Make Your Next Trip Extraordinary

A Sophisticated Traveler’s Guide to Where to Go in 2016

Billie Cohen | January 2, 2016

Annual “best places to travel” lists are like bonbons for travelers. They’re so fun to read and so full of eye candy that you can devour a bunch of them in one sitting…and then not feel satisfied at all. We won’t deny that dreaming of beautiful destinations has its own appeal, but what’s really helpful for serious travelers is to know which places should be on their radars now, and why. By conferring with our Trusted Travel Experts, who live and work on the ground all over the world, we’ve selected a dozen destinations that are not just worth visiting anytime—they’re worth visiting specifically in 2016. In other words, these are the trips sophisticated travelers should start planning now. Next year, everyone else will be following in your footsteps.

A polar bear crosses blue water in the Arctic

A polar bear crosses blue water in the Arctic. Photo: ExpeditionTrips

Greenland and the Canadian Arctic

If you want to get away from it all and be awed by nature, the Arctic is the ultimate place to do it. “On the heels of the Paris Climate Talks, and with increased media attention on the effects of climate change, the desire for people to explore and find solace in remote and less populated places is an emerging trend,” says Ashton Palmer, our Trusted Travel Expert for expedition cruises in the Arctic and Antarctica. The spots to put on your radar this year: the Canadian Arctic and Greenland, which are often combined on the same itinerary. For better or for worse, because sea ice has been melting more rapidly in the summer over the past few years, exploration and tourist expeditions have been able to increase—to the point where 2016 will see more exploratory voyages than ever before. “These one-off itineraries may not be repeated,” Ashton says, “so for those who want a truly unique trip there are some great opportunities. For example the Extreme Greenland expedition aboard the icebreaker Kapitan Khlebnikov will attempt the first full circumnavigation of the island.”

Read Ashton’sInsider’s Guide to the Arctic by Land & Sea and reach out to him to get the best possible trip.

Essenza Hotel, Jericoacoara, Brazil

Essenza Hotel, Jericoacoara, Brazil. Photo: Essenza Hotel

Jericoacoara, Brazil

As host of the 2016 summer Olympics, Rio de Janeiro is going to be on the world stage this year. The city will see many new hotel openings over the next few months, including the Grand Hyatt and Trump, reports Martin Frankenberg (one of our Trusted Travel Experts for Brazil), and Sao Paulo’s fantastic Emiliano hotel is opening a property on Copacabana beach. What’s more, the Santiago Calatatrava–designed Museum of Tomorrow just arrived in December, and the Museum of Sound and Image is due to open on Copacabana beach in early 2016. But don’t let Rio hog the spotlight. Paul Irvine (another of our Trusted Travel Experts for Brazil) recommends putting the northeastern beach town of Jericoacoara on your itinerary. For a long time, Jeri was limited to the backpacker circuit due to the fact that it is difficult to get to (a five-hour drive from Fortaleza with a final stretch off-road by 4x4) and had a limited selection of quality hotels. But 2016 will see the opening of the Cruz airport (only a 15-minute drive from Jericoacoara), and the wonderful Essenza hotel arrived in 2015, so this less-visited stretch of the Brazilian coastline is very much ready for cutting-edge travelers.

As a bonus, you’ll get great value this year: “The currency devaluation means that Brazil is about 40 percent cheaper than one year ago,” says Martin.

Read Paul’s Insider’s Guides to Rio de Janeiro and Trancoso, and Martin’s Insider’s Guide to the Brazilian Amazon, and reach out to Martin or Paul to get the best possible trip.

Perth treasury building

In Perth, a historic treasury building has been transformed into a dining and shopping hub in the revitalized Cathedral Square neighborhood. Photo: Cathedral Square/ Facebook

Perth, Australia

This is the year Perth comes into its own. Long thought of as more of a gateway to other iconic Australian experiences—touring the Margaret River wineries, swimming with whale sharks, exploring ancient aboriginal art works in the Kimberley region—the western capital is becoming a destination in and of itself. “Perth is rapidly transforming to meet the growing interest and demand,” says Stuart Rigg, our Trusted Travel Expert for Australia. Two big projects are proof of that effort: The updated Cathedral Square neighborhood is already buzzing buzzing—a development that revitalizes Perth’s formerly sleepy city center by filling 19th-century state buildings with attention-getting shops and restaurants (Petition Kitchen and Beer Corner andLong Chim) and a luxury boutique hotel (COMO The Treasury). Elizabeth Quay is a waterfront esplanade opening in late January with a slew of events and offerings, including water sports, parks, public baths, dining, and more along the river. A Ritz-Carlton is in the works here as well. Perth is also drawing attention for its calendar of annual events, from the Perth International golf tournament and Hopman Cup tennis competition (Serena Williams will compete in 2016) to the Perth Food & Wine Expo.

Read Stuart’s Insider’s Guides to Sydney and the Great Barrier Reef, and reach out to him to get the best possible trip.

