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.
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 ancient Egyptian temple of Abu Simbel stands on the shores of Lake Nasser.
KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images
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.
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.
Kokura Castle in Kitakyushu is just one of many places to explore off the beaten path in Fukuoka.
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.
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.
But we’ve saved the best for last: The food.
Ghana’s Cape Coast Castle is where many slaves were held before being deported.
Raquel Maria Carbonell Pagola/LightRocket/Getty Images
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.
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
The Grand Canyon is marking 100 years as a national park.
Patrick Gorski/NurPhoto/Getty Images
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.
Hawaii Island, United States
Kilauea Volcano’s Halemaumau crater is back to being a tourist attraction.
C. Parcheta/U.S. Geological Survey/AP
After a few shaky months, Hawaii Island is back, warmly welcoming visitors to its slice of paradise.
Following the devastating volcanic eruption of Kilauea in May 2018 that impacted air quality, destroyed homes and put a damper on tourism, the island of Hawaii (locals ask that you not call it “the Big Island”) is once again primed to show off its magnificent beauty, astonishingly diverse landscape and relaxed island pace.
While there are still some closures on the island and within the park, the number of new offerings is impressive enough to please even the most ambitious travelers.
The Hebrides, Scotland, UK
The Callanish Standing Stones: A Hebrides mystery dating back 5,000 years.
Martin Zwick/REDA&CO/UIG/Getty Images
The most famous of the lot, the Isle of Skye, makes it onto many travelers’ must-see lists, but the lesser-visited Lewis and Harris, the most northerly Outer Hebridean Island, also deserves to be there.
The birthplace of Harris Tweed, the famous cloth that’s been woven, dyed and spun by the islanders for centuries, is also home to its own Stonehenge-style mystery in the Callanish Standing Stones.
Unlike Stonehenge, visitors can get up close to the standing circle of boulders at Callanish, which is believed to have been erected about 5,000 years ago.
For this and Lewis and Harris’ other wonders, it’s worth the drive to Ullapool, close to the northern tip of the Scottish mainland, and the 2.5-hour ferry across a choppy stretch of the Atlantic to explore these islands. Alternatively, there’s the plane from Glasgow straight to Stornoway, the island’s capital.
Each Hebridean island has its own distinctive vibe, but they’re all grounded in a similar small-town community spirit. Islay, the southernmost Hebridean isle, known for its whisky distilleries and incredible beaches, offers a true sense of island life. Driving around, visitors might be more likely to encounter cows than people, but any meeting with an islander will likely earn an “Islay wave” — a friendly acknowledgment from a fellow driver.
Jaffa’s narrow streets are packed with jewelers, sculptors, antique dealers, candlemakers and painters.
noamarmonn / Pixabay
Tel Aviv-Yafo is often lumped together as one unit for the convenience of an airport and Google Maps, but 4,000-year-old Yafo (often spelled Jaffa in English) is as different from Tel Aviv as Brooklyn is from Manhattan.
Don’t Miss: Jaffa is home to the first whisky distillery in all of Israel, the aptly named Milk + Honey. And before you have to ask — yes, it’s kosher.
The backwaters of Kerala are an idyllic place to stay on a houseboat.
Mike Hewitt/FIFA/Getty Images
Severe floods during the summer of 2018 wreaked havoc across this southwestern state, but many of its top tourist destinations escaped unscathed.
Visitors will likely land at Kochi International, an airport powered entirely by solar panels. The ancient port city of Kochi, once occupied by the Portuguese, is a multicultural hub offering plenty to do and see. It’s a great place to check out traditional Kathakali dance, the storytelling dance form known for its colorful and intricate costumes and masks that hails from Kerala.
Kerala is also great for beaches, particularly in the southern part of the state. Postcard-perfect Kovalam is a surfing hotspot, while Varkala is good for just relaxing.
Kerala’s backwaters are famous for a reason: a nexus of waterways linking the regions’ villages and best explored via kettuvallam — a traditional wooden houseboat. It’s worth spending anywhere from a single afternoon to a week on one of the many rental houseboats on offer, enjoying the sights and sounds drifting by.
