New Year, New Adventures: My 2016 Travel Wish List

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It's the beginning of a new year, meaning that it's time for every travel outlet to publish its “where to go this year” list. After reading many of these for 2016 from the likes of Lonely Planet, Travel + Leisure, Nat Geo, Forbes, and even Buzzfeed, the “hot” destinations for the year seem to include:

  • Greenland
  • Cuba
  • Botswana
  • Iran
  • Myanmar
  • US National Parks
  • Brazil
  • Palau
  • Georgia (the country)
  • Tasmania
  • Bhutan

While my own must-see list for 2016 doesn't quite match up with what you see above, I can't deny that there ARE some over laps.

Here are all the places I'm dreaming of exploring this year:

South Africa

South Africa
Photo by Adventurous Kate

After putting South Africa on my wish list for the past three years in a row, this one is finally officially on the books! My dad and I are headed to Africa in May for nearly two weeks together, mostly focusing on South Africa. We're going cage diving with sharks, going to the top of Table Mountain in Cape Town, sipping wine in Stellenbosch, riding the luxurious Blue Train, and going on safari in Kruger National Park (along with a lot more!). I've wanted to visit South Africa for years, and I'm really excited to finally be going – and to be taking my dad!

Namibia & Botswana

My trip to Africa won't end with South Africa, though. My dad and I are also visiting Victoria Falls, and I'm hoping to spend an additional two weeks in Africa, with my main focus being Namibia and Botswana. The details aren't worked out yet, but I'm hoping to visit them both!

U.S. national parks (especially in Utah)

Arches National Park in Utah

2016 marks the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service in the U.S., so I figure there's really no better time than now to visit some of the parks I haven't yet seen. When my sister and I did our cross-country road trip back in 2011, the American Southwest was by far our favorite part. We only had time for a brief stop in Utah, though, and going back to visit all the national parks in southern Utah has been on my list ever since! Elliot and I are tentatively talking about planning a trip out west in April – my goal is to be in good enough shape by then so we can hike Angel's Landing in Zion!

Scottish road trip

In 2015, Elliot and I took two international trips together. If we get the chance to do the same in 2016, I'm hoping our second trip can be a road trip around Scotland in late summer/early fall. Scotland is one of my favorite countries in the world, and it's been a bit of a tradition for me to visit roughly once a year. For this trip, I'd love to take Elliot whisky tasting on the Isle of Skye and then road trip around the Highlands – the new North Coast 500 (“Scotland's answer to Route 66”) has definitely piqued my interest!

Northern Ireland

Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland

I got a brief taste of Northern Ireland a couple years ago – just a quick trip to Belfast and the Giants Causeway in 2013. And ever since then I've really wanted to go back and spend more time in this little country connected to Ireland. If the Scottish road trip happens, perhaps a hop over to Northern Ireland afterwards will be in order!

The Baltics

I've traveled around Europe quite a lot in the past few years, and have visited more than 20 countries on the continent. One part of Europe that I've sorely overlooked, however, has been the Baltics. Even though friends of mine have raved about cities like Tallinn and Riga, I just haven't made it there myself yet. I would love to finally visit this part of Europe in 2016. Anyone have suggestions on the best time of year to go?

Cook Islands

No “places-I-want-to-go” list would be complete without somewhere tropical. And if I can make it to one tropical locale this year, I would love for it to be the South Pacific – perhaps the Cook Islands. I first read about Aitutaki a few years ago, and after seeing a friend's photos from there in 2015, I'm now itching to see those beaches for myself.


Yazd, Iran
Photo by Kami of

Okay, okay family and loved ones – hear me out. Of all the countries in the Middle East, it's always been photos of Iran – of the tiled mosques and imperial ruins – that have dropped my jaw in awe. Jordan comes a close second, but it's always been Iran with its centuries of rich history and no less than 19 UNESCO sites that has secretly called to me. And then there are the stories from fellow travelers of how amazing the Iranian people are…

And now, with international relations easing and the country beginning to open more to tourism, 2016 is shaping up to be a big year for Iran. As an American, there are still some hoops to jump through (independent travel through the country isn't really an option for me), but I'm keeping my eye on group tour options for this fall.

A photography-based tour

Over the past year or so, I've been working on improving my photography skills. I upgraded my camera gear in 2015, have been teaching myself some new photo editing techniques, and plan to continue learning in 2016. I'm a hands-on learner, though. And while taking a photography course is an option, taking a photography-focused tour is also something I would be interested in. Not only would it allow me to learn some new photo techniques, but it would involve travel, too. Anyone have any photo tours to recommend?

