Our pick of the best up-and-coming destinations to visit this year
Take a tour of Japan
From beautiful landscapes to unique architecture, what’s not to love about Japan? The country fuses the modern with the historic and elements of the East with the West. Tourism is expected to grow in 2019, as Japan will host the Rugby World Cup, taking place in cities such as Tokyo, Yokohama and Fukuoka from September.
In Okinawa – a remote island rich with marine wildlife – travellers can ride in glass-bottomed boats, learn karate and take cooking lessons for an immersive Japanese experience. To delve into city life, head to Tokyo for the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden and Meiji Shrine, or visit the state-of-the-art attractions in Disneyland.
As the beating heart of the Kansai region, Osaka is a great base. Known as “Japan’s kitchen”, the city is an ideal place to try delectable Japanese dishes. Also, make sure to visit the Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan or the famous Osaka Castle, which is popular during the cherry blossom bloom in March and April. With Kyoto, the capital of ancient culture, just 15 minutes away by shinkansen – aka the bullet train – armed with a Japan Rail Pass, you can see a surprising amount in a small space of time. The jewels of the Setouchi region include Okayama’s famous gardens and the UNESCO sites of Himeji Castle, Hiroshima Peace Memorial and Miyajima, the “floating shrine”.
A seven-day Japan Rail Pass exchange order costs from £199 per person. It must be purchased outside of Japan and exchanged for the actual rail pass upon arrival into the country. Book online at Japanspecialist.co.uk/product/ordinary
Stay at Cross Hotel Osaka from £75 a night for a double room. Book at Osaka.crosshotel.com. Return flights from London Heathrow direct to Osaka from 1 April 2019 costs from £449 from Britishairways.com
Explore the wonders of Jordan
As the backdrop to many blockbuster films, including Disney’s new live-action Aladdin, the area of Wadi Rum – also known as the Valley of the Moon – is an emerging destination for 2019. It has everything you’d expect from a desert wilderness, with dramatic sandstone mountains, red canyons and stunning prehistoric rocks, making it ideal for a getaway that’s completely off-grid. For something really different, book a Bedouin camp experience in the desert, where you’ll sleep under the stars and explore the filming locations of The Martian and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.
Another place of interest is the Dead Sea, where the hypersaline water makes floating easy and the mineral black mud is used in therapeutic and cosmetic treatments. Meanwhile, in south-west Jordan is the famous archaeological site of Petra. Carved into a rock face over 2,000 years ago, the historic city is one of the new Seven Wonders of the World.
We recommend taking an escorted tour through Jordan’s capital Amman, the ancient cities of Petra and Jerash, and the biblical site of Bethany, before ending at the Dead Sea. Hayes & Jarvis offer an eight-day private tour from £2,369 per person, including flights from London Heathrow with British Airways, based on departures on 13 August 2019. Book online at Hayesandjarvis.co.uk, or call 01293 762 456.
Book a Wadi Rum Night Luxury Camp from £147 for two nights, including breakfast and dinner, for February 2019 at Booking.com
Adventure to Belize
Situated on the eastern coast of Central America, with the Caribbean Sea to the east and jungle to the west, Belize has a rich culture and history, as well as plenty of outdoor activities to try, including caving, hiking, kayaking and horse riding.
Dotted along Belize’s barrier reef – which is the world’s second largest – are around 450 tropical islands. Head to the largest island, Ambergris Caye, to spot endangered marine life, such as green turtles and West Indian manatee, and take a helicopter tour over the iconic Blue Hole, a large marine cavern, for the perfect Instagram pic.
From the easy-going town of San Ignacio in the highlands, you can visit Mayan ruins, explore the jungle or drift down Mopan River on a kayak. It’s estimated that hundreds of Mayan sites are still waiting to be discovered, but the best preserved, Caracol and Xunantunich, are easy day trips from San Ignacio.
If you just want to relax, eco-resorts are located in peaceful jungle settings and coastal locations. Plus, English is widely spoken, so there’s no language barrier to worry about.
The Beautiful Belize Guided Tour is a 12-night excursion from the rainforest to the Caribbean coral islands. It costs from £3,849 per person, including meals, accommodation, transfers, guided sightseeing and flights, for selected dates in May 2019, based on two adults sharing. Book online at Trailfinders.com, or call 020 7368 1200.