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14 Places You Need To Visit In 2014

Mombo Camp Safari breakfast

It’s time to start thinking about planing your dream trip next year. So where should you go?

We looked at major developments, cultural trends, and global festivals to find the hottest places to travel around the world in 2014.

From Croatia, the E.U.’s newest member, to Tokyo, the site of the 2020 Olympic Games, here are the best places to travel next year.

Cuba

El Capitolio in Havana, Cuba.

Ever since Beyonce and Jay Z very publicly vacationed in Cuba in April 2013, the small Caribbean country has been on the forefront of American travellers' minds.

Cuba has been off-limits to Americans since the '50s, but it's now easier to visit the small island than it has been in decades, thanks to more relaxed travel restrictions and an increase in tour operators offering legal ways to see the country. That means that more and more Americans are travelling to Cuba now. In fact, the number of Americans visiting Cuba grew by more than 20,000 in 2012 alone.

And tourists who are venturing there are finding that the country remains incredibly beautiful, and often untouched by the outside modern world.

Bangkok, Thailand

A night market in Bangkok.

Over 11 million tourists visited Bangkok as of August 2013, and the city is expecting
an anticipated
15.98 million international arrivals by the end of the year, which would make it the number one destination for tourists in 2013.

That number is bound to grow next year, as Thailand's capital city continues to develop its tourism infrastructure. Several new hotels are set to open in Bangkok in 2014, including the Radisson Blu Plaza Bangkok and the Hyatt Place Hotel.

With its centuries-old-temples, modern nightlife and restaurants, and incredible food,
it's easy to see why Bangkok is a favourite city for tourists from around the world. The city caters to everyone -- and every price point. Whether its from a street vendor or an expensive upmarket restaurant, the food in Bangkok is incredible. There's also a wide variety of accommodations from cheap hostels and budget hotels around Kaosan Road to high-end luxury properties, like the Shangri-La Hotel, Bangkok.

Portland, Maine

First Friday Art Walk in Portland, ME.

America's other Portland has been gaining a reputation as a funky low-key destination that prizes quality food and cutting-edge art.

More and more talented chefs have been flocking to the coastal New England city, opening upscale restaurants like Fore Street and Petite Jacqueline. But there's also great casual fare, like tacos, burgers, and cupcakes from food trucks, and of course tons of lobster.

Meanwhile, the city's art scene is thriving. That's to be expected, since it's home to dozens of edgy galleries and artist collaboratives, the Maine College of Art, and the Portland Museum of Art, located in the heart of the Arts District. Visit in the beginning of the month to experience a First Friday Art Walk, when artists display their works on the streets and musicians and performance artists entertain the crowds.

Visitors will have no shortage of hotel options, as the city is expecting to open 500 new rooms in the next two years. Until then, stay in a quaint inn like the Pomegranate Inn, which features fireplaces in the rooms and cool art exhibits that change regularly.
And while there's plenty going on here year-round, the best time to visit is undoubtedly during the summer.

Iceland

The Blue Lagoon in Iceland.

Since its economy collapsed back in 2008, Iceland has been slowly rebuilding itself and today it stands as one of the most exciting tourist destinations in Europe.

In Reykjavik, the country's capital, there's the impressive new Harpa Concert Hall that won the prestigious Mies van der Rohe Award, edgy restaurants that serve fresh local fare, and hopping bars and clubs. There's also the Aurora Reykjavikík, a new interactive museum that recreates the Northern Lights, and the Blue Lagoon, a gorgeous geothermal spa, remains one of the most-visited places in Iceland -- for good reason.

Icelandair regularly offers great deals that encourage people to stop over in Reykjavik before heading on to other European destinations.

Tel Aviv, Israel

A Tel Aviv beach.

Tel Aviv has always been one of the most popular tourist destinations in Israel -- and the Middle East, for that matter -- but it's blown up recently, thanks to its growing reputation as a gay-friendly tourist destination and tech hub.

The cosmopolitan oceanfront city has been billing itself as a gay-friendly destination for a while now, but it really cemented its reputation as a gay travel destination in June, when France's first married gay couple chose to very publicly honeymoon in the Israeli beach city.

The city has also become a startup and tech hub in the Middle East, earning the unofficial title of 'Silicon Wadi.' Google has a crazy office there, as does Amazon, Facebook, and thousands of startups.

Hong Kong

Hong Kong harbor.

The thriving metropolis of Hong Kong has recently undergone a hotel boom, seeing the opening of several hotels, including the boutique Mira Moon, family-friendly Auberge Discovery Bay, and sleek Hotel Indigo Hong Kong, to name a few.

The city has also been establishing itself as a destination for art. Already home to the Hong Kong International Art Fair, Hong Kong hosted the inaugural Art Basel Hong Kong festival in 2013, and it was such a success that the dates are already set for May 2014. Several major galleries have bases in Hong Kong (including the Gagosian and White Cube) and the city has its own impressive art museum, the Hong Kong Museum of Art. Plans are also underway for a new $US642 million contemporary art museum called M+, which is scheduled to open in 2017.

Croatia

Dubrovnik, Croatia.

Over the past few years, Croatia has been attracting more and more tourists, but now that it's officially a member of the European Union it's about to undergo a serious tourist boom.

Travellers love the famous beaches, gorgeous views of the Adriatic coast, historic architecture, and UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Croatia is also famous for its fresh Mediterranean-style food and wine.

And best of all: it's still one of the cheapest destinations in Europe -- especially if you avoid the peak tourist season in July and August.

Botswana

Mombo Camp and Little Mombo Camp, in Botswana's Okavongo Delta.

For most people, a luxury safari is a once-in-a-lifetime trip -- and Botswana's Okavango Delta is the ideal place to experience one.

