International hospitality from Iceland to Bosnia
It is not as if you need an excuse for travel, but if you did, here are the anniversaries, gatherings and essential destinations to put in your diary for 2012.
Honour Scott’s Polar Centenary
British explorer Robert Falcon Scott’s expedition to the South Pole arrived on 17 January 1912, by which point they already knew they were beaten by Roald Amundsen’s triumph on 14 December 1911. A century later, the Antarctic summer of 2011-2012 will be a bumper one for visits to the frozen continent. Scott buffs should aim for Cambridge, England (home to the Polar Museum, part of the Scott Polar Research Institute) or his statue in London’s Waterloo Place. But the ultimate is to visit his frozen-in-time hut at Cape Evans on Ross Island, Antarctica.
Follow Napoleon across Russia
This year marks the 200th anniversary of Napoleon’s disastrous invasion of Russia in 1812 and the battles provoked by it. Head to Moscow, where the Battle of Borodino Panorama (Kutuzovsky pr 38) gives a vivid impression of the events of a key skirmish. Or go farther north to St Petersburg’s Hermitage and Museum of Artillery, Engineers and Signal Corps which contain paintings and memorabilia from the campaign. This could also be the year to finally tackle Tolstoy’s epic War and Peace, set around the conflict.
Visit Namibia’s protected coast
Namibia is a special country, blessed with an abundance of easy-to-spot wildlife, beautiful desert scenery and vast, wide open spaces. This year you can visit the epic Namibian coastline along the Atlantic as part of one of the world’s largest protected areas, encompassing four parks: the Sperregebiet National Park, Namib Naukluft Park, newly created Dorob National Park and the infamous Skeleton Coast protected area. Many areas, especially in the south, can be explored independently -- though ideally with your own wheels -- but getting into serious Skeleton Coast wilderness requires a charter flight and deep pockets.
Go football crazy in Poland and Ukraine
This summer’s European Football Championship shines a light on two of Europe’s least appreciated destinations. Poland and Ukraine are providing four venues each, and the rewards for travelling fans are set to be huge. Warsaw, Gdansk, Poznan and Wroclaw, Poland’s host cities, frame a journey around that country, and you can tick off Krakow on the way to Europe’s best-kept secret, Lviv in Ukraine. Kiev, which is especially lovely in the summer, Kharkiv and football-mad Donetsk complete the set of Ukrainian host venues. Both countries offer some of the best-value travel in Europe, with easy transport links to ferry the continent’s supporters to and from matches.
Chase Australia’s Top End eclipse
Eclipse chasers have had a bountiful few years, pairing one of nature’s greatest shows with visits to Easter Island, Bhutan and Mongolia. This year’s total eclipse on 13 November crosses parts of the South Pacific, with the most significant landfall across Arnhem Land and Cape York in Australia’s Northern Territory and Queensland, respectively. This is wild territory and access to many areas is restricted by both permit requirements and wet season transport difficulties. However, the remote Palmer River area, inland from Port Douglas, Queensland, sees less rainfall than coastal areas and looks set to be a key eclipse-chasers destination.