January may be a depressing month, but with a full holiday allocation at your fingertips, it’s time to think about this year’s big trip. Here are some of the best new destinations to give you some ideas.


Best for... Grown-up backpackers Why go now? Opportunities for visiting Indochina have opened up thanks to the launch of a new direct flight route from London to Vietnam with Vietnam Airlines. Shaving seven hours off the flight time and making Vietnam a viable option for a two-week holiday. The Post Office rated it in the top three best destinations for value for money in 2011.

Travel back several centuries by visiting the world heritage town Hoi An, take a luxury cruise along the Mekong or have a suit made for pittance by a tailor in Ho Chi Minh City.

With 3,400km of sparkling coastline to choose from, beach lovers may also want to explore Vietnam as an alternative to Thailand.


Best for... History buffs Why go now? Last year marked a century since American archaeologist Hiram Bingham’s discovery of Machu Picchu, but Peruvians would argue 2012 is the real year for celebration.

At the end of 2011, the long-anticipated Casa Concha museum opened in Cusco, housing artefacts from the ancient Inca citadel, taken by Hiram Bingham 100 years ago.

Coupled with the discovery of a new Inca trail to Machu Picchu, there’s now more reason than ever to visit this historical site.

Two new hotel openings in Cusco also look likely to put the ancient Inca capital on every luxury traveller’s map. Orient Express open the all-suite Palacio Nazarenas in June on the site of a former convent, while JW Marriott will open a property on the site of a colonial church.

Food is also playing a big part in Peru’s rising international profile, with Lima named by Frommers Guides as the top food destination to visit in 2012.


Best for... Adventurous families Why go now? Viewers of the BBC’s Frozen Planet series can’t fail to have been mesmerised by the dazzling midnight sun-strewn icebergs of the Arctic. Spitsbergen, the last stop before the North Pole, is rising in popularity as an expedition option for tourists, with the promise of dramatic scenery and wildlife, including polar bears.

As one of the most remote regions of the world, it’s not easy – or cheap – to get there. Flights via Oslo and big connection gaps can make journeys long, and even short cruises can come in at £2,500 with flights. But it’s undoubtedly a trip of a lifetime.

With tour operator Exodus now offering a family-friendly programme, it's also an educational alternative to Santa’s Lapland..


Best for... Bargains Why go now? Once considered one of the most expensive countries in the world, a financial crash in 2008 made this volcanic island in the North Atlantic ocean much more affordable.

With return flights from as low as £59, Iceland is now within the average holidaymaker’s budget.

Choose to enjoy a city break with a difference in quirky capital Reykjavik, take a dip in the famous geothermal Blue Lagoon, explore the island’s rugged terrain, or attempt to see the northern hemisphere’s greatest natural phenomenon – the Northern Lights.

NASA predicts 2012 will provide the best opportunity in 50 years to witness the aurora borealis.


Best for... creative endeavours Why go now? French street theatre company Royal de Luxe, who were responsible for halting London traffic in 2006 with their mechanical Sultan’s Elephant, hail from Nantes.

Their return to the UK when they bring their Little Girl Giant to Liverpool in April, is likely to ignite interest in this art-friendly French city.

Visit their permanent workshop Les Machines de I’lle, where you’ll find a carousel of fantastical creatures, and a replica of their famous elephant. Their carousel of underwater creatures will open this summer.

In 2012, the city will celebrate the final year of their Estuaire cultural festival, with more art installations popping up along the banks of the Loire estuary.

A first-class – and free – jazz festival, Rendez-vous de l’Erdre, also takes place at the beginning of September, with stages set up along and even floating in the river Erde.