Here at Original Travel, we are always looking ahead with wanderlust and planning for our next worldwide adventure. We're pleased to say that we've sat down and looked deep into our crystal ball (the office globe) and are excited to share with you our hottest destinations to visit in 2018 - full of the latest places to explore with brand spanking new activities and itinerary ideas galore...
Morocco - Beyond Marrakech
A long term favourite for Original Travel, Morocco remains the most exotic place in easy reach of the UK. Experiencing that exoticism just got easier thanks to a new internal flight route linking Fez and Marrakech, two extremely beguiling cities that were previously a six hour drive apart.
Fez has virtually no direct flights from the UK and is a gateway to the less explored North. A great new road trip would set out from Fez via the beautiful blue city of Chefchaouen to Tamouda Bay, home of a new Banyan Tree with a Ritz Carlton and Chedi to come, head on to seriously under-rated Tangier to complete the trip.
Marrakech may be a known quantity nowadays, but it remains a truly enthralling destination with unrivalled souqs and the immense Djemmaa el-fna square. Marrakech already has a superb selection of hotels and the new Oberoi, complete with 25 acres of citrus orchards and olive groves, is opening early 2018.
Cambodia - Undiscovered Ancient Cities
Cambodia was already in the process of casting off its reputation as a one trick (named Angkor Wat) pony, but in 2018 the country will be showing off a veritable Spanish Riding School of new routines.
Starting on the south coast and working up, there are the (really) long awaiting Alilia and Six Senses Krabey Island, both of which will now definitely, definitely (possibly) be opening in 2018. Back on the mainland, and making for a perfect pit stop between coast and Angkor Wat, is going to be Shinta Mani Wild from the brilliant hotel designer Bill Bensley. The self-sustainable site will take glamping to a new level in the remote wilderness area of Tmor Rung.
Angkor Wat itself is sadly approaching saturation point, but there are still relatively undiscovered Khmer/Angkor era cities hidden in the endless jungle interior. Take breakfast amid the serpentine roots at Banteay Kdei, traverse jungle and cross streams on foot to access the 13th century Banteay Thom ruins (no road access= no tourists) or travel north (by helicopter for added awesomeness) to visit the clifftop Preah Vihear, precipitously located 1,500ft above the Thai/Cambodia border and only open to tourism since 2015 after a long running border dispute.
Tanzania and Zanzibar - New Luxury Hotels and Lodges
Zanzibar seems to have an opening a minute at the moment, but we think Zuri Zanzibar (opening May 2018) on the north-west coast with free-standing villas, will be a belter. Unique (genuinely) to Zanzibar, Zuri Zanzibar's beach is within a large cove resulting in a longer-lasting high tide than other local beaches. Sustainability is also important to the resort, with as many local products as possible used in the construction, and a programme in place whereby the hotel will offer local students a two-year hotel diploma and subsequent employment.
That's the beach covered, now for the bush, and Tanzania's newly opened Jabali Ridge, the most luxurious lodge in Ruaha National Park, which is home to one of the greatest populations of elephant in Africa.
Corfu (and southern Albania) - Villas are SO 2017
The beautiful island of Corfu has always been about villas rather than hotels, mainly because the villas are so darn nice but also because there just weren't any hotels worth considering. Now, in true London bus fashion there are two fantastic hotels opening in 2018 - the Angsana Corfu (multiple restaurants, beachfront dining, rooftop lounge bar) and the Ikos Dassia (15 acres of grounds, superb beachfront).
The new openings mean Corfu can be done in a more flexible manner than just a pure Saturday-Saturday villa bookings. Spend a few days in a hotel, and then as a slightly leftfield counterpart to the obvious charms of Corfu consider tacking on a tailor-made exploration of Albania, just across the water. Butrint, the beautiful and ancient Roman site located in southern Albania can be accessed for a day trip by ferry from Corfu, but we'd recommend spending a few days to take in southern Albania's other UNESCO World Heritage sites, Berat and Gjirokastra.
Corfu also combines brilliantly with the Eprius and Meteora region of Greece, famed for the deepest canyon in the world (Vikos Gorge) and beautiful clifftop monasteries respectively.
Valletta, Malta - European Capital of Culture
Valletta is going to be the European Capital of Culture, which means the city that UNESCO describe as 'one of the most concentrated historic areas in the world' is going to be front and centre once again.
