It’s another year to explore the planet and life a meaningful adventure-filled life! 2016, is in fact, a great year to travel. In this list of Top 25 places to visit this year, many of this places are celebrating something thrilling this year you must not miss.
In no particular order, we’ve scoured the internet and listed the most promising places we think you must visit this year. So, where will you go this 2016? Here they are in no particular order:
1. Cartagena, Colombia
Cartagena is a jewel on Colombia’s coast with a colorful mix of Caribbean and Spanish culture.
There are established hotels like the Sofitel Cartagena Santa Clara and the new Anandá Hotel Boutique, and brands like Ritz-Carlton are also erecting in Cartagena, adding the allure of luxury digs to an already desirable destination.
There are a lot to love about Cartagena. From wandering through the streets packed with vibrantly colored buildings to walking the walls of this UNESCO World Heritage Site, there is no shortage of cultural offerings.
There’s lounging on the white sands of nearby Islas del Rosario, exploring the multitude of bars and restaurants and dancing salsa into the night. Need even more reason to visit? The Colombian peso plunged in the last year, getting you more than 3000 pesos per dollar. That glass of sangria at sunset just got a bit sweeter.
2. Mantua, Italy
Mantua Italy is Italy’s Italian Capital of Culture for 2016. The Lombardy city’s historic center has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2007, and Mantua has long been an important city of art.
Mantua will be part of the East Lombardy region’s designation as European Capital of Gastronomy in 2017. And it’s an easy day trip from either Venice or Milan.
3. Margaret River, Australia
Margaret River is a food and wine region that is only about three hours south of Perth.
It was recently labelled by Australian Traveller Magazine as “Must Visit Food Region”. Some must-try in Margaret River is handmade pasta at Barnyard 1978, a new farm-style bistro and wine tasting room in Yallingup, and an award-winning single-malt whiskies from the just-opened Margaret River Distilling Co.
Garden lovers won’t want to miss the Margaret River Organic Garden Trail, a network of seven sustainable gardens, including the Spiral Biodynamic Garden at Cullen Wines, which just plucked a new chef for its acclaimed restaurant from Quay in Sydney.
For a different kind of trail, a Walk into Luxury trip along the famous Cape to Cape Track might be in order, or a stroll or spin on the newest three miles of the Wardandi Track rail trail. But to really take it all in, travelers should book a tour with Scenic Helicopters or a heart-pounding, barrel-rolling alternative with Tigermoth Adventure Flights.
4. Siem Reap, Cambodia
More than the Angkor Wat Temples in Siem Reap, Cambodia, there’s more to Cambodia to love. All the planning in the world won’t prepare you for the intense beauty of the Cambodian countryside – and suddenly your half-day tour of the temples is never going to be enough time to really experience the region.
From ziplining to countryside bike rides to floating villages, there’s so much more to discover.
5. Sydney, Australia
New direct flights from the likes of Dallas and steady progress in taking back its reign as the foodie and cultural capital of Australia, Sydney is poised to shine in 2016. Not that that’s hard for the sunny, stunning “Harbour City”. The Barangaroo Reserve, a terraced finger of sandstone and native plants that juts into the harbor – the first section of the massive Barangaroo development – has been raking in landscaping and sustainability awards since opening in August.
Just south is another new outdoor landmark: the AU$15-million Goods Line, which took inspiration from New York’s High Line and transformed an old rail corridor into an elevated walking and cycling path lined with greenery and metal ping pong tables.
Those wishing to stay nearby can bed down at the Old Clare Hotel, the crown jewel of the emerging Kensington Street precinct, housed in the old Carlton United Brewery building. And that’s just a taste of Sydney’s new hotel offerings, which now range from the transformed Langham and new InterContinental Sydney Double Bay at the upper end to the funky-fresh QT Hotel, overlooking the turquoise waves of Bondi Beach.
With new air routes into Szczecin, and Katowice, exploring the many delights of Poland just got a whole lot easier in 2016, which also sees the 30th anniversary of the European Capital of Culture award, which has brought cities such as Riga, Rotterdam and Porto to world attention.
This year the spotlight turns on Poland’s Lower Silesia. This cultured and compact city rose again from the ashes of World War II and sits alongside the River Oder.
A host of exhibitions, fairs and public concerts are slated to take place across the city in 2016, along with literary events as it also takes on the mantle of UNESCO’s World Book Capital City.
