Ten Most Intriguing Travel Destinations For 2019

Here, our top destinations worth zeroing in on in 2019, from an Argentinian wine region to—wait for it—Missouri.

1. Salta, Argentina

The untrod northwest region of Argentina is the next big magnet for nature lovers: Condors fly above giant cactuses, snow-capped Andes mountains contrast with high desert, and ancient rock formations vie for attention with Indian ruins. It’s also an up-and-coming wine region with old vines and new, critically acclaimed wines that are largely unavailable outside the country. Oenophiles can taste at wineries—some clustered in Cafayete, not far from the well-preserved city of Salta (founded in 1582)—and also hike or ride a horse through ancient Indian and Spanish culture.

2. Seattle

The so-called Emerald City is getting a buff and polish. Part of ongoing renovations of the waterfront, Pike Place Market’s historic “market front” is already complete, marked by a modern plaza facing Puget Sound and panoramic views of the Olympic Mountains. After a $45-million reinvention, the Nordic Museum now sits in the Ballard district, the Scandinavian quarter that’s increasingly hip (nordicmuseum.org). And the observation tower of the Space Needle—built for the 1962 World’s Fair—has reopened after an overhaul, complete with a wine bar on a revolving glass floor (spaceneedle.com).

3. Tel Aviv

In the historic port of Jaffa, now a vibrant neighbourhood of Tel Aviv, you’ll find a mix of groovy new cafes and galleries amid the old-school Arab shops. A new level of luxury lodging has moved in too; the Setai Tel Aviv occupies a renovated fortress on the sea (from about $500 a night, thesetaihotel.com) and, a few blocks away, the Drisco is an elegant makeover of a hotel first built in 1866 (from about $360 a night, thedrisco.com). But the hotel to beat is the Jaffa, a 19th-century hospital that has been reimagined by British designer John Pawson into a stunning oasis of ancient stone and modern élan (from about $500 a night, thejaffahotel.com).

4. Kyoto

The culinary heart of Japan, Kyoto has been bestowed with a significant new sprinkling of Michelin stars. The 2019 guide recommends 15 new one-star spots, while three of the city’s top restaurants, including Hyotei, have retained three stars for ten consecutive years. Meanwhile, Park Hyatt will open near Kodaiji Temple next year, and architect Kengo Kuma is transforming a 1926 telephone office building into an Ace Hotel.

5. The Maldives

Go before overdevelopment, or rising sea levels swallow up the 1,200 islands of this tiny Indian Ocean nation. Not easy to get to, the archipelago is a haven for extravagant privacy. Take the John Jacob Astor Estate at the St. Regis Maldives Vommuli Resort, about $23,000 per night (marriott.com), or the whole island of Coco Privé (from $45,000 a night, cocoprive.com). For those with more modest budgets, the Baglioni resort is set to open next spring on Mallau—a 40-minute ride by seaplane from the capital of Malé (from $1,500 a night, baglionihotels.com).

6. Missouri

It’s not all pigs and brick. St. Louis, a fast-growing tech hub, is actively expanding its network of greenways that connect rivers and parks, including the revitalised Gateway Arch National Park. And part of the historic garment district’s renaissance, the 142-room Last Hotel, housed in the circa-1909 International Shoe Company headquarters, will open in the spring. The 21c Museum Hotel brand chose Kansas City for its latest endeavour, piggybacking on the river city’s percolating art scene (from $185 a night, 21cmuseumhotels.com). About midway between the two urban centres, in the college town of Fulton—where Winston Churchill gave his Iron Curtain speech—sits the National Churchill Museum. Starting in January, the museum kicks off its 50th anniversary with a year-long program of cultural events (nationalchurchillmuseum.org).

7. Namibia

Here is a very young country (est. 1990) with a very old desert and a growing population of wildlife—rhinoceros to zebra. (Environmental protection is incorporated in the nation’s constitution.) In April, Wilderness Travel will host a four-day conservation symposium, with lectures by leaders in the field and excursions (like cheetah tracking), followed by a safari (wildernesstravel.com). Worth a diversion: the new wistfully imagined Shipwreck Lodge on the Skeleton Coast, designed by a Namibian architect (from about $700 a night, shipwrecklodge.com.na).

8. Tunisia

Recovering from terrorism and western travel advisories, this small North African country offers all the seduction—unspoiled beaches, layers of history, architectural marvels, busy souks—and none of the hordes of its regional rival Morocco. The year-old Four Seasons on the edge of the capital city of Tunis can arrange private tours of the 4th-century Medina (from about $240 a night, fourseasons.com).

9. Warsaw

The Polish capital is experiencing a renaissance, with high-speed trains, Michelin stars, a “Made in Warsaw” trend in clothes and porcelain, and museums such as POLIN, which looks Nazism right in the eye. Last year, an ageing Enrico Marconi palace that dates to 1857 reopened as the 106-room Raffles Europejski Warsaw (from about $250 a night, raffles.com). Design enthusiasts might also consider the strikingly minimalist rental apartment called A-Place in a repurposed 19th-century vodka factory (from about $66 a night, aplace.pl).

10. Nassau, the Bahamas

The British colonial charm of Nassau was long ago eclipsed by the port city’s traffic jam of cruise ships, but the island has had a rebirth. The enormous fantasy land of Baha Mar, which is 5 miles down Cable Beach from downtown, encompasses three deluxe hotels, a vast casino, 30 bars and restaurants, and eight pools. Guests at the new Rosewood—markedly set apart from the razzle-dazzle—get the serenity that $600 a night can buy (rosewoodhotels.com). Plus, Nassau is only three hours, nonstop, from New York.

Credit: Christian L. Wright for The Wall Street Journal, 23 October 2018.