Hot New Travel Destinations for 2012

It’s a new year. And with a new year comes changes in travel. For 2012, check out these up-and-coming countries and hot new destinations for your next trip.

Sri Lanka

The Sigiriya rock fortress.

A lot has changed since their civil war ended in 2009, especially for the tourism industry. According to English.news.cn, “Sri Lanka topped its 2011 target of 750,000 tourists in November and is expecting 100,000 more before the end of the year.” Not only that, but the government of Sri Lanka is aiming to build over 100 new hotels in 2012.

There are three main reasons to visit the island of Sri Lanka. For one, it has a 2,500 year old history and rich culture. For instance, a lot of religious sites and activities can be experienced, like the Hindu Shrines at Kataragama, the ancient Buddhist rock sculptures in Polonnarwa, and Dambulla’s Buddha statues and cave paintings. Moreover, it is a compact island, measuring only about 25,332 square miles. It’s also a diverse destination with a lot of activities to offer tourists, including monthly festivals and events. Eco-tourism is a major theme behind the industry, especially since the island has such a large amount of indigenous and diverse flora and fauna. In fact, Sri Lanka has 21 National Parks, 4 Nature Reserves, 3 Strict Nature Reserves, one Jungle Corridor, and 61 sanctuaries. Visitors can explore these areas as well as go bird watching, explore nearby coral reefs, go fishing, and enjoy dolphin and whale watching.

Libya

Libya is 90% desert

According to an article in HotelierMiddleEast.com that came out on December 5, 2012, “The end of the 42-year Gaddafi era brings opportunities for war-torn Libya’s tourism sector”.

Before the 2010 civil war conflict in Libya, the tourism market was just starting to proper, with 1,245 trips, 80% of them being for pleasure and enjoyment. Now that the war has ended, international flights to the country have resumed and major hotel brands like Marriott, Movenpick, Radisson, InterContinental, and Four Points by Sheraton are continuing to target major cities in Libya.

Not only that, but there is so much to do there! For those who want to get a tan or partake in some water sports, Mediterranean beaches line the coast with white sand and palm tree backdrops. Also, because there is so much desert land in Libya, activities like Camel Trekking, off-roading, and Dune Surfing are available for visitors to try for themselves. Want to experience nature? Trek the mountainous Jebel al-Akhdar or Jebel Nafusa, which are also cooler in climate than many other regions of Libya. And for those looking to take in some culture, visit the numerous mosques, as well as the mosaics at Sabratha Museum, the cave art at Jebel Acacus, the ancient Greek Port of Apollonia, and try some tea and toast baked Tuareg style (in the sun).

Cuba

The beach in the resort town of Varadero

Since communist leader Fidel Castro seized power in 1959, the United States‘ relations with Cuba have been less than great. In fact, in 1961 the US severed diplomatic relations with Cuba. Now, after a long-period of not being able to travel to Cuba, the ban has been loosened (the ban was actually on spending money in Cuba, but how do you travel to another country without spending money? It’s a Catch 22).

There is a bit of a catch, however. The government is allowing “purposeful” travel to Cuba with a licensed tour operator. So far, there are about 35 licensed tour operators that offer people-to-people tours, educating US visitors on Cuban culture through art, music, history, and culture.

On October 31, 2011, I wrote about Friendly Planet Travel’s Cuba tours on Gadling. Their trips allow you to fully immerse yourself in the Cuban culture by interacting with locals. They offer a 5-day trip for $1,899 and an 8-day trip for $2,899, which includes round trip airfare from Miami, Florida, a guide, accommodations, meals, educational programming, land transfers, a translator, and, most importantly, an authorization letter.

Where will you go on your next vacation?

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