Written by Jason Merrithew
The world is a huge place and you might not be able to tick off all the destinations you want in a year. To help you choose where to go in 2018, here are Merit Travel’s top 5 destinations you can’t miss!
The country features many national parks for more traditional safari experiences but one of the main reasons to visit Uganda is for the gorillas! Not a typical safari but certainly a journey unto itself, a visit to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is an active experience to be sure. The Impenetrable Forest is so named for the bamboo growth that criss-crosses between the larger trees that make access by vehicle difficult. You’ll spend your time here trekking through the ancient forest, hoping to spend just a few moments in silence, gazing into the eyes of Uganda’s mountain gorillas.
Where to stay
You’ll stay at various places on your road to the forest itself, but you’ll want to end up at Sanctuary Gorilla Forest Camp, one of the only camps located within Bwindi Impenetrable Forest itself. Breathtaking views sipping a cocktail await you along with (hopefully) close encounters with mountain gorillas, the camp has no walls and is sustainably open to the surrounding forest.
One word: Uyuni. The world’s largest salt flat, roughly half the size of Lake Ontario, is truly one of the most spectacular natural wonders on earth. Situated in the south west region of Bolivia and roughly 12,000 feet above sea level, Uyuni will literally take your breath away. During Bolivia’s summer months (roughly November to February), water accumulates over the salt floor of Uyuni, and the surface reflects the sky – creating optical illusions that will dazzle you, as the horizon disappears. There are no roads once you are inside the salt flats, so investing in a good driver with a sturdy 4×4 is a MUST. After Uyuni, head to Lake Titicaca, the largest lake in South America. At 12,500 feet above sea level you’ll have to catch your breath to explore the towns and nature surrounding the lake, as well as the lake itself. Get ready to be an explorer, as outdoor activities are the name of the game here. A terrific way to cap off an active vacation to South America.
Where to stay
At Uyuni, Hotel Luna Salada and the Hotel Palacio de Sal. Both are made from salt blocks (the bed, hallways, walls, floors, bed frame, night table, etc. all made of salt!) and are simple, comfortable and on the edge of the flats. When in the Lake Titicaca area, there is only one choice: Titilaka. Half the rooms face sunrise over the lake and half the rooms face sunset. Stunning.
There is a little bit of everything for everyone in Morocco. The bustling cities of Casablanca and Rabat, the cultural hotbed of Marrakech and the Atlas Mountains, the pedestrian only Heritage Site Medina of Fez and the Sahara Desert. From relaxation to trekking to food to art, you can do it all here. Come here with an open mind and be sure to send a couple of nights in various parts of the country, making sure you find the opportunity to watch the sunset from the rooftops of the ancient desert cities. Be sure to spend at least one night in the Sahara. It is a truly unique experience to arrive in a Berber style camp via camel, include in a traditional feast and lay on the sand, gazing at the twinkling stars in the totally clear night sky above you. Read more about a recent Moroccan experience.
Where to stay
You’ll probably start in Marrakech and here it must be La Mamounia. An ancient palace that has played host to Kings and pop stars alike, you’ll feel surrounded by traditional Moroccan elegance and magical gardens within the bustling city of Marrakech. Just outside the city, Kasbah Tamadot – Sir Richard Branson’s Moroccan retreat is your gateway to the Atlas Mountains. Moroccan art and architecture is the background of your Kasbah experience here with a fantastic spa, gorgeous gardens and a stunning infinity pool. Perfect for some well-deserved rest and relaxation and a more adventurous pace if you are so inclined.
Long just viewed as a honeymoon destination for us in North America, Bali is not nearly as difficult to get to as it used to be, even if it is a long trip. Fortunately, there is just so much to see here that you can make a longer trip of it easily! Amazing cultural history alongside an active art and yoga scene in Ubud, to the pristine beaches and gorgeous retreats along the coasts, Bali is a great family, couples or singles destination. The traditional beaming smiles of the local Balinese people are infectious and after a week visiting you’ll be hard pressed to not start sporting your own glowing facial expressions.
Where to stay
Bali is all about contrasts, so split your time between the jungles and the coast. Alila Ubud is nestled into foothills of the inland Ayung River and features contemporary design with a healthy mix of Balinese traditional architecture. It also features one of the world’s top pools as voted by Travel + Leisure Magazine. On the coast, except no substitutes for Amankila. Perched atop the soaring cliffs facing the Lombok Strait, it’s a stunning retreat from the world that will leave you aching to return.
Even if you don’t care for a visit to the set of “King’s Landing” from Game of Thrones, start a vacation off in the old city of Dubrovnik. The ancient walled cities and national parks of Croatia are bustling with UNESCO World Heritage Sites. You can even spend some of your time here sailing the Adriatic Sea, visiting masterpieces like the tiny island of Hvar, or any of the other nearly one thousand Croatian islands where the idyllic coast sparkles. There is an immense variety of cuisine to sample in Croatia, a result of its location at the cross roads of many different world cultures, as well as the long history of the Croatian people themselves. As its own experience, or a jumping off point for adventures into neighbouring (and equally excellent) Montenegro and other south eastern European countries, Croatia needs to be on your list.
Where to stay
The Villa Dubrovnik is a great boutique starting point for the fortifications of the old city. The spectacular views of the city and water from your balcony won’t hurt either! Steps away from one of the best beaches, the Radisson Blu Resort in Split is reopening in April 2018 and will be a great relaxation destination for you.