Friendly Planet Blog

The 20 Best Places to Travel in 2018

It’s that time of year again! Every travel publication is putting out their Top List of “must see” and “trending destinations” for next year’s globetrotters. We don’t know if you’ve noticed, but when you look from list to list, it seems like the whole world has made the cut! So we decided to do the dirty work for you. We took a look at all the most popular lists, from Travel+Leisure to Pinterest (and everything in between), and aggregated and tallied up all the trending destinations to give you the true Top 20 Destinations for 2018. You can see the full list below. Then click on the links or scroll down to learn more about select destinations that we visit on some of our tours.


  1. Mexico
  2. Canada
  3. Portugal
  4. Australia
  5. Chile
  1. Italy
  2. Malta
  3. Morocco
  4. Spain
  5. Argentina
  1. Croatia
  2. England
  3. France
  4. Greece
  5. Scotland
  1. South Korea
  2. Thailand
  3. UAE
  4. Vietnam
  5. Ireland


 LISBON, PORTUGAL | Lisbon Sky ©Deensel / FlickrPortugal

The Friendly Planet Take: Watch Portuguese water dogs help fishermen bring in their nets, then dine on their fresh catch at an outdoor cafe. Explore countryside castles proudly bearing Roman and Moorish heritage. Shop by foot or funicular in the stunning and sophisticated capital of Lisbon. Algarve’s southern beaches beckon, while Porto lures the aficionado of port wine with its ancient traditions and cave cellar tours. We recently released our brand new 11 day Best of Portugal small group tour because we knew how popular the country would be in 2018. Or, you might prefer our classic Douro River Valley Cruise.

What the trendsetters are saying:

  • “Heightening Portugal’s appeal are its incredible affordability and its natural wonders: in 2016, more than 300 beaches earned the coveted Blue Flag rating and two new biosphere reserves were named. It’s no surprise everyone is talking about this small, seafaring nation.” -Lonely Planet
  • “This coastal Portuguese city has all the elements of a world-class travel destination: a striking shoreline, charming architecture and historic sites, plus a one-of-a-kind export – port wine.” -U.S. News & World Report

CHILEAN PATAGONIA | Torres de Paine ©Steven dos Remdios / FlickrChile

The Friendly Planet Take: Apart from colorful and cultural colonial cities like Santiago and Valparaiso, Chile contains one of the most pristine places left on earth, Patagonia. Marvel at flora and fauna found nowhere else on earth and explore wild and rustic postcard-worthy landscapes. Plus, cruise within 400 miles of Antarctica at Cape Horn, the mainland continent’s southernmost point, and take in South America’s most spectacular fjords while you’re at it. In 2018, we’ll be opening new departures of our popular Patagonian Explorer by Sea.

What the trendsetters are saying:

  • “Chile is a sinewy sliver of a nation, isolated from the rest of South America (and indeed the world) by the soaring Andes to the east, the vast Pacific Ocean to the west, the bone-dry Atacama Desert up north and the impenetrable wilds of Patagonia down south.” –Lonely Planet
  • “From snowy mountains to stunning national parks and lakes, Chile is the ultimate destination.” –TravelWeekly

MARRAKESH, MOROCCO | The Souk ©César González Palomo / FlickrMorocco

The Friendly Planet Take: The country is a feast for the senses and a dream come true for the adventurous and inquisitive traveler. Colorful and aromatic spices. Intricately designed hand woven rugs and sparkling stained-glass lamps. Sweet mint tea and savory tagine. You can get pleasantly lost in the walled maze of Fez’s medieval souks. Or vibrate to the rhythms of snake charmers, storytellers and acrobats in Marrakesh’s Djemaa el-Fnaa square. Or ride a camel at sunset in the Sahara Desert and take a modern caravan through the Atlas Mountains and down the road of a thousand Kasbahs, stopping at palm-fringed oases along the way. Morocco has a beautiful and eclectic culture born of African, Arab, Berber and French influences and is a place that absolutely exceeds imagination. Our 11 day Best of Morocco is new for 2018!

