My prayer for 2016 is to be bitten by the travel bug. To traverse the globe and blaze a trail across the many continents. To create memories of a lifetime, be it on a mountain, a beach, a delta or an iceberg. To travel far and wide, experience unseen treasures, feel unknown emotions and taste forbidden pleasures. To open my senses wide to all that this world has to offer and never be the same again. Here is a handful of marvellous destinations that promise to do just that, so pack your bags and book your tickets to the best destinations that 2016 has to offer..
Experience the best of the Orient
The Land of the Rising Sun, Japan, is a unique mix of old and new, ancient and modern, tradition and technology. Here you will find eye-popping architecture, exquisite gardens, majestic castles, snowcapped mountains, wind-swept beaches and pulsating urban centres. Take time to take a walk through a park filled with pink sakura (cherry) blossoms or pause to be inspired by the sacred Mount Fuji. Stay at a traditional Japanese ryokan (inn) enjoying the carefully prepared, visually appealing meals and relaxing on a futon. Visit one of the thousand Shinto shrines. Know more about samurais while partaking in a traditional tea ceremony. Watch a play at the Kabuki theatre or buy a manga comic or make a wish on a Daruma doll. Experience the calm of a rotemboro (a hot spring bath) in harmony with Nature. With mountains, temples, shrines, castles, national parks or beaches Japan promises to surprise you at every corner
Board a flight to Gaborone and embark on a safari like no other. Explore the world’s largest inland delta, the Okavango, in a mokoro (boat) and enjoy the lush water-wilderness. Gawk at the pink haze of a million flamingos that you will find on the saltpans of Makgadikgadi and watch the zebras run on this untamable land. Enjoy the riverine landscape of Chobe and take a trip to the nearby Victoria Falls. Visit the home of the San Bushmen and understand their way of life and dance a step or two with the pretty ladies. Take a game drive in the Moremi Game Reserve and be humbled by the astounding range of flora and fauna on display- lions, elephants, zebras, impalas, gazelles, springboks, cheetahs and more. Take a whiff of dry air at the Kalahari Desert dotted with shrubs and acacia. Make your way to the Tsodilo Hills to see thousand year old rock paintings. With its untouched wetlands, reed-beds, deserts, savannah and woodland Botswana has something for every visitor.
Take a road-trip down under
Rent a car and drive the Great Ocean Road in Australia and watch the Southern Ocean crash against the sandy beaches and sheer cliffs along the road. Take a helicopter ride and marvel at the 12 Apostles, queer limestone stacks rising out of the ocean. Stop at Bells beach to check out the monster waves and watch the daredevilry of the surfers. Be on the lookout for a whale or two or go exploring the ocean for a shipwreck. Snorkel or scuba dive in the Great Barrier Reef that stretches for about 2000 km along the Queensland coastline up north. Take a guided trail into the magnificent Daintree rainforest. Fly down to the Red Center and listen to the aboriginal guide weave a tale of times gone by while sitting in the shade of the Uluru. Or head to the Blue Mountains and take in the charm of one million hectares of tall forests, sandstone cliffs, waterfalls, caves and canyons. Visit the urban metropolises of Sydney or Melbourne and eat at a Michelin starred restaurant or two. Australia must be ‘felt’ and not just seen.
Rock-On at the Emerald Isle
Ireland is a shining gem of an island in the Atlantic Ocean. Discover its many hidden treasures as you drive down the Wild Atlantic way, a winding road along the ocean on the west coast. Visit the cities of Clare, Limerick, Cork or Donegal and feel the beat of the land at a trad session (traditional Irish music) with bodhrans (drums), fiddles and tin-wheels. Watch the waves reach for the sky and get set to explore remote islands. Literary buffs must visit Dublin to be immersed in books, letters and manuscripts galore. Visit the Trinity College and take a peek at the Book of Kells that has been around since 800 AD. Make your way to the Gap of Dunloe (a mountain pass) best experienced in a jaunting car (pony-cart) with a charismatic jarvey (driver). Wildlife lovers can head to the Killarney National Park with its gorgeous lakes, mountains, woodlands and native red deer that have been roaming the lands for over 12,000 years. Don’t forget to visit Connemara, remote and rugged, and with a savage beauty beyond compare.
Tango in Uruguay
A must-visit destination in South America is its smallest nation, Uruguay. What it lacks in size, it makes up in variety. Stroll through the capital city of Montevideo and click a picture or two at the 19th century neo-classical buildings. The partygoers must make their way to Punta Del Este to enjoy the beach-party of a lifetime. Marine animal-lovers must head to Cabo Polonia, a beautiful fishing village with plentiful fish, seals, sea-lions, penguins and even whales. The old-world charm of Colonia del Sacramento oozes from every stone on its cobblestone streets. Immerse yourself in the past and dream of another time. Relax your aching bones in a thermal bath at Termas de Payman or go hot-spring hopping on Rio Uruguay. You may even find yourself caught in a traffic jam only to find a gaucho (cowboy) with his herd of cattle holding up the road. For an authentic gaucho experience book yourself into a working estancia (ranch) and try your hand at rounding up the cattle. A trip to Uruguay is not complete until your cut into a juicy steak from a parrilla at the famous Mercado del Puerto in Montevideo. And to round off your vacation enjoy a beautiful sunset at the beach while sipping a cup of mate, the smooth local tea.
Experience the hidden treasures of Iran
Home to one of the oldest and culturally rich civilisations in the world, Iran is now a hot word in tourist circles. Iran has opened its arms wide to visitors from across the globe. Grab your skis and head to the many popular ski resorts that are open from December until May or history buffs can catch a bus to Isfahan. Walk along the Nagsh-e-Jahan square and be spell-bound by the magnificent mosques and palaces with its intricate tiles, ornamentations, calligraphy and stunning mosaics. Shop for a Persian rug at one of the world’s largest covered bazaars in Tabriz. Watch the soft, yellow lights on the Si-O-Seh bridge across the Zayandeh river with its rows of arches. Spend a night as a nomad in a tent or rest in a caravanserai on the Silk Route. Visit the city of Yazd a sacred place for the Zorastrians. Fill your bellies with the rich Iranian Khoresht (meat stew) and gulp down the delicious Iranian ice-cream flavoured with orange blossoms, honey and rosewater. The snow-clad Zagros and Elburz mountain ranges, the Anzali Lagoon in the Caspian Sea, the 2500 year-old city of Persepolis, ancient ruins, pristine beaches and ski resorts, Iran a spellbinding secret waiting to be discovered.