When the largest travel guidebook publisher in the world tells you the low down on where to travel in the new year, you should probably take note. Lonely Planet released their “Best in Travel 2016” list, and detailed the top 10 countries that stand out above the rest for travel. Some of them were a little surprising (looking at you Latvia), but the pictures did more than enough convincing for me.
From sunset safari trips in Africa to snorkeling in the Pacific, here are the top 5 countries from Lonely Planet’s list that you should visit in 2016.
You’ll find restored castles, miles of pine forests and incredible city life in the small country of Latvia. After working for 25 years to shake off what was left of Communist influence, Latvia’s next phase is attracting tourists from all over the world. The bustling and historic capital of Riga has once again become a symbol of European culture as its population continues to grow. Not to mention, partying in Riga is something you absolutely have to do with its wild club scene and raves.
Forget snorkeling and scuba diving in Mexico. The new place to see coral and exotic fish is in Palau, an archipelago of more than 500 islands in the western Pacific Ocean. It’s known as one of the coolest places to go diving and snorkeling, and that’s because the country has turned all of its marine territory into a total protected sanctuary for you to explore. There are also insanely cool World War II wrecks you can explore if you got a history buff within your group.
There’s never been a better time to take a road trip across the United States. The National Park Service, which manages over 50 national parks and landmarks, will celebrate its 100-year anniversary in 2016. From Yellow Stone to the breathtaking parks in Montana, make it a point to head to at least one this year. And if you need some ideas, I’ve already highlighted some of the best national parks to go camping at.
With Tokyo hosting the 2020 Summer Olympics, there’s an undeniable renewed energy in the city and an overdrive of development. But with jaw-dropping temples, Michelin Star restaurants and even a Godzilla-themed hotel, there’s so much to do all around the country. I might judge you a little bit if you go to one of their famous cat cafes, though.
Lonely Planet named this African country the number one place to visit in 2016, and it’s easy to see why. In 2016 Botswana will celebrate 50 years of independence, and it’s an exceptional time to visit. The landscape is dotted with the Kalahari Desert and the Okavango Delta, which turns into a real-life zoo when the seasonal floods hit the plains. So if you’re looking for a badass safari excursion, this is the place to do it.
To see the rest of the top 10 list from Lonely Planet, check it out here.
Nicole Theodore is the Girls Co-Editor at Playboy.com. Follow her on Twitter.