Now that the turkey’s been eaten and the New Year’s Eve celebrations are long behind us, it’s time to start looking ahead. And, if you’re anything like us, that means planning your 2018 travel hit-list. Wondering about the best places to go roaming this year? Here are five of the most exciting and up-and-coming destinations for 2018.

1.

The Azores

If you’re unsure exactly where the Azores are, well… that’s the point. This archipelago of nine wild and rugged islands floating off the coast of Portugal is the best-kept secret in the North Atlantic Ocean. The closer you look, the more you discover: vibrant hydrangeas take over the empty, winding roads leading to quaint towns, reflective lakes hide in ancient volcanic craters, and the coast teems with rare dolphins and marine life.

This makes it the perfect destination for those looking to fill their new year with nature, serenity, and good old-fashioned peace and quiet. Divers and snorkelling enthusiasts will find plenty to enjoy in the deep azure waters. 

Culture vultures shouldn't count out the Azores, either; on the archipelago's largest island of São Miguel, you'll find the easily walkable capital city of Ponta Delgada, whose arched gates lead to traditional markets, sprawling romantic gardens and plenty of Iberian charm. 2018 is the perfect time to discover this quiet, mysterious and fascinating destination – before everyone else does. 

2.

Malta

There are plenty of reasons to visit Malta this year, but the biggest is perhaps that it’s just been named as Europe’s capital for culture 2018. As a UNESCO World Heritage site, it’s fair to say that capital city Valletta dazzles with refined, historic grandeur and warm golden light all-year-round, but the country’s new status will see an exciting host of events taking places throughout 2018, celebrating the traditional Maltese festa.

Expect jaw-dropping outdoor acrobatics, sweeping choral symphonies in the atmospheric town squares, and musical concerts. We can’t think of a better setting than “one of the most concentrated historic areas in the world.”

3.

Lisbon

Portuguese capital Lisbon has been having a bit of a moment recently, and its star only seems set to rise even higher as it plays host to the Eurovision song contest in 2018. The event will be held in May in the enormous Altice Arena, but even if you're not interested in getting tickets to the spectacle itself, you can still soak up the atmosphere elsewhere in the city.

Ultra-cool bar Decadente – the Swiss Ambassador’s former residence – always delivers a good-time crowd and jovial atmosphere, complete with a candlelit terrace for more intimate drinks and plenty of traditional Portuguese cocktails. 

By day, stroll the streets and admire the scatterings of azulejos – traditional Portuguese tiles – in the most unexpected of places. Or, why not head to the beach to try your hand at surfing?

4.

New Orleans

It’s not only European destinations we have our sights set on this year; in 2018, the Louisiana city of New Orleans will celebrate its 300th birthday. Cue dazzling celebrations across one of the world’s most seductively vibrant and fascinating cities. Tricentennial events will include fireworks, cultural displays and music concerts.

The anniversary only enhances New Orleans' already impressive roster of attractions; Mardi Gras riots through the streets in February, while the Jazz Festival provides the city’s irrepressible soundtrack throughout April. 

During your time in the Big Easy, take the time to find out exactly what makes this diverse and resilient city so special; we’d recommend strolling around the French Quarter and Bourbon Street, or listening to the musicians in the historic Jackson Square. Don’t miss a cocktail in the inimitable Arnaud’s French 75 bar. 

5.

Norway

There’s no bad time to visit Norway. Its dramatic fjords are regularly cited as the most beautiful landscapes in Europe and its cosmopolitan cities effortlessly fuse the natural with the modern. Look beyond the tangle of waterways and backdrop of mysterious fjords to discover ultra-contemporary glass buildings and vibrant culture.

But 2018 is set as the year to visit Norway. Amongst its modern setting, Norway will embrace tradition and celebrate the 50th wedding anniversary of the king and queen. And with Norway ranked as the happiest country in the world by the 2017 World Happiness Report, you can expect plenty of festivity from this jubilant nation!

Discover more destinations to add to your 2018 travel bucket-list with our Mediterranean and Northern Europe cruises