12 Destinations To Visit in 2018: Where To Go in the Middle East and North Africa
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Our top 12 destination to visit in 2018 will have you boating up legendary rivers, exploring twisting laneways of Moroccan hamlets, hiking stunning desert nature reserves, going back in time at the City of 1001 Churches, marveling at modern masterpieces of Islamic architecture, and discovering UNESCO heritage villages in Turkey.
Start planning your 2018 travel adventures with the help of our top 12 places to go. We hope this list fuels your travel inspirations!
Sailing The Nile River, Egypt
While most travelers to Egypt visit the Red Sea resorts, the Giza Pyramids (still not to be missed), the Cairo Museum (another must see on any Egypt trip) and the tombs and temples of Luxor; surprisingly few hop on a boat and travel the Nile Valley. The stretch of Nile River from Luxor to Aswan is a beautiful area to cruise in a boat. Rugged desert cliffs border the Nile Valley, rising dramatically from the valley floor. Small villages dot the sides of this snaking river. Tombs and temples from antiquity appear in different key locations along the Nile. It’s a journey that seems to take travelers back in time.
Why Visit Now: While sailing the Nile is still uncrowded compared to pre-2011, travelers are again beginning to take Nile cruises in growing numbers. You may have stretches of the Nile to yourself now, but that won’t be the case for long. Take advantage of this time when Egypt isn’t packed with travelers.
Getting There: Nile cruises depart from Luxor, Esna and Aswan and vary in length from 3 days on a week or longer.
Snatch one of the last spots on ArchaeoAdventures’ Egypt: Treasures of the Nile Tour and cruise up the Nile in our private Dahabia boat.
Moulay Idriss, Morocco
A small town located on two hills surrounded by olive groves as far as the eye can see, Moulay Idriss is well off the beaten path for most travelers and well worth the journey to get there. For Muslims, Moulay Idriss is the holiest city in Morocco. In fact, if you can’t journey to Mecca for your pilgrimage, a pilgrimage to Moulay Idriss counts in its place. Idriss I is buried here. He founded the first dynasty in Morocco and brought Islam to Morocco. Moulay Idriss is a classic Moroccan hill town, with quaint twisting lane ways, cute donkeys, and friendly locals.
Why Visit Now: Moulay Idriss is still pretty undiscovered by tourists, but more and more travelers and visiting every year. Enjoy this quaint town while it’s still very local and untouristy.
Getting There: Moulay Idriss can be reached by taxi, private car, shared taxi or bus from Meknes or Fez.
ArchaeoAdventures offers tours to Morocco with the option to add on extensions to great off-the-beaten path places like Moulay Idriss.
Dana Nature Reserve, Jordan
Jordan’s largest nature reserve, the Dana Nature (or Biosphere) Reserve is a diverse and rugged landscape to explore. With over 703 plant species, 215 different species of birds and over 38 mammal species. Dramatic gorges and unique rock formations make this landscape completely unique. Dana Nature Reserve has excellent camping, hiking, and nature walks.
Why Visit Now: Spectacular hiking. Gorgeous landscapes. Great eco-lodges. It’s an exciting destination for 2018!
Getting There: You do need a car or other type of private transportation to reach the Dana Nature Reserve. Overnight trips can be organized through the Wild Jordan lodges and camp sites.
In 2019, we’re thrilled to be offering a tour to Jordan which will include this incredible biosphere.
Ani, in northeastern Turkey, is the once mighty Bagratid Armenian capitol. At the height of its power over 100,000 people lived here. From 961 to 1045 AD, the city was poised at the centered many important trade routes and was termed the “City of 1001 Churches.” Today the ruins are scattered across miles of farm land, but the main complex is located about a 1 hour drive from Kars. Churches still tower over the land in this massive archaeological complex. The main complex stands on the edge of a dramatic gorge. It’s a stunning location far too few travelers reach.
Why Visit Now: Ani is still pretty far off the beaten tourist path, though that could change quickly at any time. There is a good tourist infrastructure in the neighboring town of Kars, making Ani not too difficult to visit. Go now while you have it all to yourself.
