top ten by Paola Matani

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The start of a new year is full of possibility. The thrill of new adventures and exploring new countries, places unlike anywhere you’ve been. It’s a time for planning trips. From the night markets of Taipei to the rock churches of Ethiopia and the vineyards of Slovenia, here are ten exciting destinations to visit next year.

Taiwan
There are 300-night markets in Taiwan. It is a country obsessed with food; vendors line the streets selling beef noodle soup and steamed buns, barbeque skewers and bubble tea. Outside of the cities, the landscape is largely mountainous. There are hiking trails everywhere and eight national parks with hot springs, beaches and lush valleys. In the past, Taiwan has been little visited by Westerners, but that is starting to change.

Orkney, Scotland
Orkney is an archipelago off the north coast of Scotland made up of 70 islands, only 20 of which are inhabited. Ferries run between the islands, and each one has something to offer, puffins and guillemots on Westray, Neolithic sites on the mainland, a dramatic sea stack on Hoy, all bordered by sandstone cliffs and white sand beaches. In winter, you can see the Northern Lights. Orkney is a special place, wild and remote.

Ethiopia
The landscape in Ethiopia is incredibly varied, from sweeping savannahs, deserts and salt flats to volcanoes and lava lakes. It’s a fantastic country for wildlife and bird watching, home to species like the Walia ibex and the Ethiopian wolf, found nowhere else in the world. It also has a fascinating cultural history; it is the birthplace of coffee, an early cradle of Christianity and the only African country that managed to avoid European colonisation.

Oaxaca, Mexico
Oaxaca is a small, colourful city in central Mexico full of colonial buildings, churches and plazas. Its restaurants and street food stalls serve up some of the best regional food in Mexico, rich, smoky moles and crispy tlayudas. There is street art on almost every corner, and the city is surrounded by mountains, Zapotec ruins and indigenous villages that are all easily accessible for day trips.

Tasmania, Australia
Hobart, Tasmania’s capital city, has a growing reputation for its food and art scenes. With one of the most controversial private modern art collections in the world, a packed calendar of festivals, and restaurants that focus on local produce and innovative cuisine, it is becoming one of Australia’s most exciting cultural centres. The rest of the island has a lot to offer too, forest hiking trails, wild rivers, and the chance to spot dolphins, seals and penguins.

Atacama Desert, Chile
Standing out in the Atacama Desert, looking up at the night sky, you’ll see more stars than you’ve ever seen. It is the driest desert on earth and one of the best places for astronomy. The landscape is otherworldly, with salt flats and geysers, volcanoes and canyons. At the ALMA Observatory, in the middle of the desert, you’ll have the chance to speak to astronomers and see some of the most powerful telescopes in the world.

Helsinki, Finland
Helsinki is one of the lesser-visited Scandinavian capitals, but those who do go are in for a treat: eclectic architecture, design museums, foraged, seasonal food, steamy saunas, thriving nightlife, and a nation who drink more coffee than any other. It’s also surrounded by easily reachable nature, in the summer you can visit beaches and hiking trails, and in the winter go skiing and ice fishing.

Slovenia
A short drive from the pretty capital of Ljubljana is Lake Bled, a fairy-tale lake surrounded by the Julian Alps. In the other direction, are the rolling hills and vineyards of the Vipava Valley, and the coastal city of Piran, with its terracotta-roofed Venetian Gothic buildings and sunsets over the sea. Slovenia is compact, its landscape varied and its cuisine interesting, with influences from each of its neighbours: Austria, Italy, the Balkans and Hungary.

Matera, Italy
Matera is one of the oldest towns in the world. The neighbourhoods, known as sassi, are made up of limestone caves carved out of a rocky ravine. Once a symbol of the poverty of Southern Italy, there are now boutique hotels and candle-lit restaurants among the homes of the families who live there. Walking around the labyrinth of alleyways and stone stairways feels like being on a film set, it is unlike anywhere else in the world.

Naoshima, Japan
Next year is the 2019 Setouchi Triennale, a contemporary art festival held on the Japanese Art Islands in the Seto Inland Sea. These islands bring together sleepy fishing villages with modern art spaces. You’ll find Yayoi Kusama’s colourful pumpkins, beautiful coastal views, fresh sashimi, handmade udon noodles and serene concrete galleries. You can hire electric bikes to explore the islands and stay in yurts on the beach.

Illustration by Caroline Tomlinson

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