Five destinations are poised for such dramatic change in 2016 that they ought to be at the top of your travel list in the New Year, according to Friendly Planet Travel, a global tour operator offering expertly curated itineraries to more than 40 international destinations.
Cuba, Myanmar, Greece, Patagonia and South Africa are in the midst of or have just recovered from remarkable political, economic and environmental change that will drastically impact the visitor experience, making these destinations particularly compelling.
“We are incredibly excited about our ‘must-see’ list for 2016 that includes Cuba, a new destination for Americans that is being transformed by its newest visitors, and exotic and fragile Patagonia, where a changing climate has led to serious concerns about this pristine region,” says Peggy Goldman, the company’s founder.
For Goldman, travel is a transformative experience that lifts people out of their ordinary circumstances to discover new truths about both the world and themselves.
And with that in mind, here are the top five recommendations for 2016:
- CUBA: After more than 50 years of embargo and enmity, Cuba remained elusive to most Americans, but the easing of U.S. travel rules put the destination front and center. Americans wanting to experience Cuba’s rich Afro-European culture as it has been for generations are encouraged to travel now. Change is definitely coming to the island. For now, though, visitors can participate in the deeply immersive People-to-People exchanges.
- MYANMAR (BURMA): After a bumpy start in tourism, the country is now reaching out to American travelers. For now, this is an authentic experience, still steeped in Buddhist culture without many Western trappings. But this will change in the coming years, and travelers who long to experience this Southeast Asian treasure as it is should make it a must-visit in the coming year.
- PATAGONIA: Global warming is making it imperative to visit the Perito Moreno glacier in Patagonia now. Covering portions of southern Argentina and Chile, visitors traveling with Friendly Planet will be rewarded with splendid flora and fauna. They’ll also get a chance to see how young conservationists in both Chile and Argentina are working hard to protect the fragile landscape.
- GREECE: The strong dollar and the weak Euro make Greece a terrific bargain. Travelers want to return to the gorgeous islands that are on everyone’s bucket list, and 2016 is looking like a banner year for Greece. People can embrace a country of both classical ruins and modern casinos, of medieval castles and trendy shopping and nightlife.
- SOUTH AFRICA: South Africa’s safari experience is iconic, with sightings of the Big 5 practically guaranteed. But the elephants, among its most beloved animals, are seriously threatened by relentless poaching and by some accounts, nearing extinction. There has never been a more compelling time to go.