by: José Berrocoso //
Trying to figure out where to travel next year? Finding the right place to put a pin on the map is never an easy task, even if you’re a seasoned traveller. Whether you’re exploring the world solo or taking a romantic trip with a significant other, travel is arguably one of the best ways to spend your time and money.
The start of a new year provides the opportunity to add to your bucket lists of destinations and, in the interest of helping you do that, we have rounded up some of the best spots to visit this new year. So, where to go in 2019? From a few forever favourites to the lesser-known spots to discover, these are the destinations on the Bonus Miles travel hit list.
WILD, WET AND WINDY: FAROE ISLANDS
Remotely clustered in the North Atlantic Ocean, a rugged archipielago of eighteen mountainous islands erupt out of the ocean in imposing basalt cliffs. The Faroe Islands, translated directly as ‘sheep islands’, is a self-governing nation under the external sovereignty of Denmark.
Sandwiched between Nordic neighbours Iceland and Norway, the islands offer vast, untamed and spectacular landscapes that are immediately impressive and undeniably compelling. Travellers are often made small by the grandiosity of the natural environment; the daunting sea cliffs, the unforgiving waves that ripple against the coastline, and the lush green valleys surrounded by steep mountains.
The Faroese eat cod and haddock – masses of it – typically prepared in one of two ways. When eaten fresh, the fish is subjected to prolonged boiling (or ‘killed twice’ as some locals put it). The Faroese also preserve fish, though not with such familiar Nordic techniques as salting or smoking. The islands are so windswept that almost no trees grow, and as a result there’s little lumber available either to manufacture salt or to generate smoke.
The Faroes remain a relatively undiscovered corner of Europe, mainly because they are perceived as being too far away from everything. In fact, they are just an hour flight from Reykjavik and a two-hour flight from Copenhagen. Not so hard to reach, after all!
EASTER ISLAND: A WONDERFUL ENIGMA
WHERE: SOUTH AMERICA
There’s no inhabited spot in the world quite so isolated as Chilean Polynesia. A mere dot in the vast Pacific Ocean, Rapa Nui (Easter Island) is a one-of-a-kind destination whose very remoteness lends it unmistakable authenticity and an aura of mystery. It’s high time to come and uncover its secrets!
The Rapanui people thrived in their isolation, creating a culture unlike any other. Nearly 1,000 carved stone moai bear witness to this, as do the ceremonial platforms, petroglyphs, cave art and more. The Rapanui also developed the only written language in all of Polynesia.
The most photographed site is Ahu Tongariki, where 15 moai stand looking towards the hills – moai face inland as they were guardians of the scattered groups that dwelt on Rapa Nui. Go at dawn or dusk for the best views and photographs.
The Hanga Roa harbour is a perfect place to see sea turtles. If you stop by while fishermen are hauling in their catch and cleaning the fish, you can spot the turtles floating just beneath the surface, waiting to snack. If you do have environmental concerns and are up for a bit of adventure (and a workout), you can go by bike, foot, or even horseback. Because some places aren’t accessible by car, going on a horse or by foot can allow you to reach some of the island’s hidden treasures.
MYTHS AND MAGIC IN BHUTAN
Tucked between China and India at the eastern end of the Himalayan chain, it is the most remote and the least touched by modernity country. Bhutan is the only remaining Buddhist state in the region. With less than a million inhabitants and about a dozen languages it is also, arguably, the most varied, both in its terrain and human geography. It is also the ideal place for trekking in a beautiful landscape of sacred mountains, lush valleys, remote temples and fortress-monasteries.
Unlike in other countries, Bhutan has a strict limit to its tourism industry in the hope to protect its traditional culture. The tourism industry in Bhutan is operated in line with the principle of sustainability, being environmentally and ecologically friendly, socially and culturally acceptable, and economically viable. As such, visitors are only given permission to enter the country after a trip has been booked with an approved travel agency and the fee (a minimum of US$250 per day, all-inclusive) has been paid in full.
Be prepared for a lot of jaw-dropping experiences, like when, after hiking through thin air and up steep slopes, you finally catch a glimpse of the Tiger’s Nest Monastery, a 17th-century meditative fortress whose precarious perch on the side of a mountain makes it all the more formidable.
These people are friendly, happy and proud of their heritage, and they will do wonders in helping you understand a country that has long been shrouded in myths and mysteries.
AFRO-MEDITERRANEAN VIBE IN MOZAMBIQUE
Mozambique beckons with its ravishing coastline, buzzy Afro-Mediterranean vibe, fascinating tradition and richly infused culture. The main coastline and remote archipelagos offer coral reefs, rainbow-coloured fish, graceful dhows and powder-white beaches. For over 400 years, the Portuguese colonised Mozambique, leaving a captivating legacy of colonial-style architecture and a flamboyant culture rich in tradition and history.
Since the mid-1990s, Mozambique has seen a complete transformation and has blossomed into one of the fastest growing economies in Africa with tourism benefitting enormously. It is now a peaceful nation, easily accessible from South Africa with regular scheduled flights from Johannesburg to the capital, Maputo, or for those already on safari, a quick hop from Kruger National Park in South Africa. This truly remarkable country ticks all the boxes for honeymooners, divers, beach-lovers or for the world-weary seeking a heavenly escape from the rat race.
With 620 miles of pristine coastline, Mozambique is Africa’s prime beach spot. These ravishing beaches are dotted with historical seaside forts, colonial-era architecture and towns steeped in history, still bearing their Portuguese names. The waters between Mozambique and Madagascar are scattered with enchanting archipelagos which are the setting for a small number of top notch lodges offering their guests ‘Crusoe-chic’ accommodation made from locally sourced materials and with creature comforts that are on a par with some of the most luxurious hotels in the world.
COLOMBIA: A NATURE DESTINATION FULL OF HERITAGE
WHERE: SOUTH AMERICA
Combining the indigenous population with the Spanish influences dating from the 16th century colonization, the mixture of African cultures brought by slavery and the more recent influx of immigrants, Colombia has become a melting pot of cultures and ethnicities. Colombia is rapidly emerging from a troubled past and becoming a dark horse in Latin America’s formidable line-up.
A great way to fully experience this magical country is to combine its cities and beaches. Enjoy wild Pacific Ocean beaches to the west and tropical Caribbean Coast up north. Explore formerly infamous and now iconic cities from Bogotá to Medellín in between. The capital, Bogotá, is bang in the middle. La Candelaria, its historic centre, is teeming with vibrant plazas, museums and stately colonial architecture. Medellín may have had a gritty past but it’s now a positively thriving and hipster place to be.
Colombia’s coffee region is west of Bogotá, home to the modern city of Pereira and authentic Salento, both known for their exquisite coffee plantations and rolling green scenery. In addition to its world-famous coffee, the country also has a great range of cuisine. The food is full of Spanish influence, with hearty flavours and plenty of fresh fruit thanks to its tropical coastal climate.