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Australia’s wild west, a safari destination on the rise, Italy as it celebrates hosting Europe’s Capital of Culture. If, like us, your thoughts are turning to your next travel plans, these five destinations — each with a particular reason to visit for the coming year — will give you a headstart on deciding where to go in 2019.

Cambodia through a director's lens

Faces at The Bayon, Siem Reap
Faces at The Bayon, Siem Reap
Shinta Mani Angkor
Shinta Mani Angkor

A handful of properties, designed to show off Cambodia’s natural beauty, have earned the country a place in our trip recommendations for 2019.

The Shinta Mani Angkor — Bensley Collection in Siem Reap uses outdoor bathtubs and floor-to-ceiling glass to evoke an indoor-outdoor feel and looks out across its garden. Its sister property, the newly opened Shinta Mani Wild, is a luxury tented camp set along a river in the middle of South Cardamom National Park.

The Temples of Angkor are a long-time haunt for film-makers. Using the Shinta Mani Angkor as your base, you could spend a day touring the archaeological site through the eyes of a director.

You’ll visit settings for a range of film genres, from blockbusters like Tomb Raider to world-cinema award winners, such as In the Mood for Love. The locations are brought to life through the stories of local residents who worked on the movie sets.

Get me there

A grand tour of Cambodia, lasting more than two weeks, features the Temples of Angkor and can include nights at the Shinta Mani Angkor.

Colombia’s Pacific Coast

Humpback whale tail
Humpback whale

Colombia continues to adapt as a travel destination, while remaining one of South America’s least-discovered attractions. Among its many unspoiled corners, we’d highlight Colombia’s Pacific Coast for 2019.

The tiny village of Bahia Solano is a gateway to the coast and Ecolodge El Almejal outside Utria National Park. From the lodge, you can take guided tours of the park to glimpse the flora and fauna present in this area, whose species include the olive ridley sea turtle, the humpback whale and around 380 different birds.

At different times of the year, Utria is a breeding ground for sea turtles, dolphins and whales. Trekking through the park’s primary rainforest and mangroves, you can pause to dip in plunge pools at the foot of waterfalls.

Whale watching is another reason to visit — you might even see the new mothers teaching their calves to breach and hear them ‘singing’.

Get me there

You can add time on the Pacific Coast to a two-week classic tour of Colombia. Other highlights include staying in a finca in the coffee region, enjoying the energetic city of Cartagena, and playing tejo in Bogota.

Australia’s wild west

Kalbarri National Park
Kalbarri National Park

Australia’s much-overlooked west is a region of empty beaches, cattle stations and national parks.

Until now, because of hefty one-way car rental fees, most visitors focus their visit on east-coast Sydney and the Great Barrier Reef.

The recent reduction of the region’s one-way rental car fees lets you embark on a road trip along Australia’s western coast without wasting hours and extra cost on a round trip.

Driving from Perth to the town of Exmouth, you can take in deserts and national parks, enjoy pristine beaches away from the crowds, swim with whale sharks and go trekking in Kalbarri National Park. We cover the highlights in our step-by-step guide to driving Australia’s wild west.

Get me there

This Western Australia itinerary covers both the coast and interior and picks out highlights from Shark Bay’s Shell Beach to Perth.

Italy hosts Europe’s Capital of Culture in 2019

Sassi of Matera, Matera

This coming year, the ancient town of Matera in Italy’s south will step into the spotlight as one of Europe’s Capitals of Culture.

Matera was chosen for good reason. It’s one of Europe’s oldest continuously inhabited locations — evidence hints that people may have lived here for at least 7,000 years. The Sassi (which means stone) is the ancient part of town, built right into the caves that riddle the limestone walls.

As recently as the 1950s, the Sassi was a poverty-stricken area, where farmers and shepherds lived in cramped, unsanitary conditions with their animals.

On a walking tour of the town, you can see a preserved dwelling from that era, giving you a good look at the dark, airless conditions. Tours here wend through narrow walkways and up and down dozens of flights of stairs carved into the rock walls.

With a private guide, you can also see inside the medieval churches that fill the caves of the Murgia Plateau, on the opposite side of the ravine. The frescoes are well preserved by the caves’ cool, dark atmosphere.

Today, the caves have been converted into unusual (and well-lit) hotels, hip cafés and restaurants that serve seemingly endless courses of the simple small plates that make up the local cuisine.

Get me there

You can visit Matera as part of a tour of Southern Italy, focused around the region of Puglia in Italy’s heel.

Optimism in Zimbabwe

Elephant, Hwange National Park
Elephant, Hwange National Park

There’s a tangible atmosphere of new beginnings in Zimbabwe, both politically and economically, at the moment. We think the New Year will prove a great time to visit Zimbabwe, while it rides this optimism but maintains its low profile.

Local businesses are taking off, safari operators are investing in lodges, and regional airlines are opening new routes from nearby countries. You could find yourself staying anywhere from tented camps with bucket showers to world-class lodges, with few fellow visitors around.

We recommend exploring Hwange National Park, which protects more than 40,000 elephant, one of the densest populations in Africa.

While game drives are always on the cards, Zimbabwe has also earned a reputation for its walking safaris. Joined by some of the most highly trained guides on the continent, you can head out on foot to focus on the intricacies of the bush, from identifying animal tracks and droppings to listening for bird calls and noting the medicinal uses of plants.

As well as the arid plains and acacia forests of Hwange, you can take a boat safari to view wildlife on Lake Kariba and the crater lakes of Mana Pools, watching for the likes of crocodile, elephant, and hippo.

Get me there

You can explore all the country’s highlights, such as game drives in Hwange National Park, Victoria Falls, and walking safaris in Zambezi National Park, on a classic tour of Zimbabwe.

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