World / 5 November 2019, 3:30pm / Debashine Thangevelo
Lonely Planet recently announced the top destinations for next year. This is why you should visit.
Location: This Buddhist kingdom is found on the eastern edge of the Himalayas.
Known for: Popular for its monasteries, dzongs (a distinct type of fortress) and haunting landscapes, comprising high mountains and valleys. There is a wonderful juxtaposition of modern meets medieval here. The government has implemented a high value, lowimpact tourism policy to ensure external influences are kept at arm’s length.
Major attractions: A visit isn’t complete without exploring Rinpung Dzong, a breathtaking fort that was built in the 16th century. It offers a wonderful introduction to Bhutanese architecture and their deep-rooted traditions. The area is home to a plethora of temples and shrines. Every year, between March and April, the Tsechus annual festival is celebrated. The Dechen Phodrang Monastery is the original dzong of the city. This place was once the administrative centre of the country. Today, it is a monastic school. A stone’s throw away from Punaka Dzong is Bhutan’s longest suspension bridge – 160m to be exact.
Must-try: The ema datshi, a stew made of chillies and cheese; red rice, which is a staple dish of Bhutan; shakam datshi, which is made from dried Bhutanese beef and is very popular here; and the phaksha paa, which is pork with red chillies.
Best time to visit: Between October and December. You will be blessed with sunny skies. January to February is generally colder. April is dry yet pleasant.
Location: This country shares land borders with Wales to the west and Scotland to the north. The Irish Sea lies west of England and the Celtic Sea to the south-west.
Known for: Its fish and chips, Big Ben, red buses, black cabs, the Beatles, its famous royal family and Windsor Castle.
Major attractions: From a tourism perspective, there is something for everyone. Visit Stonehenge, an archaeological marvel as well as a Unesco World Heritage site. This place has been recognised as one of the world’s most enigmatic tourist attractions. It draws up to 1.3 million visitors a year. Be sure to book your ticket in advance as it sells out fast. The London Eye offers the best views in the city and is a worldfamous landmark on the Thames River waterfront, opposite Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. The 30-minute ride offers panoramic views that include St Paul’s Cathedral, as well as Buckingham Palace. Be sure to explore Trafalgar Square, home to London’s West End. It’s a very vibey spot with plenty to see and do. And London’s Big Bus Hop-On Hop-Off Tour comes highly recommended.
Must-try: English breakfast, fish and chips, pies, and afternoon tea.
Best time to visit: You can visit at any time, basically. However, overall, spring, which is from late March to early June, and autumn, which is from September to November, are ideal as its usually warm and dry.
Location: The Republic of North Macedonia is a country in the Balkan Peninsula in south-east Europe.
Known for: It has more than 50 lakes and 54 mountains, some scaling higher than 2 000m.
Major attractions: Skopje is where most trips to Macedonia start. Visitors love strolling through the quirky streets exploring the Old Bazaar, Skopje Fortress and the stone bridge. Ohrid is regarded as the Jerusalem of the Balkans. This important cultural and religious city is also a Unesco World Heritage Site with churches and monasteries that will take your breath away. This picturesque lakeside town is a favourite haunt of artists, too. Another favourite with hiking enthusiasts, spelunkers (explores of caves), and photographers, is Matka Canyon, a wonderful outdoor destination in the country. The charming quaint town of Trpejca is tourist-friendly. It’s also perfect for Instagrammers looking to swim, snorkel or simply soak up the sun in the most picture perfect setting.
Must-try: Musaka, a meat and potato gratin dish; sarma, which are cabbage rolls with meat and rice, ajvar, which is a red paprika spread, polneti piperki (stuffed bell peppers); and, zelnik/pita, stuffed pastry or pie.
Best time to visit: During the summer months from June to September.
Location: Aruba is an island and a constituent country of the Netherlands in the southern Caribbean Sea. It is located about 1 600km west of the main part of the Lesser Antilles and 29km north of the coast of Venezuela.
Known for: Aside from the consistently fine weather, it has stunning beaches and wind-sculpted desert landscapes. Its wreck diving is second to none in the Caribbean.
Major attractions: Holidaymakers will be spoilt for choice when it comes to choosing a beach to chill at. The charming city of Oranjestad boasts the most striking Dutch colonial architecture. A stroll through the city unearths wonderful shops, restaurants, museums, galleries and entertainment haunts. Be sure to drop by the Aruba Aloe Factory to learn more about the medicinal properties of this amazing plant. Kids will love the butterfly farm. Sports enthusiasts will enjoy exploring the rugged terrain of Arikok National Park.
Must-try: The seafood comes highly recommended. The most common fish here are the mahi-mahi, red snapper and grouper. Don’t leave without tucking into the fish soups and seafood chowders or the ayaca, which is steamed meat in a banana leaf.
Best time to visit: January to March can be a bit pricey, but between April to August, you will find the prices lower.
Location: Located between South Africa and Mozambique. It covers 17 204km² of land and 160km² of water, making it the 160th largest nation in the world with a total area of 17 364 km².
Known for: Its spectacular wilderness reserves and festivals showcasing traditional Swazi culture. The Mlawula Nature Reserve has wonderful hiking trails.
Major attractions: The Hlane Royal National Park is where tourists will encounter the largest herds of game. There are guided game drives, as well as self-drives. Be sure to visit a nearby village to soak up the culture. Lobamba is the spiritual and cultural hub of eSwatini. In this laid-back town, visitors will learn more about the country’s monarchy and can visit the royal village, the national museum and government buildings. Mbane is the perfect spot to buy keepsakes. If you are planning a visit to the market, make the most of it with an excursion to Pine Valley, which follows the Umbeluzi River. Aside from the scenic drive, it’s perfect for a stroll, even in summer.
Must-try: Emasi (sour milk), which is raw cow’s milk that is fermented and then strained to remove the whey. Umncweba (biltong) and umkhunsu, which is similar to biltong, but it is cooked before it’s dried. Porridge, corn on the cob and tjawala, which is traditional home-brewed beer made from maize meal.