As this year comes to a close, it’s time to look forward. If you’re anything like the Passion Passport team, you’re aiming to get out and explore more. But when you literally have the entire world to choose from, how do you decide which destinations to add to your itinerary?
Well, worry not — we’ve got you covered. We’ve scoured all of our stories and images to find the 20 most exciting destinations to plug into your GPS this year. Whether they offer striking landscapes to explore, bustling cities to experience, or exciting festivals to take part in, here are the top destinations to add to your travel bucket list for 2018!
1. Faroe Islands
Official languages: Danish, Faroese
Main airport: Vágar Airport (FAE)
Why you should visit: There are few places left in the world that feel untouched by the effects of globalization — the Faroe Islands is one. You’ll feel like a true explorer traversing these enchanting isles.
“The flight into Vagar was stunning: a blanket of fog covered the sea for much of the two-hour journey from Copenhagen and, as we descended toward the airport, the peaks of the island’s massive cliffs began to poke through the clouds, whetting our palettes for the adventure to come.” – Chip Malt
Official languages: Urdu, English
Main airports: Jinnah International Airport (KHI), Allama Iqbal International Airport (LHE)
Why you should visit: It might not always show up alongside to Norway or New Zealand on the lists of most beautiful countries, but Pakistan features some of the most stunning mountain ranges and countryside landscapes you’ll ever see.
“While exploring the narrow streets of Rawalpindi, Pakistan, Usman Zubair and his friends noticed a mosque in the distance wedged between a row of old houses. They traced its towering architecture through the street and found their way to an entrance. Walking under the arches of Jamia Masjid, Usman couldn’t help but think of the hands that built them, the labor that went into each fresco, and the history hidden within their walls.”
Official language: Persian
Main airport: Imam Khomeini International Airport (IKA)
Why you should visit: 2017 brought out the worst in notable politicians, some of whom decided to attempt banning travel from certain countries. Don’t let those xenophobic ways influence you — Iran, which made the list, is an astoundingly friendly and historically intriguing nation.
“What surprised me about Iran was how old everything was. The history of the Persian Empire began right in this land and all the ruins and history I was able to see were gigantic and very well-preserved. Not to mention that the locals were extremely friendly. In Esfahan, two minutes after we walked into a park, a family of six invited us to sit with them and fed us food while curiously asking us questions about our home country. These encounters only seemed to amplify the further you ventured into the country. It was a breath of fresh air to have locals going out of their way to help us out without expecting anything back. Iran is definitely one of the most fascinating countries in the world.” – Pete Rojwongsuriya
Official languages: English, Malay, Mandarin, Tamil
Main airport: Singapore Changi Airport (SIN)
Why you should visit: As climate change continues to affect the world’s natural environments, Singapore stands as an oasis of cleanliness, a beautiful city filled with pristine skyscrapers and tranquil parks.
“Singapore is all contrasts and diversity — a blend of Malay, Chinese, and Indian cultures. Where temples and mosques are peaceful neighbors, colorful streets full of colonial buildings are just around the corner from a business district with dignified skyscrapers, and lush green oases are perfectly embedded into futuristic architecture.” – @fayontheway
5. Lofoten Islands
Capital: Svolvær (de facto)
Official languages: Norwegian, Sami, Kven
Main airport: Svolvær Airport (SVJ)
Why you should visit: While tourists continue to flock to the sprawling glacial countryside of Iceland, the similar brilliance of Lofoten remains relatively untrodden.
“I would drive through a village I’d already been to, but the second time around, a mountain could just be smothered with fog and clouds, which transformed the area into an entirely different place” – Mika Aberra
Official language: Montenegrin
Main airports: Podgorica Airport (TGD), Tivat Airport (TIV)
Why you should visit: Tucked between Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Serbia, this tiny Balkan country often goes overlooked. But, the hospitality you’ll find there is unmatched.
“I’d come to realize that these grand welcomes are an almost ritualistic event in Montenegro. The hosts in every new place, no matter how modern or remote, greeted me with familial warmth and hospitality, inevitably waving a bottle of homemade rakija at some point or another. Some even brought cakes. It was like these hearty women had all taken notes from the same handbook and executed these steps perfectly in order to charm and make me feel so at home I never wanted to leave.” – Freya Muller
Official languages: English, Irish
Main airports: Dublin Airport (DUB), Belfast International Airport (BFS)
Why you should visit: If the verdant countryside, lively cities, and rich culture weren’t enough to convince you to come to the Emerald Isle, maybe the fact that some scenes from the new “Star Wars” installation were filmed here will do the trick.
