The experts have revealed their much-anticipated hot list for the year ahead. These are their predictions for destinations which are up-and-coming, exotic, undiscovered and guaranteed to stir the soul. Collectively, they have singled out these unusual and unique destinations which every discerning adventurer will want to know about."
With an economy based on oil, Azerbaijan in the South Caucasus may seem an unlikely place for luxe wanderings. But this energy-rich nation on the Caspian Sea is a surprise package. Located on the divide between Europe and Asia it has a 5,000-year-old history and a heritage variously influenced by the Russian, Turkish and Persian empires. A stroll through its cosmopolitan capital Baku is a striking contrast of old and new where locals play chess in cobblestone laneways against a backdrop of the city's famous futuristic flame towers.
The birthplace of voodoo, Benin is steeped in a rich and complex history of glorious kingdoms, slavery and colonialism. Voodoo is still widely practiced throughout the country and travellers can witness colourful voodoo ceremonies where feverish drumming and highly charged dancing by costumed fetish priests provide a bewitching encounter. Fishermen in remote villages still practice age-old techniques and the slave coast is a haunting reminder of a dark past.
Dramatic year-round, Finland in Europe's far north is a land of lakes, mountains and forests with a vigorous sauna culture. Expect endless daylight in the summer months and long winter nights when the Northern Lights are at their most dazzling. The vibrant capital Helsinki is a harbourside showcase of modern architecture and design with world beating museums and galleries, architectural masterpieces and an 18th century sea fortress.
Remote and unspoiled, the crystal-clear waters of Eastern Indonesia harbour some of the world's finest marine life and underwater treasures. Hordes of volcanic islands spread across the aqua blue waters of the Flores and Banda Seas play host to some of the most spectacular coastal terrain on Earth and soft sandy beaches to match. Explore the Komodo National Park, the Spice Islands and Raja Ampat where world class diving and snorkelling reveals brilliant coral gardens, vibrant tropical fish, sea turtles, reef sharks and manta rays while on land the prehistoric Komodo dragon hunts its prey amidst dry savannah.
Middle Eastern hospitality doesn't come much better than in Jordan. Add to that some of the world's most famous archaeological sites and it's easy to see why it's considered one of the region's star attractions. In a country with a 4,000-year-old history and biblical references aplenty there's no shortage of attractions. At the top of the list, with undisputed celebrity status and worthy World Heritage recognition, is Petra but there's much more once you delve deeper – crusader castles, mineral-laden waters, ancient Roman ruins, dramatic desert landscapes and a vibrant cuisine.
Heavily influenced by the many civilisations which have contested and ruled its sun-filled archipelago, Malta and Gozo, its sister island, together claim over 6,500 years of history with one of the world's greatest concentrations of historical sights. Each conquering power has left its mark from Arabic town names to British food, Greek superstitions and Roman Catholicism. A few days here will reveal a lavish architectural legacy, splendid Baroque churches, a flourishing food scene and rich agricultural traditions.
One of the least densely populated countries on Earth, Namibia is a vast landscape of shimmering salt pans, red dunes, glittering oceans and haunting coastlines where the sunsets are unforgettable and the desert-adapted wildlife abundant. Hugging the southwest coast of Africa where the red sands of the world's oldest desert meet the azure waters of the Atlantic Ocean, Namibia is an unexpected surprise and new lodges, like Shipwreck Lodge on the Skeleton Coast, have opened to broaden the already luxe offering
Say hello to one of Asia's most surprising destinations. A relative newcomer to the luxury travel scene, South Korea is a surprise package known as much for its street food and high-speed internet as it is for its heavily militarised border. Hip and edgy, the capital Seoul is a dynamic city where new meets old and pop culture is alive and well. It has first-rate museums, absorbing local customs, flavoursome culinary delights and scenery throughout the country is utterly picturesque.
Tasmania is known for its walking adventures and this is one of the newest. Aboriginal owned and operated, the four-day Wukalina Walk reveals the breathtaking Bay of Fires region in the state's northeast from the unique palawa (Tasmanian aboriginal) perspective. Hiking in the footsteps of their traditional people, palawa guides and elders relate first-hand the palawa creation story, allowing guests to participate in cultural practices that have been passed down for hundreds of generations. Nights are comfortably spent in bespoke palawa inspired domed huts and the meticulously renovated Lighthouse Keeper's Cottage at larapuna (Bay of Fires).
Off the radar for many years, Zimbabwe is back with a flourish and in recognition A&K has opened its 11th African office there. The country has some of the continent's most impressive national parks where its iconic species roam and a top-notch selection of small-scale luxury safari camps and lodges. It boasts one of the world's great rivers, breathtaking landscapes from acacia woodlands and riverine plains to primeval escarpments and granite-studded hills and it's home to the largest waterfall in the world, Victoria Falls.
To book any of these destinations or enquire further please contact Abercrombie & Kent on 1300 590 317 or visit www.abercrombiekent.com.au