Noted as the largest island in the Mediterranean, Sicily (southern Italy) has it all including history, miles of coastline and lots of wine. Although Palermo may like a rock kicked by Italy’s boot on a map (image to the right), Palermo is far from being lost and forgotten. Unstable for much of its past, today the mix of cultures introduced throughout the region yields a beautiful mix of architectural styles, foods and activities. A city of colors, bustling markets and beaches galore, Palermo has not yet been tourist-ized, so bring along your handy translator or come ready with a basic understanding of Italian. Fun fact: There’s a waterslide leading directly into the sea here. I’m just going to leave that there.
With jaw-dropping views and Buddhist temples, Kyoto is what dreams are made of. Located in the Kyoto Basin, a valley surrounded by mountains on three sides, the natural scenery is endless. The city was also designed following the traditional principles of feng shui and the balance of yin and yang, so take a stop here to find your inner peace. One of the best-preserved cities in Japan and home to over 2,000 religious temples, consider Kyoto as a nice side trip on your way to the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. Actually, scratch that. Plan a trip for 2016.
Black sand beaches, tropical cafes, breathtakingly blue ocean views and beach yoga? Paradise awaits! Canggu is one of the best beachfronts in Bali, hands down. A rural, still-developing resort town, you won’t find heards of tourists here, which is a major plus. Had enough beach bumming? Take a jaunt into town and check out the hundreds of rice patties.
“There is paradise in heaven, on earth there is Hangzhou.” Not only do song lyrics vocalize the beautiful state of Hangzhou, but Marco Polo promptly declared the city “beyond dispute the finest and noblest place in the world.” This was enough to peak my interest.
Only an hour from Shanghai via train, many locals and foreigners venture to Hangzhou for some peace, quiet and privacy. Although 2 1/2 million people live in the surrounding area, Hangzhou is known for its ancient tea plantations, lush vegetation and close proximity to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of West Lake. It’s a big city in many regards, sure, but head outside the popular center for a fairytale village setting that surrounds its inhabitants with bamboo jungles and verdant valleys.
A private bungalow on the water? Hello fairytale. Never let me go. Honeymooners travel far and wide to arrive at their very own hut on the water where these magical islands in the middle of the Indian Ocean reside. Seeing photos invites an escape, a reminder that beauty exists in all corners of the earth, and that there are actual real live people from here. Could you imagine? Out of all the times you’ve been asked in life, “Where are you from?” you could’ve answered “The Maldives.” Better luck next time.
The Maldives are known as the lowest country on the planet with an average ground level elevation of five feet above sea level and a peak elevation of eight feet – the major factor of why it’s a collectively sinking ship. Literally, the Maldives are sinking thanks to global warming. Go now before this paradise is under water!
St. John National Park is surrounded by 170 acres of palm trees and pristine beaches. The place exudes low-key vibes and old-school character, two aspects that keep a heavy return guest rate on the up and up. I can certainly see why with the allure of countless beaches, turquoise waters, picturesque sailboats on the horizon and tropical cocktails a-plenty brings people wanting more. The number one reason may be something entirely different – Americans don’t need a passport to visit as it’s U.S. territory.
On July 20th, the U.S. and Cuba reopened their embassies in Havana and D.C., heralding a “new chapter” in relations after a half-century of hostility. Travel restrictions have eased and Cuba has been removed from the U.S. terror blacklist, making the island eligible to attend international conferences, have better access to global markets and be involved in world political decisions. As the travel embargo has not yet been lifted for American travelers, we must contact an organization that sponsors licensed people-to-people trips and participate in their itinerary. Conscious Cuba is who you want to contact.
Queensland is an Australian state covering the continent’s northeast region with a coastline stretching nearly 4,350 miles. It’s home to the Great Barrier Reef. Need I say more? No, probably not, but I will. With bragging rights of housing the most popular beaches in Australia as well as waterfalls and the pristine Whitsunday Islands, it’s no wonder that Australia was marked the top destination of 2016 by Conde Nast Traveler. They’re calling 2016 the Year of Australia. I guess that makes me ahead of the game.
