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10 Exotic Dream Trips You Can Take in 2018

SmarterTravel

For many of us, the new year brings dreams of new travel destinations. And even if your other dreams and resolutions for 2018 have already fallen to the wayside, it’s not too late to make this the year that your dream trip becomes a reality. Whether your ideal getaway involves sun-soaked beaches, fairytale castles, epic long-distance hikes, or exclusive safaris, there’s an adventure for every taste and budget.

The Best Dream Trips for 2018

Here’s a sampling of the best dream trips you can take in 2018—many of them newly designed for the year ahead.

Visit an Exclusive Private Game Reserve at Thanda Safari in South Africa

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Imagine a place where Africa’s famed Big Five game animals—lions, elephants, rhinoceroses, leopards, and Cape buffalo—roam freely in a spacious natural habitat, protected from hunters and poachers yet easily accessible to curious travelers. Imagine yourself there in the foothills of South Africa’s Drakensburg Mountains, led by a seasoned tracker and armed not with a hunting rifle but a camera. Now imagine you have an expert wildlife photographer at your side to teach you the secrets of capturing these magnificent animals up close in the African Bush.

At Thanda Safari, a five-star World Tourism Award-winning private game reserve in South Africa, you don’t have to imagine it. You can live it with a stay at the luxury reserve’s upscale lodge, luxury camping tents, or private villa. This African outfitter combines all of the traditional elements of a once-in-a-lifetime safari with a commitment to supporting the local Zulu culture and caring for the environment. There’s no better time to visit than in 2018, when South Africa celebrates Nelson Mandela’s centenary.

Important Information: Local staff and guides enhance the experience and provide cultural immersion opportunities. Guests can opt to stay in a traditional safari lodge, a luxury safari camping tent, or a private villa.

Provider: Thanda Safari Private Game Reserve

Price: ‎$687 to $1,389 (based on average rates for a standard room)

Sail the Coast of Sri Lanka with G Adventures

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Sri Lanka, an island nation in the emerald waters of the Indian Ocean, is the up-and-coming destination for international travelers in Southeast Asia. But more interest naturally means bigger crowds, too, which is why G Adventures‘ intimate new seven-day sailing trip around the southern coast of the island is a perfect way to discover this rising destination in 2018. In addition to exploring ancient forts, remote beach towns, and tiny fishing villages, you’ll also have ample time to relax, surf, and snorkel.

This is a brand-new itinerary for G Adventures in 2018, making it a must-book dream trip for avid travelers who want to be the first to see a hot destination that’s high on rewards and low on crowds.

Important Information: Travelers must be at least 16 years old to book this trip. Light physical activity, including hiking, kayaking, rafting, and walking, is required. This is a small-group trip with a maximum group size of eight people.

Provider: G Adventures

Price: Starting at $1,359 from G Adventures

Hike Japan’s Long-Distance Paths with Walk Japan

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Beyond the bright lights and sensory overload of Tokyo, Japan’s rural past lives on in its serene long-distance walking routes, many of which are offered as guided trips by tour operator Walk Japan. Nakasendo Way, one of the five established routes used during the Edo period, once connected Edo—modern day Tokyo—to Kyoto for pedestrian travelers. Today you can take a guided walking tour of Nakasendo Way for a taste of old Japan—while still benefitting from a few modern amenities, like baggage transfers between stops.

Important Information: Walk Japan’s five-day guided tour of Nakasendo Way: The Kiso Road can be booked for travel in March, April, May, June, September, October, or November. A longer and more strenuous alternative is also available.

Provider: Walk Japan

Price: Starting at 216,000 YEN (about $1,900 USD at time of publication) from Walk Japan

Uncover the Mysteries of Easter Island at Explora Rapa Nui

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A far-flung and mystical destination hundreds of miles off the coast of mainland Chile, Easter Island (called Rapa Nui by its indigenous people) often finds its way onto the bucket lists of passionate travelers. Just 63 square miles in size, Rapa Nui packs a lot of adventure into its small stature: Think volcanos, beaches, wild horses, and of course moai statues—the famous “Easter Island heads” that have confounded explorers and archeologists for centuries.

There’s no better way to see all of Rapa Nui than with a stay at the famed Explora Rapa Nui lodge, which celebrates its 10th anniversary in 2018. At Explora, you can select from more than 30 guided explorations of the island based on your personal interests and fitness level. And at the end of the day, you’ll return to the lodge for a glass of Chilean wine or a frisky pisco sour, or perhaps indulge at the spa amid a luxe environment with waterfront views.

Important Information: Local staff and guides enhance the experience and provide cultural immersion opportunities.

Provider: Explora Rapa Nui

Price: $996 to $1,754 (based on average rates for a standard room)

Animate Your Summer at Disney’s New Toy Story Land in Florida

Disney Parks

Last year it was Pandora—The World of Avatar. Next year, it will be Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge. But don’t overlook this summer’s big Disney Parks reveal: Toy Story Land at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

Featuring new rides like the Slinky Dog Dash and Alien Swirling Saucers, as well as a carnival-themed 4-D arcade, Toy Story Land is primed to be the hottest ticket in Orlando this summer.

Important Information: Final dates have yet to be announced, but Toy Story Land is expected to open in time for the summer travel season. Some Disney hotels will also feature Toy Story décor this summer.

