It slipped off the radar amid unrest and instability in recent years, but now Aussie travellers are jumping back on the Turkey bandwagon in droves, chasing bucket-list sights like the Insta-hot thermal pools of Pamukkale, blue lagoon beaches at Oludeniz and otherworldly landscapes of Cappadocia.
Intrepid Travel reports a 132 per cent increase in Aussies travelling to Turkey in the past year, and cruise line Regent Seven Seas is gearing up to return to Turkey in 2019. Making Turkey even more attractive for 2019 is a new, state-of-the-art international airport, just opened in Istanbul.
Australia’s obsession with Japan just keeps on growing – and it’s not only the snow that has got us hooked, now it’s the snorkelling, too. The beaches of the remote southern island chain of Okinawa are beckoning to a rising contingent of travellers. A new airport terminal is set to open in the region at Shimoji-shima in March 2019, with more access to the Miyako Islands when Jetstar Japan adds daily flights there in addition to its Okinawa Naha schedule.
Okinawa region is growing as a cruise destination, too, with plans under way to develop into a hub dubbed “the Caribbean of Asia”.
For years Colombia was a place tourists bypassed in favour of Peru or Chile. Now it’s emerging from the shadow of its troubled past as one of South America’s biggest drawcards, boasting Caribbean coastline, spectacular mountain scenery and the Lost City Trek – Colombia’s answer to the Inca Trail.
Qantas has added Colombia to its network (via a LATAM codeshare) and the country is becoming a hotspot for new hotels – Hilton has opened five in the past year and has plans for more.
Perhaps thanks to Netflix’s Narcos, new Skyscanner stats rank the country’s second city, Medellin, among the top trending destinations for Aussie travellers.
CAM RANH, VIETNAM
Tipped to emerge as a rival Phuket or Bali in the coming years, Cam Ranh is Asia’s next big beach destination. The centrepiece is Long Beach. Since opening in June, the new Cam Ranh international airport has been adding new airlines with connections throughout Asia, making it easily accessible for Aussies via Kuala Lumpur or Bangkok.
New resorts set to open in 2019 include a Mövenpick and Radisson Blu, while the five-star Anam opened last year. Add to that a newly opened Greg Norman-designed golf course, 300 days of sunshine a year, and the 10km white sand strip known as Long Beach, and it’s no wonder this destination is taking off.
no denying Ethiopia is the hottest place on Earth (literally: its Dallol region regularly reaches 45C and has been nicknamed the “gateway to hell”). But it has also been popping up on all global travel hot lists and now Australians are starting to take note, with tour company G Adventures reporting a 98 per cent rise in Ethiopia travel over the past 12 months.
Why? Well, for starters, it’s home to nine World Heritage sites – more than any other African country – and the picturesque Semien Mountains, where visitors can spot Gelada baboons, only found in Ethiopia.
Not only does it have World Heritage-listed reefs and picturesque beaches, New Caledonia is only a twohour flight from Brisbane or a cheap cruise away.
When the spotlight shone on New Caledonia as the backdrop for 2018’s The Bachelor finale, it took Australia’s love affair with the country to the next level. Hits on the national tourism body’s website doubled after the show aired, with Webjet reporting a 70 per cent jump in New Caledonia searches in the past 12 months. Another reason to go now is that it could be the end of New Caledonia as we know it. The country is expected to vote again in 2020 on whether to remain a French territory or become independent, which could lead to a name change.
FAR EAST RUSSIA
The 2018 World Cup lured Aussie soccer lovers to Russia in droves (Flight Centre recorded almost a 30 per cent uptick in bookings) but the country looks set to continue to attract adventurous Aussies in 2019.
Moscow, St Petersburg, the TransSiberian Railway and river cruises are major attractions but for those seeking a destination truly off the beaten path, the remote Far East of Russia is beckoning.
Siberia’s remote Kamchatka Peninsula, dotted with active volcanoes, is opening up to expedition cruises, with Silversea and World Expeditions among those set to visit in 2019, with visits to the farflung Kuril Islands among highlights.
ROTTNEST ISLAND, WESTERN AUSTRALIA
Long loved by Perth locals, Rottnest Island is now making a name for itself across the world in a big way. A new glamping resort, Discovery Rottnest Island, opens in March, turning the heads of international media – particularly since the launch of Qantas’s much-feted Perth-London route last year means the WA capital is only a direct flight from Europe.
The next few months are set to be the island’s “biggest summer yet”, according to Tourism WA, with a bunch of new tours and experiences including subsea scooter tours and undersea helmet walks now on offer. Celebs from around the world have been lending star power to the island’s profile – so if you haven’t got your own quokka selfie yet, what are you waiting for?
It has been labelled the new Berlin, and cheap flights, happening nightlife, renowned food scene and new hotels are propelling Serbian capital Belgrade onto the radar for Australians. Skyscanner stats show interest has jumped 32 per cent in 2018, coinciding with a 10 per cent drop in flight prices.
Belgrade is undergoing a hotel boom with five-star newcomers including a just-opened Hilton and St Regis slated to open in 2020.
Although its natural attractions aren’t as celebrated as neighbouring Croatia’s, there’s more to Serbia than just the city, with five national parks including the dramatic canyon of Tara National Park a highlight of the county’s five national parks.