Can’t decide where to travel this year? No worries – we’ve got you sorted. We quizzed those in the know, chatted to all our Sure Travellers and checked out what’s trending worldwide to put together the top 10 places you should visit in 2016.
And don’t let the Rand’s rollercoaster ride get you down; we’ve included destinations where your South African Rand will stretch that little bit further…
(1) PHILIPPINEStop 10 places to travel in 2015 list, and it’s made the cut again. It's the “new” South-East Asia paradise! With over 7000 tropical islands, the Philippines boasts some of the world's best beaches, diving and snorkelling.
Why go?It’s less touristy than other South-East Asian destinations such as Thailand and Bali.
The beaches! There’s also Spanish colonial architecture to admire for history buffs.
Need to know:Visas are not required for SA passport holders for a stay of less than 30 days.
Currency: Philippine Peso (PHP). US Dollars are widely accepted.
English is widely spoken.
Best time to go: November - February
(2) REUNION ISLAND2015 travel list and is here to stay. After being virtually unknown to most South Africans, in the last few years Reunion has been firmly pinned on the map.
It’s an incredibly diverse island with stunning natural scenery (from lush green mountains, waterfalls and cirques to palm fringed lagoon and beaches), topped with one of the world’s most active volcanoes and sprinkled with a little French joie de vivre. Here are five reasons to visit Reunion.
Why go?It’s an easy 4 hour flight from Joburg on the fantastic Air Austral – read what it’s like flying Air Austral to Reunion Island.
On the 1st September 2016, an annular solar eclipse will throw the island into darkness between 12:20 and 3:40pm when the Moon passes in front of the Sun. This phenomenon will next occur in Europe in 2026 and Reunion Island in 2267! The island is one of the best places for astronomers to observe this in the southern hemisphere.
Need to know:South Africans don’t need a visa.
Locals speak a mix of French and Creole (outside of the hotels and popular tourist areas not much English is spoken).
It’s a bit off the beaten tourist track. It’s not a flashy tourist destination - shops and restaurants can close early and in the rural areas, there may not be a lot of tourist info (in English) or facilities. Plan your itinerary in advance.
Best time to go: May- June but it’s also a year-round destination.
(3) AUSTRALIAAccording to those in the know (Lonely Planet for one), 2016 is the Year of Australia. With friendly locals and balmy weather, Oz has just enough in common with SA to make for a comfortable trip but is unique enough to offer a truly one-of-a-kind experience.
Why go?The Great Barrier Reef, kangaroos and koalas, the wilderness of Tasmania, Whitsunday Islands, cosmopolitan cities, a strawberry milkshake coloured lake and lots of other weird and wacky things to see.
Need to know:Visas are required by SA passport holders.
Qantas operates direct, daily flights between Johannesburg and Sydney. Browse and book Qantas flights here.
Best time to go: Year round.
(4) MALAWIFor a landlocked country, it's rather amusing that Malawi is perhaps best known for its crystal clear, warm turquoise waters. But when you have something as idyllic and unspoilt as World Heritage Site Lake Malawi, it’s no wonder. And besides, that’s just what Malawi does – make you smile.
Why go?The lovely beaches and water activities in the lake, of course. A highlight is spotting the over 1000 colourful Cichlid fish species.
Mount Mulanje – a 3000 metre high granite mountain surrounded by green valleys and waterfalls.
The smiling locals.
“Floating on a lilo a hundred metres into the lake as the sun went down over the mountains, I watched village life on the banks from afar – silhouettes of kids playing on the beach and fishermen cleaning their nets. This is the magic of Malawi” - Travel blogger Merushka Govender.
Read more about Merushka's Malawi trip in the summer issue of the Sure Travel Journey magazine. Get a complimentary copy at a Sure Travel agency or in an airport SLOW Lounge.
Need to know:No visas required!
You will need a valid Yellow Fever certificate.
Best time to go: May to November.
(5) CUBAThe country on almost every “where to travel” list for 2016.
