5 U.S Travel Destinations!

The content of this post came from  ” The Huffington Post’

Planning a vacation in the US next year but aren’t sure where to go? After all, it’s a big place! For the fourth year running, our travel experts have scoured the States to make the decision a bit easier for you.

While Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2014 covers global must-sees, including Chicago and Texas, here we delve a bit deeper and showcase the top 10 places in the US that should be on travelers’ radars in the coming year. There’s something for all – beachcombers, nature lovers, beer aficionados, history buffs, road trippers, dice rollers – from every corner of the land. Whether quietly emerging destinations or perennial favorites, these places have new or timely angles that make them prime for visiting in 2014. So whatever your upcoming dream vacation, we’ve got some U-S-of-A inspiration for you. –Emily K Wolman, Editor-at-Large, Lonely Planet

  • 1. Grand Rapids & Lake Michigan’s Gold Coast
    Courtesy of Experience Grand Rapids
    Beach bums, beer lovers, and art enthusiasts agree: there’s a lot to love about western Michigan this year. Grand Rapids, Michigan’s second-largest city, was voted best beer city in the US by the national Beer Examiner blog in 2012 and 2013, and its beer-tourism revolution rages on. Over 25 craft breweries pour in the area, and events like Cool Brews Hot Eats and the Winter Beer Festival (both in February), and the Summer Craft Beer Festival (August), keep the city festive year-round. Hops aside, the secret about Grand Rapids’ fabulous art scene is getting out. In addition to the impressive blooms and Rodin sculptures in the Frederik Meijer Gardens, and the excellent Grand Rapids Art Museum housed in a cool LEED Gold certified building, Grand Rapids is home to the world’s largest art competition, ArtPrize, in which more than 1700 creatives display their masterpieces. A mere 30 miles away sprawls Lake Michigan’s Gold Coast, perhaps the USA’s most unexpected beach getaway. Some argue that these shores rival Hawaii’s and Southern California’s. Along 300 miles of seemingly endless beaches lie sugar-white dunes, wineries, antiquing, U-pick orchards and berry farms, cider houses, Hemingway haunts – you can even go surfing. In Michigan! So if you never thought you could head to the Midwest for a Cape Cod-esque beach vacation, think again.Our (and everyone else’s) top-pick alehouse is rock-n-roll Founders Brewing Company, while the lake’s Oval Beach wins for smoothest sands.Here is more information on how to explore Grand Rapids & the Gold Coast.

  • 2. Yosemite National Park, CA
    Courtesy of California Travel and Tourism/Christian Heeb
    Much to the world’s delight, after the national parks’ temporary closure due to the government shutdown in 2013, Yosemite’s majestic peaks, thunderous waterfalls, and flower-peppered subalpine meadows are welcoming visitors again. Relax under the gaze of the valley’s monolithic El Capitan and Half Dome, or attain stunning views by climbing to Inspiration Point and Yosemite Falls (North America’s tallest). The crowds thin – as does the air – as you penetrate the park’s pristine backcountry, where you can hike for months. And through summer 2014, the park and gateway communities will celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Yosemite Grant, signed by President Lincoln and a precursor to the modern National Park System. This milestone act was the first time a federal government set aside a piece of land purely for preservation by and for the people. Thanks, Abe!Haven’t been to Yosemite yet? Check out our perfect trip for first-timers.
  • 3. Boston, MA
    Courtesy of Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau.
    Hot on the heels of another Red Sox World Series win, in January 2014 Boston is hosting the 100th annual US Figure Skating Championships, where the US Winter Olympics team is determined. Come spring, the gaze of international sports fans – if not the world in general – will turn to the Boston Marathon. Despite concern that the bombings in 2013 would deter entrants from the 2014 race, this will be the second-biggest Boston Marathon ever, with 36,000 runners flooding the course. And once summer hits, the city’s usual festivities are in full swing: all sorts of festivals abound, beer gardens and restaurant patios overflow, and a thriving arts and entertainment scene keep Bostonians content as the humidity yields to stunning, vibrantly colored autumn. Year-round, the past is very much alive here: follow in America’s revolutionary founders’ footsteps on the Freedom Trail, stopping to imbibe a bit of history at the Bell in Hand Tavern, the oldest tavern in the USA.A favorite place to stay is the Omni Parker House, a historic hotel overlooking the Freedom Trail that has employed Malcolm X and Ho Chi Minh, and accommodated Charles Dickens and JFK.Our resident author offers up what’s new in Boston for 2014.

