Top Travel Destinations for 2018

By Stride Team
October 23, 2017

In the year 2018, our search data indicates that travelers are after unique and adventurous destinations.

And when we say adventurous, we mean those destinations that may seem like a faraway land, perhaps exotic, perhaps quite different culturally than our own.

The adventurous spirit seeks experiential travel that ventures away from the beaten path, but not so far that accommodations or culinary experiences are compromised.

These destinations are balanced with a mix of standards and classic destinations. Those that are more popular yet still offer so much to be revealed - a great reason to take a guided tour!

Here are the 7 fastest trending destinations for 2018

1. Morocco

Mosque in Morocco

Coming in at #1 is Morocco. A surprising result, perhaps! However, Morocco's mix of European influences, Arabic influences make it a classic destination. It's also one of the safer North African countries. Morocco's proximity to Spain makes for a fascinating cultural journey through food, art, architecture, and history.

From bustling markets to rolling dunes where you can ride camels, Morocco is appealing to those looking to get off the beaten path, stretch their comfort zone as a traveler, and still feel that classic sense of an ancient destination where many travelers paths have crossed.

Why is Morocco a top destination, and why should I take a tour?

Clark Norton, top Baby Boomer Blogger: "Morocco is easy to access (across the Straits of Gibraltar from Spain) yet unfailingly exotic. Fes and Marrakech are classic destinations; there are times when you'll feel you're back in the Middle Ages. Tours will lead you to the best places without having to wander around aimlessly in search of them (as I once did)."

Lindsay of The Vacation Project: "Morocco is a country that has experiences for every type of traveler. Whether you are looking to enjoy new food, experience new culture, or have an off the beaten path adventure, Morocco has it all.

Planning a trip to Morocco can be a little overwhelming because it is somewhat difficult to coordinate logistics such as traveling within the country, the language barrier and cultural differences. We recommend going to Morocco with a guided tour because it will allow you to meet your goals of the trip, respect their culture and just enjoy the trip."

Sherry Ott, Top Travel Blogger: "It's exotic, yet safe. The culture there is fascinating and colorful and I think everyone dreams of doing a camel trek in the Sahara - a bucket list item for sure!" 

2. Peru

Machu Picchu, Peru

The iconic site of Machu Picchu has attracted travelers to Peru for centuries. There are many ways now to visit the famous ruins high above the clouds, including the classic trek along the Inca Trail. But you can also visit in luxury aboard the train, which is famous for enormous viewing windows allowing you to take in the ancient countryside. 

The rest of Peru is often overshadowed by the sheer recognizability of Machu Picchu, but there is so much more to see! Many lesser known ruins scatter the country, and a tour can help you uncover theses, as well as the fascinating Lake Titicaca, the enigmatic Nazca Lines, and the wonderful Peruvian local culture.

Why is Peru a top destination, and why should I take a tour?

Silvia of Cultural Immersion: "There are few places in the world that preserves their culture as Peru does. Specially the andean areas have the special feel that you're thousands of years ago, in the Incan Time. The culture, the food, the people, the special animals and so on, plus the impressive Machu Picchu make people wants to come here."

Andrew Figari of Kuoda Travel: "Peru inspires amazement - it is complex with the most intricate and elaborate traditional weavings. With its rich and astonishingly varied landscapes, combined with the fact that with its stunning scenery Peru has thepower to stop people in their tracks. A compelling history, a legacy of fascinating cultures, civilizations, and foreign influences which have formed a harmonious ensemble that still exists today…Peru is literally a place for all interests and ages…"

Sherry Ott: "So many people have Machu Picchu on their list and it's for good reason - the site is phenomenal to see. Get your permits to hike the Inca trail early though as they sell out quickly - but it is the best way to see the sight, and only accessible on a guided tour. Nothing beats walking in through the Sun Gate!"