What the trendsetters are saying:

  • “[Marrakesh] has attracted an artistic crowd since the 1960s, when everyone from Yves Saint Laurent to Mick Jagger fell for its vibrant sensory landscape. Now the city’s cultural scene is being reinvigorated…” –Travel+Leisure
  • “With a view of the towering Atlas Mountains, Marrakesh is a dreamy maze of spice-scented streets filled with vendors, cafes, and hidden palaces. It’s a city full of secrets and the best way to explore it is by getting lost.” –Fodors

GRANADA, SPAIN | Alhambra ©Jon Collier / FlickrSpain

The Friendly Planet Take: In recent years, Spain has become one of the stars of Europe, and for good reason: with mouth-watering midnight tapas, flamenco guitar plucking along the cobblestones of a village square, and Moorish architecture framing some of the most spectacular sites on the continent – the country offers a different take on your traditional images of ‘Europe’.  And with mountains that rival Switzerland’s and beaches on par with St. Tropez, it’s hardly a cliche to claim Spain has something to please every traveler. Discover Spain on our 8 day comprehensive tour!

What the trendsetters are saying:

  • “Sip sangria at a sidewalk café in Las Ramblas while watching flamboyant street performers, then create your own moveable feast by floating from tapas bar to tapas bar.” –TripAdvisor
  • “Andalusia’s renowned architecture and agricultural landscape — it’s the world’s biggest olive oil producer — is best seen on a road trip. A weeklong adventure around the region’s UNESCO heritage sites will give you a sweeping view of Andalusia’s cultural significance from the Neolithic age to present day.” –Mic

CROATIA | Plitvice Lake © / FlickrCroatia

The Friendly Planet Take: Croatia is hardly a best-kept travel secret anymore, but that hardly makes it any less amazing. The country along the dramatic Dalmatian coast boasts walled medieval cities, ancient Roman ruins, sparkling secluded beaches and seafood to die for. Just Google an image of Dubrovnik, then tell us you’re not ready to book your tour and stay there forever! And to add even more weight to your wanderlust, the country holds eight national parks with lakes that rival the beauty of the beaches (Plitvice Lakes just to start). Don’t miss our Croatia Cruise Adventure or our 10 day Discover Croatia group tour.

What the trendsetters are saying:

  • “Having celebrated 25 years of independence in 2016, Croatia is seeing a major uptick in tourism (thanks, in part, to Game of Thrones), and it’s easy to see why. Destinations like Hvar and Dubrovnik are already on travelers’ radars, so now we’re telling people to branch out to one of the country’s many islands and remote fishing villages.” –Condé Nast
  • “A unique approach to historical monuments has created one of the most peculiarly vibrant old towns in Europe [Split, Croatia].” –Fodors

GREECE | Sunset in Santorini ©Nikola Totuhov / FlickrGreece

The Friendly Planet Take: Greece is the ultimate country of contrasts that makes it a treasure-trove of travel adventures. Summit with the Gods on Mount Olympus or expound with ancient philosophers in Athens, then socialize among the yachting set in the Greek Isles or with locals at an all-night Kafeneia. Traveling to Greece means embracing a country of both world-renowned classical ruins and world-renowned shopping and nightlife. It’s both mythic and modern. Intense and idyllic. And sprinkle that with friendly locals and incredible food and you have a vacation that you’ll never forget.

What the trendsetters are saying:

  • “The birthplace of both the king of the Olympian gods and of modern European civilization, Crete is a Mediterranean jewel.” –TripAdvisor
  • “Though it’s long played second fiddle to other European capitals like Rome, and merely seen as a stopover point on the way to, say, Corfu, Athens has once again arrived.” –Condé Nast

THAILAND | Ayutthaya Temples ©rusticus80 / FlickrThailand

The Friendly Planet Take: As your tuk-tuk zips through the frenetic streets of Bangkok you’ll catch wafts of aromatic incense, weave through narrow alleys lined with vendors selling street-food, Buddha statues and flowers, and pass by gilded pagodas reverberating to the chants of saffron-clad monks. You can explore ancient cultures in Ayutthaya or more modern history at the bridge over the River Kwai. Then head to the more wild north where the pace slows down a bit in culturally steeped Chiang Mai and the mountain villages around Chiang Rai. Thailand is dubbed the ‘Land of Smiles’ for its friendly and outgoing people, but we posit a second reason: when you get home, you won’t be able to stop smiling for weeks. Our tours to Thailand include everything you need for the trip of a lifetime!

