The 2016 edition of National Geographic’s Best Trips includes 20 amazing destinations. While all of them are great, we wanted to narrow it down to the absolute best locales. From historic vineyards to white-sand beaches, there was certainly a lot to choose from. Be warned: the following list could trigger some intense wanderlust.
1.) Light Your Fire at Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park
It’s not every day you get to experience an active volcano first-hand. At Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, visitors can come face-to-face with two. This 520-square-mile park on the Big Island is said to be the home of Pele, the Hawaiian goddess of fire. After watching the molten rock slowly flow into the steaming Pacific, it’s hard to dispute that claim. In addition to the glowing lava, this national park is home to a rain forest, beautiful coastline, and unique animals found nowhere else in the world.
2.) Chill out Under the Northern Lights in Greenland
If the idea of a mystical tundra paradise piques your interest, put Greenland on your 2016 bucket list. Greenland is a unique country marked by enormous fjords, beautiful waterfalls, and a gigantic ice sheet the size of Texas. Brave visitors can actually camp on the ice sheet and catch nighttime views of the Northern Lights between the months of September and April. For warmer lodging, book a room in Nuuk, the cultural center and capital of Greenland. Be sure to catch the coastal ferry to enjoy whale sightings and view some more remote areas of the island.
3.) Hear the Roar at the Okavango Delta, Botswana
When they say “welcome to the jungle” in the Okavango Delta, they really mean it. This natural wonder in northwest Botswana is a feast for the eyes. Rather than flow into a lake or ocean, all of the water in this massive inland delta is eventually evaporated or consumed by plants. All of the Big Five animals of the African safari — lion, leopard, elephant, rhinoceros, and buffalo — can be found in the wilderness surrounding the Okavango. Visit during high-water season, June through August, to experience the best canoe and boat safaris
4.) Unleash Your Green Thumb at Capability Brown’s Gardens, Britain
Even if you don’t know your trees from your shrubberies, you’ll still be amazed by the amazing landscapes cultivated by Capability Brown. Often called “England’s greatest gardener,” Brown was responsible for more than 170 gardens surrounding stately properties in Britain. With 2016 marking the tercentenary of his birth, the upcoming year marks a splendid excuse to visit some of his most impressive landscapes. Visitors will find some of Brown’s best work at Stowe National Trust, Chatsworth House, and Burghley House.
5.) Ski the Untouched Slopes in Hokkaido, Japan
Japan doesn’t always come to mind as a mecca for snow sports. However, that could change as more skiers and snowboarders catch wind of the slopes in Hokkaido. As the northern-most island in Japan, Hokkaido is blessed with some of the most high-quality powder snow in the world. This makes the mountains in the southwest corner of the island perfect for skiing from November through April. The slopes in Niseko are the most popular, but Kiroro Resort a little farther north provides some beautiful backcountry runs that rival anything in the Alps.
Are any of these places on your bucket list? What did you think of Nat Geo’s best trips? Let us know in the comments!