Each year we look forward to planning our own travels and since we’ve got a community of readers that love to live a life of adventure, just like us, we know you do too! So we present to you 14 places to go in 2014. From our line up of postcard perfect beach getaways to baseball fields with a curse, these destinations are culturally rich, inspiring, and exciting right now.
Asia’s smallest state is scattered over 1200 islands in the Indian Ocean and is the world’s lowest lying country with a high point of just 2.4 meters. As sea levels continue to rise, the island nation has a real possibility of disappearing in the next 20 years. Tourism is essential to the future of the Maldives and many of the resorts, each inhabiting their own island, are environmentally and socially responsible. Anantara has a coral adoption program and their on-site marine biologists are working to repair reefs badly damaged in the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. With surreal sugary white sand beaches and water so clear you can see for miles, it’s no wonder the Maldives is on just about every Places to See Before You Die list.
When to go: The climate of the Maldives is dominated by monsoons and there is a wet monsoon and a dry monsoon season. The dry season is from December – April. The wettest month is September and the temperature hovers between 81 – 84°F year round.
How to get around: International flights arrive at Ibrahim Nasir International Airport in the capital of Malé. From Malé, tourists are shuttled to their resorts either via speedboat or sea plane transfer. Aside from the island capital, tourists are permitted only onto inhabited islands most likely occupied by a single resort in order to limit impact on the fragile environment and on the traditional communities.
Where to stay: Serene and luxurious Anantara Kihavah Villas on the Baa Atoll is an excellent Maldivian hideaway. With over water villas, you can relax in your own private pool or dive right off your dock to snorkel on the coral reef encircling the island. The resort has plenty of dining options, including an underwater restaurant, to keep your taste buds titillated for the duration of your stay.
Fun fact: The Baa Atoll is home to some of the richest waters in the Maldives and was declared a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve in 2012.
2. Bagan, Myanmar
Myanmar, formerly Burma, was only officially opened up to international tourists and journalists in 2011. Since, it’s been touted as the next big tourist destination, though Myanmar is definitely still rough around the edges. ATMs, previously either absent altogether or only available to locals, have popped up around the country and hotels are even offering wifi. Things are changing quickly and though it can be a bit tricky to get around, Myanmar is very worth the efforts to get an unfiltered look at Southeast Asia.
When to go: The best time to go to Myanmar is between November and February, when it is the driest and coolest.
How to get around: International flights are available to Mandalay or Yangon. There are trains, buses, and boats, and domestic flights all available to travel between Myanmar’s cities including Bagan. Domestic air carriers (as of 2013) still operate in an archaic fashion by simply confirming your ticket with an email. Air Bagan is able to accept payment via the internet, though make sure you have your confirmation printed out.
In Bagan, options are bicycle, e-bike, traditional horse and cart, or taxi. Not to be missed is ballooning over Bagan for a birds-eye view as the sun illuminates the stupas in shades of gold and pink.
Where to stay: Blue Bird Bagan Hotel is located at the edge of New Bagan and the archeological site. The rooms are spacious and luxurious and there’s even a lovely on-site pool and restaurant. The hotel also has bicycles and e-bikes for rent or can arrange a horse cart to get around.
What to eat: Burmese curries are rich and flavorful. Vegetable curries, like pumpkin or eggplant, are particularly delicious.
Cultural tip: Despite the hot weather, even in the “cooler” months, shorts are not acceptable attire. Pants are preferable or pick up a longhi as a souvenir and to wear. Shoes also must be removed when entering temples, so flip flops are easiest.
Fun fact: When you think of wine-making, Southeast Asia probably doesn’t even come to mind. But wine-making is a popular industry in Myanmar. You’ll find Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and Inle Valley White Wine as some of the most popular.
3. Berlin, Germany
2014 marks the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Without warning, on the night of November 9th, 1989 the people of East Germany brought down the wall in a peaceful revolution. Visit Berlin plans to celebrate the anniversary with a year full of exhibitions and events, culminating on November 9th with the entire 7.5 mile length of the Berlin Wall marked with illuminated helium balloons.
When to go: There are plenty of events and exhibitions planned all year long. Take a look at the Visit Berlin Calendar of Events to plan your trip. Of course, November will be a fascinating time of celebrations of the anniversary.
