Destination NEXT

Where to travel in 2019 – Part Two

With global tourism reaching saturation point, new and largely undiscovered destinations are becoming harder to find. Here, we continue our Destination NEXT series and present Part Two of our top 30 exciting, surprising and rapidly trending places. Far from the madding tourist crowds, these hot spots offer once-in-a-lifetime experiences to thrill even the most well-travelled globe trotters.

By Andrew Conway and Madelin Tomelty

Santiago, Chile



If one city in South America embodies the essence of Destination Next, surely it’s Santiago, Chile’s vibrant capital and largest metropolis. Nestled in a wide, sprawling valley and surrounded by the snow-covered peaks of the Andes, Santiago is on a mission to be the continent’s next big thing. Luxury hotels, big and small, are sprouting from the ground like daffodils in spring, along with sensitive restorations of historic buildings and districts, creating an eye-catching fusion of old and new. Stroll Plaza de Armas, Santiago’s colonial heart, with its 18th-century cathedral; climb San Cristobal Hill for breathtaking views; visit poet Pablo Neruda’s museum-home; drink pisco and dine in lively Barrio Lastarria; explore the Museum of Memory and Human Rights for a harrowing account of dictator General Pinochet’s 17-year reign of fear; and wander the city’s many bohemian barrios such as Bellavista, Italia, Brasil and Yungay. Stay at:   The Singular,

Santiago, Chile



This glorious archipelago has long flown under the radar of Australian travellers to Europe, yet is one of its undisputed gems. Nestled between Sicily and the North African coast, Malta is renowned for its historic sites, the legacy of a succession of rulers including the Romans, Moors, Knights of Saint John, French and British. The largest island, also called Malta, is a cultural powerhouse of antiquities, fortresses, churches and temples, such as the Hal Saflieni Hypogeum, a subterranean complex of halls and burial chambers dating to circa 4000 BC. The capital, Valletta, is a maze of narrow streets, colourful facades, gilded churches, boutiques and charming cafes. Basking in more than 300 days of annual sunshine, the southern part of the island has picturesque fishing villages and secluded coves, while the north coast boasts Malta’s best sand beaches, such as Golden Bay.   Stay at: Xara Palace  

The Arctic

The Arctic

Polar Regions

Much like its polar opposite Antarctica, the Arctic is one of the world’s last great wilderness refuges, but all that’s changing on two counts. Rapid global warming is turning this extreme yet fragile and vulnerable environment into an ever-shifting landscape with potentially devastating effect to its wildlife. And the first trickle of tourism is reaching its shores with the arrival of small but environmentally sensitive luxury cruise ships charting a course through the frigid waters via Canada, Alaska, Norway, Greenland and Russia. This mysterious yet magnetic world of snow and ice, polar bears and walruses is slowly revealing its secrets. “An Arctic cruise is a wonderful way to explore the region with minimal impact to the fragile environment,” says Amanda McClelland, CEO of Cruiseco, the largest distributor of cruise products in the southern hemisphere. A new frontier indeed.   Cruiseco,

The Arctic
Oaxaca, Mexico



Beautiful Spanish colonial churches, outstanding museums, flamboyant festivals, a unique arts and crafts scene, and pre-Columbian ruins: Mexico’s City-State of Oaxaca delivers all this – and more – in a riot of spectacle and colour. One of the country’s architectural gems (pronounced wah-hah-kah), and a resolute defender and supporter of indigenous culture, Oaxaca offers a slice of authentic Mexican life, along with lip-smacking regional food and turbo-charged margaritas. With the city located in central southern Mexico and State extending to the Pacific Coast, Oaxaca offers an alluring urban and beach adventure along with caves, waterfalls and mountains. Some of the city’s more exuberant festivals, such as Día De Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) at the start of November, are worth planning your trip around. Check out the local markets and weirdly beautiful crafts, many designed around half-animal, half-human figures.   Stay at: Casa Oaxaca,

Oaxaca, Mexico
Padar Island, Indonesia

Lesser Sunda Islands


While Bali and Lombok have long been on the beaten tourist trail, their less widely known neighbours in the Lesser Sunda Islands of Indonesia are starting to enjoy their own time in the international spotlight. An archipelago of volcanic islands in the Java Sea, the Lesser Sunda group comprises Bali, Lombok, Sumbawa, Flores, Sumba, Timor, Alor, Barat Daya and Tanimbar Islands, but it’s Flores and Sumba that are appearing on luxury travel insider hot lists in Australia and around the world. Flores is the jumping off point for UNESCO World Heritage site Komodo Island National Park, home to the largest lizard in the world, the prehistoric three-metre-long Komodo dragon. Its surrounding waters and coral reefs are renowned for world-class diving, and new luxury resort hotels are springing up to cater to well-heeled travellers seeking beautiful and relaxing retreats beyond increasingly overrun Bali.   Stay at: The new AYANA Komodo Resort,

