Top travel picks for 2019

You have to have a head for heights to tackle the Via Ferrata in the Dolomites
You have to have a head for heights to tackle the Via Ferrata in the Dolomites
Need a healthy dose of inspiration for your next active holiday? We caught up with some TV presenters, travel writers, a trip researcher and videographer to find out what their European top travel picks for 2019 are. 
Veteran journalist, author and TV presenter George Negus wants to head to Italy next year for some down time after escorting two groups on back-to-back Travel for the Mind trips in Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian Occupied Territories with our friends at World Expeditions.
Italy seems small compared with Australia, but we never cease to discover or rediscover somewhere to go there. We still have beautiful friends in San Giovanni Valdarno, south of Florence, where we lived back in 2000 – so we’ll head there for some familiar bella Italia, either to La Locanda Cuccuini or Valle Verde Agriturismo, both run by friends who have high values around growing and serving their own food and wine or the stunning cured meats of the local macelleria in via Roma. We return because it feels like a second home even though it’s nearly 20 years since we lived there with our boys. Italians aren’t big travelers and it’s rare for any of them to venture as far as Australia so we must go to them. 
We’ll also return to Puglia even though it’s now been discovered of course. It’s a big region with wonderful regional Sagre’s celebrating local specialty food and wine and several now famous ‘slow’ restaurants. The Mediterranean climate enables us to spend the whole day in the water, chatting away with no risk of collapsing from the sort of intense heat of an Australian summer. 
Natural swimming pool in PugliasPuglia in southern Italy boasts hundreds of kilometres of Mediterranean coastline 
Travel writer Allison Stewart can’t get enough of Europe. Last year she went cycling in the Dolomites with her husband, and next year she’s off to France for more cycling and to tackle part of the Camino de Santiago.
I'm off to France in 2019 - not just to walk the second leg of the Le Puy Camino from Aumont to Conques, but also to cycle the Dordogne. Why France? In my opinion, with Italy, it's close to Europe's most ravishing country - rich in culture, gorgeous and varied landscapes, a gastronomic paradise, and I love the French and their approach to life. Plus a trip to France always involves Paris and you can never get too much Paris! My plan is to one day have traversed every square inch of the French countryside on foot or by bike, thus enabling me to eat to my heart's content. Bliss.
Walking through Conques on the Le Puy WayVisit medieval villages like Conques as you walk or cycle the French Way of St James 
John Millen is one of our best guides in the UK and a chief researcher for our sister company Sherpa Expeditions.. Although he’s been just about everywhere, he managed to think of two places in Europe he longs to visit.
When I was tiny I was enthralled by my great uncle’s accounts of serving behind the front lines looking after the warhorses. With the 1918 centenary, it’s a poignant time to think about the conflict and Cycle the Western Front winds around the area very much at the centre of the conflict as the Allies tried to prevent the German forces reaching Paris and the channel ports. Crete, the White Mountains and the Samaria Gorge, was the first European tour I ran for Sherpa Expeditions back in 1991. It was a two week trip with a lot of walking including a couple of bivouacs – things were wilder then! 
I can remember the smell of the pines and junipers and the taste of Greek yoghurt with honey in the mornings. There was enthralling sea swimming off Loutro and Agia Roumeli. The new UTracks trip, the Santorini and Crete Guided Walk, has elements of that first trip and includes Santorini, which is still on my bucket list after all these years.
Loutro harbour in CreteThe beautiful, tiny and remote seaside village of Loutro in Crete 
TV presenter and videographer Tim Charody is a leading authority on adventure travel, whose face appears on many of our travel videos, including our CaminoMont Blanccycling in France and Croatia Bike & Sail videos. Here's what's on his bucket list for 2019:
Iceland, because I spent a month sailing down the coast of Greenland recently and it triggered a true love affair with these high latitude destinations. Iceland is home to such a rugged, wild, beautiful landscape, dotted with quaint little villages that are home to people living and breathing a culture that harks back to the days when ancient Norse people eked out a living on this beautiful, yet rugged island. To me it seems like a place where fairy tales are made and I'd love to explore it myself.
Again, my love affair with high latitude destinations draws me to Finland but also to experience a culture that is sandwiched between Scandinavia and Russia. Most Finnish people I have met seem to be a lot of fun so I guess I want to go to the source and meet them on their home turf. The scenery is meant to be magnificent as well and I'd love to get up to Lapland in the north to visit the Sámi Reindeer herders.  
Finally, Bulgaria because I feel like it's a bit misunderstood by many travellers and often passed by in favour of its wealthier neighbours but I would like to explore this country, learn more about it's folk lore, music, people and explore it's countryside. 
Travel writer Andrew Bain loves to explore Europe on two wheels or in boots amongst alpine passes. Some of his favourite trips include cycling in the Baltics and the Tour de Monte Rosa Walk in Switzerland.
If I could go anywhere in Europe in 2019 it would be the Dolomites to spend time exploring the Via Ferrata routes that lace the mountains there. They're a step above hiking and step below rock climbing - plenty of high exposure without the need to put in your own gear and rope.
The Via Ferrata 'iron ways' in the DolomitesAdd a new dimension to hiking the pristine alpine wilderness of the Dolomites on our Via Ferrata Guided Walk
What's on your bucket list for 2019? Tell us in the comments.
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