A new year means a new exciting list of emerging destinations. From exotic Oman to mystical Chile, fascinating Ethiopia to raw and rugged Alaska, these are the places you need to start plotting into your calendars for the trip of a lifetime.

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Sri Lanka

Why? A new super-scenic train journey from Colombo to Jaffna has just relaunched, not to mention the amounts of fabulous resorts that are cropping up everywhere.

Tell me more: Go leopard spotting on safari in Yala National Park, watch spinner dolphins leap about in Kalpitiya, or get lost in the Dambulla Buddha caves, which are filled with Buddha statues.

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That is when you’re not exploring the architecture of Galle, trekking past lush green tea plantations, or blissfully doing nothing at all on the country’s golden beaches.

Chile

Why? It’s now easier to reach than ever thanks to new direct flights from London and Melbourne.

Tell me more: The sliver of land sandwiched between Argentina, Bolivia and the Pacific Ocean is having a moment.

Major appeal is due to its incredible nature – the hot springs, lagoons, geyser fields and the mystic Atacama Desert – but the cities are also gaining traction for being effortlessly cool.

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The capital, Santiago, is a buzzy place, perfect for wandering, eating, drinking and marvelling, and the port town of Valparaiso is an infectiously vibrant place in which to immerse yourself in local culture.

Tibet

Why? Political unrest means that Tibet is changing fast. Visit now when it’s at its traditional and beautiful best.

Tell me more: Sweeping landscapes, gentle people, less pollution, and a powerful religious spirit all contribute to the magic of Tibet.

Explore the maze of paved alleyways at Tashilhunpo Monastery, founded in 1447 by the first Dalai Lama who is buried there.

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Witness crowds of elderly locals as they descend on Lhasa, performing the kora, spinning their prayer wheels, and prostrating themselves on the ground.

Then leave the city behind and drink in the country’s soul-saving fresh air with a drive to the holy Yamdrok Lake and Namtso Lake.

Hawaii

Why? Scoot plans to launch a flight to Honolulu by the end of the year.

If you fly with United Airlines via the US island territory Guam you can clear US customs in a fraction of the time.

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Tell me more: You know about the exquisite beaches, technicolour coral reefs and surf potential. But Hawaii offers so much more in the shape of thrilling adventure; catch a helicopter flight to Haleakala National Park, Haleakala Crater and the Hana Rainforest Preserve – the largest rainforest in the US boasting incredible waterfalls and unparalleled views.

Oman

Why? The Sultanate of Oman has been bubbling under for some time and with new hotels at every turn, it’s showing no signs of slowing down.

Tell me more: Exotic, historic, unusual, adventurous and breathtakingly stunning, Oman offers a heady mix of desert, rugged coastal beaches, green valleys, old school bazaars and traditional Arabian beauty.

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We recommend a nine-day trip around the country incorporating dolphin watching in the Musandam Peninsular, dune bashing in a four-wheel-drive vehicle in Wahiba Sands, and relaxing at a mountain-top spa.

Bhutan

Why? The kingdom that famously held so fast to its traditional values is about to launch its first satellite in 2018, so to see the Himalayan kingdom that has remained untouched for centuries, it’s best to go now.

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Tell me more: Bhutan is a fascinating place and full of surprises. Here, ancient Buddhist traditions live alongside buzzy modern technology on a backdrop of environmental beauty.

A 10-day trip will take you on a circular tour of Paro, Thimphu and Punakha.

Along the way you’ll get the chance to drive through rhododendron forests, hike through paddy fields, and trek to the famed Tiger’s Nest monastery.

Mauritius

Why? This tropical island will celebrate 50 years of independence in 2018, so it’s ready to party! Plus, the local government is establishing the island as a hub for flights to mainland Africa.

Tell me more: Not just superb for a spot of sunbathing, Mauritius offers something for all.

Join a quad-biking trip through the Domaine de L’Etoile, or visit the Botanical Gardens where deer roam among ebony and cinnamon trees and there are more than 650 varieties of plants.

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If you prefer your activities watery, charter a catamaran, go snorkelling off the coast of Blue Bay, and enjoy a barbecue picnic prepared by your own chef.

Alaska

Why? New air routes mean its easier to reach and expedition companies such as Lindblad have launched new ships in the water.

Tell me more: If you want a unique experience, this is your destination!

Perfect for those with a sense of adventure, its purity and rawness present the ideal landscape for wild exploration.

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Kayak alongside sea lions, or take a ride in an inflatable Zodiac boat and get up close to humpback whales.

With scant phone coverage and little urban sophistication, this is a region where you can switch technology off and reconnect with real life.

Italy

Why? This long-time top destination never fails to deliver!

Tell me more: From urban boutiques to lakeside retreats, Mediterranean beaches to world-famous art galleries, this small European country can keep you busy forever.

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Home to the magnificent cities of crumbling Venice, beautiful Florence and ancient Rome, choosing just one destination here is almost impossible, which is why it makes sense to take in Italy in a Ferrari. Self-drive tours can take you everywhere, but we love the route from Rome along the Mille Miglia to Florence, and on to Lake Como.

Ethiopia

Why? A new international airport terminal and daily flights from Singapore mean that this is appearing on everyone’s bucket lists.

Tell me more: Go north from Addis and discover the churches of Lalibela that are hewn out of rock, or go south and visit Ethiopia’s Great Rift Valley, which is home to a dizzying array of wildlife including gazelles, baboons, zebra and hartebeest.

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Lastly, head to Turmi where you’ll find more than 50 ancient tribes living just how they have done for centuries.

Lucy Jackson is co-founder and director of bespoke tour operator Lightfoot Travel