How to get around: Berlin has an excellent subway, tram, and bus system that is easy to use and navigate the city. Download this subway map app for iPhone to help you plan your route between stations. You can also take a tour of Berlin in a Trabi, Germany’s signature vehicle for a unique way to see and experience Berlin!
Where to stay: Feel like a local and rent a holiday apartment! We loved this Go With Oh apartment in the chic Schöneberg disctrict. The apartment is a short walk away from the subway and great international restaurants.
What to eat: Currywurst is the staple fast food in Berlin. There’s even a museum dedicated to the history of it! My favorite currywurst stand was located at the Zoologischer Garten S-Bahn stop.
Insider tip: Adam, who calls Berlin home and publishes the hip blog Travels of Adam, says “One of my favorite things to do in Berlin is also a great way to get an amazing and unique souvenir from your holiday. Step inside one of the retro Photoautomats scattered across the city and get your photo taken for just €2. I’m partial to the one at the corner of the Warschauer Strasse bridge and Revaler Strasse — it’s always crowded and fun. You might have to queue up but it’s totally worth it and makes a great keepsake.” Check out more of Adam’s tips in 35 Unique Things to Do in Berlin.
Iceland is nothing like its name would imply. This North Atlantic island with temperamental weather is a land of gargantuan fjords, spectacular waterfalls, black sand beaches, and glorious glaciers. The economic situation in Iceland has made it more affordable over the last few years and travelers can even stopover in Iceland’s capital on their way to or from Europe for up to five days at no additional charge with Icelandair. Tick some of the on-set locations from Hollywood blockbusters like The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and tv shows like Games of Thrones off your travel bucket list while exploring the incredibly beautiful landscapes!
When to go: The “tourist season” in Iceland is May – August, but head to Iceland at the beginning of September. It’s shoulder season, so the tourists have gone and prices for flights and accommodations are a bit lower. Plus, it’s still light enough to for longer hikes or driving the Ring Road, yet you also have the chance to spot Northern Lights.
How to get around: International flights arrive at Keflavík International Airport. Icelandair offers travelers the option to stopover in Iceland for up to 5 days for no additional fee and with service to Iceland from Boston, New York-JFK, Seattle, Denver, Minneapolis/St. Paul (seasonal), Washington, D.C. (seasonal) Orlando Sanford (seasonal), Halifax (seasonal) and Toronto (seasonal), this is a great deal!
Iceland doesn’t have a public transportation system to get between cities. You’ll either need to book onto tour buses or rent a car and do a self-drive tour of the island. We recommend the self-drive and car rentals are affordable with SADcars. Check out our self-drive itineraries for The Golden Circle and the Reykjanes Peninsula.
Where to stay: Most visitors to Iceland make the capital city Reykjavik their home base for their stay in Iceland, though we highly recommend planning enough time to see the entire island. Every type of accommodation from luxury hotel suites to guest houses is available, including our favorites – Icelandic farm stays. Check out our guide Where to Stay in Iceland for a full list of our recommendations all around Iceland.
What to eat: Icelandic cuisine is a combination of the weird and the wonderful. Skip the Hákarl (Iceland’s Viking dish of fermented shark), but be sure to gorge yourself on Skyr (similar to yogurt), geyser bread baked in the ground, and Arctic char.
5. St. Maarten
Known as the Friendly Island, Saint Maarten/Sint Martin is a truly unique Caribbean gem. Full of European flair and Caribbean charm, the island is a dual-nation with Saint Maarten the Dutch side and Sint Martin the French side. With only a welcome sign separating the two sides, it’s the smallest island in the world shared by two nations. Most visitors arrive by cruise ship, which is a shame because they miss the much larger and less populated French side.
When to go: The best months to visit St. Maarten are in May and June or between November and mid-December. Rain is less likely during these times and you’ll find some of the best hotel rates.
How to get around: International flights arrive at Princess Juliana International Airport. Car rentals are extremely affordable and give travelers the flexibility to circumnavigate the 37-sqaure mile island. Public buses do traverse both sides of the island and taxis are also available.
Where to stay: The boutique Grand Case Beach Club is located on a stretch of unspoiled Sint Martin beach on the less populated French side. It’s close to many of our favorite St. Maarten beaches and is near the excellent restaurants of Grand Case and Marigot.
What to drink: The legendary island folk liqueur was produced in private homes for centuries and made from the rare guavaberries only found of St. Maarten. Today, the Guavaberry Emporium on Front Street in the Dutch capital, Philipsburg produces the delicious rum. Try it in a guavaberry colada with your toes in the sand!