Our Sure Travel CEO, Vanya Lessing, had this to say about Cuba…
“I wasn’t surprised that Cuba made our list for 2016. The largest island in the Caribbean always evokes romantic thoughts of salsa and the Buena Vista Social Club. Besides the vibrant culture of music and dance, Cuba is highly rated for its medical achievements. In fact, in 2015 Cuba became the first country to eradicate mother-to-child transmissions of HIV.
The culture of Cuba is mostly influenced by Spain and Africa, and of the many places I’ve been fortunate to see, it is by far the most fascinating. The long haul trip for South Africans is most definitely worth it!”
Read more in the summer issue of the Sure Travel Journey magazine – pick up a copy at any Sure Travel agency.
Need to know:Visas are required by SA passport holders.
Currency: the Cuban Peso (CUP) but the 'tourist' currency is the Peso Convertible (CUC).
Best time to go: November to May.
Slovenia is a small country but with diverse scenery including the Alps and rolling hills, vineyards, primeval forests, limestone caves, thermal springs and quaint city centres, it’s the perfect little spot to enjoy a European holiday.
Why go:Slovenia is the only country in Europe that combines the Alps, the Mediterranean, the Pannonian Plain and the Karst.
You would probably have seen this image on Pinterest, but be sure not to miss Lake Bled - a small lake in the Alps. It’s one of the most photographed places in the country.
Need to know:South African passport holders do require a visa (Schengen) for entry into Slovenia.
A wonderful way to see Slovenia and its neighbouring countries is on a guided holiday, ask us about a Trafalgar holiday for example.
Best time to go: May to September.
(7) VIETNAMSouth East Asia is always a good choice if you want to stretch your budget as far as possible and Vietnam is a great choice for something a bit different. Friendly locals, vibrant cities, lots of history and culture and the beaches are superb too.
Why go:Snorkel around the many offshore islands of Vung Tau, southeast of Ho Chi Minh City or Nha Trang. Slide down the sand dunes at Mui Ne.
Ho Chi Minh's mausoleum is a fascinating, if bizarre, place to visit.
Take a train ride to the highlands - home to several hill tribes whose way of life has changed very little over time.
Need to know:Visas are required by SA passport holders - applications should be made well in advance of any planned visit.
Currency: Dông (VND)
Best time to go: Spring (March-April) and Autumn (October-December) or year-round.
(8) IRELANDIt’s inspired countless stories, songs, romances and travellers to its emerald green shores… the fact that its visa free for South Africans is just a bonus.
Why go?Guinness and the lively social life centred around the local pub, green green hills, legend and myths told by the locals and history and natural beauty everywhere you look.
Need to know:No visas are required by South African passport holders.
Best time to go: May - September.
(9) MADAGASCARForget the movie. The real Madagascar is gritty, beautiful, unique and surprising. Wildlife filmmaker Cameron Ewart-Smith had this to say in our Sure Travel Journey magazine summer issue…
“Aside from sun-kissed beaches and staggering scenery, Madagascar contains some of the most biologically unique plants and animals anywhere on the planet… on this large island nation being different is a way of life, and there’s simply nowhere else on Earth that can compare.”
Why go?The impressive natural parks and reserves. 90% of the island’s reptiles occur nowhere else and 100% of the frogs are purely local!
Scuba diving on the north and west coast.
There are also some beautiful white sand beaches and coral reefs.
Good to know:Visas are required.
Currency: Ariary (MGA) (The Ariary cannot be converted back into other currencies.
Best time to go: April to October (dry season / winter).
(10) BOTSWANANumber 1 on Lonely Planet's Best in Travel 2016 list, you'd better go this year before the rest of the world arrives. The country is celebrating 50 years of independence and can boast one of Africa's most stable economies, along with striking natural wonders.
Why go?Even if you go for the Okavango Delta alone, it's worth it.
Safari! Botswana is one of southern Africa's top safari destinations.
Need to know:Currency: Pula
Do you know there is now a Sure Travel agency in Gaborone? Visit Sure Spring Travel for all your travel arrangements.
Best time to go: April to October.
Photo credits (excluding first image):