Claudia Tavani, Top Travel Blogger: "Peru is home of some of the most incredible archaeological sites in the world, and the best part of it is that these are immersed in nature and can be reached via some incredible hikes. Can't beat that!"

Laura Rosales, Say Hueque tours: "Peru is an amazing destination in South America to be visited. Full of interesting highlights: Lima, Cuzco, Machu Picchu, etc. The country combines the perfect mix of beautiful landscapes, cuisene, culture and so much more. Travellers should definitly travel to this part of the world to experience the magnificent legacy of the American Inca Empire."

3. Nepal

Prayer symbols in Nepal

Nepal grows exponentially in popularity year by year. This destination is not exactly a hidden secret for hikers and trekkers - its famous mountain peak has attracted die-hards to Evereset base camp and beyond for years.

Today, travelers who maybe are less inclined to want to trek, are beginning to discover the beauty of the country, and the friendly culture. 

Why is Nepal a top destination, and why should I take a tour?

Clark Norton: "Nepal offers friendly people, incredible scenery (the Himalayas!), ancient temples, and unforgettable places like Kathmandu. But it's not easy to get around there. Put your trust in local guides who can lead you on mountain treks or rafting on pristine rivers."

Toni Neubauer of Myths & Mountains: "Where can you find eight of the ten highest mountains in the world, a jungle where the one-horned rhinos is growing, a country that goes from 100 feet above sea level to Mt. Everest in less than 100 miles and that has more than 100 different ethnic groups?  

In Nepal, of course,  one of the true gems of the world. Now, with the increase in road building and helicopter touring, Nepal is a country not just for trekkers, but for those who want to visit without hiking. Travelers can pass through villages that have seen few visitors and stay in good lodges looking out on some of the most magnificent views the world has to offer." 

Sherry Ott: "They have the most majestic and epic mountain peaks in the world. That coupled with the welcoming people and unique culture is what makes it a top pick! The combination of trekking and culture really is unique to Nepal."

Claudia Tavani: "Nepal is home to the most incredible mountains I have ever seen. I don't think it gets better than that. The views of Annapurna South during the Poon Hill Circuit trek are simply stunning."

4. Croatia

Croatia town

Croatia is like the actor who has been doing very well in supporting roles for years, but finally broke through to leading A-lister. Now Croatia is offered the parts instead of auditioning! And one of those parts is as filming location for popular series Game of Thrones.

It doesn't take much imagination to picture yourself in Kings Landing as you stroll through Split and Dubrovnik. And even aside from this, Croatia is quickly growing as wine and food destination. Then there's the amazing coastal views, and the winding pathways of Plitvice National Park.

Why is Croatia a top destination, and why should I take a tour?

Clark Norton: "Not long ago, Croatia was the most underrated destination in Europe. Now it's simply a must see for its islands, jewel-like inland parks, and amazing cities like medieval Dubrovnik. Taking guided tours can make sure you tie all the disparate parts together."

5. New Zealand

Hobbit house in New Zealand

The landscapes of New Zealand offer stunning scenery, there are more sheep than people, and the people are some of the friendliest in the world. New Zealanders have a laid back additude, but don't let that fool you - the country is world renowned as an adventure travel captial.

Even if hard adventure isn't your thing, this small country has so much more to offer. A spectacular wine country, Lord of the Rings tours, glacier walks, fiords and sounds, amazing hikes, and wonderful dining. 

Why is New Zealand a top destination, and why should I take a tour?

Clark Norton: "One of the top competitors for world's most beautiful country. All three of its main islands -- North, South, and Stewart -- are stunning in different ways. From tropical beaches to snow-capped peaks, volcanoes, caves, "tramping" (hiking) through rainforests and over mountain passes, boat trips, vibrant cities, it offers a wealth of outdoor activities and a surprisingly diverse culture. New Zealand should not be missed, and guided tours will make sure you can take in as much as possible."

New Zealand is also a Lonely Planet 2018 pick!

