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The Hotlist 2019

What better way to open the year than by starting to plan your adventures? Even the most experienced travellers require a steer in the right direction andFood and Travel is here to be your compass. We’ve spoken to experienced travellers to hear where they’ll be going, have dug deep to find the lesser-known, culture-packed cities worth your valuable holiday time, and have uncovered the countries that are perfectly ripe for adventure. So settle back and take your time, because these are the decisions that will define your year ahead.

Where I’m going Levison Wood

It’s never been easier to go on an adventure than it is now, so I expect we’ll see a lot more people trying new activities and heading to places for the first time in 2019. Since a wider range of countries are becoming increasingly accessible on low-cost flight routes, both long- and short-haul, it’s spurred a rise in exciting travel. People’s attitudes have changed and those who would have once never contemplated going on an expedition are joining them now at all stages of life.

I predict there’ll be a rise in micro-adventures, too, as people are realising that they don’t have to go far or spend lots of money to have an experience to write home about. Being a modern-day explorer is no longer about planting flagpoles in maps. These days it’s a lot more personal – as long as you’re discovering and exploring things for yourself, that’s all that really matters. Depending on Brexit, there will either be a lot more domestic travel in 2019 or, conversely, it’ll have completely the opposite effect and people will travel much further afield to destinations like Nepal, bypassing Europe completely.

I’ll be going to the Silk Road next year and I think it will definitely be one of the biggest destinations in 2019. Georgia – the gateway to the Silk Road – is exceptionally beautiful with amazing food and drink to match. I’d also recommend combining a trip like this with a visit to the neighbouring countries of Azerbaijanand Armenia, too. For first-time explorers – having been there on my most recent expedition – I couldn’t recommend Oman more highly. The landscape is captivating and the people are extremely hospitable. It’s the safest place in the Middle East to go.

Recently, I’ve been here, there and everywhere, so after travelling to New York, Las Vegas and San Francisco to promote my new book, plus a ski trip tothe Alps, I’ll be taking a much-needed not-for-work holiday. It might come as a surprise to most people, but I’m in need of some sunshine and a sandy beach.

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Arabia by Levison Wood (Hodder & Stoughton, £25)

Try June in A Coruña

Head to the lively Galician town for a great-value Spanish sojourn with superb seafood this year.

We’re constantly on the lookout for the latest unspoilt Spanish destination that swerves from the traditional tourist trail. This year, make a play for the Galician coastal city of A Coruña, which we are tipping as the new San Sebastián. Set on an isthmus on the north-west corner of the country, its coastline offers some of the very best seafood in the country, with superb sardines, lobster and the city’s signature whole braised baby octopus as the absolute must-tries. June is the ideal time to go, around the festival of La Noche de San Juan (St John’s Night), when the beach blazes with barbecues and everyone comes down to enjoy the excellent Maeloc Galician cider or local albariño wine, which pairs brilliantly with prawns.

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Hotels here are superb value, with the five-star NH Collection A Coruña Finisterre offering doubles from £70 per night. It’s easily accessible, too, with flights with Vueling to A Coruña from Heathrow available from around £115pp return.

Oslo Goes Green

The European Green Capital of 2019 has removed street parking to make way for bicycles, turned parking metres into Wi-Fi speakers and redesigned the once gridlocked Sørenga Bridge into an urban park similar to New York’s High Line. All combine to make it a fine city to visit this year. It’s already the electric car capital of the world and boasts one of the smallest carbon footprints, but with new initiatives, Oslo’s centre is on track to becoming car-free by the end of 2019. On the edge of the city you’ll find Losæter, where soil from 50 farms across Norway makes up a field full of vegetables, chicken pens, beehives and a bakehouse. Each Wednesday in summer the produce is rounded up and brought together by local chefs for a free communal dinner that feeds 90 people, which anyone can join.


