Why it’s hot: New flights and old icons combine.
We say: Indian visas may still cost a fortune, but change is afoot as the first low-cost UK flights land in New Delhi (via Reykjavik) this December. The catch for UK travellers is an extended flight time – double that of most direct routes – but an Iceland stopover is hardly a bad trade-off.
The new flights arrive in time to mark 150 years since the birth of Mahatma Gandhi, the man who led India to independence. Pay a visit to Gandhi Smriti, the Delhi house where he was assassinated in 1948, and wander his old quarters, preserved just as they were at the time of his death.
Meanwhile, the National Gandhi Museum offers the chance to explore his legacy, and that of his satyagraha philosophy of non-violent resistance, through some of the objects – shawl, watch, even one of the bullets that struck him – that defined his life.
But Gujarat is where Gandhi is best remembered. In Ahmedabad you can even live as he did, with a mindful stay at the Kochrab Ashram that Gandhi built in 1915, or just wander the famous riverside Sabarmati Ashram that was his long-time home. Finish in his birth city of Porbandar, where a shrine to his life (Kirti Mandir) was built next door to his ancestral residence upon his final release from prison in 1944. A fascinating look at a crucial period of India’s past.
Don’t miss: Pay a visit to the Gir Forest National Park to glimpse Gujarat’s other icon, the Asiatic lion. The west Indian state is the last remaining refuge of the endangered beasts, of which only a few hundred are left.
Why it’s hot: Explore a conservation success story.
We say: With news that since 1970 humanity has wiped out 60% of animal life on the planet (WWF), we’re pleased to see Nepal is bucking the trend. As of late 2018, Bengal tiger numbers here have risen to around 235, up from an estimate of 120 individuals in 2009; there are only about 4,000 in the world. Coupled with the rise in one-horned rhino at Chitwan NP and the upgrade of Shuklaphanta Wildlife Reserve to national park status in 2017, Nepal is fast becoming a wildlife haven.
But since the 2015 earthquake, the number of visitors to Nepal is still down. It’s definitely time to head back. Head for Chitwan to spot gharials, elephants, sloth bears and tigers (some 120 roam here). Or seek out the overlooked gem of Bardia NP in the southern lowlands, visited by fewer than 20,000 people a year yet roamed by some 50 tigers.
Don’t miss: Chitwan’s Tiger Tops Elephant Camp outlawed elephant-back safaris in 2015, but you can now spend a day with a mahout, caring for these incredible animals instead.
Why it’s hot: Soak up the cultured highlands of Guanajuato State.
We say: It was silver that first bankrolled San Miguel de Allende. During Mexico’s early colonial period, the city was a waypoint for the metal torn from the Central Highlands. Now the money comes from visitors, drawn by the Spanish-style cobbles and grand San Miguel Arcangel Parish Church. However, as 2019’s American Capital of Culture, it’s only likely to get busier. So, once you’ve explored the baroque centre and Juarez Park, you’ll do well to escape to Guanajuato’s underrated fringes.
Here, natural hot springs break up the cacti-prickled hills, while horse-riding treks provide a good way to visit the state’s colonial relics. The semi-abandoned town of Mineral de Pozos, where you can explore the remains of around 500 mines in the surrounding hills (bring a torch), and the pre-Hispanic ruins of Cañada de la Virgen only add to the sense of a bygone Mexico frozen in time.
Don’t miss: Check out the UNESCO-listed Sanctuary of Atotonilco, dubbed ‘Mexico’s Sistine Chapel’ for its vivid baroque frescoes.
We can’t wait to…