2014’s Best Places to Travel: Lonely Planet’s Selections

The ceremonial South Pole at Amundsen-Scott Station, Antarctica (Wikimedia)
The ceremonial South Pole at Amundsen-Scott Station, Antarctica (Wikimedia)

Each year, Lonely Planet announces its choices for the best places to visit during the upcoming year, and usually there are a few curious surprises on the list. Needless to say, 2014 is no exception. In the top 5, 3 of the choices—Brazil, Scotland, and Sweden—probably won’t raise eyebrows. But, the other 2—Antarctica and Malawi—will definitely arouse some curiosity.

Why are all these destinations in Lonely Planet’s top 5? Here’s a quick summary:

  1. Brazil. South America’s largest and most populous country tops the list for a very understandable reason—it’s hosting the 2014 FIFA World Cup matches and just 2 years after that it will be hosting the 2016 Summer Olympics. In addition to such magical cities as Rio de Janeiro, Brazil is also home to picturesque towns and amazing biodiversity ranging from deep green rain forests to tall, windswept sand dunes. A wonderful adventure destination in any year!
  2. Antarctica. The cold continent on the bottom of the globe came near the top of Lonely Planet’s list because 2014 marks the century anniversary of the beginning of explorer Ernest Shackleton’s inspiring but ill-fated attempt to cross the continent. With ships leaving South America and New Zealand, it’s now easier than ever to see this strange land in far more comfort and safety and Shackleton experienced. Highlights range from watching thousands of penguins on the Antarctic Peninsula to viewing the Dry Valleys, an area where it hasn’t rained in centuries.
  3. Scotland. This land of great history and beauty will also be playing host to a sporting event during 2014—in Scotland’s case, it’s the 20th Commonwealth Games. And, to prepare for the occasion, the host city of Glasgow has just undergone a major renovation, which includes everything from new sports venues to upgraded transportation connections.  In addition, Scotland regularly attracts visitors to everything from its annual Edinburgh Fringe Festival (the world’s largest arts festival) to the breathtakingly beautiful Scottish Highlands.
  4. Sweden. Long a popular destination, Sweden has a couple of additional pluses for travelers in 2014. The first is that its largest northern city, Emea, has been named the European Capital for Culture for the year. Another is the country’s growing reputation as a culinary center, a place where serious gourmets and bold, experimental chefs come together. An added plus is that Sweden was also named one of the world’s 10 Happiest Countries in 2013 by Columbia University’s Earth Institute.
  5. Malawi. A major story here is this African country’s Majete Wildlife Reserve. Just a decade ago, it lay wasted from years of poaching. Last year, however, thanks to a concerted effort by the government and others, the park has achieved top status as a wildlife-viewing destination. The country also offers a variety of other fun vacation opportunities from snorkeling at Lake Malawi to hiking near picturesque Mount Mulanje.

Rounding out Lonely Planet’s Top 10 destinations for 1024 are: Mexico, Seychelles, Belgium, Macedonia, and Malaysia. For more information on both the top 5 and these, check out the article.

If you’re more an urban type, Lonely Planet also made its selection for top cities for 2014. They are (in order): Paris, Trinidad, Cape Town, Riga, Zurich, Shanghai, Vancouver, Chicago, Adelaide, and Auckland. For more information on these cities and why they made Lonely Planet’s list for the upcoming year, check out this article.

Is there a major destination or a particular city you felt was unfairly slighted. If so, we would be thrilled to hear from you. Just post a comment after this article.