Padar Island, Indonesia
Tbilisi, Georgia



With new flight routes from multiple cities in Europe and more and more U.S. travellers now flying through Munich, Kiev and Istanbul, Tbilisi in Eurasian Georgia is on the precipice of change and experienced an influx of international travellers in 2017. Visit in 2019 and expect a rich cultural heritage, an impressive gastronomy scene showcasing a flavour fusion of East and West as well as local wines that are surprisingly moreish. An artsy, cool and creative hotel scene is also emerging in this unassuming capital, as well as an eclectic fashion, nightlife and design culture. Not to mention, the spectacular Caucasus Mountains are on your doorstep.   Stay at: Stamba Hotel



If you haven’t seen photos of this beautiful country’s fairytale-like Lake Bled by now, you’re welcome, and we can testify that Slovenia’s photogenic town is just as magical in the ‘flesh’. Places like this are just the beginning in this small country that has long been one of Europe’s hidden gems. Since gaining its independence from Yugoslavia in the '90s, Slovenia has seen a burgeoning art, dining, nightlife and LGBTQ scenes, and is the top pick for 2019 among some of the world’s most well-travelled, including Virtuoso CEO Matthew Upchurch. With its awareness on the rise (Michelin-starred chef Ana Roš’s Slovenian countryside restaurant was the focus of global Netflix Original show Chef’s Table in 2017, for example) and the fact that Slovenia is the only nation on the continent to claim four major geographic regions: The Alps, Mediterranean Sea, the Pannonian Plains, and the Karst limestone plateau, we’d say there’s never been a better time to visit. Ie: Go now, before the hordes arrive. Stay at: Grand Hotel Toplice


Tennessee, USA

Best known for its rich musical legacy as the birthplace of blues, soul, and rock ’n’ roll, Memphis will celebrate its 200th birthday in 2019 with concerts and historical exhibits throughout the year, making it a party destination not to miss. Along with the growing number of visitors to the city (11.7 million in 2017) Memphis also continues to see an increased supply of high-end hotel rooms, has a recently improved convention centre, and has committed to ongoing upgrades to amenities along its riverfront. Not to mention, history buffs will love learning about the city’s deep civil war roots, musos can visit a reimagined Graceland, which has undergone a USD $45 million expansion, and foodies will quickly discover a city moving beyond its barbecuing roots into a thriving gastronomic scene peppered with new restaurants, breweries and distilleries. Go and get your groove on.

Turquoise Coast, Turkey

Turquoise Coast


Long celebrated for its aquamarine shallows and deeper waters the colour of lapis lazuli, the aptly named Turquoise Coast is emerging as the ‘Turkish Riviera’ – a stretch of sublime coastline in the country’s southwest that is on every savvy, sophisticated and well-heeled traveller’s hot list. New luxury hotels and resorts are appearing alongside the region’s traditional homes, stone walls and olive groves basking in the sunshine. The finest beaches include Oludeniz, Patara and Iztuzu, and archaeological ruins of Greek, Roman and Byzantine origin are never far away. The biggest city on the coast, Antalya, has long beaches lined with upscale resorts and an often tourist-free historic centre, Kaleici, filled with former mansions (many now boutique hotels), restaurants and cafés.   Stay at: The Bodrum EDITION,



There is so much more to China than its mega cities, and more and more travellers are catching on, venturing beyond the Shanghai-Beijing route. Our alternate city pick of this vast country is Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan in Central China. With a new visa-free policy that went into effect on January 1 allowing visitors from 53 countries to stay for six days, this is a city where tourism is set to rocket. With a large community of students and expats, the city is emerging as a fashion, culture, and tech hub, but most of all, a foodie’s paradise (Chengdu is UNESCO’s first City of Gastronomy), thanks to its old teahouses and colourful wet markets. Nicknamed the “Country of Heaven,” Chengdu is also a hot spot for panda-spotting, best done just north of the city at the Giant Panda Breeding Research Base, home to some 200 giant and red pandas. Lastly, the people of Chengdu are known as an arty, open-minded and liberal bunch, so you’ll be in good company. Stay at: The Temple House

Destination NEXT – Part Three

Online Thursday, 31st January