10 Must Visit Spots in the Seychelles Islands

The Seychelles islands form an archipelago off the southeastern coast of the African continent. The islands are home to some of the world’s most pristine environments and unique species; they are also home to white sand beaches, tropical rainforests and mountains. With so much natural beauty to recommend them, the Seychelles truly are a tropical paradise. And since there are more than 100 individual islands to explore and discover, it can be difficult to pick just one Seychellois destination. We’ve selected 10 of the best to help you narrow down your choices.

10. La Digue

La Digue is one of the larger islands in the Seychelles archipelago, belonging to the Granitic Island group. La Digue is very popular with tourists and is one of the islands that has a cap on the number of tourists who visit each year. The island itself is only 10 square kilometers and biking is the primary mode of transportation on the island. It is famed for its white sand beach, Anse Source dArgent, where ominous granite formations loom behind swimmers and sun-bathers. If you’re lucky, you might catch sight of the rare paradise flycatcher, an endangered bird that inhabits only a few islands in the Seychelles; it is most commonly spotted on La Digue. While you’re visiting this island paradise, don’t forget to sample the local cuisine: fried octopuses, lobsters with garlic and La Digue’s most intriguing indigenous dish, bat curry.

La Digue

9. Mahé Island

Mahé is the largest island in the Seychelles, and home to the country’s capital city, Victoria. Part of the Granitic Islands, a group of 45 islands made up of some of the world’s oldest granite rock, Mahé is renowned for its dense tropical forests, its white sand beaches and its mountain peaks. The tallest mountain in the Seychelles archipelago, Morne Seychellois, is located on this island. Hiking through some of the island’s national parks is a must. Climbing to the summit of Morne Blanc takes about 45 minutes and offers some of the best views of the Indian Ocean. Also popular is a visit to Sainte Anne Marine National Park, the largest marine park in the Seychelles. If you visit Mahé, be sure to visit the capital city to get a taste of Seychellois cultureincluding its unique blend of cuisine.

Mahe

8. Silhouette Island

Silhouette Island is renowned for a couple of reasons. The first is its magnificent coral reefs, which offer excellent opportunities for snorkeling and diving. More than 1,000 species of fish inhabit the clear, warm waters surrounding many of the Seychelles islands, which makes these coral reefs rife for exploration. On the terrestial side of things, Silhouette Island is one of the most mountainous in the archipelago, with 5 peaks soaring over 1,600 feet above sea level: Mont Dauban (2,464 ft), Mont-Pot-a-Eau (2,037 ft), Gratte Fesse (1,690 ft), Mont Corgat (1,647 ft) and Mont Cocos Marrons (1,600 ft). With all those peaks, you can imagine that Silhouette Island offers up some of the most dramatic landscapes in the Seychelles; be sure to bring a camera if you plan to visit.

Silhouette island

7. Bird Island

At first glance, Bird Island may not seem to have much to recommend it. It is the northernmost island in the Seychelles archipelago, approximately 60 miles from Mahé. The island itself is less than 1 square kilometer and is made up of coral, unlike the 45 Granitic islands to the south. Bird Island is also a private island resort, with just 26 bungalows renting to curious visitors. Nonetheless, Bird Island is renowned for its avian populationhence the name. Sooty terns, fairy terns and common noddies all inhabit the island, which provides an important breeding ground for them. Two species of turtles, the Hawksbill and the Green, are also common on Bird Island. If you want to do some bird-watching, Bird Island is your stop; don’t forget your binoculars and your camera.

bird island

6. Praslin

Praslin is one of the bigger islands of the Granitic group and, as such, is one of the more popular tourist destinations. Along with Mahé and La Digue, it is one of the islands that has the number of visitors capped. It is also one of only 2 islands in the world where the famed Coco de Mer palm tree grows. Praslin is also home to a market where you can buy the fruit of the palm, which is a national symbol of Seychelles. The island is also one of the best places to see and watch birds, functioning somewhat like a bird sanctuary for many of the Seychelles’ threatened and endangered avians. The Vallee de Mai is one of most famed parks in the country, and is home to many indigenous plants, such as the vanilla orchid.

Vallee de Mai

5. Frégate Island

Frégate Island was named for the frigate birds that once flocked to its shores. These days, you’re more likely to find tourists than the namesake avian (although the island is still an important nesting site for them). But Frégate Island hasn’t had to have numbers of tourists legislated like some of the other islands in the Seychelles. That’s because the island is privately owned and operated as a luxury resort. Only 20 residences are available at a time, which means you’ll have to book early and be prepared to pay if you want to make this island your Seychelles destination. Many people are ready and willingperhaps because the island boasts what the Times calls the world’s best beach, the Anse Victorin. Aside from lounging on the beach, snorkeling is a popular activity for those who make a stop on Frégate Island.

frigate bird

4. Moyenne Island

This tiny island was once uninhabited, until it was purchased by a former newspaper editor, Brendon Grimshaw. Grimshaw, who died in 2012, dreamed of making the island a national park in its own right and planted some 16,000 trees. Visitors could come ashore for 12 euros, tour about and eat at the Jolly Roger restaurant, which Grimshaw ran. The island is rumored to be host to hordes of pirate gold, but, despite evidence of human activity, none has ever been found. With Grimshaw’s death, the island returned to being uninhabited, although the government has now turned the 34-million-dollar island into Moyenne National Park, realizing Grimshaw’s lifelong dream. Come ashore and see birds, plants and even some Seychelles giant tortoises, once endangered, but now making a comeback throughout the islands.

 Photo By Camera Eye from UAE (A side of Moyenne Island) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Photo By Camera Eye, via Wikimedia Commons

3. Shark Bank

One remarkable feature of the Seychelles archipelago is the clear and warm waters of the Indian Ocean that surround most of the islands. This, coupled with the coral reefs and abundant marine life, make the Seychelles an ideal destination for snorkelers and scuba divers. Among the popular locations for getting under the sea is Shark Bank, a granite plateau that shelters an amazing array of fish and other aquatic life. Here you can encounter shoals of brightly colored tropical fish swimming alongside enormous stingrays and Napoleon fish. If you’re lucky, you might even stumble upon the odd whale shark, the biggest fish in the sea. And, despite the name, you needn’t worry about shark attacks out here; although some shark species do swim in these waters, attacks are relatively rare events.

reef

2. Aldabra Atoll

The Aldabra Atoll is the second-largest coral atoll, a ring-shaped reef that encircles a lagoon. It is located in the Aldabra group of islands, south of the Granitics. Relatively undisturbed by human activity, the coral atoll has been named a UNESCO World Heritage site on account of its biodiversity and pristine ecosystemswhich says something in a country renowned for its attention to environmental concerns. The Aldabra Atoll is home to innumerable bird species, as well as endemic plants and lizards. Perhaps the most famous residents of the atoll are the Aldabra giant tortoises. Once thought to be almost extinct, these tortoises are now found on islands throughout the Aldabra area and most other islands of the Seychelles, although Aldabra remains far and away the best place to see them in their natural habitat.