  • 4. Central Coast, CA
    California Travel and Tourism Commission
    Often dismissed as flyover country between San Francisco and Los Angeles, this surreally scenic stretch of the Pacific coast is California at its best. Laid-back beach towns, sea-hugging Hwy 1 (one of the USA’s most iconic roadways), cliff-top lookouts, hidden coves, sea lion colonies and other wildlife, fantastical Hearst CastleSpanish missions, pleasant weather (even if it’s foggy) and no crowds. Dip inland to the up-and-coming Paso Robles wine country for scenery rivaling Napaand Sonoma. Back to the coast, after gasping at the raw beauty and energy of the 100-mile stretch of craggy coastline that is Big Sur, stop at the world-renowned, eco-conscious Monterey Bay Aquarium, who celebrates their 30th birthday this year. (To beat the aquarium crowds, buy tickets in advance and arrive when the doors open. The jellyfish exhibit is otherworldly.)Outstanding farmers markets dot the coast. Check out Santa Barbara’s on Tuesday afternoons and Saturday mornings, and San Luis Obispo’s, which turns into a full-on street festival every Thursday evening.Here’s our ultimate Central California Coast road trip.

  • 5. The Jersey Shore
    Getty Images
    Perhaps the most famous and revered part of New Jersey is its sparkling shore.Stretching from Sandy Hook to Cape May, the coastline is studded with resort towns ranging from tacky to classy. Hurricane Sandy in 2013 and the more recent fire on the Seaside Heights boardwalk devastated the Shore; as the recovery efforts continue, the 2014 summer season will be an important one for local communities. So come embrace the kitsch and you’ll discover a coastal extravaganza filled with family fun: beaches, dunes, lighthouses, amusement rides, go-karts, funnel cakes, bike trails, fishing, shopping, galleries, and more. It’s mobbed in summer, but in spring and autumn you may find yourself wonderfully alone on the toe-kissing sands.Highlights include Wildwood, a kitschy slice of 1950s Americana and home to the state’s widest beach and the grand-daddy of Jersey Shore boardwalks. And of course, there’s the legendary, not-exactly-Vegas-but-kinda Atlantic City, whose famous 8-mile boardwalk was the first in the world. The fun ends at southernmost Cape May, with stunning Victorian architecture, sweeping beaches, and the only place in Jersey where the sun rises and sets over the water.Post-Sandy, Asbury Park’s downtown is getting a revamped, revitalized image. The Antique Emporium of Asbury Park has two levels of amazing finds.

