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Discover the most unique and exciting travel experiences in 2019

by Katie Birtles

We've scoured the world to bring you some of the best travel experiences you can have in 2019.

From the hair-raising to the breathtaking, you can go way up in the stars, sink to the ocean floor, or even go to the ends of the Earth.

From the Atacama to Zanzibar and Antarctica to Zambia, you'll find brilliant cultural festivals, unique wildlife encounters, relaxing rituals and thrilling experiences. 

The year is packed with incredible adventures, so we've put together the ultimate A to Z travel bucket list for 2019 - where will you go first?

A - Atacama Desert, Chile

Starry night in the Atacama Desert in Chile

The Atacama Desert in Chile is the best place in the world for stargazing. Elevated and unpolluted, the Atacama Desert is one of the driest places on Earth, giving it the clearest night skies in the world.

You can get an unparalleled look at our brilliant starry skies at SPACE (San Pedro de Atacama Celestial Explorations). On their night star tours, you’ll curl up with blankets, a hot chocolate and learn about the enchanting mysteries of the universe from expert astronomers.

You’ll observe the night sky through powerful telescopes, learn how to read a sky map and recognise constellations and stars, and you can even take pictures of the moon through a telescope.

B - Boryeong Mud Festival, South Korea

Every year in July, the Boryeong Mud Festival attracts millions of visitors for ten days mud bathing, mud wrestling, mud massages, mud painting and mud slides.

Held on Daecheon Beach, about three hours south of Seoul, the mud festival is South Korea’s biggest festival and definitely one of the most fun.

Besides all the mud, visitors can enjoy lively street parades with music and dancers, plenty of food stalls and live music events, and beautiful firework displays in the evening. In 2019, you can catch all the squelchy action from 19 to 28 July.

C - Camping in luxury
 luxury campsite lit up underneath the starry night sky

If you love the outdoors but don't love the idea of roughing it in a tent and eating cold baked beans, then luxury camping is for you.

Also known as 'glamping', a luxury camping experience involves huge canvas tents, cosy beds with proper mattresses, electricity, hot running water, flushing toilets, gourmet meals and outdoor baths, all set in a private, beautiful location. 

You can find luxury camping experiences all around the world including Africa, where you can stay in a lavish campsite while on safari. New Zealand is also renowned for its luxury camping and you'll adore the romantic outdoor baths in the pristine bush of Takou River and Hokitika

You can also enjoy luxury camping across southeast Asia including Thailand and Cambodia. Shinta Mani just opened a new luxury tented campsite in Siem Reap created by Bill Bensley, the world-renowned hotel designer. 

D - Diving in the Maldives

turquoise waters of the maldives

The Maldives are renowned for their stunning white beaches and turquoise waters, but those who venture below the surface are rewarded with another impossibly beautiful world. 

The gorgeous coral reefs and nutrient-rich waters are packed with an abundance of incredible marine life. You'll have the chance to see whale sharks, manta rays, large pelagics and huge shoals of dazzling fish including parrotfish, sweetlips, fusiliers and snappers.

There are plenty of caves and overhangs decorated in bright sponges and gorgonians to explore, and rock pinnacles (known as thila) tower underneath the water of atoll lagoons.

The warm sun rays illuminate the crystal clear waters and it's a delight to drift along with the currents. Perfect for everyone from beginners to experts, the Maldives are a world-class snorkelling and diving spot. 

E - Eurovision, Israel

The glitz and glamour of the Eurovision Song Contest will be brought to Tel Aviv in May 2019, after Netta won the 2018 contest in Lisbon.

As the second largest city, a cultural hub and the gay capital of Israel, Tel Aviv is a brilliant destination for the world-famous musical showdown.

The extravaganza includes a Eurovision Village where you can see live performances and broadcasts and a red carpet at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art where you can meet all the contestants before the Opening Ceremony.

Tickets will be on sale by January 2019 and you can find more information at the official Eurovision website.

F - Fete des Vignerons, Switzerland

green vineyards beside blue Lake Geneva in Switzerland

A once-in-a-generation wine festival will be held in Vevey, Switzerland from 18 July to 11 August in 2019. Last held in 1999, the the Fete des Vignerons is a theatrical celebration of wine-growing traditions.

A spectacular show is the centrepiece of the festival and this year, the show will be held in a new stadium with big screens and seating for 20,000 spectators.

Originating in the 17th century, the festival is the first Swiss tradition to be recognised by UNESCO on its list of intangible cultural heritage. Tickets are on sale now and you can find more information at the Fête des Vignerons 2019 website.

G - Gal Oya National Park, Sri Lanka

on a jeep safari through the forest of gal oya national park

Gal Oya National Park is one of the least visited national parks in Sri Lanka, and that’s part of what makes it so special. Remote and largely undeveloped for tourism, Gal Oya offers a slice of untamed Sri Lanka, where the one of the country’s largest populations of wild elephants roam all year round.