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Turkish delights aplenty

Bouncing back from a period of social instability, Turkey’s hotel offering is developing at a rate of knots and will continue to offer superb value for British travellers in 2019. Back in October, the pound hit a ten-year record high against the lira of 7.75 to £1. That’s up from 4.25 at the start of last year. Hailed as Turkey’s St Tropez, Bodrum will be the key destination, with a new BA flight route from Gatwick and no fewer than four excellent new hotels. The Bodrum Edition and LUX* launched at the start of 2018 and are offering attractive room rates as competition hots up – LUX* from £140 a night. Six Senses followed in the pretty coastal town of Kaplankaya and further north along the Turquoise Coast, The Stay Cesme flung open its industrial- cool warehouse doors.

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With cheap flights – some from £190 return with Turkish Airlines – and good year-round temperatures (though you might want to avoid August, when the mercury regularly tickles 40C), it’s a safe bet for sun and luxury accommodation at a fair price.

Popping Cork

The Irish city burst into the Michelin Guide with three starred restaurants for 2019. A gastronomic weekend awaits.

Ireland’s first kappou (casual Japanese) restaurant opened to a three-month-long waiting list and was awarded its star after just five months. Chef Takashi Miyazaki hosts 25 guests with a 12-course set menu. Udon noodles made with Irish flour and a slither of ox tongue topped with onion sauce is a true wonder.

Chef Rob Krawczyk uses produce plucked from Cork’s plentiful natural larder for his restaurant in the hamlet of Ballydehob. The scallops with cauliflower purée and citrussy squid ink, followed by a punchy mid-meal Whiskey Sour sorbet represent a modern twist on rural Irish cuisine in this warm and intimate 18-seater.

In a low-beamed stone building on the Wild Atlantic Way, chef Ahmet Dede lets West Cork small farmers, foragers and fishermen dictate the 12-course menu. His langoustine with buttermilk and wasabi dish helped him win Best Chef and Best Restaurant 2018 by the Restaurant Association of Ireland.

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Where I’m going - Bear Grylls

The wild parts of our world are becoming easier to access and people are keener to get off grid and embrace the wilderness. It’s amazing to see how it empowers people. People want experiences that challenge and create powerful memories – maybe with a few scars to show for them.

When it comes to adventure we often overlook what’s on our doorstep. We don’t need to travel to the ends of the earth for the outdoors to inspire us. Snowdonia is the heartland of mountainous Wales and always takes my breath away. The place is a national gem; I get there whenever I can.

Further afield, The Amazon, Sahara and Antarcticaare incredibly challenging environments that have pushed me to the edge. One of my hairiest moments was crossing the North Atlantic Arctic Ocean in a small inflatable boat. We faced intense and frightening gale-force-ten storms with waves as big as houses. It taught me the power of nature, friendship and the importance of respect in the wild.

Attitude will always be king in the wild. First-time adventurers should pack a sense of humour and embrace the unexpected. Looking ahead, I’ve always promised I’d take my family to Everest Base Camp to show them the mountain; to share that with them will be very special. I’m excited to visit Japan and India in 2019 as they have some of the world’s most incredible and unforgiving terrain. Along with over 30 other countries and six different seasons of TV shows. I’m bracing myself for a busy one.

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Japan – spot-on this year

With new flight routes, attractive offers and two of the world’s biggest sporting events, the Land of the Rising Sun is set to be more popular than ever.

Kicking off the Rugby World Cup with Japan vs Russia on 20 September and gearing up to host the Olympics from 24 July to 9 August 2020, all eyes will be on the forward-thinking capital. Keep them peeled for the flying Toyota car that’s rumoured to be lighting the Olympic torch. Touting more Michelin stars than any other city (a constellation-worthy 314), line stomachs with art-worthy sushi, slurp tofu-topped ramen roadside and gorge on ‘one-coin’ (£3.45) lunches of gyoza dumplings and miso soup. It’s the Japanese equivalent of an everyman lunch deal.