Where are YOU hoping to travel in 2016? Tell me in the comments below!



"It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and, if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might get swept off to." - JRR Tolkien

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76 Comments on “New Year, New Adventures: My 2016 Travel Wish List

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  1. Great List Amanda – some of these places are on my list too. I’m trying to swing a trip to South Africa in July but flight prices have me cringing. I can’t wait for your posts to help me plan my own adventure!

      I suppose it depends where you’re flying from, but I’m actually finding flight prices to South Africa from the US cheaper than flying to Europe right now! The flights themselves are super long – I’m dreading that part!

    Great list, Amanda. South Africa is my “favorite” travel destination to date! You will love it. I would also recommend the Baltics (although don’t overlook Lithuania – I know many people do, but I loved Vilnius). I would also love to travel to Iran, although I am sure I’d also hear some objections from my family and friends. 🙂

      I have no doubt that I’ll fall in love with South Africa. I’m already so giddy about finally going there!

    Great list! Looks like 2016 will be another awesome year of travel for you!

    Countries on my 2016 list are:
    – Cuba (I will be going there in March with my mom, really excited)
    – Lapland (but it looks like that might have to wait a year because of work…)
    – Japan (I hope to go there in May)
    – Iceland. After seeing your gorgeous pictures and hearing all the raving stories from my colleagues I would love to visit this wild and beautiful country…

    I would love to visit Tasmania as well. And go back to New Zealand… the most beautiful country in the world!

    So much to see:-)

      So much to see indeed – it sounds like your 2016 is going to be pretty awesome, too! Lots of people are mentioning Tasmania recently. I need to get there (and more of the rest of Australia, too) one of these days!

    Interesting list! I’ve been dying to go to Iran since I read a travel memoir about it in high school. Would love to visit Isfahan, Shiraz, and, of course, Tehran.

    Of the three Baltic states, I’ve only been to Estonia. Tallinn, to be more specific. However, I can definitely recommend it.

    Maybe I just didn’t do enough research, but I was very surprised at how beautiful and picturesque Tallinn’s Old Town is. Plus, it’s only a short (and relatively cheap) ferry ride away from Finland, if you’re looking to make a stopover in a Nordic country!

      Yes, photos I’ve seen of the old towns in both Tallinn and Riga are just stunning! I can’t believe I haven’t made it to that part of Europe yet.

    Looks like a fun list with lots of diverse landscape and culture! I love your suggestion of traveling to Iran. Can you even imagine how many peoples’ perceptions would be drastically altered if they just visited these supposed “no-go” countries?? I was just pricing out a trip to Uzbekistan today!

      I know! I mean, there are some parts of the world that I wouldn’t want to travel to right now because it *would* be too dangerous. But I really don’t feel that Iran is one of those places. In fact, I’m positive I’m in more danger at home in the US than I would be traveling in Iran. Everyone I know who has been there sings it (and its people) praises, and I would love to go and do my part to break down some of those barriers and negative stereotypes.

    Friends are running tours…
    David Evans – Northern Lights, Swedish Lapland etc.
    Pete Dobre – Africa and Australia
    And Camel Trek Australia run a photo tour also – that would be pretty amazing. I don’t know their photographer though.
    Other great photographers to learn from are –
    Peter Eastway
    Tony Hewitt

      Thanks so much for the suggestions!

    The Baltics are on our list for this year too! I hope we both get to go. It looks like an amazing place.
    We just returned from Edinburgh and Scotland will be on my travel list again in the future for sure. Such friendly people!
    And then Ireland is on our list too but we’ll be visiting the southern part of Ireland. We just couldn’t fit Northern Ireland in too on this trip but that’s OK, that just means we’ll get to go back.
    Can’t wait to read about your adventures this year!

      Scotland and Ireland are both great – some of the friendliest people I’ve met anywhere in the world!

    Great list! So many of these sound incredible! I’m looking at Ireland and Scotland for this year too!

      Both good choices! It doesn’t matter how many times I’ve been to Scotland – I always want to go back!

    Love Utah! We plan on spending a month or two there this year now that we are full-timing in our RV.

    Awesome list! Some of these places are on our list, too, not sure though that they will all fit in 2016. 😀
    Utah is breathtaking and Angels Landing is one of our favorite hikes in the US! Hope you will really enjoy!

    We plan mostly for European destinations, just a few of them is: sightseeing in Paris (finally… :D), road trip in Iceland, hiking in Slovenia, Slovakia and Austria, getting to some beautiful old towns and national parks in Croatia and who knows what else… Secretly, we are hoping to visit some exotic destinations, too. 🙂

      Best of luck checking everything off your list this year! I really hope I can handle Angel’s Landing – I’m not much of a hiker, but it looks so incredible!