6. Spain

Gaudi architecture in Spain

Culturally diverse Spain is one of the most popular Western European travel destinations. Delicious food and wine, incredible art and music, and a rich history make this a country to please all kinds of traveler.

Why is Spain a top destination, and why should I take a tour?

Clark Norton: "With or without Catalonia, Spain is one of Europe's classic destinations. In southern Spain, Seville, Granada, and Cordoba are home to palaces, grand mosques, and incredible Moorish architecture. Madrid and Barcelona are world-class cities, while Toledo, Valencia, San Sebastian, Mallorca and more testify to Spain's rich culinary and artistic heritage. How to make sense of it all? Guided tours will make sure you hit the highlights, though you may need multiple visits."

Claudia Tavani: "Forget about the southern coast. The North of Spain is packed with incredible sights: coastal villages, hiking trails, mountains, delicious food and wine and the vibe is just so easy going that one can't help falling in love with it."

7. Iceland

Iceland waterfalls

Iceland has become a major player on the world stage of tourism, erupting in popularity over the past decade. The country shares many similiarties with New Zealand in the spectacular landscapes, adventure travel opportunities, and friendly people. 

Unlike New Zealand, where the weather is fairly temperate year round, Iceland is a very different experience in the winter vs the summer. Both are at extremely given Iceland's place in the Arctic. If you visit in winter you'll have a chance to see the Northern Lights; however some activities may be off limits due to safety. In summertime you can experience 24 hour sunlight! But beware that the crowds are much heavier.

Iceland is ideal for travelers seeking a lot of time outdoors, hiking in national parks, visiting waterfalls, and generally being in awe of the landscapes. Photographers this is the tour destination for you!



Full List: Top 25 Destinations to Watch in 2018

1. Italy

Duomo in Florence Italy

Why is Italy a top destination, and why should I take a tour?

Clark Norton: "Three words -- Rome, Florence, and Venice -- perfectly explain Italy's appeal to art and architecture lovers, foodies, and history buffs. But then you add Sicily, the Amalfi and Ligurian coasts, Siena, Bologna, Parma, Lake Como, the whole of Tuscany (among many other places) and you have the complete package, comprising perhaps the world's most alluring destination. A guided tour can help hit the highlights or, if you're a veteran Italy traveler, help zero in on areas of special interest."

Claudia Tavani: "Do I need to spell it out? There's a good reason we call Italy "il bel Paese". No country in the world has such an incredible collection of art, history, archaeology, beautiful cities, villages, incredible festivals, and the best food in the world."

2. Spain

Spain statue and flag

3. Ireland

Castle in Ireland

Why is Ireland a top destination, and why should I take a tour?

Clark Norton: "Ireland -- especially the southwestern coast -- is one of the best places for walking tours in the world. Walk 10 miles per day across emerald green hillsides, stay in homey inns along the way, and explore offshore islands like Skellig Michael, dotted with ancient rounded huts once occupied by monks and hermits. The scenery is unforgettable, and your guide will take you to the top pubs for grub and brew."

Sherry Ott: "Ireland is the land of storytelling and I think many people want to go to hear the stories of the locals. It's rugged beauty is full of adventures that call you to become one with the land and the culture! Make sure you get out of the hot tourist spots and experience some more lesser known areas for a great experience!"

4. Cuba

Old Havana, Cuba

Why is Cuba a top destination, and why should I take a tour?

Claudia Tavani: "The hype about Cuba may be justified. The country is beautiful. Visitors beware though: scams are just around the corner."

Stride Editor: Unfortunately scams are a reality in Cuba - this is why taking a tour is highly advised; both for personal protection and to make your trip as enjoyable as possible!

5. Iceland

Waterfall in Iceland

6. Peru

Woman in traditional dress in Peru 


7. Alaska

Caribou in Alaska

Why is Alaska a top destination, and why should I take a tour?

