Travel ideas: Wow List 2018

We’ve crunched the numbers, consulted our industry contacts, tapped into the collective know-how of our travel experts and even surveyed the skies to bring you our wow list of the 50 must-have travel experiences for 2018. 

Discover the best places to travel, the best places to stay and the best ways to travel the globe in 2018. Read personal accounts of people who’ve been there, done that, and find yourself in awe of holiday destinations old and new – guaranteed to make every travel bucket list longer, and richer.

Here’s a sneak peek at what to expect in the second Wow List edition of Flight Centre’s exclusive Travel ideas magazine – in no particular order.

Available in full now in your local Flight Centre store or view and order the full Travel ideas: Wow List 2018 edition online. 

1. Tap into transformational travel

Twenty-first century travel offers so much more than flights, accommodation and transport. It isn’t just about the escape, but the chance to find inspiration to create meaningful changes in our lives and the world in which we live. Travel organisations have recognised this shift in travel motives and are providing journeys that include opportunities for travellers to have a positive impact on destinations and learn new things. Travel's transformational capacity is on the rise. 

2. Walk with mountain gorillas in Rwanda

Encompassing three parks in Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, Volcanoes National Park plays a huge role in ensuring the conservation of majestic mountain gorillas to allow curious wildlife watchers to spend but a mere hour in their presence. With only 80 permits allocated each day by the national park, a walk on the wild side is just that – wild. From mothers feeding babies to the steely glare of the male silverback, it’s incredibly humbling to stand among these incredible animals.

3. Take tea in one of the world’s best bars

Hidden away in Mayfair, Sketch London offers a bizarre but strangely captivating take on high tea, as well as an array of memorable drinking and dining experiences. Each of its five rooms is themed in its own way, giving visitors the perfect excuse to keep coming back. The most famous is the Gallery – a room swaddled in pink velvet, where the quirky and darkly humorous works of visual artist David Shrigley will be sure to spark conversation. Just be careful not to laugh with a mouthful of scone.

4. Ride Peru’s first Belmond train

Train travel can often capture the essence of a place as you gaze out through carriage windows and catch glimpses of the diverse landscape and life passing by. And what better place to see such diversity than in Peru, which now boasts South America’s first luxury train journey, the Belmond Andean Explorer? Departing from the beautiful city of Arequipa in the south and arriving at the Incan capital of Cusco (the journey can also commence from Cusco), the two-night trip takes you to new heights of luxury – literally. 

5. Make tracks in Whistler

On your next Vancouver vacation, venture a little further afield into the winter wonderland of Whistler to hit those famous twin peaks – by snowmobile. Speeding through dense, frosted forests one minute, racing across frozen lakes another offers the perfect combination of adrenaline-fuelled adventure and some of the most silent, secluded spots in the backcountry. You’ll be surrounded by nature at its most untouched, taking in stunning lake and panoramic mountain vistas.

6. Jump into canyoning in Switzerland

Canyoning is an action-packed adventure sport in which thrill seekers jump, slide and rappel their way from A to B deep in the belly of canyons in Switzerland. You’ll abseil, cannonball dive into frigid alpine rock pools, slide down natural corkscrews into gushing water, jump (front flips for the really adventurous) and zip-line over waterfalls. It’s the most fun you’ll ever have in a wetsuit. 

7. Have a family adventure in Queenstown

An easy three-hour flight from Australia’s east coast will land you in Queenstown, New Zealand, the ultimate location for relaxation, adventure and fun for all ages. Week-long itineraries in this adventure capital might include a ride aboard the Southern Hemisphere’s steepest gondola; rounds of mini golf; racing along the Skyline Luge tracks; shooting down a river in the adrenaline-heavy Shotover Jet; and even speeding down the slopes of Coronet Peak and The Remarkables ski fields. 

8. Channel your inner Indiana Jones in Colombia

The fabled Ciudad Perdida (Lost City) boasts ruins older and less visited than Peru’s Machu Picchu, and was only rediscovered in 1972 when a group of treasure looters happened across its moss-covered stone steps. Traversing jungle peaks, emerald-green rivers and vine-tangled paths to reach the mythic ruins, you’ll encounter these same steps when you embark on the five-day hike from Santa Marta. BYO fedora.