        Thanks and happy 2016 to you! Angels Landing is definitely worth the effort, it’s so scenic all the way! And though it’s steep, it’s not very long. 🙂

    Botswana sound like a nice destinations. Although is a huge country and it’s kind of hard to get go around if you don’t have a car. I imagine that Kalahari and Kgalagadi would be your destinations 🙂

      I’ll probably book a tour, as I wouldn’t feel comfortable driving in Namibia and Botswana completely on my own. I really want to visit the Okavanga Delta!

        I’ve almost forgot about it. And it’s acutally the most important thing in Botswana. I guess there are a lot of things do discover.

    I love your list! This is the year that I’ll be going to Scotland for the first time ever and I’m SO excited about it. It’s one of my top countries to see. We’re also planning to drive the North Coast 500 while there! As for South Africa – I have a feeling you’ll fall in love with it, same as I did. I went in 2014 in a 2 week program and loved every second of it. Unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to go to Cape Town (we were in St. Lucia, South Africa, and then Lobamba, Swaziland), but it’s on my list for when I eventually and inevitably return.

      Ahhh you’ll love Scotland!!

      I’ll be spending a few days in Cape Town and definitely can’t wait!

    You have some amazing plans for the new year already! I’m super busy with school this year, so I probably won’t be able to do too much traveling this year, but I’m definitely planning to head out on a nature escape in Europe this spring – I really want to see mountains again! I’m toying around with going to Northern Italy to see the Dolomites and the Italian lakes, but I’m also really eager to finally visit Slovenia, so we’ll see. I’m also going to Amsterdam again, which I’m excited for because it’s such a beautiful city. Happy 2016! 🙂

      Yes, 2016 is already looking pretty great! Slovenia is awesome (Triglav National Park is great for hiking), but I really would love to go to the Dolomites, too!

    Great list! Some of yours are on my as well. The Baltics for example are on there.

    I can’t plan too much with my full-time job but there are two definites in my plan (Netherlands Antilles and Iceland) and one long-weekend tentative trip (Baltics, Balkan or Andalusia), and one longer tentative trip (Tibet, Japan, Nepal, Taipei, California, I don’t know yet…). Whatever happens, I’m confident 2016 will be an amazing year for both us!

      Definitely sounds like you have some great options! Whatever you decide, it sounds like 2016 will be pretty awesome for you, too!

    I went to the isle of Skye last year and took the West Highland Line, amaaaaazing! My most favourite trip I think. I really love Scotland as well and try to go every year too. Hopefully Hogmanay this year 🙂 That north coast 500 route looks amazing!
    Anyway, for this year I have nothing planned except Japan!! And I’d really want to visit Riga and Tallinn as well 🙂
    Looks like it’s gonna be a great year for you!

      Japan is still exciting!! I’d love to visit someday, too (but definitely not this year with so much else planned!). And how amazing is the Isle of Skye?? It’s my favorite part of Scotland, for sure.

    Great list! I am keeping my fingers crossed for you :). This year I am planning to see all the best places in China and learn some Chinese!

      Thanks so much! And ooo, China! There’s SO much to see there!

    My first ever solo trip was to Namibia in 2009 and it was an amazing experience, still one of my favourite countries I’ve ever visited. I’ve definitely noticed it getting more press this last year as well, I’m sure you’ll have a great time. If you only have a week there then I’d stick to either the North (Etosha NP, Himba tribal areas, Swakopmund/skeleton coast and the Caprivi) or the South (Fish river canyon, Luderitz, quiver tree forest and Namib Naukluft NP) as otherwise the distances involved would just be too much! Windhoek’s alright for a day or two but if you are limited on time you’re not there for the capital.

      Thanks for the suggestions! Currently I’m looking at a tour that starts in Swakopmund and then goes north up through Botswana (spending roughly one week in each country). Nothing is set in stone yet, but I’m really excited to finally be going to Africa!

    I have some smaller trips around Idaho planned for this year and a trip to Portland. My BIG trip is going to Thailand in July/August and I can’t wait! Happy travels!

      I hope you have a great time in Thailand!

    We have some matching destinations on our lists – I also want to visit South Africa as well as Namibia and Botswana this year. Since I live in Europe, I think all of my other trips would be somewhere around Europe, so maybe I do visit Baltics too.

      Sometimes I really wish I lived in Europe – you’re so close to so many different countries and cultures! I hope you make it to Africa in 2016, too!

