Thanks to lower fuel costs, a whole host of new international flight routes from Europe, and increased access to new countries (we’re looking at you, Cuba), 2016 continues to be an exciting year for travel. From exploring the world according to the rumbling demands of your stomach, to travelling on two or four wheels, we’ve picked the top experiential travel trends to try this year.
1. Take to the water: stand up paddle boarding
Combining the best of windsurfing, kayaking and surfing, stand up paddle boarding has seen a significant increase in popularity over the past few years, and for good reason. Not only is it easier for catching waves than with a conventional surfboard, having a paddle means any body of water is fair game.
Don a wetsuit and traverse chilly fjords and iceberg-filled lagoons in Iceland, spot tarsiers while paddling leisurely alongside dense jungle in The Philippines, or catch some breaks in one of the finest spots for the sport, Sayulita in Mexico.
© Shane Gross/Shutterstock
2. On your bike: cycle across countries or even continents
Cycling holidays have never been more attractive, with multiple options now available for those seeking to traverse the world by bike. DIY trips can be easily planned thanks to a whole community of amateur riders exchanging routes online.
Some of the most recommended include the smoking volcanoes and hanging glaciers along the 1240km Carretera Austral from Puerto Montt to Villa O’Higgins in Chile and the Camino de Santiago in Spain (sampling local Rioja here is obligatory, just don’t drink and ride).
Tour operators are also opening up previously unchartered biking territory across the globe: cycle the cobbled streets of Trinidad in Cuba or climb through gloriously verdant tea plantations in the hills of Kerala in southern India, safe in the knowledge that you’ve got a comfortable hotel room and a delicious meal waiting for you at the end of the ride.
3. The modern road trip: two wheels or four?
The quintessential road trip is perhaps the most enduring of trends, but 2016 offers spectacular new ways of discovering the world from your own vehicle. Highlights include observing the remarkable annual migration of millions of animals from the Serengeti National Park, Tanzania to the Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya from a rented 4WD and a self-drive safari.
If your mantra is “four wheels good, two wheels even better”, discover the possibility of a motorcycle tour: Compass Expeditions offer an epic 128-day trip winding through scorched Andean mountains and volcano-ringed deserts as they bike across the entire South American continent.
4. Eat your way around the world: food tours
More travellers than ever are being drawn to destinations by the desire to sample local cuisine, and what better travel souvenir than returning home able to cook some of your favourite foreign dishes?
New additions to your cooking portfolio might include the Vietnamese masterpiece bún riêu cua (rice noodles with a tomato and crab broth) or mastering macarons and the praline flavoured Paris-Brest in one of the undisputed homes of haute cuisine, Paris.
If you want to dig right in, street food walking tours are becoming widely available around the world too. Sample Mexican food with Club Tengo Hambre’s tour of Mexico City or explore Mumbai through some delicious, spicy south Indian street foods.
5. Cause for celebration: festival travel
With a desire for experiential, authentic travel experiences the driving force behind many of our travel choices, culture and a real sense of place can be experienced by timing your trip to coincide with a local celebration.
Maybe you’ll disappear into the depths of the Borneo jungle for Malaysia’s Rainforest World Music Festival, where you’ll pass your hours listening to a blend of traditional and contemporary music. Or become a spectator at the Mount Hagen Cultural Show in Papua New Guinea, where a hundred tribes compete through unique forms of dancing and music.
Tangible and genuine, these interactions are guaranteed to leave a lasting mark on your travels.
6. Adventure on foot: walking holidays
Whatever your expectations of a walking holiday, the market has changed considerably in the past few years. New companies across the UK and Europe have set up self-guided walking tours: you do the literal leg work, they sort the organisation by booking up-market accommodation to ensure a relaxed evening following your day of walking.
Increased access to well-maintained trekking routes around the globe also mean that avid hikers have unrestricted access to the world’s finest scenery. The 930km Israel National Trail, with its unparalleled mix of modern and ancient history; the Mueller Hut Route amongst lofty, glacial mountains in Mount Cook National Park on New Zealand’s South Island; and the Tonquin Valley in Alberta, Canada (complete with snow-dusted mountains and turquoise lagoons), are just some of the captivating treks awaiting your footsteps.
7. Exploring the poles: adventure cruising
While a conventional cruise might not appeal to the intrepid, explorations of the globe’s most hostile terrain will have even the most seasoned explorers blown away by the seemingly endless frozen landscapes and incredible abundance of wildlife.
Most ships depart from the world’s most southern city, Ushuaia in Argentina, before heading out to explore the Antarctic Peninsula. With activities including scaling ice cliffs, camping on pristine snow, or coming across penguin colonies on desolate shorelines, the hefty price tag will definitely feel worth it.
If you want to head north, take a ship from Helsinki in Finland to explore the Arctic.
Top image © Denis Burdin/Shutterstock