With a little help from Lonely Planet, the largest travel guide publisher in the world, Y looks at the must-see destinations of 2016 as we trawl the best countries, cities and regions to visit. Make sure some of these are on your travel itinerary this year as they take a well-deserved turn in the limelight.
Once one of Africa’s most impoverished countries, Botswana has turned its fortunes around to become of the continent’s most stable, thriving societies with a wealth of things for travellers to see and do. Blessed with some of the best wildlife spectacles on earth, Botswana is one of the great safari destinations in Africa. There are luxury safari camps, hippos, lions, leopards and rhinos. Already in the spotlight thanks to The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency book series by Alexander McCall Smith, we expect it to be even more on the radar this year. As Botswana celebrates its 50th year of independence in 2016, it will be an extra special time to pay a visit.
If you’re in search of an otherworldly experience, then Japan is for you. Nowhere else on Earth exemplifies the modern yet ancient blend than the Land of the Rising Sun. With the capital Tokyo successfully bidding to host the Olympics in 2020, interest in the country is hotting up. Tokyo, with its futuristic skyline of metal, glass and neon lights is intoxicating. Step out of the city and there’s the 3,776-metre-high Mount Fuji, ancient wooden temples and shrines to explore. The old capital Kyoto, on the island of Honshu, offers a fascinating glimpse into the lives of geishas, Japan’s traditional female entertainers, and a world from another time.
This year, it’s all about the great outdoors in the US as it celebrates 100 years of the National Park Service, which oversees the country’s 59 national parks and hundreds of historic landmarks, from the sprawling wilderness of Yellowstone National Park with its gushing geysers (Old Faithful is the most famous) to the iconic towering granite cliffs of Yosemite National Park, set within California’s Sierra Nevada mountains. Pull on your hiking boots and explore this vast 340,000 sq/km network of spectacular canyons, alligator-infested swamplands and magical waterfalls.
This far-flung Pacific archipelago is unquestionably one of the most magical diving and snorkelling destinations in the world with hundreds of species of fish and coral, dolphins, dugongs and turtles. Only eight of the 200 largely unspoilt limestone and volcanic islands that make up Palau are inhabited, blanketed in tropical and mangrove forests and surrounded by water. The marine life is protected, turning the waters into a giant sanctuary. You’ll see things that you won’t find elsewhere in the world. Sights such as the incredible Jellyfish Lake, a lagoon where millions of a sub species of golden jellyfish drift across the lake in a migratory pattern repeated every day. Snorkelling with the jellyfish – you need a permit – is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
About to celebrate its silver (25th) anniversary, this Baltic treasure is well and truly emerging from the shadow of Communism to become one of Europe’s trendy hangouts. Soak up the culture of ancient traditions, crumbling castles and manor houses set in lush pine forests. Latvia, which lies between Lithuania and Estonia, has 3,000 lakes, 12,000 rivers and beach resorts (Jurmala is just 25km from the capital). More than 40 per cent of the country is covered by woodland. The city of Riga, which was the Capital of Culture 2014, has Eastern European chic with wooden buildings, art nouveau architecture, museums and a medieval Old Town. The food scene, with a new breed of Nordic chefs, has been compared to Copenhagen and its Michelin-starred restaurants.