2015 proved to be an unexpectedly fantastic year for me.
While I started things out going back to school and thinking I might be able to squeeze a single country into my year, I somehow managed to do well at school and make it to ten countries in just eight months.
I’ll write later about the highlights of 2015, but since I’m freshly returned from a week in Indonesia and contemplating my next move, I thought I’d share the six countries I’m most excited to visit in 2016.
#5 – Slovenia
One of the (many) perks to my role with Shadows of Africa is that I work closely with a pair of Slovenian ladies who are staunch advocates for the unspoiled beauty of their tiny corner of Europe. They’ve also both offered to make sure my visit to their country is an unforgettable one with insider tips on the very best the pretty country has to offer.
While most people might be familiar with the country’s iconic Lake Bled, there is so much more to this former Yugoslav state.
There’s the country’s 2000 year old capital Ljubljana, a former Roman settlement that displays a dazzling array of architectural styles that often see it likened to Vienna or Prague in terms of sheer beauty.
The wine and food region of Maribor in the country’s north is a haven for somebody with a taste for the finer things in life.
Slovenia’s picturesque hiking, quaint villages, historic cities are just begging to be explored, and the country is famed for having some of the most beautiful sunrises you’ll ever see.
Don’t want to take my word for it? Check out The Planet D’s post on why you should visit Slovenia.
#4 – Ethiopia
The only entry on this list that I know for sure I will get to in 2016, Ethiopia is a nation that has long fascinated me and that I am thrilled to have the opportunity to explore next May. CNN Travel certainly agree that Ethiopia is one of the world’s best tourism destinations.
Distinct from its neighbouring countries, Ethiopia has a really intriguing blend of Christian and Muslim historical sites that makes it a great place for lovers of history. With a unique landscape of craggy mountains and open plains, there’s an alien appeal to the country.
Bustling Addis Ababa (home to arguably the worst airport I’ve ever had to kill time in) might not be of huge appeal to me, but there’s a melting pot of cultures and beliefs on display here that exists in stark contrast to the unflinching beauty of ancient Lalibela, where Christianity’s history is preserved as something wildly different to the religion as it exists today.
Ethiopia is also a safari destination, and seeing animals new and old against a new backdrop is always a thrill.
#3 – Japan
I’ve technically already been to Japan, but I’m certain my three day visa run to Fukuoka in 2009 really didn’t do this ancient country justice.
I want to walk cherry blossom strewn streets, sing myself hoarse in boozy karaoke bars, marvel at the high-tech gadgets and bizarrely dressed students, visit historic sites such as Hiroshima, enjoy a moment’s quiet contemplating at a shrine, attend a J-League game, and just embrace the zany fusion of western and eastern ideals that has made Japan such a fascinating place.
Oh, and I want to eat all of the sushi.
On a more serious note, there’s also an academic region I’d like to spend more time in Japan. Having lived in two countries with a decidedly negative view of Japan, I’m also eager to better understand how the Japanese people view their role in 20th century history and how this compares to Chinese and Korean recollections of events.
#2 – Peru
South America remains the one inhabited continent that continues to elude me, and it was hard as hell choosing just one country to include on the list.
In the end, the lure of Machu Picchu was just too great to ignore. I’ve long been fascinated with Incan culture, and visiting its most famed historic site would be a real thrill.
Of course, there’s far more to Peru than just Machu Picchu.
There’s the vastness of the Amazon, the mysterious Nazca Lines that the X-Files fan in me is obsessed with seeing, beaches, mountains, and everything in between.
There’s also the pretty girls and the pisco sour too. Can’t overlook that.
#1 – Iceland
It’s perhaps become a bit of a cliche among travel bloggers to talk about Iceland, but the obsession with this beautiful country is certainly warranted.
Every photo I see and every story I read paints such a tempting picture.
Where do I even start?
There’s the world-famous Blue Lagoon where a thousand thousand selfies have been taken.
There’s the opportunity to scuba dive the tectonic plate between two continents.
There’s the many Golden Circle tours that cover one of the most visually stunning countries in the world.
There’s the unique blend of arctic and volcanic landscapes that seems like something out of science fiction.
There are the northern lights and one of the best views of them you’re ever likely to find.
With my 2016 travels taking me to Sweden, I might just need to extend my trip a little so that I can fit a little more of Europe in, and you’d best believe that Iceland will be the first country on my dance card if that happens.
What five countries are you dying to visit in 2016?