A new year brings a new dose of wanderlust as you look ahead to a year filled with adventures. Perhaps you’ve got your eye on a cultural city break where you can wander aimlessly around art galleries, or maybe you’re looking for the perfect white sand beach to pitch up on for a week of blissful relaxation?
I’ve scoured the world and come up with my top destinations for each month of the year in 2016 (assuming money were no object, of course!). Now all you need to do is get a mountain of time off work and go!
January: Svalbard, Norway
2016 is the last year we’ll get a good look at the Northern Lights for a while, as for the next 11 years the sun’s solar cycle will calm down a little, sending less solar charged particles which cause the lights towards Earth.
The best place to get one last look will be pretty much as far north as you can go in Svalbard, Norway and in January the sun never rises here, giving you 24 hours of darkness to spot them. Take a coat though, yeah?
February: Queenstown, New Zealand
It’s summertime in the southern hemisphere and Queenstown in New Zealand’s South Island is calling your name. Adrenaline lovers will be in heaven with bungee jumping, white water rafting, jet boating and even canyon swinging on the cards, but if you just like to chill then sunbathing by Lake Wakatipu is just as awesome.
Be sure to take the gondola to the top of Bob’s Peak for amazing views across the town, and then grab a Fergberger – one of the best (and biggest!) burgers in the world!
March: Bagan, Myanmar
In 2015 Myanmar saw a landslide victory for Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD), ending over 50 years of military rule in the country. The election of a new president is likely to take place in March, and I think it’ll be a pretty amazing time to visit to soak up the electric atmosphere.
Bagan is home to the largest concentration of Buddhust temples and pagodas in the world, and so coupling this beautiful landscape with a country on the brink of change will be a sight not to be missed.
April: Kyoto, Japan
Every year in early April, thousands of cherry blossoms (sakura) bloom in unison, transforming Kyoto into a pink wonderland. To be honest, Kyoto is a pretty great city to explore at any time of year, with over 1,000 Buddhist temples, incredible gardens and some excellent restaurants, but the addition of the sakura is the cherry on the cake! (Sorry).
Book accommodation well ahead of time as this is a very busy time to visit Kyoto, or you may want to stay in nearby Osaka, which is only 15 minutes away by bullet train.
The rains have eased off and Namibia is a lush green and free from tourists which will flood to the country in June. The weather isn’t too hot for exploring the Namib desert, which stretches for nearly 1000km along the Atlantic coast and is known for its distinctive rust colour.
After seeing your fair share of scorched landscapes, head to northern Namibia to Etosha National Park where you’re likely to see Rhinos, Lions, Zebra, Giraffes, Gemsbok, Springbok, Wildebeest, Elephants, and Jackals.
June: California, USA
Time for a road trip through the best that California has to offer! June brings warm temperatures to the beaches, so a few days relaxing and exploring Santa Barbara, just north of L.A is a must, followed by a drive up Highway 1 along the coast to San Francisco.
Once the beaches and cities are fully explored, take the road inland to check out balmy Lake Tahoe and marvel at the granite cliffs in Yosemite National Park (with rushing waterfalls at this time of year thanks to snow melt). Round off your road trip by checking out Giant Sequoias in Sequoia National Park and camping under the stars in Death Valley, one of the lowest and hottest locations on Earth.
Iceland’s short but very sweet summer season means long days and so much to cram into them! Hiking the national parks, caving, horse riding and bathing in geothermal hot springs should all be on your list of Iceland ‘must do’s’. Hire a car and drive the Ring Road to see the best of it.
July is also a brilliant time to visit Iceland as it’s the official whale watching season. Most trips depart from the north and take in a couple of extra sights before heading out to sea to spot Minke and Humpback Whales. You might also see a puffin or too! 🙂
August: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
2016 will see the Olympic Games come to Brazil’s craziest city, Rio de Janeiro. I can’t wait to see how they top the 2012 games in London (my home town). I’m kind of hoping they can’t. 🙂
August is Winter in Rio, but don’t let that put you off as it never really gets cold with temperatures hovering around 20-25 degrees. Sunny days will be perfect for lounging on Ipanema beach and partying ’til dawn in the nightlife hotspot in Lapa. Don’t miss the chance to see inside a Favela, to meet the locals and find out about life inside the ‘slums’ of the city.
September: Cinque Terre, Italy
The end of the summer means cooler temperatures in the north of Italy, which means it’s time to go hiking! The Ligurian Coast is home to ‘Cinque Terre’, or ‘Five Lands’, and encompasses the distinctive villages of Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore, which cling to the coastline and are incredibly photogenic.
Hike the coastal trails, stopping en route to snap pictures of the Medieval villages and of course try some of the local wines and Tuscan food in any one of the trattorias dotted throughout the villages.
October: Machu Picchu, Peru
Now’s the ideal time to see one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, as high season is coming to an end, meaning less tourists but still dry weather. Hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is a tough 4 day slog, but the views of the ancient lost citadel will be as rewarding as you can get.
Whilst you’re in the neighbourhood, spend a few nights in my favourite Peruvian city, Cusco to stock up on hand woven rugs, alpaca wool jumpers and traditional handicrafts made by indigenous people.
November: Torres Del Paine, Patagonia
Summer is on its way in Patagonia, the bottom of the Earth. Some say that Torres de Paine is South America’s finest national park, with soaring granite peaks which stick out from the earth like teeth, and some of the best wildlife spotting on the mountain slopes. Look out for the ‘Big Five’; South Andean Deer, Puma, Andean Condor, Lesser Rhea and Guanaco.
You can hike the main circuit in around 8 days, although if you have longer to spare, then taking it easy and resting up in one of the many Refugios along the way will give you more of a chance to spot wildlife.
December: Vogel, Slovenia
Often overlooked in favour of other European ski resorts, Vogel is still relatively undiscovered on the ski trail. Still, reliable snowfall, incredible views across Lake Bohinj and ski slopes catering to all levels of experience means that Slovenia’s best kept secret won’t stay that way for long.
It’s also extremely affordable, with ski passes costing around 150 Euros per week, and lots of cheap places to eat and drink throughout the resort.
Looking for Christmas break inspiration? Check out my 5 best places in the world to spend Christmas.
So it looks like there’s a lot of places to start exploring in 2016… Shall we get started?
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