Even though he was urged not to go to Sarajevo, Archduke Franz Ferdinand didn’t listen. On June 28, 1914 – nearly a century ago – Franz Ferdinand was assassinated as he rode across the Latin Bridge in an open top car with his wife Sophie. Gavrilo Princip not only fired the shot that killed both the archduke and his wife, he pulled the trigger on World War I.
Sarajevo has endured through three devastating wars, was called the world’s most dangerous city during the ’90s, and has rebuilt. It is now one of Europe’s safest capital cities and managed to maintain so much of its character.
When to go: May – September is the nicest time of year to visit Europe, but it is also the busiest. Come during shoulder season in April or October when the weather is nice and the tourists have yet to arrive.
How to get around: Sarajevo is an extremely walkable city, though there is a network of public transportation to get around.
Where to stay: The Halvat Hotel is just steps away from the heart of Sarajevo and the Baščaršija, Sarajevo’s oldest bazaar. The gorgeous apartment-like rooms are very affordable and will leave you feeling more like a local than a hotel guest.
What to buy: Coppersmithing dates back to 1489. Wander the Coppersmiths Street and you can still see the craftsmen making coffee sets, jewelry, and platters.
Cultural tip: Join a Sarajevo Insider Tunnel Tour. The tours are lead by guides that were children living in Sarajevo during the siege. You’ll truly get an insider perspective to what life was like.
Wrigley Field celebrates its’ 100th birthday in 2014 and the city is promising Cubs fans the party of the century, all baseball season long. The official 100th birthday will be celebrated April 23rd vs. the Arizona Diamondbacks. Of course, there’s more to Chicago than baseball. From tours for chocoholics to getting your Jurassic Park on at the Field Museum, there’s something for everyone.
When to go: July is a great month to visit Chicago. The Taste of Chicago is a fun and delicious food festival happening July 9 – 13, 2014 and you can catch the Cubs vs. Atlanta Braves series.
How to get around: Chicago has an excellent public transportation system with the El and buses. There is also a free trolley that operates from Memorial Day to Labor Day and runs with 16 stops between Navy Pier and State Street.
Where to stay: Soaring high above Michigan Avenue, Trump Hotel Chicago has views of the river and lake. It’s also one of just ten hotels in the world to receive the prestigious Forbes five-star rating. Practically neighbor to Trump Hotel Chicago, The Langham is known for luxury and its Tiffin afternoon tea service, which first premiered in London in 1865.
What to eat: When in Rome…er, Chicago! Indulge in a cheesy, weighs as much as a brick, Chicago stuffed pizza. Tim grew up in the suburbs of Chicago and he recommends Giordano’s. It’s where we head for a pie when we’re in town.
Insider tip: Chicago is home to a plethora of BYOB restaurants. The policy saves restauranteurs from a lengthy wait for an expensive liquor license and gives you a more affordable way to enjoy your favorite bottle of wine with dinner. There’s something almost sinister feeling about pulling a brown bag wrapped bottle of wine out of your purse in a restaurant – like the adult version of sneaking candy in to the movie theater.
8. Moscow, Russia
Russia is gearing up to host the XXII Winter Olympic games in Sochi this February. While it’s been controversial for a number of reasons (Russia’s anti-gay bill and the recent bombings come to mind) and while Russia doesn’t make the visa process easy, Russia is perfectly safe and a pleasure to visit. Many American visitors opt for a Baltic cruise, sailing in to St. Petersburg for a shore excursion but missing Russia’s capital city. Moscow is home to one of the most beautiful metro systems in the world, the unique onion domes shooting like flames from St. Basil’s Cathedral, and the unbelievably beautiful architecture of the Kremlin.
When to go: It might sound insane, but winter in Russia is beautiful as snow dusts onion domes. And you can marvel at the incredibly chic Russia women as they strut down the icy streets in sky-high heels and furs.
How to get around: The Moscow Metro is not only one of the most beautiful in the world, it’s incredibly easy to use. Fast, efficient, and well connected, you’ll love touring the underground palaces as you traverse the city on the Moscow Metro. Check out our tips to make using the Moscow Metro a breeze.
