Monday, February 3, 2014

Best of travel 2014 - top destinations from around the web, and around the world!

Google & I made a virtual trip around the world past weeks, scouring a number of "best in travel 2014" lists by various news outlets and travel experts. My first thoughts of the lists were something like:
"Oh, so you took a map and some darts..."
"What ever happened to cool places New York, Tokyo, Barcelona...?"

But I do get it, the idea is to recommend (mostly) fresh or less known places, since  people who travel a lot and read these lists want to see something new. And what looked like a whole bunch of randomly picked places did eventually lead me to find some clear trends in the top picks!
Scroll to the end for the complete set of travel destination lists!


Read the updated version of this story:

Most popular nominations:

Land of the rising sun: Japan has lots of charm - and offers tons versatile travel destinations. Why not try winter sports in the mountain region in Hokuriku and Sapporo, or surf in Ishigaki!

Up north: Canada is a big tourist destination - did you know! Alberta was nominated twice, and you might find also Vancouver, Nahanni National Park and the Red Mountain interesting. In Europe, Sweden was popular, with Stockholm and Umeå (Europe's Capital of Culture for 2014) making it to the lists. Also mentioned: Helsinki in Finland (yay!), Riga in Latvia, Moscow in Russia, Iceland and Norway.

The outback: There's always something interesting in the Australian outback - this year the Northern Territory, particularly also Darwin and Kimberley in Western Australia easily made it to the top 10 lists.

A local resident of Darwin, NT, Australia

Safari: Looking for the African wildlife? Popular in Africa were this year Rwanda (head out to e.g. Nyungwe Forest National Park) and the neighbouring Zambia (try the Liuwa Plain National Park) and Zimbabwe, also the home to the Victoria Falls. Ethiopia, Kenya and Namibia also made it to the lists.

Wining & dining: There's surely a certain appeal to areas with wine cultivation & good food - simple choice for any self respecting travel list. Often you find good food & wine in the same area. And a bonus: they come together with the nice climate which is obviously necessary for the vines to grow. Popular countries were France, Bordeaux in particular, and Italy, there look up Puglia. In the "new world" you'll be directed to Californian wine country. You can also find vineyards and great food in the highly ranked Córdoba in Argentina.

Citius, altius, fortius: It's that year again: the Olympic Games! They always bump their locations up on the lists - or perhaps down, in case you're one of the locals. Sochi and Rio de Janeiro (also the host of the World Cup) are easy pics for 2014 top travel destinations. Expect fun times and inflated prices.

Sun, sea, sand: Who doesn't love beaches - and especially tiny and deliciously colorful tropical islands!? This year Tonga* is up on the lists, Pangulasian Island in the Philippines, Tetiaroa in the French Polynesia, Capo Verde of the coast of Africa, Fernando de Noronha off the coast of Brazil, Little Corn Island of Nicaragua, Meads Bay in Anguilla, Ambergris Caye of the Belize Cayes and Dominica in the Caribbean. São Tomé & Príncipe close to Africa and Canouan in the Caribbean were mentioned twice. The culturally famous Cuba was also highly ranked - no surprise there. The first prize might go to the massive Indonesian archipelago - the lists boast Bali, Derawan Islands, Lombok, Sumatra and Yogyakarta!

Beach promenade at Ambergris Caye, Belize

Balkans: If you haven't been any of the Balkan states before.. shame on you! I loved the Dalmatian Coast in Croatia and this year the lists mention, in addition to Croatia also the Albanian coast and Macedonia. The top pick in the region seems to be Sarajevo in Bosnia-Herzegovina!

Nessie: Scotland is nominated for a top destination on four lists this year! Boasting with spectacular sceneries and beautiful cities, I hear there's also lots of festivals. Among them are some big sporting events - in 2014 the Commonwealth Games arrive to Glasgow and the Ryder Cup to Gleneagles. And of course, there's always the ever so mysterious Nessie to see (or to not see)....!

American dream: The most popular country of the year was the USA, mentioned 17 (!!?!) times on the lists. In the US the most places were Nashville, Tennessee and Palm Springs, California. I may have to disqualify USA from the "top country of 2014" race as most of these lists were of US origin, and the same goes for the second most popular country UK (8 nominations). Though do check out the wildly popular Scotland, as already mentioned above!

DTW favourites: Out of my favourite places the travel lists mention (in addition to the ones I've linked above) Patagonia in Chile/Argentina, Mayan Riviera in Mexico, Cusco in Peru, Iceland, Brazil and New Zealand (among the top destinations were Christchurch, Stewart Island and West Coast) - these are not to be missed for sure!

Torres del Paine national park in Patagonia, Argentina

The winners 

#1 spot in the world:

After reading all the top destination lists - and nearly going crazy - I came up with the winner for this year. Drum roll..... The winner is:

Cape Town, South Africa!

#1 on NY Times, #1 on Guardian, #1 on Travel & Leisure, and Lonely Planet top cities #3! South Africa was also among the Huffington Posts' 12 top picks.

In Cape Town you can enjoy the beautiful Table Mountain, beaches, vineyards and wildlife. You can learn more about the life of Nelson Mandela and visit the Unesco World Heritage site Robben Island. Cape Town is also one of the World Design Capitals in 2014.

#1 country(/ies) in the world:

After the "home favourites" US and UK the most interesting countries were... tadaaaa....: Brazil and India! Both are massive countries with a wildly diverse set of cities, nature, beaches, mountains, culture, food, music... you name it, they got it! Brazil was mentioned as a country alone a whopping 3 times and places such as Fernando de Noronha, Fortaleza and Rio de Janeiro were on the lists. In India recommended spots were Ranthambore National Park, Kashmir, Kerala, Kolkata, Sikkim and the Ganges river.

