BEFORE YOU MAKE TRAVEL PLANS FOR 2016, CHECK OUT THIS LIST OF THE TOP EIGHT TRENDING DESTINATIONS FOR 2016.
The next year is going to be a great one for travel! Where will you be headed in 2016? The following is a list of some top trending destinations. These countries are full of diverse attractions for visitors to enjoy, but what they all have in common is their tourist appeal. So pack your bag and get ready to hit up 2016’s most major hotspots.
Australia & New Zealand
The nations we collectively refer to as “Down Under” are destined to be popular tourism spots in 2016. New Zealand is home to the fascinating Māori culture as well as stunning views that are sure to captivate photographers and beauty-lovers alike. Australia combines the best of big-city culture (Sydney is one of the world’s most glamorous cities!) and, with the wilds of the Outback, adventure tourism at its finest. There is also the Great Barrier Reef, arguably the world’s greatest dive spot. Learning to surf? Just head to Bondi Beach, and be sure to pack your swimsuit! Both New Zealand and Australia are hubs for eco-tourism, and the culture can’t be beat either. With all the beach activities possible, their summer months of November through February are the best time to visit.
As relations thaw between the United States and Cuba, travel to this island paradise is hotter than ever. Interest in Cuba was strong in 2015, and there’s no sign of that fascination slowing down. It’s no surprise that Cuba — which is rich in music, art, food, and culture — is popular with visitors. Cubans are known for their warmth. And there’s no better place to learn how to dance! If you plan an educational trip, acquiring a visa will be a cinch. Take a walking tour of Old Havana, visit El Capitolio, or the National Capitol Building, and then head to tobacco country to learn about the world’s finest hand-rolled cigars. The art scene in Cuba is also strong, and many visitors leave with artwork as souvenirs. Because Cuba is located in the subtropics, you could easily love traveling there at any point in the year, though high traffic season is officially November through March.
Just about every “must see” list this year mentions Iceland. Tour companies are seeing huge growth in this area as visitors flock to the land of the Northern Lights. Summertime is an especially popular time to visit Iceland. The days are long, and the midnight sun is a curiosity that few people will see in their lifetimes. Reykjavik, the country’s capital, is famous for its Secret Solstice music festival, which takes place in June when the sun doesn’t set for three days. Nature-lovers of all stripes flock to Iceland — the gorgeous landscapes are straight out of a dream. Check out the dueling cascades of Gulfoss, or the Golden Falls, or the rift valley at Thingvellir National Park — both are breathtaking.
Tour operators are reporting a surge of demand in Croatia. Full of adorable small towns that, as a whole, round out the tale of Croatia’s multiethnic culture, this is a country that is high on the charm meter. Peaceful, gorgeous coastlines invite visitors to kick back and relax. The food is a delicious mix of nearby influences, including Greek, Italian, and Slavic. Have your fill of cultural experiences in forts and monasteries, and then hike wooded paths to some of the most breathtakingly gorgeous vistas of farmland and mountains that can be imagined! Croatia is the total package. Europe is buzzing in the summer, so you'll pay peak season prices if you visit then, but winter in Croatia is also beautiful —the snow on the country's national parks can be stunning.
Last year, much of Africa suffered unfairly from the stigma associated with Ebola, and the whole continent’s tourism was affected. Now that visitors are starting to seep back in, Ethiopia is emerging as a frontrunner in the African travel stakes. Associated with great food, a well-preserved, engrossing culture, and adventure tourism (hiking in the Simien Mountains, anyone?), this is a nation with much to offer. Winter is the best time to visit, when the weather is warm and dry. Take in the spectacular scenery, including rock-hewn monasteries and volcanic lakes. Ethiopia is fertile and thriving, an unforgettable place to visit.
Italy is usually a top travel destination for the whole world, and 2015 was no exception to that fact. What’s going to keep Italy hot in 2016? Well, Pope-mania is a real thing — 2015 was Pope Francis’ declared “year of peace”, and that is sure to attract visitors in the coming year as well. The dollar is also stronger against the Euro than it used to be, which is encouraging to U.S. tourists. Italy is home to more UNESCO World Heritage Sites than any other country on Earth, meaning that outstanding culture is never far away. The food and wine are deservedly famous, and accommodations are plentiful and varied, from the cheap and efficient to the luxurious. Could 2016 be the year that you discover why Italy is so beloved by travelers? Just as there is never a wrong time to eat gelato, there is truly no wrong time to travel to Italy. Winter is quite cold, but the country is still stunning and as it is technically off-season, you'll compete with fewer people jostling for a view of the Sistine Chapel.
In Canada, Toronto (the capital city of Ontario) is specifically trending. The city’s edgy style appeals to a wide variety of visitors, and its cosmopolitan appeal is similar to that of New York City. That’s not to discount Calgary, though. The city is a popular skiing destination in the winter, but it’s also amped up its summer activities. There’s the Chasing Summer electronic music festival, as well as several local celebrations of food and wine. Vancouver is another Canadian destination with legs, thanks to a host of water activities — kayaking and water parks come in high on the list, along with swimming in Kitsilano pool, Canada's longest saltwater pool.
Your turn, readers. Where will you be toting your luggage in 2016? Let us know in the comments below.
Shannon O’Donnell is a long-term traveler on the road since 2008; she travels slowly and supports grassroots tourism along the way. She is an acclaimed travel speaker and works with universities and businesses all over the U.S. to talk about supporting developing countries.