east African archipelagos of Mauritius and the Seychelles, which got 715 of your votes. Both are well-known for their assortment of beaches and coral-filled reefs, which you can kick-back and relax (maybe max all cool) on. But you might prefer one over the other, depending on the type of traveller you are. Mauritius is more for the active adventurer’s that like to unwind in the evening, the Seychelles is more about laid-back island life – both look like they could have been the setting for Jurassic Park, so we’d take either.
- Anse Georgette, Praslin in the Seychelles is like a younger sister that falls in the shadow of its older sister: award-winning Anse Lazio. A secluded palm-fringed stretch of beach with azure ocean surrounding it, this quiet bay is paradise itself, and has way less visitors.
- What Deer Island lacks in actual deer’s (sob) it makes up for in beaches, watersports and blissful lagoons. Just hop on a boat to access it from either Blue Bay or Trou d’Eau Douce in Mauritius.
- La Digue is another must-see in the Seychelles, due to its quirky look: the beaches are dotted with granite boulders as well as palm trees. This island is all about taking it easy, with plenty of intimate and quiet beaches that are only accessible on foot.
READ MORE: 9 things you didn’t know about Mauritius and Our travel crush: The Seychelles
WHERE ELSE IS ON YOUR RADAR?
This selection of closer-to-home and far-flung destinations may not be at the top of the list, but they’re making their way.
Another domestic entry climbing up the ranks – our vast and sandy Red Centre got 617 of your votes… in particular the big red rock in the middle of it. There’s no denying it – Uluru is striking, because it’s an absolute monolith on an otherwise flat expanse of land. Part of the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, Uluru (or Ayers Rock, as it’s also known) is hugely important and sacred to the Indigenous Australians, and it’s a great place to visit to educate ourselves more about the Indigenous culture.
- While you’re there, it’s well worth checking out Kata Tjuta, with a challenging hike around the many orangey domes.
- Make sure to look closer while you’re wandering Uluru, and you’ll find lots of rock art from tens of thousands of years ago, illustrating sacred Tjukurpa stories. Some stories you won’t be privvy to of course, because they’re passed through generations and you have to be part of the gang.
- There are two galleries in the national park where you can watch people paint and craft traditional Indigenous art, learn about the culture, and even pick up an item or two for yourself – Walkatjara in Uluru’s Cultural Centre is a not-for-profit, where the artist gets 50% of the takings (the rest goes into running the centre).
READ MORE: 10 things you must see in the Northern Territory
You’ve gone a little more off-the-beaten-path with the next installation – this mysterious country, bordered by China and Russia, was voted for by 582 people. Rugged vistas, raw nomadic culture and untouched landscapes are a seductive combination in a world full of technology and gentrified cities, so the fact Mongolia is crawling up the list is a bit of a no-brainer.
- If you’re there in July, Mongolia celebrates Naadam (a national holiday) from 10-12 July every year. Naadam is celebrated everywhere, but in some villages, it’ll be held on a different date. What will you find? Sports, performances, and plenty of partying… it’s the event of the year!
- Ongiin Khiid is a site with a sad history, housing the ruins of two monasteries (many monks were killed and jailed during the destruction of the monastery in 1939). Well worth a visit if you’re into your history, religious studies, or ruins in general.
- If you’re a nature lover, then put the protected Bogd Khan Uul on your radar as it’s the oldest national park in the world, being awarded UNESCO Biosphere Reserve status back in 1997.
GO EXPLORING: check out all of our Mongolia tours
Just as the paradisical islands of Mauritius and the Seychelles are high up the list, as is French Polynesia, collectively. Including Tahiti, Bora Bora, and a whole selection of idyllic places – 446 of you voted for the piercing blue skies, mountainous panoramas, turquoise waters, and general dreamy allure of escaping to an island in the South Pacific. We are right behind you.
- You absolutely have to take to the water and go snorkelling or diving while you’re out there. The best place? Tiputa Pass in Rangiroa. Ranked high on the list of best diving sites in the world. If you’re a diver, you’d be crazy not to go.
- Tahiti is perfect for hiking: as well as being an idyllic place to laze about, it’s got hiking trails through lush green landscapes and waterfalls. Want a proper summit? The extinct volcano of Mont Orohena is the highest point in Tahiti (elevation of 2241m).
- Iipona in Puamau is the site for all you archaeology fans, as it’s home to amazingly-preserved tiki statues.
GO EXPLORING: search flights here
Those who have been and shared their journeys on Instagram, have sent people wild in anticipation of visiting the Silk Road (in particular, the ‘stans’) and it got 392 of your votes. The magical images and videos travellers’ have shared has increased the desirability of this offbeat collection of countries. From the kaleidoscopic mosaic tiles and stunning mosques of Uzbekistan, to the barely-explored Turkmenistan… this corner of the world is all about unbridled discovery and the beauty of being truly off-the-grid. You won’t find drunken backpackers looking for a party here, that’s for sure.
- The dazzling city of Samarkand in Uzbekistan is a great place to start. With ornate, lavish and colourful detailing on and in its mosques and mausoleums, you’ll be staring in awe as you wander the streets.
- The underground lake of Köw Ata in the Bakharden Cave of Turkmenistan offers a natural swimming pool. The poor locals live with 80% desert, as Turkmenistan is landlocked… so they need this (although the water is 35° so probably doesn’t offer up the cooling down they’re searching for). It’s more of a thermal spa. Interesting place to visit if you aren’t scared of bats (the largest known colony of bats in Central Asia live here).
- In Kazakhstan, satisfy your cravings for an active adventure with a hike through the Kolsai Lakes National Park, which can only be reached by car or tour bus. You could be forgiven for thinking you’ve jumped out of Central Asia and entered the Alps.
GO EXPLORING: Best of Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan (13 days)
Surprisingly (or unsurprisingly, because have you seen it?!) Iran (aka Persia) beat the majority of the European spots on the list. Intricately detailed mosques, ancient empires, traditional Islamic hospitality, and spellbinding bazaars helped Iran gain 316 of your votes. It’s not all about the traditional though – Iran has even got a bit of the wild-west feel if you mosey along the dusty paths that head west… volcanic plateaus, castle ruins, and other-worldly scenery will make you feel like you’ve just been dropped in the middle of an Indiana Jones remake.
- The city of Esfahan is an absolute must: it’s a kaleidoscopic feast for the eyes, and we’re not over-selling here. Spend a couple of days here to fully appreciate all the mosaic-tiled mosques, the UNESCO central square, and the astonishing maze of the Bazar-e Bozorg (bazaar), which in parts is more than a thousand years old.
- Home to five different groups of Khamseh nomads, the Bavanat region offers a different look at Iran: rural, simple, off-the-grid living.
- Enchanting Yazd should be worked into the itinerary, particularly if you’re into your history (it was settled 5000 years ago) with 10% of locals still following one of the oldest religions in the world: Zoroastrianism. It’s also been recognised as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO since 2017.
GO EXPLORING: Iran – Discover Persia (14 days)
Now you’ve heard all of 2019’s hottest destinations (as voted by you) it’s time to get planning! Visit STA Travel Garden City at their new shop near Kmart for the best rates and itineraries to make your wanderlust dreams a reality.