The start of the a new year brings many a list of places to visit.
The New York Times has published the 45 places to go in 2012. Lonely Planet issued its top 10 destinations for 2012 whilst rival guide book Frommers also released its recommendations for top 2012 destinations.
Here at Getaway Guru, we’re less ambitious, or perhaps more discerning! So we’re focusing on our top 5 destinations for 2012.
Australians have long been interested in Tuscany and Umbria but this year there is growing interest in the region of Puglia. Located in the ‘deep south’, Puglia sits in the heel of Italy’s boot and offers ancient history (traced back some 8000 years) combined with amazing landscapes with wind-eroded cliffs dotted along the coastline. You will still enjoy fresh food and robust wines and can learn more about the olive oil the region is famous for. Deepen your cultural experience with a stay in a trulli – the 16th century, conical-roofed houses unique to Puglia (pictured below).
This is one of France’s undiscovered secrets. With a combination of roman ruins, canals, wine and beautiful villages to get lost in, it should be a destination on your list.
Bordering Provence, the Languedoc Roussillon is just as charming and beautiful but is less tourist-ridden and more affordable. It benefits from a Mediterranean climate, a spectacular coast, and surprising history. When you visit don’t miss the famous mountain fortresses popularly known as Cathar Castles. The region possesses a number of World Heritage sites, including Carcassonne (castle pictured below), the Canal du Midi, and the Pont du Gard.
It is a region rich not only in history but in food and wine. This excellent guide (November 2010) gives a great overview of the highlights of the region, particularly as France’s largest wine-producing area.
Not surprisingly, the region is popular with Australians buying property in France so you have a wide range of accommodation available.
3. Loire Valley
OK, this makes the list for the purely selfish reason that I would like to visit in 2012. I met some fellow francophiles whilst in Vanuatua last year and their stories of cycling in the Loire Valley has me feeling inspired. I’m not talking 7 day cycling tours just some gentle pedalling between wineries before returning to my holiday rental to rest!
Combined with this relaxed adventure will be visits to some of the hundreds of chatueaux dotted around the area (such as Chambord pictured below) and an attempt to dine at some of the recommendations made by Shannon Bennett in his personal guide to fine dining in regional France. All to give me just a taste for what this region offers.
4. Le Marche
This region, which Lonely Planet has referred to as the next Tuscany, offers beautiful coast and rustic hinterland with many spectacular ancient cities to be visited (think Urbino (pictured below) Ascoli Piceno and Macerata).
The region also offers some magnificent national parks and reserves including the stunning Monti Sibillini. Mountains make up approximately 31% of the terrain with the remaining 69% being hills with the region being separated from most of the remainder of Italy by the Apennines.
The combination of sea, hills and mountains provides great environments for sources of food too. Fred Plotkin in “Italy for the Gourmet Traveller” (a great read by the way) recommends the region for its superb seafood as well as excellent truffles, mushrooms, meats, olives, grapes and particularly cheeses.
Rent a villa for 2012 and explore this diverse region before word gets out and the numbers of tourists increase.
5. Poitou Charentes
Lonely Planet has listed Poitou-Charentes in its top-ten regions to visit for 2012 so we agree on this one. In the words of travel author Stuart Butler:
“With quiet country roads wending through vine-striped hills and wild stretches of coastal sands interspersed with misty islands, the Atlantic coast is where the French get back to nature. Much more laid-back than the Med (but with almost as much sunshine) and ideally suited to family holidays, this is a place where you can slow the pace right down. And there are numerous ways in which to do this. You could spend a morning quietly greeting curious ducks as you kayak down the glowing green canals, rivers and streams of the Marais Poitevin. You could cycle over the lazy landscapes of the dreamy Île de Ré or raise a glass in the pretty town of Cognac. Or soak up the salty air of the white city, La Rochelle, after exploring its fascinating museums and breathtaking aquarium. Poitou-Charentes is far from undiscovered – French tourists have been flocking here for years – but aside from the city of La Rochelle (an increasingly popular weekend break destination thanks to arrival of budget airlines), the area is woefully under-visited by foreigners.”
Need I say more (other than you can stay here when you visit).
So, with our top 5 list for inspiration, we’d love to here about your travel plans (or even dreams!) for 2012.