In Photos: NatGeo 20 Travel Hotspots for 2012
Every year, the National Geographic Traveler magazine compiles its pick of the top 20 travel destinations for the coming year.
The 2012 list is as varied and creative as ever. With travel ideas covering everything from the UK favourite Costa Brava and the year’s Olympic city of London to more exotic options such as Peru and Mongolia, there is something here for every traveller. Which of these take your fancy for 2012?
With plentiful cheap flights to the Costa Brava, the north-eastern shorelines of Spain provide visitors with an easily-accessible range of attractions and accommodation options. National Geographic highlights Salvador Dali’s house, complete with giant eggs and various other strange sculptures, as a must-visit location, as well as the medieval city of Girona.
The stunning natural scenery and indigenous cultures of Panama secure it a place in the 2012 list. The Soberania National Park is home to toucans, howler monkeys and a wide variety of other exotic flora and fauna, while the Coiba National Park offers diving enthusiasts an underwater paradise with limited access to 40 overnight guests per night.
Although having long been a mainstream tourist destination, Greece is recommended for its less well-known features and attractions. Secluded spots such as the monasteries of Meteora, including the Roussanou Monastery (pictured), provide a unique and enchanting escape from the bustle of the seaside resorts.
Koh Lipe, Thailand
Touted as the perfect alternative to the “overexploited” Koh Phi Phi, Koh Lipe provides beach lovers with the ultimate experience. Pristine sandy stretches slope into warm waters and the protected areas of reef which make up part of the Tarutao National Park.
Istria is recommended for its wines, truffles and olive oil estates, as well as a good variety of activities on offer, such as cycling, swimming and snorkelling. Croatia is definitely on the up as a sunny and scenic destination, and Istria could be a great option for 2012.
With the opening of the new $150 million Titanic attraction on the docks where the ill-fated liner was built and launched, Belfast is a hot destination for 2012. Visitors can view video footage of the wreck, take a ride around a recreated shipyard, and feel like they are part of the ship’s centennial year, which begins on April 10.
Virunga Volcanoes, Africa
This chain of eight volcanoes creates some of the most dramatic scenery on earth. The active volcanoes send plumes of smoke and ash into the sky, while chimpanzees, mountain gorillas and other species populate the verdant slopes and valleys of the region.
Combining the ultra-modern with the traditional gives Oman the edge for luxury travellers, with plush hotels and marinas giving the country a Mediterranean feel. The city of Muscat offers plenty of opportunities for exploration and adventure, while its Park Inn hotel is said to offer a view from its roof terrace “to rival any.”
Having successfully reinvented itself, the Steel City in western Pennsylvania has managed to secure a new identity and make the most of its natural setting and wealth of top-quality architecture. Its varied styles of building prompted the use of downtown Pittsburgh as the setting for Christopher Nolan’s forthcoming Batman movie Dark Knight Rises.
While Mayan ruins in the region attract thousands of visitors each year, Guatemala is highlighted as the Mayan culture itself is said to live on among the indigenous people living in the country’s Western Highlands. Mayan markets, selling textiles, masks and foods give visitors the chance to see, smell and taste for themselves the ancient cultures of the Mayan peoples.