Each year, travel experts around the world, from Frommer’s to Lonely Planet, compile a list of what they think the top destinations in the coming year will be.
Sometimes they’re right on the money — who wouldn’t have guessed London would be a top destination in 2012 what with the Olympics and Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in one year, — while other times it seems what was predicted to be a trendy destination never really takes off.
At the start of the year, Lonely Planet put Uganda, Myanmar and Ukraine at the top of their 2012 travel list, none of which I’ve heard much about after the list was released. Frommer’s named the Bay of Fundy in Atlantic Canada, Beirut in Lebanon and Chongqing in China as their top destinations for 2012.
Hindsight is always 20/20, though. With that in mind, I count down what I thought the top five destinations of the year past were.
1. London, England
London was the “it” destination of 2012, welcoming millions of tourists during the summer Olympics and during celebrations for Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee. The release of the James Bond film Skyfall has kept London in the spotlight through the final months of 2012.
2. Costa Rica
Costa Rica has matured as an adventure destination, especially for rainforest treks and zip lining, but the Central American country is also gaining notoriety for its resort getaways. I’m still shocked that time and time again this year, after asking a colleague where he or she was headed on vacation, I heard the answer Costa Rica.
3. Washington State
The United States continues to be the world’s top destination for Canadians, though Washington State was, ahem, thrust into the spotlight this year when the 50 Shades of Grey trilogy, which takes place in Seattle, took the world by storm this past summer. Fans of the raunchy read have flocked to Seattle attractions mentioned in the books. Forks, Washington continues to benefit from literary tourism as well, as fans of the Twilight Saga are still finding their way to the small town to see spots frequented by Bella, Edward and Jacob. Plus, now that marijuana has been legalized for personal use, expect Washington to continue its climb as a must-visit U.S. state thanks to marijuana tourism.
4. Mayan Riviera, Mexico
With the fascination (terror?) about the end of the Mayan calendar on Dec. 21, 2012, there has been a renewed interest in travel to the Mayan Riviera and the Mayan ruins in the area, like Chichen Itza. Attractions in the Riviera have introduced a number of events to coincide with the end of the Mayan calendar, as have resorts.
5. New Zealand
With the release of The Hobbit movie this month, there has been a renewed interest in travel to New Zealand, especially to sites made famous in the film and in Peter Jackson’s previous Tolkien trilogy Lord of the Rings. The very real farm where Hobbiton has been constructed is especially worth a visit and is open for tours.