Bahamas Best Dining Bets

Best Dining Bets

  • Sun and . . . (Nassau, New Providence Island; tel. 242/393-1205; www.sun-and.com) has made a comeback after being closed for many years. Once again, it is the leading independent choice on New Providence, serving a finely honed international cuisine. It’s a throwback to Nassau in its grand heyday. Originally built in the 1930s as a private residence, it lies in an upscale residential neighborhood east of Nassau’s center.
  • Moso (Wyndham Nassau Resort, Cable Beach, New Providence Island; tel. 242/327-6200; www.wyndhamnassauresort.com) is the island’s best Asian restaurant. Its well-trained staff has learned the secrets of the cuisines of the Far East, and they dispense an array of some of the best-known and tastiest dishes, including teriyaki specialties.
  • Bahamian Club (Atlantis, Paradise Island; tel. 242/363-3000; www.atlantis.com), a notch down from the superb Dune, is still one of the leading restaurants in The Bahamas — and our favorite at the sprawling mega-resort of Atlantis. Strictly upscale, it presents superb French and international cuisine against a backdrop evoking the British Colonial era.
  • Dune (One&Only Ocean Club, Paradise Island; tel. 242/363-2501, ext. 64739; www.oneandonlyresorts.com) is the most cutting-edge restaurant in Paradise Island/Nassau. It’s the creation of French-born restaurant guru Jean-Georges Vongerichten, the moving force behind several of New York City’s top dining spots. Everything that comes out of the kitchen benefits from a special touch — witness the chicken and coconut-milk soup accompanied by shiitake cakes.
  • Nobu (Atlantis, Paradise Island; tel. 242/363-3000; www.atlantis.com) has opened a branch of this celebrated Japanese restaurant in The Bahamas. It’s the island’s most-talked-about — and arguably its best, attracting a string of celebrities. The setting is glamorous, and the cuisine is top-rated, prepared with either market-fresh ingredients or exotic imported ingredients.
  • Mangoes Restaurant (Marsh Harbour, the Abacos; tel. 242/367-2366; www.mangoesmarina.com) serves up the best and most authentic Bahamian food in the Abaco chain. Visiting yachties and locals flock to this welcoming spot for its fine cuisine. Order a conch burger for lunch and then return in the evening for the catch of the day — straight from the sea and grilled to your specifications. The namesake mango sauce really dresses up a plate of grilled pork tenderloin.
  • The Landing (Harbour Island, Eleuthera; tel. 242/333-2707; www.harbourislandlanding.com), an attractive restaurant at the Harbour Island ferry dock, has awakened the area’s sleepy taste buds. Brenda Barry and daughter Tracy feed you well from a choice of international dishes, often prepared from recipes gathered during their world travels. Under mature trees in their garden, you can feast on delicious pastas, freshly made gazpacho, pan-fried grouper, or warm duck salad.
  • Rock House Restaurant (Harbour Island, Eleuthera; tel. 242/333-2053; www.rockhousebahamas.com), in the Rock House Hotel on increasingly chic Harbour Island, serves superb international cuisine. Its hip bodega aura evokes Miami, but it’s thoroughly grounded on the island. At lunch, you can get a rock-lobster sandwich; at night, the chefs display their culinary prowess with an array of satisfying dishes.

Bahamas Best Golf Courses

Best Golf Courses

  • New Providence Island – The main draw is the 18-hole Cable Beach Golf Club (tel. 242/677-4175; http://crystalpalacevacations.com). The oldest golf course in The Bahamas, this par-71 green was the private retreat of British expatriates in the 1930s. Today, it’s owned by Cable Beach casino marketers. Small ponds and water traps heighten the challenge, amid more than 5,901m (6,453 yd.) of well-maintained greens and fairways.
  • Paradise Island – Tom Weiskopf designed the Ocean Club Golf Course (tel. 242/363-2510; www.oneandonlyresorts.com), an 18-hole, par-72 course, and it’s a stunner. With challenges that include the world’s largest sand trap and water hazards (mainly the Atlantic Ocean) on three sides, the course has received praise from Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player. For the best panoramic ocean view — good enough to take your mind off your game — play the par-3 14th hole.
  • Grand Bahama Island – The Lucayan Country Club now boasts two separate courses. The Reef Golf Course (tel. 242/373-1333; www.ourlucaya.com), a sandy course with links-style greens designed by Robert Trent Jones, Jr., opened in 2000. The Bahamian press called it a bit like a Scottish course, “but a lot warmer.” The Lucayan Golf Course (tel. 242/373-1333; www.ourlucaya.com) is a well-respected, renovated, tree-lined course originally laid out in 1964. Both courses have 18 holes and a par of 72. Though they aren’t immediately adjacent, shuttle buses carry golfers from one course to the other at frequent intervals.
  • The Exumas – At long last, the Southern Bahamas has a world-class golf course: The Sandals Emerald Bay Golf Club (tel. 888/726-3257; www.sandals.com) opens onto Emerald Bay’s waters. The par-72, 18-hole course was designed by Greg Norman, who created 6 oceanfront holes. The course is challenging yet not daunting, so it appeals to golfers of various skill levels.

 

 

Jamaican’s well kept Secrets!

by Erica Walsh

amaica is the third-largest island in the Caribbean; studded with sensuous beaches, skyscraping mountains and lush landscapes, it’s a vacation destination for those in search of pure relaxation. But if you want to see the real Jamaica, throw away your guidebook, and take a few tips from us. These are Jamaica’s best-kept secrets.

 

Hidden Pirate History
A visit to Port Royal will open a treasure chest of the island’s hidden history. The city was a refuge and port for many of the real pirates of the Caribbean. Legendary men like Henry Morgan and Blackbeard made frequent stops at the city that used to be known as the “wickedest city on Earth.”

