Beat the January blues by planning a holiday. Sarah Marshall provides some inspiration with a look at some of this year’s most popular destinations.
SPRING might still be a couple of months away but many people are already planning their summer holidays.
The question is where to go? Yorkshire, of course, has become a top place to visit for 2014. But if you’re looking to venture beyond the confines of God’s Own Country there are no shortage of options.
Britons looking for bargain breaks should head for Bali, the cheapest of the many destinations where the pound has strengthened against local currencies, according to a Post Office Travel Money survey.
The Indonesian island was rated the best-value destination where a basket of typical holiday items cost just £31 compared with £115 in Auckland in New Zealand – the most expensive destination surveyed.
If you want somewhere different, here are the top 10 trending destinations;
With the Tour de France 2014 starting in Yorkshire in July, thousands of visitors are set to descend on the regions rolling Dales and historic market towns. So it’s no wonder Lonely Planet has named David Hockney’s favourite stomping ground as a place to go in 2014. The only surprise is that it’s taken the rest of the world so long to realise what a great place it is.
Connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, the Panama Canal was an epic feat of engineering which dramatically changed maritime trade when it opened in 1914. This year’s centenary is a good excuse to visit the central American country, with less tourist resorts than neighbouring Costa Rica but sharing similar flaura and fauna.
Twenty years ago, Rwanda hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons. But two decades on, this small country in the heart of Africa has become a conservation success story. Tracking a fragile but slowly increasing population of mountain gorillas on the slopes of the mist-shrouded Volcanoes National Park is on every wildlife lover’s bucket list, while further south, chimpanzees can also be spotted in the Nyungwe National Park.
Peace and calm now reigns in the beautiful countryside, a world far removed from the horrors sensitively documented in Kigali’s Genocide Memorial Centre.
4) Toledo, Spain
Nicknamed “the Greek” after his Cretian origins, 17th century artist El Greco spent most of his life working in Spanish city Toledo. He was hailed as paving the way for the Expressionism and Cubism movements and to commemorate the 400th anniversary of his death, the whole country is gearing up for a series of events, including major exhibitions of his works in Toledo (from March to June).
5) Chengdu, China
According to the United Nations World Tourism Organisation, China is set to become the most popular tourist destination in the next seven years. One of the big attractions is an opportunity to see the country’s native bamboo-munching Giant Pandas. While it’s extremely difficult to spot these passive creatures in the wild, breeding and research centres in Chengdu allow close encounters with the black and white bears.
6) Eastern Sicily
Tourism has been bubbling away in eastern Sicily for some years, but it’s popularity is set to explode – especially since Mount Etna, Europe’s largest active volcano, was added to Unesco’s World Heritage List last year.
Economic improvements and a safer environment have enticed visitors to return to the wildlife-rich parks of Zimbabwe. With very competitive rates and a number of new lodge openings, numbers of visitors are steadily increasing.
8) Austin, Texas
Famous for its live music scene, with bands playing nightly along Sixth Street and festivals such as South By Southwest and Austin City Limits taking place every year, this hip Texan city is buzzing with excitement. Spend days scouring quirky shops and hanging out in cafes, or exploring the State Capitol building – apparently bigger than the one in Washington State.
In the capital Reykjavik highlights include the Skogafoss waterfall and Blue Lagoon thermal baths, while further north is the second city Akureyri and the stunning Westfjords.
10) South America
With the spotlight on Brazil for the year’s World Cup (June 12 to July 13) South America is on everyone’s radar. Stay in Rio de Janeiro, where city, beach and jungle overlap, or venture further south to Argentina and admire the style and elegance of Buenos Aires.