With its mix of religions and cultures, its timeless temples, rich wildlife, growing surfing scene and its welcoming and friendly residents, this country is one which has recently been revived. The north and east of Sri Lanka deliver new discoveries as places previously kept off limits are now accessible to all. In the last few years, Sri Lanka has renovated their railway system and expressways to reduce travel times and scheduled and charter flights now take travellers between most major cities. There is a constant increase in the number of quality hotels, sustainable tour operators and diverse experiences. If you like an activity holiday, you can enjoy water sports, surfing, whale watching, jungle hikes, safaris, cooking lessons, yoga retreats and Ayurveda centres.
- National park wildlife highlights include Minneriya’s annual gathering of 300 elephants (July to October), elusive leopards and the birds of Udawalawe.
- The Hill Country’s horizon-filling tea plantations are best appreciated on a scenic train ride.
A country which has long been a powerhouse of innovation with the automobile, printing press and the aspirin. 100 years ago, a school in Thuringian countryside kick-started an aesthetic movement so globally influential that its reverberations are still felt today, the Bauhaus. Join the year-long birthday party of this midwife of modernism in arts, crafts and architecture that was founded in Weimar in 1919 and was quashed by the Nazis in 1933. There will be new museums and related events and exhibitions held throughout Germany to celebrate this year. Germany is a country where scaling a mountain, cycling through a wine country or knocking back beers in a pub are all equally worthy activities. Berlin will see the 30th anniversary of the Peaceful Revolution that brought down the Berlin Wall, so that will certainly be worth a visit.
- Discover the romantic rockscapes of Saxon Switzerland and hide among sandstone formations, moss-draped ravines and damp caves.
- Enjoy fine classic German wines along the Mosel River with a view of Roman monuments, medieval castles, Europe’s steepest vineyard and half-timbered villages along the way.
Zimbabwe has always been a country that travellers have raved about – not only is it one of Africa’s safest destinations, it also has friendly locals, Big Five-filled national parks, World Heritage-listed archaeological ruins, forested mountains and the glorious Victoria Falls. During your stay, you can experience diverse landscapes and take in unlimited amounts of art, culture and history. Find yourself lazing on a houseboat drinking beer in Kariba, being up close with a leopard on a safari or explore archaeological sites. If you are a little more adventurous, you can bungee jump at Victoria Falls or trek through the hills of the Eastern Highlands. Through its beauty and character, Zimbabwe is sure to leave you with a lasting impression.
- Witness the famous natural wonder which is Victoria Falls, which also has experiences such as white water rafting and bungee jumping.
- Zimbabwe’s diverse national parks offer an opportunity to spot lions, buffalo, leopards, elephants and rhinos.
Belize isn’t somewhere you would think to go perhaps, however as the government is moving to fully protect its unique environment, new eco-resorts are taking advantage of the country’s islands and jungle hideaways, and travellers are discovering an area of Central America which is relatively tourist-free, as well as being safe and easy to reach. You can spend time at blissed-out beaches, sea-kayak around the atolls and dive the reefs. Inland you will find jungles where jaguars, ocelots and baboons roam and jungle lodges provide a base for some amazing hiking. Cacao farms and homestays in the Maya villages of the south give new means of immersing yourself in local culture.
- The Blue Hole Natural Monument is a 24metre deep sinkhole where sheer walls plunge to create a diving adrenaline rush.
- Take a guided tour of the ancient Maya underworld of Actun Tunichil Muknal in search of the Crystal Maiden skeleton.
This obscure country has soon become a cool place to find art galleries and cafes as well as being able to party the night away. Minsk is the hub of the country where you can take advantage of a five-day visa-free regime. In its restored Old Town, evening revellers enjoy some of Europe’s cheapest beer and can take part in summer street parties. Minsk has also become a venue for global events and summits and this year will see them hosting the 2019 European Games. The rest of the country is more Sovietised, though that is gradually become less so. Despite Minsk’s charm, it is also well-known for its war museums and monumental architecture, a tradition upheld by the country’s controversial hockey-playing president Alexander Lukashenko.
- Take a trip to the photogenic 16th century Mir Castle. The courtyard holds a carnival atmosphere on weekends.
- Brest is home to Belarus’ most Soviet icon, Courage, a mammoth statue.