From 31 March, BA is launching a 14-hour direct flight between Heathrow and Kyoto’s Kansai Airport, making nearby Kobe (an hour by car) a great alternative to Kyoto, which has just introduced a pricey new accommodation tax. Sandwiched between the sea and Mount Rokko, Kobe is a thriving metropolis with a serious gastronomic reputation. Tour Japan’s leading saké producers in the Nada district and feast on prized Kobe beef at Teppanyaki Kokoro before taking a soak in the Arima Onsen hot springs. Plus, the England rugby team will be playing their second game against the USA on 26 September, so expect a lively atmosphere and for the city to be washed in white.

More than just the gateway to the island of Hokkaido, this chilled-out capital region encourages you to ditch the bustle in favour of strolls beneath open skies. Home to some of Japan’s most fruitful waters and nicknamed the ‘crab capital of the world’, seek out crab sashimi at Sapporo Kanihonke. The signature dish is beautifully intricate and takes over an hour of delicate preparation. Running throughout September and coinciding with England’s first World Cup match against Tonga on 22 September, the annual Sapporo Autumn Festival celebrates seasonal tastes in beautiful Odori Park. Order a bowl of sea urchinkaisendon (rice bowl) for an experimental local breakfast.

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Sri Lanka – the north opens up

India’s Teardrop continues to be one of the most popular destinations for UK explorers.

Diverse wildlife, excellent cuisine and a tropical climate are the hallmarks of a trip to Sri Lanka, a country that’s developing its holiday offering apace. The UK is now the biggest European visitor to the country and infrastructure for getting around is improving. A new highway connecting north and south opened last year and the country has just signed off a £4.7 billion light rail project that will begin rolling out in 2020. Airbnb is set to play a role in driving sustainable tourism, since launching 40 ‘experiences’ with locals. After exploring the Ceylon Tea Trails, the gnarly surf breaks in the southern Matara district and whale-watching at Mirissa Beach, head to northernmost city of Jaffna. The once off-limits north is ripe for discovery, with trains now connecting Jaffna to Colombo. Differing entirely to the rest of the island, the city shares a connection to Southern India and is home to Hindu temple Nallur Kandaswamy, one of the most elaborate in Sri Lanka. Settle on the virgin sand and try a Jaffna mango sprinkled with chilli, sugar and salt.

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Uzbekistan – spin the Silk Road

There’s never been a better time to plan a trip to Uzbekistan. In July 2018 it announced it would grant 101 countries (the UK included) visa-free access for five days. Those wishing to linger longer can use the new e-visa system, which is processed in just two days and costs £16. Start by flying direct from Heathrow to Tashkent, then catch Central Asia’s only high-speed railway from here to Samarkand – the heart of the Silk Road – which takes two-and-a-half hours. One of the stars of the region is the Bibi-Khanym Mosque, with sapphire, turquoise and cyan-blue mosaic offset by gleaming white marble pillars and elaborate archways. Next, travel to the ancient city of Khiva located within the clay fortress Ichan-Kala. The historic centre was once a prominent stop for traders and is home to a series of impressive mosques, mausoleums and minarets, including the breathtaking Djuma Mosque. Continue onto Mo’ynoq to catch a glimpse of the rapidly disappearing Aral Sea. The once-bustling port is now a desert town more than 150km away from the shore. Try G Adventures, which launches two new managed tours in 2019 after a 72 per cent increase in demand. One of these includes a rare trip to the equally beguiling Turkmenistan.

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Makarska Croatia

Rediscover the Adriatic with a trip to a less-visited Dalmatian darling.

If you holidayed on the Croatian coastline a decade or more ago, we’re sure you returned raving about its unspoilt nature, superb seafood and empty beaches. Now, European masses have cottoned on to its allure and descend on the likes of Hvar, Dubrovnik and Split each summer hunting for Game of Thrones scenery and making merry on the outrageously well-priced Adriatic wine. But with 4,000km of coastline, there are plenty more places left to explore.

