I read a tweet the other day by Charlie from Where Charlie Wanders, outlining the trips she’d be taking and countries she’d be visiting next year, and it got me thinking even more about where I plan on travelling in 2019.
As some of you may know, I want to visit every country in the world and 100 of them before I turn 30, which means I’ll surely be venturing to pastures new in the next 12 months to build on the 62 that I’ll close this year out with. So, without further ado, here’s my destination hit list for 2019.
Europe has multiple transcontinental countries which bridge the gap between Europe’s east and Asia’s west. If you include these multicontinental nations, Europe has 51 countries, and Kazakhstan is one of only two I’m yet to visit. But, while the country’s reputation in the west is unfortunately associated with, uhm, Borat, there is much more to the former Soviet republic than the film suggests.
There are plenty of places to visit, but tourism in the country centres around its two biggest cities, Almaty, the old capital with lots of history, a mountainous backdrop and great nightlife, and the current, purpose-built capital, Astana, which has no shortage of obscure constructions such as Baiterek and the Golden Towers, which are also known as the Beer Cans. Astana also has better air links with the United Kingdom than Almaty with cheaper flight prices, which will more than likely end up swaying me.
The only other [partly-]European country I’m yet to visit is Armenia. Probably the worst-connected capital in either Europe or Asia, the Caucasian city of Yerevan is somewhere I really want to visit. What makes things difficult, however, is that there are no direct UK flights, the cost of one-stop routes is astronomical compared to neighbours Georgia and Azerbaijan and including it as part of a multi-country trip sees prices soar.
The plan, for now, is to bite the bullet and do a three-night trip to Yerevan, a land where water is free, and everyone learns chess at school.
Kyrgyzstan is a country you may never have heard of, but they do have one of the world’s best flags (in my opinion, of course). Kyrgyzstan is a central Asian nation which borders Kazakhstan from the south – a country from which it is cheap and easy to get to with its capital, Bishkek, lying just four hours from Almaty by road.
While there’s no Eiffel Tower or Colosseum equivalent, Bishkek is the kind of off-the-beaten-track destination I love to explore. I’m looking forward to the imposing, intimidating Soviet structures, the cheap prices, a lack of tourists and seeing how the people receive westerners. Plus, British citizens don’t need a visa to enter, which makes things a lot more straightforward. Roll on #Bishkek19!
I’m actually typing this post up on a flight back from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and already I’m dreaming of another Southeast Asian adventure. Thailand is one of those basic bitch places where every young person from the UK seems to go – the Spain of Asia, if you will. Yet despite its vast popularity taking the edge of its charm, it must be well-visited for a reason.
Although people say a couple of nights is more than enough, a stop in Bangkok is on the cards, and I really want to tick a Full Moon Party off my bucket list on its home island of Koh Phagnan. Then we’ll probably end up heading off to one of Thailand’s one million other beach destinations to wind down for a bit.
Beirut is somewhere I’ve seen a few travel bloggers and Instagrammers head to recently, and it’s also been on my list for a while. I imagine it will be similar to Israel in that it’s a Middle Eastern nation with a fascinating history and incredible food (that I will surely eat lots of). It’s another place with a fragile reputation, but is probably a lot safer than the Foreign & Commonwealth Office would have you think.
There are two reasons I want to visit Jordan – Petra and Wadi Rum. The first is a super-popular travel experience, and one of the most famous archaeological sites in the world. Carved out of Mount Hor’s rockface by the Nabataeans in the 3rd century BC, the rose-coloured city ancient city of Petra featured in Indiana Jones in the Last Crusade and it’s iconic photo spot in front of the Al-Khazneh treasury building.
Wadi Rum, on the other hand, is a protected desert reserve in South Jordan, known for its red-pink sands, prehistoric rock engravings and stunning natural arches and mountains. I could go luxury camping, watch the sunset and unwind under the stars and get to try activities such as sandboarding, quad biking and hot air ballooning. Jordan sounds like the ultimate adventure and I would love to visit the Hashemite Kingdom next year.
In recent times, Cairo has had a largely negative reputation, and I’ve read pieces and heard people say it’s a dirty place that’s one of the world’s worst to visit. While that may sound off-putting to most, it intrigues me as to why so many people think it’s not so great. I heard bad things about Belarus before going, the same with Ukraine, and both were great trips, so there’s every chance that going to Egypt with an open mind will be extremely rewarding.
It’s also near Giza, so I can pair a Cairo city break with a trip to see the Great Pyramid and Sphynx, completing more of my bucket list.
Already in the bag
The places above are destinations I plan on visiting in 2019, but although we’re still two months away, I already have a handful of trips sorted for the new year.
Go on Friday evening, come back on Monday morning – that’s my January trip sorted. Much like last January, when I visited Nuremberg on a press trip, I’m kicking off the year’s travels with a city break that doesn’t require me to book any days off work. What’s even better is that I get to spend two days with my girlfriend in one of my favourite, and one of Europe’s most underrated, cities, enjoying great food, beautiful architecture and low prices. I can’t wait!
Despite my whole spiel about wanting to visit a host of new countries in 2019, my first two trips are to places I’ve been before. A birthday present to my girlfriend (her birthday was last month so don’t worry, this doesn’t ruin the surprise), we’ll probably eat a load of tapas, see the sights and enjoy a city I last visited when I was in single digits.
This won’t be a cultural trip. At all. In June, one of my best friends is getting married, and what does someone getting married mean? That’s right, a stag do! A big group of us are off to Benidorm to drink, party and probably sleep the May bank holiday weekend away. I’ll be getting the Champagne Jägerbombs on the bounce and there will probably be some fancy dress involved. Whether I’ll be able to publish a blog about the trip is questionable, however.