Each New Year brings with it a whole raft of new places and possibilities. New areas are opening up and there are alternative ways to experience more familiar ground. So to celebrate, take a look at Black Tomato's pick of places that are tipped to be big for 2012.
LULEA, SWEDEN - Meet Lulea, a little-known winter wonderland on the northern coast of Swedish Lapland that has caught our eye. Think vast Narnia-esque vistas shared only by reindeer, lip smacking regional fare, and exhilarating adventures on ice. With Swedish cuisine having a moment here in the U.K., this little-known region epitomises what Swedish gastronomy is all about - taking the shortest possible route to the table with uber-fresh ingredients from the nearby forests, fields and rivers.
TEXAS, U.S.A - Think of Texas and think of cowboys? Naturally. But what about its eclectic mix of people, growing arts scene and hundreds of miles of untouched Gulf coastline? The Texas of today is a far cry from the ubiquitous cowboys and cattle ranches in most peoples' minds and an area of true untapped potential. Of course, it retains the authentic cowboy culture we love but why not sample the beaches of Padre Island or the music scene of Austin at the South by Southwest Festival to turn preconception on its Stetson-laden head in 2012.
BELIZE - It's time to get Belize on the travel wish list for next year as the country celebrates the closing of the Mayan Calendar. The Calendar completes its 13th cycle or B'ak'tun after nearly 52,000 years meaning there's not a better time to get under the skin of this ancient Mayan civilisation. Couple this with a blessed Caribbean that no superlative can quite do justice to see why Belize is our choice for an alternative Caribbean getaway next year.
MYANMAR - All eyes have been on Myanmar and now for good reason. The country has gone from being one of the world's most controversial holiday spots to one of the most exciting destinations on our travel radar. Virtually untouched by tourism, Myanmar is the place to head for authentic cultural South East Asia. Get here before the crowds for the chance to explore Yangon's pagodas at sunset, Bagan's 4,000 temples and kick back on unspoilt Ngapali beach.
GALICIA, SPAIN - This lesser-known region of Spain is our pick for a quick gourmet hit next year. Whilst France pulls in the crowds and the nearby Basque region steals the foodie headlines, Galicia is where gourmands-in-the-know should be headed. With a whole festival in February dedicated to the chorizo sausage no less, Galicia is as much a feast for the eyes as the belly. The oh-so-fresh seafood and local delicacy, percebes (goose neck barnacles) plucked off the rugged coastline by hardy fishermen are what's drawing us in. Check out the historical town of Noia for authentic Galician culture and beaches the locals try to keep secret.
TANZANIA - Tanzania is our pick for a more off the radar safari experience. The Mahale Mountains are becoming more accessible to trekkers and is the place to spot chimpanzees. Next year, we will offer some unique experiences to the country that are so much more than the average safari including pop-up camps in little-visited areas, climbing Ol Doinyo Lengai Volcano and fishing with the locals in the second deepest lake in the world.
PHILIPPINES - The beautiful archipelago of the Philippines has gotten us smitten for next year. We've fallen hook line and sinker for its combination of vibrant cultural influences, world class wreck diving and tropical rainforest spilling out onto myriad islands (we're talking 7,000 of them). But it's the off the beaten track location that is the real clincher for us. Our favourites are the remote Sugar Beach, Negros and Araia Island for stylish private island living. All this natural goodness minus the crowds? Now that's why it is our pick for the alternative South East Asian island hopping adventure.
NAMIBIA - Namibia turns the Africa in most peoples' minds on its head. Yes, chatter from the Brangelina days has died down but it's this unrelenting ability to surprise combined with a wild untamed beauty that keeps Namibia high on our travel radar. In this land of stark contrasts, the terrifyingly barren Skeleton Coast region remains home to the San, a tribe of semi nomadic hunter gatherers - a people we find especially intriguing - who have survived in this stunning yet harsh environment for thousands of years. In 2012, we get right up close with these indigenous Bushmen on a totally new trip that has got us counting down the days to the new year.
YUKON, CANADA - Sitting neatly next to America's chilliest of states, the north-easterly Canadian region of Yukon is truly one to watch for next year. Why? Rich in gold rush history and still retaining a 'last frontier' quality, this little-visited territory offers a beguiling combination of super-sized landscapes, robust locals - tall tales and well-woven stories are a given - and a mix of ancient and contemporary cultures, making the idea of being a traveller rather than a tourist, a reality. Kayak down the regions namesake, the mighty Yukon River, check out northerly Dawson for a slower pace of life and don't miss the mountain trails of Kluane National park. Mark this on the map for 2012, before everyone else does.
TAHITI - There's that element of retro about these islands that we can't wait to revisit with a new 2012 gloss. With new islands opening up, incredible marine life and diving, Tahiti and the surrounding islands are our pick for more intrepid sailing adventure. The smaller, lesser-visited islands of Tikehau and Manihi are a must for authentic rustic Polynesian living. Take a sail boat to venture to uninhabited islands Motu Tautau and Motu Mahana and make a star-crossed date for summer 2012 to observe the rare transit of Planet Venus as it sweeps across the sky high above French Polynesia.
For more information and to book visit www.blacktomato.co.uk
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