Where will you go in 2018?
We’ve polled The CTP team and come up with our suggestions of must-see destinations for 2018… the top 18 of 2018!
#1 – Napa Valley
Although world-famous and much-visited, Napa has been in the news recently but not for its wines. The fires over the summer devastated much of the surrounding area but the good news is that Napa Valley is “open for business”. Tourism is the lifeblood of the area and is much needed to help the relief and rebuilding efforts currently underway.
While the big, well-known wineries dotting Highway 29 are great, why not seek out ones that are a bit off the beaten path? There’s Cliff Lede in Yountville which has sections of the winery named after famous rock songs (such as the White Room named after the Beatles’ White album). Unique to the winery is the Backstage Lounge featuring a collection of photographs and portraits of classic rock artists and live concerts. B Cellars is another unique winery that offers a food pairing along with your wine tasting.
In terms of accommodations, there is something for everyone. From the stylish and chic Solage in Calistoga to the modern style and sustainability of Bardessono in Yountville to the uber-exclusivity of Auberge du Soleil in the hills overlooking the Valley, And don’t forget the luxury country-club feel of Meadowood with it’s Michelin three-star restaurant and recently reimagined spa plus dozens of other great choices.
Napa Valley is bursting at the seams with things to do. Lovers of nature can speed along a well-worn mountain trail on the seat of a bicycle or go hiking; foodies can discover perfectly smoked charcuterie or wedges of handcrafted cheese; or enthusiasts of music, film, and art can find events, large and small, scattered throughout the region.
#2 – Cabo San Lucas
Cabo? Really? Yes…Cabo. Long thought of as a party destination (and it still is if you’re so inclined), recent years have seen an explosion of luxury 5-star properties with more in the works. Standouts that opened in 2017 include Chileno Bay and Grand Velas Los Cabos. Due to open in 2018 are the Montage Los Cabos, Solaz, a Luxury Collection Resort and the Four Seasons Los Cabos. Add to that the art district of San Jose del Cabo (don’t miss the evening art walks) and the many new and exciting dining options such as Flora Farms and Acre and Cabo is transforming itself into a vibrant and luxurious vacation spot.
#3 – Sacred Valley, Peru
A perfect destination for adventure seekers, history enthusiasts and luxury travelers alike, the Sacred Valley of Peru offers something for everyone. From any of the numerous 5-star hotels or charming, authentic B&Bs, you’ll enjoy spectacular views of the mountains that surround you. One hotel I highly recommend is Sol y Luna in Urubamba. It’s the perfect hide-a-way for your exploration of the area. For the adventurous, they offer various excursions including mountain biking through the hills to the spectacular Maras Salt Ponds. For those looking to relax, they have an intimate spa and beautiful pool with the mountains as a backdrop.
The restaurants serve up world-class cuisine, and they even have one of Peru’s 3 (as of 2017…) certified sommeliers to assist you with your wine pairings. Don’t miss the entertaining Sacred Valley Lunch & show as well. A 30-minute taxi ride takes you to Ollantaytambo where you’ll catch the Vistadome train to Aguas Calientes – the home base for your visit to Machu Picchu. There are frequent buses that run up the mountain to the ancient Incan citadel, or you can do the hour-ish long hike instead. For an extra boost of adventure, add the Huayna Picchu hike to your Machu Picchu admission (buy well in advance – especially during high season). Only 400 hikers are allowed up a day, split between 2 entry times. Parts of the one-hour hike get very steep and exposed, however, there are steel cables to assist you. You’ll be rewarded with a spectacular birds-eye view of the ruins!
#4 – Valle de Guadalupe, Baja California, Mexico
Topping my list of places to visit within driving distance from Southern California is the up-and-coming wine region of Valle de Guadalupe, Baja California, Mexico. Just 90-minutes south of the US-Mexico border from San Diego, there is a blooming tourist area with spectacular hotels and delicious wine, not to mention the creative culinary reputation restaurants such as Corazon de Tierra (number 34 of Latin America’s 50 best restaurants) and Deckman’s en el Mogor are generating.
For accommodations, check out chef Javier Placencia’s funky “culinary house” Finca la Divina, Bruma – an eco-luxury winery resort, and last by certainly not least Encuentro Guadalupe with 20 eco-friendly hillside cabins that blend in with the landscape. Of course, you’re going there for the wine… so head down the Ruta del Vino and pay a visit to Monte Xanic with an incredible view of the valley, Torres Alegre y Familia with their exquisite Cru Garage line as well as good quality value wines, and Hacienda La Lomita where you’ll find arguably the best bottle of rose wine. There are about 120 wineries in the area, so there is definitely no shortage of tasting rooms to explore. There is a lot of buzz happening here, and it’s still technically off the beaten path for tourists, so go now!