Getting There: You can reach Kars by plane or multi-day bus from Istanbul. In Kars, hire a local guide or rent a car to reach the magnificent site of Ani.
Known as Morocco’s blue city, Chefchaouen is situated in the Rif Mountains. Founded in 1417 AD, it’s population surged when many Muslims and Jews settled here from Granada in 1492 AD. They brought the Andalusian culture, as well as heavily influenced the town’s architecture. Explore Chefchaouen’s pastel blue medina – a scene straight out of a postcard. This quaint town is also know for it’s handicrafts, particularly weaving. The surrounding mountains and forested valleys make for great day hikes. Chefchaouen is a place to linger and soak up Moroccan mountain-life in a place that feels straight out of a Dr. Suess book.
Why Visit Now: Chefchaouen is a gorgeous pastel blue hamlet tucked into a fold in Morocco’s Rif Mountains. It should be on any itinerary to Morocco. It’s an amazing destination.
Getting There: Chefchaouen can be reached by private car or bus from Fez, Meknes or Tangier.
Join ArchaeoAdventures’ Majestic Morocco tour in 2018 and explore this magical city.
The great Phoenician capital that challenge the Romans – Carthage. Not much is left today after the Romans razed the city in 146 BC at the end of the Third Punic Wars. None the less, the ruins of the once might Carthage are still spectacular to visit. Their location on the Mediterranean in today what is now an affluent Tunisian suburb of Carthage make this area both interesting to explore from historic and modern perspectives. Walking along what is left of the mosaic courtyards, through the once massive bathing complexes and amongst the formerly grand villas – you can imagine how life would have been when Carthage was at its zenith.
Why Visit Now: Magnificent views, historic ruins, and the gorgeous Mediterranean coastline – Carthage is a fantastic place to explore. Tunisia’s economy is recovering and the tourism industry is again growing.
Getting There: Carthage is easily reached 45 minutes by train from Tunis’ main train station.
Abu Simbel, Egypt
Abu Simbel, one of the greatest PR statements from the ancient world and Ramses II’s impressive edifice to himself. In antiquity, it was one of the earliest large scale PR campaigns – recounting the events as Ramses II wanted them told of the Battle of Kadesh (he in fact did no vanquish the enemy but made a dramatic retreat). Abu Simbel is flat out a stunning example of ancient Egyptian architecture and modern conversation techniques. When the High Dam was built (which would have submerged Abu Simbel), archaeologists and conversation engineers literally took apart the temple and rock it was carved in piece by piece and reassembled it in a safe location. This cutting edge, colossal task to move the entire temple is recounted in a wonderful museum on the site.
Why Visit Now: Abu Simbel is flat out jaw-dropping and worth every once of energy to get there. While Egypt’s tourism industry is beginning to boom again, few travelers still make the effort to get down here. Enjoy the fewer crowds, since in the coming years more and more travelers will be making the journey to Abu Simbel.
Getting There: Abu Simbel can be reached by car from Aswan or via flights rom Cairo, Aswan, Luxor.
Grab one of the last few spots on ArchaeoAdventures’ Egypt: Treasures of the Nile Tour and discover the wonder of Abu Simbel.
Little Petra, Jordan
Little Petra, as its name suggests, is a collection of Nabatean ruins near the main complex of Petra. It’s an extension of the larger Nabatean capital that Petra is part of. Buildings carved directly into the banded sandstone line the canyon walls. Located on the Silk Road trade route, Little Petra (like the main Petra complex) was an important commercial center. With about 450m of canyon to explore, Little Petra is a great half day excursion from Wadi Musa and the main Petra complex. The best part of Little Petra – it has the stunning carvings of Petra but with the crowds. Visit late in the day on a Friday; pack your picnic lunch and join local families picnicking on amongst the colorful geological formations along the road to Little Petra.
Why Visit Now: Little Petra is still off the grid for most travelers, getting overshadowed by its big brother. Go now while you can still enjoy this site relatively uncrowded.
