Start making your 2016 travel plans right now…
A few years ago, a study in the Netherlands found that people who took vacations were most happy before a trip, but no happier than non-vacationers after a trip. Anticipation, the researchers suggested, was what had the biggest effect on happiness.
With that in mind, why not start planning your next trip right now?
January is one of the busiest times for travel planning. A new year is a reminder of everything you want to do with your life: It’s all hope and possibilities as the clock strikes midnight.
Don’t just say you want to travel more and expect to get to it some time in February or March or never. Get started planning. Now.
If this inspires you to travel anywhere — or even to plan a future trip — we’ve succeeded. But if you’re looking for something more specific, here are our 10 recommendations for where to go in 2016.
1. TOBAGO Trinidad and Tobago
Tobago is the smaller island of the Caribbean duo, Trinidad and Tobago. The island’s history has been fraught since Christopher Columbus saw its shore in 1498, but after centuries of British rule Tobago is now autonomous under the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.
Though lying outside the hurricane belt, Tobago still has a defined wet season from July to November, making the best time to visit from December to June. And why should you visit? Gorgeous, sandy beaches along with diverse tropical forest are the perfect setting for relaxing, boating and surfing, hiking and touring, or scuba and snorkeling. And that’s to say nothing of Tobago’s rich multi-ethnic heritage on display year round.
If you go
When to go: January to May
Approx. round-trip airfare: 1900 AED from Dubai, UAE to Scarborough, Trinidad and Tobago
Must see: Pigeon Point Beach, a picturesque Caribbean spot
2. EL CALAFATE Argentina
Patagonia is tremendously large, covering more than 400,000 square miles across southern Chile and Argentina.
At that size, there’s little chance of fitting in all the sights in a single trip. For those of us who don’t have a couple months to backpack across South America, it is possible to fit in some amazing highlights in about 10 days. (Shorter than that and you’ll be spending as much time getting there as seeing the place.)
El Calafate is the gateway to Los Glaciares National Park, the largest national park in Argentina. Thirty percent of the park’s 2,800 square miles is covered in ice, and the crowning jewel is the Perito Moreno glacier.
If you go
When to go: November to December, March to April
Approx. round-trip airfare: 11600 AED from Dubai, UAE to San Martin De Los Andes, Argentina
Must see: Perito Moreno Glacier, the gateway to Los Glaciares National Park
3. ANDALUCÍA Spain
Imagine a place where the light is always golden, where great wine and tasty appetizers are plentiful and cheap, and where gorgeous architecture comes with a rich multicultural history. Then see it firsthand — in the south of Spain.
In the past three years, this European country has seen strong growth in tourism, setting new records each year. The reasons are many: For one, a weaker euro and a not-so-hot Spanish economy make it a great value for foreign visitors. For another, the southern coast along the Mediterranean is a great option for travelers who would have previously headed to destinations now considered dangerous, like Egypt and Tunisia.
Each region of Spain is amazingly unique. In southern Spain, there isn’t just one city that should get all your attention, and so we’re thinking instead of an ideal Andalucían road trip: Córdoba to Sevilla to Cádiz to Málaga to Granada. And if you’re feeling inspired by the generous tapas, maybe make a second round (if you’ve got the means).
If you go
When to go: October to November, April to May
Approx. round-trip airfare: 3800 AED from Dubai, UAE to Granada, Spain
Must see: The Alhambra, a hilltop palace and fortress, at sunset
4. CHENGDU China
Chengdu has two claims to fame: The Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, and the amazing food characterized by Sichuan spice.
With a population of more than 4.3 million, the city is already a popular destination for domestic Chinese tourists while foreign tourism still has a ton of room to grow. This bustling metropolis offers visitors a taste of history with which the West can’t even compete. Chengdu has been an important cultural center for civilization going back 4,000 years.
You’ve probably seen photos from the Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding — that’s where so many of those adorable panda cubs are born. The base is a bit of a trek from the city, but seeing the pandas is a must.