It’s the only park in Sri Lanka where you can take a boating safari and one of the few places in the world where you can observe swimming elephants. These majestic creatures take to the water to swim between islands to greener pastures.

Along with boating safaris, you can take a safari on foot through the untouched wilderness, or take a Jeep ride into the “forgotten” Nilgala area of the park.

H - Hot air balloon over Bagan

Hot air balloons rising over the temples of Bagan in Myanmar

Bagan is an ancient city of Myanmar, strewn with crumbling pagodas, glittering stupas and archaeological treasures. An ethereal beauty reverberates through the city, however it seems to truly come alive at the break of day. 

The sunrise in Bagan is a spellbinding show of nature, where the sizzling golden sun rises slowly over the horizon, casting a dreamy haze of light over the mystical plains.

The best way to experience this phenomenon is from a hot air balloon, with an unparalleled bird's-eye view of the region. The balloons have become synonymous with Bagan and the image of the silhouetted bulbs floating serenely among the pagodas is truly iconic. 

I - India silent retreat

Buddhist monk meditating on a temple

Escape the constant chaos and noise of everyday life and embark on a path of mute meditation and introspection at a silent retreat in India. 

Depending on your retreat, you'll live in silence for five to ten days. Instead of speaking, you'll practice mouna (time spent in silence) and will spend your days journalling and meditating. Some retreats have a strong focus on practicing Vipassana meditation, which means 'to see things as they are'.

It's a challenging experience and your time in solitary contemplation can feel both overwhelming and peaceful. You may learn how to quieten your mind, observe your body, or simply relieve some stress.  

J - Jordan Food Week

Experience Jordan’s incredible food culture at Jordan Food Week, the country’s biggest culinary event.

First held in July 2018 in Ras Al Ain, Amman, the event features chefs, farmers and restaurants showcasing their delicious foods.

Stroll among the mouthwatering stalls, sample traditional Jordanian delicacies, watch chef demonstrations and even take a cooking class.

K - Kayak with killer whales in Vancouver, Canada

Two killer whales breaching out of the water

For a thrilling wildlife adventure, head to Vancouver Island to kayak with orcas (killer whales). You can observe these fascinating creatures up close in their natural environment, embarking on a day trip, or venturing out on a multi-day camping and kayaking expedition.

Over 250 orcas live in Johnstone strait around Telegraph Cove and Robson Bight, and they return to the region every year from July to September when salmon (their primary prey), come from the ocean to breed in the rivers.

Although their name is menacing, it’s also misleading. Orcas, or killer whales, have never shown any aggression towards kayakers and there are no recorded attacks on humans in history.

L - Look for lemurs in Madagascar

A golden-eyed lemur in Madagascar

Trek through the dripping green rainforest, listening keenly for the distinct wailing call of the lemur. Spotting a lemur in the wild is an encounter that few people will ever experience, as lemurs are found only in Madagascar.

Lying off the southeast coast of Africa, Madagascar is the world’s fourth-largest island and is often referred to as the ‘eighth continent’ due to its incredibly unique flora and fauna.

Nearly 90% of Madagascar’s wildlife are endemic to the island, including more than 100 species of lemur. Join local guides to track this intriguing animal through the jungle, and you may just catch the piercing gaze of a lemur’s bright, golden eyes.

M - Mardis Gras, New Orleans

Brightly coloured parade at the Mardi Gras in New Orleans

Revel in the music, costumes, masks, floats and parades of Mardis Gras ('Fat Tuesday' in French), most famously held in New Orleans in the United States.

In 2019, Mardis Gras falls on 5 March, although it’s best to arrive in New Orleans no later than 1 or 2 March to observe all the festivities leading up to the final day of Mardi Gras.

You’ll enjoy picnics, outdoor concerts and all the famous parades including floats from the krewes of Zulu, Rex, Bacchus and Endymion. Be sure to bring a bag so you can carry home all the souvenirs you catch from the ‘throws’, where each krewe or float tosses unique trinkets to festival goers.

N - New Zealand's 'small five'

Kea mountain parrot in New Zealand

You’ve probably heard of Africa’s ‘Big Five’, but what about New Zealand’s ‘small five’? The term is used to describe a collection of endemic and endangered animals found across New Zealand.

A small five safari will take you on a breathtaking journey to witness some of the world’s most unique animals.

The small five menagerie includes the kiwi, a nocturnal flightless bird and a national icon of New Zealand and the tuatara, a living fossil that walked with dinosaurs and is the only beak-headed reptile in the world.

There’s also the kea, a cheeky alpine parrot known as one of the most intelligent bird species in the world, Hector’s dolphin, the smallest marine dolphin in the world, and the yellow-eyed penguin, a charming penguin that is among the most ancient and rarest of the world’s penguin species.

