These places have a special reason for you to visit them this year. Kelli Armstrong reports.
San Blas islands, Panama
A must-do before it’s claimed by the rising sea levels.
This paradise in the Caribbean Sea won’t be around much longer. Rising sea levels will eventually submerge these islands over the next 20-30 years.
The indigenous Kuna own and rule the islands according to their own culture and laws. They’ve protected their land from mass tourism, and focus on sustainability using locally-sourced natural materials. Locals flit between the larger inhabited islands in hand-dug canoes, that they also set about fishing in.
Sparkling turquoise water, pristine golden sand and lush huddles of palm trees stun at first sight in this remote archipelago, that is sadly and rather rapidly becoming a victim of climate change.
Need to know: Pack light. You won’t be doing much more than snorkelling and sleeping.
Enjoy the beautiful landscape before tourism leaves its mark.
Bolivia is still a cheap option when it comes to travelling South America, and it’s majestic lands still remain largely untouched by foreign footprints.
For heart-stopping adventure, ride a bike along the awe-inspiring cliffs on the aptly named Death Road, discover the world’s largest salt flats in Salar de Uyuni and take in the remarkable Lake Titicaca, the world’s highest lake.
The adventure continues in La Paz, littered with museums, markets and ancient mysteries. Just entering the mountaintop city is thought to be one of the most incredible Bolivian spectacles, featuring otherworldly geography, flamingo-filled lagoons, tranquil hot springs and active volcanoes.
Need to know: Allow yourself time to acclimatise to altitude sickness.
It’s thought that a biblical prophecy will be fulfilled when Israel turns 70 in 2018.
Yom Ha’atzmaut (Independence Day) will be observed on April 18-19, kicking off a month of celebrations. There will be daily festivals, concerts and recreational activities to commemorate Israel’s independence on May 14, 1948.
As well as the magnificent city of Tel Aviv and the holy city of Jerusalem, be sure to detour to the mountains, beaches and deserts of this beautiful landscape.
In Israel you will encounter some of the friendliest people and the tastiest food. Highlights include the Qumran caves where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found, Masada and the remains of King Herod’s fortress and an unsinkable swim in the dead sea.
Need to know: The psychological “Jerusalem Syndrome” is real, and afflicts up to 100 tourists each year.
Russia will host the 21st international FIFA World Cup.
From June 14 to July 15 this year Russia will play host to the FIFA World Cup. Capital of the Russian Federation, the fascinating and dynamic city of Moscow is resplendent. With architecture dating back to the 12th century, it’s also a 21st century metropolis pulsing with shopping, nightlife and culture. Landmarks include the Bolshoi Theatre, the Kremlin and Red Square.
Another charming city, Saint Petersburg is awash with the romance of palaces, cathedrals and bridges spread over the many islands that make up the city. It’s a true sight to behold during the summer months, when the sun sets for only a few hours.
Russia’s fourth largest city Yekaterinburg straddles Europe and Asia and is filled with distinct architecture and monuments that speak to the country’s storied history — from Imperial Times to the Revolution, the Soviet Era and today’s modernity.
Need to know: Start thinking about your accommodation now!
Malta’s capital will play host as the European Capital of Culture 2018.
This Mediterranean archipelago is experiencing a culture moment. Boasting more than 300 sunny days a year, any time is the right time to travel. Marvel at hills tipped with ancient temples watching over inviting beaches, waterfront eateries and medieval architecture.
With a rich history lesson at every turn, Malta and its capital, Valletta, are bursting with cafés, art installations, bustling squares and thriving markets. This year is a particularly good time to visit, with Valletta showing off its rich heritage when they represent the country as the European Capital of Culture 2018. The city will be swathed in music, pageantry, fashion, film festivals, street performances and a contemporary art biennial.
Need to know: There are three islands that make up Malta: Gozo, Comino and Malta. Comino is virtually uninhabited but is home to the picturesque Blue Lagoon.
Timor Leste (East Timor)
It’s flourished in the five years since US peacekeepers left.
This South-East Asian atoll has been free to let its natural beauty shine since 2012. It’s become a land rich with culture, tropical beaches, mountain ranges, lush jungle and colonial Portuguese architecture.
Situated on the most populated marine environment on earth, you’ll be awestruck by the vibrant sea life at some of the world’s most incredible dive sites. Head to the north coast and Ataúro, named as the most biodiverse waters in the world.
Drive inland from Dili to discover mountain ranges dotted with quaint towns and locals keen to introduce you to their home cooking.
Need to know: Hire a driver for $15-20 a day to fill you with local knowledge and stories.