If you go
When to go: April, October to November
Approx. round-trip airfare: 2300 AED from Dubai, UAE to Chengdu, China
Must see: The pandas
5. SPLIT Croatia
Split, Croatia’s second largest city, has at its center Diocletian’s Palace, built by the Roman emperor in the fourth century. Surrounding the palace is a seaside city that is only going to get more popular with visitors. The vibrant blues of the Adriatic Sea and red-roofed architecture are too inviting to ignore.
The architectural marvel of a city center is also surrounded by the lovely Croatian climate; a day hike or boat trip to a quiet beach should definitely be on the itinerary.
If you go
When to go: April to September
Approx. round-trip airfare:2700 AED from Dubai, UAE to Split, Croatia
Must see: Diocletian’s Palace, built by the Roman emperor
6. SKYE & LOCHALSH Scotland
The Scottish Highlands are getting attention for an unexpected new attraction: A highway route circling the northern part of Scotland called North Coast 500 is the north Atlantic version of U.S. Route 66, except with castles instead of the world’s largest ball of twine.
Skye & Lochalsh, on the western coast of northern Scotland, is just part of the route circling the Highlands, but a great one.
If you go
When to go: May to September
Approx. round-trip airfare: 4900 AED from Dubai, UAE to Inverness, United Kingdom
Must see: Eilean Donan castle, built in the 13th century
7. MAFIA ISLAND Tanzania
Mafia Island is a hopper flight from Dar es Salaam, making it remote but akin to the Island of Sal in Cape Verde, another distant paradise that makes a point of rewarding a long journey.
Located in the Indian Ocean, what stands out about this destination — aside from the sparsely populated beaches — is the amazing underwater life on display to snorkelers and scuba divers.
If you go
When to go: Year round
Approx. round-trip airfare: 1300 AED from Dubai, UAE to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
Must see: What’s in the sea. Scuba divers will be in heaven.
8. SAVANNAH Georgia, USA
Savannah, a beautiful southern coastal city in the state of Georgia, is all about American history.
British General James Oglethorpe, along with 114 men, women and children, arrived in what is now Savannah in 1733 aboard a galley ship, “Anne.” He was looking for a place to resettle poor people from Britain who had been held in debtors’ prison, and founded Georgia — named after King George II — for that purpose.
In the almost 300 years since then, Savannah has had more than its fair share of triumphs and failures. Oglethorpe formed alliances with Native Americans, but colonists brought with them conflict and disease. The economic successes of the region throughout the 18th and 19th centuries were built on slave labor.
If you go
When to go: September to November, March to June
Approx. round-trip airfare: 4800 AED from Dubai, UAE to Savannah, USA
Must see: Bonaventure Cemetery, a hauntingly beautiful final resting place on a bluff above the city
9. KAKADU National Park Australia
If Kakadu National Park looks familiar, that would be because of a little movie called “Crocodile Dundee,” which changed Australia’s international image exactly 30 years ago.
Part of the film was shot in the park, which was added to UNESCO’s World Heritage list in 1981, and has become synonymous with the Australian outback for many foreigners who have never set foot on the continent.
Kakadu is located in the Northern Territory, a couple hours’ drive east of the city of Darwin. The park is described as a “living cultural landscape” because the traditional owners, the Bininj/Mungguy, have lived on and cared for this gorgeous landscape for millennia.
If you go
When to go: May to October
Approx. round-trip airfare: 7500 AED from Dubai, UAE to Darwin, Australia
Must see: The ancient rock art at Nourlangie
10. SVALBARD Norway
Svalbard isn’t just fun to say. (But it is fun to say. Say it! Sval – bard!) The frigid island is also an otherworldly destination for people who would rather wear a snowsuit than a swimsuit on their next vacation.
Located above the Arctic Circle, Svalbard is part of Norway. The region around the island is home to an estimated 3,000 polar bears — a few hundred more than there are people on Svalbard.
Like most far-flung destinations, Svalbard is not cheap. This is no budget holiday; there will be no bargain deals to swim with the polar bears. So if bundling up to go out in sub-sub-zero temperatures to see breathtaking natural landscapes is your thing, you should probably start budgeting.
If you go
When to go: November to February for Aurora Borealis, May to September for outdoor activities and polar bears
Approx. round-trip airfare: 5200 AED from Dubai, UAE to Longyearbyen Norway
Must see: A polar bear (from a safe distance)
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