The Question: I want to go somewhere all my friends haven't already been for that feeling of discovery. What are the up and coming spots for 2012?
So you want to spice up office chatter with talk of wiggling larvae snacks, harlequin tuskfish dive sites or the allure of the Empty Quarter? Here, then, are ideas from three world travellers:
Burma (also known as Myanmar): "It's a place that defies the normal expectations," says Robert Reid, who has tramped through countless countries to contribute to many guidebooks, including Lonely Planet's Best in Travel 2012. "Men wear longyi skirts; women smear tree-bark paste on their cheeks in the shape of suns. Snakes guard Buddha statues, ancient sites are reached on tiny dirt paths with no one around, street snacks [include]… cricket-on-a-stick."
Of course, Burma was tricky travelling with its authoritarian government, but that eased last year, says Reid, when the country's National League for Democracy revised its tourism boycott to welcome "responsible tourism" after its leader Aung San Suu Kyi was released from house arrest. "The main discovery is simply the people," says Reid, who also writes Reid on Travel ( reidontravel.blogspot.com). "I've never found sweeter people anywhere."
Lord Howe Island, Australia: Yes, you can go to Uluru and the Sydney Opera House, but tell your pals you spent your holiday on Lord Howe Island and you'll earn castaway credibility. Located a two-hour flight from Sydney in the South Pacific Ocean, the sparsely populated island is a UNESCO World Heritage site. "I only went there for the first time last month … and after five days of pure bliss, I was wondering why I'd never been before," says travel writer Lara Dunston, who has been trotting the globe with her photographer husband for the past six years and writing about it on GranTourismo ( grantourismotravels.com). "It's pristine, lush and green, the landscape is dramatic, and it boasts an abundance of rare birds, plant and marine life, and is encircled by a reef. So the most popular things to do are snorkelling, diving and hiking."
Oman: "Qatar, Dubai and Abu Dhabi get much of the attention in the Persian Gulf, but Oman should be on everyone's radar," says Gary Arndt, who writes the travel blog Everything, Everywhere ( everything-everywhere.com). Oman, situated along the Arabian Sea, has an ambience that feels laid-back, less developed and more "traditional Arabia" too, says Arndt, who has visited more than 100 countries since he sold his house and shouldered a backpack almost five years ago. Where to find that sense of discovery in Oman – besides wandering among the souks, Portuguese forts and frankincense trees? Arndt says his highlight was exploring the fjords in the Musandam peninsula from a Land Rover. "It is one of the few places on Earth where mountains, desert and sea all come together."
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Follow Karan Smith on Twitter: @karan_smith. Special to The Globe and Mail