Friends, we’re finally ringing in 2016. With it comes a new set of vacation days for us working pros and enviably long study breaks for students. So where to go?
For inspiration, we rounded up the best of the best. Taking cues from Conde Nast Traveller, Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel Winners for 2016, Travel + Leisure and of course, Contiki’s new and top-selling destinations, this is your bible for HOW and WHERE to go this year.
You’re about to see a lot more photos of this magical land because travel to Iceland is on the rise, growing 27% in the first half of 2015 alone. Now that Contiki travellers can see the highlights on a quick 4-day trip, you can be soaking in the Blue Lagoon by day and partying in Reykjavik by night.
See rice paddies, coral reefs, a forested volcano, and the cliff-side Uluwatu Temple by day and unwind at beachside bars by night in Seminyak, Gili Trawangan and Senggigi. Water babies – diving, surf lessons and snorkeling await you.
Luxury travel is having a moment. But travelling in style doesn’t have to come with a hefty price tag. For amazing value, head to the Thai islands. Live it up in Koh Tao at the Charm Churee Villa, a 120-acre “well preserved jungle seaside resort” with access to four mesmerizing Thai beaches – one of many hotels just waiting to be Instagrammed to friends back home.
HOW: SUSTAINBLE TRAVEL
Sustainability will continue to be a key focus in 2016 – there’s a definite shift that we’ve seen as millennials put more and more of a focus on a destination’s social and environmental impact when they’re travelling. It’s important to ensure that the places we visit are around for generations after us to experience as well, and to ensure that life for the locals and the ecosystem as a whole aren’t overly compromised by tourism, with more and more travellers making that a top priority.
Whether it’s learning about the plight of the sea turtles in Costa Rica, the deteriorating ecosystems of the Galapagos, or the plastic pollution affecting the Great Barrier Reef or Mesoamerican Reef, there are countless opportunities worldwide where we can get involved, and there’s bound to be something to appeal to every traveller’s personal interests.
It’s always important to tread lightly, but trips focusing on sustainability make travelling so much more than just another vacation. It’s definitely possible to become a better person and make the world a better place with your actions when travelling, and that will be a huge message for travellers in 2016.
HOW: FOODIE ADVENTURES
We’ve been called the “yum generation,” following our noses with a hunger to experience local flavours, organic ingredients and authentic dishes – holidays are no exception. So why not travel somewhere you’ve got a craving for?
Jump right into a Thai cooking class in Koh Pha-Ngan with Chef Tummy and try everything from simmered chicken and coconut rice, to Pad Thai, curries and desserts.
In Japan, eat black eggs to “add 7 years to your life” in the spiritual mountain town of Hakone, tour the Tsukiji Fish Markets in Tokyo for sensory overload before a sushi making course and dinner – we guarantee it’ll be the best Nigiri you’ve ever tasted. It’s also #2 on Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2016 List.
Ice cream can double as a mid-day snack in Tokyo – we can’t resist these flavours.
It’s pretty easy to figure out where to go for the best pasta (Italy) or baguette (France), but there are some European gems that put the spotlight on lesser-known foodie havens.
Head north to the “chocolate box” town of Lucerne, Switzerland. Visit the famous Laderach confectionery for classic, glacier, confetti, chili lime and rocher chocolates, or sip Swiss hot chocolate at the famous Heini Luzern Lowenplatz. Go all-out on cheese fondue plates at the well-priced local haunt, Fritschin.
Check out the Rhine Valley, one of Germany’s largest wine producing regions. Drink local wines like Spätburgunder or Riesling, with tastings in a nearby candlelit underground cellar.
Visit Café und Backer in St. Goar (rated #1 restaurant in St. Goar) for a slice of traditional Black Forest cake or “Schwarzwälderkirschtorte,“ four layers of chocolate sponge cake covered with cherries, chocolate shavings and whipped cream. Pure bliss.
Plätzchen, the adorable heart-shaped gingerbread cookies sold in German Christmas Markets, make perfect gifts for friends back home. Looking for a little more Germany? Visit the historic town of Dresden, Germany, ranked #3 on Conde Nast’s 2015 Readers Choice for the Best Cities in the World.
HOW: STAY LONGER
Travel can be so immersive on its own, but how many times have we fallen in love with a destination and seriously considered accidentally missing our flight home and just becoming a local? Our trips never seem to be long enough, so going rogue and spending an extended amount of time away from home, and often solo, has become a very “in” thing to do.
Will this trend reach new levels in 2016? Will our friends ever come home from Europe? After all, home is where the heart is, right?
The extended vacation has always been a possibility, but it’s so much more socially acceptable now, and technology has made it so much easier as well. Whether you’re in between jobs, in between school and work, taking time off unpaid, or on an emergency journey of self-realization, there are just some life-changing experiences that can’t be squeezed into a week or two abroad, and even our parents are becoming more comfortable with the idea.
After all, we can Skype our moms from practically anywhere now…
Spending our money on experiences rather than things is the best way to go for millennials, and as we get more adventurous these experiences are bound to get longer and more epic. Make sure your passport doesn’t expire anytime soon – you may be spending your 20’s abroad before you know it.
So tell us, where do you want to go?
Guest post by Erica Adelson, Contiki Canada’s PR and Digital Media Specialist.