If you are busy working or taking care of you family, you know that it’s a good idea planning your trips in advance. This year I’ve done some research and made a selection of the top 10 countries to visit in 2016. In the research I included some information from Lonely Planet, Travel + Leisure, National Geographic, Conde Nast Traveler, Business Insider, Forbes. According to the mentioned above there are plenty of destinations to visit this year and their top 10s are very different.
Why countries and not cities you’ll ask. Well, these destinations can’t be visited by only stopping in one place. And the capitals often doesn’t show the beauty of the counrty. But still the 2015’s top searched in destinations according to Google are mostly cities (European capitals). The chart is collated using spikes in interest as opposed to volume of searches. A noticeable difference is that Paris (previously the most googled destination for 2014) is not even in the top 10.
Note: Most of the destinations are not cheap at all. Or acrtually the plane tickets aren’t.
Note 2: I really wished to write this article from my personal experience, but unfortunately I’ve never been to these countries. All of them are already in my bucket list!
Top 10 countries to visit in 2016
Few places have the biological diversity of Costa Rica, with its cloud forests, wetlands, and tens of thousands of unique species of flora and fauna. All trails seem to lead to waterfalls, misty crater lakes or jungle-fringed, deserted beaches. Explored by horseback, foot or kayak, Costa Rica is a tropical choose-your-own-adventure land. And then there are the people. Costa Ricans, or Ticos as they prefer to call themselves, are proud of their little slice of paradise, welcoming guests to sink into the easygoing rhythms of pura vida. With the highest quality of life in Central America, all the perfect waves, perfect sunsets and perfect beaches seem like the pure life indeed.
Helpful links: Visit Costa Rica
Hawaii’s sand and surf need no introduction, but the archipelago broadens its appeal next year for lovers of food, history and adventure. The islanders are gearing up for the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbour and two of the premier attractions – Haleakalā National Park on Maui and Volcanoes National Park on Big Island– turn 100. Hawaii Regional Cuisine, a culinary movement that began in the ’90s, has become a fully-fledged way of life. Try the locally sourced menus in Honolulu’s hot Chinatown restaurants, sip a farm-to-cup coffee on a Maui agricultural tour or grab a Hawaiian plate lunch at a bustling farmers’ market on O’ahu. Combine all this with hiking along the smoking crevasse of a volcano, swimming among kaleidoscopic tropical fish or catching a giant roller on O’ahu’s North Shore and there you have the right mix to make Hawaii one of 2016’s best destinations.
For those seeking beauty and adventure, consider adding the Hawaiian island of Kauai. Not only is Kauai geologically the oldest of the main Hawaiian Islands, it’s also the greenest — nicknamed the “Garden Isle” for its lush rainforests and beautiful vegetation. It’s no wonder the island was once reserved for summer getaways for the Hawaiian elite.
Botswana is a unique destination: an unusual combination of desert and delta that draws an immense concentration of wildlife. It is wild, pristine and expansive. Seventeen percent of the country is dedicated to national parks, many of them spreading into the vast Transfrontier parks of Kavango-Zambezi and Kgalagadi. Botswana is so full of life-changing experiences it would be easier to list the things that aren’t remarkable. Here is a real wilderness that puts you in touch with palpable primitive thrills and fears, whether it’s being poled by an African gondolier in a mokoro past pods of sunbathing hippos in the Okavango Delta. Feeling the spirit of the first men in the thousand-year-old rock art in the Tsodilo Hills or the beauty of Kubu Island’s ancient baobabs backlit by incandescent constellations in a vast night sky.
In a part of the world not given to small gestures and bland landscapes, Botswana’s Okavango Delta still manages to leap out at a person as a singularly unlikely miracle. A massive fan of water that gets its start in rivers percolating out of the deciduous forests of Angola’s highlands, the delta evaporates 200 miles later in the sands of the Kalahari Desert. This wilderness is one of the last places to see the Big Five of the traditional African safari: elephant, lion, buffalo, leopard, and rhinoceros.
Brazil may claim more than half of the world’s largest rainforest, but Ecuador’s stretch is equally accessible and impressive. Tours led by Napo Wildlife Center take you deep into the jungle, where spiders are the size of your fist and caiman eyes glow red at night as your canoe glides silently, cautiously past.
