Hopefully, now that you’ve finally changed whatever novelty calendar you own over to 2018, your vacation days have reset and you get to start planning for wherever it is you want to go to blow off some steam. Obviously, we have some ideas, so let’s see if we can’t steer you right the way we did for last winter and the summer before that. Here are 11 places you should travel to this year.
Montenegro is one of those places where you could have a day packed with adventure, swimming, hiking, boating, touring, or anything else the country offers during the daytime, then fill your night with bars, clubs, restaurants, shows, or festivals. Or you could treat it like a resort, lounging around in a beautiful jewel of a country on the Adriatic Sea. It really depends on how you like to vacation. For us, the more enticing options are the ones that have us out exploring.
We’re also going to predict Montenegro is going to be one of those Iceland-type tourist places within the next few years. Only a handful of people were out trekking in Iceland until, almost instantaneously, everyone’s extended family was bringing their friends on extravagant, obsessive trips to the country. Right now, with Montenegro, you can get in on a trip before everyone ruins it with their wanderlust bullshit. We highly recommend that. Link
Not to disparage anyone’s prefered vacation, but cruises aren’t really our speed. They’re crowded, claustrophobic, and are the ultimate beacon of tourism. If you’re stepping off a cruise ship, there’s no chance you’re going to be able to blend in with the local populace. But that’s all only for the traditional cruise liner. Cargo cruises are an entirely different story.
A cargo cruise gives you a lot more freedom of movement than your massive liner, with nearly no restrictions on where you can go on the trip, much more personal service, and plenty of space to stretch out. You typically don’t share the ship with more than the crew and a handful of other passengers, completely removing the claustrophobia of a cruise, as well as exponentially increasing the chance that you’ll be open to talking with your fellow passengers.
Also, we mentioned more personal service, and we wanted to stress that. Since the crew isn’t vastly outnumbered by passengers, you’re going to be treated like a person rather than a ticket number. Link
It’s probably fair at this point to say every American at least has a passing familiarity with the Appalachian Trail. You might even have hiked it, or at least known someone who did. But we rarely think about trails like it in other countries. But of course other countries have extra long hiking trails, and they’re worth visiting too.
The Jordan Trail covers the entirety of Jordan, from Um Quais in the north to Aqaba in the south, some 650 kilometers. It’d take about 40 days to hike continuously, and hikers can expect to pass through 52 villages over the hike. Now, none of this is as long as the Appalachian Trail, but Jordan isn’t as long as the Appalachian mountain range, so that’s excusable. It’s still a trail that covers an entire country.
The Jordan Trail website is the perfect tool for planning your trip, as it lays out virtually everything you’d need to have a safe, fulfilling trip. It marks points of interest, geographical features, areas to stay, walking distances, and even has a feature where you can join other groups making the trek. You can spend as long or as short as you’d like, but whatever you do, we recommend making a stop at Petra. You’ve seen it in Indiana Jones: The Last Crusade as the resting place for the Holy Grail. Now you can see it as the beautiful, real life ruin it is.
Go to Bergen for the fjords. That’s basically our whole spiel on this one. Hike fjords, boat in the fjords, look at them from far away, look at them from close up, swim in between them. Get as much fjord action as you possibly can, because there are few places where you can see anything similar. Also there are the Northern Lights, which you can see from the fjords if you go to them at night. Go see fjords. Link
A trip to Oaxaca should focus primarily on absorbing local culture. It’s one of the most diverse areas of Mexico, with nearly 20 languages still spoken regularly (though, if you speak Spanish, you’ll get by just fine), and an emphasis on traditional Mexican food, clothing, and crafts that feels authentic. These aren’t people playing things up for the tourists. These people are living their lives and tourists just happen to stop by sometimes.
There are also plenty of festivals throughout the year. Day of the Dead from mid-October to November 2 is the biggest and will give you the most partying potential in the state, but other smaller celebrations dot the calendar in case you can’t swing an October/November vacation. We’d say Cosala or Tetabiake Art and Culture festival would make good alternatives, though both of those are in the later part of the year as well. Link
Diving in Albania
We try to keep vacations with singular, specific activities in mind to a minimum, but Albania is such a great location for SCUBA diving, it’d be silly to tack on extra stuff when it’s really the diving that’s drawing us in. Especially after we heard a lot of the area is unexplored and they’re discovering Roman ruins and shipwrecks with surprising regularity. Being able to swim through submarine caverns and coral reefs, then accidentally stumble upon some kind of ancient shipwreck is a wildly attractive prospect to us.
