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Where to Travel in 2016: What's Hot, What's Trending

Travel to Bali

As 2015 winds down, we cast our eyes toward a new year of exciting travel opportunities—and we hope you're doing the same, because 2016 promises to deliver in a big way. Brand-new travel frontiers are opening up, and a few tried-and-true favorites are being revisited in fresh ways. This is great news for those of you who are building up your travel bucket lists, or maybe just hoping to visit some still untouristed destinations that appear to be on the cusp of discovery. Even greater news is the strength of the U.S. dollar—making this the perfect time to plan that 2016 trip!

At Hideaways, we keep our finger on the pulse of hot and trending places that are ripe for unique travel experiences. Here are some inspiring ideas to start you thinking about where to travel in 2016.


New Travel Frontiers

Cuba is hot, hot, hot! The reopening of U.S. and Cuban embassies in Havana and Washington, D.C., over the summer has resulted in a number of changes in travel between the two countries, like new charter flights from New York and Houston and expanded airlift from Florida gateways. Delta, American, and JetBlue all have increased their charter options to the island. That said, U.S. residents still (currently) must travel legally to Cuba for one of 12 approved reasons, including religious, educational, and humanitarian purposes.

Members we've interviewed who have made the trip to Cuba say the people there are warm, courageous, and welcoming. Hideaways member Keith Hollins of Memphis, Tennessee, traveled to Cuba on a humanitarian tour and had this tip. "None of us on the tour brought along enough cash, not that there's anything to spend it on, but for tipping, and we all tipped very well." As a side note, U.S.-issued MasterCard and American Express credit cards now can be used in Cuba—making it easier to bring home your $100 limit in Cuban cigars.

Naturally, Havana is the starting point of most travel to Cuba. You'll find plenty of fascinating, authentic experiences to have here, like visiting a cigar factory, strolling through the colonial streets of Old Havana, and sampling Cuban cuisine in Havana's excellent restaurants. Beyond Havana, Cuba has some of the world's most gorgeous and unspoiled beaches, almost 300 swathes of natural white sand, most of which lie along the island's sprawling northeast coastline.

A monk in Myanmar exemplifies the peace of his faith.

A monk in Myanmar exemplifies the peace of his faith.

Another destination whose star has been rising is the emerging nation of Myanmar. We suggest you visit soon, since this exotic and formerly closed country, with its Buddhist temples and thousands of pagodas dotting the landscape, is on the fast track to becoming the next Vietnam or Cambodia.

Hideaways ambassador Van Giles recently visited Myanmar and said the number of pagodas, stupas, and Buddhas that he and his wife saw was almost overwhelming, and that the open-air food markets were an eye-opening spectacle of colors and smells. Do take a tour when visiting Myanmar—we suggest one by Belmond, which may include visits to the ancient cities of Yangon and Mandalay along with the temple region of Bagan, capped off by a cruise down the Irrawaddy River aboard the 82-passenger Belmond Road to Mandalay. Read Van's full report at Hideaways.com/TraveltoMandalay, along with a previous Myanmar article written by Hideaways ambassador Norma Spadola, who traveled there on one of Abercrombie & Kent's "Luxury Small Group Journeys."

Thrills & "Chills"

If active adventure is what gets your juices flowing, then we have a few ideas to help you ratchet up the excitement level of your 2016 travels. Iceland is a natural destination—and we mean that literally—for unspoiled scenery that lends itself to adrenalin-rush adventures. Fly into the capital of Reykjavik, where you can spend a few days exploring the museums and local markets before getting up close to Iceland's glaciers, volcanoes, hot springs, waterfalls, and black-sand beaches. During summer months, you'll be treated to the Midnight Sun; in winter, the special draw is witnessing the dazzling Northern Lights.

Hedinsfjordur, northern Iceland

Hedinsfjordur, northern Iceland

Hideaways President Mike Thiel and V.P. Gail Richard traveled to Iceland last year, staying at the 4-star Hotel RangáTHC on the scenic South Coast. This laid-back lodge has just 51 rooms and suites and is the perfect striking-off point for nearby excursions. To discover all there is to do in this region, read Mike's full report and see several amazing slide shows at Hideaways.com/TraveltoIceland.

"Frozen" Waters

Another trend is to cruise Iceland in combination with Greenland and even Norway. A Viking-themed cruise for 2016, just announced by Abercrombie & Kent, will take intrepid voyagers along the same course plotted in 982 by Norwegian exile Erik the Red. If you prefer, you can focus on snaking your way up the narrow and icy Fjords of Norway; cruise lines like Hurtigruten,Silversea, Celebrity, andOceania are offering Norwegian Fjord voyages in 2016. And, of course, Disney Cruise Line is still cashing in on the popularity of its movie Frozen with two brand-new Norwegian Fjord family sailings for 2016 out of Dover, England.

Visiting the polar regions may not be everyone's cup of tea, but both the Arctic and Antarctica continue to draw adventurous souls, young and old. Take an expedition cruise in comfort and style, then have soft adventures once you reach your destination: kayak near icebergs, visit penguin rookeries below the equator, photograph polar bears near the Arctic Circle. For a real thrill, combine your expedition in Antarctica with an adventure in the wilds of Patagonia, visiting Chile's famous Torres del Paine national park or Los Glaciares National Park in Argentina.

