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Top 10 Holiday Destinations For 2019

We’ve carefully selected the 19 destinations to watch in 2019, from Tahiti to Romania, Greece to India, Scotland to Egypt.

EGYPT

The New Art Pilgrimage

The opening of the game-changing Grand Egyptian Museum has been delayed again – until when, we’re no longer exactly sure (though the latest word is 2020). And yet, the news from the ground is for the first time in 8 years, there’s a waitlist for city hotels and boat trips along the Nile. After a tumultuous few years, Egypt, it seems, is back on the map. It had been hoped that the $1 billion, sleek, marble temple to the country’s antiquities would have swung open its doors by now, revealing, among a wealth of other national treasures, most crucially King Tutankhamun’s entire burial collection – more than 5,000 pieces – displayed to the public in an exact replica of the tomb itself. Which means visitors will be able to see everything – bejeweled sandals, embroidered tunics and the Boy King’s death mask – just as Howard Carter did when he made his milestone discovery in 1922.

And yet, while everyone waits patiently, elsewhere in the country the momentum mounts. Nile cruise liner Sanctuary Retreats has just launched weekly sailings of its boutique wooden boats, kitted out with art deco fixtures and leather deck chairs to sink into while gazing at Nubian sandstone cliffs and the teeming ancient tombs and temples of Luxor. Oberoi’s ship in the meantime, the Philae, has been given a top to bottom refurb, including a rooftop pool and much fewer, more spacious rooms as well as a spa with views out to Medinat Habu, the resting place of Rameses II and one of the new spots on their itinerary. And in March 2019 the much-talked about St Regis will open right on the river, injecting Cairo‘s dusty hotel scene with a much-needed dosage of glamour; it’s floor-to-ceiling glass doors opening onto terraces that offer the sharpest views of Cairo’s pedestrian-friendly Corniche promenade anywhere around.

THE PELOPONNESE, GREECE

A go-slow corner of the Mediterranean

While the starriest Greek islands – such as Santorini and Mykonos – grapple with over-tourism, forward-thinking visitors are heading to the mainland and discovering the wide-open spaces of Greece off-season. The Peloponnese has been bubbling just below the radar since Costa Navarino opened in 2010. Soon afterwards, the local airport at Kalamata opened up to international flights, shaving off several hours’ driving time from Athensand boosting arrivals to the region by 15 per cent last year.

In 2019, the rail service linking the port of Patras with the town of Pyrgos, in the south-western Peloponnese, will resume after a seven-year halt. A train ride is the perfect way to explore this laidback region which has been a destination for wellness and fitness since Hippocrates prescribed therapeutic olive oil massages and naked athletes limbered up in Olympia. Athletes (dressed in more than just a slick of olive oil) will be hitting Costa Navarino in April 2019 for Greece’s first Iron Man race. After a 1.9km swim in the Ionian Sea, competitors will cycle through olive groves before embarking on a half marathon that runs alongside Voidokilia beach, a perfect semi-circle of burnished sand.

The west coast of the Peloponnese is rippled with mile upon mile of sand dunes. Kourouta may not be the quietest beach, but it will soon become the hippest. In May, Dexamenes hotel opens in an abandoned wine factory on the waterfront. K-Studio (the architects behind all the coolest new hotels in Greece, from Branco on Mykonos to Perianth in Athens), have barely interfered with the industrial aesthetic: bedrooms are fashioned from old storage tanks, their gritty concrete walls punctuated by black steel piping, with polished terrazzo bathrooms screened by textured glass and sliding windows framing the sea views.

The adjacent buildings are being transformed into a taverna, a grocery selling local produce, and a history room that will connect guests to the local culture of wine-making. The Peloponnese has more wineries and grape varieties than any other region in Greece. It’s a tradition you can taste at Eumelia, a farmstead set among 50 acres of organic olive groves and vineyards, which has quietly built a reputation for immersive foodie and creative retreats; and Zz Kyllini LA, a swish new estate in Kyllini that produces its own wine, grappa, honey, and Zea flour.

Euphoria Retreat, Greece’s first destination spa, is modelled on a Byzantine monastery, but it’s not all about spiritual awakening and slowing down. Active retreats include the ‘Spartan adventure in nature’, which features rock climbing, rafting and paragliding. There’s more off-grid action at Villa Vager Mani, from hiking and archery to kayaking and scuba diving. This family-run guesthouse has four suites in a fortified mansion built in 1858.

