Modern Nomad is a weekly column dedicated to mobile gear, must-see world destinations, tips for life on the road, and traveling better through technology.
Sure, it’s almost spring. But it’s not too late to lock in your travel plans for 2016. We’re loath to rely on “trendy” travel destination lists, but here are four countries you need to check out this year.
For Westerners, few countries offer more of a sense of culture shock than Japan (see: Lost in Translation). It’s beautiful, modern, fast-paced, and impossibly clean. Tokyo gets much of the media coverage, but Kyoto offers a real, fascinating glimpse into the country’s rich history. To get truly off-the-beaten path, check out the centuries-old Kumano Kodo pilgrimage trail — a rural hike that few Japanese, let alone Westerners, ever see.
Why go now: The strongly devalued yen means visiting the country hasn’t been this cheap for visitors in a very long time.
It’s taken a few decades for the “mainstream” travel industry to catch on to how stunning Iceland is. The country is home to dramatic waterfalls, volcanic hiking trails, beautiful people, and some of the best fishing and outdoor opportunities in Europe (nay, the world). It is, quite literally, like nowhere else on earth. Plus, with a population of fewer than 325,000 people spread over an area the size of Kentucky, it’s not hard to find a corner of the country all to yourself.
Why go now: Iceland’s own WOW Airlines has made a big push into North America with one-way Boston-to-Reykjavik fares as low as $99 USD (taxes included) and L.A.-to-Reykjavik for just $199.
Few countries on earth offer more diversity of people, food, landscape, wildlife, and culture than South Africa. If the now-trite phrase “something for everyone” was coined anywhere, it’s here. It’s home to some of the world’s best wine, the most exhilarating adventure opportunities, a unique and fascinating history, and the coolest city on the entire continent.
Why go now: 2016 is as good a year as any. However, we fear adventure travelers will soon catch on to just how amazing the country’s outdoor opportunities are. Prices are likely to skyrocket once they do.
The “lost continent” isn’t so lost anymore. But it’s still among the wildest, most rugged destinations on earth. Soft adventure travelers will appreciate the opportunity to explore the world’s southernmost outpost in relative comfort. Cruises range from bargain-priced, week-long rides aboard decommissioned Russian research vessels to full-service luxury ocean liners with multiple bars, posh staterooms, and nightly Cirque du Soleil shows (no, not really).
Why go now: Every year, the tourism boom brings more and more cruise ships to the continent. You might want to visit before they put up a Starbucks or a Disney South Pole.
(Antarctica Photo © Christopher Michel)