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
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.
Meet the Maid of Orleans on her
France’s greatest heroine, Joan of Arc, was born 600 years ago this year,
offering a great excuse to explore her former stamping ground. Joan was
a teenage visionary and military hero who took the fight to the
English in the Hundred Years War. Following her trail will lead
travellers to some wonderful parts of France, from Orleans, where her
boldness led to the lifting of a long siege, to the beautiful Reims
Cathedral, where Charles VII was crowned King of France, having
been inspired by her visions of his succession. Joan was tried in
Rouen Castle and executed in the city’s Vieux Marche, where a modern
church marks the location of her immolation.
Discover a new Middle East
The Arab Spring swept through the region in 2011, offering revolutions
that were variously realised or repressed. Few countries in the
Middle East and North Africa were unaffected, but the
most significant change may be in Western perceptions of the region.
Despite their troubled political systems, these countries are steeped
in history and offer hospitality unrivalled anywhere else; they are also
are home to a young, energetic and ambitious population. Why not pay
a visit to Tunis or Cairo in 2011? You might be among the first to return,
and you will definitely be warmly welcomed. Make sure you check the news and government advice sites
like Safe Travel for updates
Explore Maribor’s Old Town
Sharing the European Capital of Culture crown with Portugal’s Guimarães, is
the unheralded Slovenian gem of Maribor. The plan is to use the year in the
spotlight to increase the profile of Slovenia’s second-largest city, which
is off the usual Ljubljana-Lake Bled-Triglav route through the
country. Events are still being confirmed, but expect art, music and
other festivals to accompany the well-established theatre, classical
music and folklore performances. The real stars of the show will be
Maribor’s delightful Old Town and imposing castle, combined with a laid-back
air best sampled from a cafe in one of the city’s many
delightful, diminutive squares.
Play arcade classics at the
Parents, kids, geeks and gamers should rejoice and head for the US
capital. The collection at DC’s Smithsonian
American Art Museum has more 7,000 works of art, but an
exhibition this year proves this is no mere load of frames gathering
dust. The Art of Video Games, running from 16 March to
30 September, explores
the evolution of arcade and computer games spanning 40 years, and
promises to make almost everyone who visits feel nostalgic (and
possibly ancient). Some 80 games will be featured through still images
and video footage. Better yet, you will be able to play classics like
Pac-Man, Super Mario Brothers, The Secret of Monkey Island, Myst and
World of Warcraft.
Check out Korea’s Expo
Today’s descendants of World Fairs, expos are large public
exhibitions organised around a particular theme and featuring stands
representing individual countries (think World Showcase at Disney
World’s Epcot). The modern versions fascinate as much for the
ways that countries strive to portray themselves as for the exhibits
themselves. Yeosu in Korea is staging EXPO 2012 from 12 May to 12 August, with a theme of “Living Ocean and
Coast”, and the port city is a fitting venue with its
spectacular coastline. Inside the expo, expect thought-provoking,
futuristic displays and dramatically designed pavilions.
The article 'Top 10 things to do in 2012' was published in partnership with Lonely Planet.