It’s a 20-minute drive from the village of Kardamili, where the most desirable property in the Peloponnese will be available to rent for three months of the year from 2020: the peachy stone house poised above a private cove was built by travel writer Patrick Leigh Fermor in the 1960s – ‘a world of utmost magical beauty’ where he wrote, swam, and entertained poets and painters until his death aged 96.

MATERA, ITALY

A romantic ravine in Italy attracting travelers looking for an immersive experience

Down in the arch of Italy’s foot, Matera is built into the rock of a ravine. This strange, prehistoric-looking city is miles from anywhere, and so out of time that it has been used as a set for films needing an authentic Jerusalem: Ben-Hur, and The Passion of the Christ, for which a crucifix was made that remains on the hillside. But Matera’s sassi are what people come to see, the troglodyte cave dwellings where, even in the mid-20th century, its impoverished citizens lived in dank darkness until it was eventually abandoned. In 1993, UNESCO declared Matera a World Heritage Site. Slowly its fortunes changed, and now, as in Santorini, they’ve become hot property among travellers keen for an immersive stay. Many sassi are being rented out on Airbnb or turned into galleries, restaurants and charming cave hotels, upscale hideaways in limestone grottoes, such as the Palazzo Gattini, Corte San Pietro, Relais La Casa di Lucio (which has a new royal apartment) and Sextantio Le Grotte della Civita, one of the most romantic digs in all Italy. A short drive away, in Bernalda, is Francis Ford Coppola’s splendid Palazzo Margherita.

In 2019, Matera will be thrust into the light of the 21st century as a European Capital of Culture. The year’s cultural programme kicks off on 19 January with more than 2,000 musicians and dozens of brass bands, all marching to their own tune around the city’s ancient candlelit streets.

PERTH, WESTERN AUSTRALIA

The wild West Coast’s riverside capital

For the first time ever you can, finally, fly direct to Australia – on Qantas’s new 17-hour London-Perth route. That suddenly opens up a new continent for consideration – and the country’s west coast is booming right now.

The Margaret River region is well established as a foodie destination, with its Gourmet Escape pulling in international chefs (Rick Stein, Nigella Lawson) every November. Now its top-notch produce and wines are fuelling a proliferation of independent new cafés, bars and restaurants in the state capital.

In 2019 the Ritz-Carlton Perth opens on redeveloped Elizabeth Quay, joining the new Westin Perth (which launched in 2018 in the heritage-listed Hibernian Hall and has 2,000 artworks, including aerial photography of WA, and a great rooftop pool) and other relative newcomers COMO The Treasury and Alex Hotel (founded by the brewers behind Little Creatures, stars of the city’s enthusiastic craft-beer scene).

There’s culture in the form of Sculpture by the Sea, an annual exhibition held in March (in 2018 Damien Hirst’s giant inflatable head in snorkel and mask emerged from the bone-white sands of Cottesloe Beach); while on Rottnest Island, so close you can swim over from Cottesloe, Pinky’s new tented eco-retreat will welcome guests from February 2019. North of the city there’s been £100-million investment in Scarborough Beach – where the fine sands and sunny disposition can never be confused with Britain’s own Scarborough beach – with a smart new pool and restaurants such as The Peach Pit.

Beyond the city – because let’s face it, you’re not flying 17 hours for a weekend break – Perth is the jumping-off point for further explorations into Australia’s wild west: Ningaloo Reef where you can swim with whale sharks; and the dramatic Kimberley, with wilderness escapes such as El Questro homestead. And until April 2019, travellers making the detour south to the whaling town of Albany will be rewarded with Bruce Munro’s captivating new ‘Field of Light: Avenue of Honour’, a reiteration of his artwork in Uluru, with 13,000 lightbulbs planted to commemorate the centenary of WW1. Stop off en route for a night at Katanning’s new Premier Mill Hotel, which brings hipster cool to the outback-of-beyond; then while you’re down there, there’s a new-for-2019 trip to see killer whales at the feeding grounds of Bremer Canyon.

THE SCOTTISH HIGHLANDS

A sweep of visionaries are shaking up the Scottish Highlands

Travellers walk the earth to find monumental landscapes, a sense of complete isolation – yet relatively few go looking in their own back yard. Perhaps if (OK, when) Britain leaves Europe in March 2019, that will change, and we will finally head for the Highlands, our own true wilderness, for our country kicks and skiing breaks.

