14 trending destinations for 2014

Thursday, 2 January 2014 - 11:51am IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: DNA
Wine museums, world heritage sites, national parks and more... Swetha Padmanabhan and Avril-Ann Braganza walk you through the trending destinations of 2014

Portugal

Lisbon

Beautiful architecture, old houses and a well maintained city, regal Lisbon should be on your list of 'must-visit-cities when travelling to Portugal. Jump aboard the hop-on-hop-off bus, a good way to cover the important sites of the city–São Jorge Castle, beaches,  hills and more...Don't forget to visit  the Hotel, where Ian Fleming stayed during the James Bond movie, Casino Royale. A walk down the winding streets of Alfama, the city's oldest district, overlooking the sea is a must. If you have a day in Porto, a good way to see the city is the hop-on hop-off bus. While in Porto, the Port wine capital, don't forget to to visit its wine museum. You won't regret a visit to Fatima's grand shrine; its serene silence, minimalistic but modern paintings, beautiful carvings and intricate architecture will leave you mesmerised.

Vietnam

War tunnels

Unique topography, delectable culinary options, fascinating history, and more... Vietnam has much to offer. Vietnam’s largest City, Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) is always on the move—bikes whizzing by and sidewalks filled with stalls and foodcarts (perfect for a taste of authentic Vietnamese cuisine). While in Ho Chi Minh, make sure you do a day trip to the Cu Chi Tunnels, the location of several military encounters during the Vietnam War. For those fascinated with history, stop by the War Remnants Museum. Shopaholics make your way to Ben Thanh Market or to Bui Vien Street. Ensure you visit Hanoi for its beautiful French architecture and floating villages on the Mekong Delta. The ruins of My Son are a UNESCO world heritage site, while the beautiful island of Phu Quoc has the most idyllic beaches.

Japan

Mount Fuji

Home to 17 world heritage sites, including Itsukushima Shrine on Miyajima Island, the majestic Himeji Castle in Hyogo, and the Horyuji Temple in Nara. Tokyo, Nara, Mount Fuji, and the ski resorts cannot be missed. If you’re looking to spot a real-life Geisha, head to the Gion district of Kyoto. In Tokyo, experience the famed Shibuya crossing. You might recognise it from the movie, Tokyo Drift. From March to May, a picnic under a blooming cherry blossom tree is worth the experience. Shoppers, head to Ginza or Omotesando, if it's upscale shopping you seek or to Shinjuku and Shibuya known if you prefer shopping at a mall.

Argentina

Tango at Plaza Dorrego

Buenos Aires is defined by its exquisite architecture, vibrant nightlife, and its love of tango. Walk through Avenida de Mayo where buildings like the Palacio Borolo ooze culture. Step into Plaza del Congreso to see one of the original casts of ‘The Thinker’. In Manzana de las Luces, walk through a maze of tunnels and catacombs that weave underneath the city. Dance enthusiasts, head to Plaza Dorrego and nature lovers, visit the Iguazú National Park to view the Iguazu Falls and maybe catch a glimpse of rare animals like the jaguar and anteater. Drop by Santa Cruz to see the Los Glaciares National Park which has an ice cap that feeds over 40 glaciers, and the Cueva de las Manos where you will find paintings of hands 10,000 years old. Known for its chocolates, San Carlos de Bariloche also offers the avid adventurer the chance to ski, trek and explore the wild mountains.

Oman

Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque

In Muscat, take a tour of the legacy of this beautiful oasis at the Museum of Omani Heritage and the Omani French Museum. While in the capital, catch a show at The Royal Opera House and visit Al Alam, the Sultan’s ceremonial palace. To enjoy a taste of its religious offerings, make sure you stop by the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, Oman’s main Mosque.  
In this country littered with forts, the Bahla Fort is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Bahla is celebrated for both pottery and magic. Bargain at the traditional markets or souqs. Nizwa Souq, within the walls of the Nizwa Fort, is popular and has been home to merchants for centuries. The nesting process of the endangered green turtle can be seen at the Raz Al Jinz Turtle Reserve with guided tours at night. Alongside traditional tourist attractions, Oman is prominent for fishing, diving, cruises and other recreational activities.

