Wednesday, 14 December 2011 9:03 AM
Forget New Year’s resolutions. What are you going to do, see and experience in 2012? If you need a bit of inspiration, look no further. Here are the top 10 destinations of 2012, as chosen by Travelbite’s editor Sarah Gibbons:
2012 is a milestone year for Jordan as it will celebrate the 200th anniversary of the rediscovery of the ‘Lost City’ of Petra. The awe-inspiring city, carved into a strikingly red-hued rock face, was the capital of the Nabataean civilisation – an industrious Arab people who settled here more than 2000 years ago. It was once an important junction for the silk, spice and other trade routes that linked China, India and southern Arabia with Egypt, Syria, Greece and Rome. However, it was forgotten by the outside world for centuries until it was rediscovered on a hot August day by the swashbuckling Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt in 1812. Now, it is one of the wonders of the world and a UNESCO world heritage site that has to be seen to be believed.
Sri Lanka is set to quadruple visitor numbers by 2016 and with new hotel and resort developments, flight routes and improved roads; it’s not hard to see why. Sri Lanka’s second international airport is opening in Hambanota in the south of the island in December 2012, acting as a gateway to the east and south coasts – making it easier for holidaymakers to discover the delights of this tropical haven in South Asia. Sri Lanka is also strengthening its position as a wildlife destination, its ‘Big Four’ being the leopard, Asian elephant, Wild Asiatic Water Buffalo and sloth bear. In addition it offers a fifth giant, the blue whale out in the surrounding ocean.
The world’s eyes will be on London in 2012 for the highly-anticipated Olympic and Paralympics Games. From the sporting events to the pomp and pageantry of the opening ceremony, it’s the place to be in the summer of 2012 (well, if you managed to get tickets of course!). Not only that, Frommers has named Greenwich – set to become a royal borough next year – as a ‘must-see’ city for 2012. Why? The remarkable baroque façades along the Thames waterfront as well as the beauty of one of the oldest of the royal parks – Greenwich Park – and not forgetting London’s brand new cable car set to launch in Greenwich are some of the reasons to pay a visit.
The Falkland Islands
A royal visit, the 30th anniversary since the Falklands War and Frozen Planet fame have put this remote archipelago firmly on the intrepid travellers map for 2012. From adorable Running Rockhopper penguins to the Falkland Pipit, there’s a huge amount of wildlife to discover and if you’re a history buff you could pay a visit to the Falkland Islands museum in Stanley. Although not simple to get to, it’s easier than you might think. Fly from South America or opt for the MOD (Ministry of Defence) air service from the UK. Or, choose the Falkland Islands as part of a South American or Antarctic cruise.
Getting to Vietnam has just got a lot easier. Vietnam airlines have launched flights that will link London with Ho Chi Minh and Vietnam’s pulsating capital, Hanoi (previously you had to fly via an international transport hub such as Bangkok or Kuala Lumpur). For a festive atmosphere, street gambling and dragon dances, why not escape to Vietnam for the Vietnamese New Year on January 23rd 2012? But, whatever the time of year, Vietnam is sure to intrigue and excite travellers.
The opening of the Royal Opera House in Muscat continues to bridge the cultural gap between East and West. The first of its kind in the Arabian Peninsula, it will play host to acts from across the globe. What’s more, from January to August 2012 you can celebrate Omani culture with a truly diverse programme, including an extreme sailing competition, food festivals, craft fairs and the Tour of Oman bike race.
Not a city that’s previously been on the tourist radar, Guimarães in northern Portugal is one of two European Capitals of Culture in 2012. Known as the birthplace of Portugal (Portugal’s first capital from the 9th century), Guimarães is a beguiling and architecturally-rich city that preserves its history and heritage with vigour. Throughout 2012, Guimarães will host a vast array of cultural programmes, from fine art and literature to dance and street art.
Experience the breathtaking natural phenomenon – the aurora borealis – in northern Norway. Nasa has predicted that the cosmic spectacle will be at its greatest intensity for more than 50 years in 2012 and the best place to see the Northern Lights is above the Arctic Circle, such as Tromsø, Norway. The northern lights belt hits Northern Norway in the Lofoten Islands, and follows the coast all the way up to the North Cape. This means that no other place on earth offers better chances of spotting the lights. If this is on your ‘bucket list’ then 2012 is the year!
Want to get far from the maddening crowd and enjoy a holiday of a lifetime which doesn’t break the bank? Why not consider Tajikistan – one of Lonely Planet’s Best Value Destinations of 2012? You’ll come across 2000-year-old stone structures, forts galore and hot springs aplenty – and if you’re a fan of a good road trip, experience the Pamir Highway. Opt for a homestay or hire a yurt, for a spot of glamping.
New Zealand has been in the spotlight this year, experiencing highs and lows, from the tragic Christchurch earthquake to the sporting frenzy of the Rugby World Cup – and this is set to continue in 2012 (for all good reasons we hope). One such event is the eagerly awaited release of The Hobbit, following on from the huge worldwide success of The Lord of The Rings trilogy which was filmed in New Zealand. Not a Bilbo Baggins fan? Then entertain yourself with the huge array of activities available in the world’s adventure playground. You name it, you can probably do it.
By Sarah Gibbons
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