Where to go in 2012

Gazing in to her snow globe, Madeleine Wilson forecasts which top 12 destinations and travel trends have the edge for HostelBookers…

Umming and ahhing about where to go in 2012? Well, England, Wales and Scotland can look forward to another bumper bank holiday weekend in June with the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in London. To keep you in the dark, we pinpoint the top spot for enjoying the transit of Venus eclipse or suggest you look to the skies for the most sensational northern lights viewing in over 50 years. Travellers who swear by ‘off the beaten track’ sightseeing should hear our case for visiting Detroit and if anyone fancies free flights to Japan, read on…

1. London

Want to see where €11 billion went? It is no disappearing act, the London Olympics are finally here. After much moaning and groaning, the city’s transport has been spruced up, there will be a bumper program of cultural events as part of the London 2012 Festival (21 June-9 September) and one heck of an Olympic Village to explore. No Olympic tickets? There is always MacDonald’s record breaking diner in Stratford to check out. If you could not get enough of the 2011 Royal wedding , the Queen will be celebrating 60 years of her reign at the Diamond Jubilee with events held over the long weekend 2-5 June.

2. Antarctica

We have been glued to the screen, ogling another of David Attenborough’s glorious retellings of nature in the BBC’s Frozen Planet TV series. But perhaps it is time to experience the emperor penguins, killer whales and ends of the Earth for ourselves. Another reason to inspire travel to Antarctica in 2012 is the 100th Anniversary of the British Antarctic (Terra Nova) Expedition 1910-13. Captain Robert Falcon Scott and his team failed to be the first to reach the South Pole – theirs is a moving tale and feat of early exploration.

If you can’t afford the average €950 flight between London and Ushuaia, try finding other events commemorating the centenary here.

3. The Netherlands

Are you for or against the tourist coffee shop ban in the Netherlands? 2012 is an ideal time to visit whatever side of the fence you sit on. Non-smokers should head to the south, where the ban will be introduced in January 2012. Smokers or liberals wanting one final ‘what’s all the fuss about’ experience will have until January 2013 before the ban takes effect in Amsterdam.

Read more about the coffee shops in Amsterdam.

4. Detroit

Patti Smith said “New York City has been taken away from you. So my advice is: find a new city”. And this is just what Boat Magazine did. Their second and latest issue to combat ‘lazy journalism’ and one sided views, took them to Detroit. It is far from a sugar-coated picture they paint. Detroit has a population in decline (25% have left in the last decade), there are hordes of boarded up buildings and the economy has barely recovered since its auto industry collapsed.

But look at the rise of trendy East Berlin or Palermo; cities that have harnessed their bombed out buildings and turned them in to cultural centres, open air cinemas and cellar bars. And if the stunning documentary photos of Yves March and and Romain Meffre are anything to go by, Detroit has no shortage of dilapidated Gothic Revival interiors to work with. Detroit, is still a ravaged city, but during their visit the Boat Team were told, “come here while it’s still Mad Max and before it gets all Jetsons again”. This is one to watch.

Buy the latest issue of Boat magazine here.

5. Japan

20,000 people were killed in the devastating earthquake and tsunami in March 2011 which also triggered the worst nuclear accident in the country’s history. Tourism dropped sharply and international visitors were down 63% in April 2011 compared to 2010. But, in an attempt to bolster the industry, Japan hopes to offer 10,000 free return flights to foreign visitors in 2012. Applicants will be required to outline their travel plans and answer questions about post-disaster tourism in Japan. The programme is expected to cost 1bn yen (about €11.6 million) and is still awaiting approval. But, if given the go-ahead in March 2012, the Japanese Tourist Agency will begin accepting online applications in April 2012.