Where to stay: The luxe Lotte Hotel Moscow, the first of the Lotte Hotel chain outside of Asia, oozes opulence and romance right in the heart of Moscow. It’s also home to Moscow’s only three-starred Michelin chef in French inspired Les Menus.
What to buy: The Arbat is Moscow’s premier pedestrian shopping street for Russian souvenirs, but you may be put off the Chinese pedaling them. Instead, hop on the Moscow Metro and head to the Izmailovsky Market where traditional craftsmen sell lacquered boxes, hand-painted Russian nesting dolls, furs, and more. You can even practice your bartering skills.
9. Greek Islands
Every romantic envisions sipping wine while watching a famous Santorini sunset and lazing on an idyllic Greek beach. The economic crisis in Greece has made it more affordable than ever and with new low-cost carriers flying from mainland Europe to islands like Mykonos and Santorini, the Greek Islands are easier to reach than ever.
When to go: The best time to visit the Greek Islands is from May – October. Come November, many of the hotels close up for the season.
How to get around: The cheapest way to reach the Greek Islands is to fly from the US to Western Europe and then take a budget flight on airlines like Volotea to any number of islands like Crete, Mykonos, or Santorini. Ferries are also very affordable to reach more off-the-beaten-path islands like Folegandros, which is easily reached in 1 – 2 hours via ferry from Santorini.
Where to stay: Enjoy spectacular sunset views from your own private balcony while enjoying your complimentary nightly bottle of wine at Astra Suites on Santorini or lounge around the infinity pool while donkeys nee-haw in the distance at Anemi Hotel Folegandros.
What to eat: Fishing is still a huge industry in Greece and you can enjoy the day’s freshest catches from family-owned restaurants right on the beach. Headed to Santorini? Don’t miss these 10 Things to Taste in Santorini.
Inspired by the stunning winter landscapes of Norway, Disney’s Frozen has been enchanting children and adults alike in theaters. But why not be enchanted by the frozen fjords, snow castles, and reindeer by taking a real-life epic journey to Norway? Head north to dog sled through the Lyngen Alps and then as night falls, let reindeer pull in in a sleigh under the stars and hopefully the Northern Lights!
When to go: In the Arctic, the days are very short but March – May are a great time to visit. You can enjoy sunshine and it still gets dark enough to experience the Northern Lights if solar and weather conditions are just right.
How to get around: Tromsø is easily reached on SAS and then public transport helps you easily get around the city. Book excursions like dog sledding, reindeer sledding, and Northern Lights chases with transport included.
Where to stay: Tromsø boasts itself as the Northern Lights capital and is a city still plenty big enough to offer something for everyone from the outdoor enthusiast to the ski bum to the museum lover. Rica Ishavshotel Tromsø offers stunning views looking out to the Arctic Cathedral.
What to eat: Reindeer are cute, but incredibly tasty too. Reindeer meat is actually incredibly lean, low in fat, and rich in vitamin B12. You’ll also find delicious cold water fish, king crab, and root vegetables like turnips. Don’t miss trying some of the berries only found in the Arctic like cloudberries and lingonberries.
Tourists flock to Thailand and the well developed tourism infrastructure makes it an excellent choice for travelers first visit to Southeast Asia. But there’s much more beyond the cities on the typical tourist path like Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Phuket. Head to the very north where Thailand, Myanmar, and Laos meet in what is called the Golden Triangle. You’ll be mesmerized by the Mekong, lush jungle, and hill tribes. You can even get a unique elephant experience learning the ways of the mahouts and working alongside Think Elephants International’s research team.
When to go: November – March is the dry season and temperatures are much more pleasant.
How to get around: The Golden Triangle is easily reached from Chiang Rai and you can find hourly flights on the budget carriers like Air Asia. Taxis are inexpensive and there are buses that run regularly from Chiang Rai to the Golden Triangle. Or you can have a truly Asian experience and rent a scooter to get around!
Where to stay: Imagine having breakfast as elephants trumpet in the grasslands below you or you own private dinner in a treehouse-like structure in the baby elephant camp. This is Anantara Golden Triangle, home to twenty-some rescued elephants and their mahouts.
What to buy: Visit the nearby hill tribes and watch the women as they weave beautiful scarves. Or visit the Don Sao market just across the Mekong River in Laos to purchase their special whiskey with cobras and scorpions in it.