Spain

Courtesy: Catalan Tourist Board

The Mediterranean sea, the Pyrenees, churches, sports, Catalonia is gaining tourist popularity. Barcelona offers beautiful beaches and a vibrant nightlife while Girona, Tarragona and Lleida are known for their cultural and environmental heritage. The birthplace of Gaudí and Domènech i Montaner, the Camp Nou football stadium and buildings like Sagrada Família, La Pedrera and Casa Batlló, Catalonia is rich in culture. Spanish culture comes to life in the streets of Madrid with Flamenco performances, and the architecture and colour of Puerta del Sol and the Gran Via. Football fans, head to Santiago Bernabeu, the home of Real Madrid while for art lovers, the Golden Triangle of Art in Madrid and the Picasso Museum in Malaga, the birthplace of the artist, are a must. A prominent festival, the annual San Fermin festival in Pamplona in July is worth experiencing. In Andalucia visit Cordoba, Sevilla and Granada where you can find the Alhambra, Albaicin and Sacromonte. The Balearic island of Ibiza, a world-famous party destination, has a large number of bars and clubs. No trip to Spain is complete without indulging in tapas and paella, washing them down with rioja and sangria, with churros bringing the meal to a crescendo.

Austria

Vienna State Opera

UNESCO World-heritage sites, beautiful landscapes, magnificent castles, dizzying architecture and rich culture...Austria will enchant you. If you're a fan of musicals, you cannot miss a day trip  to the place where The Sound of Music was filmed in Salzburg. While in Salzburg, you must visit Mozarts Geburtshaus (Mozart's birth house, now a museum), the Toy Museum and Hohensalzburg Fortress among the several tourist attractions. And in Vienna, Stephansdom (St. Stephen's Cathedral) will stun you into silence with its breathtaking gothic architecture. The Hop-on Hop-off bus is a good way to see the important sites of Vienna–Hofburg Palace, the Vienna State Opera, City Hall, Schonbrunn Palace, Danube Tower and the Mozart Memorial. Vienna's contemporary museums and coffee houses are also worth a visit.

The Scandinavia
n Five

Uspenski Catherdral, Finland. Courtesy: Miriam Rune

Denmark
Copenhagen, the warm and inviting capital, is filled with museums for lovers of the arts and sciences. The Amalienborg palaces are where the royals reside with a museum on the grounds. The Nationalmuseet, Experimentarium and the Copenhagen Zoo should find their way into your itinerary. Billund, home to Legoland and the town where Lego was conceived is the best location for kids along with Odense, where the Hans Christian Andersen Museum is located, attracting fairytale fanatics the world over. No trip to Denmark would be complete without visiting the Viking Museum in Roskilde, the Jelling Rune stones and the Kronborg castle in Elsinore, a town popular with anglers. For a taste of the Danish cuisine try the Smørrebrød, an open faced sandwich.

Finland

This is the nation where the Air Guitar World Championship takes place every summer.
The gorgeous capital of Helsinki is the location of the famous Suomenlinna Fort, the Seurasaari Open Air Museum and the beautiful beaches of Pihlajasaari. The Lutheran Catherdral, Uspenski Catherdral, the Olympic Stadium of the 1952 olympics and the Sibelius Monument constructed in honour of composer Jean Sibelius are amongst the main attractions of the city.
Venture into the Arctic Circle to Rvaniemi, Lapland, home of Santa Claus. With Santa Claus Village, Santa Park and Joulukka, experience Christmas any time of the year.

