2015 has been a great year for travel! Our clients have embarked on amazing trips to the Loire Valley, Dolomites, Kyoto, Istanbul, Cook Islands, Maldives—the list goes on and on and on! We’ve seen tried-and-true destinations enjoy resurgent popularity (á la Costa Rica), and watched as trends for up-and-coming destinations come up on the rise.
To commemorate the New Year, we’ve come up with a list of new must-see countries to look out for in 2016. These are the places still bursting with new life, under the popular tourist radar and waiting to be discovered. With so many rising stars, we were hard-pressed to include only 10!
Wittravel’s Top 10 Destinations for 2016:
Panama has blossomed as a destination that appeals both to chill and to thrill. Flights from the US have decreased significantly in the past few years, giving rise to Panama as a cheap alternative to Caribbean travel. However, the turquoise country does more than pull its fair share of weight—with coffee farms, colorful local markets, cloud forests and resplendent waters. Snorkel the rainbow reefs of Bocas del Toro, cruise through the famed canal, or sip a cocktail in the historic district of Casco Viejo. Learn about rum distillation, orange grove trade, and distinct Panamanian Folklore. Meet the indigenous Emberá while traveling upriver on a dugout canoe. Whether you’re looking for luxury or adventure, Panama is a tropical nirvana.
One of our clients recently stayed at the Punta Caracol Acqua-Lodge, a stunning abode reminiscent of Polynesian water bungalows. Call us for discounted rates.
Poland is fast becoming a major hub for culture, cuisine and fashion in Central Europe. In the past decade, Wroclaw in particular has enjoyed a cultural makeover, and is now popping with art galleries, beer gardens, restored bell towers and the beautiful and iconic Old Town Hall. The city has been elected 2016’s European Capital of Culture, a continent-wide event that promotes festivals, concerts and conferences in select cities. Other remarkable attractions of Poland include the historic and picturesque Old Town of Kraków, the 141,885-hectare Białowieża Forest, home to elk, wolves, lynx and 900 bison and the the Wieliczka Salt Mine, a deep labyrinth of salt tunnels distributed over 300km.
In recent seasons, Croatia has been exploding on the map as travelers seek out a new, special European experience. The Dalmatian coastline is famous for its pink sunsets, glittering Adriatic sea and breathtaking landscapes. The cities are a cultural delight, strewn about with medieval streets, blending Mediterranean and Slavic influences for a flavor all its own. “Those who seek paradise on Earth must come to Dubrovnik,” wrote George Bernard Shaw.
7. Norway Coastline & Spitsbergen
Discover your inner adventurer by embarking on a coastline cruise off of Norway and Spitsbergen. Boats will take you from charming Bergen, through stunning fjord lands and up to the icescapes of North Cape. Enjoy Norway’s frosty beaches, kayak through picturesque inlets and spot rare seabirds and walruses. High in the north, experience a dogsled in the warm company of the indigenous Sami people. Some boats even continue up to the Svalbard archipelago and Spitsbergen island for a glimpse of polar bears and reindeer.
Iran is a beautiful, diverse country with a history and culture that dates back thousands of years. The national is home to a whopping 19 UNESCO-registered sites! So it’s wonderful to hear about the ease of diplomatic relations between Iran and the rest of the world. Our certified friends over at Caravan-Serai offer a fascinating tour into the heart of Iran. Join an expert guide and delve into ancient Persian history at the fabled cities of Shiraz and Esfahan. See classic poetry spring to life in the halls of exquisite mosques and madrassas. Departures run Feb 29, May 15, Sep 23, Oct 23—call Wittravel for full details.
Click here to read our client’s trip report of Iran: http://wittravel.com/reports/Iran_April08.pdf
Since 2011 due to government reforms, Burma is now enjoying a resurgence in tourism. Since the country was isolated and closed to many outsiders for decades, the area is unspoiled by tourists: pristine countryside, true sense of locals and lifestyles. The best way to go is with a small group, led be an expert in history or archaeology. Burma’s rich heritage of architecture, lacquer, music dance and textiles. You’ll visit Bura’s cities, sail the Irrawaddy River, visit Inle Lake and the Plain of Pagodas. Attend a cooking lesson or enjoy a traditional puppet performance, or take a hot air balloon ride over the plains.
Hokkaido is Japan’s most northern and most remote island. With its heavy snowfall and wild mountains, the nature is relatively unspoiled and isolated from the rest of Japan. This is a destination for outdoorsy types—skiers, snowboarders, cyclists, hikers—so grab your boots and skis and hit the road! Nature rules here: top jaunts include Daisetsuzan National Park, Shiretoko Peninsula, volcano-laden Shikotsu-Toya National Park, Kushiro wetland (home to thousands of Japanese cranes), and the countless hot springs all over. Our one recommendation—call us up soon, because the best time to go is early in the year. The Sapporo Snow Festival, a world-famous event, is held from February 5 to 11, 2016. Millions of visitors attend the festival to marvel at the gigantic and spectacular ice sculptures. Later around mid-April and early May are also a great time to go, as the cherry blossoms burst in all their exquisite, delicate beauty. We recommend Alexander & Roberts as a great guide into the Land of the Rising Sun.
3. Estonia & Latvia
Estonia is a quirky country—a unique blend of Eastern European and Nordic influences. Just a ferry hop away from Helsinki, the land is rich in summer isles, diverse national parks, and quiet lakes. The charming capital of Tallinn keeps its heritage alive with Renaissance towers, cobblestoned streets and a Gothic Town Hall. Directly south lies Latvia, known for its wooden architecture, old-growth forests and pristine beaches. The capital of Riga is still bursting with life from its 2014 reign as the European Capital of Culture—with plentiful art festivals, operas, and exhibitions still in motion.
Malta is a small archipelago in the heart of the Mediterranean Sea, a spot that has led to multiple waves of cultural influence over the centuries. Sicilian, Arab and Italian heritage blends deliciously in the local cuisine and tongue. It has been the base for Romans, Normans, Moors, Spanish, the list goes on. Maltese is technically an Arabic dialect bombarded with Italian, Sicilian and English words. With prehistoric temples, coastline watchtowers and hilltop towns, the atmosphere feels distinctly out of time. There’s also loads of fun activities to be had here—snorkeling, hiking, cycling, yachting, to name a few.
We’re excited to announce that our very own WIT Agent Pam will be going to Malta in March 2016. So stay tuned for her tales and photos of the quirky islands come Spring! In anticipation of her trip, we’ll also be posting a few Malta-related posts on this blog in the coming weeks.
Cuba is our Top 1 Choice, especially for Americans. Cuba is ripe with cultural riches–smooth music, luscious beaches, and a vibrant love of life! As legislation prohibiting travel relaxes, the land of antique cars and melodious tunes is more popular than ever. Our agents get calls almost daily, and we’re seeing tours already selling out for 2016! Unlike many travel professionals, who are just beginning to tap into this lovely island, we have been sending our clients there for years. Cycle around the plantations, explore the sultry streets of Havana, or embark on a slow, multi-day cruise that takes you into the heart of the Cuban culture.