If you’ve ever rolled up a map of the world and swaggered off to battle with half a dozen colleagues, you’ll have a fair idea of the scenes that played out at STA Travel this week.
I got clouted round the lugholes by at least three major continents, but as you’ve no doubt guessed, I survived to tell the tale.
It’s that time of year, when we narrow down the top trips for the forthcoming year, and I can assure you, it wasn’t easy. Heated debate rolled through the office, but after calling on our destination experts from all over the world, we’re confident that we’ve collated a great top ten trips for 2012.
If you’ve got other ideas, then join the conversation in the comment thread below and extend the trend beyond our own opinion by adding your own.
But first up, let’s explore our final list of predictions for stand out destinations through 2012…
Next year, slap Vietnam firmly on your travel radar. Thanks to new direct flights from the UK into Ho Chi Minh or Hanoi, you’ll never get it easier.
I’d recommend hopping on a tour of Vietnam, as there’s so much to pack in. From the chaos of Ho Chi Minh, to the imperial capital Hue and charming Hoi An. The Bond film ‘Tomorrow Never Dies’ was filmed in mesmerising Halong Bay, with its 3000 monolithic limestone islands thrusting up to 100m high. Start practicing Bond-esque wry eyebrow raises and cheesy chat-up lines now!
Buenos Aires is famous for football (you can’t stay long here without someone mentioning Diego Maradona) and steaks which are as big as your head — but there is way more to this fabulous city.
It boasts stunning architecture and countryside and one of the craziest nightlife scenes in the world, however with many clubs opening their doors from 2am, it’s not for the faint-hearted.
If the club scene isn’t your thing, then fear not — Buenos Aires is home of tango. Grab a group of mates and take in the city’s tango shows.
If you arrive in Toronto and get a strange sense of deja vu then don’t be alarmed… thanks to its incredible skyline it has masqueraded as New York City and Chicago among others.
The city is home to the CN Tower, which may not be the tallest tower now but it is home to EdgeWalk: the world’s highest full-circle hands-free walk on a 1.5m wide ledge around the tower at 356m high (or 116 storeys!)
Couple this with great vintage shopping, quirky boutique hotels, parks and lakes to explore and you’ve got a great city break waiting to happen — which you can bet none of your mates have done before.
Toronto will feature as a top destination for 2012 | Photo by Ryan Tir
Sri Lanka will continue to boom in 2012 despite its troubled past; thanks to affordable prices, a 2011 survey by the Post Office put it at the number one spot in its for value-for-money report.
Couple this with spellbinding tea country, and exciting National Parks, beautiful beaches, a rich culture and fabulous food — all at great prices, what more do you need?
Borneo is one of the last tropical destinations that hasn’t yet seen prices rise as tourists flock in — however, this won’t last for long.
With its incredible wildlife — including the enigmatic orangutan — plus opportunities to go trekking through remote communities and climb Southeast Asia’s tallest mountain, Mount Kinabalu, on top of the chance to chill out on some of the world’s most beautiful beaches, there’s tons to do for even the most intrepid traveller.
Borneo will allure intrepid travellers throughout 2012 | Photo by Atiqah Aekman W.
New Zealand has had a tumultuous year in 2011 due to the devastating earthquake, and then the high of hosting (and winning) the Rugby World Cup.
Head down next year to get active in the world’s adrenaline capital: from bungee jumping to skiing to sky diving, there are thousands of ways to get a buzz in New Zealand. Cap this off with the small chance you’ll get ‘spotted’ to star in a Hollywood blockbuster, as Peter Jackson returns to New Zealand to film the first of his two Hobbit films. The exact film locations are a closely guarded secret, so if you see any short hairy blokes being followed by a camera crew you’ll know why!
One of the key elements for young people on a Gap Year in 2012 will be splicing in a volunteering or conservation project on their travels, and Thailand is one of the destinations best-placed to offer a variety of opportunities.
Following the introduction of fees for university in 2012, young people are seeking out alternative means of bolstering their CV and skill-set, in a bid to appeal to future employers. From working with elephants in a conservation sector, to helping to rebuild a school or community centre in areas not yet rebuilt after the tsunami — there are lots of projects to get involved in.
The Inca Trail and Machu Picchu are, of course, Peru’s most famous must-sees, however this fascinating country has much more on offer. Why not join one of the many treks into the Amazon to see some of the world’s greatest wildlife, accessing the Amazon from Peru is one of the best value and easiest ways, or see the country from the locals’ point of view, with a home-stay on Lake Titicaca.
Peru will continue to amaze travellers in 2012 | Photo by szeke
Soak up the music and mojitos, cigars and old cars in Havana, or simply hit the pristine beaches in Cuba.
President Obama’s increasingly tolerant attitude towards Cuba could mean that the time-capsule feel of this fascinating nation might be coming to an end, so get over to Cuba sooner rather than later before the American government swoop in and give its crumbling charm a make-over. Soak up the incredible atmosphere before it all changes.
Sydney & New South Wales
Movie mogul Baz Luhrmann is in Sydney and the surrounding New South Wales countryside filming his latest epic, a remake of the 1920s classic “The Great Gatsby” starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Tobey Maguire, to seal another blockbuster destination.
The film is due out at the end of December 2012 so head over to Sydney and its surrounds next year, take your camera, buy a cheap string of fake pearls for the 1920s vibe, and create your own story.
There we have it: STA Travel’s top travel tips for 2012! We’re excited to explore the possibilities of travelling to and around all of these regions. If you’re interested in finding out more, visit your local STA Travel store and speak to one of our consultants today about the best way to make the most of your travels in 2012 and beyond.