The glorious "City of God", Rio de Janeiro - view from the Sugar Loaf

An honorable mention goes to quite some popular smaller states: Nicaragua was nominated three times as was Ecuador and Cuba. Of the bigger countries three nominations went also to Iran! Vietnam (including particularly Hanoi, Quang Binh and Vinh Hy Bay) made it to four lists. Kudos!

The lists

Below are all the best destinations from the "top 10" sites!. Some of these spots you can already find in the DTW blog, click on the links on the place/country names in the lists to see & read more! Dig deeper for more info and amazing travel photos, get inspired and get out there!

Lonely Planet - one of my favourite travel resources - has many many travel lists. Their 10 top regions for 2014 were:
1. Sikkim, India
2. The Kimberley, Australia
3. Yorkshire, England, UK
4. Hokuriku, Japan
5. Texas, USA
6. Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe / Zambia
7. Mallorca, Spain
8. West Coast, New Zealand
9. Hunan, China
10. Ha’apai, Tonga*

There lots more top 10 lists to see on LP's site!

National Geographic's best trips for 2014 comes with interesting introductions of the places:
Nyungwe Forest National Park, Rwanda
Northern Territory, Australia
New Orleans, Louisiana, USA
Puglia, Italy
Córdoba, Argentina
Cabo Verde
Ranthambore National Park, India
Arbil, Iraq
Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina
Cathar Country, France
Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado, USA
Sochi, Russia
John Muir Way, Scotland, UK
Nahanni National Park, Canada
Cacao Trail, Ecuador
Riga, Latvia
Alentejo, Portugal
Bolaven Plateau, Laos
Derawan Islands, Indonesia (readers' choice)

NY Times - see their lovely animated panoramic images:
1. Cape Town, South Africa
2. Christchurch, New Zealand
3. North Coast, California, USA
4. Albanian Coast
5. Downtown Los Angeles, USA
6. Namibia
7. Ecuador
8. Quang Binh, Vietnam
9. Perth, Australia
10. Rotterdam, the Netherlands
11. Taiwan
12. Frankfurt, Germany
13. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
14. Fernando de Noronha, Brazil
15. Nashville, Tennessee, USA
16. Scotland, UK
17. Calgary, Alberta, Canada
18. Ishigaki, Japan
19. Laikipia Plateau, Kenya
20. Yogyakarta, Indonesia
+ 32 more.

Travel and Leisure:
Cape Town, South Africa
Warsaw, Poland
Pangulasian Island, Philippines
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Little Corn Island, Nicaragua
Kerala, India
Miami, Florida, USA
Nashville, Texas, USA
Meads Bay, Anguilla
Sochi, Russia
Playa Carrizalillo, Puerto Escondido, Mexico
Palermo, Italy
California Wine Country, USA
Tetiaroa, French Polynesia
Santa Marta, Colombia
Lombok, Indonesia
Palm Springs, California, USA
Helsinki, Finland
Vinh Hy Bay, Vietnam
Mokapu Beach, Maui, Hawaii, USA
Dominica, Caribbean

The Guardian:
1. Cape Town, South Africa
2. Uzès, France
3. Austin, Texas, USA
4. Carmarthenshire, UK
5. Kolkata, India
6. São Tomé and Príncipe
7. Alaçatı, Turkey
8. George Town, Malaysia
9. Alberta, Canada
10. Bordeaux, France
11. Iran
12. Belgium
13. Brazil
14. Macedonia
15. Paso Robles, California, USA
16. Rabat, Morocco
17. Yunnan, China
18. Budapest, Hungary
19. Rwanda
20. Cuba

Glasgow, Scotland, UK
Matera, Italy
Bordeaux, France
Jerusalem, Middle East
Charleston, USA
Chengdu, China
Liuwa Plain National Park, Zambia
Sumatra, Indonesia
Alaçatı, Turkey
Egadi, Italy
The Philippines
Canouan, Caribbean
Papua New Guinea
Kashmir, India
El Salvador
The Ganges, India
Stewart Island, New Zealand
Darwin, Australia
Red Mountain, Canada

Mexico City, Mexico
Canouan Island, Caribbean
South Korea
Moscow, Russia
South Africa
Scotland, UK
Vancouver, Canada

Big Island, Hawaii, USA
Riviera Nayarit, Mexico
Bali, Indonesia
Berlin, Germany
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina
Umeå, Sweden
Liverpool, England, UK
Richmond, Virginia, USA
Scotland, UK
Ciudad Colonial, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
Palm Springs, California, USA

Financial Times asked the travel experts for top destinations in 2014:
Patagonia, Argentina / Chile
Södermalm, Stockholm, Sweden

Tripadvisor doesn't have a 2014 list. But what may be interesting are their destinations on the rise list on the popular Traveler's Choice 2013:
1. Havana, Cuba
2. La Fortuna de San Carlos, Costa Rica
3. Kathmandu, Nepal
4. Jerusalem, Israel
5. Cusco, Peru
6. Ambergris Caye, Belize Cayes
7. Sapporo, Japan
8. Hanoi, Vietnam
9. Corralejo, Spain
10. Fortaleza, Brazil

*) Tonga currently recovering from cyclone and travel not advised.


  1. I would also like to share 21st Century News list on top countries to visit this year:

  2. I just want to say Wow! Superb work. It's not easy to suggest which places to visit or not. You solve the problems of million of people. I really thank for that. I loved your post. keep posting!

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