We did the recce so you don’t have to. These are the hottest destinations for the year, according to our travel experts.
THANGU VALLEY, SIKKIM
After Assam and Meghalaya, Sikkim is the next hot destination in the Northeast. The high-altitude alpine meadows of Thangu Valley are awash with blossoming flowers in summer and shrouded with snow in winter. There are some fabulous treks from here to Chopta Valley and Muguthang, or you can take a two to three day yak safari to explore the valley.
SUNDARBANS, WEST BENGAL
The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Sundarbans is the largest mangrove forest in the world. Its remote, wild terrain criss-crossed with rivers and swamps is one of the last remaining refuges of the Royal Bengal tiger. A day boat trip will give you a taste of the dense mangroves, but to truly experience the delta and the thrill of tracking tigers, you will need to embark on a three to four day boat trip. Even if the tiger proves elusive, you will spot many migratory birds and other wildlife, plus navigating the surreal, mist-shrouded environs will make it an experience to remember.
Hidden in the Aravalli hills, Bishangarh is a tiny village known mainly for the imposing, 230-year old fortress of Shahpura’s royalty. Sitting atop a granite hill and surrounded by thick walls with turrets, the fort has been restored over the past seven years, and will debut as a luxury, all-suite resort, Alila Fort Bishangarh, which opens in early 2017. Apart from soaking in the royal ambience, you can also sign up for bespoke cultural activities, including visits to neighbouring farming communities, engaging with artisans and taking a class in local cuisine.
UTTARA KANNADA, KARNATAKA
Goa is overcrowded and Kerala is too touristy, but the stretch in between these two perennial favourites deserves more attention, especially the northern coastline of Karnataka, or Uttara Kannada. The beach town of Kumta is where time stands still. Surrounded by greenery, and with a long, sandy beach at its disposal, it’s a mystery why this area remains unexplored. If you’re looking for some peace and quiet, Kumta is ideal.
Binsar was the summer capital of the Chand kings of Kumaon, and it’s not hard to imagine why they preferred this picturesque hamlet with stunning views of the Himalayas. On a clear day, hike up to ‘Zero Point’ from where you can spot some of the most iconic peaks, including Trishul, Nanda Devi, and Panchachuli. Binsar is a nature lover’s paradise – the wildlife sanctuary is excellent for birding and for spotting rare animals. For the adventurous traveller, there are many trails winding through the misty mountains and rhododendron forests.
PORT LINCOLN, SOUTH AUSTRALIA
The seafood capital of Australia, Port Lincoln is a charming city on the lower Eyre Peninsula overlooking Boston Bay. This is a great place to base yourself to explore the coast and the peninsula. Indulge in some superb aqua adventures, such as shark cage diving and swimming up, close and personal with sea lions. Also experience the Outback way of life on a seafood safari to hunt and gather your own ‘catch of the day’, or go on a tour of the fabulous wineries of the region.
FRÉGATE ISLAND, SEYCHELLES
Move over Mahé and La-Digue; if you are looking for an island hideaway in Seychelles, look no further than Frégate Island, the easternmost of the inner islands of Seychelles. Its dazzlingly white, powdery Anse Victorin beach is regularly voted one of the best beaches in the world. In this Garden of Eden, fringed by the turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean, is the secluded luxury resort, Frégate Island Private, with 16 villas built against the stunning backdrop of gleaming granite rocks.
LAKE BALATON, HUNGARY
A massive freshwater lake in western Hungary, Lake Balaton is the largest lake in Central Europe. It’s a popular summer getaway for the locals, with its southern end dotted with upscale resorts and sandy beaches, where you can go swimming, sailing or fishing in the lake. The north shore of the lake is a major wine region, especially the volcanic mountain area of Badacsony. Also make a stopover at the pretty and historic town of Tihany, known for its Benedictine Abbey, which offers a stunning panorama of the lake.
YALA NATIONAL PARK, SRI LANKA
Our gorgeous neighbouring island has become a hot destination over the past few years. Look beyond the beaches in the south and the tea plantations of the north, and consider instead a wildlife destination. Yala National Park, on the southeast coast of the country, is the second largest national park in Sri Lanka and is home to the largest concentration of leopards in the world.
Cuba may be on everyone’s hot list right now, but there’s more to it than the iconic images of colourful Havana and its vintage cars. The Viñales Valley has been hailed by UNESCO as a cultural landscape – a traditional settlement known for its tobacco plantations, the very same tobacco that goes into some of the best known Cuban cigar brands. The area has some striking landscapes and also offers many hiking and climbing opportunities.
Our Travel Experts: Sharell Cook, India Travel Expert For About.Com; Amrita Das, Travel Writer And Blogger; Aarti Ghai, Director, Ahura Leisure; Daniel Joshi, Travel And Portrait Photographer; Rishad Saam Mehta, Travel Writer; Subhash Motwani, Travel Curator And Director Of Namaste Tourism; Prathap Nair, Travel Writer