9. Savour Sri Lanka

Relaxed one moment, frenetic the next, Sri Lanka has been described as, ‘India-lite’ and akin to ‘Bali 30 years ago’. For decades, tourists avoided the island, but in recent years, curious travellers in search of spice, flavour, sunshine and a new tropical frontier are flocking to Sri Lanka. From the frenzied energy of Colombo with its bustling market to adventures high in the hills of tea country, and south to the gentle coast between Weligama and Tangalle, Sri Lanka is a bonafide food lover’s paradise.

10. Taste real Cantonese cuisine in Guangzhou

There’s a Chinese saying – “chi zai guang zhou” – which translates as: “Canton is the place to eat”. Canton (now known as Guangzhou) is the home of Cantonese cuisine, the Chinese food style most Westerners are acquainted with. Iconic dishes include silky rice congee with doughy fried strips (yew char kway), barbecue pork (char siu) rice and wonton noodles. Whether you’re familiar with such flavours or not, Guangzhou is one of the best places to visit on an empty stomach.

11. Hop aboard a new style of river cruise

What was once the domain of retired baby boomers is now an experience reimagined with the millennial traveller in mind. U by Uniworld, the younger, hip sister of boutique river cruise company Uniworld, is laying down the gangway to welcome a new generation of cruisers in 2018. Cruising has never looked so good or been so tailored for the 21- to 45-year-old adventurer. U heard it here: river cruising is officially cool. 

12. Sip and swirl in Franschhoek

South Africa’s culinary heartland, Franschhoek, is home to centuries-old vineyards, world-class restaurants and spectacular cellar doors at Cape Dutch homesteads. Join the gourmands and sit amid towering trees and rolling mountains, tasting your way through South African-specific cultivar such as pinot noir, cinsaut and pinotage. 

13. Embrace your inner merperson on Palawan

Your hair is always salty, the blood running through your veins is predominantly sea water, you wear a shell around your neck and you’ve always got the ocean on your mind… yep, you’re a merperson. Fellow mermaids and mermen will agree there is no better place on Earth to live your true life than by the sea – and Palawan in the Philippines is the prime location to do just that. With a healthy range of 5-star luxury hotels, great-value hostels and easy-to-book tours around the island group, Palawan caters to all types of travellers, fins or not.

14. Climb Kilimanjaro

Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania is considered a non-technical climb, meaning it doesn’t require mountaineering equipment such as ropes or crampons. However, she demands respect – standing 5,895m above sea level, this is an extreme altitude trek. One of the famous Seven Summits, and the tallest freestanding mountain in the world, Kilimanjaro is so large that you’ll climb through five distinct ecosystems: rainforest, heath, mooreland, alpine desert and the arctic zone. From bottom to top (and down again), this is one for the bucket list.

15. Immerse yourself in art in Austria

There’s no denying that art is ingrained in the very fabric of Vienna; there’s a timeless sense of inspiration and artistic beauty that will always linger in Austria’s imperial capital. In 2018, the spotlight is set to shine even brighter on the city’s gallery and museum circuit as Vienna plays host to numerous special exhibitions examining the impact and lasting legacy of the artists, scientists, architects and great thinkers of the 1900s. Art connoisseur or amateur admirer, Vienna is up there among the best cities in Europe in 2018 to get your creative fix.

16. Surf a new break

From right-hand peelers to thundering coral breaks, surfing is beloved the world over, with boardriders of all types vying for a spot in the lineup. But luckily, it’s not just the Pipelines, Duranbahs and Teahupo’os of the world serving up prime swell. Beyond the big breaks are ‘new’ waves where ‘locals only’ mostly means locals only. Seek saltwater and perfect sets in the lesser-known surfing locales of Taitung, Taiwan; Montanita, Ecuador; and Rote, Timor. 

17. Hike Tasmania’s Three Capes Track

The Three Capes Track is the perfect marriage of outdoor adventure and remote comforts in one package, beginning from Tasmania’s famous Port Arthur Historic Site: four days, three nights and 46km of wide, smooth, cliff-hugging trails. The best part is that the Three Capes Track is open all year round, with every season bringing its own dramatic play on the route. If you need an Aussie addition to your 2018 travel bucket list, beat the crowds before word gets out.

