Top places to visit, according to the experts

We believe that it’s ‘experiences’ that matter most in life. They count for more and last longer than materialistic items. Travel experiences provide memories that last a lifetime.

We want to help our clients' customers find their perfect holiday and create unforgettable moments. Normally we do this by creating high performing websites that work as well as they look beautiful. But this time we thought we’d do it in blog format and help our readers find the perfect holiday. To discover somewhere new, somewhere special, somewhere they can create memories.

There are millions of opinions and views out there, but we wanted to sit down with those in the know; well-travelled specialists with years of experience, so we asked a number of travel industry veterans about their top 3 destinations.

Gary Fletcher — non-executive chairman at Away Resorts

1. Nepal.

A beautiful landlocked country was chosen for the physical challenge and spiritual engagement. The views are stunning and it’s the perfect place to gain the headspace and experience a new culture.

2. South Africa.

A country at the southernmost tip of the African continent, full of opportunities to see and experience wildlife. It’s home to black-maned lions, leopards, buffalo, elephants and rhinos plus many more accessible parks and reserves. This is surely one of the best places to see wild animals in their own habitat. What’s more, South Africa is filled with a special landscape, from beaches to desert skies and mountains.

3. India

India has, in recent years, become a hot spot for tourists looking to discover themselves. It has a unique culture and embracing this magical place should be on your bucket list. Whilst experiencing the madness of the city is a must, Gary suggests exploring the countryside towns and villages to take in its unprecedented beauty.

market in India

Simon Heyes and Naomi McKee

South American specialist, Senderos.

1. Galapagos, Ecuador

On board a cruise

Senderos believe that 2019 will be a year to celebrate in the Galapagos Islands as it marks the 60th anniversary of the establishment of the Galapagos National Park in 1959. It also sees the launch of luxury eco yacht MV Theory from Ecuadorian company Ecoventura. She’ll be joining her sister ship the MV Origin towards the end of March. Together these twin vessels will set new standards of eco-luxury for those wanting the very best experience in Galapagos, whilst leaving behind the smallest environmental footprint. The conservation trust is putting a lot of hard work into Galapagos Island and it’s a must see location.

2. Costa Rica

One of Costa Rica’s great natural attractions has reopened to the public after a long period of closure. The Poás Volcano National Park closed in April 2017 due to volcanic eruptions. The park has long been popular with visitors thanks to its dramatic volcano crater lake and accessible walks through the cloud forests. The park has a new easy-to-access online booking system for visitors.

Remote Pacuare Lodge has just installed a jaw-dropping new 20-meter infinity pool which uses clever eco-technology to heat and treat the water. Pacuare Lodge sets itself the highest sustainability standards and so the pool tiles were designed trap the heat of the sun to create a beautiful swimming experience in the heart of the lush rainforest. A mountain spring feeds the pool, which is treated with salt, so as not to use chlorine or other chemicals.

Infinity pool in the rainforest

New infinity pool at Pacuare Lodge

Coast Rica is known as one of the best preserved natural landscapes in Latin America, but even here wildlife is under threat from human activity. The Jaguar Rescue Centre in Puerto Viejo claims 50% of Costa Rica’s arboreal animals have been lost in the last 12 years, mainly due to electrocution due to uninsulated transformers and electrical lines. A visit to the centre not only supports their conservation work but brings guests into direct contact with monkeys, wild cats, sloths, anteaters and more. Professional guides make sure visitors see creatures they otherwise wouldn’t see

3. Chile

The Atacama desert in Chile will be on the line of totality for the total solar eclipse of the sun on July 2nd 2019. Most of the hotels in the resection are already fully booked, but if you miss out there’s another opportunity next year. On Dec 14th 2020 an eclipse totality will be visible from Chile’s adventure and activity resort of Pucon. Bauhaus style Hotel Antuamal is perfectly positioned for eclipse watching, perched on the edge of the serene Lake Villarrica. Visit Patagonia in mid-March, to mid-April. There’s good weather, fewer people and the autumn colours are stunning. The beautiful Tierra Patagonia hotel stays open late into the season. Alternatively, October and November are equally quiet and guests can enjoy the spring flowers as the Torres del Pine warms up to the summer season.

Sunset over mountains

Tierra Patagonia

Lastarria district is the coolest place to stay in the Chilean capital Santiago. This cultural hot-spot is close to all of Santiago’s main attractions, home to historic buildings and markets, and is bursting with new restaurants and cool bars inducing the rooftop terrace at hotel Luciano K. Stay in one of the clutches of small boutique hotels such as the newly renamed Casa Bueras Boutique Hotel (formerly Lastarria Boutique Hotel.)

Emma Durkin

Founder of Where the Wild Is. Emma has spent the last 10 years specialising in the Scandinavia region.

