Travel trends of 2016: where to eat, sleep and party next year

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Anna Hart
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There’s a very simple home remedy for the winter blues: a holiday on the horizon.

Whether you want to soak at a spa in a remote Himalayan valley, to stuff yourself silly in a Southeast Asian streetfood hotspot, or to binge on culture and colonial architecture in Colombia, here are Stylist's predictions for the hottest holidays of 2016.

Yangon, Myanmar

In November 2015 Aung San Suu Kyi won Myanmar’s landmark democratic election to claim a staggering majority in parliament, ending half a century of dominance by the military and ushering in a new age of democracy in this previously off-limits Southeast Asian nation. Now is the time to visit this extraordinary land, as new areas beyond the ‘tourist triangle’ finally open up to visitors.

Bring all your hunger: you’ve a whole new national cuisine to discover in Yangon, the capital, a mash-up of crumbling colonial architecture and neon-lit alleyways. Just to give your tastebuds a sense of what’s in store, the national dish is lahpet, is a salad of fermented tea leaves mixed with chiles, sesame oil, fried garlic, dried shrimp, peanuts, and ginger. For now, Myanmar’s cuisine is a mystery to the rest of the world, but we give it a few summers and it will be the new hot foodtruck on the block in capital cities around the globe. 

Punakha Valley, Bhutan

If you’re the sort of over-achieving spa-goer who likes to ‘earn’ a massage, sinking deservedly into hot bubbles and fluffy cotton robes only after chalking up culture and adventure credits, skip the Thai and Indian fly-and-flops and look instead to Bhutan. The spa scene in this Himalayan kingdom is positively humming: in 2016 the existing Aman and COMO properties will be joined by a Six Senses and Taj. Punakha served as Bhutan's capital for over 300 years, and at the junction of the Mo Chhu (Mother River) and Pho Chhu (Father River) sits the gorgeous Punakha Dzong, perhaps Bhutan's most well-preserved and iconic building. Spa-ing here puts you in a prime spot for delving into this mountain kingdom’s rich cultural heritage, meeting some of the smiliest and most spiritual people on the planet and trekking through misty pine forests and sultry, steamy rice paddies to ancient Buddhist temples.

Yosemite, USA

America’s National Park Service commemorates its 100th anniversary in 2016, and this centennial is the perfect time to discover a big-hitter like Yellowstone or Yosemite. First protected in 1864, Yosemite is perhaps the most staggeringly beautiful of America’s national parks, and a Unesco World Heritage site to boot. From the waterfall-streaked granite rock faces and the lush Yosemite Valley to the awe-inspiring giant sequoias stretching for the sky at Mariposa Grove, expect to have your mind blown on an hourly basis. Over four million visitors make it to America’s third-oldest national park annually, but with 1,200 square miles of wilderness you can always find a corner of Yosemite to call your own.

Paris, France

Don’t let the tragic events of November 2015 deter you from visiting this richly rewarding city. There’s never been a more meaningful time to cross the channel and spend your tourist dollar where it’s needed, at hotels, cafes and shops that were dented by the inevitable lull in tourist numbers at the end of 2015. Celebrate the city’s cultural predominance and international outlook with the eagerly-awaited contemporary Chinese art exhibition at the Fondation Louis Vuitton, linger in the new cafe attached to the atmospheric Shakespeare & Co bookstore, and pop into the newly revamped Ritz Paris to toast Coco Chanel, the hotel’s most famous and chic patron. Vive la France.

Bavaria, Germany

There is a lot more to this beautiful German region than Oktoberfest, but let’s not be shy about our love of Bavarian beer…and 2016 commemorates the 500th anniversary of the Reinheitsgebot (Beer Purity Law) that secured the local brew’s status as exceptional. The smart way to do Bavaria is by biking the 'Romantic Road’, exploring the enchanting southeastern state and its fairytale castles, medieval towns, towering cathedrals, dense forests, and postcard-perfect mountain views. The most beautiful way to work up a good beer thirst. 

Los Angeles, USA

For decades Los Angeles has been snootily dismissed as New York’s pretty-faced but culturally clueless little sister. But as sky-high rents push artists, musicians and the creative classes out of the Big Apple, Los Angeles is enjoying a cultural resurgence. Soho House and the Arts Club are both opening hotly-anticipated new premises downtown, and the beautiful, newly-opened Broad museum is another good reason to linger in the city’s formerly-neglected downtown district. In September 2016 the thrillingly innovative roving art project The Moving Museum will run a program of merging art, food and performance. 

Rio, Brazil

All eyes will be on the Brazilian behemoth in August for the Olympic Games, but smart travellers are planning their visit to Rio later in the year, when the streets are emptier but the feel-good factor lingers. It’s hard to picture a city more generously endowed with natural beauty, with golden beaches and densely forested mountains surrounding a city that pulses to a samba beat. Yes, the Olympics are a big deal, but in Rio every night is a potential street party. 

Okavango Delta, Botswana

Lonely Planet have named it one of their top countries to visit in 2016 and deservedly so; the country celebrates 50 years of independence in 2016, and recent years have seen it emerge as a dramatic African success story, with democratic elections, stable economic growth, progressive politicians and a responsible attitude to environmental and wildlife concerns. The legendary Okavango Delta is one of Africa's last remaining great wildlife habitat, home to some of the world’s most endangered species of large mammal, such as the cheetah, white rhinoceros, black rhinoceros, African wild dog and lion.

Adelaide, Australia

After a few years of a seriously strong Aussie dollar, the exchange rate is finally favourable to Brits again, making 2016 a brilliant year for that long-lusted trip down under. Long overshadowed by flashier cities like Sydney and Melbourne, Adelaide has recently emerged as one of Australia's most rewarding and surprising destinations, with world-class arts festivals, a thriving culinary scene, abundant parkland and a walkable downtown district. Hungry travellers should make a beeline for the legendary Central Market, to wander stalls stacked with freshly caught seafood, kangaroo meat, and artisan cheeses. And the Art Gallery of South Australia, the Migration Museum, and South Australian Museum will do for pudding. Bonus: Adelaide is the best spot for visiting the beautiful and renowned Barossa Valley wine region, just an hour northeast of the city.

Cartagena, Colombia

This gorgeous former fishing village on Colombia's Caribbean coast has pristine beaches, a eye-wateringly gorgeous (and walkable) old town with brightly-hued colonial architecture, and an effervescent nightlife scene. It’s also emerging as a cultural heavyweight, with a growing roster of festivals, from Hay Literary Festival to Storyland electronic music festival. Cartagena's old town (a Unesco World Heritage site) is an intoxicating maze of cobbled alleys, bougainvillea-strewn balconies, and colonial churches lording it up over elegant plazas. Beyond the old town, you have a blisteringly modern South American city, with hip cafes, arty districts and chaotic markets. We call this the best of both worlds. 

Photos: ThinkStock