And if this is a trip that seems attractive to you as well, there’s plenty of time for you to plan the trip and get your SCUBA certification. Book yourself a class at whatever local business offers them, then buy your plane tickets at the same time. Especially if diving has always been something you wanted to do, but never got around to qualifying. This is the perfect motivation. Link
The fact that everyone’s not constantly raving about the geographical beauty of Canada is always surprising to us. It’s like a British Isles you don’t have to cross an ocean for and with people whose accents are much closer to our own. Plus, a lot of those British Isles people ended up in Canada anyway.
We’re talking about Labrador because it’s a little more off the beaten path than other Canadian destinations. It’s the continental part of the Newfoundland and Labrador province and lends itself to calm exploration. There’s nothing fast-paced or rushed about anything up there, it seems, and a trip to Labrador is definitely for the outdoorsy among us. You can whale watch, hike, fish, swim, birdwatch, or go find yourself some icebergs.
If you can manage it, combine them all in a camping trip. The best way to enjoy the Canadian wilderness is to immerse yourself in it and there’s no better immersion than roughing it in picturesque panoramas. Canada’s also full of Canadians, which is a great positive. Link
Whether or not the bad press Baltimore’s gotten recently is deserved is for a different website to debate. All we know is we had a great time there and wished we could have stayed longer. The city’s nightlife, specifically in Fell’s Point and the Inner Harbor, is surprisingly lively, there’s plenty of character in the older sections of the city, and you can find just about any kind of accommodation you could want. Luxury or boutique hotels, B&B’s, huge chains, mom and pop shops, Airbnb, whatever. You can take the city at whatever pace you want to, cramming in as much as possible, or wandering around waiting for something to catch your eye.
There’s history down there too. Baltimore was important in both the War of 1812 and Civil War, with museums, historic sites, and events that commemorate both. Francis Scott Key wrote “The Star Spangled Banner” after he was inspired during the Battle of Baltimore in the former, so this city’s been indispensable to the American identity, since the song was written. At the very least, if history’s not interesting to you, you can visit some great bars after some Inner Harbor boating. Link
Hudson River Valley Craft Beer Road Trip
Back in March of last year, the Poughkeepsie Journal put together a great article on brewing in the Hudson River Valley, so consider this entry a recommendation that you just follow exactly. Tack on any extra breweries you might personally love, but the article lays out a solid path for any craft beer aficionados who are looking to pack in as many tastings as possible. The Hudson River Valley is known for its scenery too, so while we’d never advocate you drink and drive, we will advocate that you drink and drive, with some time in between the two.
Scottish Highlands/Whisky Road Trip
For all our blustering about how rye whiskey is the original American whiskey, what bourbons are best, and how Irish whiskey used to be the premiere global whiskey, we have to recognize the power of Scotch. There’s a reason it took Irish whiskey’s place when the industry collapsed, and that has to be respected. It’s a delicious whisky and we completely understand why people devote such time and energy to drinking as many expressions as possible.
That’s our motivation for recommending an itinerary like this one. You get to experience the best that Scotland has to offer in both geography and distillation, which is more than enough of a reason to hop on the next flight to Scotland. This is also a great way to learn how to pronounce some of your favorite whiskies, since a lot of them are based in Scottish Gaelic, a language that’s nearly impossible to figure out by yourself.
GQ did a decent breakdown for a prototype Scotch road trip, but we suggest using it as a suggestion. Build your own trip and you’ll find it much more rewarding.
The motivation to recommend Ypres is a bit more somber than the other locations we suggested, though history buffs probably had an idea something of this sort was coming. This year marks the centennial of the end of the First World War and Ypres was the site of one of the deadliest battles of the war, as well as a few repeat performances. It’s estimated, by war’s end, 1.7 million soldiers from both sides died in the town and surrounding area.
We’re recommending this for anyone who likes to plan a vacation with an explicitly historical focus. There are guided battlefield tours, museums, memorials, trails, driving routes, and plenty of other sites aimed at educating anyone who wants to commemorate the Great War. Again, it’s not a trip for everyone, but if you particularly enjoy injecting tons of history into your vacations, you won’t find many more rewarding or timely than this. Link