Clark Norton: "America's last frontier is a favorite for small ship cruises that specialize in whale watching and docking in special places like Glacier Bay where large ships fear to tread. The mountains -- including Denali, America's highest -- the wilderness, the pristine waters all make Alaska a summertime must-see. Guides aboard small-ship cruises will take you up close to whales and other marine life, kayaking along coastal rivers, and on rain forest walks."

Sherry Ott: "It's the home of America's most beautiful landscapes and wildlife. I think people like to go there because it has an impressive beauty similar to Patagonia and New Zealand - but it's in the US and much easier and cheaper to get there! No passport required!"

Alaska is also a Lonely Planet 2018 pick!

8. India

Taj Mahal in India

Why is India a top destination, and why should I take a tour?

Claudia Tavani: "For as crowded, messy, and dirty as it is, India has that special light that makes you glow inside. I'd go back any time."

9. China

Forbidden City in China

Why is China a top destination, and why should I take a tour?

Alex Kallimanis, Top Travel Blogger: "From the impressive centuries old palaces of Beijing to the modern glitz of Shanghai, the world's most populated country has a wealth to offer visitors.

A visit to the Great Wall of China is a monumental step back in time, and should be on your bucket list. Consider a 144 hour free transit visa through Beijing or Shanghai to avoid the visa fees, and add another exciting city on your trip." 

China is also a Lonely Planet Pick!


10. Nepal

Prayer flags in Nepal

11. Greece

Ruins in Greece

Why is Greece a top destination, and why should I take a tour?

Clark Norton: "Greece combines mainland and island attractions like few other countries in the world. On the mainland, there are historical wonders like the Parthenon in Athens, Delphi, Olympia (site of the ancient Olympic Games), Mount Olympus, and Mount Athos.

The islands offer dozens of completely different landscapes and experiences -- from lush and verdant to stark and desert-like, but always surrounded by the deepest of blue waters. The food, people, art and architecture can all be enhanced by tour guides who know the local scenes and how to get around."

12. Morocco

Camels in Morocco

13. New Zealand

Sheep in New Zealand

Why is New Zealand a top destination, and why should I take a tour?

Isabel Leong, Top Travel BloggerNew Zealand is a haven for everyone who visits. The landscapes are out of this world - it's no wonder why Lord of The Rings, Wolverine, Chronicles of Narnia and many other movies were filmed here!

The glaciers, the lakes, the mountains, the forests, the rocks - they are each a wonder on its own, if you know how to appreciate them. The pace of life here is easy. You'll find people taking genuine interest in you, taking the time to talk to you and learn about your story and really being generous about sharing. Being in New Zealand, you cannot help but be outdoors, because of how therapeutic it feels.

14. Costa Rica

Monkey in Costa Rica

Why is Costa Rica a top destination, and why should I take a tour?

Lindsay, The Vacation Project: "Costa Rica is an incredible destination with an incredible amount of biodiversity and natural beauty. It is very easy to get to with all major airlines flying to San Jose and Liberia daily.

Costa Rica has worked to protect their rainforest and beaches and you will not be disappointed when visiting cities such as Arenal or Manuel Antonio. What's also unique to Costa Rica is that it is one of the few countries that is on both the Caribbean and Pacific coast giving travelers the option to visit calm turquoise water or some of the top surfing destinations in Central America.

Costa Rica is a big country and trying to decide what you should and shouldn't visit can be overwhelming. We recommend going to Costa Rica with a guided tour because it will allow you to meet your goals of the trip, not waste time coordinating logistics and just enjoy the trip!"

15. Japan

Pagoda in Japan

16. Canada

Bright blue lake in Canada

17. England

Stonehenge in England

18. Australia

Sydney Opera House, Australia

Why is Australia a top destination, and why should I take a tour?

Carolin, Top Travel Blogger: "Australia is an incredible diverse destination to explore. From the endless golden beaches and surf breaks to small hinterland villages, vineyards, national parks and the arid red center where you don’t see people or houses for hours.

