The top travel destinations for 2016

Searching for next year’s hottest destinations and experiences? Here is the best travel destinations that you can actually plan to travel in 2016.


WHY? A remote antidote to Rio’s Olympic fever


The Olympic Games in Rio may be Brazil’s biggest draw but you will find a lesser-known paradise just west of the oceanside metropolis. Costa Verde (green coast) is a stretch of unspoiled shoreline featuring emerald peaks, peaceful islands, crashing waterfalls and near-deserted beaches.

The Rio-Santos stretch of the BR-101 highway runs through a corridor of verdant Mata Atlântica (Portuguese for Atlantic rainforest) and it may be the last paved road you see once you settle on Costa Verde’s shores. You’ll wear the soles of your Havaianas thin taking in everything on foot – only taxis are allowed on the cobbled streets of the Unescolisted colonial town of Paraty.

The same goes for Vila do Abraão, the main beachfront hamlet of the region’s biggest island, Ilha Grande. Costa Verde is a paradise of untouched natural wonders.

Ilha Grande Bay is peppered with 365 government-protected islands, most of which are uninhabited. The island retreat of Ilha Grande owes its pristine condition to its history as a pirates’ lair, a leper colony and finally a penitentiary for political prisoners and some of Brazil’s most dangerous criminals.

This shady past deterred developers for a long time – you’d best get here now before everyone catches on.


WHY? Mountain thrills and edgy art in Vlad’s former home


Drive a stake into the heart of those Transylvanian stereotypes.

Yes, this region has all the moody castles and fog-draped mountains you can wave a crucifix at.

But you are just as likely to sashay through a wickedly inventive art gallery, spy on bears or ski the Carpathian Mountains. Transylvania is experiencing a renaissance.

Cluj-Napoca was dubbed an art city of the future, and Brasov is attracting as many nightlife lovers as vampire hunters.

Horses and carts still rattle through the countryside but they will soon share the roads with Uber cabs, as the app-based transport network sets up in Bucharest, and Airbnb listings are amassing.

Beyond the towns all eyes are on Transylvania’s real fang-toothed predators: wolves, lynx and the 6,000-strong bear population. With the reintroduction of bison to the mountains, opportunities for wildlife watching are sure to become even richer.

Controversially, the government still issues hunting permits for animals perceived as a threat but attitudes are changing in this country once infamous for bear baiting.

Wildlife sanctuaries such as Libearty are thriving, while eco-conscious operators such as Ibis and Carpathian Nature Tours ply the mountains.


WHY? Traditional Cuba at its best


After more than 50 years in the cold, Cuba finds itself on the brink of change. Havana may have plenty of architecture, history, music, museums and galleries but once you’ve seen the vintage Cadillacs, posed with Che Guevara in Plaza de la Revolución and strolled along the Malecón, it is time for the slower pace of life known to many Cubans. Head west to the agricultural centre of Valle de Viñales, two hours from the capital.

The wonderful thing about the town of Viñales is that not only can you relax in a rocking chair on the porch of your casa particular (homestay) and watch the oxen and ploughs trundle by, you can also get involved in all kinds of activities in the Unesco landscape.

Hire a guide to take you hiking, riding or cycling through the tobacco fields and mogotes (rock formations), and enjoy stunning views across the valleys.

End with a refreshing swim in a cave before heading back to that rocking chair.

Settle down with a cold beer and the sound of live music drifting from one of the bars before indulging in a meal at the casa – most casa hosts take the quality of their dinners very seriously, and you can expect options such as roast chicken or grilled lobster served with traditional dishes including black bean rice and plantain.


WHY? Playground of the Gods


Nestled in the Hauraki Gulf and shouldering the dormant island volcano Rangitoto, a 35-minute ferry ride from downtown Auckland, sits an island utopia of secret coves, beautiful beaches, rolling vineyards, luxury lodges and bohemian sensibilities.

Waiheke, New Zealand’s third-most densely populated island, is known as the Island of Wine and is home to more than 30 wineries and some boutique cellar door experiences. Many wineries boast views of the Auckland skyline, and you can quaff a Syrah (Shiraz) or rosé, bask in brilliant sunshine, taste local produce and discover the meaning of “Waiheke time”.

Waiheke’s bohemian and hippy past is not far from the surface and the island continues to have a thriving artistic community where more than 100 working artists ply their trades in disciplines such as sculpture, glass-blowing, painting and woodwork. Waiheke is an outdoor enthusiast’s playground with mountain biking, sea kayaking and sailing.

The island is an electric, heady mix set against a Buddha Bar soundtrack: fast yet slow all at the same time.


WHY? Experience a moment of evolution


“A little world, within itself, which excites our curiosity.”

That was how Charles Darwin saw Saint Helena in 1836 but this über-isolated island – the faintest of paradisiacal punctuation points on the bright blue page of the South Atlantic Ocean – will be part of the planet less lonely when its airport opens in 2016.

Previously the only way to visit (save on your own boat) was by sailing 1,900 miles from Cape Town on RMS Saint Helena – a 10-day return trip – but soon it will be possible to arrive in 5.5 hours from Johannesburg, and a 32-bedroom hotel is being built in Jamestown.

For some, Saint Helena’s inaccessibility is a major part of its appeal but remoteness is both a blessing and a curse.

Islanders have watched the economic viability of their cut-off community evaporate since mass air travel took off and most view development with a mixture of excitement and trepidation. The airport will doubtless change Saint Helena eventually but it won’t make it any less exciting or curious in the short term.

Mobile phone reception will remain a rumour, cars will be decades behind the times and island life, including the unique flora and fauna that so intrigued Darwin, will continue at its own somnambulant pace.

Sure, visitor numbers will rise but as Charlie would point out, that's evolution for you.


WHY? Bavaria’s boisterous beer birthday


Bavaria is the supermodel among Germany’s 16 states, blessed with good looks, charisma and an easy-going manner. An off-the-charts tapestry of tourist treats unfolds between the Alps and the vineyards of Franconia.

The storybook castles of “Mad” King Ludwig II poke through dark forest, walled medieval villages line up along the Romantic Road, and Nazi-era vestiges in Nuremberg and Berchtesgaden let you ponder one of history’s most sinister periods.

Bavaria’s capital, Munich, bewitches with sweeping gardens, superb museums, grand palaces and Oktoberfest, the world’s biggest beer bash.

Beer is the focus in 2016 when Bavaria celebrates the 500th anniversary of the Beer Purity Law. The law, formulated by local dukes in 1516, permitted only barley, hops and water in brewing the amber nectar.

The goal was to stop the addition of ox bile, oak bark, henbane and other potentially toxic ingredients more typically found in an alchemist’s garden.

It is thus considered the world’s oldest nutritional law still in effect.

So proud is the German Brewers’ Union that it has applied to Unesco to designate it a world cultural treasure. 

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About Amber Noora

Amber Noora is a nature lover, a travel enthusiast and a blogger. She loves to travel in her leisure times with friends and family members.