Other top trips include Munnar to see the tea plantations, and Periyar National Park, a wildlife haven offering guided jungle treks.
Don’t miss: The food — from the spice shops of Munnar to the coconut, which is everywhere in Kerala and used to make one of the state’s signature dishes: Kerala prawn curry.
Liechtenstein marks its tricentenary in 2019.
Prisma by Dukas/UIG/Getty Images
The world’s sixth smallest country packs a lot within its borders.
Tucked between Austria and Switzerland, the tiny principality of Liechtenstein covers just 160 square kilometers (62 square miles).
Yet castles, museums and spectacular hiking and biking trails are all draws in this sliver of alpine terrain that’s also a banking powerhouse for uber-wealthy international clients.
Liechtenstein has gone unnoticed by most of the world’s tourists during the principality’s 300 years, but the 2019 tricentennial puts the country — with its 37,000 residents — in the spotlight.
Liechtenstein’s capital, Vaduz, is home to a handful of museums featuring fine art, cultural artifacts, postage stamps and more. The principality’s Treasure Chamber features valuable items belonging to the Princes of Liechtenstein.
Don’t miss: The country’s most precious treasure may be its show-stopping alpine setting, complete with strategically perched fairytale stone castles like the Gutenberg Castle in Balzers.
Lima is home to three of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants.
Athletes and racing adventurers will be working up an appetite in Peru in 2019.
Starting and finishing in Lima, the Dakar Rally is an 11-day odyssey that involves more than 300 participating vehicles — from motorcycles to trucks — racing along a 5,000-kilometer route in Peru.
All that exertion deserves a delicious reward, and Lima is ready to feed you.
New York City
The skyline of lower Manhattan and One World Trade Center in New York City.
Gary Hershorn/Corbis/Getty Images
Like all the world’s great cities, New York ebbs and flows in a constant state of change and progress, but it’s always a destination worth visiting. So why now?
The event marked a major moment for the advancement and recognition of LGBTQ rights in the United States, and its half-century mark is a reminder that New York will always be a home to those in need — as long as you don’t try to push your way onto the subway before everyone else has gotten off.
Normandy American Cemetery, close to Omaha beach in Colleville-sur-Mer
Damien Meyer/AFP/Getty Images
Idyllic Normandy on France’s northern coast has a big historical footprint for a long time. It’s the place from which a conqueror named William set sail to tame England nearly 1,000 years ago.
But in 2019, our focus will be on the 75th anniversary of D-Day. On June 6, 1944, the course of world history was altered because of the World War II English Channel crossing that launched the Allies’ bloody liberation of France from Nazi rule.
Oaxaca is home to the Monte Alban UNESCO site, a large pre-Columbian archaeological complex.
Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket/Getty Images
Oaxaca, in central Mexico, may not have gotten as much attention as Mexico City or Tulum, but it doesn’t need to try hard to impress visitors, whether through its cuisine, art, ruins or mezcal.
This Mexican city, with its colorful colonial buildings and open-air marketplaces selling a seemingly infinite number of ingredients to make mole, the city’s claim to fame, is a sight to behold.
Casual diners (and everyone else) should try Oaxaca’s other regional items: the tlayuda. A large griddled tortilla filled with beans, pork fat and cheese, it can be found in restaurants around town and in food markets, such as the Mercado 20 de Noviembre.
Oman has epic sand dunes, mountains and some of the greenest terrain on the Arabian peninsula.
Eric Lafforgue/Art in All of Us/Corbis/Getty Images
For golden dunes under panoramic skies, epic mountain ranges and waters teeming with dolphins and turtles, Oman, on the Arabian Peninsula, has it all.
The evocatively named Empty Quarter is the world’s largest sand desert and can be ventured into with guides for your own Lawrence of Arabia adventures. Sharqiya Sands offers resorts and camps and activities such as camel-racing, sand-skiing and 4WD dune-bashing.
The Hajar Mountains, with stunning views over steep canyons, can be explored by horseback or on foot, and can be combined with a visit to the ancient city of Nizwa, with its fort and legendary souk.
Ras al Jinz Turtle Reserve is the beach where green turtles come to nest, while there are dolphin-spotting opportunities all along Oman’s generous coastline, including Muscat, the port capital.