Cathedral of Santiago, Santiago, Spain

Cathedral of Santiago, Santiago, Spain. Photo: Luis Avilesortiz/Flickr

Santiago, Spain

The Camino de Santiago, the Pilgrimage of St. James, is already famous: Every year hundreds of thousands walk the spiritual route that ends in Santiago de Compostela—even those who aren’t Catholic. On certain years, called Jacobean or holy years, the Feast of St James (July 25) falls on a Sunday: The Holy Door of the Cathedral in Santiago (Porto Santa) is opened, and pilgrims who pass through it are granted plenary indulgences. The Pope has named 2016 an Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, and as part of the events, the Holy Door will be specially opened through November. “This is a huge thing,” says Joel Zack, one of our Trusted Travel Experts for Spain, adding that while it sounds like a very religiously oriented travel experience, the Camino is about much more than that. “You meet cool people and it’s extraordinarily beautiful. For anyone who loves history, culture, religion, or Spain, this is a really big thing.” He adds that Santiago isn’t about trendy restaurants, wine estates, or fancy hotels (though it has all three), so travelers shouldn’t expect to be wowed by what’s new and cool. “It is about something much more important,” he says, “a reason so many of us long to travel”—to be part of something special, to meet fascinating people, and to experience something unique.

Read Joel’s Insider’s Guide to Seville and Andalusia, and reach out to him to get the best possible trip.

Guan Ghar resort, Bandipur, Nepal

Guan Ghar resort, Bandipur, Nepal. Photo: Guan Ghar resort

Bandipur, Nepal

If you’ve been waiting to put Nepal back on your bucket list, wait no longer. In Kathmandu, the major hotels—including Dwarika’s, the Yak and Yeti, and the Shangrila—are in good shape. “Although some of the monuments were badly damaged during the quake, many were not, and even watching the restoration work can be fascinating,” says Toni Neubauer, our Trusted Travel Expert for Nepal. Major trekking routes in areas such as the Annapurnas and Everest region are open to travelers and safe to hike. Moreover, the villagers and lodge owners really need travelers to provide badly needed income. “If I had to pick a special place, it would be Bandipur,” Toni says. The hill town between Kathmandu and Pokhara looks out on the Annapurnas in the distance. “From 1847 to 1951, during the Rana years, Bandipur flourished as a charming Newari trading town. Streets were covered in silvery slate, and homes were built in traditional Newari style. When the Kathmandu–Pokhara road was built, the town was bypassed and fell into disrepair. About eight years ago, Bandipur was rebuilt in the old Newari brick style, cars were banned from the main street, and some charming hotels were opened. One of my favorites is Gaun Ghar, managed by Ram, a former top guide in Chitwan National Park. One can do some delightful walks to nearby villages, full of welcoming people, or just relax and enjoy the scenery and charm of the area.”

Read Toni’s Insider’s Guide to Nepal and reach out to her to get the best possible trip.

Mancora Beach, Peru

Mancora Beach, Peru. Photo: Aracari

Máncora, Peru

Though a long-time local favorite, the surfer's paradise of Máncora has only recently garnered attention from international beachgoers, thanks to a number of luxury properties that have opened along its coast, including the KiChic hotel— an especially luxe property with a bohemian vibe and a focus on wellness for unparalleled relaxation. Another insider tip from Marisol Mosquera, our Trusted Travel Expert for Peru: There’s great whale-watching here, from July to October.

Read Marisol’s Insider’s Guide to Peru and reach out to her to get the best possible trip.

Sri Lanka's Cinnamon Country

Sri Lanka's Cinnamon Country. Photo: Sri Lanka In Style

Cinnamon Country, Sri Lanka

A little-known fact is that Sri Lanka produces and exports 95 percent of the world’s true cinnamon, and the south of the country is like the Napa Valley of that spice. “Amid cinnamon plantations—as well as rubber, pepper and tea—an increasing number of beautiful villas and small quaint hotels are popping up,” says Miguel Cunat, our Trusted Travel Expert for Sri Lanka. These include Why House, Kahanda Kanda, Villa Mayurana and the recently opened Tri. “Cinnamon Country also has great bike trails, walking routes, local villages, lakes, and some of Sri Lanka’s best beaches are only ten minutes away.”

Read Miguel’s Insider’s Guide to Sri Lanka and reach out to Miguel to get the best possible trip.

The Cape, A Thompson Hotel, Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

The Cape, A Thompson Hotel, Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. Photo: Thompson Hotels

Cabo, Mexico

In September of 2014, Hurricane Odile, a category 3 storm, slammed into Mexico and all but decimated Los Cabos. The hugely popular beach area spent the next year renovating and rebuilding, and as we head into 2016, it is fully back on its feet and arguably even better than before. “Los Cabos has undergone a breathtaking revitalization in the year since hurricane Odile impacted the region,” says Julie Byrd, our Trusted Travel Expert for Los Cabos. New luxury properties have been added to the scene, including the sleek and sophisticated The Cape, A Thompson Hotel, the reopening of the ME Cabo resort, and a new adults-only Breathless Resort in the heart of Cabo San Lucas’s marina district. New restaurants are popping up as well (“a personal favorite is Toro Latin Kitchen by Richard Sandoval,” Julie says), and a new highway is making the travel time from the San José del Cabo International Airport to Cabo San Lucas proper even faster—and making it much easier to visit the beautiful Pueblo Mágico of Todos Santos on the Pacific coastline north of Cabo.