Certainly, Europeans can’t get enough of the place. The Danish team behind the exquisite Killiehuntly Farmhouse and Kinloch Lodge – clothing billionaire Anders Holch Povlsen and his interior-decorator wife, Anne – are busy revamping additional tumbledown properties with their Scandi-Scot good taste. Kyle House – a former smokery turned Danish-minimalist masterpiece, with mountain views from every seat in the house, including the bath – has just opened.

Set to follow soon are lovely lochside Hope Lodge and Lundies, a restored manse aimed at bikers and hikers on the North Coast 500, which is bringing new life to this beautiful area. The Povlsens have also just opened Kennels Cottage, in the Cairngorms, while the village of Braemar, across the peaks, is all abuzz as the Swiss gallerists behind Hauser & Wirth undertake their epic makeover of the Fife Arms, transforming it into a top-notch, 46-room hotel with Jinny Blom gardens, a spa, a restaurant and, of course, a bar – plus a knockout collection of Scottish and international art and installations.

Additionally, down in the Lowlands, Dundee’s culture credentials are multiplying. The V&A opened here in September 2018, and now a former mill is being turned into a massive multi-venue arts destination.

THE TURKISH RIVIERA

A chic-but-affordable alternative for the beach-party crowd

A couple of years ago the Turkish Riviera was all but off-limits for British travellers – so what welcome news that this glorious coast is back with a bang. British Airways has resumed its direct flights from London to Dalaman, making secret beach spots such as Datça and Bozburun super accessible. Meanwhile, the Bodrum Peninsula is all of a flutter with smart new developments that are taking the scene up a notch. Around the corner from the superyacht-filled Yalikavak Marina is Ian Schrager’s all-white Bodrum Edition, which launched in summer 2018 with a restaurant by El Bulli’s Diego Muñoz, a full-on disco (including a giant pink glitter ball), and a non-stop deep-house soundtrack that resonates from the pool to beach club. More ambitious still is Kaplankaya, an entire new coastal town north-west of Bodrum. Already launched is a Six Senses hotel and destination spa, five beaches and various restaurants, and there are several more hotels in the offing plus a Foster & Partners-designed marina. Old favourites reopened this spring, too: Nicolas Sarkozy was among those holing up at peaceful Amanruya in summer; Mandarin Oriental Bodrum made a splash with new nightclub Kai; while round the headland Macakizi has a new waterfront restaurant and club and is working on an exciting place to stay nearby called Macakizi Lofts.

With the value of the Turkish lira having fallen significantly, the Turquoise Coast is currently a well-priced, chic alternative for Europeans who want to swim, sail, eat and party.

ST BARTH’S, CARIBBEAN

The Caribbean comeback

In 2017 the most powerful storm ever to sweep the Atlantic, Hurricane Irma, struck the Caribbean – swiftly followed by the equally devastating Hurricane Maria. Several entire islands were wiped out. 

St Barth’s was one of the worst hit. One year on, and the breezy-breathe-easy island is definitely, defiantly open for business again. Renovation efforts have been phenomenal as islanders have beavered away to rebuild lives, homes and infrastructure, as well as the hotels and beach bars we cross oceans for – so going to the Caribbean in 2019 is a philanthropic act, too.

Hôtel Le Toiny, which was relaunched only three years ago by new English owners Charlie and Mandie Vere Nicoll, has been revamped again. It reopened in October with eight new suites added (all with pools and ocean-view terraces), and its beach club has been so well re-landscaped that it’s hard to believe it was destroyed; just in time for the Saint Barth Gourmet Festival, which took place in early November.

At the other end of the island, Villa Marie Saint-Barth (sister hotel to the St Tropez original) has been restored to its former French-tropical, palm-print glory with two brand-new villas.

Meanwhile, the legendary Eden Rock St Barths is set to reopen for next Christmas, in November 2019, after a complete face-lift. It’s owned by the Matthews, Pippa Middleton’s in-laws (although Pippa might have to skip Christmas on the beach this year). 

Across the water, in the British Virgin Islands, Richard Branson has also reopened his Great House on Necker Island in October and will be gradually adding newly rebuilt villas and rooms throughout 2019.

ARLES, FRANCE

A city flexing its artistic muscles in honour of its most famous resident

Vincent Van Gogh’s dream is finally coming true. It was his vision for Arles to become a kind of utopian refuge for a collective of artists – and now, with a major new arts venue being created, including a centrepiece by Frank Gehry, this Provençal city in the Camargue is set to become an important art destination for Europe.

