2016. A New Year, a new you, and a whole 365 days in which to explore lots of new places.
Luckily for you, we’ve saved you half the hassle and compiled a hot list of destinations we’re tipping to be the year’s prime spots. Secluded islands, barely-trodden jungle pathways, the sleekest recent design hotels; why not take a peek?
Salta and Juyjuy, Argentina
The world’s eyes may be firmly fixed on Brazil for 2016’s Olympics, but we’ll let you in on South America’s worst kept secret and tell you that your best bet is to escape the inflated prices and surging crowds and find your 2016 South American adventure elsewhere. Here at Black Tomato, we’ve all got our eyes on a completely different experience in neighboring Argentina…
Skip the Italo-Spanish metropolis of Buenos Aires (as much as we love it, this is more unique) and head to the North West of the country, to the region of Juyjuy and the colonial grandeur of Salta city. This Andean corner is a meeting point for South America’s indigenous communities and harbors a strong spiritual heritage. Embark on a challenging six day hike that will take you from the immense mountains of the northern deserts up to an entirely different landscape of luscious jungle. Here you will discover native communities which, only possible to be acceded by foot, are entirely isolated and rarely seen.
Get there for the 1st of August and we’ll arrange the once in a lifetime opportunity for you to experience the region’s annual celebration of ‘Pacha Mama’, the Andean version of Mother Nature. Presided over by the oldest man in town, this ancestral ceremony is one of the most traditional, moving and respected devotions in the whole Northern region. Take the opportunity to stay overnight with local festival goers to engage in the community spirit and indulge in delicious regional delicacies along with the natives; a unique cultural experience that we challenge you to ever beat.
The Salktantay trail, Mancora and Lake Titicaca, Peru
The Inca Trail may have long been on all our bucket lists, but new opportunities to explore this country off the beaten track are not to be missed; 2016 sees the opening of pathways to Machu Picchu previously unexplored by tourists, such as the spiritual Salkantay trail. Travel to the emerging regions of Mancora and Cabo Blanco in the north to try your hand at game fishing and explore the fishing village stayed in by Ernest Hemingway during the filming of “The Old Man and the Sea”. Take your pick between sleeping under the stars in complete blissful isolation at the beautiful Huaypo lagoon perched in the Andes, and getting your shut-eye on a private island in the middle of Lake Titicaca. For the true experience seekers amongst us, your very own Andean spiritual ritual performed by a local sharman can even be arranged…
The New Year promises to open many doors for Peru, with new direct flights running to Lima from London and Washington, and an upping of the frequency of flights from NYC greatly increasing the country’s accessibility. All in all, we see no better way to mark out 2016 as a year to remember than by embarking on an adventure through this South American treasure.
We love Sri Lanka for its versatility – few countries offer such a variety of landscape and activity as readily at hand as it does. The pearl of the Indian Ocean, a trip here can entrance families, couples, and lone travellers alike. Improved roads and internal flight connections will see you traverse seamlessly from countryside to coast in as little as one week, taking in elephant plains, ancient Buddhist cave temples, stately colonial architecture, rolling hills of tea leaves, and golden, secluded beaches. City life does not slip under the radar either, with the capital Colombo offering an invaluable insight into Sri Lanka’s heritage as well as housing an eclectic gallery and restaurant scene, not to mention the charming little shops of the old quarters.
Sri Lanka does not fail to pull out all the stops when it comes to your all-important holiday lodgings either. Experience unrivalled customer service in intimate boutique hotels and private luxury villas; immerse yourself in Sri Lanka’s fascinating wildlife at the new Uga Chena Huts on the beaches of Yala National Park, explore the historical Galle Fort from the luxury spa base of Fort Bazaar, indulge in colonial comfort at the renovated ancestral mansion The Kandy House, or even organize a whole family takeover of private coastal villas such as Pekoe House. Our hot tip for next year: Tri. In a unique location overlooking Koggala Lake in the South, this will be Sri-Lanka’s first forward-thinking contemporary sustainable design hotel, built entirely from local materials and focusing on wellness and delicious cuisine.
Siem Reap and the coast, Cambodia
Steeped in a dark and sensitive cultural history, this quiet neighbour to the more popularly frequented Thailand and Vietnam is swiftly developing an alluring voice of her own. No longer simply host to the immense Angkor Wat, Siem Reap is rapidly becoming a talking point for self-confessed foodies worldwide. From the fresh spring rolls, buns, prawn fritters, and chive cakes of the numerous street stalls, to immersive dining experiences that include enjoying an authentic Cambodian breakfast surrounded by the legendary temples themselves, there is no question that Cambodia’s gourmet scene has proven itself as one of the best in Asia.
The country’s previously subdued coastal tourism is also blossoming, with resorts such as Song Saa and the upcoming Kenzo-designed Akaryn offering you the ultimate tranquil retreat on your very own private island. Officially named ‘The Kingdom of Cambodia’ by the UK, we believe this Asian treasure is increasingly worthy of such a magical name.