Pope Francis is also set to visit Krakow, Poland this year on July 25 until the 31st; this has a profound significance for the Poles as their beloved Pope John Paul II regarded Kraków as his spiritual home. Thousands of young Catholic pilgrims will flock into the historic city to witness Francis celebrating Holy Communion and to parade the World Youth Day Cross and Icon through the streets.
Greenland is a vast, glacial wilderness, where icebergs loom and polar bears roam. It’s always at the top list of places to visit by adventurers and tourists.
Until recent years, the world’s largest island remained firmly off-the-beaten-track, but as arctic destinations like Iceland and Lapland surge in popularity, many intrepid travelers are now heading even further north.
Greenland’s highlights are plentiful, from hiking and whale watching in summer, to dog sledding, glacier climbing and Northern Lights excursions in the winter. Not only that, but with increasing worries about climate change and the melting of Greenland’s ice sheet, there’s no time like the present to explore the UNESCO-listed icy fjords. If you need another excuse to visit Greenland this year, the country will also be hosting the 2016 Arctic Winter Games in March, with events including skiing, snowboarding and ice hockey. – Z. S.
8. Chiloé, Chile
For years, the only way to get to Chiloé, the large island about two-thirds of the way down Chile’s spine, was overland and by ferry, though this didn’t stop locals and travelers from heading down to the island all the same. People come to see wooden churches declared UNESCO monuments, the palafitos, or stilt houses, typical of the island, and to try local foods, like curanto, a beach-cooked clambake-type meal, with shellfish, sausages and two types of potato bread. Now that there are multiple weekly flights from Santiago (connecting in Puerto Montt) on a local airline, you could easily go to Chiloé for the weekend, where you can also stock up on thick woven and knitted woolen goods, as well as the local tipple, called licor de oro.
9. Palawan, Philippines
Home to one of the Seven Wonders of the World (Underground River) and the world’s emerging top summer getaway, Palawan Island in the West Philippines is a perfect place to spend the hot seasons of 2016.
With hundreds of islets to choose from and thousand miles of shorelines to explore, the festive oriental towns, and hospitable Filipinos are your perfect companion in your next getaway. The unique Oriental culture, verged with a uniquely Western culture makes it easy to get along and have fun with the locals. Almost everyone in the Philippines speak English, so it won’t be hard to meander around and explore.
Also, Filipinos are known for being hospitable and happy. So, never worry about running out of people to talk to or party with, because they love to party! And in their parties, everyone is invited.
10. Cook Islands
Think of a tropical paradise and, chances are, you’re imagining exactly what the Cook Islands offer. They’re more remote and significantly less populated than Fiji. And while Fiji is a popular destination for package holidays from Australia and New Zealand, not to mention travelers on RTW trips, the Cook Islands offer a more relaxed – and relaxing – atmosphere overall. There are activities to get you out into nature, including snorkeling and hiking, but there’s no better way to enjoy the Cook Islands than by settling into a comfortable rhythm of doing precisely nothing but enjoying the views of sparkling sand and water. Don’t miss a trip to the island of Aitutaki, home to one of the world’s most beautiful lagoons. – J.S.
11. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Rio is often called the “marvelous city,” and with good reason. Popular neighborhoods to visit or stay, like Leblón, Ipanema and Copacabana hug the city’s beaches. Get a peek from higher up, taking an aerial tram trip up the iconic Pão de Azucar, for fabulous views over the city, or for an even more impressive view, visit the open-armed Christ-statue at Corcovado, accessed by small gauge train. Also popular in Rio are museums, libraries, theaters and outdoor nightlife, including near the aqueduct in the neighborhood of Lapa, where the famously colorful Selaron staircase is located. In 2016, tourism will be peak for the Summer Olympic games, and Brazil is planning on temporarily suspending the visa requirements for US-passport holders to facilitate visits until September of that year. Olympic opening and closing ceremonies will take place in the world-famous Maracanã soccer stadium. – E. S.
12. Rome, Italy
There’s never really a bad year to visit Rome, but 2016 includes two very good reasons to make this the year you head to the Eternal City. Pope Francis just opened the Holy Door of St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City, heralding the start of the Holy Year of Mercy – otherwise known as a Jubilee Year. The city may be a bit more crowded with pilgrims during a Jubilee Year, but Rome is also typically a bit more spruced up in anticipation of the influx of visitors. That, plus the unique opportunity to witness a Holy Year in person, make 2016 a potentially interesting time to be in Rome whether you’re a pilgrim or not. On a less religious note, the famous Trevi Fountain has just reopened after more than 500 days under scaffolding while it was being restored. It’s positively drop-dead gorgeous right now, white and gleaming, so it’s an even more photogenic backdrop when you throw in your coins.
