Berlin will be a hot ticket next year, with Scoot starting long-haul budget flights to the German capital in the second half of 2018. The Berlin Wall divided the country during the Cold War until 1989 and its graffiti-covered vestiges are now a symbol of German reunification and the swift fall of communism across Eastern Europe. While history is everywhere in the city, Berlin is also ultra-modern with its party scene, street art and contemporary architecture – notably the freeform gold-hued Berliner Philharmonie concert hall.
With or without special events, this is a city with appeal to millennials and museum-lovers alike, with its techno festivals and 170-plus museums. One event to catch is the much raved-about One Grand Show at the Friedrichstadt-Palast theatre. The Broadway-style production, about a young man’s dreamlike journey through time, is Berlin’s most-booked show. French couturier Jean Paul Gaultier designed more than 500 extravagant costumes for it.
Another German destination to consider is Munich. In March, Lufthansa will start non-stop flights to the city from Singapore, five times a week, on the Airbus A350-900. The metropolis with an intimate small-town feel should appeal to families with teens or smaller children. A good excursion from Munich is Zugspitze, the highest mountain in Germany at 2,962m. Its hiking trails are within easy reach of Munich Airport – a Lufthansa shuttle or express bus will get visitors there in two hours.
Other Rising European Cities:
Macedonia and Kosovo
Both less-known Balkan states are the next frontier for tourism in that region. The neighbours are both landlocked countries with serene mountain towns and splendid lakes, with Kosovo imbued with special meaning as Europe’s newest country after declaring independence from Serbia in 2008. Qatar Airways, which regularly inaugurates routes to exotic cities, has started flying to Skopje in Macedonia.
Russia will host the 2018 Fifa World Cup, with the games to be played in 11 cities. These include the classic destinations of Moscow and St Petersburg, as well as remote Kazan and Yekaterinburg on the trans-Siberian train route. Qatar Airways, the official airline of Fifa, has various travel packages for the games that include return flights, hotel rooms and match tickets.
#3: Oman And Jordan
With a variety of deserts covering a fifth of the planet, these arid places are an underexplored realm for the rain-drenched Singaporean traveller. From Oman to the United States and even icy Antarctica, there are deserts aplenty that receive less than 25cm of rain a year. These are not all dustbowls, however. Deserts are more varied than many imagine. While they immediately conjure up images of sand dunes, only 10 per cent are actually sandy. Desert terrain may also be mountainous, coastal or glacial.
Deserts also host fantastical plants and wildlife. In Mongolia, I have spied furry jerboas hopping like tiny kangaroos in the Gobi Desert. In Peru recently, I waited for condors to swoop over the windswept Colca Canyon. Luxury travel company Scott Dunn recommends Oman and Jordan in the Middle East, a central location for travellers flying from Asia. More luxury hotels are springing up in both countries. Oman, which the World Economic Forum named the fourth safest country globally this year – outranking Singapore in sixth place – has heritage and natural beauty.
For the desert experience, you could camp in a tent under the stars in the Wahiba Sands desert. Outside of that, you could visit canyons, fjords, villages of Damask rose distillers, Muscat souks or beaches. Now is a good time to visit Salalah in the south of the country. Ms Amy Ropner, a travel consultant from Scott Dunn, advises travellers to go now, before the new airport, which opened in June 2015, gets too busy. Salalah, which was once on the frankincense route, has a palm-fringed coast, waterfalls and preIslamic ruins.
Jordan is yet another exciting choice for 2018. Travel publisher Frommers has highlighted the over-650km Jordan Trail that opened this year and runs the length of the country. The long-distance hiking trail – trekkers can choose portions to walk – includes the Red Sea and the ancient desert city of Petra, a Unesco World Heritage Site of dazzling pink-rock and sandstone ruins. It is worth lingering in Petra, which is still being excavated from the sand. It was the capital of the vanished Nabataean empire between 400BC and AD106 .
Other Desert Spots:
Ayers Rock, Australia
Ayers Rock in the Australian outback can be explored by coach, camel, helicopter and on foot through aboriginal land. The scarlet sandstone monolith in the arid centre of the country is 348m high and is sacred ground for the indigenous people.
Judean and Negev deserts, Israel
The enterprising nation put fancy wineries, emigres, agro-businesses, military zones and a nuclear reactor in the Judean and Negev deserts, bringing life to the land and creating one more fresh frontier for travellers. Among the many desert parks is the Ben-Gurion’s Tomb National Park, with a desert garden on a cliff overlooking the golden Tsin canyon and the final resting place of Israel’s first prime minister (after which the park is named), who spurred the greening of these once desolate places.