Pyramids of Meroe. Photograph from @smartertravel on Instagram
Travel Destinations

The It destinations of 2019: off the beaten path but in the swing of things

From Samarkand in Uzbekistan to The Faroe Islands in Denmark—our travel specialist makes a fearless forecast for 2019: the It destinations include places you would have never considered visiting five years ago but are ripe to be marveled at this coming year.
Shy Perez Sala | Dec 28 2018

We predict 2019 will be a phenomenal mix of culture, cuisine and scenery, a heady combination of archaeological marvels and stunning panoramas. We also predict 2019 will be the year you set your sights both far and wide as you travel to places off the beaten path but still very much in the swing of things. Below is our top ten list for your still unshaped, and still unseen 2019.

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SAMARKAND (UZBEKISTAN). Samarkand in Uzbekistan is one of the oldest inhabited cities in Central Asia and also one of its greatest. It prospered during the Silk Road trade between China and the Mediterranean due to its perfect location right in the middle of the route. Prior to Uzbekistan’s annexation to the USSR in the 19th and 20th centuries, the city was ruled by Alexander the Great, and a succession of several Persian and Turkic emperors, until it was conquered by Genghis Khan and the Mongols. In the 14th century, Samarkand became the capital of the empire under Tamerlane. Its rich, diverse heritage and its carefully preserved traditions of ancient arts, embroidery, carvings, ceramics and intricate mosques and mausoleums have prompted UNESCO to add this amazing city to its prominent World Heritage List.@UNESCO on Instagram

JEBEL AKHDAR (OMAN). Jebel Akhdar (2,000 meters above sea level) is the highest point in Oman. Also called The Green Mountain, its high altitude receives enough precipitation to support shrubs, trees and agriculture—even if the rest of the Al Hajar mountain range is all desert—making this a truly unique spot in the Arabian Peninsula. There are several lovely properties dotting this mountainous landscape but the most astounding is Alila Jabal Akhdar—perched high like a falcon’s nest, right above the desert cliff, with dramatic views of the canyon below.@alilajabalakhdar on Instagram

ULGII (MONGOLIA). There are festivals and then there are festivals — and there is nothing quite like the annual Kazakh Eagle Hunting Festival in Ulgii, Mongolia. For those who would like to embark on this amazing journey, you can join the Eagle Hunters on their horseback ride from their Mongolian Gers (traditional yurts) into the festival grounds — with the spectacular Altai Mountains as your backdrop. This two-day festival, occurring in the middle of October, showcases the skills of the eagle and the trainer. Dressed in full regalia and mounted on groomed and decorated horses, the eagle hunters compete for various awards including “Best Eagle at Hunting Prey”. Other sporting activities you'll watch include horse racing, camel racing, and the highly entertaining “Bushkashi” — goat skin tug-of-war on horseback! In the evenings, you will also get to enjoy a traditional Kazakh dinner called “Beshparmak” (meaning five fingers because one uses five fingers to eat this hearty dish of boiled noodles and meat in onion sauce).

MEROE (SUDAN). Some of the archeological sites found in Sudan are several hundred years older than those in Egypt, as both countries were once part of the ancient Kingdom of Nubia. The four prominent locations which are home to these Nubian pyramids are El-Kurru, Jebel-Barkal, Nuri and, the mother-lode Meroe, which has 200 out of the 255. Nubian Pyramids (ranging from 6-30 meters) may not be as impressively massive as their counterparts in Egypt (138 meters, on average), but if you consider yourself a true travel pioneer and are planning a visit to this enigmatic country, you will definitely have the place almost all to yourself — a real luxury in this day and age! Just avoid Sudan’s intensely hot summer months and aim to travel between November - March.@smartertravel on Instagram

VALENCIA (SPAIN). Barcelona may have Gaudi, Madrid may have the Prado, but Valencia comes with many festivals, several UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and is also the birthplace of Spain’s most famous dish – the Paella. Visit the ornate Central Market where you can find gourmet treats from local artisans, dine alongside the waterfront where Ernest Hemingway was known to hang out, and take a tour of the Valencian Museum of Fine Arts — the city’s most important art collection is said to be second only to the Prado.@shutterstock on Instagram

THE FAROE ISLANDS (DENMARK). Halfway between Iceland and Norway lie the rocky, volcanic isles of the Faroe Islands. All eighteen of them. Just this year, @koks_restaurant, one of the archipelago’s best dining spots, has been awarded its first-ever Michelin star! This place is also the site of another quiet revolution in dining, whispering across the North Atlantic. HeimablĂ­dni, which translates to “home hospitality,” is a Supper Club where the islanders have opened up their homes so travelers can enjoy an authentic, intimate and personal dining experience.@koks_restaurant on Instagram

CARTAGENA (COLOMBIA). Cartagena, Colombia—This UNESCO World Heritage-listed city was the first-ever Spanish colony in the Americas. Also known as the Queen of the Caribbean, this gem of a city has easy access to nature (white-sand beaches and aquamarine waters); history (Ciudad Amurallada); and chic, modern neighborhoods (Bocagrande and Castillogrande). This may be the most visited city in Colombia but is best avoided during the rainy season (Oct-Nov) and when domestic tourism hits its peak during the Christmas and Easter holidays.@cartagenaconnections on Instagram 

AUSTIN (TEXAS). On top of its lively university town vibe, the city has regularly played host to Formula One’s United States Grand Prix and is also home to the annual SXSW Festival (a confluence of film, live music, interactive media held in mid-March). Locals and tourists alike enjoy its many parks and lakes, and outdoor activities such as hiking, biking, swimming and boating are popular all year round. And, if you’re a fan of Texas BBQ, look no further than Franklin BBQ. The owner, Aaron Franklin, has sold out of brisket every day since it was first opened in 2009! The restaurant has been prominently featured on TV and in movies, and in 2015, Aaron Franklin was awarded the James Beard Foundation Award for Best Chef — the only chef who specializes in BBQ to ever receive this

TEL AVIV (ISRAEL). Tel Aviv is a prime 2019 destination because of all the chic and diverse places within the famous city. It has the beach vibe of Miami, the art galleries and the cobblestoned streets of San Miguel de Allende (with an actual Olive Tree art installation!), and the cafe culture of Paris (but instead of Haussmann, you get the Bauhaus). A great place to visit in Tel Aviv is Neve Tzedek, an old derelict area which has experienced something of a revival in recent times because of a mĂ©lange of architectural styles (from the Bauhaus and Art Nouveau to eclectic styles), as well as its amazing location near the Mediterranean Sea, Neve Tzedek is synonymous with the words chic and avant-garde. If it’s good enough for Gal Gadot, Roman Abramovich, and the Israeli tech VC’s (e.g. The Silicon Wadi)—it should be good enough for the rest of the world.@sps_travel on Instagram

SICILY (ITALY). This island, roughly the size of Massachusetts, has been conquered and inhabited by no less than 13 Empires and is home to 7 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Sicily is also the site of some of the best-preserved Greek & Roman Ruins and ornate Baroque towns and churches. You’ll also be hard-pressed to find another place with both beaches and volcanoes. And, as if all this weren’t enough, Sicily has some of the most delectable cuisine and world-class

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