The capital Quito’s Old Town (UNESCO World Heritage site) is an architectural treasure trove yet the soaring mountain setting makes it breathtaking. Explore the seat of the Ecuadorian Presidency (current incumbent Rafael Correa) at ornate Palacio del Gobierno, known for its striking mural of Orellana descending the Amazon. Gawk at the entrancing chapel-come-museum of Capilla del Hombre, in the Bellavista district. Take the Teléferiqo (cable car) up Volcán Pichincha to 4100m for unforgettable city views. Book your berth on the weekend train up to the base of one of the world’s highest active volcanoes, Volcán Cotopaxi.
If the Galápagos island chain 600 miles from mainland Ecuador has been a notable spot since Darwin visited way back in 1835, why cross it off your bucket list now? The main reason to go is to experience the amazing biodiversity, and you’ll see more Galápagos penguins today than at any time in the past 15 years. These are among the rarest penguins in the world, listed as internationally critically endangered in 2000. But their population has since doubled, upping your chances of spotting the tuxedoed birds, especially if you go to the westernmost islands of Isabela and Fernandina. The best way to tour is still a weeklong cruise, two different itineraries offer activities including hiking the islands’ volcanic formations, snorkeling with penguins, kayaking with sea lions, bird-watching for blue-footed boobies, and seeing more iguanas, giant tortoises, dolphins, and whales than anywhere in the world outside of a zoo.
How much can you fit into a small island? How about soaring, rainforest-covered mountains, ancient temples, bustling, sometimes chaotic cities, charming little towns, endless beaches, and even more in between? Sri Lanka is as culturally rich as its colossal neighbor to the north, as diverse and interesting – but it’s far more manageable for the solo traveler. Long overshadowed by its Indian and Maldivian neighbors, this tropical island remains affordable, uncrowded, and relatively unexplored. Once a pit stop on the Spice Route for rowdy sailors, Galle is an easy, hour-long drive from Colombo, the country’s seaside capital. It’s well worth a visit, to see its 17th-century fort (and UNESCO World Heritage site), municipal offices, places of worship, and homes that sell for millions of dollars. Vintage cars sit by washed-out walls, giving the city a Havana-like feel; a Moorish bazaar scene plays out on the streets with merchants plying gems and jewelry; myriad vantage points offer views of a blustery sea and melting sunsets.
Helpful link: Sri Lanka
With the Olympics headed to Rio in August, Brazil is about to play host to citizens of the world for the second time in three years—it’s a global phenomenon you won’t want to miss. More than 380,000 spectators are expected to descend upon the city in August, and in preparation, the city has embarked on a significant building spree, extending beyond Ipanema to areas once off the tourist radar. But a few miles west of this metropolis you’ll find a pristine stretch of shoreline composed of emerald peaks, peaceful islands, and near-deserted beaches. Brazil’s Costa Verde (‘green coast’) is a paradise for nature lovers and adrenaline junkies alike; hike jungle-covered hills, kayak secluded fjords, or strap on a snorkel and swim with the many fishes, some of which might just feature on your seafood platter that night.
A perfect example is the northeastern state of Rio Grande do Norte. Famed for nonstop sands, sea salt products, and the world’s largest cashew tree, this region known as Brazil’s elbow is where the Atlantic seaboard makes a sensual swerve. The state capital, Natal, three hours by air north of Rio de Janeiro, reigns over a coastline that racks up some 233 days of sunshine a year.
Helpful Links: Visit Brazil
Like Australia, Japan is another country that continually tops everyone’s personal holiday wish lists. Not only is it one of the safest places to visit, it’s cities are expertly crafted odes to futurism where the trains whirr by in the blink of an eye and the towers of metal and glass are bathed in neon light. The countryside, too, feels otherworldly, with all-continents-in-one landscapes that blend alpine peaks with shimmering shores. And everywhere in between are prim wooden temples – the constant reminder that a well of deep-seated traditions hides just beneath the country’s enticing veneer of perfection. But let’s not forget the food—from sushi to sake Japan there’s something to suit everyone’s palate and new tastes to explore.
Also intriguing developments are under way in Mie Prefecture, a four-hour ride from Tokyo on the bullet train, which until now had mostly lured domestic travelers. The area’s draws: the Ise-Shima National Park, the pearl-producing oysters, the richly marbled Matsusaka beef and ᴜɴᴇsᴄᴏ-protected Shinto pilgrimage sites (the second most famous after Camino de Santiago).
Those in the know choose the isle of Hokkaido for a ski experience found nowhere else. Japan‘s northernmost island—surrounded by misty seas and chilled by nearby Siberia—is blessed in winter with almost daily snowfalls, accumulating on some mountains to an extraordinary 63 feet.