18. Spy polar bears in Canada

Churchill in Manitoba forms one of the main parts of polar bears’ annual migration north in search of food in Canada’s arctic region. While the effects of climate change are causing migratory patterns to change and moving traditional feeding areas, visiting the Churchill region with a reputable company ensures ecotourism dollars are funnelled into conservation efforts. Visit in 2018 and help guarantee that your grandkids will be able to see the polar bears in 2058.

19. Embark on the trip of a lifetime

Navigating new countries and cities, being responsible for getting from A to B with all your belongings and figuring out the lingo/currency/local customs while balancing old and new friendships on the go is adulting 101. For many young Aussies, those first tentative steps abroad often mean an 18-to-30s coach trip with the likes of Topdeck for freedom away from the parental gaze, yet still in the safety net of like-minded travellers.

20. Sail around Portugal in a small ship

Portugal is one of Europe’s emerging destinations that offers much for travellers interested in history, culture, architecture, food and wine. See all the sights as you set sail like the great Portuguese explorer Magellan, but with all the included luxuries of an exclusive APT small-ship. Slow travel is the only way to savour Portugal’s Atlantic coastline.

21. Float in the Dead Sea

Landlocked, 430.5m below sea level and 10-times saltier than the ocean, the Dead Sea has attracted leisure seekers for thousands of years with its mineral-rich mud and water. The salinity of this famous body of water ensures all who step in will bob like a rubber duck on its surface. Create your own classic reading-while-floating photo at the free-to-use beaches at Ein Gedi and Ein Bokek.

22. Say “I do” in Italy

It’s one of the most magical days in your life, so you need a fairytale backdrop, right? With Italy’s abundance of art, architecture, culinary delights and stunning landscapes, it’s easy to see why the land of la dolce vita is high on the wish list for destination weddings. 

23. Venture to Iceland

The words ‘amazing’, ‘awesome’ and ‘breathtaking’ are used all the time, yet on a drive through Iceland's fertile farmland, across moon-like landscapes, past colossal waterfalls to imposing glaciers, and all in one day, these words actually carry meaning, because that’s how you’d describe every bend in the road. 

24. Join in the Naadam festivities in Mongolia

In a show of rich pageantry, intense competition and national pride, Mongolia’s Eriin Gurvan Naadam (or Naadam festival) is truly one of a kind. It’s one of the oldest events in the world, harking back to before Genghis Khan, and literally means ‘manly games’. The Mongolians take it just as seriously today. 

25. Spot wildlife in Patagonia

Patagonia boasts nature at its purest and most challenging, and the wild landscapes of its crown jewel, Torres del Paine National Park, call to adrenaline seekers and wildlife watchers alike. Whatever route you choose to explore, keep your eyes peeled for the llama-like guacanos as well as woodpeckers, condors and pumas.

26. Set off on a solo adventure

Women travelling solo isn’t a new concept, but, it’s not all Eat Pray Love-style journeys of self-discovery either; raw, wild and authentic adventures are what many women want. The age of solo female travellers is moving beyond the post-high school, gap-year crowd as younger female travellers head off on lengthier trips to off-the-beaten-path destinations in search of new experiences. Adventure travel experts also tip a variety of factors contributing to the notable increase in solo female travellers, such as greater media visibility.

27. Dive into natural wonders in the Yucatan

Be immersed in the hidden depths of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, from a dip in secluded jungle-clad cenotes to swimming with whale sharks off Isla Mujeres in the Caribbean Sea. It’s a beautifully choreographed spectacle of nature, swimming with the world’s largest fish, while you can spy sea turtles and fish galore in the gin-like waters of crystalline cenotes.

28. Go leaf peeping in New Hampshire

One of six New England states in northeastern USA, New Hampshire is the ideal destination to view the brilliant orange, red and golden foliage painted across the state that draws ‘leaf peepers’ every fall. The best time to see the colourful canopies is mid to late September, with peak colour usually arriving right around Columbus Day Weekend in mid October. 

29. Island hop in Greece

When designer Karl Lagerfeld recreated Ancient Greece as a backdrop for the Chanel Cruise Collection 2018 show in Paris – complete with Doric column ruins, twisted olive trees and artful draping – it was confirmed: Greece is back in vogue. While the Greek economy is still fragile, passenger numbers to this classical country are definitely on the rise. 