Travelling Australia is special in many ways and it’s hard to not fall in love with its beauty and laid-back people and sunny lifestyle! Touring around Australia can be as easy as renting a campervan and getting on the road. Make sure you take all the essentials and fuel up as sometimes there might be big stretches without a petrol station or any shops. Instead you’ll find total tranquility and untouched stretches which make for great photo opportunities too." 

19. Vietnam

Halong Bay in Vietnam

Why is Vietnam a top destination, and why should I take a tour?

Clark Norton: "Two words -- the food -- are enough to bring you to Vietnam, but stay for the scenic beauty, the friendly people, the ancient culture, the modern history, the architecture and much more.

A river cruise down the Mekong is one good way to experience the country, but make sure your tour doesn't miss coastal gems like Hoi An or Halong Bay. And to top it off, Vietnam is one of the best bargains in the world."

Sherry Ott: "You go to Vietnam for the food and the history...and the food...did I mention the food?"

20. South Africa

Giraffe at Kruger National Park in South Africa

21. France

Eiffel Tower in France

22. Egypt

Camel and Pyramids in Egypt

Why is Egypt a top destination, and why should I take a tour?

Clark Norton: "Tourists are beginning to return to Egypt in big numbers after years of social unrest, especially taking river cruises down the Nile to view the ancient ruins of Luxor or the burial grounds of pharaohs in the Valley of the Kings.

Cairo and Alexandria are alluring cities, and of course the Giza Pyramids and Sphinx on the outskirts of Cairo are the lone survivors of the ancient Seven Wonders of the World. But Egypt can be chaotic, so a good guided tour can get you from place to place with none of the usual hassles."

23. Croatia

Dubrovnik in Croatia

24. Thailand

Thailand long boats

Why is Thailand a top destination, and why should I take a tour?

Jessica J. Hill, Top Travel Blogger: "Thailand captures hearts. At least it did mine. It's a place people often remember fondly as being 'magical' though putting those feelings into words is often hard to do. When I first went to teach English abroad, I lived in rural Northeast Thailand where I was able to fully immerse myself in the local culture and become a part of the community.

I've since traveled to all the more frequented places, and the sheer beauty of place, generosity of people and deliciousness of cuisine is enough to make any traveler return again and again. I now make it a point to return every year or two, and each time there is something new to explore, and something new to love about it." 

25. Scotland

Bridge in Scotland

Thank you to everyone who contributed!

Clark Norton - Top Baby Boomer Blogger and Travel Writer at

The Vacation Project - New tour operator on Stride, heavy focus on responsible tourism, local experiences, and community involvement. Read about The Vacation Project

Kuoda Travel - New tour operator on Stride, specializing in Peru travel. Family friendly tours, luxury, and culturally immersive feel. Read about Kuoda Travel

Myths & Mountains - Tour operator specializing in travel to "Exotic" locations particularly in Asia. They are well suited to older travelers who crave a bit of adventure and are open to comfortable but basic accommodation. Read about Myths & Mountains

Sherry Ott - Top travel blogger, influencer, and photographer at Ottsworld. Also runs Meet Plan Go, helping busy working professionals plan career breaks and extended travel experiences.

Claudia Tavani - Top travel blogger at My Adventures Across the World

Alex Kallimanis - Top travel blogger at Wanderlust Marriage Travel

Jessica J. Hill - Top travel blogger at Miss Adventure Travel

Carolin Pilligrath - Top travel blogger at Breathing Travel

Isabel Leong - Top Travel Blogger at Bel Around the World

Our methodology:

This article presents results of a study which examined Stride Travel's Internal Data based on search query volume and aggregated, anonymized Google Analytics data for the past one and half years, ending in Aug. 2017. Results from 2016 and 2017 were compared to evaluate hypothesized change in search volume for a given destination.

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