Roll up, roll up – We’re ready to pull back the curtaim on our top 10 must-see countries for 2016. Whether it’s Botswana or San Sebastian, these 10 go-now destinations will get you packing. Despite their differences, these destinations do have a few things in common: they boast a variety of one-of-a-kind attractions, iconic sights, unique landscapes and distinct eateries. Make these irresistible places part of your travel plans next year as they take a turn in the limelight.
Democratic, progressive, enlightened – but above all, invigoratingly wild. The story of Botswana’s journey from poverty to become one of Africa’s most stable, thriving societies is inspirational; the country celebrates 50 years of independence in 2016 and there’s a lot for it to shout about, not least the way it has balanced economic growth with protecting its natural riches. Prepare for a severe case of slack-jawed-with-awe syndrome when you visit.
2. Faroe Islands, Denmark
This Danish archipelago is a natural northern wonderland come to life. Made up of 18 tiny islands, the Faroe area is a remote and stunning natural wonder, but it’s also connected enough to offer high-end foodie dining, unique and trendy fashion, and access to Scandi music festivals.
3. Havana, Cuba
Following the downfall of its US embargo, Cuba’s tourism industry has swelled, allowing travellers with an eye for luxury and adventure the opportunity to experience the city’s capital in an exciting period of growth. It’s no secret than Cuban food is to die for, but the country also offers stellar night life and gorgeous beaches.
An estimated three million foreign visitors will arrive in Uruguay next year – but it’s a wonder it isn’t more when you grasp what the ‘Switzerland of America’ has to offer. Sandwiched between Brazil and Argentina, Uruguay has unfussily become a progressive society that boasts a small but perfectly formed capital in Montevideo, pampas where you can act out a gaucho (cowboy) fantasy, and nightlife on sea amid the glamour of Punta del Este. Expect that three million to rise.
5. Stratford-upon-Avon, England
This paragon of British history will commemorate its biggest celebrity, William Shakespeare, this year on the 400th anniversary of his death. The charming riverside city is a perfect escape from London’s busier hubs, perfectly blending Elizabethan history with a modern foodie culture and top-notch theatre from the Royal Shakespeare Company.
6. Kathmandu, Nepal
If you’re looking to travel with a conscience this year, Nepal is the best place to put your money where your mouth is. The country’s economy relies heavily on tourism (and with a stunning natural landscapes and impressive cultural centres, who could blame it?), and is now rebuilding after the devastation of last year’s earth quake.
7. Acadia National Park, Maine, USA
This year marks the centennial of the USA’s National Parks Services, so there’s no better time to see one of the country’s most beautiful reserves. Nestled at the top of the New England coast, Acadia is a natural escape like no other. It’s a perfect spot for outdoorsy types, but coastal towns like Camden and Portland are great places to stay for more domestic fare.
Recession-defying Poland has superpowers – while the rest of Europe descended into the doldrums, visitor numbers here climbed and there’s no end to the boom in sight as Wrocław prepares for a stint as European Capital of Culture 2016. Kraków will have a turn in the limelight too when the Pope arrives to celebrate World Youth Day, and new air routes to Kraków, Szczecin, Katowice, and Gdańsk means this is a destination on the rise.
9. Sicily, Italy
Sicily’s Mediterranean charm and laid-back culture make it a prime holiday spot. The area has developed a reputation for its superb wine in recent years, so you can count on a good time.
10. San Sebastian, Spain
As one of this year’s two European Capitols of Culture, San Sebastian offers a beachy contrast to its sister city, Wroclaw. Famous for its incredibly landscape and stunning beaches, not to mention its tasty tapas culture, San Sebastian is a must for a relaxing holiday.