[dropcap size=small]O[/dropcap]nce upon a time, travelling for pleasure was a rare pursuit, reserved for those with the financial means and an intrepid outlook. And although the modern world has granted us easy access to even the farthest of destinations, travelling has been become less of a ‘journey’, ironically prompting many to turn full circle in search of adventure and authentic experiences.
Whether travelling for business, a romantic weekend or journey of a lifetime, Singaporeans are among the best travelled in the world. In Visa’s most recent Global Travel Intentions Study, it showed that a whopping 95 per cent have travelled abroad over the past three years. According to TripAdvisor, high on the hit list for 2017 are Bangkok, Seoul, Taipei and Hong Kong. “The increase in flight options, ability to travel budget (airlines) and a strong and stable dollar has made leisure travel very accessible,” explains Janice Lee Fang, the website’s Asia Pacific communications director.

We bring you some of the key travel trends along with our hotlist of destinations to experience in 2017.

Five Top Adventure Destinations

1. South Africa

Bungee off Bloukrans Bridge PHOTO: / Pelle

With its stretches of powdery beaches, acres of winelands, the rich natural beauty of the Garden Route and famous game reserves, South Africa is a diverse country that is worth making the effort to visit. And while travellers used to bypass Johannesburg, the City of Gold is being transformed into a hip urban destination that has become a must-visit before gentrification takes hold.
Where to get your adrenaline rush: Bungee jump off Bloukrans Bridge on the Garden Route. At 216 metres, it is officially the world’s highest commercial bridge bungee

2. Galápagos Islands

Wild Tortoise Camp PHOTO: courtesy of Natural Habitat Adventures

An archipelago of about 19 volcanic islands dotted in the Pacific Ocean, the Galápagos is a bucket-list destination for good reason. Each island has its own unique landscape that can vary from stretches of white sandy beaches to barren volcanic rocks, while its lack of natural predators makes it an eye-opening spot to view all sorts of wildlife from playful sea lions to gigantic sea tortoises.
Where to get your adrenaline rush: Sleep under a blanket of stars in the highlands of Santa Cruz at the Wild Tortoise Camp

3. Costa Rica
A rugged Central American country known for its beaches, volcanoes and protected rain forests, Costa Rica has over 20 different microclimates and is teeming with wildlife, making it the perfect country to visit for adrenaline-fuelled outdoor activities.
Where to get your adrenaline rush: Zipline over the dense canopy of trees at Selvatura Park in Monteverde

4. New Zealand

Whitewater rafting in Rotorua PHOTO: courtesy Kaitiaki Adventures

Peaceful, and quiet, with rolling bucolic hills and dense native forests, New Zealand is the ultimate escape, perfect for adventure and exploration. Away from the frequented cities of Wellington and Auckland, Dunedin, on the island’s southeast coast, is emerging as a must-visit destination, not least for its Victorian and Edwardian architecture and plentiful hiking and cycling trails.
Where to get your adrenaline rush: Head to Rotorua on New Zealand’s north island, home to Tutea Dalls, the largest commercially rafted waterfall in the world

5. Peru

Sandboarding PHOTO: / Frank_am_Main

A South American country home to a slice of the Amazon rainforest and the ancient city of Machu Picchu, high in the Andes Mountains, Peru’s wild topography – not least its icy mountain peaks and arid Pacific coast – makes it a wonderland for adventure.
Where to get your adrenaline rush: Sandboard down giant dunes in Huacachina, a tiny oases in the southern Peruvian desert.

Five Emerging Destinations

1. Iceland

The Blue Lagoon PHOTO: / Elo Vazquez

A Nordic island nation, Iceland is best known for its dramatic other worldly landscape, active volcanoes, geysers, hot springs, lava fields and glaciers. Its capital, Reykjavik, is alive with thrumming restaurants, galleries and cafés and is also the perfect gateway to, of course, view the Northern Lights.
What to experience: Sip on champagne, as you soak in the milky waters of the Blue Lagoon, a geothermal spa surrounded by lava fields, about 40km south west of Reykjavik.

2. Japan

Outdoor snowy bath PHOTO: courtesy Hotel Mahoroba, Hokkaido

A destination that, for the first time in recent years, is topping all the must-visit lists, Japan is a country with dense cities, mountainous landscapes, and a rich culinary tradition. And while many visitors tend to head to Tokyo, the cities of Kyoto, Osaka and Sapporo on the northern island of Hokkaido, are fast becoming destinations in their own rights.
What to experience: Sleep on a traditional tatami bed, and soak in an outdoor hot spring bath – or an onsen – in a ryokan, a traditional Japanese inn.

3. Croatia

Dubrovnik PHOTO: / Marin Vugdelija

A country that offers the best combination of spectacular natural beauty, a dazzling coastline, interesting architecture, exquisite wines and delicious seafood. The country isn’t just about its white sandy beaches; further inland, Zagreb is grabbing attention, not least for its culture, arts, music and gastronomy.
What to experience: Grab a cup of coffee atop Mount Srd-, while taking in spectacular views of the old city of Dubrovnik, one of the most iconic views in Eastern Europe.

4. Cuba

Havana capitol, Cuba PHOTO: courtesy

Timeworn and dilapidated, Cuba is economically poor, but culturally rich. A country where the clocks have stopped for decades, head there now, before it is swiftly transferred into the 21st century. And with superb diving and fishing, Cuba offers the diversity few Caribbean islands can rival.
What to experience: Take a walk at sunset along Malecón, Havana’s shabby 8km -long sea drive, and a quintessentially Cuban thoroughfare.

5. Taiwan

Tonghua Night Market PHOTO: / saturnism

With delicious food, in a lush mountainous landscape, Taiwan has remained largely undiscovered and underrated, making it one of Asia’s best-kept secrets. And while a visit to Taipei is a definite must, Kaohsiung, the country’s largest port and second city, is a modern urban landscape dotted with airy cafes, bicycle lanes and cultural venues.
What to experience:Meander around Taipei’s Tonghua Night Market, a lively spot that has a little bit of everything for everyone. Make sure you sample the rice-wine sweet dumplings in ice.

Five Key Travel Trends

1 The Real Deal
Cultural homogenisation has prompted many travellers to seek genuine experiences. From food to accommodation, authenticity is key. Generic sightseeing is out and living like a local is in.

2 Family First
With many families living geographically further apart, a multigenerational trip is often the only option for today’s modern and mobile family.

3 Off the Beaten Track
Done with playing it safe, the modern traveller is looking for active experiences in fresh territories that are customised to his or her abilities.

4 Small Ship Cruising
No longer an activity for the unadventurous, small ships are appealing to a younger, hipper clientele, finally making cruising cool.

5 Endangered Species
Rapidly changing regions, such as Cuba or the Arctic, have prompted many travellers to head to these destinations with a sense of urgency.

This article is adapted from The Straits Times.