19 places to visit in 2019
Whether you want to rest on a beach in the Caribbean, hike the world’s most famous canyon, explore ancient ruins, eat world-famous cuisine or learn more at historically significant sites this year, CNN Travel has the right spot for you.
Several of our 19 places to visit in 2019 are bouncing back after natural disasters that hit their economies hard. You can do some good while enjoying the beach in Hawaii, Kerala or St. Barts.
Or you can mark the 50th anniversary of man’s first walk on the moon, the 100th anniversary of Grand Canyon National Park, Liechtenstein’s tricentennial and importantly, Ghana’s Year of Return marks 400 years since enslaved Africans arrived in North America.
Whether you want to relax, explore or learn — or all three — there’s a destination on this list for you. Here they are in alphabetical order:
Christchurch, New Zealand
Many people only associate with Christchurch with its most tragic event — the 2011 earthquake that leveled much of the city and resulted in 185 deaths. But it isn’t the natural disaster that defines a city — it’s the way they choose to regroup and rebuild.
Several years later, Christchurch has been reconstructed to be respectful of locals and to be more thoughtful of the environment, creating a city that feels at once hopeful and dynamic. Vendors who once sold out of a pop-up mall of containers are now moving to brick-and-mortar locations, followed by loyal locals. Colorful street art about hope and resilience has appeared all over the city. Music performances are often held in rotating venues around the city instead of a single opera house or concert hall so more people have a chance to attend.
The elegant Canterbury Earthquake National Memorial pays homage to those who were lost, while the Transitional Cathedral — intended to be, by its name, temporary refuge made of cardboard for locals to go following the quake — has become a permanent part of the cityscape.
Don’t miss: Kakano, a Maori-owned and -operated cooking school and cafe that aims to heal people through food and the Christchurch Art Gallery, which served as home base for post-quake first responders and is now a gorgeous centerpiece for a city on the move.
The land of the Pharaohs has been welcoming tourists for so long, it’s a wonder that archeologists haven’t discovered hieroglyphics depicting backpackers.
Sadly, the country’s tourist trade has taken a battering in recent times with security concerns and political upheaval keeping many visitors away. A December 28, 2018 attack that killed four people near the Pyramids of Giza shows that there are still serious security issues.
While that may deter some, others will continue returning to a country that appears to be taking faltering steps back on to the mainstream tourism circuit.
So what’s different in 2019? Well, while the sand has been settling on deserted classic monuments, Egyptologists have been brushing it gently aside elsewhere to discover a litany of exciting finds, many of which are now being opened to the public.
Mummies, sphinxes, tombs and fresh pyramid mysteries have all been unearthed over the past year, as Egypt proves time and again it has many more secrets yet to be revealed.
And while safety concerns persist, hundreds of thousands of visitors to the Pyramids of Giza, the Great Sphinx, the Valley of the Kings take place without incident each year. Likewise, Egypt’s main Red Sea resorts are considered safe.
Expect a major tourism drive by Egypt in coming months as it gears up to 2020’s expected opening of its highly anticipated Grand Egyptian Museum. Until then, there’s a perfect opportunity to beat the crowds.
Don’t miss: If you can find someone to let you in, the recently opened Tomb of Mehu is a spine-tingling 4,000 years old. Nearby, the ancient Saqqara necropolis complex is where ancient Egypt’s penchant for pyramid building began.
Fascinating history. Incredible eats. Natural beauty. If the Japanese seaside city of Fukuoka isn’t already on your radar, it’s time to recalibrate your Japan travel plans.
Capital of the prefecture of the same name and one of several host cities for the 2019 Rugby World Cup, Fukuoka is the gateway to the island of Kyushu.
It’s the perfect destination for those looking to go beyond the well-trodden destinations like Osaka, Tokyo and Kyoto and see a new corner of Japan.
Highlights of this city and its surrounding area include the ruins of the 17th-century Fukuoka Castle, the beautiful Kyushu National Museum and Dazaifu Tenmangu, a Shinto shrine that’s home to over 6,000 plum trees that blossom in stunning fashion each spring.
And while we’re on the subject of blooms, another famed destination is the tunnel of wisterias at Kawachi Fuji-en Garden in Kitakyushu, about an hour’s drive from the city. Another worthy day trip is Yanagawa, an hour outside of the Fukuoka, famed for its picturesque canals.
But we’ve saved the best for last: The food.
Due to its seaside position on Japan’s east coast, Fukuoka is a seafood lover’s dream destination and considered one of Japan’s top foodie cities. Just head for the Nagahama Fish Market. The commercial market floor only opens to the public once a month but you can still visit its restaurants, which are open seven days a week.
We do recommend saving space for a bowl of Hakata ramen though. A local specialty, it’s the original tonkotsu ramen and prized for its deliciously fatty pork broth. Try it at Ichiran, a restaurant chain found throughout Japan that originated in Hakata, Fukuoka.
Don’t miss: The impressive Fukuoka Art Museum is reopening in March 2019 following extensive renovations that kicked off back in 2016. It offers a wide range of works from celebrated Japanese and global artists including Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Marc Chagall.
West Africa’s poster nation for economic success and political stability is hoping to trade up its tourism status for 2019, with a campaign targeting the African diaspora whose ancestors were victims of the brutal slave trade of centuries gone by.
The country’s Year of Return marks 400 years since the first enslaved Africans arrived in North America. It’s a somber recognition of the evil that befell Ghana’s past inhabitants and their descendants — and the strength with which they’ve faced it.
Legacies of the slave trade are unavoidable. Cape Coast Castle, one of many historic coastal forts, was where slaves were held before being dispatched to America and the Caribbean. This brutal and fascinating reminder was visited by the Obamas in 2009 and Melania Trump in 2018.
For all the sobriety of this anniversary, what also awaits visitors to Ghana is the warm, intoxicating embrace of country completely at ease with its identity rushing headlong toward a bright future.
The capital, Accra, crackles with the dynamism of a city on the upswing, with a nightlife scene to match. For those wanting to escape its relentless excitement, Ghana’s 335-mile coastline boasts empty surfing spots like Cape Three Points, while its many protected wildlife zones, including Mole National Park, are home to wild elephants, Nolan warthogs and spotted hyenas.
Don’t miss: Tongo, a village in the Tengzug Hills of northeastern Ghana, is home to the Whistling Rocks — dramatic arrangements of giant granite slabs that produce strange sounds when winds blow down from the Sahara.
Grand Canyon, United States
One of the world’s most magnificent natural wonders and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Grand Canyon National Park is marking its centennial anniversary in 2019.
Never mind that the canyon is actually about five or six million years old, give or take a few years, with rocks at the canyon bottom dating back some 2,000 million years.
There are human artifacts dating back nearly 12,000 years to the Paleo-Indian period, and the area has been continuously occupied up to the present day.
It was first protected by the US government in 1893, and it became Grand Canyon National Park on February 26, 1919, offering the 1.2 million-acre park the most US government protection possible.
About 277 miles long and a mile deep from rim to river at various points, the park attracted more than 6 million visitors for the first time ever in 2017.
Yet most people view the Grand Canyon by the magnificent South Rim, while some visit the North Rim in season (it closes for the winter).
More adventurous sorts can take two days to hike to the canyon bottom. (Riding a mule is an easier option.) Hikers who trek from rim to rim could take three days one-way, while rafters might take two weeks or more.