*Sorry folks, the Japanese Tourist Agency has announced that it will not be going ahead with this free flights offer. The JTA website states that it would have been ‘insensitive’ to fund free flights to foreigners when so many Japanese cities and town are still in desperate need of reconstruction since the tsunami*

6. The American Road Trip

Forecasting some 2012 travel trends, Jack Kerouac’s On the Road is finally hitting the big screen. With the creative driving force of director Walter Salles and screenwriter Jose Rivera (The Motorcycle Diaries, 2005) plus a story that ranks among the 20th century’s most influential books, my guess is we will all be lusting after the Beat generation lifestyle. Grab your old banger car keys and wake up and smell the burning rubber. After all, it is not the destination, but the journey.

7. Guimarães

With Unesco World Heritage List status and just 30 minutes northeast of Porto, Guimarães is still curiously overlooked. It is a magnificent and beautiful city, but as European Capital of Culture 2012, it will finally get the look-in it deserves. Over half the popular is under 30, so, as darkness falls, the central plaza, empty textile factories, crumbling castles and pousadas attract vibrant and youthful night owls for tapas-sharing, open-air film screenings and dancing.

Check out the programme for Guimarães 2012 European Capital of Culture.

8. Belfast

Launched into the Belfast Lough on 31 May 1911, the Titanic hit an iceberg and sank on her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York City in April 1912. 100 years on and the €113 million Titanic Belfast is due to open in Belfast’s iconic shipbuilding quarter, also the birthplace of this magnificent White Star Liner. Visitors can enjoy this brand spanking new interactive centre complete with a ride through the re-created shipyards of 1911 and watch sobering underwater footage of the wreck.

9. Reykjavik

Roll up, roll up for the most spectacular light show on Earth! NASA is predicting the 2012 northern lights to be the brightest in 50 years, a zenith caused by the Solar Maximum, which is a time when the magnetic field of the sun on the solar equator is rotating slightly faster than at the solar poles. There are days when the lights are so bright, you can read a book by them. Although there are claims that the aurora borealis 2012 might be visible as far south as Rome, a new EasyJet route will connect London Luton to Reykjavik from 27 March 2012 (from £100 return). After three years of financial recovery, there has never been a better or cheaper time to visit beautiful Iceland for a magical northern lights trip.

Read first-hand accounts of the northern lights in Reykjavik.

10. Cairns

The transit of Venus, as it passes between the sun and the Earth, means we will experience a total eclipse in 2012. This is an extremely rare event and we will not witness another in our lifetime – the next one is due in 2117. While much of the world will be able to see at least a partial eclipse, our destination of choice is northern Australia where you can witness the entire transit on 6th June 2012 and have good weather prospects (a cloud cover map from Jay Anderson/ISCCP imposed over a transit visibility map by Fred Espenak NASA/GSFC revealed that northern Australia will experience very low levels of cloud cover).

Wherever you are in the world, you can find your local transit of Venus time here.

11. Kiev

Kiev will really start to take-off with the Uefa Euro 2012 football championships set for June. The tournament is in fact divided with some games to be held in other Ukraine cities and also Poland. The city is tackling some major road repair and has implemented a somewhat bizarre ban on killing stray dogs. But the cheap beer will certainly go down well with footie fans and Ukraine’s national stadium has been kitted out with a transparent roof. The Old Town is charming and will be a highlight for city breakers while tours to Chernobyl are being finally being approved by the government.

12. Morzine

New for 2012, Basscamp is the first electronic music and snowsport festival to be held in Morzine. If you like a thumping bassline for your aprés ski, without running the risk of an avalanche, then this is the party place for you. The line-up includes top international DJs and also a 1980s street party on the last day so dig out your old all-in-one ski wear. That’s right, the neon monstrosity.

Basscamp 2-6 April 2012, €100 for 5-day wristbands available here.

Where are you off to in 2012?

Thanks to Jonathan Cherry and his video on Detroit and also João Octávio, MarufishToNG!?budgetplaces.comMoEaFaTiMrMitchUS Embassy New ZealandemanuelezJaypeg2123am.com and for the images off Flickr. Please note, all images were suitable for use at the time of publication according to the Creative Commons license. 

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