The African country where the second largest diamond in the world was recently found is itself a jewel. Botswana celebrates fifty years of independence and may call itself the best governed country on the continent. With a democracy, a growing economy, little corruption and a smart nature policy. Admission prices for parks are high, but the wildlife parks remain quiet, and foresters still receive their salaries. Go through canoe through the animal-rich Okavango Delta and ignore those mirages in the salt desert.
Strange, that India attracts fewer foreign tourists than, say, a country like the Netherlands. While the subcontinent has a lot to offer: from colorful Hindu festivals to taciturn yogis, from hyper cities to steamy jungles. The government of Prime Minister Modi opens up the borders and makes remote areas more accessible to foreigners. The costly and lengthy visa procedure has recently been simplified. Book quickly, because the number of visitors has risen sharply since then.
Rotterdam gets praise for hip high-rise buildings, but you do not have to catch the train to the Shark Beak. Go to Rotterdam for the frayed edges. At the Hofplein, in the Schieblock, there is department store GROOS, with Rotterdam fashion, design, art, music, literature, film, delicacies and lifestyle. BAR street food serves next door. When the weather is nice, go to Biergarten. Then cross the yellow Luchtsingel to the former Hofplein station for jazz club BIRD, espresso bar LOKAAL and Restaurant De Jong.
Take the bridge to Katendrecht at Hotel New York. Theater and Canteen Walhalla form the cultural magnet. Prefer a pinball machine? Then to the Dutch Pinball Museum. In the Fenix Food Factory, a market hall, the Cape Brewers traditionally serve beers.
Nowhere in Italy is life as good as in Bolzano, concludes business newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore in the standard of living index. The OECD also praises the town for its safety and high-quality employment. The mostly German-speaking residents combine southern flair and Teutonic solidity in a smart way. Tourists also appreciate the clean air, the refined food and the unobstructed view of the Dolomites while drinking a Campari.
You do not immediately think of Slovenia when it comes to summer holidays in the Alps. While Austria offers so many alpine pleasures: where else can you rent a lonely log cabin on the alp, wander through dense forests or paddle over wild mountain rivers. The Slovenians speak English better than Austrians, French and Italians, and charge a lot less for their famous bratwurst or good wine.
The third city of the US wants to get rid of its reputation as a freezer cabinet and gangster city. Because the opposite is true: after the frosty winter the friendly inhabitants celebrate their sultry summer. At tables on the street, on city beaches and on high roof terraces. Chicago is just warm and sympathetic. According to Trip Advisor, the Art Institute of Chicago is the best museum in the world. Have a picnic in Millenium Park, adventure food in the suburbs and swim laps in Lake Michigan.
Expensive and far, many Dutch think about a holiday in Japan. But the price of a dinner plate or jeans is comparable to Western Europe. Only the food is better and the shops are nicer. Domestic distances shrink thanks to new flash train connections. From the end of March you will flash to the northern island of Hokkaido. There you ski in the driest powder snow in winter and walk past mountain lakes and lavender fields in summer. Province capital Sapporo is a relaxed city – for Japanese standards.
The most beautiful natural parks in the world are in the US: with bison sweeping through the snow in Yellowstone, to alligators in the steaming Everglades. The National Park Service celebrates its centenary this year and hopes for extra billions of dollars to eliminate all overdue maintenance. Book a camping spot on a misty lake five months in advance, hang your food in a tree (against the bears), and light your campfire. Chances are you will cherish this experience forever.
Climate change makes it easier to visit Greenland. Relatively, because the largest island in the world has hardly any roads. You rely on planes, helicopters and ships, which makes traveling expensive (and quite polluting). But the temperatures in the short arctic summer are good, and you can see magical things. The majestic icebergs of Ilulisat, colorful Inuit villages, the Viking ruins in the south. You can walk across the tundra, kayaking through the fjords, whale watching at sea.
Iran is no longer a pariah, and the overwhelming majority of the population is happy that people come from outside to see how they really are. ‘So they can see that we are not monsters,’ was a common statement on terraces during a recent visit. Whoever seeks culture and adventure, and wants to take in beautiful stories, has to go to the huge country in West Asia. It is a leap into the unknown, but you will wallow in a warm bath of hospitality and kindness. On glittering bazaars and in lively coffee houses, you connect conversations that make your image of Iran tipping over. The country offers an exuberant culture and history; from the mosques in Isfahan to the gardens of Shiraz and the ruins of Persepolis. The Islamic Republic is safe, affordable and bursting with experiences that will keep you alive.