    I’d love to visit the Baltic countries too! My dad’s side of the family is from there.

      Oo, that’s a very good reason to go!

    I, sadly, am in the worse shape I’ve ever been in, and I hiked Angel’s Landing this past fall. You can do it – just start super early to beat the crowds. (Try to get the first park bus, which I think start at 6 or 6:30) And I can’t recommend Flanigan’s Inn enough if you are staying in Springdale…I just love that place!

    My first big trip this year is in March to HongKong, Thailand and Cambodia…first time in Asia for me!

      Thanks so much for the tips! We haven’t planning anything yet, so I’ll definitely look into that inn!

    Sounds like a wonderful year! I think this is the first year in the last five that I don’t have a long list of places I want to explore. For some reason I just haven’t wanted to think beyond the country I am in and the next country we are going to! It sounds like we may be having a much slower travel year 🙂

      Nothing at all wrong with that! If anything, it probably helps you stay in the moment a lot better – that’s something I often struggle with, when I’m always planning and dreaming of where I want to go next.

    You’ve got some really wonderful countries on your list especially that of Iran and the Cooks Island. I’ve already been to South Africa, Utah and 4 National Parks in the USA, Scotland, Northern Island and the Baltics, but I’m yet to visit Botswana or Nambia! Very exotic!

      It’s looking to be a good year of travel, for sure!

    I really hope you will have a chance to visit those places! I’ve been to South Africa, the Baltics and obviously Iran and they are all pretty amazing! And when you get to the Baltics you know it’s almost Poland 😉 I think you’d really love Gdańsk, you haven’t been there last time 🙂

      A trip back to Poland definitely isn’t out of the question either! 😉

    I’m working on my own wish list right now actually. I love dreaming and then seeing what really happens. 🙂 My list so far only overlaps with yours in one spot: Scotland. I went there fifteen years ago for just a few days and I loved it. I haven’t gotten back there yet and I want to so much. Hoping for sometime in late 2016.

      It IS always so fun at the end of the year to see how your wish list matches up with what you actually ended up doing! I hope you make it to Scotland in 2016 too. 🙂

    I’ve really been thinking about doing Iran too but I haven’t done all of the research I need to because there did seem to be quite a few hoops to jump through. And I’m doing Myanmar in April. I really want to do Myanmar before it gets swarmed, and I’d love to do Cuba this year because tourism there has already doubled with Americans. But I’ll also be doing Eastern Europe as well, and possibly the Mongol Rally. We’ll see about that last one. Would love to hit Namibia sometime soon as well so we’ll see. Excited to follow your coming adventures!

      I’m excited to follow yours, too, Ryan! I know what you mean about wanting to go to certain places before they change – I hope to make it to Cuba son, too.

    An inspiring list! South Africa is probably my favourite country I have visited so far – a great alternative to Kruger is the stunning Marakele National Park around 4 hours drive from Jo’burg. My dad and I treated ourselves to a few days at Marataba Safari Lodge and it as absolutely wonderful, I can only say good things about the whole experience!

    My boyfriend and I are travelling round the world and volunteering at the moment and hope to visit Tasmania when we get to Oz – I keep seeing rave reviews about it!

    Happy travels!

      So many people list South Africa as one of their favorite countries – I can’t wait to finally visit myself!

    I’ve lived in Riga for a year and a half – and can’t recommend the Baltics enough! May is a wonderful time to visit as there are millions of flowers in bloom and the region is finally shaking off its winter slumber. If you want to experience summer weather, August and September are your best bet. October is gorgeous for the autumn leaves, and of course December is overflowing with Christmas cheer. It just depends on what you’re looking for! Let me know if you want any travel recommendations. The region has tons more to off than just the (amazing) capital cities!

      Thanks so much for the suggestions! Sounds like the Baltics would be a good year-round destination.

    Thanks for sharing your list! I always love hearing where other travelers are hoping to go in the new year 🙂 [I shared our list here: I would LOVE to go to South Africa — I’ve been hearing a lot about it lately — but I think it may have to wait until 2017. You can never plan too far ahead, right?! Happy Travels!

      Haha, nope! I’m always dreaming about trips that I probably won’t actually take for years!

    I love this, and I always love reading where people will be traveling to. That trip to South Africa with your dad sounds like it’s going to be amazing.

    This year I’ll be visiting Hong Kong and Japan in March, and I’ll be doing a working holiday visa in Ireland starting in the summer, so I’m hoping to explore a bit of Europe this year. My dream destination would be to visit Morocco while I’m so close living in Ireland (relatively speaking) – if I can’t get there this year I’ll be going there next year.

