Where you should be seen and what you should be seeing this year…
UZBEKISTAN: A new president, new reforms and no visas needed.
Steeped in Silk Road history and filled with UNESCO Heritage Sites, the former Soviet country is now far more accessible to travellers. Not only has a new president brought new reforms, but if you are lucky enough to come from places such as Singapore, Malaysia or Indonesia, you don’t even need a visa. The Silk Road cities are where you need to be and Uzbekistan has three of them – Khivao, Bukhara and Samarkand. So wander through the chandelier-bedecked Tashkent train stations and catch a high-speed train to one of these ancient cities. When travelling through Bukhara make a stop at the antique-filled Silk Road Tea House. Here the Ubaydov family serve steaming cups of cardamom coffee to revive even the most jetlagged traveller. For unique places to stay, choose a yurt in the Uzbek wilderness. And for unique sights to see, visit the Moynaq Ship Graveyard in the desert that was once a busy fishing port, but is now desert after the rivers feeding it were diverted by Soviet irrigation projects.
NEW YORK: Airport makeovers, a USD$25 billion megaproject and showstopping starchitecture.
The home of Broadway is ready to put on a show in 2019. Not only are four of its airports undergoing a makeover, but there is also a whole new neighbourhood to explore. The USD$25 billion megaprojects called Hudson Yard comes with celebrity restaurants, a new cultural centre – The Shed and a new landmark for New York, the Vessel by architect Thomas Heatherwick. Old neighbourhoods are also being revitalised. The Cipriani family has just launched Mr C Seaport in one of the oldest parts of Manhattan and overlooking the Brooklyn Bridge, this riverside property will instantly make you a fan of the Big Apple. As will the TAK Room – Thomas Keller’s latest venture at Hudson Yard or the new Shake Shack Innovation Kitchen in the West Village. Like the sound of cold brew matcha latte? They are already serving it here. Need another reason to go? Woodstock will be celebrating its 50th anniversary at the Bethel Woods Center For the Arts in New York. Pop some flowers in your hair and relive the glory days of the original festival from 15 to 18 August 2019.
RWANDA: Surely the world’s chicest safari.
If you want to feel like a jungle VIP, Rwanda is the place to go in 2019. This country is about to spoil us with a wealth of riches. Not only are luxury hotels launching in their droves, and the beloved mountain gorillas increasing in numbers, but Rwanda now boasts the five animals that wildlife lovers want to see – rhinos, lion, leopards, elephant and buffalo, since 20 black rhino were transferred to the Akagera National Park in Rwanda from South Africa in 2017. Rwanda is an animal lovers’ paradise. You get to see the wildlife you love and you get to see it in style. If you want to see the mountain gorillas from 2019 you also have the option of staying at One&Only Gorillas Nest and Singita Kwitonda Lodge in Volcanoes National Park. If you want to see the rhinos, you will be able to book into Magashi in Akagera National Park, or if you want to spot the chimps, book into One&Only Nyungwe House in Nyungwe National Park. Tarzan and Jane would be jealous.
TASMANIA: Australasia’s new artisanal find
Tasmania is ready to step out of Australia’s shadow. Not only does it want to be the world destination for eco-tourism (one billion dollars been earmarked for hotel developments), but its award-winning artisanal farms and whisky distilleries are already putting it on the world map. It’s the home of the world’s best single malt whisky, yes really. If you want to try some of this delicious produce for yourself go on a tour of the distilleries, visit what’s been named as Australia’s best dining room at Saffire Freycinet or stop by the award-winning Peacock & Jones restaurant found in an old sandstone warehouse on Hobart’s waterfront. Here you can enjoy diamond clams, pasture-fed lamb and fish fresh from the market served with vadouvan, honey bug and fried curry leaves. You can burn off those calories by enjoying the Overland Trek that runs from Cradle Mountain to Lake St Clair. Then book into Pumphouse Point, a boutique hideaway set in the middle of the lake. Spend the day trekking or fly fishing and the evening, relaxing by the fire.
JAPAN: Hosting not one, but two legendary sporting events
Japan is the country that really does have it all. From the 400 plus Michelin-star restaurants for the foodies to the ancient temples for the culture vultures and the power-filled mountains of Niseko for the adrenalin addicts. And now it is about to become the venue for the Rugby World Cup in 2019 and the Summer Olympics in 2020. The Rugby World Cup from 20 September to 2 November 2019 is scattered throughout the country, so if you are following your team this gives you the chance to do some sightseeing at the same time. Looking for somewhere to stay in Tokyo? Take a peek at the new Hyatt Centric Ginza Tokyo, which has to claim the title for being the most well-positioned hotel in the city, set in the middle of the shopping district. Another reason to go to Japan in 2019? Did we mention the cherry blossom season?
BRAZIL: Arrival of dream hotels
Brazil is ready to party. Not only does it have a raft of glamorous new resorts to explore, new ways to explore the country, but Brazil is the host of the 2019 Copa America (the South America world cup) from 14 June to 7 July. Let’s face it, with Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay in the line up, it might as well be the World Cup. Five of your favourite hotels are also about to open properties in Brazil – Anantara, Fairmont, Bulgari, Four Seasons and Six Senses. However, there’s one more than you need to take a peek at. Nannai Fernando de Noronha, which is expected to open in March 2019 will be set on its own private island. It’s owned by the same team as the Muro Alto Resort and Spa, which Conde Nast called the world’s most romantic hotel. It looks as if they will have another contender. And if that’s not enough, you can also take a ride on the new Peralta Boat, which will take you through the Corumbao area of the Pantanal, the best location to spy wildlife in the Americas.