19 Dec Where to go in 2014? Seven Magic Places to Inspire your Travels
[pullquote]Where to go? What to do? The world is too big and awesome…[/pullquote]
No matter if it’s only a few days vacation or a longer journey, even seasoned travellers are constantly looking for travel ideas and inspiration.
Having had the privilege of visiting many countries over the last few years and shared my most memorable experiences, I thought about drawing up a very personal list of best travel destinations for 2014.
Albeit there’s no place in the world which is not worth seeing, time and budget are more often than not driving our decisions. Not sure where to go in 2014? These seven awesome destinations will hopefully provide you with some travel inspiration.
Italy: Basilicata, the taste of authenticity
No worries if you’ve never heard about this Italian region: it is little known by Italians as well. Its isolation and the fact that Basilicata is seldom on the travellers’ radar is what makes it so special.
Here a lot of traditions have been preserved and you’ll taste authentic Italy.
Don’t miss breathtaking Matera (a UNESCO WHS), pretty Maratea and the short wild stretch of coast on the Tyrrhenian Sea. Above all, get lost in the enchanting hilltop villages like Castelmezzano or the fascinating ghost town of Craco, stop at a bar where you’ll see the locals in their daily life.
Pros: Italy as you don’t expect. Apart from Matera and Maratea, you’ll see few tourists.
Cons: A car is a must since public transport is poor. In the small villages only a few people speak English but they’ll welcome you warmly.
The Gambia: Colors and traditions of Western Africa
The smallest country in the continent caught my heart with its colours and traditions. In The Gambia you’ll get a taste of real Western Africa, especially at the markets (a must-see is Tanji Fish Market) and in the villages.
If you have the chance, don’t miss to spend a couple of days at the enchanting Mandina Lodge, in one of the overwater bungalows overlooking the river and the Makasutu Forest. Wild and isolated, it’s a bird-watching paradise and the perfect spot to relax.
Pros: Affordable destination and authenticity. Many interesting excursions and visits can be easily organised at hotels and resorts.
Cons: The Gambia is not yet well connected with all main European cities.
Switzerland: Scenic Jungfrau Region
All right, I am biased having grown up in a country that will always hold a special place in my heart but Switzerland is truly gorgeous.
If you like mountains and scenic train journeys, you’ll fall in love with the Jungfrau region, the superb views on the glaciers and the countless enchanting hikes. The ride with the Jungfrau Bahn to the Jungfrau Joch is one of the most scenic in Europe, but don’t miss as well (in late spring/summer) the journey to Schynigge Platte with the historical train, up to one of the loveliest landscapes in the Alps.
The Jungfrau Region is one of the most touristic areas of Switzerland but if you like hiking you can easily find beautiful trails where you won’t meet more than a handful of people. Interlaken and Grindelwald offer plenty of accommodations options and are both perfectly located to explore the region. And if you prefer smaller and quieter villages, there are plenty nearby.
Pros: Very well organised, easy to travel even by public transport.
Cons: Undoubtedly expensive. The Jungfrau is beautiful but very touristy. Expect to meet a lot of Chinese (but there are plenty of places with far fewer people).
France: Provence, a region to experience with the 5 senses
It may not come as a surprise, but Provence is an area so rich in culture, traditions and lovely landscapes that it’s the classic destination where one could go time and again.
If you happen to go in Late June-July, don’t miss the countryside and the purple lavender fields, enjoy the many enchanting villages like Aurel, Roussillon, Menerbes, have a short and easy hike along the ochre trail, amidst a stunning scenery in what is often called the ‘Provence Colorado’.
Pros: Perfect for any kind of travellers (couples, families) and a wide range of activities and interests
Cons: You’ll need your own car to explore the region.
South Africa: Wild and vintage Free State
There’s more to South Africa than Cape Town, the Garden Route and the Kruger Park. Indeed, it’s one of the most varied countries I ever visited and there’s a lot to discover by going off the beaten path.
Often overlooked, the Free State is a province where you’ll find little packaged tourism and a lot of locals.
The pretty village of Clarens, nicknamed ‘The Jewel of the Free State’, has become the town of the artists and is filled with art galleries and quaint little shops.
Surrounded by beautiful mountains and very close to the Golden Gate Highlands National Park, Clarens is a perfect spot for horse-riding, hiking, fishing, white water rafting and more.
Pros: Off-Beaten and mostly visited by locals, wide range of activities
Cons: You definitely need a car to go around. Being a popular destination for people living in Johannesburg or Bloemfontein, Clarens can be rather busy during the weekends.
Italy: Forget Tuscany and discover Emilia-Romagna
Don’t get me wrong: Tuscany is gorgeous. However, Florence, Siena, Pisa and a good part of the countryside have become so popular that they’re packed with tourists at almost any season and many areas have fatally lost part of their authenticity.
In Emilia-Romagna you’ll find a more genuine atmosphere and so many awesome places to visit and things to that you won’t know where to start from. Don’t miss beautiful and vibrant Bologna, the unique Byzantine mosaics of Ravenna, the charming Modena. Wander up the hills and stop at one of the many pretty towns. Most of all, don’t miss to taste the food, as Emilia-Romagna is a true gastronomic paradise and home to some of the best Italian specialties.
Pros: Well connected by public transport (train), often cheaper than Tuscany, genuine atmosphere.
Cons: Food is so good you’ll have to go on a diet at the end of your trip.
Venezuela: The kingdom of waterfalls
I seldom read or hear about Venezuela as a travel destination although it’s a wonderful country.
Home to the Salto Ángel (Angels Falls), the highest waterfall in the world, I remember water as the dominant characteristic of Venezuela. Water in the stunning Canaima lagoon, water in the Orinoco delta, waterfalls in the Gran Sabana and the turquoise water of Los Roques, a Caribbean little gem.
Pros: The most beautiful areas are wild and remote, and incredibly well preserved since many are in National Parks.
Cons: Venezuela is a dangerous country and you have to be very cautious, avoiding to show any valuables while you travel.