Suitcases at the ready – here’s our pick of the world’s five best destinations (and their must-try hotels) to discover in 2019
1 Kaikoura, New Zealand
A coastal town on the South Island of New Zealand, Kaikoura is known for its abundant wildlife and abundant whale watching opportunities.
Highlights include The Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway, which winds from the town centre to lookout points at Point Kean.
Ideal for wildlife fanatics, it’s an easy two-hour drive north of Christchurch, filled with rugged mountain backdrops and marine mammal encounters – as well as ample amounts of shops and cafés.
Book it: Stay at Hapuku Lodge for five entirely unique Tree Houses, nested 10 meters or more above the ground in the canopy of a native Kanuka grove.
Designed to complement the natural environment, large windows bring the tree canopies into the bedroom and provide impressive views of Kaikoura’s dramatic mountains and the Pacific Ocean.
2 Xiamen, China
A bustling port city on China’s southeast coast, Xiamen is perched across a strait from Taiwan. Encompassing two main islands and a region on the mainland, this Chinese hub is perfect for a cultural escape.
Formerly known as Amoy, it was once a British-run treaty port from 1842 up until 1912. Many Europeans and Japanese once lived on Gulangyu, but today, it’s a vehicle-free island with filled with scenic beaches and meandering streets.
Book it: Lap up the luxury at Kempinski Hotel Xiamen, which overlooks the scenic Yundang Lake. This vast five-star hotel features 460 exquisite rooms and suites, as well as 24-hour butler service and soothing spa opportunities.
3 Puebla, Mexico
Meet Puebla. The fourth-largest city in Mexico, this thriving destination is just a two-hour drive from the capital city. The heart of colonial Mexico, Puebla has a different, more gentle pace – as well as many architectural treasures.
Head to the centre for beautiful Baroque and 18th-century edifices, an imposing cathedral and numerous colonial mansions. As well as culture, it’s also known for its unique culinary history.
Book it: Stay at water-bottling factory turned chic hotel, La Purificadora hotel. Architect Ricardo Legorreta renovated the complex with care – fragments of the past remain, but there’s also fresh indulgent details including glossy black marble staircases, couches set around open coal fires and serious industrial chic spaces.
4 Normandy, France
Often described as the Devon of northern France, Normandy’s varied coastline features stunning white-chalk cliffs and WWII beachheads, including Omaha Beach, site of the famous D-Day landing.
Nestled away from land awaits the rocky island of Mont-Saint-Michel, topped by a soaring Gothic abbey. Famed for its cheese and apples, this laid-back region is perfect for a calming foodie escape.
Book it: With an Anglo-Normand style, Hôtel Barrière Le Normandy is ideal for a room with dazzle. Comfortable king size beds, inviting armchairs and joyful Belle Epoque elegance – divulge your fairytale fantasies with a stay here.
Don’t miss a meal at La Belle Époque, a dining space serving up regional classics in fine china surrounds.
5 Great Smoky Mountains, United States
Hiking lovers, meet your next adventure. A soaring mountain range rising along the Tennessee–North Carolina border in the southeastern United States, there’s plenty awaiting within the 211,419-hectare Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Marvel at this World Heritage Site’s natural wonders or step back in time by visiting one of 97 buildings preserved in five historic areas.
Book it: Ideal for an intimate meets rustic escape, Blackberry Farm is not only luxurious but private.
Escape the daily grind and head here for a host of culinary opportunities at this pastoral 4,200-acre estate in the Great Smoky Mountains. From rooms to entire houses, there’s something for every gourmand traveler.