Now that we're in the throes of inclement winter weather, naturally we're dreaming of escaping to warmer locales. Given that you're reading this article, it's safe to assume that you're also suffering from a bout of chill-induced wanderlust. Although peak travel season is still months away, it's never too early to start planning your next vacation, right?
For expert advice on where to book our first trip of 2019, we tapped Bailey Freeman, the South America and Antarctica destination editor at Lonely Planet, for recommendations. As anticipated, the professional traveler did not disappoint. From the otherworldly deserts of New Mexico and the crystal clear waters of Brazil to the towering skyscrapers of Tokyo and the graffiti-strewn streets of Berlin, these are the eight destinations she recommends flocking to in 2019 (before everyone else does).
When it comes to domestic destinations, New Mexico is the state at the top of Freeman's bucket list for 2019. "It's home to fascinating communities with lengthy histories (like the Taos Pueblo), a fascinating art scene in Santa Fe, and striking deserts and canyons that beg to be hiked and biked," she tells us. Take for instance the otherworldly White Sands National Monument, pictured above.
In addition to the draw of the state's stunning National Monuments, there's another thing luring Freeman to the land of enchantment: the night sky. "I'm also a big fan of stargazing and I'm dying to get a perfect glimpse of our Milky Way," she confesses. "What better place to do it than in a state that has long turned its attention to the heavens, whether it's looking for UFOs or simply admiring its dark skies?"
As Lonely Planet's destination editor for South America, Freeman is, of course, well-versed in everything there is to do in Brazil. Seeing as it's the largest country on the continent, there's a lot of ground for Freeman to cover. "Brazil is a huge country that takes repeat visits to truly get a grasp on it, but that's part of the fun," she tells us.
"I recently traveled to the state of Mato Grosso do Sul, where I had some incredible experiences snorkeling in crystal-clear, spring-fed rivers and cave lagoons (some of the clearest waters in Latin America!)," she says. "I have my eyes on the northeastern coast for my next visit. While Rio has historically rated as a top destination, I encourage travelers to look beyond the big cities and discover more of this immensely diverse country."
For literature lovers and music aficionados, Colombia is the place to go in 2019, according to Freeman. "One look at the bastion of Gabriel García Márquez's magical realism and you'll immediately see how the place inspired such a unique approach to fiction," she explains. "The contrasting landscapes switch from emerald coast to verdant coffee farms to high-altitude plains to savannas, and the culture is deep and multifaceted. You'll hear these influences in the wide range of musical genres that flourish there, too."
For adventurous travelers who want to hike rarely traversed trails and swim in glacial-blue lakes, Freeman suggests booking a trip to Peru in 2019. "The Cordillera Blanca is simply and devastatingly beautiful," she tells MyDomaine. "What's really amazing about this place is that you can see so many different types of terrain, even on a single hike. Grassy plateaus dotted with shaggy Peruvian cows; rocky, snow-covered cliffs; shockingly blue glacial lakes—it's all here."
Although Peru is a favorite on the travel circuit, people usually head south to the Inca ruins, Freeman points out. "While those are spectacular in their own right, the northern part of Peru has a special larger-than-life quality that's completely captivating and the crowds are much fewer in comparison," she advises. Skip the crowds at Macchu Picchu and head to the cloud forests of northern Peru to see the remarkable ruins of Kuélap instead.
You don't need a passport to travel to one of Freeman's top picks for places to visit in 2019: the Carribean island of Puerto Rico. "I visited Puerto Rico and immediately fell unreservedly in love with its warm, friendly vibe," confesses Freeman. "San Juan is full of energy and easy to navigate, and the island itself is home to some seriously spectacular scenery.
"Of course, the horrific hurricanes of 2017 rocked Puerto Rico to its core, but I've heard so many comeback stories from locals working hard to make Puerto Rico even better than it was before, and a visit can help support their efforts," says Freeman. "Don't miss the island's bioluminescent bays (my choice is Mosquito Bay on Vieques), and take time to try some of the delicious food (alcapurrias have my heart)."
Hailing from Kentucky, naturally, the Lonely Planet editor is quick to recommend planning a trip to Scotland in 2019. "Whiskey is in my blood, and, of course, Scotland is the motherland of that tradition," says Freeman. "In the last few years, numerous new distilleries have opened up, a trend that doesn't seem to be slowing, so next year is a perfect time to head over and taste the best of this timeworn tipple," she recommends. "Plus, Scotland is wildly beautiful, so there's plenty for nature lovers to take in if they need a break from all those spirits."
If Europe beckons, Freeman says you should set your sights on the edgy, graffiti-strewn city of Berlin in 2019. "Any way you slice it, Berlin has a unique style all its own," she says. "Home to massive street art installations, cool cafes, and wild clubs, the city's creativity is on full display."
Architecture lovers, take note: "2019 is the 100th anniversary of the Bauhaus, the school that helped define modernist art and architectural design, and Berlin will be hosting events and exhibitions as part of the birthday celebration," says Freeman. "Should be a perfect time to take a tour of the city's ever-evolving art scene."
While the Lonely Planet editor has traveled to a number of exotic destinations around the globe, she admits that there's one place she has yet to check off her list. "A trip to Japan is a big bucket-list item for me," she says.
On her dream itinerary? "Food often ends up defining my trips, and this country has such a profound culinary legacy that I plan on having a must-not-miss checklist for regional dishes when I hit the ground," she confesses. "Plus, it's such a land of contrasts—frenetic modern cities like Tokyo, countryside punctuated with mountains and hot springs, curated gardens, and gorgeous temples."