Aldabra Atoll

1. Victoria

Victoria is the capital city of the Seychelles, located on the Granitic island of Mahé. While it might seem strange not to simply lump it in with the island, Victoria has enough charm to demand its own entry on a list of must-visit spots. The city, which has a population of less than 30,000, is the center of Seychellois culture. As such, it is home to landmarks like the 3-winged bicentennial tower, constructed to mark the 200th anniversary of the city’s founding. Victoria is also the de facto shopping capital of the country. While perhaps not as cosmopolitan as other capital cities, Victoria’s markets feature local handicrafts and represent the island-nation’s blended heritage. One of the most popular items to purchase at the market is a sarong; picking one up is almost a rite of passage for those who visit the Seychelles.

view from victoria

10 Ecotourism Hotspots for 2016

Eco-tourism has become something of a buzzword in recent years. Some might be quick to write it off as nothing more than fancy marketing, but the trend toward “green” travel has stayed strong through 2015, with 53% of Americans looking to book green hotels, and interest in environmentally viable and sustainable tourism is likely to grow in 2016 as talks around climate change continue. So where can we expect green travelers to head off to in 2016? Here are our 10 picks for the year ahead.

10. Costa Rica

Let’s start with the tried-but-true Costa Rica. Costa Rica is a recognized leader in ecotourism, often considered a pioneer. The country’s focus on sustainability makes sense because Costa Rica’s tourism industry is heavily centered on its natural resources, including its abundant wildlife, lush mountain ecosystems and its “cloud forests.” Costa Rica’s commitment to green extends outside of the tourism industry, however; in 2007, the country committed to becoming carbon neutral by 2021 and, as of 2015, 93% of the country’s energy needs are met by renewable sources. Environmental taxes act as disincentives to polluting businesses and laws such as the 1996 Forest Law have helped reorient other industries to sustainable development. All of this means that tourists traveling to Costa Rica can feel secure knowing they’ve made an environmentally sound choice.

costa rica

9. Laos

Two decades ago, Laos was relatively low on the list of international destinations; since the 1990s, however, tourism has grown explosively, from under 100,000 visitors annually to nearly 2 million tourists every year. The relatively quick growth of the industry might lead to concerns about exploitative development and destructive mass tourism, but Laos has also developed a strong orientation toward ecotourism—perhaps fitting for a country that has adopted the slogan “Simply Beautiful.” Luang Namtha, the northernmost province in Laos, is one of the best areas for tourists looking for a trip focused on sustainability: local villages earn alternate income from offering trekking and rafting tours through the biodiverse region around the Nam Ha Protected Area and the Namtha River, which encourages preservation of the environment as an attraction for continued tourism.

Laos

8. Cambodia

Tourism in Cambodia has long been overshadowed by violence in the country. Nonetheless, tourism is the second-most important industry in the self-proclaimed “Kingdom of Wonder,” and is based on 3 key elements. One of those elements is an embarrassment of natural attractions, and nowhere is that more evident than in Koh Kong, the country’s southwestern most province. Located near the border with Thailand, the region embraces part of the Cardamom Mountains and boasts 1 of the largest forests in Southeast Asia. The area also features untouched beaches and pristine waters along its undeveloped coastline. Cambodia’s largest national park, Botum Sakor National Park, is also located in Koh Kong, along with part of the Kirirom National Park. The rugged terrain along the Tatai River has been perfect for developing sustainable tourism aimed at keeping the natural wonders of Koh Kong intact for future generations.

Cambodia

7. Greenland

There’s been plenty of discussion about Greenland lately: the country has been named one of Lonely Planet’s top travel destinations for 2016, and much of the country’s frozen landscape seems to be melting at an alarming rate. While that might seem to be a call to travelers to see Greenland before it’s “too late,” Greenland has been working on a better plan: a sustainable tourism industry. Since much of the country’s young tourism industry focuses on experiences like dog-sledding, hiking along glaciers and whale-watching, ensuring that tourism in Greenland is eco-friendly is a must. Natural Habitat’s Base Camp Greenland is one recent eco-friendly initiative; the small-group excursion takes adventurers to a carbon-neutral expedition camp at the eastern edge of Greenland’s ice sheet. While 2016 promises to be a big year for Greenland tourism, that doesn’t mean it can’t be kept green.

Greenland

6. Norway

While it might be eco-conscious Western tourists who have been a driving force in the development of sustainable tourism, the tourist industries of most Western economies are run on less eco-friendly initiatives. One country that’s pushing toward an increasingly green tourism industry is the Scandinavian country of Norway. One of Norway’s top attractions has always been its environment, most particularly its rugged mountains and stunning fjords. While the remoteness of the fjords has kept them well-protected, so too have Norway’s strict environmental regulations played a role in keeping the iconic Norwegian landscapes pristine. Ensuring a healthy environment extends outside the realm of the tourism industry, and Norway is considered a leader in environmental policy in other industries as well. That means that scenic boat tours, biking through rugged mountain terrain and wondering at the snow-capped mountain vistas of the Norwegian fjords will be activities for future tourists as well.

Norway

5. Botswana

Botswana gets the short end of the stick when it comes to African tourism; the southern African country is bordered by South Africa, Zimbabwe, Namibia and Zambia. In the ecotourism industry, Botswana is often overlooked for Kenya. Botswana, however, has its own charms: about 70% of the country is covered by the Kalahari Desert and the Okavango Delta, 1 of the 7 Natural Wonders of Africa and UNESCO World Heritage Site, is also located in the country. The Chobe Game Reserve is home to a large herd of free-ranging elephants and the Khama Rhino Sanctuary offers guided trekking experiences, while the Central Game Reserve offers up some of southern Africa’s most unspoiled wilderness. In terms of tourism, the industry is small, but growing in Botswana, which means that the country has had time to focus on developing sustainable initiatives.