30. Trek Sapa in Vietnam

The stunning pictures of beautiful mountains and lush, green rice terraces is what will initially draw you to Sapa; the chance to experience Vietnamese culture up close and see a different way of life is what you’ll remember for years to come. Let a local guide lead the way as you trace edges of rice fields to remote villages and beautiful waterfalls on downhill treks through this serene northern pocket of Vietnam

31. Swim with dwarf minke whales

An encounter with a dwarf minke whale is one of the most exclusive animal experiences anyone can have on Earth. Arriving here takes some effort – a charter flight to Lizard Island, then hours sailing east to the outer Great Barrier Reef. But it’s worth it – this is the world’s only known aggregation point and there’s only a few weeks through June and July you can swim with these amazing creatures. 

32. Run the world

For many, diets and gym schedules go out the window on holiday. But for some, getaways mean putting daily training schedules to the test by competing in marathons in some of the world’s most captivating destinations. Meet the ‘racecation’. According to London marathoner Ed Shattock, running an international marathon is the best way to see a city. 

33. Ski South Korea

The 2018 Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea in February has vaulted this mountain-studded country into the snow spotlight with good reason. South Korea’s 17 or so modern ski resorts feature fabulous off-piste options, including huge shopping centres, water parks and endless restaurants. Yongpyong is the country’s largest and most popular ski resort and will host the Olympic Winter Games events, along with the petite Alpensia Ski Resort – making these the best places to travel for snow bunnies in search of shiny new facilities in 2018.

34. Stargaze around the world

For centuries, humans have looked up to the skies for inspiration and guidance. And now, with public space travel on the horizon, technology constantly advancing and more dark sky reserves being designated across the world, more people than ever are travelling to ponder the heavens above. While space travel is still a luxury reserved for astronauts and billionaires, the next best way to travel for us mere mortals down below is to always remember to look up and enjoy the view.


35. Make art in the Tiwi Islands

Meet Indigenous artists whose work has remained isolated for thousands of years in the Northern Territory’s Tiwi Islands. This art experience isn’t one you can get indoors – this one requires a boat trip across bull shark- and croc-infested waters. From Darwin, it’s a two-hour, 70km journey to one of the oldest and most artistically diverse art centres in the country to view a style of artistic expression that’s among the oldest on the planet. 

36. Kid around in Dubai

Dubai is a dream destination for all ages but if you’re travelling with children, it’s perfect. Looking after families is a top priority and the choice is – in true Dubai style – almost overwhelming. Hotels offer interconnecting rooms, extensive kids clubs, children’s menus, private stretches of beach and more. Dubai is also one of the safest cities in the world and one of the most convenient stopover destinations for Australian travellers. 

37. Experience the spiritual side of Japan

Come to Japan for a holiday, leave with a profound spiritual makeover. Start with a tea ceremony ritual for a humbling sense of peace, then seek further serenity at a Zen Buddhist retreat in Kyoto. From therapeutic shakyo – tracing of sutras – to mindfulness meditation, therapeutic onsen pools and shiatsu massage, travellers can learn to carry a deep sense of calm with them. 

38. Beach yourself in PNG

A quieter alternative to the usual South Pacific holiday favourites, the Conflict Islands, south of Papua New Guinea’s Milne Bay region, is a 21-strong island group with a brilliantly blue lagoon and biodiverse reef system at its heart. Don’t be fooled by its name; life is pretty peaceful here. Paradise personified, make the most of your time in this secluded part of the world in true island fashion: in the crystal-clear water. 

39. Snap yourself in an Instagram playground

Is taking a photograph now the travel experience? Welcome to a world of Instagrammable backdrops and photographic monuments. From the sharp chevrons and patchwork of bold hues of Wynwood Walls to the bubblegum-hued wall outside the Paul Smith store on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles, there are plenty more Instagram-worthy backdrops and pop-up spaces that have been deliberately created to be snapped in a perfectly square frame.

40. Step off the tourist trail in Gili Air

Consistently a top holiday destination for Aussie sun seekers, Bali has a few hidden gems off its popular mainland. Situated in the Lombok Strait, to the immediate northwest of Lombok, you’ll find the idyllic Gili Islands. Made up of Gili Meno, Gili Air and Gili Trawangan (aka Gili T), these beautiful islands are surrounded by crystal-clear waters known worldwide as a top diving spot and offer a welcome retreat from the hustle and bustle of Seminyak or Kuta.

