We’re only a few months into 2016, so there’s plenty of time to plan an epic getaway before the year’s end. Whether you’re looking to hang out beachside or get lost in the glitz of a big city, nothing beats the allure and novelty of a new place. For a fresh departure from the same old expected destinations, we’ve gathered up 10 locales that the travel experts over at Insight Guides say are the places to take off to this year. The only problem will be deciding on just one.
In-the-know jetsetters are flocking to this city, which is a refreshing change of pace from the thick crowds and throngs of tourists in Amsterdam. (Some even say it’s the best place to visit in the Netherlands.) Art and culture collide in this diverse port town, which has also been nicknamed the architecture capital of Holland. Forward-thinking and avant-garde, the buildings of Rotterdam are as diverse as its people.
Hiding in the Himalayas is super-remote Bhutan, an Asian gem that’s gaining traction as a bucket-list destination. Holy monasteries and sacred temples abound here, attracting countless Buddhist pilgrims year after year. The ultimate place to disconnect from day-to-day life, Bhutan tends to inspire self-reflection with its spiritual roots, isolated location, and warm locals. It’s little wonder Bhutan is regarded as one of the happiest nations in the world; it even measures progress by way of “Gross National Happiness.”
It won’t be long until Rio de Janeiro opens its doors for the 2016 Summer Olympics, making it a particularly exciting destination. International buzz aside, the South American country stands on its own as a premier vacation spot. With one-third of Brazil’s territory being the Amazon rainforest, there’s definitely no shortage of exceptional natural beauty and wildlife. Iguaçu Falls (a.k.a. the world’s greatest collection of waterfalls) actually prompted Eleanor Roosevelt to famously remark, “Poor Niagara!” Making your way into the city, you’ll also be met with a feast for the eyes; the colonial architecture in towns like Parati is utterly outstanding. Those looking for a bit of action may want to hold off until early 2017 when Carnival is in full force. This nonstop party illuminates Brazilian culture like nothing else.
Adventure travelers and outdoor enthusiasts will feel right at home in Costa Rica, especially with the Central American country’s world-renowned national parks, active volcanoes, and stunning coastlines. (Nosara, Punta Uva, and Playa Montezuma get a special shout-out; the beaches are simply unreal here.) A jaunt into the Amazon offers opportunities to get your blood pumping, like zip-lining in the jungle, white-water rafting, and parasailing expeditions.
Nothing quite dazzles the senses like a visit to India. All at once vibrant and intense yet calm and understated, India is a pulsating country that continues to seduce visitors with its dynamic culture and ancient landmarks (including the Taj Mahal, which is a life-changing visit in itself). Another place not to be missed is romantic and regal Jaipur in Rajasthan. Travelers can also venture out in to Ranthambore National Park for some tiger-spotting before heading home.
The ghosts of Ireland’s past still haunt the Emerald Isle, making it a top pick for history buffs. Ancient sites rich with Irish lore are peppered throughout the country, from UNESCO World Heritage Sites to otherworldly castles and ruins—each one steeped in mythology and legend. In addition to medieval architecture and stories of centuries past, Ireland also brings to mind sprawling patches of green countryside and majestic seaside cliffs, like The Gobbins; an exhilarating cliff path located roughly 40 minutes north of Belfast. Like many worthwhile sites in Ireland, it’s accessible via a stunning scenic drive along the coast.
Tucked away at the most southern point of South America is Patagonia, a region known the world over for its seemingly untouched landscapes and unrivaled beauty. (Guided glacier hikes, anyone?) Perito Moreno is perhaps the most breathtaking site of all. The icy blue paradise, which is actually a growing glacier, can be found in Los Glaciares National Park. Because of the Patagonian Andes, travelers can also expect to see some amazing wildlife; from deer to parakeets. On the Atlantic Coast is where you can head off on whale-watching expeditions.
When it comes to off-the-charts destinations, Latin America has tons to offer—especially Ecuador. The Galápagos Islands have earned their bragging rights where natural wonder is concerned. (It’s actually the spot where Charles Darwin fine tuned the theory of evolution.) Lumbering tortoises, equatorial penguins, and gorgeous blue-footed boobies all call the islands home. On the mainland of Ecuador, travelers also have access to the “Avenue of the Volcanoes.” Here, the country boasts unreal panoramic views of Ecuador that are, in a word, dazzling. Ecuador’s many famous dive sites are another big draw.
The magnificent City of Light is on track for an incredible year, particularly as it gets ready to host the UEFA European Championship this summer. Until then, there’s plenty to enchant visitors of all stripes—especially art lovers. Paris is home to some of the best museums on the globe, touting exquisite art collections. Throw into the mix haute cuisine, charming cobbled squares, and pulsating nightlife, and you’re in for an unforgettable trip.
This UNESCO World Historic Site is easily the cultural capital of Poland. But despite its historic monuments and medieval air, ancient Krakow is still young at heart. In fact, it’s known for its vibrant nightlife and bustling bars and restaurants. Culturally speaking, some say it’s on par with Prague. But its affordability coupled with fewer crowds make it a real standout in central Europe.