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The Best Long-Haul Trips US Vacationers Can Take in 2018

Picture of Stephen Woodman
Updated: 18 November 2017
Vacations in far-flung destinations are about more than just relaxing. Sometimes a trip abroad can be an eye-opening, life-changing experience. From safari getaways to historic cities, here are 10 long-haul destinations that are certain to broaden your horizons.

Japan

Perfectly balanced between history and tradition, Japan is one of the world’s most unique and fascinating cultures. The thriving metropolis of Tokyo offers visitors the hip neighborhoods of Harajuku and Shibuya, which boast eccentrically dressed urban tribes and culinary wonders. The capital’s Tsukiji fish market is another exciting cultural curiosity, packed with fishmongers flogging everything from tuna to fugu, and the infamous puffer fish which is poisonous if prepared incorrectly.

Just outside Tokyo are a range of more laid-back cultural highlights, including the coastal town of Kamakura, which has a monumental bronze Buddha statue.

Nepal

Home to the earth’s highest mountain, Nepal is famed for its geographical splendor. Mount Everest is of course its must-see sight, but the country is also blessed with the stunning glacial lakes of Gokyo Valley. The South Asian country is bursting with cultural life, with more than 30 different ethnic groups and some 120 languages spoken by Nepali people.

Buddhist monks in Nepal
Buddhist monks in Nepal | © Pixabay

China

World-famous sights are in plentiful supply in China, a vast country which indulges tourists with a wealth of scenic and historic attractions. The two most iconic sights are the Great Wall and Xi’an’s Terracotta Army. Visitors to Beijing can walk on the renovated parts of the Great Wall before taking a night train or flight to Xi’an to take in its famous collection of more than 8,000 terracotta soldier sculptures. Round out your trip with a visit to a traditional Chinese teahouse to make sure that this vacation won’t ever be forgotten.

Xi’an’s Terracotta Army
Xi’an’s Terracotta Army | © Pixabay

Laos

Blessed with stunning natural beauty, the landlocked country in Southeast Asia has become increasing popular with travelers looking beyond the nearby tourist hubs of Thailand and Malaysia. Vientiane, the country’s capital, boasts Pha That Luang, a huge, gold-covered Buddhist stupa that is the national symbol of Laos.

Pha That Luang in Vientiane, Laos
Pha That Luang in Vientiane, Laos | © Samnang Danou/Flickr

India

With its otherworldly beauty, fascinating heritage sites and mesmerizing culture, it’s little wonder that India is a land known for offering life-changing experiences. Delhi and Mumbai are a definite must, but the country offers an infinity of other wonders. Varanasi in northern India is one of the most beautiful and spiritual cities in the country. Situated on the banks of the Ganges, the city is known for the many monkeys that jump from its roofs like parkour runners.

Monkeys in Varanasi
Monkeys in Varanasi | © Pixabay

Mauritius

The island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean boasts unblemished beaches, dazzling azure seas and an engaging and unique culture. The nature reserve and island of Île aux Aigrettes is a truly breathtaking attraction home to a vast number of endangered plants and animals. Reaching a height of more than 270 feet (82 meters), the waterfalls of Chamarel are another spectacular sight.

Beach in Mauritius
Beach in Mauritius | © Pixabay

Madagascar

Nature-lovers will love Madagascar, which boasts incredible biodiversity and wildlife not found anywhere else on earth. The island of Nosy Be offers some of the world’s most gorgeous beaches. Isalo National Park is another great destination, boasting a massive variety of terrain, including grass prairie lands, sandstone mountains and turquoise waterfalls.

Lizard in Madagascar
Lizard in Madagascar | © Pixabay

South Africa

Boasting spectacular scenery, vibrant cosmopolitan hubs and some of the world’s best safari, South Africa is a destination that should be on everyone’s bucket list. The gorgeous and fashionable port city of Cape Town is Africa’s answer to Rio de Janeiro, boasting splendid beaches, imposing mountains and a lively arts scene. South Africa also offers some of the world’s best safari. Kruger National Park is one of the largest game reserves in Africa, populated with lions, elephants, giraffes and all manner of other wildlife.

Cape Town, South Africa
Cape Town, South Africa | © Ian Swithinbank/Flickr

Italy

The Amalfi Coast offers some of the world’s most impressive scenery, and is a must-see for any visitor to Italy. Scattered throughout the region, you will find colorful towns perched improbably on cliff faces, friendly locals and delicious seafood. The historic southern metropolis of Naples is another great destination for tourists looking beyond the tourist hubs of Rome and Florence. Undoubtedly more rough and ready than anything you’ll find in Tuscany, Naples is brimming with energy and history.

Positano, Italy
Positano, Italy | © Pixabay

Iceland

With its piping hot geysers and looming volcanoes, Iceland boasts some of Europe’s most dramatic natural wonders. History buffs should head to Þingvellir National Park, where the Vikings established the world’s first democratic parliament in 930 AD. As well as containing the ruins of the parliament site, Þingvellir is set in a scenic rift valley.

Þingvellir National Park, Iceland
Þingvellir National Park, Iceland | © Pixabay