He was hugely prolific during his year in the city’s ‘Yellow House’, where he lived, painted and cut off his ear after a row with his housemate, Paul Gauguin. Philanthropist Luc Hoffmann launched the Foundation Vincent Van Gogh here in 2014; and now Luc’s billionaire daughter Maja Hoffmann is transforming a disused railway site into a vast arts campus called the Parc des Ateliers with the Luma Arles foundation and Gehry’s gleaming tower at its centre, and studios and exhibition spaces in the old engine sheds. An exciting programme is already underway with shows and site-specific installations in its finished spaces. Catch ‘Gilbert & George: The Great Exhibition’ there until 6 January 2019; then May 2019 will host a major arts and ideas forum.

And there’s more. The international photography festival Les Rencontres de la Photographie expands year on year; while the Roman amphitheatre (Arles was a provincial capital of Rome) will host progressive cultural events; and the beautiful new art hotel Le Collatéral, a Design Hotel set in a medieval church, showcases international contemporary art in its public spaces and bedrooms, including one inspired by van Gogh’s blue and yellow ‘Bedroom in Arles’.

VALLE DE GUADALUPE

New flavours for Mexico’s wine country

This boulder-strewn bronze sweep of Baja California has been luring wine-lovers and weekending West Coasters for some time (it’s just a 90-minute drive from the American border). Now it’s earning itself the lofty billing of Mexico’s Napa Valley, for its architect-designed tasting rooms and complex bottles – many of them innovative organic, biodynamic and minimum-intervention.

The foodie landscape has been maturing as well, drawing on farm-to-table ingredients and seafood from the nearby Pacific. One of the area’s best-loved chefs is Javier Plascencia, who set up in the Valle in 2012, when it first turned heads as an emerging wine region. His Finca Altozano now encompasses the original outdoor grill restaurant, an Airstream tortas truck, an ice-cream shop and a pop-up space under a 100-year-old oak tree. Close by, Finca La Divina is his beautiful four-bedroom B&B. Among the other foodie trailblazers are Corazón de Tierra and Laja, both of which notch up on Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants list – René Redzepi raves about the latter’s off-menu vegetable tostada.

And at Deckman’s En El Mogor, American chef Drew Deckman cooks anything from ribeye to octopus among the pines. Other outdoor hits include Baja Med restaurant Malva and TrasLomita, but the latest talked-about spot is Fauna, recently opened at slick winery-hotel Bruma. Its chef, locally raised David Castro Hussong, a graduate of Blue Hill at Stone Barns and Eleven Madison Park in New York, crafts elevated tasting menus that play with Mexican classics served at relaxed communal tables.

Fresh places to stay are ramping up the options in the valley too. In August, Hotel Partana’s striking steel, wood and glass rooms were revealed, while Mexico design-hotel hit-makers Grupo Habita are working on glampsite Cuatro Cuatros to add a hotel, cabins, spa and restaurant, all set to open next summer. With the annual Valle Food & Wine Festival launched by Plascencia and LA-based chef Nancy Silverton, and following in the tradition of Napa and Sonoma, the area is well on its way to having a restaurant scene as world class as its vineyards.

NEW ORLEANS

Hip hotel openings lead a revival parade

In New Orleans, a city of sensory overload, you can pick up wafts of chicory, spilled rum, warm beignets and stale cigarettes in the same breath. But in the lobby of the new Hotel Peter & Paul in Marigny, it’s more like… gardenias. There’s a feeling of lightness here, from the extra-high ceilings that give the rooms a bright glow to the cheery canary-yellow check-in desk.

This is one of the most anticipated hotel launches in a city that really needed a hotel resurgence. Fusty places with antique-cluttered rooms were the standard here. Properties either nailed the bar and courtyard, or had great rooms. Finding both seemed impossible. Until now. Peter & Paul is actually a bundle of buildings: a 19th-century Catholic church, schoolhouse, convent and rectory reimagined by ASH NYC, with gingham curtains woven in Switzerland.

Meanwhile, near the French Quarter, The Eliza Jane has taken over the old Times-Picayune printing press. Its curated vintage aesthetic still feels fresh and alive, with deep sofas in jewel-toned purples and reds, a long bar built for slinging sazerac, a terrace that works for both coffee meetings and happy hour and the already popular restaurant Couvant.

In April 2019, the Atelier Ace team opens Maison de la Luz in the Warehouse District. It is meant to be that quiet place you retreat to at the end of a long night of debauchery, but there will be a craft cocktail bar from Quixotic Projects. At Peter & Paul, however, the new Elysian Bar is from the team behind local haunt Bacchanal, which hosts the best backyard party in the Bywater. This is New Orleans after all.

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