Every naughty pirate needed a place to repent, and St. Peter’s Church is believed to be Henry Morgan’s preferred location. The church has stood on the site since 1726 and is now regarded as a makeshift museum of the city’s seedy past. The church is open to visitors from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily and still offers a Sunday service.

Another region of the island with a mysterious attraction is the small village of Bath. With the help of a local guide, you can find one of the island’s oldest and most cherished secrets: natural healing springs. According to legend, a runaway slave discovered the Bath springs in 1690. The sulfur in the water is said to have therapeutic and restorative powers. The Bath Fountain Hotel is located on-site and features water pumped straight from the spring.

All-Inclusive Resorts
With stunning vistas at every turn, finding a beautiful place to stay in Jamaica isn’t a challenge. However, for the discerning traveler with a taste for luxury and a desire for ambience, there’s only one choice — the all-inclusive resort. These resorts take the worry out of travel and won’t break the bank; all the food, drinks and entertainment are available for one fixed price.

Breezes Resort in Montego Bay sits on 2,000 acres of prime oceanfront real estate. The secret world that makes Breezes more than just another beautiful all-inclusive? Its open-air circus. Swing with the greatest of ease and even learn to “make a catch” on the trapeze, or stay closer to land on the giant trampoline. These are activities you won’t find anywhere else on the island, and they are the perfect release for your inner-child. And we mean inner-child — Breezes is an adults-only resort.

Offering a completely different resort experience is Hedonism III. This resort is the party center of Jamaica and the Caribbean, encouraging guests to let loose and unleash their wild side. Everything that goes on at Hedonism III is kept a secret from outsiders — to get past the gate, you must be a guest. The resort is set on 15 acres at the eastern end of Runaway Bay, and its stunning views and beaches are the perfect setting for a lively (and slightly wicked) Caribbean vacation.

Eat, Drink and Be Merry
It’s no secret that jerk sauce is a culinary staple in Jamaica, but finding the best jerk the island has to offer can be a bit overwhelming. Jerk originated on the eastern-most part of the island near Boston Bay, and now the best can be found in a cluster of stands near Boston Bay Beach.

After a meal of jerk — whether it’s jerk sausage, shrimp, goat or chicken — there’s only one way to cool down your palate. In Jamaica the drink of choice is rum, and Appleton Estate is an icon in the rum world. Take a tour of the distillery just south of Montego Bay where rum has been brewed and blended since 1749. Tours are available Monday through Saturday between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. and include a rum-tasting and a complimentary bottle for each visitor.

With your belly full and a little rum flowing, it’s time to complete your irie mood with some reggae music. There’s no shortage of bars and restaurants featuring Jamaica’s official soundtrack, but for those wishing to hear the best of the best, head to the festivals. Check out a complete list ofJamaica’s year-round reggae fests.

To cap off the perfect insider trip to Jamaica, enjoy one of the island’s unique pleasures — rafting. For about $40, you and a friend can hop aboard a bamboo raft and enjoy a leisurely trip down one of Jamaica’s rolling rivers. Click here to learn about rafting on the Martha Brae River and to find out about the island’s number-one rafting attraction.The

Must see and visit, travel spots in Jamaica

Bob Marley Museum – Kingston

 

The Bob Marley Museum in Kingston details the life and achievements of Bob Marley, a reggae legend. Housed in the former home and recording studio of Bob Marley on Hope Road, the museum is the most frequently visited of all tourist attractions in Jamaica’s capital of Kingston. The guided, hour-long tour of the Bob Marley Museum provides insights into Bob Marley’s fascinating life and ends with a short film about the reggae superstar’s final days.
5. Blue Lagoon Jamaica

 

One of the most famous and stunning tourist attractions in Jamaica is the Blue Lagoon, a deep blue water hole fed by freshwater springs and connected to the sea by a narrow channel. The popular attraction is alsohome to the top-class Blue Lagoon Hotel. The Blue Lagoon Jamaica is famed for its intense blue and green colors, which ranges from azure to intense emerald and changes as the sun moves over it. The deep hue is caused by the depth of the lagoon: almost 200 feet (more than 50 meters). Blue Lagoon Jamaica is open to the public; anyone can make the journeyfrom nearby Port Antonio. Scuba diving in the crystal clear waters is an experience not to be forgotten. Another popular activity at Blue Lagoon Jamaica is taking a boat along the coast to nearby Monkey Island.
Jamaica is home to a stunning landscape and a culture deeply influenced by its African roots, Jamaica stands out among its Caribbean neighbors. Overone million visitors flock to Jamaica each year to frolic on its white sand beaches, snorkel in its crystal-clear waters, and climb up its cascading waterfalls. Happy vacation in Jamaica.