13. Mexico City, Mexico
A vacation in Mexico invokes dreams of sun-drenched beaches and drinks with little umbrellas in them, but landlocked Mexico City is the largest city in North America, and a cosmopolitan playground filled with great food, culture, and art. Both Adele and the Rolling Stones are visiting on tour in 2016, and the NFL is expected to bring a game to Aztec Stadium during the 2016-17 season. Discover the city by visiting a new Colonia (neighborhood) each day, from San Angel’s cobblestones streets to the museums of Coyoacán, the Venice-like canals of Xochimilco, and the upscale shopping and dining in Polanco. And if you need to take a break from the hectic city life, less than a half-hour out of the city is hiking and biking at Desert of the Lions National Park.
14. Northern Ireland
As a key filming location for HBO’s hit fantasy drama Game of Thrones, Northern Ireland has stepped into the spotlight in recent years, proving that it’s much more than just Ireland’s diminutive neighbor. Season 6 is due to premiere in April 2016, so there’s no better time to take a Game of Thrones tour of Northern Ireland and discover wonders like the UNESCO-listed Giant’s Causeway, the Dark Hedges road and the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge. The capital is full of highlights too, with recently opened tourist attractions including the Crumlin Road Gaol, the Titanic Belfast and the SS Nomadic, and the WWI warship HMS Caroline set to open its deck to visitors in 2016. That’s not all—vibrant Belfast is also renowned for its glittering waterfront, fascinating murals and electric nightlife. – Z. S.
In 2014, the U.S. and Cuba shook hands (figuratively speaking) for the first time in decades. Ushering this new chapter in relations, travel restrictions for U.S. citizens wanting to visit this Caribbean island were also relaxed, allowing for guided cultural tours and opportunities for business and education. While these restrictions give you the chance to collect that previously verboten Cuba stamp in your passport, the ‘come one, come all’ sign isn’t flying over Cuba just yet. With the U.S. embassy open once again in Cuba after more than five decades, diplomatic relations with the island are looking solid. Known for its vibrant culture, pristine beaches and touches of a time gone by, Cuba will continue to gain in popularity for American visitors who were previously unwilling to risk the trip. Airlines are adding direct flights from major U.S. cities to Cuba, making travel more comfortable and, as relations continue to strengthen, hopefully 2016 will be the year that the remaining restrictions are dropped. – K. C.
People use the phrase “Outer Mongolia” to refer to any far-flung destination, and many would have a hard time trying to picture any iconic sights of this country, or name the features of its nomadic culture. But discovering this off-the-beaten-path destination is more accessible to Western travelers now that Ulaanbaatar, its capital city, is getting a new luxury hotel. The five-star Shangri-La, with 290 rooms (that are the largest in town!) and fantastic dining options, has already started taking bookings for its opening in 2016. It’s in a prime location for shopping and sightseeing before setting out to play golf in the BogdKhaan Valley, trek in the Gobi Desert, or ride motorbikes through the Khan Khenty range.
17. Galapagos, Ecuador
Turtles and iguanas and blue-footed boobies abound in this World Heritage site located off of the coast of Ecuador. Best known as the location that spurred Charles Darwin’s evolutionary ideas, the Galapagos, an archipelago of volcanic islands, is home to many unique animals that you won’t find anywhere else in the world, like the marina iguana, frigate birds, Darwin finches and blue-footed boobies. The Galapagos are one of the most popular destinations for animal enthusiasts to get up close and personal with a wide variety of wildlife. However, along with this popularity comes the inherent fragility of the ecosystem. Changing temperatures, the introduction of non-native species and the rapid increase in the human population are affecting this area. Go now, but do your research and travel responsibly.
With Disney officially announcing that a sequel is in the works for 2013 megahit Frozen, Norway’s glittering glaciers and fairytale fjords will soon be enchanting viewers all over again. The movie might not be due until 2018, but there’s no reason to wait that long! Not only is Norway renowned for its dramatic scenery, but it’s a hotspot for winter sports and activities, from snowshoeing and snowmobile rides, to husky sledding and cross-country skiing. Head to the arctic town of Tromso, one of the best places in the world to witness nature’s dazzling lightshow—the Northern Lights. Alternatively, leave the tourist trail behind and embark on a trip to the remote Svalbard archipelago, which lies between Norway and the North Pole. Discovering the wild landscapes is a real adventure and you’ll have the rare opportunity to spot reindeer, arctic fox and the increasingly endangered polar bear in their native home.
