Bhutan’s near neighbour is also on our to-do list this year, just as soon as the new Pakyong Airport begins operations in Gangtok. A former Buddhist kingdom tucked high in the eastern Himalayas, the Indian state of Sikkim has attractions to spare, from grand old monasteries and authentic cultural encounters to spellbinding views of Kanchenjunga, the world’s third-highest mountain. But getting here has always been an effort: the closest airport for now is a nail-biting, fourplus-hour drive away in West Bengal. The opening of Pakyong (a long-delayed project slated to begin service in the next few months) outside the cosmopolitan Sikkimese capital will improve access considerably, with direct flights to New Delhi and Kolkata. the-grid existence: there are no banks and ATMs, no supermarkets, and no mains electricity, with locals reliant on solar and wind energy. But that kind of isolation has its benefits. Last August, the entire island was declared the world’s third Dark Sky Sanctuary, and Resident Dark Sky Ambassadors now ply visitors with high-quality telescopes, binoculars, blankets, and bean bags for unforgettable stargazing sessions. By day, you can explore the 12,000-hectare Aotea Conservation Park, whose native flora and fauna—kauri trees, pateke ducks, and chevron skink lizards—flourish in an environment free from invasive species. Feeling ambitious? Opt for a three-day trek along the 25-kilometer Aotea Track, which was reopened in 2016.