With new direct flights, improvement of political relations and the rediscovery of incredible sights, it’s time to freshen up your bucket list and think about visiting these top destinations before they change forever. Before the crowds get wind of them, go back in time to the 50s and marvel at the crumbling splendour of Cuba, discover the stunning gold temples and stilted villages in Myanmar and find the perfect eco-lodge at the end of the road less travelled in Costa Rica.
Our experts have had their ear to the ground to create this list, so check out our picks for places to visit before the crowds descend:
A year ago, Barack Obama and Raul Castro announced that there would be an end to half a century of hostility between the United States and Cuba. Since then the number of American tourists has increased by 50% and is likely to increase year on year. It is only a matter of time before global hotel chains, Starbucks and fast-food giants move in to Havana- changing the heart of Cuba. Before the floodgates fully open and the removal of travel restrictions for US citizens, venture to the beguiling country to see its unique character, decaying splendour, cultural prosperity and complex history- quickly before it changes forever!
Myanmar is red-hot right now, topping everyone’s list for the best 2016 destination. Safe, inexpensive and brimming full of towering pagodas, lush forests and ancient temples, Myanmar is perfect for the intrepid traveller looking for a truly authentic experience heightened by good food, friendly locals, and no crowds. However, since 2010 the number of visitors ballooned from 300,000 a year to over 2 million, we don’t know how long Myanmar will remain the sparsely populated gem that it is today. With new hotels, a fabulous luxury cruise along the Irrawaddy River and an untouched coastline with pristine sandy beaches, we say go now to one of South-East Asia’s most beautiful countries.
While Botswana and South Africa take the spotlight as the go-to safari destination, Namibia has remained relatively undiscovered, which is a good thing for the ‘in-the-know adventurers’. With the rand at an all-time low, visitors to Namibia can benefit from its neighbour’s great value. Travel through seas of rolling sand dunes, up the windswept Skeleton Coast, and across to the endless Etosha Pan to see the desert-adapted Big Five, watch the shifting sands and swirling mists around Namibia's ghost towns and shipwrecks, and for a real thrill, take to the air to experience these hauntingly beautiful landscapes from above, as you fly over one of the most remote places on earth. Now boasting the largest population of black rhino and cheetah in the world, it won’t be long until others discover what a rare beauty Namibia is.
4) Costa Rica
Costa Rica has always been a fantastic destination for adrenaline and wildlife, with most travellers visiting Arenal for its tower volcano and Monteverde for its cloud forests thick with beautiful birds and howling monkeys. From April, British Airways will launch its direct flight to San Jose, meaning that the harder reached corners of Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast and Nicoya Peninsula are now within easy reach. If you like the road less travelled, we suggest being one of the first on the direct flight, in order to see the land of turtles, Tortuguero, walk along the pristine beaches of Southern Nicoya Peninsula, and stay in the rustic luxury of the eco-lodges of Osa Peninsula, before the crowds settle in.
As the dust settles over more than a decade of political chaos and economic upheaval,Zimbabwe’s stunning landscape, luxurious range of lodges and superb game is prime for the taking. Mercifully free of tourists, Victoria Falls, the world’s largest sheet of falling water, separates Zimbabwe and Zambia with majestic torrents that create a cloud of spray seen from miles away. Known by the locals as ‘The Smoke that Thunders’, the Vic Falls international airport opened a new terminal in December, which has seen increased air traffic and anticipates the launch of new flights with Qatar Airways and Emirates- so why not pair Zimbabwe and Namibia for an African experience of thrilling safaris and magnificent scenery.
The last frontier on earth, Antarctica is marking its 50th anniversary of commercial tourism this year. With brilliantly blue icebergs, breaching whales, and glorious skies illuminated by shades of pinks and purples, the austral summer draws tourists who are desperate to see this part of the world before it changes forever. With talks of stricter limitations on travel, the forecast is that there will be fewer cruise vessels sliding into the icy waters. With plenty of robust, eco-friendly, and luxurious ships still available now, consider your epic journey south before it closes forever.