Makarska is one such gem, just an hour’s drive south from Split’s international airport it sits pretty on the Dalmatian coast and is backed by Croatia’s second-highest mountain, Biokovo. It’s a haven for active travellers, who use the topography for hiking, paragliding and climbing, where conquering the Sveti Jure peak rewards with sightings of Italy on a clear day. Plenty of good-value hotels are available, though we’d suggest checking into Central Beach 9, the town’s first luxury boutique hotel, for around £120 per night. It’s family-friendly, too – kids will love the flotilla of slides and water obstacles just off the shoreline. Book in now for the summer season, but just keep it to yourself this time, please.

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Where I’m going - Patricia Schultz

The best-selling travel author and renowned solo explorer will be taking in Europe and the subcontinent.

Sure, Paris is always a wonderful idea but this year I’ll be heading up the Seine to the Landing Beaches of Normandythat are marking the 75th anniversary of D-Day on 6 June. The food is a huge draw. It’s simple but rich, with delicacies galore, from Atlantic oysters, scallops and mussels to the abundance of generations-old farms and orchards producing everything from apples to some of France’s finest cheeses.

I’d rank a culinary pilgrimage to Israel very high on my list. The country’s many markets hold an intoxicating mix of Arab and Mediterranean influences. I finally made it to the lush and tropical South India and will be heading back as soon as I can. Kerala’s serene backwaters felt like a world apart. I feasted on so many coconut curries that I totally lost count.

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1,000 Places to See Before You Die Page-A-Day calendar by Patricia Schultz (Workman, £8)


The People’s Republic is opening up, with a quick visa and a behemoth of a new airport.

Beijing’s second international airport opens this autumn and plans to become the world’s busiest and largest airport inside 18 months. Beijing Daxing International spans 7 million square metres, cost a cool £7 billion to build and the new northern hub will be served by a Beijing-Xiong’an speedy intercity railway that will connect the airport to the city centre in just 11 minutes flat (we fancy it will run on time, too). Coupled with the recent news that the 144-hour (six-day) transit visa has been extended to now cover Beijing and the neighbouring provinces of Tianjin and Hebei, it’s never been easier to take in a bite-size slice of the imperial capital and its surrounds. China’s wonderful and varied regional food scene comes together in Beijing, with over 60,000 restaurants serving up delectable provincial dishes of soup, dumplings, pickled cucumbers and hand-pulled zhájiàng noodles. Everyone has their own thoughts as to where serves the best Peking duck. We’d argue it’s Dadong Roast Duck, which has reigned supreme for more than 20 years. Try its slow-roasted meat with a bowl of fine sugar, crushed peanuts for dipping and a sauce so rich and sticky you’ll remember it forever. Avoid the crowds and head to Jingshan Park for a great view of Beijing ’s iconic landmarks. As the highest point in the city, it is an oasis of calm among the chaotic and fast-paced capital.

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Kolding - Denmark

The new capital of Scandi design and architecture.

This alternative to Copenhagen is the first city in Denmark to be awarded Unesco Creative City Status; Kolding has design in its DNA. Inspiring initiatives pepper the city, but the best can be seen at the Trapholt Museum of Modern Art and Design, the largest museum outside the capital. Here you’ll find a collection of contemporary Danish work dating from 1900, a provocative sculpture park and a one-off summerhouse designed by Arne Jacobsen (he of the original Egg Chair). Juxtaposing brilliantly with the modern lines of the museum, Koldinghus Castle cleverly interplays old and new. Those who climb to the top of the tower are rewarded with far-reaching panoramic views. Weekends see farmers’ markets flood the cobbled streets; look out for the native chokeberries that are made into a jelly that is best enjoyed slathered over rye bread. Café Bröd blends the berries to make a tart juice that pairs well with their satisfying smørrebrød (open sandwich) with asparagus, crispy bacon and tender roast beef. You’ll be hard pressed to find a better lunch in the whole of Denmark.

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Lake Ohrid - Macedonia/Albania

Splash into the Pearl of the Balkans, an undiscovered European pearl that’s swimming with history.

