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All The Must-Visit Travel Destinations In 2018

It might only be February, but we're already itching to leave the country. So here's our edit of must-visit travel destinations across seven continents.

#6: Hawaii And Mauritius

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The black sand beach at Pololu Valley on the Kohala Coast, Hawaii. Photo: Reuters

There was a time when Singaporeans honeymooned in Hawaii, an ideal of island life in the middle of the Pacific. Singapore Airlines ended the route in 1992 but, a quarter-century later, its budget sibling Scoot is reviving the traveller’s romance with the volcanic archipelago, having commenced flights to Honolulu via Osaka earlier this month. Next year, why not say “aloha” to Hawaii? Round-trip fares start at $700 and flight time is just under 13 hours. There are four weekly flights on the wide-body, twin-aisle Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

With Scoot’s latest foray in mind, a number of travel specialists are putting Hawaii on next year’s go list. For foodies, Lightfoot Travel, which tailormakes itineraries, suggests sampling the island’s seafood, such as the snacks served on the patio of beachfront restaurant Leilani’s (www.leila nis.com). Dishes include coconut shrimp, fresh fish tacos and the hipster favourite, the Ahi Poke Bowl. Mr Nicholas Lim, president of Trafalgar (Asia), expects travellers to want to do more than just lie on the beach. He pictures them wishing to “connect with nature” – visiting the world’s largest volcano, walking through a lava tube, popping into a coffee plantation, island-hopping and learning about Pacific corals from local experts.

Another island destination to consider is Mauritius. Singapore had its SG50 and Mauritius will have its own Golden Jubilee. Next year, the tropical island in the Indian Ocean celebrates 50 years of independence on March 12. The culturally diverse country is hosting a light and sound show and will send an Olympic-style flame around the island to signify national unity as part of year-long celebrations. You can live in style. Among the resorts is The Residence Mauritius, a luxe colonial-style property owned by Singapore-listed Bonvests Holdings. The hotel can arrange a day excursion to Grand Bassin lake, which is sacred to Hindus, a local rum tasting with canapes and the cooking of Mauritian chicken curry.

Other than flying, you can also sail to islands. Cruises are a relaxed way to explore larger islands, such as the rugged coasts of Scotland, Greece or the wildlife-rich Galapagos. Travel company Bannikin Asia, which focuses on the Asian adventurer, suggests circumnavigating Cuba on a ship. Cruise companies offer diverse experiences there. For instance, you can stop at a bar where the daiquiri was created, stand atop a Spanish fortress and swim in an underground lake.

Other Island Locations: 

Madagascar

Luxury travel company Country Holidays notes that Madagascar, off the coast of eastern Africa, is among its fastest-growing destinations. Because Madagascar is the world’s fourth largest island, the company can arrange private charter flights for guests to see more in less time – playful lemurs, baobab trees, canyons and more.

Siargao, the Philippines The Philippines is awash with tropical islands and Siargao, 800km south-east of Manila, is still quite undiscovered. Known as the surfing capital of the Philippines, it is filled with Instagram-worthy lagoons. Cebu Pacific Air flies here from Cebu and Manila. Two hours by boat is Sohoton Cove, where you can swim amid sting-less jellyfish.

#7: Chile And Argentina

travel destinations

Bolivia’s Salar de Uyuni salt flat fills with water during the December-to- March rains and becomes a giant mirror. Photo: Country Holidays

If Singaporeans can psyche themselves for day-long flights to South America, they will step into a charismatic continent with a spectrum of experiences from world-class chefs in Lima and coffee culture across Colombia to Galapagos wildlife and sultry Brazilian beaches. Of the 12 countries on the continent, Chile and Argentina will be fine destinations for Singaporeans to visit next year as more airlines are offering flights there, says Mr Nicholas Lim, president of travel agency Trafalgar (Asia).

In February, low-cost airline Norwegian will start flying to Argentinian capital Buenos Aires, which is on travel publisher Fodor’s 2018 Go List of hot destinations.

“With its flair for the creative, Buenos Aires has long attracted lovers of art and design,” said Fodor’s. Recently named the world’s first Art Basel City, it has a multi-year partnership with the international art fair that includes a week of public art next September.

The Brazilian coast is also a sizzler. Airbnb, based on booking data for the first half of 2018, forecasts that more travellers will flock to Brazil’s string of oceanside towns, with at least a dozen of these doubling in bookings.

“Beyond the big cities of Rio and Sao Paulo, destinations like Matinhos, Guarapari and Ubatuba are drawing travellers to endless miles of beaches and less of the urban bustle,” the online accommodation service noted in its forecast of 2018 travel trends this month.

For a remote adventure, you could explore silent, otherworldly Bolivia in western-central South America. The place is especially popular with photography buffs, so if you’re an enthusiast, strap on your camera gear and head there. Bespoke tour operator A2A Journeys is organising “art-photographic” trips to Bolivia’s Salar de Uyuni salt flat next year. The salt pans fill with water during the December-to-March rains and become a giant mirror. The tour will include star or night photography. “I expect this to be a huge hit in Singapore, given the increasing interest in photography and the desire for wide open spaces, zero light and noise pollution and just being in front of natural beauty,” says Mr Jose Cortes, co-founder of A2A Journeys.

South America need not be outrageously expensive for the traveller. Ms Xinen Chua, 28, spent eight months travelling through eight countries: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Uruguay. She quit her job as an associate in a hedge fund to travel between May 2016 and January this year, spending a total of $18,000 or about $50 a day. All possible because she couch-surfed and took buses often. Yet, she did not miss out on the best adventures – hitchhiking solo in Patagonia at the tip of the continent for five weeks, stargazing and cycling in the Atacama Desert of Chile, relishing Peruvian ceviche twice a week – and travelling with locals everywhere. Ms Chua, who now has a portfolio of travel projects that includes freelance writing, says: “I encourage people to spend more time in the continent to make the long flight worth it.”

Elsewhere in S. America: 

Peru

At the lost city of Machu Picchu, marvel at the engineering genius of the Incans who built lasting edifices. Nearby, visit weavers in a mountain village and eat their flavourful potatoes destined for gourmet restaurants, or trek in the Sacred Valley, where new routes are being mapped.

Colombia

Savour the bean-to-cup experience by visiting coffee plantations and lingering in a hip cafe in the capital, Bogota. Medellin, conferred the Lee Kuan Yew World City Prize in 2016, is set among peaks. Once an unsafe city, savvy urban policy has transformed it into a trendy, artsy place. Capurgana in Colombia has an edgy charm with its brightly painted bars.

This story first appeared in www.straitstimes.com

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