You could overload on culture just wandering the 135 acres of superbly preserved streets within the city walls that are home to a staggering 320 designated monuments, but 2018 sees an additional cultural programme of over 140 projects and 400 events. In time for the opening of proceedings is the re-opening of The Phoenicia, just outside the massive main gates, is the latest project from Gordon Campbell Gray, the man behind One Aldwych and Le Gray Beirut. Space in the medieval centercentre is at a premium, while the Phoenicia has a 7.5 acre garden and beautiful pool as aces up its sleeve.
After a few days exploring the city's culture, fun nightlife and harbour (in a dghajsa, an ancient water taxi), escape to Malta's charming and tiny sister island Gozo for the best diving anywhere in the Mediterranean.
Indonesia - Private Island Resorts and Glamping
Liveaboards in Raja Ampat might now be firmly a 'thing' (and with very good reason), but this vast island nation has plenty of other hidden corners that remain completely unspoilt and undiscovered. The good news is that some of these are considerably easier to reach than Raja Ampat. First up, Bawah Island, just two hours from Singapore and being pitched as 'Soneva Fushi 20 years ago'. If that's the case, we're sold, and Bawah is now officially open and comprised of six islands - four of which have been left entirely untouched - and with pristine reef surrounding a beautiful lagoon. All the signs are that this could be very, very special.
Elsewhere, Alami Alor on Alore Island and Kalimaya on Sumbawa - both mainly dive resorts - are opening. Over on the island of Bali, the Capella near Ubud takes the island's glamping capabilities to new heights opening at the beginning of 2018. The Capella's 22 villas are perched in the jungle canopy in a very contemporary and very comfortable take on Bali's 19th century planters houses on stilts.
Namibia - Namibia Exclusive Takeover
Namibia might finally be about to hit the big(ger) time thanks to a raft of new openings. Namibia Exclusive already have Sorris Sorris, which has been open a year now, and there are three others slated for a 2018 opening: Sheya Shuushuna north of Etosha National Park, opening in April/May; with Omantendeka Lodge in the midst of the Etendeka Mountain range and Xaudum situated in the isolated Khaudum National Park opening later in the year, and all associated with conservancies.
There is a strong sense of sustainability including encouraging guests to engage in sensitively judged community interaction, such as visiting the local Owambo tribe from Sheya Shuushuna. Omatendeka sits on top of a hill overlooking a basalt landscape where elephants and lions roam, and guests who stay for three nights will be able to spend the middle night glamping with local the Himba tribe.
It's not all exclusive to Namibia Exclusive either. Mid-2018 sees the arrival of Shipwreck Lodge, the first luxury property in the remote Skeleton Coast region. We're still huge fans of the epic Schoeman flying safaris, but for anyone who's a nervous flyer, Shipwreck might be the ideal place to stay to experience this beautifully wild region.
Chile - Small Boat Cruising
What with so much excellent quality accommodation and direct flights, the stars are in alignment for Chile right now, as are the sun and moon twice in the next three years as the country experiences not one but two solar eclipses, in 2019 and 2020 respectively. Amazingly there is already a serious problem with quality accommodation for 2019, and 2020 is getting busy along the eclipse route.
In 2018, there's also the arrival of a new small boat cruise 'Australis Ventus' in Southern Patagonia. The boat has been designed to allow for extreme manoeuvrability to navigate the narrow fjords and channels other cruise ships can't get into. The ante is being upped even further later in the year with the launch of Scenic Eclipse the most luxurious expedition cruise boat yet built, with berths for 228 passengers, two helicopters, 12 Zodiac RIB tenders and even a submarine that can launch when the crew hear whales on the sonar.
November 2018 will see a voyage taking in the Chilean fjords and Falkland Islands.
USA - New Flight Route and Hotel Openings
The combination of a new direct flight route from London to the Deep South and an array of excellent new hotel openings is sure to help lure us back to the US.
It's now easier than ever to reach The Deep South with a new British Airways direct flight route from London to Nashville, starting in May 2018. There is also a slew of new openings from a Four Seasons in Napa Valley - perfect for Californian wine tasting, plus new properties from our favourites, Auberge, in Florida (Auberge Beach Residences, January 2018), New Mexico (Bishops Lodge, Summer 2018) and Utah (The Lodge at Blue Sky, Winter 2018).