It’s never too early to start planning this year’s adventure. We’ve rounded up our top ten travel destinations for 2016, looking at how you can travel smart in these unique locations. Discover bohemian streets, exciting festivals, and unforgettable beaches. Get inspired.
From the ski resorts of Vidzeme to the award winning cuisine in Riga, Latvia is a relative newcomer to the tourism scene. Celebrating 25 years of non-communist rule in 2015 had the country glistening with national pride. All the attractions, restaurants and wonderful hospitality remain – just without the European prices. Along with great skiing, there’s countless health spas, palaces, castles and grand manor homes open for tours.
If you’re an amateur skier, it’s worthwhile booking a lesson with an instructor on your first day to get some local mountain knowledge. A ski instructor will also check that your equipment is functioning how it should, which is especially important if you’ve hired it from the resort. They might even tell you where to find the best craft beer in town for some après-ski fun!
And remember, you can choose to add skiing and snowboarding cover to your TravelCare policy for an additional cost.
Celebrating 50 years of independence in 2016, Botswana has gone from impoverished to a stable, thriving country, with tourism being one of its most successful industries. Local attractions include the zigzagging Zambezi river, the beautiful views of the Mashatu Game Reserve, the wilderness of the Chobe National Park and the dreamy Zibandianja Lagoon.
If you’re travelling with children, why not visit the award winning Ker & Downey safari, which is specially designed for families looking to experience the true wilderness of Africa. The safari aims to educate and inspire children and includes a range of activities, such as making bows and arrows, and cooking a meal on an open fire.
Ensure you have vaccinations before visiting Botswana and keep your vaccination card with you when travelling. Always book safari trips with government licensed tour operators as there are some rogue operators that may not be using safe vehicles or equipment. Your travel insurance will not cover you if you are injured on a tour with an unlicensed operator.
3. Poipu Beach, Kauai Island, Hawaii
Known as the ‘Sunny South Side’ and drenched in sunshine all year round, Poipu Beach is nothing short of idyllic and full of romance. Its top 10 status in many ‘world’s best beaches’ lists is well deserved. Kauai Island provides the full Hawaiian experience – cultural dance, traditional cuisine and Luau (Hawaiian party). The idyllic sunsets, gentle surf and sheltered coves make this the perfect location for beach lovers.
The lifeguards and picnic facilities make this a great destination for families and there is also a natural wading pool for any young swimmers.
Hawaiian beaches are world renowned for their surf and Poipu has a seasonal break that is strongest in winter. For safer beach conditions, go in the summer and remember that coral and sharp rocks are common at island beaches. Swim footwear is advisable across all Hawaiian Islands.
4. The Blues Highway, Route 61, USA
Starting in Music City, Nashville, finishing with a dose of Creole in New Orleans, Route 61 is 1,000km of blues history and southern hospitality for ‘y’all to soak up’. Head south towards Memphis, making sure you stop at a rib shack for a bite to eat. They might look like old sheds but they’re as much a part of the south as corn bread, shrimps and cotton fields. Take in the landscape by day and search out some local music in the evening – blues of course.
When driving long distances overseas, it’s important to remain alert and take plenty of breaks to avoid driver fatigue. Before beginning a long journey, make sure you get a good night’s rest and eat something to keep your energy levels up. If you can, share the driving responsibility with someone else to allow you to take naps in between. The great American highways lend themselves to putting your foot down but the risk of accident or arrest is as high as the fines. Remember, you will not be covered by your travel insurance if you have an accident as a result of speeding, drink driving or breaking the law in any way.
5. Zhenyuan, Guizhou Province, China
The ancient town of Zhenyuan is rich in history and culture, with its palaces and temples, and has striking natural landscape. Its origins as a trading town, with its waterways and land access, are over 2,000 years old – ‘instituted’ by Emperor Liu Bang in 202 BC.
Zhenyuan, the Oriental Venice, has a tranquil beauty, steeped in Buddhist tradition and surrounded by stunning landscapes. Whether you take a cruise on the Wuyang River, or a day hike through the countryside, Zhenyuan’s mountain peaks, crystalline waters and deep gorges will have you reaching for your camera. The Dragon Boat Festival, held on 25 May each year, is a must-see.