What to drink: Try Black Ivory coffee, the most expensive coffee in the world. Elephants at the Golden Triangle help produce the coffee by eating some of the finest coffee beans from the hills. The beans are picked out of the elephant’s dung by mahout families, cleaned, and dried. Not too many people can say they’ve tried an elephant crap-uccino!
12. Italy’s La Maremma
Tuscany’s Maremma is Italy’s final frontier with unspoilt beaches so untouched and wild that red fox roam their shores while long horned cattle graze on the nearby plains. Here you’ll still find cowboys, known as butteri, and a stunning stretch of coastline while spectacular views to the nearby island of Giglio (where the Costa Concordia infamously sank in a disaster in 2012).
When to go: Some of the most spectacular hiking paths are only open from September through March and if you go in September, the temperatures are still warm enough to enjoy a dip in the Mediterranean.
How to get around: Maremma National Park is most easily accessible by car, though the nearest airports are Rome and Pisa. The train runs to Grosseto and then the local bus company RAMA takes visitors the remaining 15 minute drive to the Alberese Visitor Center.
Where to stay: The illustrious L’Andana hotel is in the heart of Maremma Nature Park and is fairytale like. Once a Medici villa where Grand Duke Leopold II and his court resided during the summer season, the estate with 33 rooms and suites will make you feel right at home with nature.
What to eat: Enjoy a bottle of Maremma Toscana and try the wild boar, which roam this area, at Agriturismo il Duchesco.
Croatia did join the EU in July 2013, but the official currency is still the kuna. Before Croatia can adopt the Euro, the country must reduce its’ budget deficit by about 1.5 million kuna. The European Central Bank projects Croatia will be approved for the Euro in 2016. That’s excellent news for travelers because it makes Croatia a very affordable European holiday.
When to go: Summer is a beautiful time to visit Croatia and take advantage of the lovely beaches that are far less crowded than that of its Italian neighbor.
How to get around: Applying for an international driver’s license at AAA is inexpensive and easy. Then rent a car and road trip around Croatia! You can also make use of Croatia’s ferries to access some of the islands like Hvar, the most population Croatian island.
Where to stay: There are a variety of accommodation options in Croatia with everything from luxury hotels to apartment rentals to guest houses. Split is an excellent central location to explore some of the islands on day trips and Split itself is a fun town to rent an apartment in for a few days. We recommend Villa Kate. House Sebalj in Grabovac is just 6 kilometers from Croatia’s most famous attraction, Plitvice Lakes. The Hilton Imperial Dubrovnik is an excellent location at the gates to the old town.
What to eat: Croatian cuisine is similar to that of coastal Italian cities. You’ll find amazing fresh seafood, delicious cured meats and cheeses, and in summer trying the roast suckling pig is a must! Check out these 10 Things to Taste in Croatia from our friend and foodie expert The Travel Bite.
What to drink: In Istria, visit Kabola Winery to try their Malvasia Amphora. This white wine still uses ancient vinification processes and is fermented in terracotta pots buried within their vineyard. It’s a rich white wine with tastes of raisins, dried figs, and hints of honey and cognac. It pairs wonderfully with the white truffles this region of Croatia is also famous for.
Budapest is still a best-value European destination for a city-break with low prices and a stable exchange rate. Renaissance and art-nouveau architecture provides a romantic backdrop to an increasingly hip destination. There is plenty to do for every kind of traveler from caving for the more adventurous to sipping Hungarian wines for the wine lover. Check out these Top 10 Things to Do in Budapest.
When to go: Budapest is lovely at any time of the year, though the fall colors are gorgeous and temperatures quite lovely in October.
How to get around: Budapest is an easily walkable city and for attractions a little further afield, Budapest has a a tram system. Castle Hill is also accessible by funicular.
Where to stay: The Intercontinental Budapest is located in the heart of the city and river view rooms have gorgeous views of the Chain Bridge and Castle Hill. Many attractions are within walking distance and a tram stops just steps from the hotel’s entrance.
What to eat: Hungarian food is hearty. Think goulash soup, stews, and game dishes like rabbit and goose leg. Budapest is also known for its delicious cakes; visit Cafe Ruszwurm, Budapest’s oldest confectionery that still operates as a coffee house to try some of the best cakes in the city.
What to drink: Spend an afternoon learning about Hungarian wines from sommelier and connoisseur Gábor Nagy at Faust Wine Cellar. You sip wines from all around the Eastern European country and probably go home with a few to enjoy while reminiscing on your trip.