41. Visit a Turkish hammam

There’s a certain expectation about what might happen next when you’re almost naked on a hot, wet gobektas (marble slab) and lovingly lathered in soapsuds by your masseuse. Are you anticipating sandpaper-style loofah scrubbing followed by mechanical-grip massage and a freezing-cold dousing of water? Probably not, but whether you opt for one of Turkey's centuries-old hammams or a luxurious 5-star hotel offering in Istanbul, that’s exactly what you’ll receive.

42. Celebrate New Orleans’ tricentennial

Not many cities know how to party like New Orleans and 2018 is set to be its biggest celebration yet. New Orleans, Louisiana (NOLA to friends) is commemorating its 300-year anniversary and turning up the dial on what already makes this city larger than life. Feel the history, taste the flavours and learn the local secrets – to the soundtrack of some of the best live jazz you’ll ever hear. 

43. Keep weird in Portland

While the ubiquitous ‘Keep Portland Weird’ bumper sticker slogan actually originated in the ‘other’ hipster city of Austin, there’s no denying Portland fully embraces its mantle as the undisputed fiefdom of weird. More officially, Portland has the most craft breweries in the world, the highest rate of cycling commuters in the US and the world’s smallest park (Mill Ends Park at just 61cm across). But what does ‘weird’ mean, exactly? Discover why Portland keeps cropping up as one of the best places to travel in the USA.

44. Cruise Russia’s rivers

A river cruise along the ‘waterways of the tsars’ – the Volga, Svir and Neva rivers – is an excursion into the pages of history books and undeniably one of the best ways to travel Russia. Wind past magnificent palaces, spend evenings filled with folkloric music and lunch at local homes – toasted with handmade vodka. By the time you disembark, you'll know how to say “welcome” (“dobro pozhalovat”), which is exactly how you’ll feel when visiting Russia.  

45. Stay on a ranch in Texas

Take in an authentic western experience and play cowboys and cowgirls during a stay on a ranch in Texas, the second-largest state in the USA. It’s certainly not your typical hotel sleepover. Saddle up for trail rides, get roping lessons in the barn and try your hand at archery and clay target shooting in the paddocks. Complete with sunsets and chuck wagon dinners, the Wild West is sure to win you over.

46. Make the world your workplace

No longer is the ‘office’ confined to four walls and the humdrum of a nine-to-five rotation on the clock. Now more than ever, passionate globetrotters are packing their bags and hitting the road armed with all they need to make a living on the go. Welcome to the age of the digital nomad.

47. Drive Highway One

Long considered one of the world’s most spectacular coastal drives, California’s Highway One has received more attention than normal this year. The good news is that the most interesting part – the 190km section from San Francisco south to Monterey – is open. Hire a car in San Francisco and half an hour later you’ll be on the coast. Enjoy a little California dreaming on this classic road trip. 

48. Cycle through Leipzig’s nightlife

The hip things of Germany’s capital scoffed when the New York Times called Leipzig, a city of half a million inhabitants, “The Better Berlin”. Even Leipzigers didn’t embrace the ‘hypezig’. But there’s no denying the former East German stronghold is an alt city boomtown. Artistic and creative types gravitate to this former GDR stronghold seeking cheap rent, quality of life and opportunity. Cool people need cool places to hang – that’s why Leipzig has one of the best nightlife scenes in Europe.

49. Sleep in a Moroccan riad

Marrakech may be best known for its medina and colourful souks, but one of the true highlights of visiting the ‘red city’ is a stay in a riad. Derived from the Arabic word for ‘garden’, Morocco’s traditional riads are multiple-storey houses centred around an Andalusian-style courtyard, usually featuring a fountain. While riads typically embrace an original style and decor, many have the mod cons travellers expect – from air-conditioning to pools and delicious morning breakfasts.

50. Get spooked in Edinburgh

Wicked storytelling with a dark dose of Scottish humour brings the undead to life in one of the world’s most haunted cities. Head to the eerie vaults below the Royal Mile for a gruesome history lesson before putting your nerves to the test in the dark corners of the Black Mausoleum. No matter what the real story is, a guided visit to this macabre corner of Edinburgh is a must for the believer and the curious sceptic alike.