News 6 exotic destinations to kick-off your 2019 travels

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6 exotic destinations to kick-off your 2019 travels

As far as we’re concerned, there’s no better way to ring in the new year than by jetting off to an epic destination, and no time like the present to start planning those early 2019 travels. From pristine beaches to bustling metropolises, these seven places are some of the most popular picks for January and February. After all, why shiver through winter when you could bask in tropical sunshine?

1. Bangkok, Thailand – one-way from £229

The number one stop on the backpacker trail, Bangkok is a riot of colour, flavour and aroma. This is the gateway to Thailand, with most people spending a few days here before heading north to the jungles near Chiang Mai or south to party islands like Koh Phi Phi.

Whether you’re passing through or staying a while, every type of traveller will find something to keep themselves entertained in the Thai capital. Party until morning and snack on street food on Khao San Road, go window-shopping in glitzy malls before dipping in rooftop infinity pools in Silom, and pay respects to Buddha at the city’s ancient gilded temples.

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2. Manila, Philippines – one-way from £294

The world’s most densely populated city, Manila is an exciting mish-mash of old and new. Towering skyscrapers and sprawling malls happily share real estate with ancient citadels and baroque cathedrals. The old town, Intramuros, was the seat of power for the Spanish empire in the East Indies for more than 250 years.

Most people stop in the city en route to other parts of the Philippines, and there’s plenty to see within short driving distance. It takes just under 90 minutes to drive to Masungi Georeserve, a rainforest with an exciting trekking trail involving a thrilling rope course. As well as climbing ladders, you have to walk across hammocks suspended above the trees.

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3. Tobago, Trinidad and Tobago – one-way from £219

Smaller and less developed than its neighbour Trinidad, the island of Tobago is the perfect option for those who like their Caribbean holidays with a good dose of culture. Flavours are developed to local tastes, so restaurants serve up spicy goat curries and tangy sweet-and-sour breaded fish alongside typical crowd-pleasers like grilled kebabs.

With crystal clear waters and soft white sand, Tobago makes the perfect escape from British winter. The laid-back pace of island life insists you relax – a great way to begin the year. If lounging in a hammock isn’t your style, you can blow away the cobwebs with a trek in the UNESCO-listed Tobago Forest Reserve.

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4. Goa, India  – one-way from £229

With 54 beaches stretching along its 63 mile coastline, Goa is a fantastic destination for lovers of all things sea, sand and surf. Once a Portuguese colony, and a must-stop spot on the 1960s hippie trail, today Goa has a laid-back vibe that’s at odds with the bustle of northern cities like New Delhi.

When you’re not lounging on the beach, tucking into coconutty fish curries and crispy samosas, take a trip inland to the spice plantation. See everyday spices like pepper growing naturally, rather than the plastic-packaged supermarket version. If you don’t want to move far from your sun-lounger, you can always pick up your souvenirs from the famous flea market which takes place every Wednesday on Anjuna Beach.

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5. Natal, Brazil – one-way from £264

Natal’s main attraction is its beaches: flanked by dramatic sand dunes, they make up one of the most beautiful stretches of Brazil’s coastline. Plenty of tourists visit Natal, but the vast majority of them are Brazilians – so the atmosphere still feels very local.

When you’re not loafing around on the sand basking in the sunshine, you can go dolphin spotting at Pipa Beach, surf at Praia dos Artistas or simply admire the view of the Morro do Careca sand dune from Ponta Negra. If you’re interested in history, you’ll be intrigued by Natal’s star-shaped Forte dos Reis Magos, which was built by the Portuguese back in the 16th Century.

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6. Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam – one-way from £248

Or as many people still refer to it, Saigon, is the perfect jumping-off point for a trip around Vietnam. It’s a hearty jumble of rough-and-tumble street food stalls and truly incredible buildings – the Central Post Office was designed by Gustave Eiffel.

If you want a counter-balance to the joys of Saigon’s coffee shops, banh mi stands and all-night partying in Pham Ngu Lao, take a trip to the War Remnants Museum. It’s an emotional rollercoaster charting the horrors of the Vietnam conflict, and a must-visit for anyone who wants to understand a bit more about the country’s history.

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Need more wanderlust? 

No need to head for a galaxy far, far away: these 8 Star Wars locations are brilliant for a holiday.

If beaches aren’t your New Year relaxation style, these off-the-wall spa trends just might help you unwind.

Flight prices were correct based on a search at time of writing (12 Aug 2018) and are subject to change.