“The beauty of the countryside is humble. Abandoned stone castles, half in ruin, spot the farmland. They are not grand, but simple and dignified nonetheless. Short stone walls wind along the landscape, moss crawling out of spots between the stone, reminding you that they’ve been standing there for longer than you can begin to imagine.
The dramatic coast sneaks up on you. It feels as though one minute you’re surrounded by farmland, and the next minute, you’re staring down a majestic, rocky cliff into the Atlantic Ocean.” – Willa Tellekson-Flash
Official languages: Arabic, Berber
Main airports: Mohammed V International Airport (CMN), Marrakesh Menara Airport (RAK)
Why you should visit: With a range of diverse cities including Marrakech, Casablanca, Rabat, Tangier, and Chefchaouen, Morocco offers endless opportunity for discovery.
“Morocco is a place for anyone fascinated by vibrant scenes of everyday life, unbothered by smells and constant human interaction, and accepting of all cultures and traditions. Visually, you’ll be stunned and will likely bring half a market of souvenirs home in your suitcase.” – Alina Rudya
9. Sri Lanka
Capital: Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte
Official languages: Sinhala, Tamil
Main airport: Bandaranaike International Airport (CMB)
Why you should visit: Since the end of its civil war in 2009, Sri Lanka has seen an influx of tourism, but most visitors keep to the national parks and beach towns. When you visit, take time to explore the smaller towns and interact with the generous local people.
“Sri Lanka’s southern province is a magical enclave where fishermen and gorgeous women dressed in sarees live alongside surfers from all walks of life. The communities mingle and thrive, with simplicity and the catch of the day as the only prerequisites for survival. Days are colored in bright shades of blue and green from the ocean.” – Jade Moyano
Official languages: Spanish, Quechua
Main airports: Jorge Chávez International Airport (LIM), Alejandro Velasco Astete International Airport (CUZ)
Why you should visit: Of course you’ll want to visit the jaw-dropping ruins of Machu Picchu, but the country has so much else to offer. Even a single day in the hub of Cusco will immerse you within the fascinating Peruvian culture.
“Peru is one of the most geographically diverse countries in the world, featuring three main regions: the jungle, the mountains, and the coast. The country’s shifting shape, climate, and colors make it a haven for explorers, who can discover the 11 ecological regions and 84 life zones (of 117 in the world) located in Peru.” – Veronika Macas
11. Hong Kong
Capital: Hong Kong
Official languages: Chinese, English
Main airport: Hong Kong International Airport (HKG)
Why you should visit: Visit Hong Kong if you can’t decide between a city getaway or a wilderness exploration. It’s known as the “New York City of Asia,” but within miles of this busy metropolis, you’ll find beaches, national parks, mountains, and hiking trails.
“There are so many things to see and do here, from gazing at vibrant cityscapes with lots of high-rises to going on quiet hikes through nature and in small villages; from indulging in local Cantonese food to trying French cuisine; from browsing small boutiques to shopping for international brands; and from living in traditional local neighborhoods like Shek Kip Mei to enjoying the conveniences in more Westernized communities like Soho and Mid-Levels.” – Elaine Li
Official languages: English, Alaska Native Languages
Main airports: Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport (ANC), Juneau International Airport (JNU), Fairbanks International Airport (FAI)
Why you should visit: With five national parks, over three million lakes, 34,000 miles of tidal shoreline, and countless mountain peaks, Alaska remains a final frontier of rugged wilderness in the United States.
“No location will ever seem as immaculate as Alaska, with its spirit of solitude, its simple, yet wild panoramic backdrops. Alaska regularly provides Mark Reed with places where he can gaze from horizon to horizon and see no sign of civilization. The view from above will never fail to fascinate him.”
Official language: Spanish
Main airport: Rafael Núñez International Airport (CTG)
Why you should visit: Many might flock to Colombia’s capital, Bogotá, but with its romantic Old Town and cobblestone alleyways along the Caribbean Coast, Cartagena offers a true South American fairy-tale excursion.
“As she wandered through Cartagena, camera in hand, Jin Chu-Ferrer was awed by the Spanish colonial-style buildings, the rustic touches, and the weathered facades. The streets were narrow, buildings flanking each side — leading to an intimate, almost romantic experience.”
14. South Korea
Official language: Korean
Main airports: Incheon International Airport (ICN), Jeju International Airport (CJU)
Why you should visit: With the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang right around the corner, there’s never been a better time to travel to this stunning Asian nation.