Botswana

4. Maldives

The Maldives, located in the Indian Ocean, is a chain of 26 atolls that is threatened by rising sea levels. With this in mind, the country has been a leader in green industries, including ecotourism. The government has pledged to make the country carbon neutral by 2019. The islands rely heavily on tourism, which is the largest sector of the economy. Most tourism is driven by the Maldives’ natural beauty, including extraordinary diving opportunities in clear blue waters. The islands are often promoted as a tropical resort getaway, and white sand beaches and sports like surfing and scuba diving are popular. Government policies have aimed to reduce damage to sensitive coral reefs and to make stricter laws for waste disposal, while resorts themselves have focused on recapturing wasted energy and recycling heat.

Maldives

3. Seychelles

The Seychelles is a 115-island country located off the east coast of the African continent. Tourism is the primary industry in the economy and has been since the late 20th century. Since the mid-1990s, however, the government has moved to ensure that tourist development doesn’t come at the expense of the islands’ natural environment. This has included capping the number of beds in some of the most popular destinations, such as La Digue. The islands contain a number of unique ecosystems and are home to a host of diverse plants and animals, some of which live on only 1 or 2 islands. While Seychellois culture is coming to value environmental protection, the nation is not currently committed to clean energy or a carbon-neutral plan; time will tell if the environmental conscience of the tourism industry spreads to other sectors of the economy.

Seychelles

2. Kenya

Tourism in Kenya has always been driven by its natural attractions; in recent years, visitors have been attracted to coastal beaches and game reserves, such as the expansive East and West Tsavo National Park. The country boasts 19 such national parks and game reserves, the Great Rift Valley and a stunning view of Mount Kilimanjaro. Best known for its savannas, Kenya is still most popular for safaris, but you can also visit coral reefs on the coast, along with rainforests and deserts. Ecotourism Kenya, a watchdog organization, keeps an eye on tourism and rates accommodations based on their environmental policies. Most safari outfitters now offer eco-friendly options for visitors, and many of them ensure they give back to or work on behalf of the local people, thus working toward sustainability in the industry.

Mount Kilimanjaro

1. New Zealand

New Zealand is a major destination for travelers who seek adventure; the wild, untamed and often rugged landscape offers excellent opportunities for almost all outdoor activities, from hiking to trekking to mountain climbing to surfing and diving. Given that tourism focuses largely on the natural environment, it’s little wonder that New Zealand is also invested in protecting its natural assets—the country has committed to becoming carbon neutral and markets itself as a “clean, green” playground for adventurers. The country has developed numerous walking and hiking trails, such as the internationally recognized Milford Track and the Te Araroa Trail, which spans the country. In line with the country’s presentation of itself, ecotourism initiatives have been on the rise, although there is some concern about tourism being a carbon-intensive industry, as many visitors travel huge distances to reach this remote country.

Milford Track NZ

The Top Places To See Before It’s Too Late

Technically we are all in places that are about to change drastically. There are many remote idyllic, places being threatened by climate change that face melting glaciers or catastrophic flooding. But then so does Miami. Whether it’s rising sea levels, desertification, torrential monsoons, melting glaciers or ocean acidification, climate change is rapidly altering the landscape of our planet and perhaps about to destroy some of the world’s legendary vacation spots. Then there is the traditional destruction inflicted by human error and downright imbecility. More hotel rooms, spas and golf courses are part of the inherent contradictions of tourism increasing accessibility means increasing degradation. There seems to be no solution to that equation. We will be one of the last generations to see some of the Earth’s most cherished places. Here’s our list of 20 places to see before they vanish to climate change, over development and encroachment. It’s a survey of various sources from CNN to MNN (as in Mother Nature Network), at the same time being quite conscious of the other contradiction that advising more people to visit already vulnerable sites is farther contributing to the degradation. Perhaps you can solve that moral quandary by designing am environmentally sensitive visit. Or contribute to conservancy groups that are fighting to save them.

20. Gozo, Malta

CNN has this theory that once a foreign city is featured in a blockbuster movie, it takes a hit from an influx of curious tourists. Gozo, population 37,000 is a short ferry ride from Malta. Its website proudly proclaims its natural beauty, its “tortoise-like pace” and amazing history. Gozo means ‘joy’ in Castilian, so named at its founding in 1282. Last year Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt shot their latest film “By the Sea” there. Directed by Jolie, it appears to be a drama about an artistic couple’s fading marriage with Gozo subbing for France. CNN warns that “There are few better advertisements for a destination than a good movie,” and expects hordes of Brangelina fans to disturb the tranquility in search of the places the couple tried to rekindle their romance.

Gozo Malta

19. St. Kitts

With its neighbor and sidekick Nevis known as the decadent playground of the idle rich, St. Kitts is passing under the spell of the Evil Trinity of tourism; Big name hotel chains, golf course designers and marina builders. It is being done in the name of sustainability which may be easier to do environmentally that in preserving the spirit of a place heading to over development. When they open the world’s first edible golf course, you know the gimmicks have just begun.

St. Kitts

18. The Seychelles

National Geographic rates the beach at Anse Source d’Argent as the best in the world. One of nature’s most convincing versions of paradise. The beauty of the pink sand, the coral reef sheltered by massive granite boulders brings many beach lovers to this archipelago of more than a hundred islands in the Indian Ocean but the water rises relentlessly, the perfect beaches are eroding and its coral reef, like others around the world is being degraded. Barring some miraculous engineering innovation or divine intervention, many of the islands could be lost in the next 50 years.

Seychelles

17. The Athabasca Glacier, Canada

With its relatively convenient location in mid-Alberta between Banff and Jasper National Parks, The Athabasca Glacier attracts more tourists than any other on the continent. It is also the largest ice field between the poles. It’s a kind of frozen tributary of the massive Columbia Ice Fields. But with ice fields north of 90, as old hands call the Arctic, the Athabasca at 52 degrees north latitude is in for The Big Melt. Parks Canada estimates it’s receding up to ten feet a year. At this rate maybe too far gone for the next generation to experience.

Athabasca Glacier Canada

16. St. Helena

In its own way, St. Helena is an exotic destination. A volcanic speck of 50 square miles in the middle of the south Atlantic, it is the definition of remote, 4,000 miles east of Rio de Janeiro. Let’s face it, after Waterloo, the British were not about to exile Napoleon in Paradise. Part of its cache is that getting there is a challenge, by the Royal Mail ship St. Helena from Cape Town, Walvis Bay or Ascension Island. It’s somewhat for bird watching and its rugged terrain protects well preserved Georgian buildings. After Longwood, Napoleon’s home after 1815 (now a museum), the island’s biggest celebrity draw is Jonathon the tortoise, age 180 and going strong. The British have sunk the better part of half a billion dollars into an airport for the tiny island to open early in 2016. For that chunk of change, expect more than the usual 3,000 or so visitors soon.