The Okavango Delta and Xaxaba Island, Botswana
2016 will see Botswana celebrate 50 years of independence, and what better reason to explore her more unusual and adventure-filled offerings. Providing exciting and novel experiences for even the most experienced safari-goers amongst us, Botswana will see you getting up close and personal with the wildlife like never before as you swap the classic jeep for quad bikes, helicopters, and even paddle boards. Not stopping at sandy plains, Botswana boasts a sublime salt pan and an immense delta whose seasonal floods leave it teeming with crocodiles, hippos and vibrant birdlife.
Adventure does not come at the price of luxury in this sub-Saharan haven, with accommodation such as the Eagle Island Camp offering a secluded idyll amongst the Illala palm trees of Xaxaba Island. Lie back and literally soak up your surroundings from the comfort of your very own open-air copper bathtub…
Karnataka and the Southeast region, India
Past-home to some of the most powerful empires of ancient and medieval India, Southern India’s secrets are yearning to be unlocked. Lesser-known regions such as Karnataka and Tamil Nadu promise a myriad of temples and world heritage sights free from suffocating crowds. Retreat by night to boutique hotels such as the upcoming Orange County, Hampi, and rest surrounded by architecture inspired by the humbling Vijaynagar Empire ruins for which the area is renowned. 25 wildlife sanctuaries, five national parks, and the highest plunge waterfalls in India make the region not only culturally compelling but also physically. Think freshly brewed coffee, fragrant spices, sumptuous home-cooked food, bustling market streets, morning yoga followed by waterfall-side picnics.
With the newly extended e-visa system already drastically reducing the time wasted upon the logistics of travel to India for British citizens, and one of the world’s longest air routes set to run between San Francisco and New Delhi for those of you in the US, we’re tipping 2016 as the optimum year to enjoy this elusive region.
El Cocuy National Park, Nuqui and Cuidad Perdida, Colombia
Hip new kid on the South American block, Colombia is slowly shedding the stigma of its past and increasingly being perceived as a burgeoning cultural treasure trove paired with landscapes that are some of the most pristine and untouched in South America. Colombia offers countless climates, limitless landscapes, and a wealth of amazing wildlife. Watch mother whales shepherding their newborns through the warm and soothing waters of Nuqui; take a minute to catch your breath at the sight of the Guajira Dessert merging into the sea waves at Punta Gallinas; trek through the vibrant jungle in search of the Ciudad Perdida, now thought to pre-date Peru’s Machu Picchu by 650 years.
For the adventure seekers amongst us, destinations such as the El Cocuy National Park offer the opportunity to explore a fresh and untouched region of the Andes, whilst a visit to San Augustin in the South will render you amongst some of the first travelers to explore its stunning ancient UNESCO heritage sites. Dip your feet in the crystal Caribbean waters at Palomino beach, your footprints the only dent on a horizon of faultless sands. With Delta Airlines now running new direct flights to Cartagena and Medellin, the opportunity to explore the up and coming regions of the country is right at your fingertips.
A mine glittering with diamonds waiting to be discovered, we can only urge you to visit Colombia before those precious gems become harder to spot.
Trinidad, Santiago and the Vinales Valley, Cuba
Havana was so 2015, and with the Cuba boom set to continue well into the new year we’re predicting travelers will start to venture further from the popular capital, Trinidad and Vinales Valley in search of a more local Cuba. Cue Santiago de Cuba, the former capital on the island’s azure Caribbean east coast. Worlds away from the hustle and bustle of Havana, its Spanish colonial streets provide the perfect charming base from which to explore the south east corner of this unique and culturally significant isle.
We believe it’s the local Santiagueros who really give this city its charm, as they form a sizzling melting pot of Spanish, West African, Haitian and Jamaican cultures. Wander down the dusty streets to the musical melodies of Spanish guitar, Bantu beats, percussive sounds and African choral voices, or time your trip to coincide with the famous July carnival, known for being the most culturally eclectic, colorful and charismatic in Cuba.
Capital of the Spanish colony of Cuba in the 16th Century, city where Fidel Castro first opted to launch his nationalist revolution, chosen location of Don Facundo Bacardi’s first ever rum factory; for centuries men have been aware of this city’s potential, and we urge you to discover the potential too.
Parc National D’Andasibe and Ile Sainte Marie, Madagascar
We wouldn’t normally bore you with statistics, but with Madagascar it’s hard to find a more effective way to illustrate the African island’s truly unique existence. Fourth largest island in the world, a jaw-dropping 90% of its incredible wildlife is found nowhere else on earth. With 5000km of glorious coastline, there are 250 islands and 450km of barrier reef waiting to be explored (that’s the fifth largest reef in the world, if you want another figure). Dive the depths of the Indian Ocean surrounded by rays, turtles and sharks, or explore the ocean waves above water from the comfort of a local fisherman’s pirogue (dugout canoe). Observe humpback whales breaching from the shores of Ile Sainte Marie; watch sea turtles laying their eggs on Nosy Iranja’s beaches; listen to the distinctive song of the Indri lemur in the emerald forests of the Parc National D’Andasibe.
