As we say farewell to 2015, and welcome in 2016, many people will be making New Year's Resolutions as they look forward to the year ahead. Maybe you might vow to get to the gym and go on a diet, swear off alcohol for a 'Dry January', or to quit smoking - all very noble, but also amongst the most commonly broken resolutions. Some people even resolve to be 'less stressed' - well, we can think of one way to help keep that resolution! Why not resolve to go somewhere you've never been before? Tick off one or two items on your bucketlist? Here's our suggestions for some fantastic new adventures to look forward to in 2016...
A - Antarctica
2016 could be the year you choose to travel to the 'last frontier': Antarctica. Its astoundingly vast icy mass makes for a humbling, awe-inspiring experience. Hauntingly eerie icebergs loom, admire breath-taking glaciers, go whale-watching, or meet the friendly penguins, and admire the Antarctic's other fascinating wildlife, from albatrosses to seals. It's a once-in-a-lifetime experience that will never be forgotten.
B - Burma
2015 saw a landmark election in Burma, with the inspirational Aung San Suu Kyi's NLD party winning an outright majority. Once closed-off and in the grips of a military junker's rule, in recent years, Burma has slowly begun to open up to outsiders, and is quickly becoming the 'hot spot' tourist destination. And it's no wonder - its friendly people offer welcoming hospitality, and cities such as Bagan, Yangon and Mandalay are famous for their wonderful pagodas, stupas, and temples. Rachel has been to Burma twice, first in 2010 and in 2015, and it's become her favourite destination. Her advice: go to Burma as soon as you can! So, why not make 2016 the year you go? And if you'd like to find out more about river cruising in Burma (one of the most popular and best ways to experience the country), we've got our own exclusive guide to Burma, which we'd be happy to send via email or post - just contact us!
C - Cuba
Another increasingly popular destination, which has also increasingly opened up in recent years, people can't get enough of the colourful Caribbean island of Cuba, renowned for its cadillacs and cigars. You'll find sun-kissed beaches, and Cuban cool here, from the somewhat dilapidated colonial buildings and famous cabaret shows and dance clubs in Havana, to the unique UNESCO-listed city of Trinidad, which is as if time has stood still in this remarkably well-preserved Spanish colonial settlement. You'll hardly believe it's 2016!
If you've never been on a river cruise, and you've been wondering about it, then why not try a river cruise on the Danube for 2016? It's one of the most popular rivers for cruising, and it's no wonder! Europe's second-longest river (after the Volga) flows 1,780 miles from Germany through to Romania, passing through many quaint, rural villages, charming towns, and grand cities. Some of the most popular destinations on a Danube river cruise include Linz and Vienna in Austria, the Slovakian capital of Bratislava, the remarkable capital city, Budapest, in Hungary, and the Serbian capital of Belgrade, and Croatia. One river cruise can simply take you through a whole smorgasbord of European gems, and in comfort and style!
E - Ecuador
If you're looking for an unique adventure in 2016, why not head to Ecuador? Whether it's trekking up the Andes, going into the heart of the Amazon, or meeting the remarkable wildlife which inspired Darwin's theory of evolution, an unforgettable adventure certainly await. The Galapagos Islands are home to some of the most astounding species of wildlife, while the capital of Quito perfectly blends well-preserved colonial structures with contemporary shops and cafes.
F - Fjords
The Norwegian fjords feature on the lists of 'most popular cruise destinations' and on many people's individual bucketlists, so why not tick the fjords off your list in 2016? Western Norway features some of the world's greatest fjords, making it the fjord-capital of the world, as narrow fjords cut into jutting mountains, waterfalls dramatically cascade down, glaciers remain never-melting, and lush green vegetation sets everything off. However, you'll also find some other stunning examples in Alaska, and British Columbia, as well as Chile, Greenland, Iceland, and New Zealand.