      Oh wow a working holiday in Ireland – that will be awesome! And you’re right, you’ll be so close to the rest of Europe!

    I really want to spend a week in Tallinn/ Southern Finland (because the ferry trip is so short across to Finland from Estonia) in the summer because I’d like to see the Finnish islands (read The Summer Book by Tove Jansson) and spend time on Baltic Beaches (you should watch Hairy Bikers Northern Exposure for inspiration about the Baltics in the summer). BUT Tallinn at Christmas (or New Year) is stunning and beautiful. I think Lucy (On the Luce blog) is there right now and the snow looks perfect. Also, don’t overlook Lithuania if you go, I preferred it to Latvia. If you use Lux Express the bus routes are really cheap and there’s usually movies and WiFi on the buses 🙂

    Also, Iran, I’m thinking after recent events is probably my wisest option next year… How’d your family take the idea of you going to Iran?

      Good tips on the Baltics! I’m not sure if I’ll make it this year or not, but I think late summer/early autumn would be great!

      And as for Iran… we’ll see how things go over the next few months. I don’t think my family has read this post yet, because no one’s said anything to me yet about it! 😉

    I find it interesting how much of core Europe continues to fall off everyone’s “top ten” wish list (not to offend my UK/Ireland/Baltic State friends.)
    There is a gem that many keep missing, if EU is still your focus.
    Sicily is the most underrated travel destination in Europe. I went there last summer and was worn out trying to see all the sites and experiences there. All amazing. Get there soon before the crowds and tours take over. Even Taormina, the last stop on the ancient “European tour,” as touristy as it can be, is with a visit.

      I’ve traveled a lot around Europe, but will admit that I haven’t been to Sicily! After hearing some other travelers talk about how tough it can be to travel there, though (especially since I speak NO Italian), it’s not at the top of my list just now. Maybe one day, though!

    I was there for twenty days last July. I never had an issue with the language. Almost everyone spoke some sort of English – if not perfect. Better than my “Sicilian” attempts. No different than anywhere else in Italy. With a little respect and however weak attempt to speak Italian, you will have no issues. Pretty cool, considering how relatively few tourists come through most of it (rural or small town communications may take some patience.) The Sicilians are a very friendly, if maybe a bit reserved lot to start, overall.)

    It maybe is not as “polished” or wealthy as some northern Italy towns. That’s what makes it more genuine and enjoyable. Then again, be careful what you wish for as Taormina and parts of Palermo rival Capri any day. I went there for other sites, culture and natural beauty that can’t be matched.

    Perhaps nowhere in Italy is there as much variety for tourists. Leave any assumptions or biases at the airport on your arrival to enjoy it more. It’s the “real deal.” Unlike what charm is arguably fading in some some other EU hot spots that cater more to excessive tourism.

    Yes, trains may not be great although I hear that buses are OK. I rented a car as some highlights are off the beaten path. Overall, roads are excellent. You can have a fantastic itinerary by driving all along the coast with a few inland visits. A great trip even for those on a tight budget.

    I too was initially concerned above some possible issues like you indicated. I had extra concerns on the Mafia, poverty, pollution, crime, migrants, etc. No real worries here. Sicily offers the unspoiled, quintessential European experience like you want it to be.

    I’ll be back. It is a gem waiting to be discovered.

    Jon and I could give you an excellent grand tour of Utah’s parks, but we’ll be in Turkey for most of April. Let me know when you are planning on coming or if your dates are flexible. If nothing else, we can offer many recommendations.

      I was definitely planning on messaging you! We’ll be there April 8-17, and we’ve already booked most of our accommodation, so the dates are pretty set. Definitely would love recommendations, though – I’ll send you a Facebook message!

    Your going to love Africa! We have been twice on 2 different overland tours, camped 110 nights in Africa. Namibia is out of this world make sure to practice your night photography. If you can I would def try to get to Serengeti, amazes me every time.

      Wow! The trip I’m doing with my dad won’t include any camping, but I’ll be overlanding it through Namibia and Botswana! Kind of nervous because I really hate camping, BUT I know it will be worth it!

    I was fortunate enough to spend a week on the Isle of Skye two years ago. We rented a an apartment through Airbnb in Portree. Visit my blog for some inspiration. I’m featuring a Scottish Highlands photo essay this month. I would go back in a minute and hope you enjoy your time there as much as we did.

      I’ve been to the Isle of Skye twice and have fallen in love! I would love to rent an apartment and spend a week there, though – that sounds great!

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