“I can confidently say I would not have gotten a good understanding of South Korea had I not spent so much time traveling between its provinces. It is extremely diversified considering its size. Each province and so many of the cities have their own personalities. If you just visit Seoul, you’re really missing the other pieces of the puzzle. The food is different, as are the dialect, pace of life, and scenery. I gained a new appreciation for the country with every new location I visited within it.” – Lauren Kilberg
Oldest: Yellowstone, established 1872
Newest: Pinnacles, established 2013
Most Popular: Great Smoky Mountains
Why you should visit: One of the most disappointing moments of 2017 was the decision to reduce protections on Bears Ears and Grand Staircase, two brilliant national monuments in Utah. Hopefully none of the national parks are to follow, but regardless, you should take the opportunity to explore “America’s best idea.”
“The US interior is just phenomenal and people should know more about it. My friends and family always go to big cities like L.A. or New York or Chicago or Miami, but they should all try get into the interior. If you’re in L.A., drive four hours north and visit Yosemite – the drive will be well worth it – or head a couple hours east and see Joshua Tree. Just get out of the city! The U.S. is a beautiful country and you shouldn’t just limit yourself to the cities.” – Dan Sadgrove
Official language: Greenlandic
Main airports: Nuuk Airport (GOH), Kangerlussuaq Airport (SFJ)
Why you should visit: While the majority of the island isn’t as green as its name implies, the inhabited regions are filled with quaint villages and friendly locals. Plus, Greenland is a popular destination for spotting the Northern Lights.
“I was coming back from Qasigiannguit and was alone outside due to the extremely low temperature. Being on a small boat among those gigantic icebergs at the edge of our world made me feel like I was very lucky to be on this earth and see such beauty. There were no sounds other than the pieces of ice breaking under the boat. The sun was barely setting in the horizon. It was the kind of moment that sends chills up your spine.” – Florent @oftwolands
17. U.S. Pacific Northwest
States: Washington, Oregon
Major cities: Seattle, Portland, Olympia, Salem
Major Destinations: Mount Rainier, Mount Hood, Crater Lake, North Cascades, Mount St. Helens
Why you should visit: You don’t always have to leave home to discover new, otherworldly destinations. If you live in the U.S., all it takes is a quick trip to the Northwest, where you’ll find enchanting pine forests, staggering mountaintops, and breezy coastlines.
“Living in the Pacific Northwest has sparked a love of outdoor exploration in Andrew Kearns, who can often be found running, hiking, summiting peaks, or traversing the coast in his Toyota Highlander, which he has outfitted especially for camping.
His vehicle is the perfect match for the gnarly, twisting highways in Washington that lead to hidden hikes with mystical views. Highway 2 and I-90 are his favorites, because the terrain is unique and punctuated with sharp summits, and it offers a never-ending variety of views.”
Official languages: Kyrgyz, Russian
Main airport: Manas International Airport (FRU)
Why you should visit: Let’s be honest: Kyrgyzstan probably isn’t at the top of your list, if for no other reason than you weren’t sure how to spell it. But don’t overlook it — this Central Asian nation features a vibrant culture and rugged mountainous terrain.
“Kyrgyzstan reinforced my belief that diversity is a gift. With all the problems we are seeing in the world right now, Kyrgyzstan reminded me that, even though we all look different, it is possible to live together peacefully. In this country alone, Russian, Kyrgyz, Uzbek, Dungan, and Uyghur people all live under the same flag. The country has its problems, but it gives a glimpse as to what the future could hold for the rest of the world.” – Pete Rojwongsuriya
Official languages: Finnish, Swedish, Sami
Main airports: Helsinki Airport (HEL), Oulu Airport (OUL)
Why you should visit: From the cozy capital of Helsinki to the Northern Lights haven in Finnish Lapland, Finland is perennially a magical northern destination.
“Hard and soft, dark and bright, warm and cold — Helsinki offers moods for every taste. The city has a personality unique to itself. Relatively untouched by tourism, surrounded by nature, and full of secrets that let you live you a like a local while traveling, the Finnish capital is a great destination. Wake up early, explore the empty streets in the perfect light, and head to the Market Square in South Harbor for soft morning sun, coffee, and cinnamon buns. Watch the vendors set up their stalls, smell the fragrance of berries, vegetables, and fish — all perfect subjects for colorful photos.” – Henri Kallio
Official languages: English, Scots
Main airport: Edinburgh International Airport (EDI)
Why you should visit: Following a year that felt like it may have had a few more downs than ups, we all could use a healthy dose of inspiration. From the cobblestones of the Royal Mile to the towering Edinburgh Castle that seems to keep a watchful eye over the city, this medieval town that influenced much of the “Harry Potter” series is sure to steal your heart and fill it with endless wanderlust
“In the bustle of a city, there was a beauty that mesmerized Justin Coomber. Later that day, as he watched the sun set over the glowing, cobbled streets, he realized how lucky he was. It was a moment that reminded him why he became a photographer in the first place: to experience the mysterious beauty of new places, and pass those scenes on to others.”