With its east half in Macedonia and west in Albania, Lake Ohrid is one of Europe’s most beautiful and historic little-known destinations. It’s also one of the oldest, deepest and biodiverse bodies of water on the planet, home to marine life that biologists are only just beginning to understand. Look out for the endemic pink-fleshed Ohrid trout, which, although once endangered, is now thriving and is served in every conceivable way by the restaurants dotting the lake’s shores. In terms of accommodation, guesthouses are clean but basic. We rate Villa Mal Sveti Kliment, which has an on-site winery. And, if you’ve not tried Macedonian wine before, you’re in for a pleasant surprise.

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Wizz Air will run a flight from Luton to Ohrid from April to October, meaning an influx of savvy visitors throughout 2019.

Novi Sad - Serbia

Perched prettily on the Danube, this Slavic city is putting its best foot forward over the year ahead.

Bursting with creativity, Serbia’s second city has it all. Aesthetically, it’s miles away from brutalist Belgrade – this is widely considered one of Serbia’s prettiest regions, with a cluster of chocolate-box towns surrounding the city centre (Sremski Karlovci is stunning). This year’s European Youth Capital is gearing up to take the main stage in 2021, when it will present itself as the European Capital of Culture. The once-dilapidated Chinatown has been reimagined as a cultural district and the Gradić Fest is transforming the neighbourhood of Petrovaradin into a music, film and theatre hub. Known as the Serbian Athens due to its storied past, explore the Petrovaradin Fortress’s 16km labyrinth of underground passages that were once used to smuggle soldiers. Come summer, head to the Danube, where pop-up bars and food stalls cover the Štrand.

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Trending in Travel

Making activity the focus of a trip is more popular than ever, so pack a knife and fork, saddle up and ready your palate for an exploratory year ahead.

Train Travel

Across Europe, trains are changing. The EU has ordered commercial rail operators to open their tracks to an international market by 2020. By encouraging competition, it will decrease prices while increasing usage of Europe's high- speed network, much of which operates at around 50 per cent capacity. France’s SNCF and Germany’s Bahn AG have started dropping rates – some to £10 for a cross-country fare. Many predict that rail travel in the EU will be cheaper than airlines by 2021. Luxurious interrailing is growing, too. Golden Eagle's Trans-Siberian Express saw a 23 per cent increase in 2018.


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Adrenaline Adventures

Chile is set to be huge for active travel this year, with Trailfinders predicting a rise of 40 per cent as more flight routes open up and a greater range of small-group tours are offered. KE Adventures sees Norway’s fjords as being a big draw for adventurers in 2019.


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Wine Tourism

Maryland is the ‘new Napa’ according to noses in the know, with 25 new wineries in four years. St-Émilion will remain a European favourite, says Grape Escapes.

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Gastro Tours

Food- and cooking-focused tours are increasing in popularity. Culinary Backstreets has seen 40 per cent growth in the past 12 months, with Lisbon as its most popular city. For something off the beaten tack, we'd suggest a trip to Albania. Its hugely regional slow food scene reaches its zenith in the capital Tirana with chefs like Bledar Kolar, who trained in London. His restaurant Mullixhiu uses ancient techniques and ingredients from all over the country, and is an insight to its storied past. Expect to pay around £7 a meal in the city.

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Low-impact, eco-friendly and inexpensive, bike tours tick the boxes for a travel trend. Robert Penn, author of It’s All About the Bike, says. ‘Ride the coast-to-coast route starting in Cumbria, finishing in Sunderland. It’ll take four days at a slow pace with nice guesthouses on the way.’ E-bike tours will be huge. They provide up to 150 per cent of your own power with each stroke, storing energy for difficult terrain. They're ideal for varying fitness groups, or for self- rides where you're unsure about the topography. Grasshopper Adventures is the first to offer them in Asia, launching this month.


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Expedition cruising is set to make a splash. Scenic Eclipsetakes its inaugural voyage to Antarctica, while Hanseatic Inspiration will debut with a journey into the Canadian Arctic. Celebrity Flora will also be taking its first expedition to the Galápagos islands. River cruise experts Viking report 'slow cruises', which take more time over a short route, will be big. They are launching a ten-day cruise from Antwerp to Amsterdam with plenty of time to explore the destinations.

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