The best time to visit is October to April, to avoid the intense summer heat.
The newly expanded Muscat International Airport, with its $1.8 billion passenger terminal, is ready for an influx of visitors to this lesser-discovered Middle Eastern destination.
Don’t miss: Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque in Muscan is a spectacular example of Islamic architecture. Its prayer hall is filled by a magnificent 70 meter-by-60 meter Persian carpet, woven by 600 women over a four-year period.
Wander the streets of Bulgaria’s second largest city, from its Roman amphitheater to its colorful buildings.
Known for its Roman ruins, Plovdiv was also the onetime stomping ground of Greeks and Ottomans. Its east-meet-west location means there’s a mix of cultural influences, on show at places like the approx 600-year-old Dzhumaya Mosque and the Ottoman-era Chifte Banya — a 16th century bathhouse that now houses modern art exhibits.
Don’t miss: The Roman ruins — from the Stadium, commissioned by Emperor Hadrian in the 2nd century AD to the ruins of the Roman Forum that was once Plovdiv’s administrative center. The highlight of the Roman relics is the city’s ancient theater, which was restored in the mid-20th century and is the perfect spot to watch a performance or two.
St. Barts, French West Indies
Most of St. Barts hotels and villas are open.
Helene Valenzuela/AFP/Getty Images
Hurricane Irma struck the Caribbean and parts of the southern United States in September 2017, leaving in her wake unprecedented destruction and the daunting task of reconstruction.
Islands such as Barbuda, Turks and Caicos, Tortola and St. Martin suffered extensive damage.
A French outpost and haunt for billionaires and celebrities over the past several decades, St. Barthélemy (the formal name for St Barts) was also damaged. But it’s getting closer to full recovery.
Most of the island’s hotels and villas are open, according to the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association, which means guests can enjoy the crystal blue waters and lush tropical greenery while spotting its world-famous regulars (walking along white sandy beaches in their swim garb, no less).
Cheval Blanc–St. Barth Isle de France, Le Sereno, Hotel Manapany and The Christopher have already re-opened, and mainstay properties such as Le Guanahani and Eden Rock — St Barth are planning to re-open in late 2019. (Eden Rock’s villas are already open.)
Don’t miss: Visiting during Christmas and New Year’s Eve 2019. A litany of boldface names (possibly Leonardo DiCaprio, Barry Diller, Ellen DeGeneres) pepper the beaches, restaurants and nightclubs with their attendant glitz, as the armada of superyachts and sail boats owned by international captains of industry and Russian oligarchs float in the distance. Locals say the best place to see the New Year’s Eve fireworks show is above Cour Vendome or on the General de Gaulle docks.
Space Coast, Florida, United States
The Kennedy Space Center offers the chance to learn all about NASA’s Apollo missions.
Are you ready to explore outer space? While no one can promise you a tourist adventure to the moon — at least not yet — space fans can still explore the heavenly skies on a trip to the Space Coast.
The 50th anniversary of mankind’s first walk on the moon will be July 20, 2019, and Central Florida’s Atlantic shoreline is ready for the throngs who want to see where Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins rocketed off the Earth and into the history books.
Weimar’s Baroque Belvedere castle was built for house parties.
In what is surely one of the exciting periods in the country’s history, Weimar — a small city of 65,000 in Thuringia — was not only the birthplace of the new republic but also the seat of a modernist revolution in art and design, with repercussions that would be felt around the world.
The Bauhaus art school — now Bauhaus University — was founded in 1919 by Walter Gropius and gave us artists such as Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky.
For this little town is a cultural heavyweight — in the late 18th and 19th centuries, it was the birthplace of German Classicism, giving us the writers Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Friedrich Schiller.
Composers Franst Liszt and Johann Sebastian Bach also made music here.
You’ll be tripping over UNESCO World Heritage sites as you wander through the town, from the Goethe House to Belvedere Castle.
This story was written by CNN’s Katia Hetter, Forrest Brown, Karla Cripps, Brekke Fletcher, Marnie Hunter, Stacey Lastoe, Lilit Marcus, Barry Neild, Maureen O’Hare and Francesca Street, and was edited by Hetter.