What the trendsetters are saying:

  • “Thai tourism is as robust as ever: more than 21 million international visitors poured into the capital in 2016, making [Bangkok] the world’s most visited city.” –Travel+Leisure
  • “Phuket, Thailand’s largest island, is an international magnet for beach lovers and serious divers, who enthusiastically submerge themselves in the Andaman Sea. Blue lagoons and salmon sunsets make for a dream-like atmosphere, and indeed, a vacation here can feel a bit surreal.” –TripAdvisor

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMERITES | Burj Al Arab - Helicopter View ©Sam Valadi / FlickrUnited Arab Emirates

The Friendly Planet Take: You can take an elevator ride to the top of the tallest building in the world. Need we say more? But visiting Dubai is more than just 5-star hotels, luxury shopping malls and top-notch restaurants (though that is certainly a huge draw). Beyond the glitz and glamour is a unique and fascinating culture where you can bargain for local goods in busy and beautiful souks, take in a camel race at the track or go sand skiing, or explore the more spiritual side of this religious country. Plus, since it’s a major transportation hub, we’ve combined Dubai with several amazing destinations, so you can explore Dubai and then continue your adventure somewhere equally as intriguing!

What the trendsetters are saying:

  • “Dubai is a destination that mixes modern culture with history, adventure with world-class shopping and entertainment. Catch a show at the Dubai Opera, see downtown from atop the Burj Khalifa and spend an afternoon along Dubai Creek exploring the gold, textile and spice souks.” –TripAdvisor
  • “Dubai is home to a bevy of superlatives, including the tallest building in the world (Burj Khalifa at 2,717 feet), the world’s largest indoor theme park (IMG Worlds of Adventure), the largest man-made marina in the world and the world’s first rotating skyscraper, set to open in 2020.” –U.S. News & World Report

VIETNAM | Hoi An ©Sarahhoa / FlickrVietnam

The Friendly Planet Take: Long-burdened by memories of war, Vietnam today has been recast as a vibrant tourist destination. What makes Vietnam so fascinating: the culture of this resilient country has endured with flying colors but the centuries of conquerors and colonization have left a unique tint in their wake. This is evident in the French cathedrals and impressive Chinatown in Ho Chi Minh City, or the Vietnamese coffee in Hanoi and eclectic architecture of Hoi An. Season all that with a healthy dose of natural scenery in places like UNESCO World Heritage Halong Bay, recent and relevant history like the underground Vietcong tunnels near Ho Chi Minh City, and delicious cuisine like a steaming bowl of phở washed down with a glass of Bia hơi, and you’ve got yourself a recipe for lifetime travel memories. You can explore this incredible country on our 10 day A Taste of Vietnam small group tour or go deeper with our Best of Vietnam & Cambodia!

What the trendsetters are saying:

  • “Vietnam, a fast-growing vacation destination for both regional and global travelers, is seeing booking surges in the cities of Hanoi (212%) and Da Nang (255%), which blend gleaming waterfronts and centuries-old architecture with cosmopolitan amenities.” –AirBnB
  • “[Hoi An], on the central Vietnamese coast, is a well-preserved example of the important Southeast Asian trading port it was from the 15th-19th centuries. Already a common stop for backpackers, it is becoming better known to tourists.” –TripAdvisor

IRELAND | River Liffey, Dublin ©Iker Merodio / FlickrIreland

The Friendly Planet Take: Ireland means infinitely green rolling countryside dotted with sheep and castles and Celtic ruins, country lanes lined by ancient stone walls, warm pubs filled with proper drafts and friendly folk and fiddle music, and dramatic natural scenery where it feels as though you’re standing at the end of the world. Whether you drive the Ring of Kerry, hike the Cliffs of Moher, cruise the River Corrib or visit towns like Dublin or Killarney or Galway, a trip to the Emerald Isle won’t disappoint.

What the trendsetters are saying:

  • “The Emerald Isle has seen a rush of American visitors recently, spurred by favorable exchange rates and increased airlift. If you haven’t yet made the trip, now’s the time to go.” –Travel+Leisure
  • “The rugged western coast of Ireland isn’t just one of the best places to go in the world; it’s among the best in the galaxy. Just ask the location scouts for Star Wars: The Last Jedi.” Frommers


Data compiled from: Travel+Leisure, Lonely Planet, Afar, AirBnB, Nat Geo, TripAdvisor, Conde Nast, Frommer’s, Business Insider, Pinterest, Fodor’s, Travel Weekly, The Guardian, Mic, and U.S. News & World Report.

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