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9 places to add to your 2016 to-go list (plus one the Government of Canada can’t endorse)

Nuuk, Greenland.

Nuuk will host the Arctic Winter Games in March.

Mads Pihl

Whether close to home (a Montreal boutique hotel) or far away (a solar eclipse in Sulawesi); physically challenging (hiking in Colorado) or artistically genteel (galleries in Liège, Belgium), the world awaits in 2016

This year, travel is as much about the staycation as it is about discovering offbeat destinations. Whether you’re an intrepid adventurer, a culture vulture or simply a slave to good food, better wine and great music, these nine hot spots are destined for an epic year. Herewith, a roundup of 2016’s unmissable destinations.

Icy, remote Greenland is also often breathtaking.

Icy, remote Greenland is also often breathtaking.

Mads Pihl

Nuuk, Greenland

From March 6 to 11, this icy and remote Danish territory hosts the Arctic Winter Games, a circumpolar sporting competition for northern athletes. It’s the largest event of its kind and the roster includes everything from hockey, skiing and wrestling to lesser known Inuit games, such as head pull and knuckle hop, as well as Dene competitions of snowsnake and pole push. Whether you’re there to cheer on the athletes or not, Greenland is in every sense a place to escape tourist hordes and tick some natural wonders off the bucket list. With the world’s lowest population density and practically no cellphone coverage, you can truly unplug as you whale watch in glacial waters, witness the Northern Lights dancing on icy landscapes, and bask in the Midnight Sun. awg2016.org

Rendering of Calgary’s National Music Centre.

Rendering of Calgary’s National Music Centre, set to open this summer.

Haley Sharpe Design


This summer, Calgarians can boast about a new major attraction. Found in the city’s East Village neighbourhood, Studio Bell will be home to the National Music Centre, a $191-million, 160,000 square-foot complex where music fans can pay homage to such Canadian icons as Glenn Gould, Joni Mitchell, the Guess Who and Gordon Lightfoot. Displays feature more than 2,000 instruments and artifacts and a brick-by-brick rebuilding of Calgary’s legendary “home of the blues,” the King Eddy Hotel. For extra inspiration, budding musicians can step inside the restored Rolling Stones Mobile Studio, which was once used by the Stones, Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple. nmc.ca

Jean-Paul Remy

Liège, Belgium

With the opening of a major art museum and the launch of an annual food festival in nearby Namur, this lesser known Belgian city is making its way on the radar of in-the-know gastronomes and art lovers. In May, La Boverie museum opens to show off a permanent collection of fine Belgian art and a large exhibition co-curated by the Louvre, highlighting the paintings of Renoir, Manet, van Gogh and more. Elsewhere in the city, the Design Station of Wallonia is a new incubator showcasing collaborations between local artists. And, if you’re travelling by train (Brussels is an hour away, Paris is less than two) the Santiago Calatrava-designed Liège-Guillemins train station is considered a modern architectural masterpiece. In early June, travellers can sample regional Wallonian cuisine from top chefs, including Maxime Collard, Pierre Résimont, and hometown boy Philippe Fauchet at the inaugural Generation W Food Festival. www.visitbelgium.com

San Sebastián, in the Basque region of Spain.

San Sebastián, in the Basque region of Spain.

Martin Darley/iStockphoto

San Sebastián

One of the prettiest, tastiest and most vibrant cities in northern Spain is also this year’s European Capital of Culture (it shares the honour with Wroclaw, Poland). An impressive year-long schedule of events highlight dance, art, theatre and food from the Basque region and across the world. Venues are scattered across the city and include San Telmo Museum and the Tabakalera International Centre for Contemporary Culture, a tobacco factory turned concert hall. The program includes large-scale outdoor marionette performances during World Puppet Festival, talks by European authors and the Mile of Peace, a kilometre-and-a-half riverside stroll. dss2016.eu/en

The WOMADelaide festival runs from March 11 to 14 in Adelaide, Australia.

The WOMADelaide festival runs from March 11 to 14 in Adelaide, Australia.

Greg Snell/Tourism Australia


Although it often sits in the shadow of striking Sydney and more action-packed Melbourne, Adelaide is finding its own place on the cultural scene. Take the city’s 20th annual WOMADelaide festival (March 11 to 14), for instance, which takes over the Botanic Park. This year’s lineup is an eclectic mix from 30 countries, with a talk by David Suzuki and performances by French DJ and producer St Germain, Israeli-born Ethiopian singer-actress Ester Rada, the Violent Femmes and a rare collaboration between Grammy Award-winning Angélique Kidjo and the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra. A number of notable new restaurants have also opened in town (Orana and NOLA Adelaide, to name just two). By May, plans for a revitalized Adelaide airport begin to take shape as a rooftop solar panel system (the largest in Australia) is completed and new daily flights from Doha on Qatar Airways arrive. womadelaide.com.au

Old Montreal is the central hub of the latest boom in high-end and boutique hotels in the city.

