Landmarks: 19 Reasons to Travel in 2019

Start packing your bags.

By Kate Appleton, Hannah Doyle, Sarah Khan, Nell McShane Wulfhart, Maribeth Mellin, Jessen O’Brien, Aarti Virani

To swim with dolphins and damselfish at the world’s largest coral reef, to try an ancient style of wine, to marvel at thousands of lanterns floating in the night sky—there are so many reasons to plan an adventure or two in 2019. Here, our guide to the year ahead.


The United States

1. To wake up in the City That Never Sleeps.

Even for New York, 2019 will be a big year. The Museum of Modern Art will unveil the results of its $400 million makeover, including 30 percent more gallery space and a new art studio and performance center. Hudson Yards, a 14-acre development project on the city’s west side, is also marking a few milestones: Vessel, a hexagon-strewn vertical series of stairways, and a surrounding park with nearly 30,000 native plants are both set to open to the public next year, along with about 25 restaurants, 100 shops, and a cultural center called The Shed. And, to mark the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, WorldPride is coming to New York for a month of rallies, lectures, parties, and more, all leading up to the NYC Pride March on the last day of June.

2. To take part in Pittsburgh’s revival.

Pittsburgh’s comeback stretches beyond downtown and into East Liberty, a neighborhood anchored by the 1914 Kelly Strayhorn Theater. Other historic buildings in East Liberty have been repurposed for tech start-ups, a small-business incubator, and innovative restaurants, such as Whitfield; two of its chefs were recognized as 2018 James Beard Award semifinalists. Save room for newcomers Two Sisters Vietnamese Kitchen and Choolaah.


Mexico and the Caribbean

3. To surround yourself with beautiful things in Puebla.

With colonial homes and a rich ceramics tradition, Puebla, about 95 miles east of Mexico City, has long been an inviting side trip from the country’s capital. The 2016 debut of the International Museum of the Baroque—a striking addition from Pritzker Prize winner Toyo Ito—captured the attention of art lovers worldwide. Despite an earthquake last year, Puebla has thrived and fostered other venues: The Regional Museum of Cholula (307 Calle 14 Poniente; 011-52-222-122-1100) showcases alebrijes (incredible wood and papier-mâché animals) while the Decentered Gallery Arquetopia displays works by local talent.

4. To lend a hand in Dominica.

In the wake of Hurricane Maria, the island nation of Dominica has sprung into action, improving infrastructure and restoring coral as part of a pledge to become the first climate-resilient nation. Voluntourism opportunities include beautifying national parks and cleaning the ocean floor while scuba diving. As for Dominica’s enduring attractions, you can visit Boiling Lake (Morne Trois Pitons National Park), so hot it’s usually covered in steam, and by the end of 2018, all segments of the 115-mile Waitukubuli National Trail will be open to hikers, along with land access to Champagne Reef (south of Pointe Michel), named for its volcanic bubbles.


Central and South America

5. To immerse yourself in Chile’s unmarred wilderness.

Chile is creating five national parks in Patagonia that add up to a newly protected area the size of Switzerland. With the additional land, the Patagonia National Park system will comprise 10 million acres of snowcapped mountains, white-water rivers, and glaciated fjords, plus enlarged protected areas for endangered condors and pumas. A 17-park route including the five new parks is also being created. It will stretch down the southern half of Chile all the way to Cape Horn, and by April will be fully operated by the Chilean National Forestry Service.

6. To hit refresh on Buenos Aires.

Argentina’s capital is upping the cultural ante and increasing its walkability and green spaces along the way. The Paseo del Bajo, a four-mile stretch of highway, will be completed in April, adding mini-parks and pedestrian-and-cyclist-friendly pathways. The Contemporary Art Museum in La Boca will open, with two immense wings housing 750 works, and the National Museum of Fine Arts, home to one of the best art collections in Latin America, is undergoing a massive expansion that will be finished in 2019. With new direct flights from Los Angeles, traveling there is easier than ever.

7. To try Panama City’s inventive cuisine.

Panama City has quietly amassed one of Central America’s most exciting food scenes. José Olmedo Carles, whose Donde José is always in high demand, recently opened Fonda Lo Que Hay (5a Calle Oeste, Casco Viejo; 011-507-202-6892), a laid-back spot that gets creative with dishes like shellfish in a corn cream. Laboratorio Madrigal plays with tropical fruits and seafood. And, with its open-air courtyard, Tomillo (site in Spanish) is a romantic go-to that incorporates edible flowers from the restaurant’s farm into its plates.


Africa and the Middle East

8. To take in Qatar’s cultural treasures.

A spate of major institutions with starchitect cred is helping Qatar make a play to be the Middle East’s cultural capital. In Doha, the I.M. Pei–designed Museum of Islamic Art will be joined this December by the National Museum of Qatar. Its jaw-dropping facade by Jean Nouvel already has architecture buffs planning pilgrimages.

9. To get up close to endangered mountain gorillas in Rwanda.

Even the most avid safarigoers place Rwanda at the top of their travel bucket lists. It’s one of the few countries where you can still find mountain gorillas; although conservation efforts have nearly doubled their population in recent years, there are fewer than 1,000 in the world. Fortunately, the chance to see these rare creatures is about to get much easier: RwandAir received permits from the U.S. Department of Transporation to provide nonstop flights between New York City and Rwanda’s capital city, Kigali, this past summer, and the first phase of Kigali’s new Bugesera International Airport is scheduled for a 2019 reveal.