1. Iceland

The sheer amount of incredible natural wonders — means that Iceland is simply too good to miss, take the Jokulsarlon Glacial Lagoon for example. The quirky capital city with its world-class culinary scene. Her favourite places to dine include The Fish Market, The Grill Market and Kopar for a super nice meal. For a great lunch and places that won’t break the budget, the Where the Wild Is team love Icelandic Fish & Chips, The Sea Baron (Saegreifinn) and for pizza, Hverfisgata 12. You have to see the iconic Blue Lagoon (and for those who prefer to escape the crowds — The Secret Lagoon)

Coming in the future — Red Mountain Resort

2. Northern Norway

Whale watching opportunities — humpback and killer whales feeding off the herring. Take a trip to the Lyngen Alps, it’s much less crowded than the Lofoton islands, but every bit as beautiful, and home to the world’s northernmost whiskey distillery

In Norway, we also have Svalbard which is home to the ever mesmerising polar bears. An incredible wilderness 78° North.

New for 2019 — Brim Explorer

Village by a fjord

3. Swedish Lapland

The masterpiece created each year — the world-famous ICE HOTEL

Abisko and the incredible Aurora Sky Station (crowned in 2015 as the best place in the world to go for the chances of seeing the northern lights

You can also visit the seven artistic homes high in the treetops at the world-renowned Treehotel. New for 2019 — Arctic Bath

Northern lights in the snow

And of course, for all three incredible destinations, you’ll have the opportunity to see the northern lights from Oct to March (or as early as August in Sweden and Norway)

Jo Rzymowska — Celebrity Cruises Managing Director

Jo is constantly travelling, most recently on Celebrity Cruises extraordinary Celebrity Edge.

Whilst spending a week on two or Edge would do me just fine, Jo also provided me with a list of her top 3 places around the world.

1. Alaska

There is no better way to experience the glaciers. Currently, Celebrity has 3 ships which visit Alaska, it really one for those that like sea life and incredible scenery.

Alaska Cruises | Alaskan Cruise Holidays | Celebrity Cruises

Welcome to Alaska: an alpine frontier, where jagged peaks descend into clear waters. Experience rare wildlife and…

2. Galapagos

A firm favourite and one of these once in a lifetime holidays for many. It’s the most incredible place where you really can get up close and personal with the animals. Celebrity has another new ship, one of the Expedition class ships, Flora, which is now sailing in the Galapagos. Jo also mentions the focus on protecting the environment as a key positive. Some of the Celebrity itineraries also include a visit to the world famous Macchu Picchu.

view of Macchu Picchu

3. India

The country with the highest population still has room for a few more visitors. Whether you are travelling on foot, or by cruise (Celebrity Constellation sails there on a regular basis), India is one for the bucket list. It offers not only incredible cuisine, but it’s the perfect place to immerse yourself into a new culture. The people are warm and friendly, making what should be an incredible experience, completely unforgettable.

Gareth Allen – Big House Experience founder

Gareth has travelled far and wide but has narrowed it down to his top three. But if you are looking for an incredible stately home, castle or private modern house to stay in, look no further.

1. Nepal

This beautiful south Asian country was picked again but this time for different reasons. Gareth is a massive fan of the incredible scenery, in particular, the views from the Annapurna Mountain Range which he states are “just out of this world!” The Nepalese are said to be friendliest people on Earth so no doubt you’ll be warmly welcomed wherever you go. The wonderful chaos and pure sensory overload that is the capital Kathmandu makes Nepal a popular choice to visit in this coming year.

2. UK (in particular, a big house in Devon)

The UK is a great option for big group get-togethers. Hiring a big house together means you can have exclusive use of a big house, usually for a lot less than booking a hotel when dividing the cost between the group. Vennlane House in Devon is one of Gareth’s favourites. Think hot tub, swimming pools, games room, cinema room, Moroccan hammam, tennis courts — and if you can tear yourself away from the house, it’s within walking distance of the beach! Dartmouth (just a mile from Vennlane House) is a fantastic naval port with Michelin star restaurants overlooking the mouth of the stunning Dart estuary. Well worth a visit if you’re a foodie!

House with a pool at dusk

3. Morocco

One of the many reasons Gareth would pick this North African country is for its beautiful scenery ranging from its famous mountains to ancient cities and sweeping deserts. You can climb Mount Toubkal over a long weekend, and it’s not far from Marrakesh. Toubkal is the highest mountain in North Africa (4167m above sea level) and there are some cracking mountain views from the summit! Aside from this, Morocco is known for its exceptionally tasty food and welcoming people. If you like places that are fantastically chaotic and are looking for spice and adventure, this destination is definitely a place to consider in 2019!

….And finally, some thoughts from yours truly.

1. Fiji

The friendliest people. Lots of rugby. Beaches and trekking galore.

2. Mount Maunganui, New Zeland

I’ll buy a house here one day. Perfect views, watersports and a chilled atmosphere. In NZ you’re never far from a beach or a bar.

3. Santorini

Breath-taking views. Greek food. Greek vibes. Perfect place to unwind.