The 14 Countries That Should Be on Your Bucket List This Year
The world is such a vast, diverse and wonderful place with a myriad of cultures, people and environments to explore. But it doesn’t matter how many places you’ve visited already, there always seems to be a new destination to discover and add to that ever-growing bucket list. So to help you narrow it down, we pulled together some of our go-to destinations for 2016. Scroll down to see which countries made the cut.
As an ex-pat from this sunburnt country, including it in this list might seem biased, but travel authority Condé Nast named Australia their top destination of 2016. With stretches of uninhabited white sandy coastline to explore, the Great Barrier Reef to snorkel, the Sydney Harbor Bridge to climb, some of the world’s best restaurants to eat at, and must-see cultural events and festivals to attend, it’s little wonder Down Under is at the top of our list. So if you haven’t been yet, then consider yourself lucky, because now is the year to have a “ripper” vacation and “throw a shrimp on the Barbie” in Australia.
There’s never been a better time to travel to Brazil with the nation’s sunny capital Rio de Janeiro set to host the 2016 Summer Olympics. This also means South America’s largest country will be looking its absolute finest when you get there too. According to Condè Nast Traveler, in a bid to attract more people to the country for the 2016 Summer Olympics, Brazil is letting U.S. tourists enter the country without a visa for up to 90 days. But there’s so much to see outside of the city center. You can’t go past the phenomenal Christ the Redeemer atop the 2300-feet high Corcovado Mountain, the famous Ipanema beach, remarkable Igazu Falls, stunning Sugarloaf Mountain, and the beautiful people-watching at Copacabana. So what are you waiting for?
Celebrities are continually drawn to the beauty of Mexico, from Tulum to Cabot and Puerto Vallarta, but this year Mexico City is the one to visit. The vibrant capital topped The New York Times 52 Places to Go list. Why? Because Mexico City has it all, from great restaurants to museums, shopping hot spots and the epic sprawling scale that really has to be seen to be believed, it’s a truly fascinating destination. Pope Francis is also due to visit this spring, which is set to attract thousands of pilgrims from across the country. There is so much beauty, passion, and wonder in this multifaceted metropolis. But outside of the city, there's also the gorgeous Playa del Carmen, ancient Oaxaca, and the historic old town of Guanajuato. For added incentive, The New York Times reports there’s now “more flights from more United States airports than ever before.”
Like Australia, Japan is another country that continually tops everyone’s personal holiday wish lists. Ranked two on Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2016, this land of the rising sun has a fascinating history and culture that continues to fascinate and charm its visitors. Not only is it one of the safest places to visit, the island nation is brimming with visual treats from their fast-paced high-rise cities, imperial palaces, national parks, gardens, and shrines that explode with cherry blossoms every year much to the delight of tourists and locals alike. And let’s not forget the food—from sushi to sake Japan there’s something to suit everyone’s palate and new tastes to explore. This unique civilization is unlike anywhere in the world and is definitely worth a visit this year.
If you’re ready to traverse the world and soak up some serious culture, then snap up a ticket to the beautiful country of Latvia. Located on the shores of the Baltic Sea between Lithuania and Estonia, this incredibly beautiful nation is filled with vast, sprawling forests, wide beaches and historic monuments including museums, churches, and art nouveau architecture. If you do visit, don’t miss the charming Old Town in Latvia’s capital, Riga. Think narrow cobblestone streets and medieval style buildings and architecture. It's another one Lonely Planet included on their Best in Travel 2016 list and we agree.
The pretty archipelago of Palau is located in Micronesia, home to some of the most beautiful and biggest barrier reefs. For experienced and budding divers, Palau is an underwater paradise with WWII shipwrecks, sea caves, and dramatic drop-offs that are begging to be explored. But away from the reef, you have to visit the beautiful blue waters of the Milky Way Lagoon. Situated among the rock islands, this natural mud bath is renowned for its therapeutic fountain of youth properties. Not far from here is the famous Jellyfish Lake where you can swim with hundreds of jellies, it also makes for some pretty incredible photos.