Between the floodplains of the Okavango Delta and the woodlands of Chobe National Park, Botswana is home to tons of animals, including elephants, buffalo, rhinos, zebras, giraffes, lions, hippos, leopards, and more.

For a truly memorable experience, stay in Mombo Camp and Little Mombo Camp in the Okavango Delta, which was recently ranked the best hotel in the world by Travel + Leisure. Located in the Moremi Game Reserve, the hotel, which is made up of two camps, offers unparalleled luxury in the thick of the wild. There are outdoor plunge pools, al fresco dining areas, and plenty of decks for wildlife viewing. Even the luxury tents have open windows for viewing the wildlife. It's not cheap though: Rooms in the tents start at around $US1,750 per person per night, including daily game drives, food, and drink.

Brazil

Ipanema Beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

2014 will undoubtedly be a big year for Brazil as the country will host the 20th FIFA World Cup in June and July. Matches will take place all over the country, from Brasilia and Rio to Salvador and São Paulo. Just two years later, Rio will host the 2016 Olympics.

As a result, the country has been undergoing massive construction projects as it prepares to welcome the millions of tourists and athletes who will descend on the country over the next few years.

That means cleaning up the notoriously dangerous favelas in Rio, building new stadiums around the country, and upgrading hotels and restaurants to accommodate the crowds. While Brazilians have complained about the rapid development with mass protests last summer, many people believe that these changes will improve the country.

Regardless, there's no denying that big change and big crowds are coming to Brazil next year.

Tokyo, Japan

Luxury shopping is a favourite pastime in Tokyo.

When the announcement came that Tokyo would host the 2020 Olympics, all eyes turned to the bustling Asian metropolis. Now the city is expecting a major tourism boom, even though the games are still six years away.

Japan's capital city has high-end hotels, luxury shops, hip neighborhoods filled with secret speakeasies, and the most three-Michelin-starred restaurants in the world.

The Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Diving in the Great Barrier Reef.

The Great Barrier Reef, the world's largest coral reef system off the coast of Queensland Australia, is one of the world's greatest natural treasures. It's a protected UNESCO World Heritage Site and is considered one of the seven natural wonders of the world.

It's teeming with colourful marine life, including whales, dolphins, sea turtles, and more than 1,500 fish species, that visitors explore by scuba diving, snorkelling, swimming, or boating.

However, the reef is in danger of disappearing, due to overfishing, overboating, pollution, and climate change. Environmental groups are fighting to protect the reef, but some say it may be too little too late, as almost half the Great Barrier Reef has died in the last 50 years.

That means that visitors who dream of one day snorkelling or diving in the reef should do it now, while it's still active. While there, stay at the Qualia hotel on Hamilton Island, overlooking the Great Barrier Reef, which was recently named the world's best hotel by Condé Nast Traveller.

Austin, Texas

Street art at Austin's SXSW Festival.

Austin, Texas, is currently undergoing a major hotel boom that could add more than 3,200 guest rooms over the next three years. Several funky hotels have recently opened, including the restored 20th-century Hotel Ella, and more are in the works, including the 322-room Hotel Van Zandt and the innovative boutique Hotel Zaza.

Makes sense that the city is building hotels at a record pace, as it has to keep up with the growing number of tourists. Almost 6 million tourists visited Austin as of August 2013, and more are expected for 2014.

The city's slogan is 'Keep Austin Weird,' and residents make sure that stays true by keeping the city's culture quirky and eclectic. Austin is a cultural hub with with live music performances, film screenings, and readings all over the city every night. It hosts the annual Austin City Limits Music Festival and the music, film, and interactive SXSW Festival. Last year MovieMaker Magazine named Austin the number one city for filmmakers.

Nicaragua

The Corn Islands in Nicaragua.

Nicaragua has been hailed as the next Costa Rica for some time now, but tourism to the Central American country has recently skyrocketed, with over 600,000 tourists visiting the country during the first part of 2013 alone.

It still remains a great-value destination -- Managua is one of the 10 cheapest cities in the world -- and it has the same gorgeous white-sand beaches, untouched wildlife refuges, and great surfing, snorkelling and diving opportunities as its slightly more expensive neighbours, like Costa Rica and Belize. Most visitors come to this eco-friendly destination for some sort of adventure, whether its surfing, hiking on a volcano, or diving with sea turtles.

People love the Corn Islands, a 17th-century pirate hideout on the Caribbean coast, which has secluded beaches, vibrant marine life, and cheap lodging options that can cost as little as $US10 per night.

Those with a slightly larger budget might want to check out Mukul, Nicaragua's first luxury resort on the Emerald Coast, which opened in early 2013.

Berlin, Germany

A DJ spins at a nightclub in Berlin.

Over the past few years, Berlin has gained a reputation as one of Europe's coolest cities.

With its underground nightclubs, cool bars, and edgy shops, the city has a gritty yet exciting feel. Of course there's also highbrow culture and great museums, including the Pergamon Museum and the Jewish Museum, but people often come here to experience the city's exciting nightlife and shopping.

The city is also home to tons of cool hotels, including the Waldorf Astoria Berlin, which opened in early 2013, and Das Stue, which TripAdvisor named one of the hottest new hotels in Europe.

And while it's not exactly remote now, Germany's capital city will be much easier to access once the city's modern new Brandenburg Airport opens. The opening date has been repeatedly delayed, but it looks like the $US5.4 billion project will open sometime in 2014.

BONUS: Space

Virgin Galactic's Spaceship Two.

For those who can afford it, space travel isn't that far away. Sir Richard Branson has announced that he expects to launch the inaugural flights of his commercial space venture, Virgin Galactic, by 2014.

For now, though, only wealthy people will have the privilege of venturing into space -- flights aboard the spacecraft cost $US250,000 per person.

Now see which hotels to stay in.

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