Must-see spots
for 2016

2016 is full of endless opportunities to explore new places and create unforgettable memories. To help you choose your next journey, we've compiled our expert choices of ten must-see spots for the year ahead. Scroll down to see our full list.
From Casino dancing and cigar rolling to classic cars and minty mojitos, authenticity presides in every corner of Cuba. This stuck-in-time island is home to a vibrant culture, captivating sights and unforgettable flavors—and is now more accessible than ever for Americans.

A visit to this untouched destination in the year ahead ensures an immersive, educational experience as part of the people-to-people cultural exchange program. This initiative makes it possible for you to interact with the people who know Cuba the best: the locals. They serve as living expressions of vivid traditions, deep-rooted history and impressive artistry. Engage with painters, teachers, Trova musicians and expert cigar rollers known as torcedores ​as you stroll through UNESCO-recognized neighborhoods, including Old Havana and colonial Trinidad. Or, exchange ideas about environmental preservation with a local naturalist as you marvel at the island's jaw-dropping landscapes. They have remained mostly unchanged due to Cuba's lack of commercialism over the past five decades, and a visit in 2016 ensures you'll be able to see them in pristine condition.
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Rio de Janeiro
Latin America lays claim to what's known as the Cidade Maravilhosa, or the Marvelous City—Rio. With verdant jungle, lively streets and an infectious Samba music scene, this bustling Brazilian hub is more than deserving of its nickname. And, while Rio is famous for the raucous festival known as "Carnival," 2016 brings with it a new reason for the city to celebrate: it is the host of the XXXI Summer Olympic Games.

The games will add a new layer of intrigue to this already alluring UNESCO-listed site. There is a certain joyous spirit and love of life that Rio natives, known as cariocas, ​embody every day. Perhaps it's the endless opportunity to relax on golden-sand beaches. Maybe the people are simply full of appreciation for the dramatically diverse landscape of the city. Discover the reason for yourself as you marvel at the multitude of craggy hills that rise around urban dwellings and the picturesque bay. Bask in bird's-eye views from atop Sugarloaf Mountain. Pay a visit to the soaring Christ the Redeemer statue, which stands on the over 2,000-foot-high Corcovado Mountain. No matter how you choose to enjoy the warmth of Rio, a visit will leave you in awe—the city is marvelous, indeed.
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U.S. National Parks
If serenity and unadulterated beauty is what you seek, the national parks throughout the United States have it in spades. These protected areas are the perfect places to go to marvel at towering mountains, varied animal life and vast stretches of meadow—and to celebrate the U.S. National Park Service's 100th anniversary.

The service may be commemorating its centennial this year, but the U.S.'s 59 national parks have been helping to protect over 84 million acres of land since Yellowstone National Park—America's oldest—was created in 1872. Some of the world's most remarkable vistas can be found throughout these pristine preserves, and a visit is the best way to reacquaint yourself with nature. Head to Zion, which is named after a heavenly city, to stand in the shadow of towering red-stone cliffs. Admire the dramatic glacial scenery of Denali in Alaska, where Mount McKinley looms over the tundra and abundant wildlife populates over six million acres of land. Or, gaze at ancient cliff dwellings carved into canyon walls in Mesa Verde, where remnants from Pueblo cultures remain well preserved.
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The untouched terrain of Iceland is comprised of an otherworldly mixture of extremes. Surreal stretches of black-sand beaches meet roaring ocean. Powerful, glacier-fed waterfalls cascade from sheer rock faces. The heat from active volcanoes bubbles up in geothermal pools and erupting geysers anchor desolate skylines. It's hard to believe that this striking country is so easy to reach from the U.S.

Many of Iceland's most noteworthy hallmarks can be found along the Golden Circle, which stretches from Reykyavik to central Iceland. This famous sightseeing route is home to some of world's most breathtaking phenomena and its epic beauty sings an ode to the four core elements: earth, air, fire and water. Pass through the UNESCO-protected Thingvellir National Park, a volcanic area that marks the point where two tectonic plates come together; visit the Great Geysir Geothermal Area; and stand in awe of Gullfoss, the roaring cataract known as the "Golden Waterfall." Beyond the Golden Circle, the beaches of the South Coast and restorative geothermal waters of the Blue Lagoon offer more opportunities for exploration.
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With an unparalleled food and wine reputation and awe-inspiring Alpine views, this hilly region situated in northern Italy is an alluring destination begging to b​e explored. The white truffles harvested here each fall are some of the best in the world, and the Barolo and Barbaresco wines Piedmont exclusively produces are a couple of the most highly regarded vintages in all of Italy.