Read Julie’s Insider’s Guide to Los Cabos Villa Vacations, and reach out to her to get the best possible trip.

Markthal (or Market Hall), Rotterdam, Netherlands. Photo: Frans Berkelaar/Flickr

Antwerp, Belgium and Rotterdam, Netherlands,

“Combine these two cities in the Netherlands and Belgium (30 minutes apart by train) and you’re mixing two of the coolest cities in Europe,” says Jack Dancy, one of our Trusted Travel Experts in Europe. “Rotterdam was flattened in the war, and instead of rebuilding à la Rouen or Dresden, they decided to reinvent the city, which is now a byword for daring architecture and world-class architectural firms. Along with Antwerp, the two cities have excellent food scenes, great art and fashion, interesting places to stay (from big hotels to two-room design apartments)—in short, hipster credentials that make Brooklyn and San Francisco seem fuddy-duddy.” .

Read Jack’s Insider’s Guides to Paris andBurgundy, and reach out to him to get the best possible trip.

Athens today has a chic, modern scene. Photo: True Greece

Athens, Greece

If you read only the headlines, Greece had a rough year: economics, riots, refugees. But the truth on the ground is almost always different from what the newspapers choose to tell you —and that has been especially true in this country. Back in July, Wendy was explaining why travelers should still be going to Greece, and the recommendation remains the same, even moreso, in 2016. Our Trusted Travel Expert for Greece, Christos Stergiou, sees it first-hand. “Athens today belongs to the young entrepreneurial crowd of Greece, and this is evident in the myriad hip hotels, activities, coffee shops, bars and restaurants which are popping up all over,” he says. At least six new chic and modern hotels, from small boutique properties to larger high-end establishments, are expected to arrive in 2016, and the restaurant scene is growing too. And though it has more than 5,000 years of history, Athens is not just about the ruins; it’s also a beautiful beach area. “The Athenian Riviera that ranges from Fáliro to Vouliagméni has established itself as the perfect getaway from the hustle and bustle of downtown Athens,” reports Christos.

Read Christos’s Insider’s Guides to Athens,Mykonos, and Santorini, and reach out to him to get the best possible trip.

Old Town Quito, Ecuador. Photo: Southwind Adventures

Quito and the “Avenue of the Volcanoes,” Ecuador

“Ecuador is no longer just about a visit to the Galapagos; the mainland is now a stand-alone destination itself,” says one of our Trusted Travel Experts for South America, Tom Damon. “Ecuador offers a variety of soft-adventure and ecologically oriented activities in a small area: There are snow-capped mountains, lush cloud forests, lowland Amazon rainforest, wildlife viewing, volcanoes, authentic local culture and traditions, rose farms, re-developed train circuits, cooking demonstrations, and culinary encounters.” It’s also logistically easy: The weather is spring-like year-round, the time zone is the same as EST, the currency is the U.S. dollar, the electricity is the same as in the States,, and American, JetBlue, and Tame have added new flights. Center your trip around Quito — where the old town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site — and from there explore Avenue of the Volcanoes, a 200-mile stretch south of the capital city dotted with active volcanoes.

Read Tom’s Insider’s Guides to Machu Picchu and Patagonia, and reach out to him to get the best possible trip.

Arches National Park, Utah

Arches National Park, Utah. Photo: National Park Service

U.S. National Parks

On August 25, 2016, the National Park Service will mark its 100th anniversary. In addition to all parks waiving admission fees that day, expect individual parks to host their own special events—not that they really need any. The NPS has more than 400 parks, reserves, memorials and monuments, and they range from mountains and islands to statues and forts (here’s the full list). Use the centennial as inspiration to explore some of the country's lesser-known parks or to see the great classics in a new light. For inspiration and ideas, browse the National Park Service’s FindYourPark website, a project launched in honor of the centennial, or talk to Wendy's Trusted Travel Experts for the national parks, Marty Behr and Mark Campbell.

Read Marty and Mark's Insider’s Guides to the Grand Canyon Like You've Never Seen It and Bryce, Zion ad Arches, and reach out to them to get the best possible trip.

 


 

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3 Comments

  1. Brittany

    Thanks for the great suggestion! I hadn’t considered Greenway, but now I want to include it on my itinerary this year!

  2. Alicia

    I usually seek warm places, but Greenland sounds like an amazing destination so maybe in the future! Just made my bucket list for this year, love having stuff to look forward to!

  3. Kathy Klofft at Goseeittravel

    We just booked a polar bear adventure with Expedition Trips for November 2016 in Churchill. I found them here, on your site, and the experience of booking was as advertised, Wendy! This trip was planned as a birthday surprise for my hubby and my consultant at ET was wonderful about helping me book and … shhh, keeping it a surprise until I revealed it to hubby in late November! I wrapped the itinerary with a little polar bear stuffy our grown up daughters still had in their toy box. Boy, was he surprised! Now we have a year to plan and prepare for our adventure!

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