And what island retreat would be complete without the essential private island-off-an-island upon which you can rest your limbs. Take a step back from the kaleidoscope of wildlife on the mainland to enjoy not just one islet but five, on Miavana’s very own private archipelago. Their marine experts will guide you through the bays, beaches, lagoons, and channels of the islands before you sit back on the archipelago’s western shores and admire the ocean views that extend to the far contours of the Madagascan mainland.
Truly a destination to write home about, Madagascar is the one to watch for the adventure lovers amongst us seeking unique and under the radar destinations with which to single out our travel diaries for 2016.
A province where humpback whales surface beside floating glaciers, historic forts stand perched atop craggy headlands, and Atlantic waves break upon powder white cliffs. Canada’s easternmost province provides travellers with the perfect opportunity to explore the country’s wild and subarctic landscapes without the crowds. Visit St John’s, the oldest city in North America, and embark on its coastal trail to be mesmerized by the rolling waves, flitting caribou and soaring seabirds – all while breathing in the freshest sea air.
Now only a five hour flight from London and the ideal long weekend getaway for those travelling from NYC, we suggest staying at Fogo Island Inn – one of the world’s most stunning design hotels whose floor to ceiling windows will help you to fully grasp the beauty of the craggy rocks and savage seascapes that surround you.
Photo credit: Paddy Barry
The rugged charm of Ireland has often been downplayed, but this small country oozes adventure from the dramatic wilderness of County Donegal to the singing streets of Dublin all held together by its fascinating, friendly people. From cycling the Greenway (the longest trail on the island) to soaring over the Cliffs of Moher in a private helicopter there’s something for everyone. With the dramatic landscape, it’s not surprising that Ireland has set the scene for epic blockbusters, so why not go exploring and pretend your featuring in the new Star Wars ‘The Force Awakens’ on a hike up the Kerry Coast to Skellig Micheal. If you’re short for time, the new Belmond Grand Hibernian Train is opening in 2016, making it easier to see all of Ireland’s lyrical charm.
If the wild headlands aren’t for you, the rich cultural heritage of Westpoint may catch your eye or take the Wild Atlantic Way (a 2,500km drive) and unlock the secrets of Ireland’s coastal towns and traditions from Malin Head to the southern culinary hotspot of Kinsale in County Cork.
San Sebastian, Spain
As Europe’s Capital of Culture for 2016, we’re expecting big things from this treasure of the Basque region. Gourmet and cultural enthusiasts would be fools not to take this opportunity to explore and indulge in some of the continent’s finest food and drink. Sample the Basque’s emblematic culinary treasures and ‘Pintxos’ (mini tapas bites) at the bars that line the streets of the Old Town, guided by your very own private chef. Catch your breath at the exquisite ice cream chocolates presented in a bird cage at Arzak’s three Michelin starred restaurant. Learn from a master as world class Chef Arzak teaches you the intricate makeup of the Basque cuisine. Oh, and don’t forget to pay a trip to the neighboring Rioja wine region for a quick glass or two.
If it’s needed (we think it might be) take time to digest with a morning of artistic education with a local artist at the San Telmo Museum, and then what better way to end the ultimate gourmet experience than with a dream filled siesta on the golden sands of Isla Santa Clara?
The Italian Lakes
With most flocking to The Amalfi Coast, Northern Italy is so often over looked when it offers a unique inside view to this beautiful country. Here at Black Tomato, were always passionate about the lesser known and finding new corners of Italy that we all love and know. So we reckon it’s time to venture off the coastal path and head up to the lakes, you never know what may be in store. The Italian Lakes ooze chic understated luxury, formed at the end of the last ice age and a popular spot for holidaying in Roman times; the lakes have an enduringly breath-taking beauty.
Take Lake Como by storm, and if you don’t fancy the newly opened Il Sereno Lago di Como or Villa Lario, one of our Black Tomato specialists can help you find a slice of complete exclusivity in a private villa not normally open to the public. After a spot of culture, head to Lake Iseo where you can go by helicopter or Riva Boat around the Floating Piers exhibition by famed artist Christo (opening just in time for summer). Prepare to be seduced by the history of the Italian lakes and roam where Italy’s foremost classical musicians, writers and artists call home.
The underdog of Central America, Nicaragua is undergoing a travel revolution – and with good reason. Blessed with thick and luscious jungle from the Emerald Coast to the shores of Lake Nicaragua, it offers the best of Pacific and Caribbean Coasts and everything in-between. Land of lakes and volcanoes, climb the majestic active Mombacho before retreating to Jicaro eco-lodge to rest your head surrounded by the lapping waters of Lake Nicaragua.
Explore pristine reefs and overgrown jungles around Little Corn Island, trek the Emerald Coast and sample the produce at local rum distilleries such as Flor de Cana. Whilst still retaining that much loved off-the-beaten track vibe, the new Costa Esmeralda airport and scattering of world class eco-lodges are finally giving this Central American haven the place on the map that it so deserves.