1. Canada 

The second largest country in the world (following just behind Russia), Canada is renowned for its awe-inspiring natural beauty, bustling cities and incredibly friendly locals.

The eagle-eyed amongst us may have also noticed that it has appeared in several lists of the best places to travel (it recently came out on top of The New York Times 52 Places to Go and ranked second in The Telegraph’s 20 best destinations to visit). 

But when it comes to exploring a country spanning 9.985 million km sq, where do you start? If in doubt its always best to go back to basics and begin with Canada’s extraordinary landscapes. From the Rocky Mountains to Banff National Park and the Canadian Rockies, there is nothing more humbling than standing amongst Canada’s astonishing natural wonders.

If you want to combine this with some amazing wildlife, there’s plenty to go around. It’s no secret that Canada is home to a large population of grizzly bears (around 25,000 to be exact) mostly found in Northern Canada and British Columbia.

If this doesn’t satisfy you, stop by ’The Polar Bear Capital of the World’ also known as Churchill in the northern Province of Manitoba. Here you can take to the waters of Hudson Bay in search of Beluga Whales, that is when you’re not dodging polar bears on your way to the local pub. 

If you’re more of a city person Canada has a huge amount to offer. You can experience some of the most popular cities in Canada like the wonderful diversity of Toronto (the world’s most multicultural city), get in touch with your creative side in Montreal, soak up the beauty of Vancouver or explore the quirky, French-speaking City of Quebec. 


2. New Zealand

Thanks to new flights making access to this far off country much easier - there really is no excuse to ignore this incredible nation.

Much like the aforementioned Canada, New Zealand boasts stunning landscapes, vibrant cities and amiable people making it one of the safest travel destinations in the world. It is also home to the Māori people, who make up 14% of the population. Their fascinating culture has always intrigued travellers and many wouldn’t even dream of leaving the country without getting to know the Māori’s traditions and language. 

New Zealand is known for its exhilarating sense of adventure. One of the world’s highest bungee jumps, that peaks at a staggering 141 feet, can be found over the Kawarau river. With other opportunities for skydiving and white water rafting - adrenaline junkies will feel very at home here. 

If your nerves aren’t quite up to this, you can relax on one of New Zealand’s many stunning beaches and sail through the ocean on the hunt for whales and dolphins or hike Mt. Ngauruhoe (otherwise known as Mount Doom from The Lord of the Rings trilogy).

Speaking of The Lord of the Rings, don’t forget to swing by Hobbiton where you’ll party in The Shire, enjoy a pint in The Green Dragon and make yourself at home in Bag End. 


3. Cuba

Cuba is set to undergo some major changes over the next few years as America claims a bigger influence over the Caribbean country. So now is the perfect time to explore their unique and fascinating culture. 

Founded in 1515, Cuba has experienced a turbulent history from colonial rule to Fidel Castro’s Communist regime that saw thousands of Cubans flee to the shores of Miami. Yet throughout these unsettling years, Cuba has maintained its unique identity that makes it one of the most exciting and invigorating countries to visit.  

Start in the vibrant capital of Havana, famed for its iconic 1950s automobiles and offbeat architecture. Down a shot of Cuba’s famous Havana Club rum and explore the colourful streets of Hamel Alley where you’ll dance the night away alongside live musicians and partying locals. Nurse your hangover at one of Havana’s many golden beaches or step back in time at the Museo de la Revolución.

For your next adventure dive underwater to explore one of the world’s most extraordinary coral reefs. You can then dry off by taking a spin in a classic American car the likes of which are seldom seen nowadays. 


4. Rwanda

Following a horrifically dark past, Rwanda has stabilised itself and now its economy is largely fuelled by travellers eager to experience everything the country has to offer.   

Famed for their population of mountain gorillas, many venture into the jungles of the Virunga volcanoes in search of the endangered animals. Threatened by deforestation, hunting, disease and the illegal pet trade - the numbers of mountain gorillas has seen a dramatic decline but, thankfully, Rwanda is doing its bit to protect the beautiful species.

The Volcanoes National Park offers many opportunities to have a close encounter with the apes who call these forests home.

When you want to return to human company, stop by the capital city of Kigali. Rarely visited by tourists, you’ll receive a warm welcome by the locals and be pleasantly surprised by the remarkably clean city (plastic bags are banned and locals team up on the last Saturday of each month to tidy the streets). Not afraid to confront its past, the Kigali Memorial Centre and Nyanza Genocide Memorial reveal Rwanda’s troubled history and are a must for all visitors. 

Round off your trip with a relaxing break windsurfing and fishing at Lake Kivu or spot elephants, zebras, hippos, giraffes and big cats in Akagera National Park.  


5. Ireland

From beautiful scenery to cosy pubs and wonderful locals happy to welcome you to their home, you'll quickly fall in love when discovering the highlights of Ireland

Get cosy in Dublin’s The Temple Bar before taking a trip to the Guinness Storehouse to see where Ireland’s legendary booze is created. If you manage to tear yourself away from the pubs head to the National Botanic Gardens and, of course, you can’t leave without a visit to Trinity College Dublin, where the ancient Book of Kells has resided since 1653.  

But don’t let Dublin steal all the limelight. Cork’s English Market gained international fame when the late Queen decided to drop by on her first ever state visit to the country. Head to the coastal city of Galway to hear some traditional Irish folk music and scout the local shops for souvenirs.  

When you’re ready to leave the cities behind you can explore the breathtaking Cliffs of Moher, soak up the stunning views along the Ring of Kerry or swap the mainland for the Aran Islands where you can brush up on your Gaelic and be awe-struck by cliffs that reach 300ft.

Don’t forget to swing by Blarney Castle where you’ll get the gift of the gab when you kiss the Blarney Stone.  


By Amy Horsfield


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