Did I just teleport into the movie Frozen? By 2050, I hope the tech all-stars have come up with a way where we can jump into a picture and just, be there. Here, in Slovenia, is really what I mean. This might be my number one choice. I’ve been seeing more and more photos of this magical place recently. Sure, it looks freezing, but who cares what the temp reads inside a real-life fairytale. Places like this actually exist. Do you wanna…build a snowman? Maybe? Hopefully it won’t be 2050 before I can cross this off the bucket list. Summer is just as beautiful as winter here. Gotta love places that never go out of season.
A populous hub of culture, Rio is the host of the 2016 summer Olympics – reason enough to add it to your list of travels for this upcoming year. But if you need more motivation than that, take into consideration that it is the home of one of the new seven wonders of the world- the towering 2,300 Christ the Redeemer statue. It’s a sore subject since I’ve been to Rio twice now, and I’ve tried to see the Christ statue TWICE now, and today, as I write this, I’ve seen him ZERO times now. Weather can be a bitch sometimes. One day, Cristo, we will meet.
Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
Much like the sunshine state of California dreaming, the Galapagos Islands are in-season year round. Ahh, to be in eternal summer! The Galapagos Islands are 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador, so you’ll first need to arrive in the mainland as flights (go with LATAM Airlines) leave from the capital city of Quito as well as Guayaquil to then make their way to the Galapagos Islands. You’ll see more Galápagos penguins today than at any time in the past 15 years, and these are among the rarest penguins in the world. I saw two with Quasar Expeditions in 2014 – a highlight of the trip!
Belize is a place where tourists become travelers and where schedules are optional. The laid-back vibe of San Pedro draws in many travelers world-wide to hang out on and under its turquoise waters. The diving is world-class and the catamarans are ready. Don’t forget the other side of Belize full of lush jungles and ancient ruins. Come hungry for seafood as thoughts of fried conch fritters still dance in my head. Same with the daiquiris. Nom nom nom.
Greenland is not Green. Am I blowing your mind yet? Didn’t we all learn this from The Might Ducks already? Greenland is covered with ice, and Iceland is very nice…
If you’re looking for a chilly escape, look no further than this arctic getaway. Located between the Artic and Atlantic Oceans, you may question what a population of less than 60,000 does for fun. Try whale watching, dog sledding, iceberg hiking and Arctic Winter Games hosting. Fun fact: The iceberg that took down the Titanic most likely came from Greenland’s Ilulissat Icefjord. So let’s all go take lots of Arctic cruises now. We love you, Jack. Always and forever.
Voted as being the best island in the world for more than a dozen years, you’ll want to visit Maui if you’re a marine life fanatic or golf enthusiast. Maui offers 14 top notch golf courses, many of which were designed by golf legends themselves, such as Arnold Palmer. If the thought of golf is a swing and a miss for you, there’s also plenty of culture and art to discover with live music and festivals happening on a regular basis. And then, of course, there are the beaches, the unforgettable sunsets, the private cabanas, the hikes, the waterfalls, the heli rides. Okay I’m done. For now at least.
While U.S. National Park visits have been on the rise in 2015, Banff and its tourist attractions hit it out of the park. Located in the heart of the Rockies, you’ll stumble upon dense forest, glaciers and ice fields during your hike. At the end of the day, slip into any one of three hot springs for an au natural night of relaxation in the steamy hot mineral water. Your body will thank you in the morning. Don’t miss Lake Louise, pictured above. You may or may not have seen it on the hit reality show The Bachelor 😉
With all the conflict going on in the Middle East, it’s natural for people to shy away from traveling here. Tip: Don’t always believe the media. From the beaches of Tel Aviv to the history of Haifa and from the markets of Akko to the fortification of Masada, all of my senses were blown. Jerusalem is strategically located between the Mediterranean and the Dead Sea, two of the most beautiful/interesting bodies of water on the planet. Few experiences can rival floating weightless on water. Go for the religious experience, the food, the beaches, the men. Whatever you do, just go. I felt safe the entire journey.
Over to you! What are your must-see travel destination this year?