O - Onsen experience in Japan

Traditional onsen bath in a ryokan in japan

No trip to Japan is complete without an onsen experience. Soaking in the warm waters of a natural hot spring while surrounded by magical natural scenery is wonderfully rejuvenating and is said to have several health benefits.

The tradition is deeply rooted in Japanese culture and we recommend combining an onsen experience with a stay in a ryokan, a traditional Japanese guesthouse.

A ryokan stay is a cultural experience you won’t find anywhere else and it’s all about relaxation - you’ll soak in the onsen, wander through peaceful gardens, and enjoy traditional kaiseki banquet meals. You can find out more with our guide to staying at a ryokan in Japan.

P - Pink dolphins of the Amazon

The pink river dolphins of the Amazon are one of the most unique species in the world. Also known as the Amazon river dolphin, they only live in freshwater environments and have been observed in the Amazon region of Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, Colombia and Brazil.

The dolphins are characterised by their bright pink colour, although the animals are born grey and slowly turn pink throughout their life.

They are curious, playful creatures and have incredibly large brains. They're the largest of all freshwater dolphins, measuring up to 2.8 metres long and weighing up to 136 kilograms.

If you’d like to see these animals in the wild, it’s important to remember that you must never swim with them or feed them, as human interaction can be very harmful for a wild animal. It’s best to watch them playing in their natural environment from a safe distance on a guided boat tour.

Q - Queenstown's new Nevis Catapult

The Nevis Catapult is the biggest, most extreme catapult in the world, found in Queenstown, the adrenaline capital of New Zealand. Launched in 2018, this is a world-first in adventure tourism and the ultimate new experience for thrill-seekers.

Those who dare to take on this hair-raising ride will be catapulted 150 metres up and out across the Nevis Valley. You’ll reach speeds of nearly 100 kilometres an hour in just 1.5 seconds and experience up to 3Gs of force as you swing over the stunning ravine.

R - Rwanda’s endangered gorillas

A silverback mountain gorilla in the forest of Rwanda

There are few experiences as raw and moving as a mountain gorilla trek. It’s a true privilege to take the journey into the forest to meet these magical creatures, but it’s no easy feat.

You'll plunge into the dense jungle with expert trackers, pushing your way through the thick undergrowth up steep, slippery terrain.

The challenging trek can last anywhere from two to nine hours, but when you stumble upon the gorillas, you’ll be rewarded with one precious hour in their presence.

There are estimated to be 900 mountain gorillas left in the wild, spread across the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in Uganda and the volcanic Virunga mountains of Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Despite their critically endangered status, the mountain gorillas of Rwanda are one of the world’s greatest conservation success stories. They are the only primate species in the world with increasing numbers and Rwanda has built an entire industry around the gorilla encounters.

The gorillas are fiercely protected by rangers in the national parks and the profits from tourist permits go back into conservation and community development, so your trek will help the Rwandan gorillas continue to thrive.

S - Solar Eclipse July 2019 & the Southern Lights

The moon in front of the sun in a total solar eclipse

A total solar eclipse will happen on 2 July in 2019. This rare phenomenon generally only happens around once every hundred years, although in some locations it can occur every few years.

The total solar eclipse happens when the moon passes between the Earth and the sun and the moon’s diameter is larger than the sun’s. This blocks all direct sunlight, plunging day into darkness.

You can witness ‘totality’ of the solar eclipse in some towns in Chile and Argentina, and a great option is to combine a stargazing trip to the Atacama Desert with the solar eclipse in Chile.

Continue your astro adventure with the Southern Lights (aurora australis), which can be found in Tasmania, Australia, or New Zealand.

This beautiful show of coloured lights is the southern counterpart to the more popular Northern Lights (aurora borealis) and is just as dazzling. The best months to view this natural phenomenon are from March to September.

T - Thai massage, Thailand

The Thai people are famous for many things; their food, beaches, dazzling smiles, and of course the Thai massage.

Originating in India during the time of the Buddha around 2,500 years ago, the Thai massage is said to have been created by Shivago Komarpaj, the Buddha’s physician.

As Buddhism came to Thailand, so did this unique massage technique. The Thai massage is special in that you typically wear loose fitting clothes (provided by the salon) and rather than lotions and gentle kneading, you are pulled, stretched (and cracked!) by the masseuse.

This year, there’s no better time to visit Thailand and indulge in a traditional massage. The Thai government has recently submitted a proposal to UNESCO to have the Thai massage listed as cultural heritage, and UNESCO will release the results of their proposal in 2019.

U - Ushuaia, Argentina

The town of Ushuaia surrounded by snow-capped mountains in Argentina

Venture to the ‘End of the World’ in Ushuaia, the southernmost city on Earth. This charming town is located at the bottom of Argentina and is the famous port for those heading even further south to Antarctica.

