2013 is all about pushing boundaries, discovering hidden gems, and most importantly having fun. Dream big in 2013 when you are planning your vacation. Why go to Paris, when you can go to Tel Aviv. Why go to the Caribbean, when you can head to undiscovered beaches in Sri Lanka?
Luxury travel operator Black Tomato shared their 2013 travel hot list with us, with some of the coolest travel destinations of the moment. Prepare for a serious case of wanderlust. In the mood for a serious adventure, head to Epic Tomato, and let them plan the world expedition of your dreams.
Share with us in the comments below, where are you dying to travel to this year?
NAR PHU VALLEY, NEPAL: You are sure to know people who've trekked the Nepalese highlands, but how many have ventured to the "hidden valley," an area that until recently had been closed to trekkers. This has to be one of our most exciting picks of 2013 for its isolated setting trailing far from the beaten track. Off the legendary Annapurna Circuit, unfortunately known as the "coca cola" circuit, stems a trail marked "off limits." You will however have both the special permit and registered guide to gain you entry and lead the way. The valley remains untouched by modern life inhabited only by the indigenous communities of Nar and Phu. The trek is sure to push your boundaries and promises to give you some of the most spectacular views of a lifetime.
SOUTHERN ICELAND: The ultimate 'must do' on every wander-lusting travellers' bucket-list, The Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis as they are scientifically known are one of nature's most jaw-dropping spectacles. That's if you know where to hunt them down. Here's the secret: next year it just so happens that in this region of Iceland you've got the highest chance of sighting the Northern Lights as they illuminate the star flecked sky. And that's not all—this winter season of 2012/2013 is one of the best years for seeing the lights in recent history. And here's our 2013 secret to see the lights at their scientific max—in the beautiful Icelandic countryside, just a couple of hours from Reykjavik airport is Hotel Rangá. Set amongst the southern landscapes of this dramatic country, Rangá is in the perfect location for the best sightings of the elusive yet equally spectacular Northern lights. And from one techy reason to a financial one, the currency crash, which effectively devalued the króna by 75 percent, also helped make a trip much more favourable to the wallet. As the global economy starts to heal, prices are climbing once more. The spoils of Iceland are no longer a secret, but they're still yours for the taking—and in 2013 you'll still be well ahead of the curve.
LADAKH, INDIA: Ladakh is one of the few places on earth which is still virtually untouched and unexplored. It's one of India's best kept secrets that we can't help but let you in on. Enjoy the calm serenity of the fresh mountain air without a care in the world and wander through the ancient hills on a trans-Himalayan voyage of discovery through this majestic land. The phrase, 'Journey of a Lifetime', is much quoted but it seldom applies to a journey better than the Trans Himalayan Expedition from Delhi to Srinagar. It is likely the greatest journey that you can undertake on you own. From start to finish there is breathtaking scenery, rich flavors of India, amazing roads and unique experiences. On two occasions the road climbs to more than 5,000 meters (16,404ft) high and for entire days you can be at 4,000 meters (13,123ft). While the air is thin, the effects of altitude are muted by you being in a vehicle and not needing to exert yourself. You drive some of the highest motorable passes in the world and look down onto lush or arid plains and mountains in equal measure. This unusual and beautiful unexpected road trip through Ladakh lets you escape to the unknown valleys and villages of the Indus Valley—the perfect 2013 escape.
NAMIBIA: With European city breaks so ubiquitous it can be hard to come up with inspiration for a long weekend away. The answer? Look beyond Europe for some incredible, otherworldly destinations that you can discover in just a few days. And in our opinion the ultimate short break destination is Namibia. The extreme north-west of Namibia is one of the most unspoilt and untamed locations on earth, offering a totally extraordinary travel experience, and the Skeleton Coast is its most extreme region. Here you'll find some of the harshest scenery on the planet, with landscapes closer to lunar conditions than anywhere in the world. Miles from civilization and as far as you can get from the hustle and bustle of normal routine, lies the luxurious rooms of the Skeleton Coast Camp, the only building in the 300,000 hectares of private concession area. In the course of your short break you'll visit sand dunes, vast plains and saltpans unlike anything you've ever witnessed. You'll climb giant wind-carved dunes in a 4x4, and listen to them 'roar' as you slide down the other side, to find the ghostly shipwrecks which dot the notorious coastline. For further exploration visit springbok, ostrich and 3.5-metre-long crocodiles by foot or boat and see canyons, gorges and sweeping dunes by quad bike. With 2013 all about enhancing the experience, making the most of your time off and stretching your imagination, no other long-weekend destination offers so much adventure in such an incredible setting. This is undoubtedly one of the best African experiences we have ever seen.
NEW ZEALAND: Influenced by literature, film, and nostalgia, 2013 is going to see the return of the road trip. Controlling your own experience and entirely fulfilling the need for freedom, a road trip does as the locals do and takes you through some of the world's most iconic landscapes and coastlines. And where better than the iconic, cinematic backdrop of New Zealand. We really are spoilt for choice in New Zealand. Awe inspiring mountain landscapes, glaciers, fjords, crystal clear water, world class vineyards, and natural wonders around every corner could keep you reaching for your camera for months at a time, but the bays and towns surrounding the Cook Straight are a must for 2013. Iconic road trips have forever been the best way to privately explore some of the world's greatest wonders and the Cook Straight is our favorite pick for next year. So hop in your car and drive the coast from Palliser Bay and its remote working sheep stations to Hawkes Bay to indulge in some of New Zealand's best coastal lodges and pristine beaches. Without of course forgetting the adventure hot spot of Nelson for adventures at sea or by air with your private helicopter dropping you at some of the most remote spots in South Island. All landscapes worthy of a blockbuster movie cast. Did someone say Avatar and The Hobbit? We'll see you there James Cameron.