If you’re a regular at your local pad thai place, 2016 is your year to go straight to the source. Thailand has always been one of the culinary capitals of the world, but now more than ever it’s embracing its role as the perfect destination for a foodie furlough. Swing through Bangkok for a nighttime street food tour by tuk tuk, and then hop up to Chiang Mai to don an apron and learn to DIY your favorite dishes on a market tour and cooking class. Finally, wind down with a two-day bike tour of Khao Yai, Thailand’s burgeoning wine region. The time is now to take a bite out of Thailand.
20. Crete, Greece
With the Greek economy on the run and the migrant crisis engulfing much of eastern and southern Europe, many hitherto idyllic Aegean islands such as Lesbos and Kos have seen visitor numbers – needlessly – plummet. Not so Crete, which is recording an upward surge in bookings for 2016. It is far enough from Turkey to remain virtually unaffected by the turmoil that is the present-day tragedy of the Middle East. While endless sunny days and buzzing seaside resorts such as Agios Nikolaos and Chania are part of the Cretan vacation experience, the island also has way more than its fair share of cultural diversions, from the Bronze Age Minoan ruins at Knossos to the classical remains of Aptera. Coupled with a vibrant café-and-bar culture, it is fast becoming the Greek island destination of choice for summer 2016. The capital city of Heraklion is open for business all year around and its bars and restaurants never close; couple that with Crete’s gentle climate and visitors can enjoy perfect winter and spring breaks too.
Try the less explored country of Namibia, a former German colony where English is the official national language and a mix of cultures give it an open, vibrant feel. Feast on exotic game meats and marvel at the German Imperial and Art Nouveau architecture in Windhoek, its capital. Experience wildlife during a visit to Etosha National Park or Waterberg Plateau Park in the north. Explore Kolmanskop, a beautifully creepy ghost town just outside Lüderitz, or the Skeleton Coast, the site of hundreds of shipwrecks – both equally a photographer’s dream. Or to get in touch with true wilderness, visit the truly untouched Kaokoland, a blend of rivers, desert and mountains that is nothing short of stunning.
22. Turks & Caicos
Some may argue that any Caribbean vacation is a good one, but when a specific island is voted by TripAdvisor readers as the #1 island choice then you definitely stop and take note. The Turks and Caicos island of Providenciales received that vote in 2015, and it’s not hard to see why. Called “Provo” by locals, Providenciales has established itself as a luxury beach resort capital in recent decades – but because development has come relatively late to the island, it has also managed to maintain its undisturbed natural beauty outside the main resort areas. Relax in the lovely resorts around Grace Bay, but don’t miss a chance to explore away from where the people are. Take advantage of the island’s world-class diving to see the coral reefs.
23. Auckland, New Zealand
Air New Zealand has increased flights to and from Asia and the US in the last year, making it easier and more affordable to get to than ever before. And although you could spend a lifetime discovering both of the country’s islands, we recommend basing yourself in Auckland to have the widest breadth of experiences without the schlep factor. There is adventurous fun to be had, from the SkyWalk right in the city to the Waitakere Ranges to ziplining on Waiheke. Leisure pursuits include harbor cruises and wine tastings at vineyards. And film nerds rejoice: Yes, you can actually visit Hobbit Town!
24. Hanoi, Vietnam
Known for being inexpensive with a wealth of culture and history, and less visited than Bangkok, Hanoi is a favorite destination that takes visitors by surprise – and keeps them coming back for more discoveries. And as the city becomes a top destination for conventions and conferences, it’s easier than ever to navigate the city while still being able to soak in the history of the Old Quarter and the traditional street food that has foodies swooning. There’s also plenty of opportunity to get out of the city and explore the incredible countryside, from Halong Bay to the rice fields of Hoa Lu.
25. Juneau, Alaska
Alaska has become more accessible to non-cruisers as flight routes open up and people start to take RV/road trips through the great American wilderness. That means you can experience ziplining, whale watching, and trekking on your own time, instead of rushing to get back to port! And you can use Juneau as a base from which to head out by seaplane, helicopter or less exotic modes of transportation to explore the stunning natural beauty of the largest state in the Union.