21 places you want to visit in 2014

2014-01-06 14:06
2013 was a record year for travel as more than 4 million people crossed SA borders during the December holiday period and globally more than 1 billion tourists went exploring.

And it seems 2014 is set to be even better. So what destinations should you have on your radar for the New Year?

We combed internationally acclaimed sites such as Lonely Planet, Frommers, The Guardian and Travel+Leisure to mention a few – as well as adding in a few of our own recommendations - to bring you a round-up of destinations we think deserving of your downtime in 2014.

Take a look and if you have a few must-visit suggestions of your own – drop us a line at info@news24travel.com

1. Cape Town, South Africa

We are exceptionally proud that Cape Town made a number of 2014 must-visit destination lists – also consider this: Cape Town is one of the top 10 destinations generating interest among the StumbleUpon community of more than 30 million users – and there really has never been a better time to visit. Acting as the World Design Capital for 2014 – the city is awash with edgy boutiques, independent galleries, and forward-thinking restaurants - so expect a year packed with more than 450 events. Second only to Qunu, the city is also the most opportune destination to pay tribute to the late Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s anti-apartheid struggle hero and first democratically elected president.

2. Berlin, Germany

The German capital will celebrate the 25th anniversary of the removal of the much-maligned Berlin Wall – which divided the nation for nearly three decades.  For those wanting an idea of what it was like to live in the time of the wall, head to The Bernauer Strasse section in the city’s north for a pinhole view. In stark contrast, the East Side Gallery serves as an art exhibit of colourful and in some cases provocative murals showcasing modern life.  Expect a multitude of commemorative events and exhibitions throughout 2014, culminating in November, in honour of a "World Without Walls".

3. Brazil

For those who want a bit of soccer with lashings of jungle on the side, head to Manaus, Brazil. The 2014 FIFA Soccer World Cup will offer this thrilling opportunity as Team USA and team England play opening round matches in the Amazonian capital - whose charm lies in its location on the brink of one of earth’s last great unknowns. Otherwise, head to Rio where the hotly anticipated final match will play out. In preparation for the global scrutiny, since Rio will also host the Summer Olympic Games in 2016, tourists can expect a flush of new amenities and activities to experience.
4. Sochi, Russia

Sochi is set to host the 2014 Winter Olympics - but the destination is really quite temperate for most of the year, with its Black Sea waters said to be warm and swimmable well into October. Described as the Russian Riviera, it was also a favourite retreat of Joseph Stalin. Visitors can tour the dictator’s austere 1937 dacha, still filled with his personal possessions. Also make a point to visit the 30-acre subtropical Dendrary Botanical Garden, with its roaming ostriches.

5. Nicaragua

Nicaragua is seen as a an emerging Central American destination, offering visitors a natural high with 18 volcanoes, rain and cloud forests, and world-class surfing. Called "the  Costa Rica of 30 years ago", this is a budget friendly escape, without the crowds and commercialism. While quite tumultuous during the revolution in the 1960s and '70s, Nicaragua is now considered the safest country in Central America. From volcano boarding down Cerro Negro to exploring the fascinating and colourful city of Grenada with its colonial-era treasures, it is sure to be top 2014 experience.

6. Zambia

An expanded international airport in Livingston is making the Victoria Falls region, home to one of the world’s new seven natural wonders more accessible.  With its abundant wildlife and adventure appeal, visitors to Zambia can indulge in anything from a walking safari tour to raw, adrenalin water-based adventures along the Zambezi River. A micro-light tour of the falls also comes highly recommended.

7. Indonesia

Up and coming Lombok is an artsy island where you can see locals dye fabrics using ikat techniques and craft decorative pots. Also home to the Sayang Sayang art market, visitors can shop for intricate rattan baskets and wooden boxes inlaid with pearl and filigree panels.  Bali is undoubtedly a traveller favourite when it comes to Indonesia. This warm-hearted, gracious city is believed to be one of the world's cheapest destinations to visit. Experience its rich culture from the exquisite flower-petal offerings placed everywhere to the processions that often shut down major roads as they march to one of the many temple ceremonies. A visit here makes it easy to get swept up in the other-worldly traditions of music and dance that are also performed island-wide.

8. Vietnam

Travelling from Hanoi in the north right down to Ho Chi Minh City in the south, you will discover Vietnam is sultry and exotic but also strangely, and quite paradoxically, a rather gentle destination. It overwhelms newcomers with the exuberant life pumping through its city veins, then immediately sets in to soothe with the abundance of tranquil, tropical beauty.  It’s clear that Vietnam has come a long way in providing its people with stability, peace and enough to eat, despite still being a one-party socialist state. In turn, the locals seem blessed with a rare type of gratitude that translates directly into that one thing we're all so desperately seeking - contentment.

9. Bangkok, Thailand

 More than 15 million tourists visited Bangkok, making it the most visited destination for tourists in 2013.  And it is surely set to continue in 2014 as visitors lap up its centuries-old temples, modern nightlife and restaurants, and incredible food – and it is quite affordable too.  Whether you’re sampling from the street vendor or an expensive upmarket restaurant, the food in Bangkok is undoubtedly another one of its draw cards.    

10. Cuba

Travel to Cuba is on the increase, with more charters now servicing the destination. Grab a mojito and puff on a Cuban if you dare as you take in Afro-Cuban rhythms or salsa the night away. Otherwise head for the sloping tropical foothills of Trinidad, a time-trapped Unesco World Heritage Site – filled with architectural and decorative wealth from the 19th century. Or frolic along Cayo Guillermo’s Pilar Beach, named after Ernest Hemingway's yacht, the cabin cruiser Pilar. The island was the setting for the climax of Hemingway's last novel Islands in the Stream and is also home to four all-inclusive resorts located on its north side.