#5 – Lake Como, Italy
What’s not to love about George Clooney’s famous Italian hide-a-way? Lago di Como is one of the most beautiful places in the world (IMHO). The lake of glacial origin carves through the mountains of the Italian Alps in the shape of an upside-down “Y” and – fun fact – is one of the deepest lakes in Europe. Dramatic wooded hills line the lake with numerous charming towns that seem to crawl up from the water.
After recently traveling to the region with a group of 22 guests, I highly recommend staying at the Grand Hotel Tremezzo. The location is ideal – right at the intersection of the three “legs” and across from the picturesque tourist town of Bellagio located at the very center. A short 5-minute ferry ride gets you there, where you can meander your way up the cobblestone steps and pop in to the numerous shops and restaurants. Next door to the Grand Hotel Tremezzo is the Villa Carlotta and gardens – definitely worth a visit to see the magnificent botanical gardens and sculptures. A hidden gem worth either staying at, or at the least visiting for a sunset glass of wine and dinner is Al Veluu Ristorante and Suites The views over the lake out to Isola Comacina are spectacular during sunset. The owners, a husband and wife duo, make you feel like part of the family. Going back to Isola Comacina – definitely worth a visit for lunch, but come hungry. This “cursed” island has been serving up the same 5-course menu since 1947. The owner, who has rubbed shoulders with the like of Brad Pitt, Silvester Stallone, Elton John, and of course George Clooney, has been performing the same ritual to “un-curse” the island for his guest upon the conclusion of their meal.
Ellen’s Top Picks:
While Howard and Whitney’s picks were based on recent visits, my choices are based solely on curiosity and reputation. My recent trip to IMEX (Incentive Travel. Meetings and Events Expo) allowed me the opportunity to meet with dozens of representatives of countries big and small and get even MORE excited to travel! The few listed here are at the very top of my bucket list!
#6 – Malta:
Within five minutes of meeting with the DMC (Destination Management Company) representative of Malta, I KNEW that it was a place I needed to visit! Due to its close proximity to Africa and Europe, Malta is rich in diversity, evidenced by the variety of architectural styles, art, food, and it’s people. This 122 square mile island located in the Mediterranean provides miles of scenic coastline and crystal clear waters. But Malta’s charm goes far beyond the beach. Wherever you stay, you won’t be far from fascinating cultural sites, whether you’re exploring architecture in the small yet perfectly formed capital of Valletta, or walking through the medieval streets of the ancient Mdina. As a matter-of-fact, tiny Malta is home to three UNESCO World Heritage sites – including one that dates back to 4000 BC!
According to the DMC, the Maltese people “love” Americans – they played a pivotal role in various WWII battles, which helped the US and allies win the war!
#7 – Marrakech, Morocco:
This destination has been at the top of my bucket list for years! So much that it has moved from Bucket List to actual journey – I depart on January 13th!
The highlights of my trip will include a visit to the world-famous souks/marketplace (including a scavenger hunt!), a local cooking class, a perfume workshop, dining in iconic restaurants, mule ride to lunch with a Berber family, a dinner and show in the desert under tents… and so much more!
I smell future blog post!
#8 – Colombia:
Maybe it’s due to the fact that I watched three seasons of the Netflix show Narcos, but Colombia has recently become a place of interest. I remember hearing about Pablo Escobar in the 80’s and about all the crazy crimes that were happening. Don’t let any of that taint your idea of Colombia… it’s come a long way, Baby! It’s now one of the safest destinations in South America.
Colombia shares a border to the northwest with Panama, to the east with Venezuela and Brazil and to the south with Ecuador and Peru. It is one of the most ethnically and linguistically diverse countries in the world and thereby possesses a rich cultural heritage. The urban centers are mostly located in the highlands of the Andes mountains.Colombian territory also encompasses Amazon rainforest, tropical grassland and both Caribbean and Pacific coastlines. Ecologically, it is one of the world’s 17 megadiverse countries and the most densely biodiverse of these per square kilometer!
Colombia offers everything a curious traveler needs to quench their desire for cultural experiences, beautiful scenery, rich (and sometimes sordid) history, fabulous food, and colorful, beautiful people!