Old Montreal is the central hub of the latest boom in high-end and boutique hotels in the city.

Eva Blue


Not since the boutique hotel boom of the 1990s has there been as much excitement about Montreal’s burgeoning accommodation scene. While rumours brew that the Antonopoulos Group (the company behind Hôtel Nelligan, Le Place d’Armes, Le Petit Hotel and Auberge du Vieux-Port) is planning a new city retreat, Old Montreal has welcomed the 10-room Épik Hôtel, which caters to design-minded travellers who like a mix of contemporary furnishings with their century-old stone walls. Two other properties – Hotel Mount Stephen and Le St-Amable – have converted century-old buildings into luxury retreats. And for those who like the reliability of a large hotel brand, Marriott presides over downtown’s hip Renaissance flagship opening in January. tourisme-montreal.org

A hiker summits a dune and views the panorama of the Great Sand Dunes National Preserve in Colorado.

A hiker summits a dune and views the panorama of the Great Sand Dunes National Preserve in Colorado.

National Park Service


The United States’ National Park Service turns 100 this year and one of the best places to take in some jaw-dropping scenery is Colorado. Lace up your hiking boots and explore its four National Parks – Rocky Mountain, Mesa Verde, Great Sand Dunes and Black Canyon of the Gunnison – which are home to such must-sees such as America’s highest sand dunes and Trail Ridge Road (in Rocky Mountain), the highest continuous paved road in the United States. Back in the cities, art and design are changing the face of Denver. The recently opened ART Hotel presents like a gallery complete with pieces hand-picked by Denver Art Museum curator Dianne Vanderlip and a huge light installation by artist Leo Villareal. And if you’re bringing the kids, Denver’s Children’s Museum reopened after a $16.1-million (U.S.) expansion. colorado.com

Street art in Taipei, Taiwan.

Street art in Taipei, Taiwan, where design is central to the local identity.

Domini Clark/The Globe and Mail


Taiwan’s buzzing capital city won the title of World Design Capital for 2016. Visitors will find events all year long, but design hounds should come Oct. 13 to 30 for the showcase WDC International Design House Exhibition. Seek out the work of local designers, such as Woo Collective and Sally Lin, best known for her concertina lamps and rattan-and-bamboo seating. If your stay doesn’t coincide with the exhibition, don’t fret. Taipei is less frenetic and cheaper than Hong Kong and Tokyo, so it’s worth a stop to see its eclectic mix of giant modern skyscrapers, ancient temples and glitzy nightclubs. Its famed night markets allow intrepid foodies to feast on everything from deep fried taro balls and intestine soup to handmade dumplings and oyster omelettes. wdc2016.taipei/en

Sunset at Bunaken, North Sulawesi. The island destination promises to be one of the best places in the world to see the total solar eclipse on March 9.

Sunset at Bunaken, North Sulawesi. The island destination promises to be one of the best places in the world to see the total solar eclipse on March 9.

Indonesia Travel


Bali has long been known as an island retreat for surfers, divers and well-heeled globetrotters destined for its uber-luxe resorts. But it’s the neighbouring Indonesian island of Sulawesi that’s in the spotlight this year. Situated between Borneo and Maluku, the island is one of the best places to watch the total solar eclipse on March 9 and you’ll have two minutes and 55 seconds to see it. Accommodation options are limited (most organized tours are already sold out), but you can attend the Eclipse Festival (March 7 to 11) at Ngata Baru, Palu where, in addition to a lineup of performances by musicians, DJs and artists, sleeping bags and tents are provided. eclipsefestival2016.com

Up for an adventure?

A view of the Imam Mosque in Esfahan, Iran in May 2007.

A view of the Imam Mosque in Esfahan, Iran in May 2007.

Greg Von Doersten/The New York Times

Less than a year after signing a historic nuclear deal with six world powers (and endorsed by the UN Security Council), Iran has gone from a no-go zone to a place where foreign visitors are welcome to roam through its ancient ruins, Islamic monuments and bustling city streets. The country has landed on several 2016 travel lists, including National Geographic, Forbes, Travel + Leisure and even CNN, which points out it is home to 19 UNESCO World Heritage sites and that officials are expecting 20-million tourists by 2025. Still, a visit poses challenges both practical (the Canadian embassy is closed, and the Government of Canada advises against all travel to Iran) and ethical (homosexuality, for example, is a crime punishable by imprisonment and even execution). One way to feel safer is explore the country with experienced tour operators: G Adventures, Exodus Travels and Cox & Kings have relaunched their Iran itineraries, covering the main sites from Tehran to Kerman, Shiraz and Isfahan. Historic highlights include Persepolis and Pasargadae, site of the former palace and remains of Cyrus the Great. To find true local culture, however, go out of your way to banter with the locals, take a cup of strong black tea at a Tehran café and haggle for carpets in the bazaars.

Special to The Globe and Mail

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