Iceland

Alþingi, the Parliament building, City Hall and Reykjavík Cathedral are some of the main spots to visit in Reykjavik, the capital of this desolate island nation along with the geothermal baths, Laugardalslaug and Árbæjarlaug and the many parks. The National Gallery of Iceland and the National Museum of Iceland will help you gain insight into its history. Reykjavik is also one of the best places to go whale watching. The black sand beach of Reynisfjara, the Blue Lagoon geothermal spa and Geysir, the original geyser, are some of Iceland's top destinations.
Two of the main National Parks include Þingvellir National Park, the home of the Icelandic parliament until 1798 and Vatnajökull National Park where you can find Hvannadalshnúkur and Vatnajökull, the country's highest mountain and glacier respectively, as well as Dettifoss, a spectacular waterfall. If your stomach can handle it, try the pungent Icelandic delicacy, Hákarl, shark cured for a few months.

Norway
Oslo provides something for everyone's interest. Edvard Munch's The Scream can be found in the National Gallery while another collection of his work is at the Munch Museum. For the fans of the famous playwright, the Henrik Ibsen Museum is a treat. Both men are buried at Vår Frelsers cemetery. Also in Oslo is the Kirkeristen, filled with local craftsmen. It is also the home of the Royal Palace and the Viking Ship Museum. The previous capital of Norway, Bergen, is the best route to the Western Fjords. While in the city, take in the Art Museum, the famous fish market and the Bergenhus Fortress, Norway's oldest fort. Journey through the Møre og Romsdal district by car, bus or even a cruise through the Fjords to experience the striking landscapes.

Sweden

The Gamla Stan or the Old Town in Stockholm is home to the Royal Palace, Stockholm Cathedral and the Nobelmuseet, the museum of the Nobel Prize and is filled with little souvenir shops surrounded by Swedish culture. Södermalm provides the best view of the capital which offers plenty of churches to visit. Other old towns in Sweden include Uppsala and Karlskrona. In Gothenburg take in the various museums. Also stop by the Skansen Kronan, a former prison and visit the religious structures of Gothenburg Cathedral and the Christinae Church. Try and attend the Medieval Week in Gotland that takes place every year in August. The Åre ski resort provides skiing for adults and kids alike. The nightlife of the town of Åre provides a great way to unwind. While anywhere in Scandinavia, if you are lucky, you will get to see the enchanting Aurora Borealis light up the night sky.

Brazil

Rio de Janerio

The world cup is around the corner! So book your tickets, pack your bags and head to Brazil. Stroll down the world-famous sands of Copacabana, Ipanema and Leblon in Rio de Janeiro. You can't miss the statue of Christo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer) from where you get a stunning view of the Pao de Acucar (Sugarloaf Mountain) or an excursion to Sugarloaf mountain. It's lovely to walk down Santa Theresa; its lovely cafes, the old tramline and art shops give it an old-time charm. Petropolis for its history, Buzios for sandy shores and quaint Parathy are worth a visit. Shoppers will have a blast at the local markets specific to each locality, night bazaars along Copacabana or a the trinket-filled Hippie Feira at Ipanema on Sunday.

Cambodia

Angkor Wat

The predominantly Buddhist nation, once a part of French Indochina, boasts a large number of tourist attractions. The capital, Phnom Penh, is distinguished by its mix of historical and colonial architecture. The Royal Palace, the residence of the King of Cambodia, features the Silver Pagoda, the King’s official temple. Wat Phnom is the tallest of the many Buddhist temples in the city. Siam Reap provides you with a taste of Cambodian culture with Aspara dance, museums, handycraft and silk farms.
From Siam Reap you can access Angkor Thom, a UNESCO World Heritage site. The Angkor Wat, initially a Hindu and then a Buddhist temple complex found on the Cambodian flag, is the world's largest religious structure and was partly influenced by Dravidian architecture.
Also in the region of Angkor lies the Banteay Srei, a 10th century Shiva temple with intricate carvings. Another ancient Hindu temple to visit is the Preah Vihear Temple in the Dangrek Mountains. An homage to the victims of the Khmer Rouge, Choeung Ek, one of sites of The Killing Fields, has a Buddhist stupa with the sides filled with the smashed skulls of victims.

