Best travel destinations for 2016: The 16 best places to travel to next year

It's time to start planning for the travel highlights of next year.

CUBA

Go. Go now. Everyone is talking about travelling to Cuba, and with good reason. This is a country on the cusp of change, an island nation that's slowly been revealing itself to the world for some years now, but is about to completely throw open the floodgates as relations with the US improve. The embassy has reopened. The tourists won't be far behind. Get there now.

Read: Top 14 things to do in Cuba before it changes forever

ICELAND

With great deals to be had on trans-continental flights that stop over in Reykjavik, this cold little country is turning itself into a tourism hotspot. Most will visit to see its natural attractions, from the hot springs to its striking mountains and plains. What you don't hear enough about, however, is the arts scene, with some of world's best indie bands calling Reykjavik home.  

Read: The island where the earth will move for you

ANTARCTICA

There's never a bad time to plan a trip to Antarctica. This is bucket-list stuff, the sort of journey you'll never forget. It's a cruise across the notoriously rough Drake Passage. It's that first sight of the world's coldest, most inhospitable continent; it's setting foot among a huge colony of penguins; hearing the gunshot crack of calving glaciers; spotting whales and seabirds and seals from the side of your ship. Plan to go there. Now.  

Read: A crazy place to go swimming

MARGARET RIVER

It's often overshadowed by big-name competition such as the Barossa or Yarra Valleys, but Margaret River produces some of Australia's best wine, and it's also one of our most enjoyable areas to holiday in. When you're not slurping the region's finest exports, there are great beaches in Margs, as well as the 135km Cape to Cape Track, a coastal hike that will help work off the effects of living the good life.

Read: What to eat in Margaret River

HONG KONG

You think Australians are obsessed with food? Check out Hong Kong, a city filled with gourmands, a bustling, blaring metropolis where every single person is thinking about their next meal. It's not just local Cantonese food that's good – although this is the home of dim sum. In Hong Kong there's cuisine from all over China; in fact from all over the world. If you travel on your stomach, this city should be on your 2016 menu.

Read: Twenty reasons to visit Hong Kong

BRAZIL

A few years ago it was the World Cup, and in 2016, Brazil will play host to another of the globe's biggest sporting events: the Olympic Games. Rio de Janeiro is getting set for a party that's going to be even bigger than its usual parties, with athletes and spectators from around the world descending upon its famed beaches, its samba clubs, its caipirinha-peddling kiosks and its buzzing streets in the name of sport and pleasure. You don't want to miss it.  

Read: The other Rio de Janeiro: Brazil's newest party hotspot

SPAIN

Any region of Spain, from Andalusia to Galicia to Catalunya, could easily entice you to visit the Iberian peninsula. However, in 2016 all the action will be in the Basque country, with the beachside town of San Sebastian being named Europe's City of Culture for the year. That means even more good food, even more festivals and events, and even more of an excuse to just wander the alleys of the city's old town soaking up one of the best destinations in the world.  

Read: San Sebastian: Welcome to the pleasure dome

SRI LANKA

How much can you fit into a small island? How about soaring, rainforest-covered mountains, ancient temples, bustling, sometimes chaotic cities, charming little towns, endless beaches, and even more in between? Sri Lanka is as culturally rich as its colossal neighbour to the north, as diverse and interesting – but it's far more manageable for the solo traveller.

Read: Sri Lanka - Asia's next great city

TASMANIA

The unlikely hero of Australia's arts scene – thanks to MONA – is also the unlikely hero of Australia's food scene, with some of the country's best produce originating in Taswegia. They've got all the good stuff down there: the wine, the cheese, the seafood, the fruit… even the whisky. Once you've finished stuffing your face, Tasmania is also home to some of our most spectacular and pristine national parks.

Read: Twenty reasons to visit Hobart

FRANCE

Sports fans will appreciate the fact that France is hosting the European football championships next year. However, there are more reasons than that to visit the country. With the Champagne and Burgundy wine regions recently being awarded UNESCO heritage listing, it's as good a time as any to hit the cellar doors and see what all of the fuss is about.

Read: Best food spots in central France: The secret inside

USA 

Yes, the Australian dollar has lost a lot of ground, which makes a holiday in the States a more expensive prospect than it once was. But this is still one of the world's great destinations, and in 2016 there's something special happening: a presidential election. This is more carnival than democratic process, a spectator sport as exciting as any football game, and one that will answer some very important questions. Will Hillary Clinton be the first female US president? Can Ben Carson really be in with a shot? Is Donald Trump being controlled by his hair? Be there to find out.

Read: What to tip? How to survive the pitfalls of eating in the US

SARDINIA

Though perennially popular with Europe's mega-rich, this Italian island is in many places still a quiet, unpretentious, and relatively unspoiled destination for those hoping to enjoy Mediterranean paradise. From the charms of Cagliari to the history of Castelsardo, the stunning beauty of the Costa Smeralda to the rugged allure of Tempio Pausana, Sardinia is worth battling the odd Russian oligarch to see.

Read: Would you recommend Sardinia?

URUGUAY

So often travellers forget about this country, lost as it is between its two famous neighbours, Argentina and Brazil. However, Uruguay is a fantastic destination in its own right, and a place you won't have to share with many other tourists. Its capital, Montevideo, has charm to burn, while smaller towns like Colonia del Sacramento and Punta del Este have the party scenes covered. Throw in some beautiful countryside and you have yourself one very underrated destination.

Read: Why this is South America's next big thing

COLOMBIA

The word is well and truly out. Colombia used to be a no-go zone, but it's cleaned up its act in recent years, and the travellers have arrived to make the most of it. From the bars of Medellin to the dancehalls of Cali, the cobbled streets of Cartagena to the beaches around Barranquilla, there's a lot to love about Colombia. And that's before we even talk about the people. 

Read: The home of perfect coffee, but they can't make a decent cup

IRAN

It's safe. That's the first thing you need to know. Despite what you might have read in the news, the Iranian people are some of the kindest, most welcoming hosts around. But there's more reason than that to go to Iran in 2016. With a moderate government now in place, and relations with the US rapidly improving, Iran is opening itself to the world. It's worth being there to join the celebration. 

Read: Why you should visit a Muslim country

NEW ZEALAND

You're probably skied in New Zealand before. You've probably hiked there as well. Maybe you've bungy-jumped. Or gone wine-tasting. In 2016, however, it's all about adventure on two wheels. The Kiwi government has poured more than $80 million into developing the "New Zealand Cycle Trail", a network of 23 routes offering single- or multi-day adventures across numerous terrains and difficulties throughout the country. It's time to get on your bike in NZ.

Read: Why New Zealand might just be the best destination in the world

See also: The new travel bucket list: 10 places travellers should visit now
See also: The best destination in the world for a holiday
See also: Top travel destinations for 2015 picked by travel writers

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