Want amazing insider ideas for your 2019 vacation? Virtuoso — a global luxury travel network of more than 16,000 expert advisors at 800-plus travel agencies in 45 countries — is the coolest pipeline to the hottest destinations and diversions. “Every year, Virtuoso surveys its industry-leading professional travel advisors to tap into the biggest trends for the coming 12 months,” explains Terrie Hansen, senior vice president of marketing. Buzz-worthy bookings on the horizon ahead will highlight fine-tuned personalized trips and an ever-stronger desire by travelers to enjoy fascinating places in deeper ways. Here, 10 favorites for 2019.
1 SAIL ON A YACHT IN CROATIA
From the comfort of a yacht, visit historic, handsome Croatian destinations, such as Dubrovnik (called the “Pearl of the Adriatic”), Split (on the Dalmatian Coast, famous for its picturesque beaches and 4th-century fortress) and Hvar Island (with 13th-century walls, a hilltop fortress, shimmering shorelines and lavender fields). This crescent-shaped, geographically diverse, culturally rich country intrigues with ancient forts, peaceful monasteries and lush parkland. For more country inspiration: Croatian National Tourist Board.
2 GET HIGH IN NEW ZEALAND
Adventurers take note: This nature-lovers’ land of plenty — effervescent with gorgeous glaciers, mountains, rainforests, as well as the Pacific Ocean, rivers and lakes — is a sky-diving and bungee-jumping mecca. Go, too, for its river rafting, kayaking, hiking, biking, exploring geothermal phenomena (boiling mud pools, geysers and volcanic craters), as well as gastronomy and vineyard touring. For more country inspiration: Tourism New Zealand.
3 CHOO-CHOO FROM PARIS TO ISTANBUL
Thrill aboard Belmond‘s exceptional train: the legendary, Art Deco-restored Venice Simplon-Orient-Express. Its exciting 10-night getaway embraces stops in mesmerizing cities. Dreamy landscapes whoosh by as you sip champagne or cappuccino, ensconced in elegant, exquisitely decorated carriages. Relish culinary sophistication and niceties delivered by polished staff. Golden memories are made of this. Go here for other riveting routes.
4 CRUISE THE NORWEGIAN FJORDS
Sail across the Arctic Circle where the sun never fully sets during summer months. Consider an itinerary that navigates the breathtaking North Cape. Toast the start of summer. Among itineraries that wow: Seabourn Cruise Line’s 15-Day Iceland and North Cape Quest, Holland America Line’s 14-Day North Cape, Silversea Cruises’ 15-Day London to Copenhagen, Viking Ocean Cruises’ 15-Day Into the Midnight Sun, Hurtigruten’s 7-Day The Cruise North and Ponant’s 8-Day Fjords and Glaciers of Spitsbergen. If you are able to schedule your trip and cruise during the summer solstice (June 21) in the Northern Hemisphere, the sun is visible for 24 hours. For more country inspiration: Visit Norway.
5 VOYAGE THE CHILEAN FJORDS
Journey toward the spectacular South Cape. Among itineraries that impress: Azamara Club Cruises’ 16-Day Chilean Fjords Voyage, Celebrity Cruises’ 15-Day Argentina, Uruguay and Chile Cruise, Crystal Cruises’ 8-Day Chilean Fjords Discovery, Oceania Cruises’ 21-Day Around the Cape, Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ 17-Day Buenos Aries to Santiago and Norwegian Cruise Line’s 14-Day South America from Santiago. If you are able to pinpoint your trip and cruise at South Cape during the summer solstice in the Southern Hemisphere (December 22), the sun sparkles around the clock. For more country inspiration: Discover Chile.
6 SAVOR FOODIE GOODIE: BARCELONA
Barcelona has a lot of high-five hoopla to appreciate: architecture (especially by genius Antoni Gaudí), art (particularly Pablo Picasso), dance, music and theater. But its restaurant and winery scenes excite almighty as well — a balanced mix of relaxed and refined, comforting and stimulating. The current must-do eatery in this colorful, seaside city is Tickets, masterminded by the super-talented Adrià brothers of El Bulli fame. Yep, reservations usually require a two-month-advance plan. Its focus: playful contemporary tapas, which is an understated description of the over-achieving flavors created here. Barcelona — on the hotlist for years now — continues to seduce. For more city and country inspiration: Barcelona Tourism and Spain Tourism.
7 COMMEMORATE THE 75TH ANNIVERSARY OF D-DAY IN NORMANDY
The broad, windswept beaches of Normandy — where, during World War II, Allied forces landed in German-occupied France on June 6, 1944 — are tangible reminders of the heroic operation’s legacy that led to the liberation of France and turned the tide of the war, establishing the foundations of Allied victory on the Western Front. Along France’s northern coast, residents of villages, towns and cities give heartfelt thanks with scores of celebrations and events that applaud the triumph of good over evil. For more regional and country inspiration: Normandy Tourism and France Tourism.
8 EXPERIENCE TOTALITY: SOLAR ECLIPSE IN CHILE
Be dazzled by The Great South American Eclipse on July 2 in Northern Chile. Its path of totality passes over the Elqui Valley, several hundred miles north of capital Santiago, in a mountainous area that attracts astro-tourism. Astronomers and stargazers revel here — an ardent intergalactic sightseeing community with devoted infrastructure, harboring many of Earth’s most powerful telescopes. This valley is bathed in approximately 320 days of yearly sunshine and thus wide-open clear night skies also prevail. Select a stellar glamping (glamorous camping) accommodation, such as Elqui Domos that features sleep-soothing geodesic domes. Nearby, sample pisco at artisanal distilleries, then head south to wine country. For more inspiration: Discover Chile: Elqui Valley.
9 EXPLORE BY SUBMARINE IN THE MALDIVES
The Republic of the Maldives, a sovereign nation of islands southwest of Sri Lanka and India in the Indian Ocean, is home to much visual splendor — both on land and beneath the sea. The verdant, stunningly lovely Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Landaa Giraavaru, in the pristine Baa Atoll UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, pleasingly pampers, a serene place to chill out amid warm smiles. Dive into calm waters to swim with manta rays. Then take your quest for the best even deeper aboard DeepFlight Adventures (see video above), spotting fish, dolphins, sharks and turtles. For more inspiration: Visit Maldives.
10 CHEER THE RUGBY WORLD CUP IN JAPAN
This exuberant six-week Rugby tournament — held September 20 to November 2 in Tokyo — is also the ideal period to eye autumn foliage in Japan. Rally at the sport’s intense competitions, then take in Tokyo’s tranquil shrines, art museums, parks, kabuki theater, as well as its vivacious nightlight, restaurants and sake bars. For more inspiration: Japan Tourism and Rugby World Cup.
Why use a Virtuoso expert? “Just as you might use a financial advisor or an interior designer, it makes sense to entrust your most valuable asset — your free time — to a travel advisor,” says Hansen. “It’s their job to learn about destinations, properties and experiences around the world, so they can offer expert advice based on personal knowledge. Virtuoso advisors also get to know their clients’ preferences and help guide them to the right choices. Travelers also receive special benefits they can’t get on their own, such as complimentary breakfast, spa credits and upgrades at hotels. And if something goes wrong, a Virtuoso travel advisor is there to help and quickly turn things around for the better.”
What makes Hansen so passionate about her work? “My role is to help spread the word to travelers that there is a better way to travel,” she adds. “It’s not just where you go, but how you plan and book your trip — to create an extraordinary experience. Since we are talking about people’s lifelong memories, it makes my work meaningful and gratifying. There is nothing else I’d rather do!”
For more info: Virtuoso.