Indians are travelling like never before. As against 18.33 million who zipped across the borders in 2014, over 50 million leisure travellers will be flying abroad in 2020, according to the United Nations World Travel Organisation. Fuelling this rising trend is a robust GDP growth, better air connectivity, the expanding footprint of low cost carriers and a surge in urban middleclass numbers that will hit 500 million by 2025. As 2019 dawns, which are some of the top travel destinations?

Qatar

All set to host the FIFA World Cup in 2022 and home to a thriving art scene, gravity defying architecture, and myriad cultural attractions, Capital city Doha is the place to be in 2019. Hop on a dhow to soak in dazzling sights as the vehicle cruises on an ocean of deep jewel tones. From cylindrical marvels, such as the Doha Tower swathed in Arabic script, to soaring sky-scrapers, Doha’s skyline is a testament to the country’s exponential growth as a progressive nation. The Doha Pearl, a manmade island with beach villas, hotels and apartments, is the city’s most exclusive address. The Pearl, Katara Cultural Village, is where you can admire Qatar’s rich art and culture. The open-air street market, Souq Waqif, offers gold, handmade rugs, spices, dry fruits, carpets, oudh, frankincense, perfume…The fact that Qatar offers visa-free travel for Indians, and Qatar Airways offers direct flights to Doha, makes it ideal for a speedy sojourn.

Turkey

One of the fastest growing tourism destinations in the world, Turkey is truly a fascinating country teeming with natural attractions, a beautiful coastline, UNESCO sites, stunning beaches and marinas, religious sites, modern museums and art galleries and shopping. Foodie travellers can have their fill of palatepleasing cuisines everywhere ~ from street vendors to Micehlin star restaurants. Turkey, a cultural and historical wonderland, is also considered one of the leading tourism destinations in the world due to its rich historic legacy. Adrenaline junkies can go hot air ballooning in Cappadoccia or discover breathaking marine fauna on Turkish islands. Experience a different kind of high visiting exhilarating Istanbul where old culture merges with new to create a magnetic melange.

Egypt

One of the world’s oldest civilizations, Egypt offers a rich smorgasbord of cultural, entertainment, adventure and culinary experiences. Temples, palaces, tombs, obelisks, pyramids, and historical museums pepper this beautiful North African country. In Cairo, nip up to the Pyramids’ plateau to view the pyramids, the Sphinx and the Solar Ship Museum. Cairo Museum astounds with its 1.2 lakh masterpieces while Amr Ibn El As Mosque, the Hanging Church and Ben Ezra Synagogue reflect the country’s secular ethos. Khan-ElKhalili, the atmospheric 500-yearold bazaar is great for souvenir hunting. A dinner on a floating restaurant on the Nile is the perfect end to a day. Or book a luxury cruise on Nile, the world’s longest river, from Luxor to Aswan. Alexandria, Egypt’s cultural hub along the Mediterranean Sea is a unique cosmopolitan city while Sharm El Sheikh and Hurghada are perfect for swimming, diving, snorkeling, windsurfing and hiking.

Singapore

What makes Singapore so exciting is that like a chameleon, it keeps changing its hues. In 2019, the pint-sized island nation is adding more oomph to its arsenal of attractions. Fancy bungy jumping on the beach? Head to AJ Hackett bungy tower on Siloso Beach or Sentosa Island for a death-defying plunge from the skyscraper. If vintage is what woos you, hop onboard for a “Singapore Sideways Vespa Tour”. The world’s first vintage Vespa sidecar tour service lets you experience the nation’s sights, sounds and flavours on a unique fleet of hand-restored vintage Vespa sidecars. You go whizzing through unexplored terrain, quaint alleyways, and enjoy personal encounters with locals around Kampong Glam, the Civic District, Chinatown, and the Joo Chiat-Katong area.

Kuwait

A constitutional emirate, Kuwait boasts a spectacular setting on the Persian Gulf fringed by one of Middle East’s most magnificent coastlines. Capital Kuwait City is home to beautiful museums, a corniche inlaid with combed beaches, fashionable restaurants, malls, marinas, and decadent resorts. The Kuwait Towers and the opulent Grand Mosque, also called Al-Masjid Al-Kabir flaunts intricate traditional Islamic architecture. Visit Dhow Harbour to see quaint old ships and dhows (once used for coastal trading, fishing, and pearl diving) sail into a syrupy sunset. Hop across to Failaka Island where the Heritage Village as well as camels and Arabian horses in stables offer you a quintessentially Arabic experience. Once an outpost of Alexander the Great’s army, Failaka also hosts Mesopotamian-era ruins and the remains of a turreted citadel

Hong Kong

A melange of the old and the new, Hong Kong is fun, atmospheric and yeah, densely populated. A major port and global financial hub it has a skyscraper-studded skyline. It is also famed for its bespoke tailors and the bustling Temple Street Night Market. Christmas and New Year sees Hong Kong lighting up with dazzling illuminations, elaborate decorations and festive cheer by Santa. Ho, ho, ho! Al fresco winter markets offer artisanal gifts and gourmet treats. A walk down Old Town Central, one of the oldest neighborhoods of Hong Kong, offers a mix of history, arts, food and culture. The Tian Tan Buddha, one of the many symbols of Hong Kong, watches over the city of Hong Kong like a benevolent deity. A 360-degree cable car ride to Lantau Island with jaw-dropping aerial view of the landscapes of Hong Kong is a mustdo.

Sultanate of Oman

Take an authentic Arabic travel experience, sprinkle genuine hospitality, a dash of scenic beauty, spice it up with world heritage monuments and a stunning coastline and what you have is a cool cocktail called Oman. Capital city Muscat, the showpiece attraction, brims with stellar architecture. The Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque and the Royal Opera combine structural beauty with Islamic design. Spike your adrenaline by going on a coastal tour of Muscat on a private yacht as friendly dolphins swim along with you. Drop anchor at Muttrah Souq to snap up artisanal antiques, s o u v e n i r s a n d a c h a t w i t h friendly locals. Trek, cycle, visit rose plantations. Glamping on your mind? At Sharqiya Sands you can sleep under a starlit canopy of desert stars while visiting local Bedouin houses to gain insights into nomadic culture.