DUNNS RIVER FALLS TOURS

Dunns River Falls Tours: About

Dunns River Falls tours: our carefully selected tour guides meet you at the ferry terminal where you get off the ship. They take you on a 10 minute bus ride up to Dunn’s River Falls, on the way they explain some of the history of Jamaica and brief you on what to expect at the falls. They then take you down to the start of the falls where people may climb or for the less nimble just observe from the many landing stages.

Guests meet at the top of the falls and are then escorted back through the entrance avoiding the craft market.

If you have a few minutes during your Dunns River Falls Tours (recommended) ask for Mr. Brown, the dedicated gardener, for his special tour. With his big smile and quirky ways, have him show you his plantation garden. Learn about herbs and spices, and the old colonial history. With his quick wit and funny disposition you will thoroughly enjoy spending time with him.

Dunns River Falls tours Ocho Rios waterfall

When you are ready it’s a short walk back to the terminal or one of our staff can give you a lift back.

Moby Dick Tours looks forward to you having a hassle free Dunn’s River Jamaica experience. We hope you enjoy this as much as we do providing it.

Click the links on the right for some recent reviews on Tripadvisor from some satisfied customers of our Dunns River Falls tour.

5 Overhyped Tourist Destinations, and Where to Go Instead

By Alex Schechter

Koh LantaWhether it’s a packed cruise ship unloading throngs of boisterous passengers, or a mob of thirty college students tearing through town, an excess of tourists can make a destination go from in-demand to insufferable, just like that. Consider avoiding these played-out locales and shift your attention to nearby spots that are lesser-known, and more worthy of the term “vacation.”

Instead of Capri…
With the likes of Mariah Carey making a habit out of spending time on the pristine Mediterranean islet, Capri is by no means a well-kept secret. For pleasure-seekers exploring Italy’s south western coast, why not make the leap across the Tyrrhenian Sea into the Aeolian Islands? Just like Capri, it’s possible to reach Lipari, the largest island in the group, by ferry from Naples. (You can also take a shorter voyage from Messina, on Sicily’s northeastern coast.) Once you’ve arrived, plan on exploring the secluded pebble beaches, small trattorias, and historic churches that characterize the region.

Instead of Cozumel…
If vodka-fueled pool parties and crowded beaches are your thing, then by all means head to Mexico’s most overdone island. Otherwise, consider heading up to Isla Mujeres, where a more laid-back crowd dominates. The island, which, like nearby Cancun, is surrounded by the Caribbean Sea’s crystal clear waters, offers modern, affordable lodging like Ixchel Beach Hotel (from $113 per night) and the chic Hotel Secreto (from $259 per night). And in addition to its gorgeous, rugged coastline and native wildlife ( sea turtles!), the island is starting to become something of anadventure destination as well.

Instead of Paris…
Look up “tourist” in the dictionary, and you’re likely to see a photo of someone posing in front of the Eiffel Tower, which recently celebrated its 125th anniversary. Now, don’t get us wrong: we love the City of Light as much as the next Francophile, but a recent visit to enchanting Bordeaux taught us there’s more to France than strolling along the Champs-Élysées and queuing up to glimpse the Mona Lisa. Particularly for those planning a tour of France, plan on spending time in Bordeaux, where the longest stretch of 18th century architecture in all of France makes the perfect backdrop to days of croissant-sampling and idyllic strolls along the Garonne River.

Instead of Sentosa…
If Singapore is known for one thing, it’s the city’s near-fanaticism when it comes to cleanliness. Everywhere you turn, a sense of order is upheld through smoothly-running metro lines, immaculate shopping malls, and quaint canal-side promenades. This is certainly true of the man-made attractions found on Sentosa Island, with its amusement park rides and nonstop beach parties. But for a closer look at Singapore’s natural beauty, head to Pulau Ubin, a tiny island accessible from the city by ferry (around $2.50 each way) dotted with bike trails, mangrove walks, and a few home-style cafes.

