We shine a spotlight on five hot destinations that are ready to be explored right now. Perhaps unexpected, a little bold and all completely unique, these countries give us a serious case of wanderlust.
Most of us know some of Colombia’s troubled history, but this plucky country has now shaken off its past and has emerged as a peaceful nation whose varied landscapes oscillate between the Andes and the Amazon. The natural world will astound you – Colombia has the biggest quotient of bird species in the world and the cloud forest hums with bio-diversity from butterflies to jaguars. The best bit? The resilient and friendly Colombian people, who can’t wait to show you around buzzy cities thrumming with salsa, oh-so-green coffee plantations and tropical Caribbean beaches. There’s even a lost city, rising out of dense jungle, waiting to be discovered.
We think Jordan deserves a lot more attention than it gets. This jewel in the Middle Eastern crown has been welcoming visitors since the Nabataean tradesmen of the 4th century and today tourists are beginning to appreciate that ancient antiquity, empty deserts and iridescent Red Sea waters make for a fascinating and rewarding holiday. It’s easy to get around the main sights, head to pinky-hued ancient wonder Petra, hidden in a sandy-floored, steep-sided gorge, which looks like something out of a movie set. Then there’s the ever-shifting sand dunes of Wadi Rum, ripe for desert solitude or camel trekking, as per your preference! Lastly, the hilly city of Amman has its own historic citadel and is speckled with ancient ruins and filled with thriving restaurants serving authentic Middle Eastern cuisine.
Iceland is an adventure playground on a huge scale for those who want to push their favourite pastimes to the next level. Take to the skies in a helicopter over volcanoes to reach previously inaccessible fishing spots teeming with salmon and trout. In winter, ski down virgin runs through picture-perfect alpine scenery and end up on the Atlantic coast. In summer, canter for miles along black-sand beaches on hardy Icelandic horses. Wildflowers carpet the valleys where waterfalls gush, and above, you may see the Northern Lights – an unforgettable otherworldly dance of blue and green. We recommend staying at newly-opened hotel The Retreat, where suites have private access to the milky-blue waters of the Blue Lagoon, and floor-to-ceiling windows allow ample opportunity for gazing at the mesmerising moss-topped lava landscapes.
With a clutch of Six Senses hotels due to open up across the width of Bhutan in early 2019, there’s a new way to get under the skin of this spiritual Himalayan kingdom. With tourism still very much the preserve of the exclusive few, Six Senses will join the ranks of Como and Aman already established in Bhutan. This triumvirate of hotels will offer a remarkable level of luxury and experience. On your journey, expect to be blessed by resident monks, enjoy soothing footbaths in the spa and succumb to evenings of meditation overlooking forested gorges and jagged-toothed mountains. You’ll also have more than your fill of exploring the temples that cling unfeasibly to the craggy clifftops, wrapped by colourful prayer flags that dance with the wind.
Often overlooked in favour of all-in-one South Africa or the verdant waterways of neighbouring Botswana, Namibia’s sparse beauty is starting to draw visitors who seek to find a connection within its wild, raw landscapes. It’s a country of huge extremes from the largest sand dunes in the world to the ever-changing Namib desert, which translates as ‘vast place’. And now a selection of new, extraordinary places to stay that exemplify the highest eco-credentials, are making Namibia a destination in its own right. Would you like to sleep in a high-design shipwreck, a luxurious yet traditional thatched hut or a remote wilderness lodge? And with activities such as dawn desert safaris to see giant dunes turn a bright tangerine red or tracking desert-adapted elephants, a deeply rooted connection with Namibia will come easily.