The Very Best Must-Visit Countries This Year
From beaches to mountains, these are the most outstanding destinations to visit this year
Planning your next vacation? Lucky you. With so many countries to choose from, it can be a little difficult to decide which to travel to first. You could spend days flipping through magazines, browsing websites, and watching YouTube videos before you find what you’re looking for. Fortunately for you, you’ve landed on the right website. To help you whittle down your choices, we experts here at Plum Guide have stepped in to help with our extensive travel knowledge. Read on for our recommendations on the best countries to visit this year.
A Swiss flag in front of snow-capped mountains at Mannlichen viewpoint, Switzerland
Switzerland is one of those countries that seems to have it all. Spectacular natural landscapes, lively cities, fairytale towns, and delicious food - what more could you ask for? For a country of its size, Switzerland is home to a surprising number of cosmopolitan cities. Swanky Zurich has high-end boutiques and a buzzy creative scene, Bern boasts a UNESCO-listed medieval Old Town, and multicultural Geneva has plenty of interesting attractions. From these cities, you’ll have easy access to the surrounding Alpine peaks and lakes, where you can take in the extraordinary views via a scenic rail journey - such as the famous Glacier Express or the Bernina Express. When you’re not hiking and skiing through Switzerland’s exquisite countryside, take a moment to visit the many charming Alpine towns, including Andermatt, Gruyères, and Grimentz. These are great places to dine on fondue and chocolate while taking in the storybook-like beauty of your surroundings.
A view across pristine golden sand dunes in the desert in summer, Oman
This superb desert destination still flies under the radar for most travellers, so you’ll find endless hidden gems without the crowds. Off-road driving in Oman is a must, and you’ll find many breathtaking routes, such as the road through Wadi Bani Awf which boasts incredible views. Driving also means you can stop off at secluded wadi pools for a refreshing dip in turquoise waters, or head to beautiful hidden beaches to swim and snorkel in the calm waters. Of course, it wouldn’t be a trip to Oman without exploring the deserts. During the day, you can explore via camel safari, and try out adrenaline-filled adventures like dune bashing and sand boarding. Come evening, admire blazing sunsets and star-filled skies. Aside from the country’s natural beauty, Oman also has a rich culture and heritage. Find souvenirs in the many souks, admire the unique Omani architecture in Bahla, and visit the museums to learn about the history and culture of this nation.
Flower pots on and view of fishing boats anchoring in Kokkari bay, Samos island, Greece
If you like beaches, ancient history, and amazing food, then Greece is one of the best countries to visit. Discover the world of the ancient Greeks at the many remarkable historic sites - including the Acropolis in Athens, the Byzantine monument of Thessaloniki, and the open-air island museum of Delos. Speaking of islands, Greece is the perfect place for island hopping. Sail to Mykonos to party, relax on the beaches in Corfu, or head to Crete to indulge in Greek cuisine and local Cretan delicacies. If you can pull yourself away from the sun loungers, Greece’s interiors are worth exploring too. Home to a large range of stunning natural landscapes, you’ll find everything from rugged mountains and green valleys to lush forests and quiet lakes. As one of the oldest wine-producing regions in the world, you can even tie in a hike with a visit to a winery to sample some local vino.
A small hut in the middle of a large lake by tall hills, Vietnam
How could we possibly sum up Vietnam in just one paragraph? With dramatic landscapes, fascinating history, mouth-watering food, and buzzing energy, Vietnam is sure to captivate all your senses. There’s something for every type of traveller, whether you want to relax on the 3,000km of tropical coastline, hop from one street food stall to another, or adventure into the lush mountains. If you need a break from the crowds of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, set sail in a junk boat and admire the towering limestone islands in Halong Bay, or get a taste of rural life in the floating markets on the Mekong Delta. There are even things to do for the most avid adrenaline junkies, from sand-boarding in Mui Ne to canyoning in Dalat. Fewer places manage to be as thrilling and serene at the same time.
An aerial view of white boats on clear blue water in Turkey
Turkey is one of those bucket list destinations that everyone should visit at least once in their lifetime. Straddling both Europe and Asia, it's a melting pot of cultures and cuisine. Be sure to start your day with a full Turkish breakfast - which consists of small dishes of salad veg, olives, cheeses, pastes and conserves, kaymak (clotted cream with honey), eggs, menemen (similar to shakshuka), and sigara boreği (rolls of puff pastry stuffed with cheese and parsley). In Istanbul, explore the beautiful Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque, go deep underground at the Byzantine Basilica Cistern, and haggle over souvenirs at the Grand Bazaar. Be sure to visit Cappadocia, a breathtaking region known for its fascinating rock formations - an early morning or sunset hot air balloon ride is the best way to see this otherworldly place. Turkey also happens to be a fantastic beach destination, with places like Bodrum, Antalya, Mugla, and Fethiye along the Turquoise Coast offering a relaxed vibe and a wealth of seaside activities.
