08 January 2018
It is a vast and exciting world out there and there are so many tempting destinations to choose from. If you are planning a once-in-a-lifetime trip in 2018 to celebrate something special, we have put together the ultimate travel bucket list for the year ahead.
Whether you are preparing to celebrate a big anniversary in 2018, or simply want to treat yourself to something special, the start of the year is the best time to consider the possibilities ahead.
Travel is one of the best ways to spend time and money, and we are now seeing more and more people take up the opportunity to experience once-in-a-lifetime destinations. We are also seeing a lot of clients in their 50s and 60s who want to mark their retirement or celebrate a big anniversary by ticking off a travel bucket list adventure.
From gliding along the rivers of Mekong Delta in Vietnam, to wandering the streets of Argentina's bustling and colourful capital Buenos Aires - there's no shortage of countries to discover.
Here are our top five bucket list destinations for 2018:
At the moment, Vietnam and Cambodia are popular, and they will only grow in popularity over the coming year. In Vietnam, set sail through the limestone karsts of Ha Long Bay; tour the Cu Chi tunnels; and take a trip to the rice bowl of Vietnam, the Mekong Delta, home to floating markets and rice paddies. In Hue, the old Imperial Capital of Vietnam, visit the beautiful seven-storey Thien Mu Pagoda on the banks of the Perfume River; while in bustling and beautiful Hanoi, see the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long, Hanoi's historic Old Quarter and the serene Hoan Kiem Lake.
In Cambodia, we recommend the epic temples in Angkor, the largest religious monument in the world; while in the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh, brace yourself for the heartbreak of Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, chronicling the Cambodian genocide.
And of course, it is not all about history and culture. Both countries have amazing beaches offering plenty of options for a bit of R&R after all the sightseeing!
South Africa is the 'in' place now. It offers fantastic value for money due to the weak Rand versus the Euro. Start off in Cape Town as there's just a two-hour time difference between Cape Town and Ireland and head off on the cable car up Table Mountain. UNESCO World Heritage Site, Robben Island is also a must - where Nelson Mandela spent 18 years in prison. It is wise to pre-book as the boats are very full in high season.
If wine is your thing, South Africa is the place to be and towns like Franschhoek, Stellenbosch and Paarl offer beautiful boutique lodges in the heart of the wine region. Consider the Garden Route National Park, with its spectacular mountain scenery, and for a sandier option, try the pristine Robberg Beach in Plettenberg Bay.
Of course, a trip to South Africa cannot be experienced without a safari adventure and there are lots of options available to view the 'Big 5'in the many national parks throughout this magnificent country.
Argentina is all about variety. Experience the sophisticated capital city of Buenos Aires, taking in the colourful area of La Boca where the famous pedestrianised street, the Caminito, is full of local cafes where tango artists perform. Visit the Recoleta Cemetery where Argentina's iconic first lady Eva Peron is buried, and spend some time at the Evita Peron Museum. Head to the fabulous Bariloche - also known as the 'little Switzerland' of Argentina, with its pretty Alpine architecture and picture-postcard views of the snow-capped Andes.
Other highlights include the majestic glacier region at El Calafate in Patagonia, a hiker's paradise, the Mendoza region for wine lovers and the thundering Iguazu Falls in the north of the country on the Brazilian border.
Australia and New Zealand are high on people's bucket lists at the moment. Many of our clients have kids and grandchildren living there and tend to do a big extended trip once before reverting to a flight only every two years.
If you concentrate on the South Island, you will not be disappointed. Think Kerry but with bigger mountains and bigger lakes - the scenery is spectacular. The entire country is geared to healthy, outdoor living with well laid-out walking tracks and cycle paths everywhere.
Experience a helicopter trip over the glaciers and Mt Cook, the highest mountain in New Zealand at almost 3,800m, and hike in the Abel Tasman National Park from remote Anchorage Bay to Marahau, passing beautiful white, sandy, deserted beaches with crystal clear water and surrounded by the dense rainforest.
Queenstown, the adventure capital of the world, is in total contrast. The town is heaving with great shopping, restaurants and pubs and adrenaline sports such as bungee jumping, paragliding, and white water rafting.
Australia offers a huge variety of experiences - great cities like Sydney and Melbourne, fabulous beaches, the Great Barrier Reef, the aboriginal cultural centre at Uluru, wildlife, and scenic drives like the Great Ocean Road.
Choose to fly from place-to-place or drive and try a camper van. Visiting Australia is a great opportunity to tick off lots of boxes - if you have the time, stopover in South East Asia on the way out, and in the USA on the way home.
Like so many other countries in Asia, Sri Lanka has it all - history, culture, beaches, wildlife, weather and lovely people. It is a year-round destination with two distinct monsoon seasons - the south-western monsoon between May and December and the north-eastern monsoon between October and January. Visit the cultural triangle at Anuradhapura, discover lush plantations of Ceylon tea, get up close to the elephants at Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage and watch them being fed and bathed, and climb 1,200 steps to the top of the 'eighth wonder of the world', the stunning Sigiriya Rock Fortress. Afterwards, chill out at one of the fabulous beaches on the west coast at Trincomalee or at one of the many beaches on the south coast.
Are any of these great destinations on your list for 2018? Our Travel Counsellors would be delighted to help you to plan any of these trips!