It can be difficult to keep up with the best 'it' destinations of the moment but we have the inside track on the hottest hotels and activities across the globe. We selflessly visit all the locations we recommend to ensure that the sea on your private beach really is as crystal clear as it looks in the PR images, that you really can see wildlife from your safari tent and that the buzzing bar next to your boutique hotel really is, well, buzzing. So when you speak to one of our team, you can rest safe in the knowledge that they know the destination like the back of their hand. It's a tough job, but someone has to do it - here's where the Original Travel team is off to in 2017...
We regularly bang on about the brilliance of Marrakech and the surrounding Atlas Mountains but the new kid, or rather the re-emerging kid, on Morocco's travel block is the historic northern territory, encompassing the cultural hubs of Tangier, Tetouan and Chefchaoun, the beautiful beach of Tamouda Bay and the sprawling Rif Mountains. In other words, it's the perfect combination of city, relaxation and adventure. We predict you'll be hearing much more about this corner of the globe in the coming months - watch this space.
Basque Country, Spain
Everyone knows about the cities of San Sebastian and Bilbao, famed for their foodie and contemporary art scenes, but the rest of the Basque Country is equally alluring thanks to an irresistible combination of beautiful countryside, lovely beaches (many with excellent surf breaks), fascinating language and unspoilt villages and towns. Walk from charming hotel to charming hotel through lush mountain pastures, all the while sampling the food that the region is rightly famed for.
Colombia may be the "in" destination of the moment amongst the hipster generation but you don't have to sport a man bun and horn-rimmed glasses to appreciate this country for the cultural and visual gem that it is. The bougainvillea-bedecked buildings, cobblestone streets and colonial vibes of Cartagena make it one of the most interesting cities in the Americas, while the Caribbean coastline it sits on is impossibly pretty, particularly in under-explored corners like Santa Marta and Tayrona National Park, where the jungle meets the ocean.
Travelling to Vietnam is essentially an exercise in sensory overload; the overwhelming noise of cities like Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi (think honking scooter horns and shouty street vendors); the awe-inspiring sights of landmarks like Halong Bay and the lush landscapes of the Mekong Delta; the glee-inducing feel of soft sand between your toes along the sprawling coastline, the mingling aromas of lemongrass, ginger, mint and coriander as you meander through a market, and the taste of some of the best food in the world (as you'll know from last week's email).
Mauritius is so much more than just a beach destination. Yes, the beaches are beautiful and the hotels showcase them in the very best way but this tiny Indian Ocean island also boasts a fascinating cultural history, having been colonised at one time or another by the Arabs, Portuguese, Dutch, French and English, leading to a melting pot of peoples and cultures that is evident in everything from the food to the architecture. Add to that some lush mountain scenery, exhilarating activities and plenty of home-brewed rum (aka rocket fuel) and you're onto a winner.
Zambia is often overlooked amongst the big hitters of the African safari world but the fact remains that it offers some of the most unique and beguiling wildlife experiences on the planet, without the crowds. Although landlocked, Zambia is a land of great rivers, from the Zambezi to the Kafue and the Luangwa, surrounded by lush land loved and lived in by a wonderful diversity of safari game, including leopards, lions, elephants and wild dogs. Speaking of water, Zambia also boasts the iconic Victoria Falls, home to adrenaline-fuelled activities and more kodak moments than you can shake a blogger at.
The Deep South, USA
Trying to sum up the USA's Deep South in just a couple of sentences is virtually impossible… but here goes. Cut the South like a stick of rock and you will see the following permeating its core... Music - this is, after all, the birthplace of country, the blues, jazz, soul and a certain Elvis Presley. Literature - the works of authors like Harper Lee and William Faulkner have provided a rich seam of literature centred on the region. Food - anyone for gumbo, jambalaya or beignets? And scenery - the aforementioned all exist against a backdrop of misty mountains, undulating farmland and dense forests.
"You go to Antarctica for the wildlife, you keep going back for the ice" - Andy, in our marketing department, has recently returned from Antarctica. The wildlife may be spectacular; penguins, whales, seals and a variety of seabirds, but the ice is the real star of the show. A kaleidoscope of colour from bright white to deepest blue, in all manner of shapes and sizes, set against a backdrop of water so dark it looks black - a veritable feast for the eyes.