From lesser-travelled regions about to make it big to much-loved holiday spots set to get more attention than ever, we round up the top travel destinations for the coming year with help from our jet-setting expert Jonathan

Iceland

Iceland

With savvy travellers making the most of the cheap New York-London flights via Iceland for an extended stopover and the kind of exotic adventure that doesn’t come with any old isle, it’s little surprise that travel writers at TBEX put Iceland as 2016’s top international destination. Think hot springs, Northern Lights, active volcanoes, iceberg-dotted, luminous lagoons and wild, wild wildlife. And, now the Nordic island has been named the world’s most gender-equal country, a trip to Iceland should prove as enlightening as it is exhilarating.

Nicaragua

Nicaragua

Central America’s largest and least densely populated country (and officially second safest) has emerged at the forefront of pretty much every major travel trend this decade: offering authentic cultural interactions and experiential travel options – thanks to its largely untouched, wild and varied landscape, peppered with Mayan ruins and picturesque islets, incredible surfing, and welcoming population – and, most notably, a burgeoning eco-tourism market. The country’s minister for tourism has rolled out a smart, sustainable hospitality model, resulting in a bevvy of new boutique eco-meets-opulent openings that also support the local community.

According to Jonathan, “You’ll want to head to the fantastic Pacific coast. With some of Central America’s oldest colonial cities, vast tropical rainforest hosting over 30,000 species, hundreds of miles of beaches on untouched coastline, 28 volcanoes and eight crater lakes, Nicaragua is a destination not to be missed.”

San Sebastián, Spain

San Sebastin Spain

Spain may be one of last year’s most searched for holiday destinations but, with the majority of holidaymakers flooding its sunnier, southern shores, the northerly Basque Country is often overlooked. Which is a crying shame, because the autonomous region is said to encapsulate the very best of Spanish and French culture – including their food, boasting the world’s second highest concentration of Michelin-starred restaurants. What’s more, it’s blessed with beautiful beaches, its very own Guggenheim in Bilbao and world-class wines (Rioja, anyone?). This year, however, with its coastal city San Sebastián named the European City of Culture, the region’s relative anonymity is guaranteed to end – adding an annum of cultural events to its already lively scene.

Mozambique

Mozambique

Jonathan: “Mozambique is one of Africa’s undiscovered jewels and well off most travellers’ maps. Now over two decades post its civil war, with a stable government in place and a string of new luxury openings in 2015 (&Beyond’s Benguerra Island, for example, opened in June last year – just try to resist its paradisiacal private lodges), Mozambique is edging back into the spotlight and is the perfect destination for those looking for white-sand beaches and unparalleled diving in turquoise waters.”

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Rio de Janeiro Brazil

An obvious one, perhaps, but as the 2016 Olympics approach, whose atlas won’t be open on Rio? Officially 2015’s most popular South American destination, the home of the 2014 World Cup, Copacabana, the caipirinha and that carnival, visitors may come for the Games, but will inevitably stay for the endless sunshine, the admirable up-all-night attitude and the countless photo ops (think Sugarloaf, the Selarón Steps and Christ the Redeemer). Unsurprisingly, many airlines have added direct flights to the city from each of the world’s four corners, so it’ll be even easier to reach.

Istanbul, Turkey

Istanbul Turkey

Any question marks around Turkish travel certainly haven’t stopped visitors flocking to the meeting point of East and West; Istanbul is one of the world’s strongest growing travel destinations – overtaking New York and Singapore in popularity. How could it not be? Between the Bosphorus, the Blue Mosque and the Grand Bazaar, historic sites and beauty spots it has in its swathes, plus an epic cultural and gastronomic scene brought about by the many cultures that have stopped by – or stayed on – its shores. And this is one travel hot spot set to keep on trending, as the Istanbul Grand Airport, due to be the world’s biggest, carrying more than 150 million passengers per year, will open its first phase in 2018. Our tip: as efficient as baggage claim may prove to be, visit before the crowds fly in if you can.

Australia’s eastern coast

Australias eastern coast

Australia is no newcomer to international most-visited lists, proving particularly appealing to northern hemispherers seeking sunnier climes come their winter months. This year, though, it’s sure to get more attention – and attract more visitors – than ever, as David Attenborough’s latest series on UNESCO favourite the Great Barrier Reef airs in over 130 countries. In partnership with Tourism Australia, the three-part show shines a new, oh-so-enticing light on what is widely considered to be one of the seven natural wonders of the world. Flippers at the ready.

Of course, while you’re prepping for that big 2016 trip, there are a few other things to think about… Start with sorting your flights, hotel and car hire.

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