In my home, it's never too early to be looking ahead when it comes to travel planning. And as the end of the year approaches, that means we are eagerly looking at where we want to go in 2018.
Let's take a look at In The Loop Travel's top travel hot spots for 2018, as well as one spot I think you should consider avoiding.
Our seven top travel destinations . . .
We recommend: Visit the historic village of Sintra, take a cruise on the Douro River or hike and bike in Peneda-Geres National Park in the northern region. Also, check out Cascais, Madeira Island, Porto and Funchal.
We recommend: The capital city of Ljubljana, which is surrounded by natural parks and is full of buildings featuring interesting and well-preserved examples of Baroque and Renaissance architecture. Also, consider Piran, a seaside town known as the Slovenian Venice. Be sure to visit Lake Bled, a stunningly picturesque destination with Bled Castle and a host of spa resorts.
We recommend: Rent a car and see as much as possible. Try a Golden Circle route. Iceland is a rugged land of black sand beaches, hot springs, lagoons and waterfalls. Bring your hiking gear and get outside for all-day activities. Make sure to see Gullfoss Falls, the Blue Lagoon and Thingvellir National Park.
We recommend: Hike up to St. John's Fortress, which looms over Kotor. Enjoy the views of the long fjord and surrounding hills. Then, return to the tiny Old Town below for a meal and refreshing beer. Montenegro is filled with rugged mountains and Medieval villages. Here are the best spots for a good hike: Prokletije National Park, Lovcen National Park and Durmitor National Park (around the village of Zabljak). Also, check out the unusual cliffside Ostrog Monastery, which is carved out of a cave in the side of the giant rock Ostroska Greda.
We recommend: Book a cruise that visits Caribbean destinations like Puerto Rica, the Virgin Islands, St. Maarten and Antigua. Tourism dollars are vital to helping life return to normal for people in the affected areas. The islands that have been hit hardest have begun reopening for visitors, and we can help accelerate the pace of recovery by planning to go back ASAP.
We recommend: Visit Ho Chi Minh City to discover the buzzing streets and its museums and food. Check out the UNESCO World Heritage site of Halong Bay and the thousands of limestone islets that poke from its waters. Book a cruise on the Mekong River to fully immerse yourself into the culture and farming and fishing lifestyles of the villages along this vital natural resource.
We recommend: The best way to see these destinations is with expert guides on an expedition cruise. These remote places cover more than 10 percent of the Earth's surface and are a delight for true adventurers. Only 35,000 people a year travel to these regions, but that number is on the rise. So, go soon to see them is their most peaceful state.
But recent violence and new governmental campaigns make it impossible for me to recommend going any time soon. The U.S. State Department has updated its travel warnings for the country because of threats from terrorists and violent political opposition groups.
These threats are part of the equation for this region of the world nowadays. That is understood. Much of the recent violence in Egypt has occurred in the Western Desert and Sinai Peninsula, and the main tourist areas have tight security, especially in tourist zones.
But the more troubling thing to me is the movement in the country to crack down on protections for members of the nation's LGBT community. The climate has become increasingly hostile. Egypt has seen an overall erosion of personal freedoms, as well as hostile hate campaigns and rhetoric coming from members of government and religious institutions.
This makes the country a highly unattractive place to want to spend your time and precious tourist dollars.
Now it's your turn. Please comment below with some of the places you want to go to in 2018.
What other countries should make the Hot Spot List?
Thanks for reading, and happy travels!