G - Garden Route, South Africa
Stretching out along South Africa's south-eastern coast from Mossel Bay to the Storms River, the Garden Route is dotted with lagoons and lakes, and swathed with lush vegetation (hence its name). Along the way, you'll discover picturesque towns such as Plettenberg Bay, Nature's Valley, and Knysna. The area boasts ten nature reserves, including some unique marine reserves where you'll find soft coral reefs, dolphins, seals and more, and nurseries to the endangered Southern Right Whale which go to calve in various bays along the Garden Route in the winter and spring (July to December). The Garden Route is just one of South Africa's many treasures, which also include the cosmopolitan city of Cape Town, the famous Kruger National Park (and other popular nature reserves), and the Winelands, which produce some of South Africa's most popular wines. Why not experience the Garden Route, and all that South Africa has to offer, in 2016?
Honourable mentions: For a captivating mixture of volcanoes, Mayan ruins, tropical rainforests, a capital city with a vibrant nightlife and some excellent museums and the charmingly Spanish colonial city of Antigua, head to Guatemala.
H - Holi Festival, India
Wednesday, 23 March 2016 is the date for Holi, so make a date to be in Mumbai, Rajasthan, Delhi, Goa, or any of the other hot spots in India which are best for celebrating this famously colourful festival, an all-embracing festival, which is resplendent with colour as people of all castes and creeds join in, remembering the ancient Hindu legend of Radhu and Krishna, and celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs and travellers alike. It will certainly be an unforgettable, culturally immersive experience. Of course, if you miss Holi; never fear - there are hundreds of festivals held in India throughout the year, including the sacred Simhastha Kumbh Mela festival held in April 2016 in Ujjain, where millions of devotees head to the Ganges for ritualistic cleansing to commemorate a divine battle fought between the Hindu gods and demons.
I - Iguaza Falls, Brazil and Argentina
Straddling the border between the mighty South American countries of Brazil and Argentina, and comprising 275 falls, these astounding waterfalls crash and thunder, dividing the river into the upper and lower Iguazu. Why not admire this incredible natural wonder from above on a helicopter tour - what better way to tick this off the bucket list in 2016?
Honourable mentions: if you really fancy a slice of paradise in 2016, look no further than the sublime beaches of perfect, ivory sands and tranquil, glittering azure seas of the Indian Ocean. Whether it's Mauritius, the Maldives, Sri Lanka or the Seychelles, you'll be in a tropical heaven, and there's a range of luxurious resorts to enjoy, offering comfort and entertainment.
J - Jordan
From the ancient 'Rose City' of Petra, carved in red sandstone, to the remarkable Wadi Rum which so entranced the famous Lawrence of Arabia, and the healing benefits of the Dead Sea, make sure you check out Jordan in 2016, a place bursting with history, culture, natural wonders, and water sports fun!
K - Kenya
Recently voted the world's best safari destination, if you haven't already gone on safari, where better to start than Kenya, and what better time than in 2016? From Lake Nakuru and Lake Naivasha, to the famous Masai Mara and the annual migration, it's no wonder it's such a popular place for safari!
L - Laos
Go off the beaten track in 2016 and head to this hidden Asian treasure for tantalising cuisine, a heady mix of Buddhism and French colonialism, and meet saffron-robed monks, or go zip-lining or river rafting in Laos. From the Khmer ruins of Wat Phou to the UNESCO-listed Luang Prabang, and the stunning Kuang Si Waterfalls and the mighty Mekong, there's lots to be discovered here.
M - Machu Picchu, Peru
A popular wish-list item, why not make 2016 the year you head up the Inca Trail, rediscover ancient ruins, and be intrigued by the incredible Machu Picchu, perched atop a jungle-clad mountain? One of the most famous and significant archaeological sites in South America, Machu Picchu fascinates and amazes people in equal measures, and is at the heart of a still-unsolved mystery: what was its purpose? It's astonishing to think that it was hidden in the depths of mountainous jungle for centuries, until its discovery just over a century ago, in 1911. Today, you can choose to reach the ruins either by following the Inca Trail from Cusco, or by travelling along a scenic railway - either way, it will no doubt prove to be a memorable experience.
