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Hot Destinations for 2014

Hot Travel Destinations 2014

2014 is well upon us, check out our listing of the 9 destinations that could fill your travel wish list this year. Some are well know and some not. All are special and should be visited by the avid world luxury traveler to help fulfill your desire to visit the place which could be often less traveled.

Hot Travel Destinations 2014

Cape Town, South Africa A place to meditate on freedom, and the creative life that followed. When Nelson Mandela was incarcerated at Robben Island prison, he found inspiration in Cape Town. “We often looked across Table Bay at the magnificent silhouette of Table Mountain,” he said in a speech. “To us on Robben Island, Table Mountain was a beacon of hope. It represented the mainland to which we knew we would one day return.”

Cape Town’s importance to Mandela, who made his first address there as a free man, will doubtless draw many visitors in the wake of his death. The country has transformed itself since Mandela’s imprisonment, but there’s still much to be done. Many in Cape Town have been grappling with that challenge, including its creative class, which has been examining whether inspired design can solve some of the issues stemming from years of inequality.

The city formally takes up that issue this year during its turn as World Design Capital. Cape Town is celebrating design in all its forms, putting on fashion shows by students and established designers alike, hosting architecture open houses, welcoming the public into artists’ studios and folding the annual visual arts spectacular Design Indaba conference in February into the design capital program. Also part of the lineup are locals seeking to rejuvenate impoverished black-majority townships: The Maboneng Lalela Project turns township homes into galleries and performance spaces; Foodpods constructs sustainable farms, giving residents access to healthy produce; and the Langa Quarter project seeks to make the precinct a cultural tourism destination. Cape Town is again reinventing itself, and the world is invited to its renaissance. — Sarah Kahn

Hot Travel Destinations 2014

Quang Binh Vietnam Son Doong Cave in the Quang Binh province of central Vietnam is one of the world’s largest caves and is now, for the first time, accessible to tourists, thanks to the tour operator Oxalis. Huge shafts of light penetrate its vast caverns, allowing forests of 100-foot-tall trees to thrive in spaces big enough to accommodate 40-story skyscrapers. Colossal 260-foot stalactites are also present. Monkeys, hornbills and flying foxes have all been spotted in this surreal habitat, first fully explored in 2009. While trips into Son Doong are limited in number (only 220 permits for the year) and to visitors with deep pockets (over $6,000 per trip), the nearby and more affordable Tu Lan Cave is also now open to adventurous travelers. — David Lloyd

Hot Travel Destinations 2014

Dubai, reborn, relentless and still over the top.Five years ago, one of the planet’s most ambitious cities appeared to be dying. Crushed with debt, Dubai found its megaprojects and skyscrapers scuttled or scrapped. The city went from juggernaut to joke. But now, it’s back. Economically surging, Dubai has won its bid to host World Expo 2020 and has unveiled its Tourism Vision, also for 2020, a plan to attract 20 million tourists — double the current crowd. October witnessed the first passenger terminal at Dubai World Central Al Maktoum International Airport, and travelers will discover colossal new hotels like the 555-room Conrad Dubai and the 77-story JW Marriott Marquis Dubai, which Guinness World Records recognizes as the tallest hotel in the world. This year, a new tram system will be inaugurated, along with some theme parks, including the first phase of Dubai Adventure Studios, the first phase of IMG Worlds of Adventure, and Holy Quran Park (devoted to the Islamic holy book). — Seth Sherwood

Hot Travel Destinations 2014

The Vatican New saints, a new pope and newly restored treasures beckon. Pope Francis, who has nearly 3.5 million followers on Twitter and routinely makes headlines for doing things like inviting atheists to join the cause for peace in his Christmas message, is widely viewed as reinvigorating the scandal-plagued, conservative-leaning Roman Catholic Church. (Just ask Time magazine, which last month named him the 2013 Person of the Year.) The first South American pope is so popular that the Vatican is anticipating record pilgrim attendance at its celebrations this year. Well over a million visitors are expected in April when Holy Week will be followed by the canonization of John XXIII and John Paul II. Services commemorating the new saints will continue throughout the year. In 2014, the faithful can also enjoy the fruits of restorations that have taken years, like that of Bernini’s colonnade in St. Peter’s Square and the reopening of the Via Triumphalis necropolis, a vast ancient Roman cemetery first uncovered in the 1950s. And pilgrims can stay up-to-date on news and events, including restorations and exhibitions, thanks to the Pope’s new mobile app. — Katie Parla