It just takes one look at Switzerland’s breathtaking landscapes and mountainous scenery to understand why it’s the world’s happiest country. With a strong economy and excellent standards of living, it’s also one of the best countries for expats. Just imagine the skiing, hiking, and outdoor adventures you’ll have. Tour the magical Swiss Alps, sail the iconic Lake Geneva or Lake Zurich, visit the epic lakeside castle at Château de Chillon, and the nation’s capital of Bern with its many medieval landmarks. Don’t forget your camera.
When asked of top destinations to visit, Greenland isn’t always the first country that springs to mind but it should be. While 88% of it is covered in ice, most of the population live on the coast where the phenomenal Northern Lights take place. To get a glimpse of the beauty, don’t miss the Illulissat Icefjord, the Uannit area of Disko Island, and the Ilulissat Museum; the Old Cemetery is pretty insane too. Life in the arctic is pretty darn breathtaking.
We really don’t need to do much to convince you why Malta is a must-see. This pretty isle is a sightseer's dream. It’s many historic monuments and natural landmarks form the perfect holiday recipe. There are the cathedrals (both St. John and St. Paul), the Old Town of Valletta with battlements and forts, the Blue Grotto natural arch with its seven caves along the Żurrieq, and the famous Blue Lagoon with the clearest waters you’ve ever seen. There’s something for everyone in Malta.
This glorious African country is rugged and diverse but it’s also one of the most beautiful. This is where Mother Nature sits pretty in all her glory, with vast untouched landscapes including the legendary Gorongosa National Park with more than 150 different mammals from elephants to giraffes and buffalo. The extensive coastline is also worth a visit with plenty of delicious seafood caught fresh daily and plenty of activities for the whole family including swimming, snorkeling and scuba diving.
Sweden is a traveler's paradise with so much beauty to soak up from historic monuments to Mother Nature, museums and palaces. We love Stockholm's Old Town Gamla Stan bursting with bright buildings and quaint cobbled side streets that invite you in for a romantic stroll. The Swedish capital is super trendy, great for shopping, and filled with historic treasures and more than a hundred museums and Europe's largest royal palace. Venture across the sea like the Vikings did and enjoy the chicest spoils and light-filled days of Sweden.
Now the embargo has been lifted, it’s time to pack your bags and head to be Cuba. The hip Caribbean nation is so incredibly scenic with white-sand beaches, Baroque style cathedrals, vintage cars, and their signature cigars and rum. We recommend a visit to the elegant Old Havana downtown. This UNESCO world heritage site is a feast for the senses, covered in architectural gems, live music, great coffee, and historic forts. The flights are cheap and there’s plenty of gorgeous and affordable Airbnb’s to rent too.
There is so much to see and do in the United Arab Emirates, but the majestic Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is at the top of our list. (Lonely Planet also rated this in their things to do in UAE.) This impressive building is the final resting place of the first president Sheikh Zayed, and just to give you an idea of scale, it can hold 41,000 worshippers, has 80 marble domes, 1000 pillars, and over 100,000 tons of pure white Greek and Macedonia marble were used to build it. Unbelievable right? Then you need to hire a camel and take a ride across the desert dunes of Dubai. Henna tattoos optional.
While the high-tech capital city of Seoul is where all the great shopping and eating takes place, Korea also has hidden treasures in its lush green hills. From centuries-old Buddhist temples, serene fishing villages, and idyllic Zen gardens, Korea is also the key destination for those travelers who want to relax and reflect. Bukhansan National Park is the place to really get your Zen on, or take a trip to the Gyeongbokgung Palace which was built in 1395. Korea is also a must-visit for beauty aficionados with some of the world's most advanced technology in skincare.
Which country is on your must-visit list this year? Share it with us below.