There are several recommended hiking tours which pass through Zhenyuan. When exploring mountainous terrain, always wear the correct footwear and carry a backpack with all the hiking essentials (e.g. map, compass, sunscreen, water bottle, food, first aid kit, torch, etc.). Make sure you have planned out your route before you depart and have a thorough understanding of where you are going. Guided tours are recommended for your safety, plus the local knowledge also provides you with interesting facts about your location.
6. Palawan Province, The Philippine Islands
Palawan has some of the best tropical beaches in the world with very few people on them. World class snorkelling and diving, crystal clear waters, Jurassic landscape and friendly locals make this peaceful destination a must-see. Filipino people are also amongst the friendliest in the world, with a warm welcoming attitude.
If you’re visiting this destination, its recommended that you travel outside the main typhoon season (usually between May and October). If you are planning on ocean scuba diving, you must hold an open water diving certificate or be diving with a qualified instructor. Otherwise, your insurance will not cover you if you have any accidents.
7. Global Village, Dubai
Everything in Dubai is ‘big’ and the Global Village is no exception. Dubailand is said to be the world’s largest leisure and entertainment park, covering over 1,600km and hosting over 7 million visitors a year. More than a shopping plaza or a theme park, Dubailand has everything from a prehistoric oceanarium and submarines to a 3D haunted house. Additionally, the traditional Bedouin village allows you to experience desert life as its been for thousands of years. No expense is spared at Dubailand, even wandering around the 17,000 space car park is an experience all on its own!
Dubai is just as safe as any other city, however it’s always useful to be aware of any local laws and customs before you visit. It is illegal to show affection, hold hands or kiss in public. Dubai is a desert country so make sure you wear clothes that offer cover from the harsh sun. It is also illegal to show too much skin unless you’re on a beach.
8. Kutna Hora, Czech Republic
The old Bohemian city of Kutna Hora is famous for its Gothic churches and cathedrals. Visitors will be awestruck by the restored architecture from Medieval, Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque eras. Neighbouring town Sedlec is also worth a visit for a macabre trip to the Sedlec Ossuary chapel, with its chandeliers constructed from human bones. Czech-style absinth is on offer at many restaurants and bars to accompany a traditional feast of smoked meat, cabbage and potato dumplings.
Cobbled streets, some over 700 years old, can be difficult to walk on so wear suitable footwear and watch your step – a sprained ankle (or worse) may ruin your holiday. The Czech Republic is generally a safe place to travel, however avoid wandering around late at night through back streets. It’s easy to become lost and vulnerable as there is little street lighting or directional sign posts.
Nestled between Brazil and Argentina is the democratic ‘Switzerland’ of South America. Uruguay has a long history of government stability and relative wealth. Here you can experience a taste of South America without the risk associated with travelling to some of its neighbours.
Start at the capital, Montevideo. A three month Carnival begins on 23 January and features Candombe – Uruguayan music and dance dating back to the days of slavery. A visit to the Gaucho region is recommended. You can see real cowboys working out in the great wide plains, where cattle raising is a primary way of life.
Uruguay produces beautiful olive oils so a tasting tour is recommended. It’s also South America’s fourth largest wine producer and has been growing the wine grape for over 250 years. Recently the local wine has grown in popularity in global markets so don’t leave without visiting one of its award winning wineries.
Uruguay is generally a safe place to travel, however pickpockets operate in the main squares, tourist-rich areas and around transport stations. Always travel with minimal cash in your pocket or wallet, and if you’re attending the carnival, pay extra attention to your belongings.
10. Sarajevo, Bosnia & Herzegovina
There is so much beauty in Sarajevo it’s hard to know where to start. Sitting on the Miljacka River, surrounded by the Dinaric Alps, Sarajevo is packed with museums and galleries. It has long since been rebuilt after the war, excluding some remains left standing as monuments. Sarajevo is now a charming vibrant city with bustling cafes, craft shops and local eateries.
Focused on the arts, Sarajevo hosts the globally influential Sarajevo Film Festival in August. It’s also home to the popular Art Gallery of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the war museum Galerija 11-07-95. Visit in February to attend the Sarajevo Winter Festival, which includes a programme of theatre performance, movies, concerts and fine art exhibitions.
Like most cities, pickpockets and tourist scams operate here. If you venture into the countryside, make sure you go with a guide as, although not common, there are still land mines in some areas which are yet to be cleared.