And at last Okinawa and its islands aren’t “just a scattered, reggae-sweetened necklace of islands closer to Taiwan than to Tokyo, but one that actively seeks to turn Japanese congestion, industry, and formality on their heads” . They’re also blissfully free of crowds, known mostly to locals. The Yaeyama Islands of Okinawa are sun-splashed, laid-back, and a bit rough around the edges, while Tokashiki Island, sitting at approximately 26 degrees latitude north, shares the same temperate, Caribbean climate as the Bahamas. Head to Aharen Beach (the foto above) for swimming and snorkeling.
Greenland + Iceland
With great deals to be had on trans-continental flights that stop over in Reykjavik, this cold little country is turning itself into a tourism hotspot. Most will visit to see its natural attractions, from the hot springs to its striking mountains and plains. What you don’t hear enough about, however, is the arts scene, with some of world’s best indie bands calling Reykjavik home. Due to its relative accessibility, growing culinary scene, and those photo-worthy moments, Iceland has risen to the top of everyone’s travel list.
BUT …… When asked of top destinations to visit, Greenland isn’t always the first country that springs to mind but it should be. While 88% of it is covered in ice, most of the population live on the coast where the phenomenal Northern Lights take place. In March 2016 Greenland will host the Arctic Winter Games, the largest event of its kind ever. Luckily for you, it is easier than ever to access. It’s a quick four-hour flight from Copenhagen to Kangerlussuaq, Greenland’s main airport. Go there to see the midnight sun on the glaciers, sail among breaching whales, ride across the tundra on a dogsled, watch the Northern Lights dance across the ice sheet. And if you’re lucky enough to boat on a small ship that can access remote habitats, Greenland may be the best place in the world to see polar bears in the wild.
Unless you’re from New Zealand or Papua New Guinea, Australia can seem a long way from anywhere. Getting here usually involves folding yourself into a plane for 24 hours. But with 2016 shaping up as a definitive year for several of Australia’s key wilderness areas, it’ll be 24 hours well spent. Australia does a roaring trade in Unesco World Heritage wilderness areas: the 2300km-long Great Barrier Reef, the blood-red rocks of Uluru and Kata Tjuta, the 15,800 sq km Tasmanian Wilderness Area, the seething jungle of Kakadu National Park… Given the cross-continental distances involved, you mightn’t see them all – but what they have in common is a humbling sense of awe at first sight. Its food culture is as inventive and influential as any today, with marquee chefs beating paths here (g’day, René Redzepi!). At this moment, on all fronts, Australia is simply crushing it.
Helpful link: Australia
Now the embargo has been lifted, it’s time to pack your bags and head to be Cuba. The hip Caribbean nation is so incredibly scenic with white-sand beaches, Baroque style cathedrals, vintage cars, and their signature cigars and rum. We recommend a visit to the elegant Old Havana downtown. This UNESCO world heritage site is a feast for the senses, covered in architectural gems, live music, great coffee, and historic forts. The flights are cheap and there’s plenty of gorgeous and affordable Airbnb’s to rent too.
For those searching for a trip filled with rich music, art, dancing, and food, look no further than Cuba. Cuba is home to some of the world’s warmest people, and contrary to public perception, the country is safer to travel to than some islands in the Caribbean. Visiting the capital is like stepping into a vintage photograph: washed-out colonial façcades and cobblestone streets bustling with antique Fords and Chevys. Take part in architectural walking tours within Old Havana, visit countless museums and even take a ride in an antique car. Be sure to take a stroll around Central Park and visit El Capitolio — the National Capital Building — and the Havana Cathedral in Cathedral Square. The cities of Camüguey and Santiago de Cuba are also worth a visit. And if you’re a cigar lover, or simply enjoy seeing things made by hand, head out to Cuba’s tobacco region in the small town of Viñales. There, you can get up close and personal with the tobacco farmers responsible for the world’s best cigars. Visitors can’t leave Cuba without enjoying its delicious cuisine, ranging from Cuban sandwiches to arroz con pollo to plantains to dulce de leche. In the past two years, the country has seen an uptick in the amount of restaurants in Havana and the food scene has become extremely competitive. Wash all those dishes down with a few Cuba libres made from the country’s renowned rum. Havana Club Rum and Santiago Rum are hailed as some of the best rum in the world! Top of the top 10 countries to visit in 2016!
Helpful link: Visit Cuba