N - Northern Lights
The incredible Aurora Borealis, more commonly known as the Northern Lights, are a popular attraction, drawing people to the Arctic Circle, including Norway, Sweden, Iceland, Lapland, and Greenland. All you need to do is decide from where you want to witness them in 2016!
O - Osaka, Japan
Perhaps you've been toying with the idea of going to Japan for years, so why not go in 2016? And why not head to the boisterous and thriving city of Osaka, renowned for its lively nightlife, and hearty street food (and how about tucking into local delicacies such as takoyaki, or octopus balls, or heading into a fugu restaurant, which serves poisonous pufferfish)? Here you'll find the landmark 16th century Shogunate Osaka Castle in a beautiful setting of cherry, plum and peach trees and surrounded by a tranquil moat, and one of Japan's oldest shrines, the Shinto Sumiyoshi-taisha Shrine.
P - Puebla, Mexico
If, instead of resolving to lose weight, you resolve to be more adventurous with food in 2016, head to Mexico's culinary capital, Puebla, where you can snack on such delicacies as chiles en nogada (stuffed chillies covered in a creamy walnut sauce), and sweets such as tortitas de Santa Clara (shortbread biscuits) and camotes (sweet potato lollies), or maybe even try out such acquired tastes as grasshoppers and cactus flowers, washing all this down with the local liquor of mexcal. But be sure to admire Puebla's chic colonial charm, and its colourful glazed tiles.
Q - Quebec, Canada
If you're heading to Canada in 2016, make sure you visit the charming city of Quebec, the only remaining walled city to be found in North America, containing elegant 17th and 18th century houses in the UNESCO-listed citadel. It's an ideal place to browse for local arts and crafts, and be sure to explore the picture-perfect Petit-Champlain district. Perhaps make your visit to Quebec City extra special by staying in the iconic Château Frontenac, a National Historic Site of Canada. Of course, in the predominantly French-speaking province of Quebec, you'll also find its largest city, the metropolis of Montreal set on an island in the Saint Lawrence river, and also worthy of a visit. In Montreal, you'll discover the city's namesake, the three-peaked hill Mt Royal, and 19 boroughs - many of which were originally independent cities - with their own characters and charms, from the cobble-stoned Vieux-Montréal, which still evokes the days of French colonialism, to the industrial Sud-Ouest and the artsy, bohemian Plateau.
R - Rotorua, New Zealand
2016 may very well be the year you decide to visit New Zealand; and why not? It's a wonderful country full of awe-inspiring landscapes, great for adventures, and friendly people. If you're heading to NZ, be sure to visit Rotorua, found on the North Island. Here, you'll gain an excellent insight into New Zealand's unique Maori culture, watching a traditional haka and other traditional songs, as well as witnessing young Maori learn traditional skills. But you'll also discover a hub of geothermal activity, of bubbling mud pools and colourful thermal lakes, and such popular attractions as Hell's Gate's whirlpools and the powerful geyser at Wai-O-Tapu.
S - Sandakan, Borneo
Head to Sandakan in Malaysian Borneo where you'll find the 'Wild Men of Borneo' in their natural habitat at the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre, which cares for injured orangutans, protecting them from loggers and hunters. Sepilok is home to the world's largest population of wild orangutans, with about 80. Meeting man's closest relative would certainly make for a memorable experience in 2016!
Honourable mentions: Sweden will be hosting the 2016 Eurovision Song Contest so fans of over-the-top campy pop may like to head to the Swedish capital, Stockholm, in May, while 2016 marks the centenary of the Battle of the Somme, so visits to the Somme battlefields in France will be even more poignant
T - Trans-Siberian Express
If you've resolved to go on an epic rail adventure in 2016, look no further than the Trans-Siberian Express, which takes in mighty Russia, from cities such as St Petersburg and Moscow to the off-the-beaten-track Vladivostok, and the picturesque Lake Baikal, through Mongolia, maybe even making a stop during the spectacular annual Naadam Festival this July, and then travelling through China, taking in such cities as Guilin, Xi'an, Beijing, Shanghai, and Harbin. The train even goes to Hong Kong, and Hanoi in Vietnam! If you're looking for a bit more luxury, try the Golden Eagle Express.
