A New Year, a New You! That’s how the saying goes, at least, and I plan to make the most of 2016. I’m sure we’re all dreaming of a winter getaway right about now, but the cold won’t last forever! Here are eight countries I’m adding to my travel bucket list this year. Let’s see how many I get to!
If you’re looking for more wanderlust-worthy places around the globe, check out Rough Guides’ top picks for 2016. Their authors and editors are constantly on the go (and on the hunt) for the best destinations, sights and experiences, so I’m always curious to read their lists every year. Do you agree with their picks for best countries, cities and regions to visit in 2016? Sound off in the comments!
1) CUBA – for color, culture and Latin flavor
Let’s start off with the most obvious choice. Since United States travel to Cuba is now officially a go, I’m definitely eager to visit before it becomes too touristy. Sure, mass tourism can help the local economy, but I wouldn’t want the construction of large, all-inclusive-type hotels to take away from the country’s vibrant culture. Like most travelers, I’d start my getaway in Havana. Every photo I’ve seen of Cuba’s capital city is super colorful, and I have a feeling I’d have an Instagram field day over there. Even though I’m often glued to my laptop and iPhone, I think I’d relish in Cuba’s lack of Internet. Disconnecting is a therapy in its own right.
2) NEPAL – to lend a helping hand
Living in Hong Kong for part of 2015 really put Asia on the map for me, literally. Countries like Nepal always seemed out of reach, but that all changes when you’re living in a hub like Hong Kong. While I’m now back in San Francisco, my adoration for Asia has only intensified. Sure, Nepal had a tough year, but I won’t let that deter me from visiting. Speaking of which, I’d love to spend a few weeks volunteering and helping in any way I can. If you have any recommendations for programs, I’m all ears! Volunteering aside, I’d like to float in Phewa Lake and marvel at Mount Everest (even if I’m not adventurous enough to climb it).
3) GREECE – to sail in style
To be fair, Greece has been on my travel bucket list since I was 5 years old. It’s one of those destinations where I envision needing at least two weeks to see and do all that I want to. That tends to happen when you build a place up in your mind. I’d start my tour in Athens, and since I’ve always been fascinated by Greek mythology, I’d probably need a few days there to see all the ruins. After that, I’d love to check out a few islands. Currently on my watch list? Thessaloniki for the lively festivals and even livelier nightlife scene, Halkidiki for the water-sport-perfect beaches, and Meteora (Greek for “suspended in the air”) because it looks like something out of Avatar.
4) HUNGARY – to cool off in the springs and warm up in the baths
Budapest, in particular, is on my radar. It seems like a truly bohemian city, from gritty street art to revamped neighborhoods. I’ve heard nothing but great things about the city and I’m sure the rest of the country is equally impressive. I’d also like to hop over to Sopron in west Hungary to see the medieval buildings and other highlights, like the gothic Goat Church and Storno House. A trip to Hungary is not complete without a dip in the baths, and it sounds like the Hévíz Spa in the northwest part of the country is a safe bet. The thermal Gellért Baths, an experience that has been compared to swimming in a cathedral, doesn’t sound bad either.
5) JORDAN – to let the stars guide my way
After turning down a media trip to Jordan a few years ago due to scheduling conflicts, I feel like I missed out on my opportunity. I need to change my thought process, because that’s not true at all. Jordan is always going to be a magical country and I know I’ll make it there one day…maybe this year, if I play my cards right. After flipping through, Best Day on Earth, I’m hooked on seeing Petra by Night. With nothing but candles and stars lighting the way, I can only imagine how magical this night will feel. Since I’ve already spent a few hours in the Dead Sea in Israel, I might skip this activity and instead opt for canyoning in Wadi Mujib. It will be challenging, no doubt, but well worth the view.
6) SRI LANKA – to push my limits and learn a new sport
I have a feeling Sri Lanka is a “choose your own adventure” type of destination. Sri Lanka might be a small island nation in the Indian Ocean, but it’s packed with cultural appeal. The country offers travelers everything from picturesque beaches and famous monuments (like ancient Buddhist ruins) to wildlife safaris, rugged trails that wind through rainforests, and underwater exploration. Whatever “theme” I pick for Sri Lanka, it will include a visit to the tea estates, otherwise known as Little England. I hear there’s everything from relaxing tea massages to herbal treatments available. I suppose it’s a little bit like a wine tour minus the wine. Plus, no hangover!
7) MADAGASCAR – to climb a Baobab tree
Full disclosure: The animated movie series is one of many reasons why Madagascar is so high up on my travel bucket list. Even though I’m a city girl, not to mention allergic to many animals, I don’t want that to stop me from seeing cool cats like the one pictured below. Besides, after glancing at my cork map (see gift guide), it’s about time I see more of Africa. I also have a strange fascination with Baobab trees, and Madagascar has a slew of them. Bonus points if I get there for the sunset view. Depending on when I make it over to Madagascar, I could spot humpback whales on a whale watching tour (best seen between June and September).
8) EL SALVADOR – to chase butterflies (and waterfalls)
While I’m fairly familiar with South America, Central America is a different story. El Salvador piques my interest for a few reasons, but it’s the inspiring landscapes that really seal the deal. The country is a cultural traveler’s dream destination, and that’s probably true for rugged adventurers, too. For one thing, you can fish, sail, kayak or water ski on the volcanic crater lakes of Coatepeque and Ilopango, located on either side of San Salvador. Another must for me is the cloud forest of Cerro Verde. The national park spans three volcanoes, not to mention crazy views of the surrounding landscape. Finally, I’d go butterfly spotting in Barra de Santiago because I’m a dreamer at heart.
What countries are you adding to YOUR travel bucket list? Tell me in the comments below!
This post is in collaboration with Rough Guides. All opinions are my own.
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