St. Helena Island

15. Taj Mahal, India

Even the great frescoes of the Sistine Chapel dulled with age and the emission from centuries of candle smoke and neglect. But they were inside the walls of a building in the First World, whereas the Taj Mahal is neither. The whole point of the spectacular tribute to an Emperor’s late wife, is its pristine whiteness indicative of the purity of their love. But the air quality in India’s major cities is worse than the horrific pollution levels of Beijing. Fading to yellow or rust is not just a cosmetic downgrade it degrades its very meaning. An ornate mausoleum of white marble, The Taj Mahal is the sparkling jewel of Muslim art in India. Built in the 17th century by Emperor Shah Jahan as a memorial to his favorite wife, The Taj currently has more than 3 million visitors a year and the heat, foot traffic and toxic air are beginning to undermine the building’s structural integrity. It’s not hard to see a lengthy shutdown for restoration in the near future, not to mention banning people from going inside.

Taj Mahal

14. Dead Sea

There is the old joke that someone says he’s so old he remembers when the Dead Sea was only sick. Sadly that’s no longer just a joke. It is being sucked dry by the water-desperate countries around it who are helping themselves to the water in the River Jordan, the sea’s main source. It has shrunk by a third in size and scientists fear if the rate of attrition continues, the intensely salted water some claim has medicinal qualities, has maybe 50 years of life left.

Dead Sea

13. The Galapagos Islands

Truth be told Europeans have been abusing the Galapagos since the late 19th century when pirates used it as a base to launch their raids. Darwin didn’t arrive until 1835 to begin on what would become The Origin of the Species 25 years later. Now there are pages of tours echoing the name of his ship The Beagle. The islands are threatened by too many people. Too many insensitive people acting reprehensibly to degrade this natural treasure to take the greatest selfies and poach plants and animals (not necessarily at the same time.) The prognosis is much better than many other sites however because the ecosystem, while delicate, can still be saved by limiting if not stopping altogether, the onslaught of tourists. So if it’s on your bucket list…tread lightly.

Galapagos Islands

12. Glacier National Park Montana

In fact, anything with the word “Glacier’ in its name or title may be at risk, barring some miraculous reversal in climate change, the effects are well documented. They are living on borrowed time, the more temperate the climate the more critical the patient. The number of glaciers in the stunningly beautiful Glacier National Park on the Montana-Canada border has shrunk by 75% in the last century. Pessimistic estimates say the glaciers and the ecosystem that depends on them could be gone by 2030. The good news if you’re into dark humor; the surfing in Montana is about to improve dramatically.

Glacier Bay National Park Montana

11. South Australia

One of those areas facing the climate change double whammy, coastal flooding and interior desertification the Australian government has studied and published many daunting studies on the effects. Rising sea levels will threaten hundreds of miles of beaches and the lovely city of Adelaide will be put at risk. The soaring temperatures and absence of rain in the interior will challenge some of the most renowned wine growing regions in the world, including the Barossa and Clare Valleys. While the region accounts for only 7% of Australia’s population, it is also responsible for half of the $1.3 billion in wine exports. Unless you are entertained somehow by catastrophic flooding and drought, best to go soon.

McLaren Vale, South Australia

10. Greek Islands

There are 6,000 islands from Aegina to Zaforas in the Ionian and Aegean seas off the Greek coast. Only 227 are inhabited and only 50 have airports. Traveling between them has always been a question of taking leisurely ferries with shall we say occasionally regular schedules. Until now after a Greek airline has announced to connect another 100 by seaplane. As always accessibility is a mixed blessing. The islands of Crete, Skyros and Pelion are first on the list with more to come as early as year’s end. Book accordingly. Unless you like crowded beaches, then this is your lucky year.

Aigiali village in Amorgos island in Greece

9. Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe/Zambia

The famous falls are twice the height of Niagara with a fraction of the tourists. At least until the new Victoria Falls International Airport, on the Zimbabwe/Zambia, border opens in the fall of 2015. It’s being built to handle what pilots call “Heavy Metal”, wide body A340’s and Boeing 777’s and their human cargo. It will be a huge boost for the tourism sector in the long-suffering country. The five regional airlines that used the old airport will be joined by British British Airways, Qatar Airways, Etihad, Emirates, and Kenya Airways, just to start.

Victoria Falls Zimbabwe

8. St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Caribbean

An idyllic place. Everything you wish for in a Caribbean destination. And less, without the crowds, partiers and such. Beaches rank among the best in the world, coral reefs provide diving that’s to die for, it’s care free relaxation in a setting almost too beautiful to be true. But it’s always been a bit of a schlep to get there by connecting flight. The new $250,000,000 Argyle International Airport , will come with direct flights to North American and European cities increasing capacity by at least 400%. Plus it is upgrading its port infrastructure to bring in more cruise ships whose environmental record has been somewhere between bad and wretched. The good news for would-be visitors is that the airport is behind schedule for those who would like to have the island experience before it gets paved and up go the condos.

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

7. Nicaragua

Lake Nicaragua is a scenic, unspoiled place with coastal towns lost to time and lots of fishing spots locals love. It has been fast-tracked to the environmental critical list by a crazy ambitious $50 billion Chinese-backed project to build a canal three times the length of the Panama Canal from the Pacific to the Caribbean Sea and hence the Atlantic, in the process trampling through prized lakes, wetlands, coral reefs and any number of delicate ecosystems in Central America and the Caribbean. The Nicaraguan Academy of Sciences warns “this canal would create an environmental disaster in Nicaragua and beyond. Tourist visits have soared since the construction started.

Lake Nicaragua

6. Papua New Guinea

There is an automatic exoticism to the south Pacific and in the case of Papua New Guinea, it’s enhanced by its status as one of the last truly unexplored places on earth. The government has expressed a “wish” to maintain the rarely seen villages as the basis for its society. It’s a nice gesture, but at the same time they’re expanding the almost non-existent tourism infrastructure starting with cruise ships and with them a fading chance to experience a land not far removed from first contact.

Amy Nichole Harris / Shutterstock.com
Amy Nichole Harris / Shutterstock.com

5. The Alps, Europe

The mighty Alps are facing an uphill battle they can’t win. The evidence is incremental but unmistakable. The temperature, even on peaks over 10,000 feet has been steadily rising. The elevation at which snow falls and accumulates is falling. Towns and cities dependent on skiing for their livelihoods are taking strong measures to lower local CO2 emissions, but climate change scientists say the effects of climate change could hit hard by 2040. So maybe the problem will be solved by then, it still leaves you at least 25 years to book, but after that forget the skies and take hiking boots and sunblock.