Fresh Fun

Maybe you've been to London, Scotland, and even Northern Ireland. But we bet you've never considered Wales. This lovely, hospitable country of about 3 million people is sort of the underdog of the U.K. when it comes to tourism, but that only makes it more appealing—fewer crowds, unspoiled scenery, and locals who would love to show off their back yard to you. In fact, the Welsh government has designated 2016 as the Year of Adventure to draw international attention to the natural beauty and offbeat activities popular in various parts of Wales—think underground zip-lines beneath the mountains of Snowdonia and bog snorkeling in the peat marshes of Llanwrytd Wells.

Coasteering is another uniquely Welsh offering, an adventure for both families and adrenalin junkies that involves climbing, jumping, and swimming from coastal rocks and cliffs. And then there's sheep trekking, a new tongue-in-cheek bit of fun that matches travelers with a walking buddy they choose themselves from a well-trained flock of sheep, for a two-hour hike through the countryside. As you meander through Wales, you can stay in vacation rental homes, converted castles, and simple but comfortable seaside inns.

Here's another fresh idea. You may not think of Montenegro as a fine wine region, but that's exactly what's drawing attention to this scenic Balkin country and, in fact, the entire Dalmatian Coast. Many grape varieties are grown in the southern and coastal regions of Montenegro; you'll find excellent food and culinary tours popping up all over the country, where you can visit farms and vineyards and sample local products like honey, olive oil, cheese, and, of course, wine.

An Old Favorite

Travel to Italy is always popular, especially to perennial hot spots like Rome, Venice, and Tuscany. But have you thought about Naples? It may be chaotic and a bit gritty, but the city also serves up the best pizza in the entire country and houses treasures, including frescoes and mosaics recovered from Pompeii, at one of the world's finest archaeological museums. Plus, it's the perfect jumping-off point for touring the scenic Amalfi Coast and ferrying out to the islands of Ischia and Capri.

Enjoy a view clear to Mount Vesuvius from Grand Hotel Parker's.

Enjoy a view clear to Mount Vesuvius
from Grand Hotel Parker's.

We asked Federica Bernardo of Grand Hotel Parker'sTHC, one of Naples' finest and most elegant waterfront hotels, to tell us her top five reasons to visit Napoli. Here are two of her suggestions; for her entire list, visit Hideaways.com/TraveltoSouthItaly.

First are the city's most famous cloisters: Santa Chiara, with its exquisite mosaic-tiled columns and benches; Certosa di San Martino, a city oasis with an elegant colonnaded courtyard; and San Gregorio Armeno, part of an 8th-century Baroque monastery of the same name, which lies near Via San Gregorio Armeno, known as the "street of the Nativity workshops." Naples also is famous for the ancient underground network of caves, streets, passageways, and catacombs carved into the city's sandstone foundation. Federica says the Bourbon Tunnel is the most fascinating underground route, containing motorcycles, statues, and remnants of WWII left behind by residents who used the secret tunnels to hide from the Nazis.

A New Way to Cruise

River cruising in Europe and Asia continues to be a hugely popular travel option, but gaining strides is the growing trend of domestic coastal cruising aboard small ships—usually carrying fewer than 200 passengers—that ply the waters off New England, Chesapeake Bay, the Canadian Maritimes, Puget Sound, and most of the Pacific Northwest. Coastal cruises tend to appeal to older, well-traveled individuals who want to see new places and have fresh experiences in closer-to-home locations, without traveling halfway around the world.

Small ships like those of American Cruise Lines and Un-Cruise Adventures THC—which also sails the Hawaiian Islands, Alaska's Inside Passage, and Mexico's Sea of Cortez—can get into the nooks and crannies of the North American coastline and easily dock in little-known ports. It's important to note that these small coastal ships are comfortable but not luxurious, with functional but not fancy cabins. Typically, ships have an on-board lecturer who is an expert in history, winemaking, or some other aspect of your destination, and one complimentary excursion is offered in each port. Un-Cruise excursions usually have an outdoorsy bent, like whale watching, kayaking, or hiking.

More to Explore

Other happening places for your 2016 travels include Panama, which still feels fairly undiscovered compared to neighboring Costa Rica. If you're looking for more than beaches, we suggest a unique stay at Los EstablosTHC, a 16-acre coffee plantation with a hacienda-style inn that's nestled in Panama's lush cloud forest, just outside the bustling town of Boquete. Belize is another Central American favorite that still feels easy-going and peaceful, especially when you get off its beaches and barrier reef and head inland to explore its wealth of Mayan ruins.

Finally, if you don't mind a little culture shock, consider Oman as a safe and mostly non-Westernized option on the Arabian Peninsula. Its people are known to be some of the friendliest and most welcoming in the Middle East, and you'll get a glimpse of real Arabic life and culture as you visit the souks, mosques, and villages of this peaceful nation.

Looking for even more ideas to jump-start your 2016 travel planning? Just contact your Hideaways travel expert at 800-843-4433, or email ts@hideaways.com.

September/October 2015

 
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