The top travel trends of 2019
From mind-altering art exhibitions to under-the-radar beaches, SARAH MARSHALL suggests the escapes set to top travel wish lists this year
THERE are almost 200 countries in the world today – and that’s a lot of potential passport stamps to collect. For most of us though, it’s unlikely we’ll ever get around to crossing off even a fraction of the globe. And that makes choosing where to go an important decision.
Some destinations and regions do rise to the fore, however, making them particularly appealing to visit right now.
Whether it’s the launch of a new flight route improving access, an anniversary generating exciting exhibitions, or simply an emerging trend gaining pace, several factors make these five places ripe for 2019.
Looking for inspiration for your next trip? These destinations should be filling your next available passport pages...
1 SUN, SEA AND SURF IN SRI LANKA
TEN years after a violent civil war was finally put to rest, this teardropshaped Indian Ocean island is now one of the most sought after travel destinations. Initially affordability was the big draw – holidaying on it’s sun-splashed beaches costs a fraction compared to its flashy neighbours.
But now word has spread of the other attractions on offer.
Lonely Planet named Sri Lanka the number one destination to visit in 2019, largely on the basis of its “mix of religions and cultures, timeless temples, rich and accessible wildlife, growing surf scene and its people”.
Once off-limits to visitors due to clashes between the Sri Lanka Army and Tamil Tigers, the north-east coast is the country’s fastest rising star.
Port city Trincomalee has some excellent opportunities for whale watching, and provides a quieter alternative to overloaded Mirissa in the south.
Arugam Bay, meanwhile, has a laid-back surf scene and claims to receive some of Asia’s best waves.
Inland, tea tourism is gathering pace, while wildlife fans are heading to Yala for sightings of leopards and Minneriya National Park for large elephant herds.
■ HOW: G Adventures (gadventures.co.uk) offers a 7-day Sailing Sri Lanka – North Coast tour from £899 a head, for various departures in February, March, November and December. Flights and meals are extra.
2 CULTURE VULTURES IN ITALY
BOASTING 54 Unesco World Heritage Sites, more than anywhere else in the world, Italy is a magnet for anyone keen on culture.
A master of both the arts and science, Leonardo da Vinci was the archetypal Renaissance man, so the 500th anniversary of his death on May 2, 2019, has spawned a year’s worth of celebrations and exhibitions.
From April 19 to July 14, the Gallerie dell’Accademia in Venice will launch a new exhibition dedicated to the great polymath, displaying one of his most iconic Leonardo da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man
drawings, the Vitruvian Man.
Meanwhile in Florence, the Museo Galileo’s exhibition Leonardo da Vinci: Anatomies: Machines, Human Body, Nature (April 21 to October 7) looks at his studies of the human body, which he regarded as a sophisticated mechanical device.
The master’s most famous work, The Last Supper, hangs in the refectory of Milan’s Santa Maria delle Grazie convent, although to see it you’ll need to purchase tickets in advance (cenacolovinciano.vivaticket.it).
Further south, all eyes will be set on Matera, the European Capital of Culture. Blighted by poverty, the city in Basilicata was once a source of national embarrassment, but in recent decades its famous sassi (rock dwellings) have been converted into tourist-pleasing restaurants and hotels.
A programme of events is planned for the year ahead (matera-basilicata2019.it/en).
■ HOW: Hedonistic Hiking (hedonistichiking.com) offers a Southern Italy tour visiting Matera from £2,697 per person, including all accommodation, meals with wine, activities and transfers, with departures on June 11 and September 18.
3 THE ROAD TO RIO
A CITY of mountains rising from the Atlantic Ocean, Rio de Janeiro has an irresistibly romantic allure. The 2016 Olympics gave the destination plenty of worldwide airtime, and now a new budget flight route means the South American party hub is within more people’s reach.
On March 31, Norwegian will begin a direct service to Rio, following the success of its Buenos Aires route, which launched last February.
While many will use the flight as an opportunity to explore Brazil’s wide-ranging riches, there’s plenty to keep you occupied in Rio for a few days. Seeing the city from above is definitely a highlight; climb to the top of the Christ the Redeemer statue or take a cable car over to the tip of the Sugarloaf Mountain.
Brazilians treat the beach like their front room, and spending time on Rio’s sandy bays is the best way to integrate with local life: Copacabana is busy and boisterous, while Ipanema and Leblon are classier and quieter.
For a taste of Rio’s past, head to