Europe

10. To savor traditional wines in the Republic of Georgia.

Georgian winemakers are rediscovering an 8,000-year-old natural-wine culture—and the bounty of 525 known grape varieties. The fruit is lightly pressed, buried in clay vessels called qvevri, then left to ferment without chemicals. (Natural wines are produced without chemicals being added or filtered out.) The resulting wines have caused tourism to spike in the Kakheti region. Try them for yourself at Pheasant’s Tears Winery (18 Baratshvili St., Sighnaghi; 011-995-355-23-15-56), the winery (and wine museum) Shumi, and Alaverdi Monastery, where Georgian Eastern Orthodox monks have been making wine since 1011 B.C.

11. To brush up on the Bauhaus in Germany.

Klee, Kandinsky, and Breuer were among the driving artists of the Bauhaus, a school that emphasized geometric designs and form following function between 1919 and its closing in 1933. For the centenary of its founding, Germany is celebrating with more than 1,000 exhibits, films, and events. Berlin kicks things off with a festival (Jan. 16–24) featuring work by choreographer Richard Siegal. New Bauhaus museums are opening in the school’s birthplace, Weimar (April 2019), and in Dessau (Sept. 2019), its second location. A third is planned in Berlin, its final home, in 2022. Throughout Germany, travelers can trace the movement’s influence along a Grand Tour of Modernism, from the Bauhaus Building, in Dessau, to the Fagus Factory, in Alfed.


Asia

12. To celebrate the arts in India.

Larger-than-life jubilees sweep the subcontinent at the start of the year, beginning with the Modhera Dance Festival (Jan. 18–20), in the western state of Gujarat. The three-day classical-music extravaganza is set against a 1,000-year-old sun temple. Up next is the 12th edition of the Jaipur Literature Festival (Jan. 24–28), in neighboring Rajasthan; 2019’s lineup includes Zadie Smith, Neil Gaiman, and Mohsin Hamid. For the grand finale, head to Mumbai for the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival (Feb. 2–9), one of Asia’s largest multicultural fetes, where past performances have consisted of everything from eccentric outdoor installations and tours of Baroque buildings to performances by the Indian Whistling Association and some of the country’s best rock bands.

13. To bike under maple-leaf canopies in Japan.

International cycling company DuVine marks its inaugural Asia tour with rides through Japan’s terraced tea fields. Highlights include stops near the ancient city of Kyoto and the Todai-ji Temple complex in Nara, home to a 49-foot-tall bronze Buddha. Riders can catch their breath during morning meditation rituals with Buddhist monks, sake brewery tours, and multicourse sushi and sashimi dinners.

14. To witness a centuries-old phenomenon in Taiwan.

Although sky lanterns were first used as a military messaging service in the 16th century—the lights doubled as emergency alerts when the island was attacked—they’re now a source of celebration and national pride. The Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival (Feb. 19) sees thousands gather each year in the town of Pingxi, some 20 miles east of Taipei, on the last day of the Chinese Lunar New Year.


The South Pacific

15. To swim along the Great Barrier Reef.

Every moment counts if you want to see the Great Barrier Reef. Unusually warm seas have bleached swaths of coral and sponges over the past few years, and scientists expect more damage to come. Islands, atolls, coral castles, and caves populate the clear aquamarine waters off Australia’s northeast shores, forming one of the planet’s most beautiful and delicate ecosystems. It’s also one of the most biodiverse: Whales, dolphins, porpoises, and turtles glide above schools of neon-colored damselfish, graceful angelfish, hardy lobsters, and countless marine creatures. If you go, follow these tips to help protect the reef.

16. To island hop through French Polynesia.

Green volcanic islands and white coral atolls—118 in all—make up French Polynesia. Tahiti and Bora Bora are the main attractions, but there are other stars worth checking out in 2019. The tiny Fakarava atoll, part of a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in the Tuamotu Archipelago, is a stark coral shelf that retains a Robinson Crusoe–like feel. On the Marquesas Islands, dancers and musicians perform hakas (traditional Maori dances) during the Marquesas Art & Culture Festival in December, held every four years.

17. To see what’s old—and new—in New Zealand.

Two hundred and 50 years after Capt. James Cook charted New Zealand’s coastline, a replica of Cook’s ship, the Endeavour, will revisit the explorer’s landing sites as part of First Encounters 250. But the past isn’t the only reason to visit. Christchurch is gaining the Riverside Farmers Market as well as Riverside Lanes, a series of connected shops. The Wairarapa region is welcoming new wineries and restaurants, including Ata Rangi Vineyard and Union Square Bistro & Bar. An indoor skydiving experience, iFLY Queenstown, recently opened in Queenstown, while Rotorua Canopy Tours’ latest offering spans nearly a mile of zip lines, a 164-foot-tall cliff, and three swinging bridges.


Anywhere and Everywhere

18. To travel with women, while supporting women.

More and more, women want to explore the world together. And starting in January 2019, they can go a step further: Wild Terrains will be the first women-only tour company to design itineraries around female-owned businesses. First up are three jaunts to Mexico City: one in January to start off the year, another set around International Women’s Day in March, and a mother-daughter getaway to celebrate Mother’s Day in May. Travelers might eat a meal prepared by an up-and-coming female chef, tour Frida Kahlo’s house with a female art historian, shop with the women who own textile company Colorindio, or chat with female entrepreneurs. Look out for getaways to Portugal, currently in the works.

19. To set yourself apart at baggage claim.

With more than one million possible color combos, new luggage brand Roam is here to make sure your suitcase never gets mistaken for someone else’s again. Travelers can personalize the shade of nearly every part of their bag, from the wheel hubcaps to the zipper (even different colors for the zipper pull and binding). Each suitcase comes with a leather initial patch and engraved ID card. Although they look pretty, they’re not just for show—a polycarbonate exterior makes them both durable and surprisingly light, while ball bearings in all four wheels let them glide easily. Start out by picking among four styles: two variations each of carry-on and checked luggage. From $350

  • NOTE: Information may have changed since publication. Please confirm key details before planning your trip.
  • Published: Winter 2018