Make sure these long-haul destinations feature in your travel plans for 2016. From once-in-a-lifetime anniversaries to new openings and events, there’s never been a better time to check out these places.
President Woodrow Wilson launched the USA’s National Parks Service in 1916, and this year’s centennial celebrations are another excuse to visit some of the world’s most celebrated landscapes. Choose from the world’s most amazing concentration of geothermal features at Yellowstone, superlative peaks and waterfalls in Yosemite, the Grand Canyon’s unmistakeable vistas, smoking Hawai’i Volcanoes, the 2,000+ sandstone arches of Utah’s Arches, the iconic Wild West Badlands of Theodore Roosevelt, and the hiking trails and blinking fireflies of the Great Smoky Mountains; the USA’s most visited national park.
Cuba has long been teetering on the brink of a mass tourist influx, but this time it looks like it’s really going to happen. Several US airlines have announced plans to reintroduce the first commercial flights between the two countries for over half a century, so go now before it gets too crowded. Havana, the island’s capital, is unmissable but explore further afield too. Go to pastel-hued Viñales town and Viñales valley – a UNESCO World Heritage site – to learn about those legendary Cuban cigars, as well as for hiking, rock climbing and horse riding beneath the valley’s dramatic, swollen limestone outcrops.
- Great Barrier Reef
There’s a, go-now-or-never, feel to this one. The world’s largest coral reef, and its largest protected marine area, is shrinking. The Great Barrier Reef has lost more than half of its coral cover in the past 30 years, and there’s grave concern over its future, including its status as a UNESCO World Heritage site. But it still has the power to take your breath away, as experienced by David Attenborough in his recent documentary, Great Barrier Reef. Follow in the footsteps of Sir David and go now. See the reef from a glass-bottom boat, scuba dive for a fish-eye view, skim over the top of it with a snorkel, or skydive for the ultimate adrenaline rush, and far-reaching views. The weak Australian dollar is a bonus.
- Beyond Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Thanks to the 2016 Olympics and Paralympics, Rio already features on most people’s 2016 travel bucket list, but the rest of Brazil deserves the world’s attention too. Hop between gorgeous beaches and tropical islands along the Costa Verde. See rainbows dance in the spray of mighty Iguaçu Falls. Spot caiman, capybara (the world’s largest rodent), sloths, jaguar, anaconda, giant otters, black howler monkeys and giant anteaters in the Pantanal. Learn to samba in the UNESCO World Heritage streets of Olinda. Or soak up the culture and colonial architecture of Salvador. There’s enough to tire out even the crème de la crème of the world’s athletes.
After much hype and controversy, Louvre Abu Dhabi is set to open mid to late 2016. Award-winning architect Jean Nouvel has transformed a desert island into an audacious new museum; a vast dome spangled with geometric openings that imitate the effect of a traditional palm-frond covered roof, appears to hover over shimmering water. The museum will house its own permanent collection and art on loan from French institutions. Pieces confirmed for its first year include works by Leonardo da Vinci, Monet, Titian, Rodin, Vincent Van Gogh, Matisse, Manet and Warhol as well as precious ancient items from China, Italy, Nigeria and Egypt. Louvre Abu Dhabi is set to become a big player in the art world.