The region is also the birthplace of the iconic Slow Food Movement, which champions locally produced fare, and you simply need to step into one of Piedmont's eateries to try some of Italia's best cuisine. Historic towns and bustling cities dot the region, and perhaps none are more notable than the elegant city of Turin. This gastronomical hub is distinguished as Piedmont's capital and boasts a plethora of traditional cafes, which offer ample opportunities to watch the world go by as you sip a glass of vino. Piedmont is known for everything from sweet Moscato to full-bodied reds, and at the crux of its world-renowned wine scene is a varietal known as the Nebbiolo grape. If you want to get an in-depth look at one source of the region's wine prowess, pay a visit to the small town of Barolo, which is surrounded by sweeping vineyards. This is where its eponymous vintage, known as "the king of wines and the wine of kings," is made.
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The central Pacific Ocean is home to six volcanic islands that make up one of America's most spellbinding states: Hawaii. The islands are home to many different cultural influences thanks to their position in the Pacific and the migration of sugar cane workers, but the indigenous Polynesian culture brought over from the Marquesas Islands and Tahiti is the most strongly felt. From the white-sand shores of Oahu to the coffee-growing soil and volcanic activity of the Big Island, there's a lot to love about this colorful paradise.

The "Aloha State" sits distinguished in popular imagination as the land of hula dancing, luaus and flowered leis, which are given as a sign of welcome and affection. While these symbols serve as beautiful and fitting representations of Hawaii's deep-rooted traditions and friendly locals, the intrigue of this geological playground goes much deeper—literally. Molten lava bubbles up from the earth and can be seen flowing into the ocean in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. ​Yellow hibiscus grow abundantly and waterfalls cascade from mountainside greenery in broadleaf rainforests, which serve as wildlife sanctuaries. Whales and endangered sea turtles swim in the turquoise waters off the coast, where skilled surfers ride crashing waves. Hawaii is the place to go to immerse yourself in relaxed island culture and view some of America's most fascinating environmental wonders.
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Though sometimes overlooked, Portugal is a true travel gem with a lot to offer. This small Iberian country lays claim to a rich maritime history and jaw-dropping seacoast. Its rugged cliffs, Fado music tradition and stunning ceramic tiles—coupled with affordable prices—make it a spot not to be missed.

Some of Europe's most beautiful seaside spots are found here, including the world-renowned Algarve Coast and the remote village of Sagres, so it’s no wonder that Portuguese gastronomy features incredibly fresh seafood. Well-known dishes include grilled sardines and bacalhau, or dried, salted codfish, which can be washed down with a sweet sip of Port wine. If sitting beachside and eating seafood isn't your thing, history lovers will be happy to know that well-preserved symbols of the country's maritime glory can still be found throughout the country. The capital city of Lisbon is home of the Monument to the Discoveries as well as the Tower of Belém, from which legendary explorers such as Ferdinand Magellan set their sights on the sea.
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Varied landscapes, intriguing animal life and cosmopolitan cities characterize the Land Down Under. From vibrant Sydney to the vast Outback, this far away destination is home to a variety of awe-inspiring features that need to be seen to be believed.

Memorable adventures begin the moment you touch down on this sunny continent. Chat with locals and pick up fresh goods at the historic Queen Victoria Market in bustling Melbourne, a city that's home to beautiful 19th-century buildings and sprawling green spaces. Explore the modern architecture of the Sydney Opera House and learn about Aboriginal culture in the remote Outback. The Outback is also one of the most picturesque places to watch the sun set, as it casts a red glow onto the iconic sandstone feature known as Ayers Rock. And, a well-rounded visit to Australia isn't complete without a stop in Cairns to marvel at the breathtaking coral of the Great Barrier Reef, a UNESCO-listed site that's considered one of the seven wonders of the natural world.
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Southern India
Southern India has a laid-back vibe that gives it a notably different feel from the rest of the country. From Cochin to Mumbai, the region is home to extremely friendly people and vibrant natural splendor. Plus, it's the place to go to find some of India's most delicious food.

Kerala is one of Southern India's most captivating places. This verdant oasis is sometimes referred to as "God's Own Country," and boasts dense tropical jungle, picturesque beaches and terraced fields of tea and spices. It's also quite common to see exotic animals as you cruise on a houseboat along Kerala's backwaters, which meander through magnificent emerald rice fields and serve as one of the state's most defining features. The varied topography is conducive to sourcing many local ingredients, including fish, spices, coconut oil and rice, and the freshness lends itself to complex culinary flavors.
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Belgium is home to the de facto capital of the European Union, but its claim to fame lies in the production and preparation of delicious beer and rich cuisine. Despite its small size, it boasts almost 200 breweries, and it would be a missed opportunity to visit without trying some chocolate, mussels, waffles and fries. There's so much to love about this intriguing destination, but 2016 is the time to immerse yourself in one thing in particular: Belgium's storied past. The country is laden with World War history, and a visit is a way to step back in time while indulging in signature ales and tempting regional fare.

Although Belgium is compact, it has many different sides. From the canals and cobbled streets that lend to Bruges' whimsical appeal to the Baroque architecture of Brussels and the medieval charm of the port city of Antwerp, there is always something new to learn and see. Some of the most pivotal moments of World Wars I and II occurred here, and many of these battles will be reaching their 100-year anniversaries over the next few years. Belgians still attend to the graves of American war casualties at the Flanders Field American Cemetery, and the consecrated soil of Bastogne is a moving reminder of the many soldiers who fought during the infamous Battle of the Bulge. Belgium is also distinguished as a cultural meeting point, which is reflected in both the diverse cuisine and the various languages spoken, including Flemish in the northern region of Flanders and French in southern Wallonia.
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