Instead of Koh Pi Pi…
In the 2000s, the film The Beach ricocheted the relatively small Thai island of Koh Phi Phi into the realm of superstardom, but at a price. Nowadays, sunburned, beer-swigging tourists stumbling down souvenir shop-filled streets are what you’re likely to find – hardly in line with the secluded paradise-on-earth depicted in the film. Koh Lanta, a 4-mile-wide island ringed with gorgeous white sandy beaches and unspoiled forests, is probably closer to your idea of what a Thai beach escape should be. To really make your visit count, grab a scooter and head toward the southern half of the islands, where empty beaches abound, and Mu Koh Lanta National Park ($12 admission) offers traditional fishing villages, scenic hiking trails, and a few diving spots.

10 Travel Destinations to Consider for 2014

Belfast, Northern Ireland

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The “Game of Thrones” story may take place in the fictional land of Westeros, but the filming locations are quite real. Many of them are in the countryside of Northern Ireland near the capital of Belfast. Some of the filming locations you can visit are the Cushendun Caves and Larrybane (The Stormlands), Castle Ward (Winterfell), Ballintoy Harbour and Murlough Bay (Iron Islands), and Inch Abbey (The Riverlands). The haunting location for the King’s Road is the difficult-to-locate Dark Hedges, a tree-lined road leading to an 18th century mansion – although it’s significantly easier to find these days, with all the “Game of Thrones” fans seeking it out. Many of the “Game of Thrones” filming locations can be visited in a day trip from Belfast, making the city an ideal home base for exploring Northern Ireland’s very film-worthy scenery.

Book a Private Game of Thrones and Giants Causeway Tour from Belfast

Slovenia

Not many years ago, Croatia still seemed far beyond the borders of where most travelers went in Europe. Now, Croatia is becoming quite a popular vacation spot – and it’s neighboring Slovenia that can be described as an emerging holiday destination. Of course, Europeans have known about the fantastic reasons to visit Slovenia for ages – but many of us are just coming around to the idea. Slovenia is part of the EU (which means it uses the euro currency). The country shares borders with Italy, Croatia, Austria, Hungary, has a small coastline on the Adriatic Sea, and is easy to reach. It’s a fairly small country, so adding Slovenia to an itinerary that includes any of its border countries could be an ideal way to explore it. And to top it off, Slovenia remains a relative bargain compared to many countries in Western Europe.Read more about Slovenia

Victoria Falls, Zambia and Zimbabwe

2014-01-23-VictoriaFalls2.jpgThere are several categories for superlatives when it comes to waterfalls. Victoria Falls, which straddles the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe, isn’t the tallest waterfall in the world, nor is it the widest. It does, however, hold the title of “largest,” since its height and width result in the largest sheet of falling water on earth. The sight has been drawing tourists since it was found and documented by David Livingstone in 1855 – both for its visual impact and the sometimes deafening roar all that water produces. Victoria Falls is on many a travel wish list, so here’s why you should check this one off in 2014: The towns that serve the falls, Livingstone in Zambia and Vic Falls in Zimbabwe, played host to the UN General Assembly in 2013. As such, they both had massive makeovers leading up to the event, and are better equipped than ever to host visitors. Even Zimbabwe, in the news so much in recent decades for ludicrous-sounding inflation rates, is getting back on track – the US dollar is now one of the main currencies accepted, so you wouldn’t even need to visit the currency exchange office.

Shanghai, China

2014-01-23-Shanghai.jpgChina’s largest city, and the one that continues to grow at an exceptional pace, is Shanghai. Many travelers are familiar with the sparkling skyline of Hong Kong, and have favored it for years for quick stopovers in Asia. Shanghai offers the same kinds of visitor perks – shopping, attractions, great food – and as of last year, travelers from 51 countries no longer need a visa to visit Shanghai for 72 hours or less. This makes Shanghai an excellent option if you’re looking for a long layover where you can explore the city for a few days before moving on to your final destination, because as long as you’re flying in and out of Shanghai’s airports, you’ve got a 72-hour pass to see the city. Enjoy the gleaming new skyscrapers and neon lights, but don’t overlook the few historic neighborhoods that remain – including some areas of the Huangpu District near the City God Temple and the former Shanghai French Concession.