Before you embark on your incredible expedition to Antarctica, explore the natural treasures of Ushuaia.

You can visit the Tierra del Fuego National Park, a scenic playground of rivers, glaciers, forests and wildlife, or trek to Esmeralda Lagoon, a spellbinding turquoise lagoon surrounded by snow-capped mountains.

Offshore, you’ll find a large colony of friendly Magellanic penguins on Isla Yécapasela (Martillo Island) or venture to the Les Eclaireurs lighthouse, the famous ‘The Lighthouse at the End of the World, perched in the middle of the Beagle Channel.

V - Victoria Falls, Zambia

Aerial view of the thundering Victoria Falls

See the largest curtain of falling water in the world - the mighty Victoria Falls. At 1,708 metres wide and 108 metres high, it’s one and a half times wider than Niagara Falls and twice as high.

This thundering spectacle is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. Known by the locals as Mosi Oa Tunya, or the “The Smoke That Thunders”, you can explore the Victoria Falls on the Zambia or Zimbabwe side.

There are many thrilling ways to see the falls including white water rafting, bungee jumping, ziplining, scenic river walks, or a boat ride to Livingstone Island for the best view of the towering cascade.

You can even take a daring dip in Devil’s Pool, a natural infinity pool created by erosion, which allows you to swim to the edge of the waterfall without being swept over.

W - Walking safaris in Africa

A Maasai warrior herding his camels as a giraffe looks on in Kenya

A walking safari takes you to the heart of the African bush, allowing you to experience the continent’s unique ecosystems up close.

You’ll discover the intimate details of the wilderness, from tiny reptiles to fascinating flora. Follow well-worm elephant and hippo trails, track big game on foot, learn about the bush from tribal leaders, and sleep under the stars on multi-day expeditions.

Walking safaris can range from a few hours to a few days, but they all offer an authentic bush experience that you just can’t get in a safari vehicle.

For the best walking safaris, head to Zambia, the original birthplace of the walking safari, or Laikipia in Kenya, where you’ll be guided by local Maasai warriors into the African wilderness. You can read our guide to walking safaris for more top locations across Africa.

X - Xmas markets in Europe

the bright lights and festive decorations of a Christmas market in Europe

It’s the most wonderful time of the year and Europe certainly knows how to amp up the Christmas magic.

Rug up in some handmade woollen hats and scarves as you stroll the stalls, all strung up in fairy lights and Christmas decorations. You can buy artisan crafts, toys and jewellery, or sample homemade gingerbread washed down with mulled wine.

Find a towering Christmas tree in Strasbourg, France, a singing moose in Birmingham, UK and a skating rink and reindeer rides in Vienna, Austria.

Enjoy nightly festive concerts in Berlin, Germany, see the giant advent calendar in Budapest, Hungary, try gingerbread decorating in Basel, Switzerland, or take a ride with Santa and his elves on the Jolly Christmas Tram in Zagreb, Croatia.

Y - Yokohama, Japan

Mount Fuji rising in the background of the Yokohama city skyline

Yokohama is Japan’s second largest city, located just thirty minutes south of Tokyo. On 2 November 2019, the city will host the final match of the Rugby World Cup, held once every four years.

When you’re not cheering on your team at the rugby, head out into the city to explore Yokohama’s treasures.

Wander through the Sankeien Garden, a massive traditional Japanese garden, tantalise your tastebuds in Chinatown, or indulge in a delicious bowl of ramen at Shin-Yokohama’s Ramen Museum

Take in the gorgeous skyline of the Minato Mirai district with a ferris wheel ride in Cosmo World Amusement Park, at Kishamichi Promenade or from Yokohama Landmark Tower. The tower is the second tallest building in Japan and it’s even possible to see Mt Fuji on a clear day.

Z - Zanzibar

Crystal blue waters of Zanzibar

If you’re searching for the ultimate island paradise, look no further than Zanzibar. Here you’ll find a myriad of stunning islands surrounded by powdery white sand, crystal blue waters, gorgeous coral gardens, and incredible marine life.

It’s the perfect way to end an action-packed safari in east Africa, and you’ll reach the main Zanzibar island with a short flight from Tanzania.

You can spend your days sipping cocktails on the beach, floating in luxurious infinity pools, or getting out onto the water with swimming, sailing, kayaking, paddle boarding, wind surfing and kite surfing.

Sink below the surface with a snorkelling or diving excursion to discover huge shoals of colourful fish, green turtles, playful pods of dolphins and even swim with whale sharks.

You can also revel in the mouthwatering foods and vibrant culture of Stone Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Zanzibar City.

If you’d like to tick any of these incredible experiences off your 2019 travel bucket list, get in touch with our Luxury Travel Specialists to chat about your ideas, or fill out our inquiry formwith details on your dream holiday.

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