French Alps

4. Venice, Italy

Like the famous writer Mark Twain, reports of the death of Venice have been greatly exaggerated. The magical kingdom of canals and Renaissance masterpieces has been written off many times before. But the severe flooding it has long suffered has become deeper and more chronic. When you can stop on your way to St. Mark’s and, bend down and catch fish with your bare hands, the fat lady may not be singing but is definitely warming up. The prognosis: the only people to see Venice past the 22nd century are likely scuba divers and snorkelers. However, the city has miraculously hung tough before. It may not be clear just how just yet, but surely no expense will be spared to save one of the greatest treasures on the planet.

Venice Italy Lagoons

3. Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Another long running natural disaster that could have been easily mitigated by sustainable practices. The fabulous reef has been assaulted not only by climate change but by human stupidity. Higher water temperatures and its older foes of pollution and acidification from ever rising carbon dioxide emissions are killing off the corals at an alarming rate. More recent threats are damage caused by the development of Australian ports to export coal to China, thereby contributing to more CO2, hence more damage to the reef and its $4 billion in tourist income. A whole new enemy has emerged as well in industrial overfishing which doesn’t directly damage reefs around the world, but destroys the fish stocks that are part of its ecosystem. The wonderful reef in Belize is facing the same threat of death by coral bleaching.

Great Barrier Reef Fish

2. Cuba

Oh the irony. According to CNN, the son of Che Guevara, the iconic Marxist guerrilla leader, has turned out to be quite the entrepreneur, launching a motorcycle tour company for the biking crowd to see the island from behind their choppers. With the easing of American travel restrictions, the fabric of the island is in for rapid change for the less impoverished though not necessarily better. Not to revel in other’s poverty but the anachronism of the island frozen in a time warp by antiquated Communist central planning was part of the charm, like the famous 1950’s vintage vehicles constantly repaired and rebuilt out of economic necessity. The wonderful beaches are already popular and if there are bikers, the massive cruise ships won’t be far behind. Hemingway’s Havana is already on borrowed time.

Kamira / Shutterstock.com
Kamira / Shutterstock.com

1. Antarctica

Expect to see more headlines like this one from the BBC: “Should tourists be banned from Antarctica?” It’s feared that Antarctica is shedding up to 160 billion tons of ice annually and rising. The biggest threat to the ice cap is warming temperatures, not humans. Less than 40,000 people visit every year and only a quarter of them actually go ashore. Tour companies abide by strict international guidelines to limit human impact but those guidelines are voluntary. That human impact may be minimal, but any additional pressure on an increasingly vulnerable ecosystem is critical. There will be many more calls for restrictions to follow the BBC’s warnings. It won’t disappear in a century but trips to see it may be extinct long before.

Antarctica

Chasing Summer: 10 Escapes From Winter

Autumn has arrived in the northern hemisphere and with it, a sense of sadness for many people. Whether you suffer from seasonal affective disorder or just like the long, hot days of summer, this time of year can be rough. But we often forget that just because it’s fall here doesn’t mean it’s fall everywhere. The southern hemisphere’s seasons are reversed, meaning countries on the other side of the equator experience their spring and summer while the north moves through fall and winter. If you want to follow the sun, these 10 destinations should help you escape:

10. Seychelles

Whether or not you’re trying to escape the cold of winter, the Seychelles should be on your bucket list. This African nation, comprised of a number of individual tropical islands, is warm just about any time of the year. Temperatures reach their peak between December and April, with March and April recording the warmest temperatures of the year, usually in the high 80s (low 30s Celsisu). Although the climate can be humid, especially between December and April, the islands are not usually affected by high winds or tropical storms. The islands have a reputation as “paradise,” and renowned for a diversity of plants and animals, gorgeous landscapes, great beaches and plentiful outdoor activities. Visit any time between September and April if you’re looking to get away from the northern hemisphere’s fall and winter.

Seychelles

9. Indonesia

If you’re trying to chase summer, you shouldn’t jump south of the equator right away. September through December is spring in the south, so save those destinations for later. Nonetheless, if you’re looking to get away from the increasing hours of darkness and the frosty weather autumn brings with it, an equatorial destination should be your first consideration. Indonesia lies along the equator and, like many equatorial areas, it experiences 2 season: a dry season and a monsoon season. The temperature varies little throughout the course of the year (averaging 26 degrees Celsius), and the length of the day is relatively constant: there is only 48 minutes difference between the longest and shortest days of the year. That’s good news for anyone looking to escape the longer nights of autumn and winter in the north. September and October are good months to visit Indonesia; the rainy season starts in November.

Bali, Indonesia

8. French Polynesia

With over 100 islands and atolls, the overseas collective of French Polynesia makes an excellent destination for those travelers looking to get away from chilly weather in northern climes. The islands, the most famous of which are Tahiti and Bora Bora, have well-developed tourist industries and they are often equated with tropical paradise. There are 4 volcanic islands and 1 coral island in the 5 archipelagos. Both Tahiti and Bora Bora are volcanic, and both provide opportunities for snorkeling and scuba diving, as well as other water activities. The temperature on the French Polynesia islands varies little from season to season; December through February are the wettest months, however. If you can, travel to these islands in September, October or November when temperatures are still warm but rainfall is significantly less.

Bora Bora 5

7. Sao Tome and Principe

Sao Tome and Principe might seem like a strange choice; the country has experienced some political and economic instability in the past decade. But these 2 African islands are rich in culture, history and ecology, which make them great destinations for travelers looking to get off the beaten path. The 2 islands, located about 87 miles apart, lie approximately 150 miles off the coast of Gabon. The influence of Portuguese colonizers is still evident in the country’s religious and linguistic traditions, but music and cuisine better reflect a fusion of African and Portuguese heritages. The islands are part of the Cameroon volcanic mountain line, and the tallest peak is Pico de Principe at over 3,000 feet. The equator passes over an islet just south of Sao Tome island, which means the climate is tropical and temperatures hover around 80 degrees Fahrenheit year-round.

Sao Tome and Principe Africa

6. Brazil

It’s hard to make generalizations about climate in a country as big and diverse as Brazil, but here’s what you need to know: the average temperature is about 80 degrees Fahrenheit (around 25 degrees Celsius) and the temperature difference between night and day is more significant than changes in the seasons. That said, Brazil is home to more than 5 different climate types, and part of the country actually lies north of the equator. Rainfall between December and April can be quite significant, especially in the Amazon region, which is humid but rarely exceeds temperatures of 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32 degrees Celsius). The various microclimates make Brazil one of the most biodiverse countries in the world, which means there’s plenty to see in all of Brazil’s ecozones. Or, if an Amazon trek doesn’t suit you, the country’s Atlantic coast is home to some excellent beaches.

