Where to Go Now: The Top 5 Travel Destinations of 2018

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This year, make it all about you. Thanks to niche outfitters, alternative hotels, and newly accessible destinations, your next adventure can be the one you’ve always dreamed of.

Republic of Georgia

Picture a sunny Eurasian landscape of jagged, snow-crowned mountains, rolling fields of vineyards, and sexy, bustling cities inhabited by gregarious, proud people who live to eat and drink. Italy, right? Nope. We’re talking about the Republic of Georgia. 

Hidden behind the Iron Curtain for much of the 20th Century, Georgia has slowly been reintroducing itself to the Western world—and it makes a pretty good impression. The capital, Tbilisi, is cosmopolitan and hip, brimming with art, fashion, and restaurants, with a creative energy not unlike that of Berlin’s coming-out party in the 1990s. 

Even more impressive, however, are the nearby Caucasus Mountains, a 750-mile chain running from the Black Sea to the Caspian Sea and home to Europe’s tallest peaks—an adventure playground begging to be discovered. A winding 2.5-hour drive from Tbilisi will put you in the sleepy mountain town of Stepantsminda, nestled in the shadow of 16,558-foot Mount Kazbek. In the winter, you’ll find heli-skiing and ice climbing; in the warmer months, para-gliding, mountain biking, and hiking. “The potential for adventure is limitless,” says Alexander Iskandarov, a local wilderness guide. “You won’t find high-speed gondolas, but you will find wild nature and locals who welcome you into their homes. 

-Jen Murphy

Image via Andrea Cavallini / Getty

Zambia

The hyenas are bigger than any I’ve seen, with bright pelts that seem to absorb sunlight into their black spots and radiate it from the lighter ones. I don’t usually think of a hyena as majestic, but here in Liuwa Plain National Park, everything is majestic. 

The park, 2,275 square miles on the upper Zambezi floodplains of Zambia’s far western province, offers one of the continent’s most remote safari experiences—a remoteness that has made the place almost impossible to visit. That changed last spring, with the opening of the King Lewanika Lodge. The park’s first permanent safari camp, the lodge consists of six elegantly appointed canvas tents with hot showers, striking a perfect balance between bush-camp luxury and earthy authenticity. 

You do your exploring, via Land Cruiser or canoe, when the animals are on the move, before dawn or approaching dusk, or even at night—getting exhilaratingly close to lions and cheetahs, with big-bodied birds, like openbill storks and white-faced whistling ducks, hovering overhead. Time in between is spent napping, reading, or seeing what’s on offer at the bar, which is set on a veranda overlooking endless savanna. In the late 19th century, these were the royal hunting grounds of King Lewanika, leader of the Lozi people. But by the mid-1970s, nearly the entire animal population had been depleted by poachers. In 2003, African Parks, a South Africa-based NGO that helps restore and manage wilderness areas, saved the plain by reintroducing native species. 

But the magic of Liuwa Plain is as much about vastness and emptiness as it is about exotic wildlife. Out in the bush after a late afternoon of exploring, we stop to observe the sunset. Only now, the sunset and the moonrise occur simultaneously. The sun and moon, close and enormous, sit on either side of the horizon at eye level. Then the sun goes down and the moment is gone, though the feeling—humbling and exhilarating—lingers. 

-Todd Pitock

Image via Time + Tide

Kalimantan

Kalimantan—the Indonesian portion of Borneo—has all of the dense jungle, snaking rivers, and pristine beaches you expect on a South Pacific island. But there’s one big difference: Because it’s largely protected from tsunamis, Kalimantan’s rain forest is one of the world’s oldest—130 million years, with towering trees, 25,000 species of flowering plants, and all manner of exotic wildlife. Most notably, Kalimantan is the last natural habitat for Borneo orangutans, and because the island gets relatively few visitors, animal sightings are plentiful. You won’t find 600-thread-count sheets or four-star cuisine, but if you’re willing to roll with it, you can spend the night aboard a traditional wooden houseboat called a klotok and escape the steamy jungle heat with a swim in a remote, cascading waterfall. 

-Berne Broudy

Image via Soekron Mohamad / EyeEm / Getty

The Arctic

For centuries, explorers sought the Northwest Passage, the elusive sea route through the Canadian Arctic connecting the Atlantic to the Pacific. And for centuries, thick pack ice made the route impassable—and often deadly. But a warming climate is changing that. Last year, Crystal Cruises made its maiden voyage from Alaska to New York—a staggering 32 days and 7,297 miles—and a growing number of outfitters like Adventure Canada now offer similar journeys. 

No one is happy about climate change, but summer in the Arctic is a time of unexpected bloom: At Baffin Island, Canada’s largest island, you’ll find fat, healthy bears on ice floes. In Lancaster Sound, you can see arctic foxes, walruses, bowhead whales. Zooming through fjords in Zodiacs, you’ll get scarily close to calving ice, racing along glacial walls in search of narwhals.

It’s breathtaking—but, frankly, unsettling. Gawking at the giant icebergs in Greenland’s Ilulissat, it’s sobering to recall that 8% of the earth’s freshwater is locked in Greenland’s ice. If that melts, seas would rise 23 feet globally. And this striking landscape could be lost forever.

-Adam Popescu

Photograph by Dennis Minty

The post Where to Go Now: The Top 5 Travel Destinations of 2018 appeared first on Men's Journal.



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