U - Uluru, Australia
Commonly known as Ayers Rock, Uluru - a massive sandstone formation - is at the heart of Australia's Northern Territory's Red Centre desert, believed to be about 700 million years old. Sacred to the indigenous Aborigines, it's within the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, where you'll also find 36 red-rock domes commonly called 'The Olgas'. Why not admire this famous landmark at sunset whilst enjoying a champagne toast? Next, why not head off to Melbourne, via the Alice Springs (the nearest largest town to Uluru by almost 280 miles) and Kakadu Park, home to such 'critters' as wallaroos, wallabies, monitors, lizards, crocodiles, and once you've spent some time in Melbourne, head to the Tasmanian city of Hobart and then Australia's iconic Sydney, for an epic Australian adventure in 2016? Perhaps take some time to visit Cairns and the incredible Great Barrier Reef before exploring Uluru?
V - Vietnam
If you're looking for an adventure in 2016 which includes idyllic beaches, mouth-watering food, fascinating history, and you're looking to immerse yourself in a different culture, whether it's meeting hill tribes or perhaps witnessing a bustling traditional floating market on one of the world's mightiest rivers, look no further than Vietnam - it's got them all! With the mighty Mekong flowing through the country, Vietnam is popularly explored on river cruises, and its culinary scene is world-renowned (where better to enjoy a cookery class or try some street food?). The Củ Chi Tunnels reveal a recent episode in history, whilst if you head out to the Sapa Hills, you can meet hill tribes and learn about their customs and culture. Vietnam's beaches may be a well-kept secret, but be sure to head there to unwind or to snorkel in the clear waters.
W - Wahiba Sands, Abu Dhabi
If you're planning on a luxurious city break in the hyper-modern UAE metropolis of Abu Dhabi in 2016, be sure to go into the heart of the undulating Wahiba Sands for some exhilarating dune-bashing, passing by traditional bedouin camps and nomads for an unforgettable experience.
X - Xi'An, China
Whether you're exploring China by rail, river, cruise, or on a tour, be sure to head to Xi'An, where you'll find the legendary Terracotta Army, 6,000 life-size figures which were buried with the first Chinese Emperor, Qin Shi Huang. Xi'an marked the East end of the ancient Silk Road, and was once home to the ruling houses of the Zhou, Qin, Han and Tang dynasties, so you'll find a wealth of history here, too.
Y - Yellowstone, USA
The USA's National Park Service celebrates its 100th birthday on 25 August 2016, so it will certainly be a special year to visit the famous Yellowstone National Park, the US' oldest and arguably greatest national park - great swathes of wilderness, almost 3,500sq ft, atop a volcanic hotspot, mostly found in the state of Wyoming, but also covering parts of Montana and Idaho too. Here you'll find bears, wolves elk, bison, antelope and more living amongst the alpine rivers, rich forests, hot springs, dramatic canyons, and you'll witness powerful geysers, the most famous of which is, of course, Old Faithful.
Z - Zimbabwe
For an adrenaline and nature-filled 2016 adventure, head to Zimbabwe, for a chance to spot Africa's famous Big Five at the popular Hwange National Park, and to enjoy thrills on the Zambezi as you try white water rafting under the astounding Victoria Falls, one of the world's greatest natural wonders which was originally called Mosi-oa-Tunya or 'the smoke that thunders'. You can also head to the man-made Lake Kariba for excellent watersports, fishing and boating opportunities, as well as some relaxation and truly spectacular sunsets.
If you want to explore any of these exciting destinations or enjoy these memorable experiences in 2016, why not contact our team of dedicated travel specialists today? Let's make 2016 an unforgettable year of adventures!
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