Hot Travel Destinations 2014

Seychelles An African luxury hot spot that’s become easier to get to. This archipelago of 115 islands in the Indian Ocean now has one of the world’s most expensive hotels. The listed price for a villa at the North Island resort, on a private island where the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge stayed during their honeymoon, ranges from 2,582 to 4,079 euros (about $3,670 to $5,800) per night; the Doubletree by Hilton Seychelles, which opened last year is, thankfully, more affordable. The appeal goes beyond pampering and powdery beaches: The Seychelles is also home to some 100,000 giant Aldabra tortoises that live on a coral atoll that is a Unesco World Heritage site. Air Seychelles recently signed code-share agreements with Air Berlin, Cathay Pacific Airways and other airlines, making these islands about 1,000 miles off the east coast of Africa more accessible. — Rachel B. Doyle

Hot Travel Destinations 2014

Highlands, Iceland Natural wonders are in danger. Go see them before it’s too late. The Icelandic government has spent decades protecting its glaciers, pools, ponds, lakes, marshes and permafrost mounds in the Thjorsarver Wetlands, which constitute 40 percent of the entire country, mostly in the interior. But last year, the government announced plans to revoke those protections, allowing for the construction of hydropower plants (instead of glaciers and free-flowing rivers, imagine man-made reservoirs, dams, paved roads and power lines). “If they get into this area, there will be no way to stop them from destroying the wetlands completely,” said Arni Finnsson, the chairman of the Iceland Nature Conservation Association. More bad news looms: A law intending to further repeal conservation efforts has been put forward, so if you ever want to see Iceland in all of its famously raw natural beauty, go now. — Danielle Pergament

Hot Travel Destinations 2014

Athens Out of an economic crisis, a city surges back. Vibrancy and innovation can bloom even in hard times. Exhibit A is Greece’s ancient capital, which was hit hard by the global economic crisis and yet is seeing change at sites old and new. First the old: At the Acropolis, the famous Caryatids statues continue to get a restoration in 2014; the process will be on view in the Acropolis Museum through the end of the year. And the new: The National Museum of Contemporary Art opens this spring in a former brewery complex. Neighborhoods have also seen a resurgence, including the quickly gentrifying Monastiraki and the still gritty Kerameikos-Metaxourgeio; the latter will get a cultural lift in 2015 from the biannual ReMap art event. Travelers will have a new lodging option by summer, when a revived Emporikon Hotel opens on Aiolou, a street that is also home to a host of new dining spots. — Gisela Williams

Hot Travel Destinations 2014

Siem Reap, Cambodia Even a 1,200-year-old lost city has some new draws. If you’ve seen the temple complex of Angkor Wat in Cambodia, then the country’s lost city of Mahendraparvata, its majestic temples on Phnom Kulen and the stone animal carvings at the site of Srah Damrei (elephant pond) should be next on your list. About 30 miles from Siem Reap, Mahendraparvata predates Angkor Wat by about 350 years and was the birthplace of the Khmer Empire in A.D. 802. Although the city has been known about for several decades, researchers in June discovered new temples and a network of roads and dikes that had been concealed under thick mountain vegetation. — Rooksana Hossenally

Hot Travel Destinations 2014

New Caledonia What you’d expect (natural beauty) and not (world-class museum). This semisecret gem of the South Pacific, a three-hour flight from Sydney, is attracting visitors like never before. Thank infrastructural upgrades like a refurbished international airport, improved roads and bridges, and the arrival of high-profile properties like the new Hilton Noumea La Promenade Residences and the Sheraton New Caledonia Deva Resort & Spa, opening this summer. An island itinerary reads like a fantasy novel: snorkeling and diving in one of the world’s largest lagoons, an aquamarine stunner populated by thousands of coral and marine species and home to the world’s second largest reef (after the Great Barrier); horseback riding through verdant mountains and indigenous Kanak villages; kayaking by moonlight among the submerged forest of the Blue River Provincial Park. The cosmopolitan capital, Nouméa, has its own allures, like Le Roof, where you might spot dolphins diving in the distance while savoring the fresh oysters, and the Tjibaou Cultural Center, a Renzo Piano-designed museum housing one of the world’s largest collections of Pacific art. — Naomi Lindt

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