A bright blue lagoon in front of towering mountains, Torres del Paine mountains, Patagonia, Chile
For outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers, Chile is simply heaven on earth. Its dramatic landscapes vary from the otherworldly Atacama Desert, to the postcard-perfect Patagonian ice fields. There are all kinds of ways to explore the outdoors, including skiing, trekking, rafting, kayaking, horseback riding, scuba diving, surfing, and cycling. But an outdoor playground isn’t all that Chile has to offer. When you’re not hiking glaciers or bathing in natural hot springs, why not explore the country’s rich cultural offerings? It’s home to seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites, from the fascinating colonial city of Valparaíso, to Rapa Nui National Park, or Easter Island. Meanwhile, oenophiles will want to spend most of their time in Chile’s wine country. Wander around the fertile valleys with a glass of red, white, or sparkling wine in hand, being sure to pair your tipple with excellent local delicacies along the way.
A view of colourful umbrellas as a canopy for a street in the city centre, Mexico City, Mexico
With its island escapes, Caribbean coastline, and vibrant capital city, Mexico is one of the best countries to visit this year. There truly is something for everyone here, whether you want to explore the beautiful beaches of Baja California Sur, or the lush jungles of Chiapas. Mexico City is an exciting metropolis of history, art, culture, and some of the best street food in the world. You could easily spend your entire trip here, but make sure you put aside time to visit Oaxaca. As the culinary and cultural capital of Mexico, Oaxaca is a colourful destination filled with bustling markets, artisan galleries, and indigenous villages. If you’re looking to escape the cities, head to the beach town of Tulum on Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula. Less touristy than Cancun, Tulum offers picture-perfect beaches as well as Mayan ruins, wonderful wildlife (including turtles and jaguars), and clear blue cenotes to swim in.
A large lake next to green and orange trees in front of snow-capped mountains in Queenstown, New Zealand
It’s hard not to fall in love with New Zealand. With its snow-capped mountains, glistening glaciers, gently rolling green hills, and fun-loving people, it’s a destination unlike anywhere else. New Zealand is perfect for thrill-seekers - tick off bucket list items like bungee jumping, sky diving, and canyon swinging. Prefer something a little more low-key? Step into Middle-earth and walk around the Shire, or marvel at the beauty of Milford Sound. If you like wine, you’re in luck - New Zealand is famous for its wineries. Head to Otago for Pinot, Hawkes Bay for Syrah and Chardonnay, or Marlborough for Sauvignon blanc. There aren’t many places that have made such an effort to preserve indigenous culture as New Zealand has. Its remarkable Maori culture is worth seeking out, and there are plenty of interesting attractions and cultural shows for visitors to learn more about its history and heritage.
An aerial view of families kayaking on the clear blue sea by cliffs and the city, Dubrovnik, Croatia
It’s no surprise that Croatia has gained popularity over recent years. Even if you’re not a Game of Thrones fan (many scenes were shot here), you’re bound to fall in love with the country’s dramatic coastline, charming towns, and eye-catching nature. Famed for its scenic beaches and crystal-clear waters, you may be tempted to spend all your time lounging on the sands of Brač and Hvar islands. However, we highly recommend scheduling a day of wandering around Dubrovnik’s Old Town, sightseeing in Zagreb, and admiring the 4th-century Diocletian’s Palace in Split. For a breath of fresh air, there are eight national parks in Croatia for outdoor adventuring. The UNESCO-listed Plitvice Lakes National Park and the Krka National Park are famous for their gorgeous lakes and picturesque waterfalls - both making a great day trip from Split.
Two hot air balloons floating over the Sahara desert, Morocco
Morocco is a land of once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Where else can you take a sunset camel ride through the Sahara, visit traditional Berber villages, trek up snow-dusted mountains, and sunbathe on golden sandy beaches in the same place? Morocco is also home to vibrant cities such as Chefchaouen, as well as the four imperial cities of Marrakech, Fes, Rabat, and Meknes - which are known for their unique charm. When you’re not haggling in colourful souks or admiring exquisite mosaics and striking architecture, take a moment to sample Morocco’s enticing cuisine. Tagines, falafels, pastilla, harira, and couscous are key dishes to try, fresh seafood is found in the coastal areas, and traditional tea houses serve the ubiquitous mint tea and pastries. Come sundown, the only place you’ll want to be is a rooftop bar with a cocktail.