SOUTHERN PHILIPPINES: What do we think of when we're asked about the Philippines? We'll give you a clue. A nation made up of more than 7,000 islands, where each one is caressed by calm, turquoise waters and blissfully white sandy shores, it's a coastal paradise. But there's more to this fascinating country than just glorious beaches—that's if you know where to look. So let us take you to Palawan, a little known region where you can hang out with the charming locals at bustling markets, meet ancient rainforest tribes in the depth of the jungle, and experience its weird and wonderful wildlife. Palawan has a lot of picturesque sites that are found nowhere else in the world and with a world that is almost entirely mapped, we revel in still finding the unusual and unexpected places out there. It is one of the Philippines' best destinations in our minds—famously known for its renowned underground river, unspoiled white-sand beaches, and rich marine creatures. With neighbouring Thailand and Indonesia hot on any tourists radar, in Palawan you can forget mass-market or luxury retreats; think engaging eco-resorts, beautiful boutique hotels, village homestays and some of the best scuba diving anywhere. In the past limited flights, difficult internal transport and a lack of infrastructure have put us off, but not now. Now is the time to go.
PERU: Looking for the next hip place in South America with an all-year-round party vibe filled with authentic culture? Look no further than the newly emerging urban hot-spot, the Peruvian capital Lima. Forget the chaotic crowds of the Rio carnival, the bustling streets of Bogota and head to where the party is really happening. With a cultural backbone to rival any other South American capital, Lima is fast becoming the foodie capital and gastronomic heart of the south. This is the infectiously social, see-and-be-seen foodie scene for 2013. With street food to rival Asia and yet new and established restaurants to rival Europe, this is the go to place in 2013 to tickle the tastebuds. 2013 is all about doing as the locals do (after all, we all hate to feel like a tourist in any country) and we've interviewed, questioned and re-questioned all locals to find out where their secret go to eat spots are. From Miraflores to Surquillo we know where all the foodie boroughs are. And the best bit, Lima is the gateway to the Scared Valley of the Incas, Machu Picchu and Cusco where you can set eyes on some of the world's most historical archeological ruins. A country full of food, culture, richness, warmth and charm, its beauty never fails to mystify.
SRI LANKA: Hit tragically by a tsunami and torn by civil war, much of Sri Lanka has been difficult to visit as a local let alone a tourist. Now the conflict is over and much of the coast has been rebuilt. There are new flight routes, new properties cropping up all over the island (especially in the capital and the East coast) all making 2013 the time to get ahead of the crowds. A lush tropical island with nothing below it but the huge expanse of the Indian Ocean, Sri Lanka is a hive of energy. Visit fifth century fortresses, learn about the country's fascinating culture and beliefs in the Cultural Triangle, head inland to the breath-taking Tea Country, reach south east to the untouched and newly emerging beaches and safari national parks all before taking in the coast from Tangalle to Galle. And did we mention that it's possible to see an elephant and a blue whale in the same day? Bucket-list, check. With new boutique hotels and visitor-friendly roads popping up all the time, Sri Lanka is the ideal destination for those looking for a culture like India's without the enormous cities and long train journeys.
TEL AVIV, ISRAEL: Tel Aviv is our favorite achingly hip, art and party-focused city of the moment. Having gracefully emerged as one of our favorite citybreaks, it is now our top vote for 2013 (especially with the US's Lollapalooza musical festival relocating here). You only need to glance at the number of chic boutique hotels, hip hang-outs and galleries popping up right now to see the exciting, fast-paced changes the city is undergoing. Stay at the sparkling Leonardo boutique hotel, which has only been open a couple of months or, for a more traditional resting place, try the Montefiore on one of the city's most architecturally stunning streets. This restored 1920s heritage building has a library in every room and is covered in artwork from young local artists. Head out for the international Documentary Film Festival in May, the Fashion Markets in February and August, year-round galleries of Gordon Street and late-night jazz, electronic and indie parties. A twist on any party scene you've enjoyed before, and well worth experiencing before everyone else does.
PAPUA NEW GUINEA: Bypass the Kokodo Trail—we've got an even more exciting challenge—the Baining Mountain trek. A far less trodden path, you'll pass through remote villages, crossing gorges, building rafts, and sleep in traditional homes. This is no walk in the park—the terrain is incredibly raw and varied: grasslands, rain forests, cloud forests, canyons and fascinating WW2 relics. Truly one of our last frontiers. This is an exclusive opportunity to witness secretive communities and traditional ceremonies such as Sing-Sings, Fire Dances of the Bainings and the Duk-Duks dance of the Tolais. You'll be rewarded with a gorgeous palm-fringed beach as you emerge from the trail where you can go deep sea shark diving. The diving here is truly untouched and spectacular: perfect blue waters teeming with tropical fish, cute pygmy seahorses and orca whales.