Getting There: Little Petra can be visited by car or rented taxi. It’s about 30 minutes from Wadi Musa.
In 2019, we’re thrilled to be offering a tour to Jordan which will include visits both to Petra and Little Petra (as well as Petra by night).
Abu Dhabi, UAE
The capital of the UAE, Abu Dhabi is the countries administrative center and often can feel more liveable than its flashier neighbor Dubai. With beautiful mangrove forests for strolling, boardwalks along the Persian Gulf and plenty of arts and museums, Abu Dhabi is well worth the visit. The main attraction though is the stunning Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. An example of Islamic architecture at its best, this mosque is both beautiful and an architectural wonder. Arrive in the afternoon and stay until evening to view the coordinated lights turning on. It is one of the most unique mosques in the world.
Why Visit Now: While many travelers only visit Dubai, Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque alone is worth the visit to Abu Dhabi. The slower pace of the capital city, along with many new excellent museums make Abu Dhabi well worth spending a few days.
Getting There: Abu Dhabi can be reached by car or train from Dubai. Flights also fly direct into Abu Dhabi.
Often not on many traveler’s radar, the country of Oman is located between, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. It’s capital city of Muscat is a lovely town of whitewashed buildings, turquoise domed mosques and a sweeping corniche along the sea. Backed up against the rugged Western Al Hajar Mountains, Muscat looks like a glittering oasis in an arid landscape. Traditional Omani architecture, wide leafy boulevards, chic cafes, traditional local eateries and world class opera and ballet make Muscat a fascinating city to explore.
Why Visit Now: Oman is still off many traveler’s radar making it a perfect time to visit this fascinating country. Gorgeous landscapes, world class art, beautiful architecture and friendly locals make Oman a wonderful country to explore.
Getting There: Many international flights fly into Oman.
Red-tiled roofs, cream-colored buildings, traditional Ottoman architectures and well-kept cobbled lanes – Safranbolu feels like stepping back in time to the height of the Ottoman era. Its name comes from its location at the center of saffron cultivation and trade. This UNESCO historic town in Turkey’s Black Sea region gives a snapshot into the Ottoman period. With well-preserved Turkish baths, mosques, historic fountains, Ottoman mansions, caravanserais and even a sundial, Safranbolu is a fascinating town to spend a few days exploring its nooks and crannies.
Why Visit Now: Beautifully preserved, Safranbolu provides a look into Turkey’s Ottoman past and is a quaint cozy place to spend a few days.
Getting There: The town can be reached by bus or car from Istanbul.
In Egypt, visit Giza to marvel at the colossal Great Pyramid, one of the most impressive building feats in human history. And also now packed with tourists and touts. Then go to Dahshur to get up close and personal with a just as impressive collection of pyramids and have it all to yourself. The Red Pyramid and the Bent Pyramid at Dahshur were built by Khufu’s (the builder of the Great Pyramid) father Snefru. While Khufu had the largest pyramid, Snefru was the most prolific pyramid builder with 4-7 pyramids to his name. On a clear day at Dahshur, you can see Saqqara off in the distance. Dahshur is also home to the Black Pyramid and many satellite pyramids, as well as remains of mortuary temples. It’s impressive site – but the real gem is enjoying these amazing architecture wonders while having it all to yourself.
Why Visit Now: Few travelers venture to Dahshur. Arrive early and you’ll have it all to yourself. Arrive late and you may share it with one or two other intrepid travelers. Visit this site now while you can still enjoy it without the crowds.
Getting There: Dahshur is located 1-1.5 hours drive from Cairo. It is best reached by private car.
Book one of the last few spots on ArchaeoAdventures’ Egypt: Treasures of the Nile Tour and add on an extra day to visit the incredible site of Dahshur.
Join an ArchaeoAdventures Tour and explore the best of Egypt, Morocco and soon Jordan.
Learn about the culture from our expert local female guides, experience and explore like a local, get off the beaten path and create unforgettable memories.