Make 2016 your year to venture into the unknown; those destinations that are often overlooked but full of hidden gems – and most importantly, are yet to be overrun by tourists. Whether you want to go somewhere far-flung or closer to home, here are our top five places to visit this year.
This year marks Botswana’s 50 years of independence, and what a 50 years it’s been. Since 1966, Botswana has lifted itself out of extreme poverty to become one of Africa’s most stable countries with a fast-growing economy. All of this growth hasn’t overshadowed the natural beauty of Botswana though; seventeen per cent of the country is national parks, conserving its vast wildlife and incredible wilderness.
Spend your days on a canoe down the Okavango Delta, horseback riding through Mashatu Game Reserve, or discovering prehistoric rock paintings on the Unesco World Heritage-listed Tsodilo Hills. Whatever your itinerary, Botswana is wild Africa at its best. Stay at Sanctuary Chobe Chilwero for a luxurious retreat in Chobe National Park.
More than 200 unspoilt islands – eight of which are inhabited – make up Palau, a relatively unknown paradise in the Pacific. The country is renowned for leading conservation efforts in the region – so much so that President Remegesau was named a ‘Champion of the Earth’ by the UN in 2014 – making it one of the best places in the world for diving, snorkelling, kayaking and sailing. Stay at Palau Pacific Resort for the ultimate tropical getaway.
Latvia celebrates 25 years of independence in 2016, and the country is set to come into its own after years of shaking off Communism, giving life back to suppressed traditions.
In 2014, capital Riga was named European Capital of Culture, giving the city a much-needed injection of funds for major renovations. It’s also quickly becoming a big foodie destination, with New Nordic chefs putting contemporary twists on local flavours to critical acclaim. Outside of the city, don’t miss Gauja National Park; a pine forest full of medieval ruins and relics from the Soviet era (including a bobsled track). Stay at Hotel Bergs in the historic centre of Riga, where Art Nouveau meets contemporary design.
Uruguay may be one of South America’s more overlooked countries, but that doesn’t mean it should stay that way. One of the continent’s most progressive societies, the country prides itself on political stability and prosperity, while the variety of places to visit is second-to-none.
Start off in Montevideo, the small capital full of some of the best steakhouses in the world, before discovering cowboy country a mere hour away, and Punta del Este for the best beaches and nightlife in Uruguay. Escape the crowds in Punta for nearby José Ignacio, a sleepy but incredibly chic fishing village, and stay at beach-front Posada del Faro.
Words by Angharad Jones