Provider: Disney’s Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando

Price: Starting at $99 for a one-day pass to Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Relax at a Floating Hotel Off the Coast of British Columbia

Ocean House

Located in the Haida Gwaii archipelago off the coast of British Columbia, the spectacular Ocean House floating hotel offers isolation-seekers the ultimate opportunity to experience a remote part of the world in virtual solitude.

Newly opened in 2018, the Ocean House offers three-, four-, and seven-night adventure travel packages highlighting the culture and natural environs of the local Haida people—all with unexpectedly luxurious touches. Activities include guided rainforest hikes amongst old-growth forests and up-close explorations of ancient Haida villages now returning to wilderness. Pair a stay at the Ocean House with the floating hotel’s sister property, the Haida House, located in the village of Tlell on Haida Gwaii’s east coast, for even more opportunities to explore and relax.

Important Information: Packages include return flights to Vancouver, as well as helicopter transfers to and from Ocean House. Meals, snacks, non-alcoholic beverages, and adventure activities are also included.

Provider: Ocean House in Haida Gwaii, British Columbia

Price: Starting at $4,410 per guest

Discover Cyprus, a Mediterranean Alternative to Croatia, with Intrepid Travel

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Tourists love the Mediterranean Sea so much that Europe’s most popular coastal countries become a sea unto themselves every summer—a sea of tourists, that is. But that’s not the case in sunny Northern Cyprus, a dream trip candidate that remains gloriously unspoiled by mass tourism. One of the best kept secrets in the region, Northern Cyprus delivers peaceful beaches and plenty of sunshine, sans crowds.

Intrepid Travel‘s new eight-day Northern Cyprus guided trip lets you explore ancient monasteries and fairytale castles (including Saint Hilarion Castle, said to be the inspiration for the castle in Disney’s Snow White and Seven Dwarfs), swim along the coast, and relax against an idyllic Mediterranean backdrop. It’s relatively inexpensive, too—especially considering what you get for the price: private transportation, seven nights’ accommodations, bread and cheese making experiences, a day cruise, and multiple castle and monastery visits.

Important Information: This eight-day trip runs four times between May and October 2018. The minimum age of participants is 15 years old. Maximum group size is 12 people.

Provider: Intrepid Travel

Price: Starting at $1,054 from Intrepid Travel

Witness Iceland’s Northern Lights with Wilderness Travel

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Once ignored considered more of a stopover than a destination in and of itself, Iceland is now among the top dream trips for adventure seekers and casual tourists alike. Yet even with its recent surge in visitors, the country shows no hint of being spoiled by its popularity. Perhaps that’s because the best parts of this sparsely populated island nation remain inaccessible except to the hardy few who venture into its vast and icy wilderness.

New for 2018, upscale adventure outfitter Wilderness Travel has assembled what might be the ultimate Icelandic experience: eight days of hiking, snowshoeing, and star gazing during the darkest months of the year in search of the elusive Northern Lights. If snowshoeing across lava fields and spelunking through lava tubes is your jam, this is the trip for you.

Important Information: This eight-day winter trip is recommended for those who are physically able to complete all excursions. Departures are offered in February, March, and November 2018.

Provider: Wilderness Travel

Price: Starting at $7895 from Wilderness Travel

Explore the Galapagos by Catamaran with Exodus Travel

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The Galapagos Islands need no introduction, but this new-for-2018 dream trip offers a whole new way to see this remote archipelago with popular adventure travel company Exodus Travel: onboard the Nemo II, a First Class Motor Sail Catamaran with room for the whole family.

This brand-new itinerary is the perfect trip for those looking to bring a dream family vacation to life. The itinerary includes snorkeling, guided walks through the islands, and plenty of up-close photo opportunities in Exodus Travel’s trademark responsible travel style.

Important Information: This is a leisurely trip appropriate for most fitness levels. The minimum age for participants is eight years old. Maximum group size is 14 people. Departures are available in April, July, and August 2018. A local leader accompanies travel parties on their adventure.

Provider: Exodus Travels

Price: Starting at $5,655 for adults and $5,385 for children from Exodus Travel

Experience Europe’s Last Great Adventure with Wild Frontiers Adventure Travel

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You have to be a certain kind of traveler to hear about a place called the “Accursed Mountains” and think to yourself, “Yes, that sounds like a dream trip to me.” If you’re just such a traveler, then a) we are kindred spirits, and b) get yourself to the Albanian Alps—the so-called Accursed Mountains—to discover a seemingly endless wilderness of alpine lakes, rugged river valleys, secluded villages, and staggering limestone gorges.

This is, in many respects, the last underexplored wilderness in Europe, and Wild Frontiers Adventure Travel‘s eight-day guided trip takes you there for a week’s worth of hardcore hiking against an indescribably spectacular backdrop.

Important Information: This trip requires a high level of physical fitness. All breakfasts, lunches, and dinners are included. You will spend five nights in hotels and two in local guesthouses. Departures are available in June and September 2018.

Provider: Wild Frontiers Adventure Travel

Price: Starting at $1,349 from Wild Frontiers Adventure Travel

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Josh Roberts believes the best trips involve long hikes and muddy boots. His life goals haven’t changed much since he was a kid: He still wants to be Indiana Jones when he grows up. Follow him on Instagram at @jauntist and on Facebook @JoshRobertsBooks.

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