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Island escapes often conjure up images of paradise and lazy beach days, however, there are a whole host of far-flung islands that provide so much more than dreamy beaches. We’ve chosen four island countries that offer visitors plenty of experiences, and that look set to rise in popularity in 2020. From the unique culture of Cuba to the multiple attractions in Sri Lanka, the diverse landscape of Bali and the many thrills of Japan - question is, which island country will you visit this year?
One of the world’s most unique countries, Cuba is an island nation with colourful architecture, idyllic white sand beaches, historical heirlooms and old-fashioned charm. There’s never been a better time to explore this fascinating nation, which currently maintains its culture, with big-name brands yet to dilute it. Cuba is alive with an experimental art scene, with a range of galleries, trendy cafes and colourful street art all showcasing a diverse blend of African, South American, North American and European culture. Must-sees include the UNESCO World Heritage site of Trinidad, a beautiful town with colonial architecture and vintage cars. The vibrant capital, Havana, with its arts scene, bohemian bars and fantastic museums that skilfully showcase Cuba’s fascinating history. For tourists seeking postcard beaches, holidays in Cuba should include Cayo Santa Maria, a small island off Cuba’s northern coast that’s renowned for its stunning beaches and water sports.
With its diverse landscape of looming volcanoes, lush terraced rice fields, dreamy beaches and rich culture, there is something undeniably special about Bali. Add in the fact that Bali is a gateway to many more Indonesian islands, and you’ve got a fantastic reason to explore this beautiful destination. This being said, the island of Bali itself has more than enough to keep tourists occupied, and holidays in Bali increase in popularity year on year. Beach fans will love the diverse choice of coastlines the island, with everything from the lively shores of Kuta and Seminyak to hidden coves offering quiet surf spots and incredible black sand beaches. For the more active, Bali boasts plenty of stunning hiking trails, with a sunrise hike up Mount Batur, in the north of the island, a popular choice amongst adventurers. The nearby town of Ubud is known as Bali’s spiritual centre and as well as dramatic surrounding rural scenery, the town’s streets are awash with wonderful art galleries and museums.
Japan is featuring on many hotlists this year and with an increasing number of affordable Japan tours, it’s easy to see why this interesting island country is rising in popularity with international tourists. It’s diverse landscape, distinctive culture and high-rise cities contrast starkly with a more traditional way of life, meaning Japan is anything but boring. The country is also renowned for its innovative cuisine, with everything from mouth-watering sushi and ramen to more unusual dishes, such as horsemeat sashimi. Most Japan trips start in Tokyo, which offers an interesting mix of old and new, with Buddhist and Shinto temples sitting beside the neon lights of huge digital-billboards and glistening skyscrapers. Kyoto, the ancient capital of Japan and under three hours from Tokyo by bullet train, is also a must-see, boasting atmospheric temples, beautiful gardens, traditional teahouses and geishas. Other must-see Japanese attractions include the majestic Mount Fuji, the historical city of Hiroshima (with its atmospheric Peace Memorial) and Osaka - dubbed the ‘foodie capital of the world.’ With so much to see and do, a large proportion of visitors now opt for a package tour of Japan, to ensure they see it’s many highlights.
Offering fantastic weather during the British winter, and with a recent boom in ecotourism, Sri Lanka looks set to rise in popularity during 2020. With endless beaches, friendly locals, safari opportunities and incredible, diverse natural scenery, Sri Lanka holidays offer a wealth of experiences. Sri Lanka is also home to a whopping eight UNESCO Heritage Sites, including the ancient city of Polonnaruwa and Sigiriya, the Golden Temple of Dambulla, the old town of Galle and the sacred city of Anuradhapura. Cuisine in Sri Lanka is also a highlight, with various curries and accompaniments, plus deliciously fresh seafood and the idyllic beach resorts. Aside from the UNESCO Sites, must-sees include the incredible view from the top of Adam’s Peak, the lush tea plantations and a safari in Yala National Park, where you can spot elephants, sloth bears, buffalos and even leopards.