11. Hong Kong, China

One of the most striking characteristics about a visit to Hong Kong is the intertwined experience of the exotic and technically advanced. Its skyline is pin-pricked with towering buildings which are remarkably built with bamboo scaffolding and in accordance with the principles of feng shui. Here you'll find some of the most sophisticated restaurants in the world, but its street-side food stalls are also in a league of their own. While you can visit one of the world's largest shopping malls, its lively makeshift street markets are also not to be missed.

12. Great Barrier Reef, Australia

The Great Barrier Reef is the world's largest coral reef system composed of over 2 900 individual reefs and 900 islands stretching for over 2 600 kilometres. This scuba-diving wonderland is teeming with colourful marine life, including whales, dolphins, sea turtles, and more than 1 500 fish species but overfishing, over boating, pollution, and climate change have made it an endangered experience – forcing a responsible tourism decision if you do decide to go.

13. India

The vibrancy of India’s cities and culture make it an incredible place to visit. If anything its festivals and trend-setting cuisine all the way through to its exotic bhangra - which has over 60 variations in the northern country alone - are reason enough to explore this Asian destination. India is also a spiritual place as many come to learn yoga, meditate or spend time at an ashram. Experiencing an evening aarti (fire worship) along the Ganges River is both refreshing and cleansing for the soul.

14. New York

The appeal of the Big Apple is timeless. Visiting during 2014 allows for a pilgrimage of sorts to the new National September 11 Memorial Museum, which will be dedicated to the memory of the nearly 3 000 people who died at Ground Zero in Lower Manhattan. It’s definitely not one of the cheaper destinations but visiting on a budget is not entirely out of the question as the city has a number of free attractions, including Central Park, the African Burial Ground in Lower Manhattan and a tour of the Brooklyn Breweries.
15. Latvia

This North East European country has just become the 18th member of the Euro Zone marking its closer integration with the EU, yet the loss of the currency also means losing a cherished symbol of its sovereignty. Described as Europe’s un-trodden jackpot, the currency change might mean high prices as well as an increase in tourists – so best visit as early in 2014 as possible. Head to Riga, with its pumping nightlife and art nouveau scene, if you need to keep things upbeat during your escape. Otherwise its historic villages frozen in time, such as Sigulda and Jurmal with its crumbling castles, are where you will discover a slower pace. Charming resorts await you if you decide to venture towards its edge along the Baltic Sea.

16. Glasgow, Scotland

Summer 2014 is set to go down in history as the Summer of Scotland. Edinburgh is the annual festival capital but this year Scotland will play host to the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, while the world-famous Ryder Cup returns to Scotland's Gleneagles, north of Edinburgh for only the second time in its history. And in the middle of the year the country officially opens the John Muir Way, a coast trail that cuts across the country and is named after the Scottish-born man whose efforts inspired the national parks system in the US.

17. Fiji

This island of Melanesia in the South Pacific Ocean is a beach-bum nirvana – as very little is required to enjoy true holiday bliss. You’re basically set with just your swim suit and sunscreen. And while its beaches are undoubtedly its main attractions, don’t forget there is an entire tropical island to explore and a few dunes for some extreme sand boarding too. Another top nature factor has to be the mud pools and hot springs. This is certainly one of the top relaxation destinations for 2014.

18. Croatia

Croatia’s old-fashioned charm and glamour has made it a must-visit European destination for a number of years now. Gorgeous beaches found along the Adriatic coast, historic architecture coupled with UNESCO World Heritage Sites only add to the destination’s appeal.  With its more than 20 summer festivals, Croatia is a budget-friendly rival to most Mediterranean destinations.

19. Canada

Canada is set to mark the nation's 150th birthday in 2017 but celebrations will be kicking off as early as 2014. It begins with the sesquicentenary of the 1864 Confederation Conference in Charlottetown — nicknamed the “Birthplace of Confederation” and visitors can plan around a 68-day party zone, beginning July 1. Other cities set to add to the merriment include Quebec City and Winnipeg with its Canadian Museum for Human Rights scheduled to open on September 20. Alberta's cave and basin historical site is sheer Canadian magic with more than 100 000 visitors annually, while Toronto will host World Pride, the first time the event is being celebrated in North America and the last one until 2017 in Madrid, Spain.

20. Botswana

Botswana’s Okavango Delta is an easy escape for South Africans, especially those who want to make the most of the fascinating and unique wildlife found along the world’s largest delta – formed as a result of the Okavango (Kavango) River flowing into the Kalahari Desert. Beyond that, since Botswana is largely a wilderness, making your way around does require some effort - but Chobe is a good base from which to explore, making a day-trip to Zambia or Namibia’s Zambezi region entirely doable.

21. Japan

The cities of Tokyo and Osaka often garner the most attention but certain smaller towns will definitely be experiencing a tourism boom as the first of the long-anticipated Hokuriku shinkansen (bullet trains) are set to roll in March 2015.  Before the increase in foot traffic, and assuming you have the time for the longer journey, experience these towns for its deep-seated culture and history. Hokuriku, bordered by the Sea of Japan and the magnificent Japan Alps, is strikingly beautiful while the city of Kanazawa is second only to Kyoto for its population of authentic working geisha. The city's Kanazawa Castle and Kenroku-en, one of Japan’s finest gardens, also make for remarkable photographic opportunities.
Read more on:    good news  |  travel south africa  |  lifestyle  |  travel international

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