Top 10 regions

1. Alaska, USA

As the US National Park Service gears up for the celebration of its hundredth anniversary in 2016, Alaska will undeniably be the one of best places to make the most of the centennial. It has ten of the country’s largest national parks, more coastline that the rest of mainland US combined, and is home to wolves, grizzly bears and bald eagles, not to mention the nation’s tallest mountain, Denali. Whether exploring environmentally threatened glaciers or the carefully crafted arts of the state’s indigenous cultures, Alaska doesn’t disappoint.

To the lover of wilderness, Alaska is one of the most beautiful countries in the world. – John Muir, Scottish-American author

2. Gujarat, India

Plentiful and unbelievably cheap, the thalis in Gujarat are rarely dampened down for tourist palates. Chances are, you’ll be one of the few visitors around. Home to Hindus, Jains, Muslims, Christians and tribal groups, there are a variety of striking temples and religious shrines to explore here, be they perched on jagged peaks or tucked away in tranquil forests near Gir National Park (home of Asia’s only lion population). If the bustle of the region’s booming industrial economy starts to take its toll, escape to the nearby island of Diu – where sprawling beaches and legal alcohol have made it a local favourite for weddings and parties.

Gujarat is truly vibrant. Be it handicrafts, folk music, art, costumes or food – the state offers the best of everything. – Shreya Ghoshal, Indian singer

3. Tasmania, Australia

It makes sense that the least-visited of all Australian territories is also the country’s most pristine. Tasmania has the cleanest air in the world and more than forty percent of the island is registered as national park land. So the question is: why is it so under-explored? Beyond the glorious white sand beaches and thriving rainforests, Tasmania has also earned its place as a forerunner of contemporary culture. This year marks five years since the opening of MONA (Museum of Old and New Art) – Australia’s most innovative art museum – and the city hosts the biggest beer festival in Australia.

Tasmania Rough Guides Snapshot Australia
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Perhaps the virtue of coming from a place like Tasmania is that you had the great gift of knowing that you were not the centre of things, yet life was no less where you were. – Richard Flanagan, Tasmanian novelist

4. Québec, Canada

This year discover that Québec is much more than simply “the French part of Canada” or just home to the country’s gorgeous old-world capital, Québec City. The province is also harbours some of Canada’s fascinating First Nations cultures: from Nunavik in the north to Wendake in the south. The area also has numerous national parks, and the exciting, metropolitan city of Montréal, where you’ll find the country’s wildest nightlife, biggest festivals and a cutting-edge arts scene. Whether you’re looking to ski, canoe, camp, experience the traditional or the avant-garde, few regions pack more to-dos than this complex Canadian province.

Montreal and Southwest Québec Rough Guides Snapshot Canada
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5. Tohoku, Japan

Japan’s 2011 earthquake devastated Tōhoku, a geographically diverse region in northeastern Honshū. While 2016 marks five years since the disaster, the region’s tourism industry has yet to fully recover – despite possessing some of the most enticing attractions in all of Japan. Go in 2016 for top-notch traditional festivals like Aomori’s Nebuta parade and Yokote’s Kamakura (a cosy igloo festival dedicated to Japan’s water deity), and strange and stunning landscapes such as the cauldron-like Osore volcano. There are also ski slopes, steaming outdoor onsens on temple-dotted mountains and a new national park, Sanriku Fukko, created after the earthquake.

Along the coast the sea roars, and inland the mountains roar – the roaring at the center, like a distant clap of thunder. ― Yasunari Kawabata, author of Snow Country

6. Northern Cape, South Africa

Hard work pays off – and that’s certainly the case when it comes to exploring South Africa’s Northern Cape, an area covering one third of the country’s landmass and seldom explored by visitors. Power through the vast distances involved in travel here, and you’ll be rewarded with swathes of wildflowers blooming amid the region’s red dunes, mountain deserts and wildlife including the black-maned lion of the Kalahari. Take the time to visit the lands of the San Bushmen, the oldest population of humans on Earth, or indulge your inner adrenaline junkie with kayak tours into Richtersveld National Park via the Orange River’s white-water rapids.

7. Lombok, Indonesia

Still unspoilt by major developments, Lombok is a relief for travellers coming from neighbouring, touristy Bali. A quick speedboat or short flight away, you’ll find this island has some of Indonesia’s most breathtaking beaches, world-renowned waves, traditional villages and the fascinating culture of the Sasak people. To the north there’s the hulking grandeur of volcanic Gunung Rinjani, which draws in the trekkers, and in the south lies Kuta, a chilled-out surf town well set up for small-scale tourism, with a slow pace, harking back to the feel of Bali in the 1970s.

The Rough Guide to Bali & Lombok
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8. Calabria, Italy

Charming resorts along two gorgeous coastlines, rustic mountain villages and peperoncino-heavy cuisine make this region a favourite below-the-radar Italian holiday destination. But, until now, Calabria’s tourism has been primarily domestic. Historically underdeveloped, this stretch of the far south was long neglected and remains somewhat marginalized, with the ‘Ndrangheta mafia still a powerful presence across parts of the region. However, this year new budget flights from Turin to Lamezia Terme, along with websites like Airbnb, are opening up even the most rural towns to adventurous travellers seeking another side of Italy. Homes heated by wood fires, organic farm-to-table food, local wines, uncrowded Mediterranean shores and unparalleled hospitality wait as reward.

In Italy, they add work and life on to food and wine. – Robin Leach, British TV personality
Dreamstime.com: Mario Curcio / Curciomk

9. Castilla y Léon, Spain

Perhaps Spain’s best-kept secret, Castilla y Léon still bears the cultural and historic sights that once made it the most important region in the country, in stunning cities such as Salamanca, León, Burgos and Valladolid. It’s famous for producing some of the country’s best wine and home to a culinary culture to rival San Sebastián: no traveller will forget a late night spent hopping from one brilliant tapas bar to the next. All the better that many tourists skip over Castilla y Léon for the coast, allowing you to experience traditional Spanish culture at its most authentic.

10. The Western Isles, Scotland

The myth and natural majesty of the Western Isles, or Outer Hebrides, continues to capture the hearts and imaginations of travellers. Yet the islands’ wild, isolated reputation seems to have caused many to forget that they’re just a quick flight away from the mainland. During the long summer days, the Isles’ turquoise waters and white sandy beaches appear Caribbean-like, with top-notch waves for surfers and kiteboarders. Inland, castles, archeological sites, museums and quaint cottages make for perfect stops along the dramatic walking trails and cycle routes. While each island possesses a unique character, all are spectacular and overlooked.

The Rough Guide to Scottish Highlands & Islands
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Scotland is one of the most hauntingly beautiful places in the world. – JK Rowling, British novelist
By Chris Combe (CC BY 2.0) By Chris Combe (CC BY 2.0) By Alex Berger (CC BY-NC 2.0)
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