Ipanema beach Brazil

5. Galapagos

At first glance, you might think the Galapagos Islands, scattered on either side of the equator as they are, would be perfect candidates for an autumnal escape between September and December. In fact, it’s better to visit the Galapagos in December or later, because of the effects of the Humboldt Current, which brings cold water to the islands. Between June and November, the islands experience frequent drizzle, cold winds and cool temperatures. It still rains during the other 6 months of the year, but the temperatures are warmer and the sun shines more frequently. For that reason, the Galapagos make an excellent winter destination; they teem with life at any time of year, from finches to tortoises to penguins. Bird-watching is especially popular, and many species nest between December and May.

Galapagos Islands

4. Fiji

The Melanesian island-nation of Fiji is a dream destination for a lot of people. Located near Vanuatu, Tonga and the Samoas, among others, the island is something of a tropical paradise. With an advanced tourism industry, Fiji offers a great escape from wintery weather in the northern latitudes. Located in the South Pacific, the island is renowned for outdoor activities like scuba diving and ocean kayaking. Fiji has a number of white-sand beaches, which are attractive to visitors. Perhaps the best thing about the island-nation is its climate: there is little seasonal variation, so the weather is warm year-round. November through April is considered the “warm” season, with temperatures slightly higher than the rest of the year, so consider Fiji a romantic escape from frigid temperatures and snowfall in more northerly places.

Fiji Jetty

3. Chile

Chile lies in the southern hemisphere and throughout most of the country, there are 4 seasons. Here, the seasons are inverse to the northern hemisphere, which means you can take off from winter north of the equator and land in Chilean summer. Chile is a diverse country, though, spanning no less than 7 different climatic subtypes, from the dry Atacama desert in the north to alpine tundra in the extreme south. The Andes also run through the country, offering up even more diverse climes. The warmest month is February and rainfall during the summer months is minimal throughout much of the country—something noted by European explorers to the area in the 1500s. Clear nights in the Atacama Desert make for great star-gazing. Or why not embark on a wine tour in Central Chile’s vineyards?

Vineyard Chile

2. Australia

Australia is likely the first place anyone thinks of when we talk about the southern hemisphere; the land down under has a certain reputation with folks in the north. While it’s true that the continent is protected from the wintry airmasses that sweep across northerly continents, which minimizes the impact of seasonal change on temperature, summer is still inverse to the northern hemisphere. That means that you can visit Australia between December and February and experience not winter, but summer weather. Temperatures are usually in the high 70s to low 90s (mid-20s to low 30s Celsius), which means you can get outside and enjoy all of your favorite summertime activities. Or maybe a trip down under is a chance to try something new, like surfing at Broad Beach or trailblazing through the Outback.

Hamilton Island Whitsundays Australia

1. Maldives

The Maldives are perhaps most infamous for slowly sinking thanks to rising sea levels, but they also have a reputation as a tourist destination. The Maldives are a chain of 1,192 coral islands in a double atoll, and, as such, the country is one of the most geographically dispersed in the world. Located in the Indian Ocean, southwest of India and Sri Lanka, the islands experience a tropical-monsoon type climate. January through March provides the best time to visit the islands, as temperatures hover in the high 80s (around 30 degrees Celsius) and rainfall is at its lowest for the year; February is the driest month of the year. The islands are famed for their blue lagoons and white beaches, which have traditionally driven tourism, but they are also becoming a hotspot for ecotourism as the country attempts to reduce carbon emissions to zero by 2020.

Maldives sunset

8 Places to Visit in the Seychelles Islands

There are few more beautifully exotic destinations on the globe than Seychelles Islands. This archipelago is made up of 115 coral and granite islands and sits between 480km and 1600km off of the east coast of Africa in the Indian Ocean. First settled by the French in the 1700s, it was later claimed by the British. During the 1800s the Seychelles set up a vibrant trade settlement, with the establishment of numerous different plantations, which contributed largely to its population growth over the following century. The Seychelles were granted independence in 1976 and remain a member of the British Commonwealth. Today, it is a major draw for tourists. It is lush, tranquil and opulently beautiful, with pristine white sand beaches, unique topography set against lush tropical rainforests, and miles of turquoise waters winding through this island chain. It’s also home to two UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

1. Seychelles 101

This diverse group of islands fall into two categories:  the inner islands are tall and mostly made from granite. The outer islands lie more flat, and consist of cays, reefs and atolls (an atoll is a ring or horseshoe shaped coral reef, usually with a lagoon in the center. They usually sit atop an extinct seamount or volcano). In terms of accommodations in this group of islands, only 16 of the 115 islands currently have hotels, with a wide range of choices, from luxury resorts to guest houses.  In terms of getting there (and getting around) there are a number of direct flights from Johannesburg to Mahe International Airport in Seychelles’ capital, Victoria. To get between islands, there are domestic flights, charters and ferries.

Seychelles

2. Mahe

Mahe is the largest inhabited island in the Seychelles. It has over 60 beaches as well as a mountainous countryside that is covered in rainforests and jungles.  Mahe is appealing because of its variety; travelers can relax on their choice of beaches or explore caves and coves, discovering bays and waterfalls. A hike up the mountainous terrain can be grueling, but will offer views that make the climb well worth the effort and then some. Kayaking and snorkeling are popular here as well. The island is populated with small towns and villages, great for wandering and exploring. There is a decidedly Creole influence on Mahe, reflected in the food, architecture and culture.

Mahe Seychelles

3. Morne Seychellois National Park

Morne Seychellois National Park is the jewel of the mountainous interior of Mahe, with lush vegetation and absolutely staggering views of the rest of the island and surrounding waters. This park covers a remarkable 20 percent of the entire Mahe land mass and is comprised of a wide variety of vegetation and terrain. Think mangrove forests on the coastlines that climb up through jungle covered mountains to reach the highest peak in the country. The park is only accessible through walking trails, so a hike through this lush part of the world is immersive and connective with the natural beauty that surrounds you- without distraction.

Morne Seychellois National Park

4. Praslin

Praslin is the second largest island in the Seychelles and promotes an unpretentious, chilled out vibe. Like its island neighbors, Praslin rolls with miles of forest on the interior, wrapped with miles of white sand on the coastline and has loads of beaches to choose from. Two of Praslin’s beaches (Anse Lazio and Anse Georgette) are frequent members of top beach lists in the world. Golfers will want to make Praslin their island of choice, with the only 18 hole championship golf course in the Seychelles at the Constance Lemuria hotel.