Laos

With its many Wats (Buddhist temples), beautiful landscapes and a rich history involving invasions by the Burmese, Siamese, Japanese and the French, the country is a cultural haven.
In the capital of Vientiane visit the Talat Sao, the morning market, and then see the Buddha Park statuary, the Pha That Luang, a national symbol, and the Patuxai, a war monument in honour of the fight for Independence from the French. Stop by the That Dam, or the Black Stupa, where local legend claims a seven-headed naga once resided. Try the fried Mekong River moss, a delicacy in Luang Prabang, after a day of visiting the waterfalls and the Pak Ou Caves along the river and scaling Mount Phou Si where two beautiful Wats are located. The provinces of Champasak and Xiangkhouang are the perfect settings for ecotourism with the popular Plain of Jars located in Xiangkhouang. Make sure to trek through Vang Vieng, a backpacker's paradise.

The Quartet

Hungarian Parliament, Budapest. Courtsey: Swetha Padmanabhan

Czech Republic 
Prague is a historic and exquisite city, with the Old Town, New town and Lesser Town each displaying different aspects of Czech culture and life. The world’s biggest ancient castle, the Prague Castle provides visitors with a breath-taking view of the city which features The Infant of Prague, a famous statue of Christ and the Prague Dancing House.
For those fond of beer, the city of Pilsen, known to be the birthplace of Pilsner, is the perfect destination. There are plenty of options for those who seek relaxation, there is the Karlovy Vary, a historic spa resort and nudist beaches located on the shores of lakes.

Hungary
One of the best ways to get a taste of Budapest is to hop on to a cruise down the Danube where the vivid sights, including the Parliament Building come to life. Budapest is also home to the Royal Palace, St Stephen’s Basilica, The National Gallery and the Great Synagogue. Hungary is famous for its medicinal baths. The Széchenyi Medicinal Bath in the capital cannot be missed. Visit Gyor for a more vibrant nightlife and the Early Christian Necropolis of Pecs, a university town.
Do not leave Hungary without trying their cold smoked sausages and the traditional, hearty goulash.

Poland
While in the capital of Warsaw, follow the Royal Route and get a taste of the old Poland, rebuilt after being wrecked during World War II. Also stop by Krakow, the cultural capital, Gdansk and Wroclaw, an old city on 12 islands. Not far from Krakow is the terrifying yet humbling Auschwitz Concentration Camp, notorious for the Holocaust.
Music lovers will be delighted to find black benches in the city centre that play Frédéric Chopin's most famous pieces while his petrified heart is encapsulated in a pillar at the Holy Cross Church in Warsaw.

Slovakia
A potpourri of mediaeval architecture, beautiful scenery and ski resorts, Slovakia is home to the Tatra Mountains. Bring out the adventurer in you by indulging in trekking, mountaineering, kayaking and white-water rafting then relax in the various spas scattered across the country. One of the more popular destinations is the capital of Bratislava, with the Bratislava Castle at the forefront of tourist spots. The Old Town, where the Town Hall is located, is filled with historic buildings. The home of the president, the Grassalkovich Palace, the St Martin’s Cathedral, a gothic structure, and the ‘Blue Church’ (the Church of St Elizabeth) are some of the more prominent structures in the city. A must see due to its macabre history is the Cachtice Castle, a ruin, was the home of the ‘Bloody Lady’, a female serial killer in the 1500s

Zimbabwe

Victoria Falls

If you want to connect with nature, Zimbabwe may be the perfect holiday destination with the famous Victoria Falls, surrounded by rainforest, providing you thes chance to see crocodiles lazing in the Zambezi River. At Hwange National Park, the largest game reserve, you can catch a glimpse of elephants, cheetahs, brown hyenas and other wildlife. Zimbabwe’s highest peak, Mount Nyangani, and its highest waterfall, Mutarazi Falls, can both be found within the Nyanga National Park. Mana Pools offers a view of larger wildlife that move there for water and is one of the best sites to see the animals. Make sure to visit the Great Zimbabwe ruins, the most famous of the ancient cities, the Matobo Hills, which were formed over 2000 million years ago, and The Balancing Rocks. While in the capital of Harare, visit the Chapungu Sculpture Park, The National Gallery of Zimbabwe and the National Heroes Acre, a burial ground.


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