Laid-back Belize is undergoing a luxe makeover that will pique the interest of travellers looking for a sun destination beyond the usual suspects. Home to the world’s second-largest living coral reef, Mayan ruins and jungles, this Central American country is welcoming a number of swank properties to its shores, from the ultraexclusive Blackadore Caye, Leonardo DiCaprio’s wellness-focused ecoresort, to the intimate 31-bungalow Matachica resort at Ambergris Caye and the nature-focused Gaia River Lodge, near the Guatemalan border, both owned by Montrealer Daniel Lighter.
The country welcomes the Rugby World Cup this year; the tournament, taking part in 12 cities, is a dress rehearsal for Japan’s go as host of the Summer Olympics in 2020. Designophiles will want to head to Kyoto, where the Enso Ango “open-concept” property flips the hotel concept on its head – it’s spread across five buildings and several streets – and the country’s first Ace Hotel will open later in the year (architect Kengo Kuma is also the lead on Tokyo’s Olympic Stadium). And if art’s your thing, the islands in the Seto Inland Sea will keep you busy: Naoshima, known as “art island,” is home to several museums and public installations, while a dozen islands are taken over by the Setouchi Triennale contemporary art festival from April to November.
Often thought of only as a stop en route to the natural wonders of the Galapagos Islands, Quito, Ecuador’s capital, deserves attention. The city’s first subway, the 15-stop Metro de Quito that is on target to open this year, will transform the way people move through the skinny city surrounded by mountains. The city’s historic centre was the first UNESCO World Heritage city and just celebrated its 40th anniversary with the title, while neighbourhoods such as La Floresta propel Quito in the future, flourishing with restaurants such as Laboratorio, which attracts chefs from around the world for pop-ups.
The gritty-turned-hip city celebrates a number of anniversaries and a landmark opening. The Bauhaus school of design, which has its 100th anniversary this year, is the inspiration for a host of festivities, including Bauhaus Week at the beginning of September, with everything from retail storefronts to museums paying homage to the design ethos. It’s also 30 years since the Berlin Wall fell, and the German capital will host a spate of commemorative events including a day-long concert with performances by Dieter Bohlen and Boney M. And to add to its already rich museum offerings, the Humboldt Forum will open in the reconstructed Berlin Palace. The institution will house the Ethnological Museum of Berlin, Museum of Asian Art, a theatre, cinema and two restaurants.
June marks the 75th anniversary of D-Day and the Battle of Normandy, and the region in France is planning a summer full of celebrations to mark the monumental occasion. Along with guided tours, concerts, picnics and fireworks displays, there will be military parades and camp re-enactments of the battles fought and won. The headline event of Daks Over Normandy will take place on June 5 with 250 people flying across the English Channel to France from Britain and, using military round parachutes, jumping into drop zones as was done in 1944.
Make this the year you don’t simply think “cold” when someone mentions Edmonton. In March, the country’s third luxury JW Marriott property is set to open. Use it as a base to explore the developing Ice District and the growing Arts District, home to the newly opened Royal Alberta Museum (the largest in Western Canada). Refuel at some of the country’s hottest restaurants, including Bundok (an enRoute Top 10 pick) and Kanu, a high-end vegan spot. And starting in May, stroll through the 4.8-hectare Aga Khan Garden, just 15 minutes out of the city.
Havana, ooh na-na. If you’re considering an escape to Cuba this winter, consider skipping the beach – at least for a couple of days. The capital celebrates turning 500 in November with a full year of festivities. Preparation actually started back in 2017, with an effort to spruce up 600 historical sites and attractions around the city. As well, seven major properties are scheduled to open during the coming months, including the five-star Prado y Malecon on the Prado Promenade, bringing some much needed fresh options to the island. But the best news of all: Nationwide WiFi coverage is set to be in place by year’s end.
The British could use some mindless distractions these days and the Royal Family – past and present – is here to help. Of course, the impending royal baby is the big news, but monarchists can also enjoy events marking 200 years since the birth of Queen Victoria at Kensington Palace. Also, expect to see tours pop up related to Mary Queen of Scots, Mary Poppins and – get ready for it – the Downton Abbey movie. There’s also a chance Brexit will cause the pound to sink like a stone; bad for Brits, good for visitors.
If you missed the solar eclipse of 2017, you’ve got another shot. But you will have to travel a bit farther this time around. On July 2, the best place to witness the celestial spectacle is northern Chile. Several tour companies, including Intrepid and Exodus are offering special viewing packages, or if you’re more of a solo traveller, try a glamping outfitter, such as Outpost Elqui, an exclusive pop-up experience. If you can’t make the big show, the Atacama Desert is an awesome spot for stargazing year-round. Pair an adventure there with a visit to wine country to the south and you’ve got a dream trip that doesn’t carry any risk of blindness.
The Grand Canyon is millions of years old, but it didn’t become the 17th U.S. national park until 1919. To mark its 100th anniversary, a Founder’s Day Centennial Celebration will take place on Feb. 26 at the South Rim, with speakers, musical acts and Indigenous cultural demonstrations. Other special events in 2019 include Centennial Summerfest and Star Party (June 22-29), featuring an outdoor chamber orchestra performance. Too tame? More adventurous types can try out the zip line at Grand Canyon West and take in the view from 500 feet above the floor.