Praslin Anse Georgette

5. Vallée de Mai Nature Reserve

The story goes with the Vallée de Mai Nature Reserve on Praslin Island that the vegetation is so lush, colorful and varied that it was once seriously considered to be the original Garden of Eden. In the midst of this expansive reserve is a natural palm forest, preserved in its near original state for centuries. This palm forest is also home to the “Coco de Mer” (which is the largest seed in the plant kingdom). The Coco de Mer, which resembles a female pelvis in shape, was considered proof that this reserve was indeed the Garden of Eden by British General Gordon.  This reserve is a UNESCEO World Heritage Site.

Vallée de Mai Nature Reserve

6. La Digue

This lush paradise with coastline characterized by sandy beaches, inlets and secluded bays, set against a backdrop of rolling green hills populated with jungles and towering trees is like a snapshot from a travel brochure. It’s that pretty.  This is the third largest of the Seychelles inhabited islands, but feels intimate and secluded.  There is no airport on La Digue, but is accessible by ferry and private boat. It’s not far from  Mahe and Praslin, so many people either use La Digue as a home base to island hop, or come for a day trip. There are a number of hotels here to suit any budget. Cycling is the best way to see this small island, soaking in the outdoors, and enjoying the ocean breezes.

La Digue

7. Anse Source D’Argent

Located on the south side of La Digue, Anse Source D’Argent is one of the Seychelles’ most beautiful beaches, hands down (and that’s quite a title, given the striking beauty of the dozens of Seychelle beaches). It is reportedly the most photographed beach in the world, and understandably so. It’s a total reflection of what you see in your mind’s eye when you picture tropical paradise, beach-style. It’s not just the rolling white sands that meet up with clear turquoise water; the beach is buttressed with sculptured granite boulders that have literally been shaped by the hands of time.  As far as photo ops go, it’s hard to replicate the quiet, natural beach beauty captured here.

Anse Source D’Argent

8. Aldabra Atoll

This is another of the Seychelles UNESCO sites.  The Aldabra Atoll is the world’s largest raised Coral Atoll (an atoll is a ring or horseshoe shaped coral reef, usually with a lagoon in the centre. They usually sit atop an extinct seamount or volcano). This atoll is comprised of four coral islands that encircle a lagoon. The geographic composition of this atoll has made it isolated which has removed it from human influence, which impacted its native ecosystem.  As a result, there are well over 150,000 giant tortoises inhabiting this area.

Photo by: Seychelles Islands Foundation - SIF
Photo by: Seychelles Islands Foundation – SIF

8 Destinations Putting a Cap on Tourist Numbers

It is quickly becoming a hot debate as more cities and places are talking about placing limits on the number of tourists that visit each year. While some critics argue that putting a cap on the number of tourists will hurt local economies, others argue that we are quickly destroying natural environments and overcrowding cities. The age old question remains then, what is this balance? For these eight places and cities, the solution is to begin implementing a cap on tourist numbers and from Australia to Spain, only time will tell if this is the way of future travel.

8. Bhutan, South Asia

The Buddhist kingdom of Bhutan prides itself on high value, low volume tourism and lets an average of 140,000 tourists in each year. In order to visit this unspoiled landscape and culture, foreign visitors need to get a visa and book their holiday through a licensed Bhutanese tour operator. The Royal Government of Bhutan sets a minimum daily package price each month that visitors have to transfer to the Tourism Council of Bhutan; normally it is between $200-250 a day. This sounds pricey but that money covers all accommodations, meals, guides and internal transport. Part of this money also goes towards a royalty that provides free education, healthcare and poverty alleviation. There are over 75 licensed tour operators to choose from in this country and you can be promised an absolute once-in-a-lifetime opportunity if you visit this awe-inspiring landscape and connect with the people here.

Photo by: EL ANDINO OUTDOOR
Photo by: EL ANDINO OUTDOOR

7. The Forbidden City, Beijing

The Palace Museum, also known as the Forbidden City announced plans in 2014 to limit the number of visitors to this incredible site to 80,000 a day. The reason for this tourist cap is overcrowding as this museum is the most visited museum in the world, topping over 15 million people in 2014. They are certainly making it easier for more visitors to visit in the winter, offering half price tickets as right now they see the majority of visitors in the summer. New seating, bilingual signage and a ban on tour guides using amplified microphones have all been put in place in recent years to make this experience even better for tourists. Tickets will be purchased online, letting guests know what time they can gain access to the Forbidden City, and this museum should be applauded for quickly figuring out how to reduce tourism in the best of way.

Forbidden City

6. Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

These 19 islands that are located approximately 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador are home to roughly 9,000 species, both on land and in water. By the year 2007 both residents and tourists had put such a burden on the ecosystems that the UN listed the destination as an endangered heritage site. Thankfully in recent years they have developed a systematic program that regulates how many tourists are visiting each island daily. Regulations require that visitors must have a trained naturalist guide with them on each island, as the trails change in order to keep them from being overrun. New rules also came into effect that allows travelers to stay for a maximum of four nights and five days per ship. Tourists visiting the islands are only allowed to travel to specific visitor sites and must adhere to the rules and regulations that are set out by the National Parks.

Galapagos Islands

5. Machu Picchu, Peru

It wasn’t long ago that visitors were allowed to roam freely around this 15th-century site, exploring the breathtaking ruins and surrounding landscapes. New regulations are currently being implemented to limit tourists due to conservation efforts. UNESCO and Peru are working together to ensure that this site remains in its pristine condition. The daily limit was once set at 2,500 visitors but recently topped over 1.2 million visitors in 2014. New regulations will require visitors to hire an official guide to enter the Inca Citadel, follow one of three routes through the complex and will face time limits at specific points to keep the crowds moving. Although many fear this will discourage visitors from coming here, it seems unlikely that at least 2,500 won’t visit; the recommended amount.

Machu Picchu, Peru

4. Lord Howe Island, Australia

This seven-square mile island is located 370 miles off mainland Australia and offers rare flora, fauna and marine life. The surrounding crystal clear waters offer more than 400 species of fish and 90 species of coral. It also just happens to be one of the cleanest places on Earth, with 75 percent of the island’s original vegetation undisturbed. Only 350 residents call this island home and only 400 tourists are allowed to visit the island at any one time. This island is geared towards outdoor recreation so plan on snorkeling, hiking, kayaking and bird-watching if you are lucky enough to visit here. There are limited accommodations, no pubs or bars and formal restaurants don’t exist here. But if you are looking to get away from it all and experience a true authentic island, teeming with wildlife, this is the place for you.