Tokyo, Japan

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There has been much talk among sports fanatics about Brazil hosting the 2014 World Cup and then the 2016 Summer Olympics. But in late 2013, the International Olympic Committee announced the host city for the 2020 Summer Olympics – Tokyo. Sure, 2020 may seem a long way off, but time (as they say) flies. As Tokyobegins its initial preparations to host the world’s athletes in six years, it’s still a bustling and fascinating city to visit today. Unlike some Olympic host cities that require major upgrades in infrastructure to support the influx of visitors the games usually draw, Tokyo is already known for its robust tourist infrastructure. With more than 13 million people calling the prefecture home, this is a place that’s quite accustomed to dealing with crowds. In 2014, you can visit Tokyo without being slowed down by any of the inevitable pre-Olympics construction, and still enjoy the ease a 21st century metropolis provides.

Read more about things to do in Tokyo

Bhutan

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Bhutan, the famously reclusive country that measures success in “Gross National Happiness,” has long been known as a tourist destination for only the wealthy and patient. With limits on the number of visas issued per year, a minimum stay requirement, and the need to use official tour guide partners, Bhutan has been off-limits to many would-be travelers. In recent years, however, tourism in Bhutan is getting comparatively easier – the country no longer limits the number of tourist visas issued, and there are more licensed tour operators these days.

Fraser Island, Australia

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Australia is home to the world’s largest sand island just off the coast of Queensland.Fraser Island is a relatively small spot in the South Pacific at only 710 square miles, but it packs quite a bit of natural wonder into that small space. While there are very few people who call Fraser Island home today, there is evidence that people have lived on the island for more than 5,000 years. It is also currently home to 25+ mammal species, 350+ bird species, and 865+ plant species. There are more than 100 lakes on Fraser Island, and a 75-mile-long stretch of beach on the eastern coast. It’s a nature lover’s playground. Fraser Island was added to the UNESCO list of Natural World Heritage Sites in 1992, and remains a popular tourist attraction for visitors to Queensland.

Check out our Fraser Island tours

Laos

For travelers craving a Southeast Asia trip without the crowds that now flock to Thailand and Indonesia, however, there are other options. The tiny country of Laos, sandwiched between Vietnam and Thailand, still has French elements leftover from its colonial days, but remains a far more “authentic” Southeast Asian experience than its neighbors. Laos (officially called Lao PDR) is home to two UNESCO World Heritage Sites – Luang Prabang (a city in northern Laos) and Wat Phu (the ruins of an 11th century Khmer temple complex) – and Laotians have a reputation for their relaxed lifestyles. Tourist infrastructure in Laos may not be as robust as it is in other parts of the region, but budget-conscious travelers who want to escape the crowds shouldn’t let that stop them from exploring this beautiful country.Read why Laos is one of the cheapest countries for backpackers

Gallipoli, Turkey

2014-01-23-Gallipoli.jpgSeveral countries in Europe will be marking the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War I this year, including England, France, and Belgium. The historic ANZAC landing at Gallipoli in Turkey didn’t happen until the second year of the war, so that 100th anniversary isn’t until 2015 – but since the outbreak of the war will be taking center stage across the continent this year, we think a 2014 visit to Gallipoli will be meaningful, too. Anzac Day in Australia and New Zealand marks the date (April 25th) when Allied troops landed at Gallipoli, and the World War I battlefields have long been some of the main tourist draws. During the 100th anniversary commemorations, there are likely to be even more people visiting World War I sites than there normally are, so plan ahead – especially if you want to be at Gallipoli on April 25th.

Malta

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The tiny Mediterranean island nation of Malta packs a lot of vacation destination punch into not very much space. Malta is made up of three islands, although the vast majority of visitors stick to the largest of the three (also named Malta). Even so, you can explore several parts of the island in one day if you’re visiting on a cruise (even the hop on, hop off bus tours of Malta visit multiple cities on each route). There are three UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Malta. The most impressive are the “megalithic temples” built from 5000 B.C.E. to 700 B.C.E., making them what some say are “the oldest free-standing monuments in the world.” There are annual arts and music festivals, plenty of hiking (particularly on the smallest island, which is mostly a nature reserve), excellent sailing and diving opportunities, and the sort of “melting pot” culture that can only come from constantly changing hands from one ruling nation to another. One of the top annual tourism conferences in the UK has chosen Malta as the host for its 2014 conference, which indicates the country is on the verge of something. Why not go and find out what it is?

Browse our Malta Tours