Lord Howe Island, Australia

3. Antarctica

Tourism was growing steadily and dangerous up until 2009, when finally the 28 country members of the Antarctic Treaty decided to limit tourism in the region, to prevent it from environmental damage. Recent studies have shown that even short visits to the concentrated landing sites could have an adverse effect on the environment. The main tourism restriction here is the number of passengers and boats, any boat carrying over 500 passengers will not be allowed to dock in the region. Only one boat is allowed to dock in each dock and only 100 passengers are allowed on shore. Today visitors have to travel through operators and organizers who have been approved by their national authorities. Don’t expect to spend too much time in this pristine environment as your time both on-shore and in water will be closely monitored by officials.

Antarctica

2. The Seychelles, Africa

Yes, it is where Prince William and Kate spent their honeymoon and in recent years these islands have seen a tremendous growth of tourists, reaching more than six times the number of residents. Just recently in 2015 the minister of tourism and culture for the Seychelles told the world that they are planning a cap on annual visitors. A ban has already been put in place on the building of large hotel developments and now locally small run properties are the only one granted permission to start operations. Expect to see a cap on the number of visitors by next year, as this group of islands is determined to take the issue of sustainable travel more seriously. Although tourism is the Seychelles single biggest industry, they are determined not to demean the value of these gorgeous islands.

Seychelles

1. Barcelona

Barcelona is the most recent city to consider putting a limit on tourists as the incoming Mayor is determined to put a cap on the number of tourists by the end of 2015. Believing that the city is becoming out of hand and overrun by tourists, as in the last 13 years the numbers have doubled, there seems to be no other solution than to cap the numbers. Any visitor who has been here in the last few years has certainly noticed the throngs of people in their path as they try to make their way through the city. It has also become a sort of landing ground for young backpackers who don’t always have the best intentions. As well as introducing a cap on the number of people to visit, the new mayor also wants to put a six month freeze on new hotel developments and tourist rental apartments. Barcelona wants to assess the tourist situation and understand which areas can sustain further development and increase their intake of visitors, and which places are already overrun.

Top Cities 2013 - Barcelona

The Top 10 Countries to Visit in 2014!

If you’re in the mood to do some international traveling, there are many exciting countries worth visiting. The world is always changing, and some destinations are especially appealing right now. According to Lonely Planet, the following are the ten best countries to visit in 2014.

10. Malaysia

Malaysia has one of the fastest growing economies in Southeast Asia. Aside from its many historic and natural attractions, the nation has recently opened some notable new sites. These include Legoland Malaysia and Melaka, a bird park that contains hundreds of species of birds. This is a great year to visit Malaysia, especially as you can now find reasonable fares by airlines such as AirAsia and Malaysia Airlines.

Malaysia

9. Macedonia

This Balkan nation is not yet as popular as its neighbor Greece, but it’s rapidly establishing itself as an international destination of note.  Macedonia has a wealth of history to explore, yet it’s also a very modern country as well, and currently has a thriving entertainment scene that features lots of restaurants, clubs, bistros and ski resorts.

Macedonia

8. Belgium

Belgium is a European country that some tourists tend to overlook, but this is quickly changing. It features several amazing cities, such as Brussels, Bruges and Antwerp, the heart of the Flemish region. Famous for its chocolate and beer, Belgium is also expecting to receive lots of visitors as it prepares to celebrate a four year festival commemorating World War l.

Belgium

7. Seychelles

These beautiful islands, set off in a remote area of the Indian Ocean, are known for being a destination for the ultra wealthy. Fortunately, there are now some economical alternatives to the exclusive hotels and resorts of the Seychelles. You can find more affordable guest houses and B & B’s that allow you to enjoy the islands’ unique scenery and incomparable beaches at a reasonable price. This is the ideal beach hideaway for people who want to avoid the crowds.

Seychelles

6. Mexico

Mexico has long been a favorite destination for travelers seeking warmth, beaches and an exotic culture that is right on the border of the U.S. This is a nation that has something to offer travelers of all tastes, whether one prefers lounging on the beach with a cocktail, visiting museums or exploring Mayan ruins. Adventure loving visitors will want to experience the new zipline overlooking Copper Canyon.

Mexico

5. Malawi

If you’ve ever dreamed of taking an African safari, Malawi is the place to do this in 2014. At places such as the Majete Wildlife Reserve, you can experience incredible animals up close without the constant buzz of four-wheel drives passing you by, as is the case in many other African national parks. Malawi is a country where you can enjoy the Big Five -elephants, buffalo, rhinos, leopards and lions- in a low key manner.

Malawi

4. Sweden

Sweden is one of the most fascinating destinations in Northern Europe right now. In addition to the distinctive Scandanavian landscape, you will find all kinds of cultural attractions in cities such as Stockholm and Umea, which was named the European Capital of Culture for 2014. Sweden’s cities are full of lively clubs, museums and cafes. You can also enjoy the nation’s distinctively fresh cuisine, which includes local cheeses, produce, game and seafood.

Sweden

3. Scotland

Scotland is always a memorable place to visit, but in 2014 it is especially exciting. Over the summer, you can catch the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow if you are in town. There are also a myriad of other events and festivals, including the Spirit of Speyside Whiskey Festival in the spring and the government sponsored Year of Homecoming festival. The nation has also recently upgraded its transportation system and opened some new sports venues to make it even more visitor friendly.

Scotland

2. Antarctica

The world’s coldest and least populated continent has a lot to offer adventurous travelers. While not necessarily a country – it is a destination travelers should consider for 2014. Antarctica is one of the few regions where you can appreciate the stark beauty of nature with hardly any distractions. There is the fascinating wildlife, such as leopard seals, killer whales, seabirds and, of course, penguins. You can also experience the grandeur of glaciers, giant icebergs and mountain ranges that have never been scaled. An Antarctic cruise is a travel experience unlike any other, and is worth putting on your bucket list for 2014.

Antarctica

1. Brazil

There are many good reasons to visit Brazil in 2014, starting with the FIFA World Cup. Even if you’re not a sports fan, however, this growing country has a great deal to offer. It features some of the world’s most beautiful beaches such as Copacabana and Ipanema, as well as an always exuberant nightlife. If you go early in the year you can also experience the world’s biggest Carnival celebration in Rio de Janeiro.

Brazil