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Canada Travel news and opinion

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    Hallasan is a volcano that looms 6,398 feet above sea level, making it the tallest peak in the nation of South Korea. What does that mean to locals? ...that they should climb it in the dead of winter, of course!

    Hiking Hallasan is actually not as rigorous as you might think-- there are two different trails that snake roughly five and a half miles to the top. Trekkers are rewarded with views of the mountain's massive crater lake.



    The Hallasan hike starts on a quaint, snowy path, as if you're strolling through a charming, snow-covered village.

    Then things get a little more intense, especially if your whole village is following behind you.

    But it's worth it, because you'll all get to touch the clouds.

    And you'll also sit on top of the world.

    When they reach the summit, some prefer to celebrate with snow angels. Yay for Hallasan!

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    This week's Moment of Travel Zen comes to us from Kristen Etzel. Her photo of Katoomba, located in New South Wales, shows the breathtaking natural beauty of Australia.

    From lively cities like Sydney and Perth to stunning landscapes in Tasmania and more than 500 national parks, Australia is has no shortage of gorgeous scenery and thrilling activity. Whether you're looking for a zen retreat or a urban excursion, there's something in Oz for everyone.

    Where have you traveled for a moment of zen? Email with your travel zen or submit below!

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    A visit to one of Alberta's beautiful national or provincial parks can be exhilarating, especially if you have the pleasure of spotting some wildlife while you're there.

    But what about the people who work to keep those animals safe? Resource management officers have the unique privilege of interacting and protecting some of the country's most beautiful wild animals - bears, lynx and elk, included.

    Parks Canada has shared some of the most remarkable photos captured by staff on patrol in Banff National Park last year. The managers respond to emergency animal situations and help keep the public a safe distance away from animals passing through. They are witness to excitement, and heartbreak, that very few Canadians will ever experience.

    But by sharing their incredible stories and the photos that go along with them, they help us better understand what's happening in our big, wild backyard.

    Check out some of these amazing accounts as documented by Banff National Park resource management staff in 2013:

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    The ocean -- or any brilliant, large body of water -- is a powerful and beautiful thing. It gives you special moments that nothing else in the world can, from haunting yet serene silence to electrifying energy.

    Some may argue that this fascination borderlines addiction. It is, after all, the only way to explain that euphoric high that being in the ocean gives you, right?

    Below, 17 signs you are actually addicted to the ocean. (And are maybe going through withdrawal right now...)

    1. You don't understand the appeal of a ski vacation when you could be doing this:

    The beach is the only vacation you ever want.

    2. When you're close to a beach, somehow more sand ends up inside your car/purse/pockets than in the sandbox at your local park.

    And you never bother to clean it out.

    3. The weather and/or surf report of your favorite beach is a website you visit daily.

    What do normal people fantasize about?

    4. Words cannot express how much you love summer.

    5. Your Instagram account looks a lot like this:

    If there's a sunset without an ocean, you just don't see a reason for capturing it.

    6. You don't get it when one of your friends say, "I like going to the beach, I just don't like going in the water."

    Seriously, why are you even here?

    7. You'll take a beach work out over a gym work out any day of the week.

    Sweating is soooo much better when it's by the sea.

    8. Bali, Tahiti and Fiji are all on your travel bucket list.

    And when you get there, this beach dance is completely necessary.

    9. Your phone or desktop wallpaper looks something like this right now:

    +50 points if the image is underwater. +100 points if it's an image of you underwater.

    10. Your heart actually hurts when you see photos of other people's beach vacations on social media.

    It's just not fair.

    11. The beach-boho trend is the perfect excuse for you to dress like it's a beach day, everyday, regardless of weather.

    A style? Nope, it's a way of life.

    12. You've seen every single ocean-related documentary on Netflix.

    Deep sea animals are very, very trippy.

    13. You either have a GoPro or have been begging for one for months.

    And when you finally get one, your Instagram game jumps up 500%.

    14. Your swimsuit is always easily accessible:
    hanging bathing suits

    And it makes you smile just to see it every now and again.

    15. You probably grew up close to a body of water, but if you didn't, you definitely took on any mission just to get there as often as possible.

    Whatever it takes, right?

    16. You completely lose your sh!* during shark week.

    I'll see you in about seven days, kthxbye.

    17. You believe, whole heartedly, that this is one of the best feelings in the world:

    And you're forever chasing that stoke.

    Also on HuffPost:

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    There are places around the globe that affect you deeply and resonate long after your visit is over. Ireland is one of those places, the green, lush beauty of the countryside and the warm personalities of the Irish offer charms that can't be found anywhere else. My biggest challenge on this trip was to stop myself from photographing everything that crossed my path. My September journey driving around Ireland took me down the south coast for a visit to luxury hotels and a famous cooking school.

    Michelin Starred Cuisine at The Cliff House Hotel

    The Cliff House Hotel is located, as its name suggests, on a cliff overlooking Ardmore Bay. Ardmore, a small fishing village situated in Ardmore Bay, is about a four-hour drive south of Dublin. The quaint and very pretty town has a number of pubs and restaurants. There is a well-known cliff walk nearby of an early Christian settlement, featuring St. Declan's Church and Holy Well. The monastic ruins pre-date St. Patrick's arrival in Ireland.


    When I arrived at The Cliff House Hotel, I was greeted by the hotel manager and given a tour of the lavish hotel. The sleek, modern design of the hotel is very appealing. Each room, 39 in total, each featuring ocean views, has been designed with the local flora and fauna as a source of inspiration. From colour coordinated floor tiles to deep inviting bathtubs, I was charmed by the vibrant colour schemes and original artwork displayed in the guest rooms.


    My room was a two-level luxury Cliff Veranda suite, with a walkout balcony and spectacular view of Ardmore Bay. Unfortunately, as the evening progressed, the weather chose not to cooperate. The next morning, thick fog had rolled in over the bay, obscuring the view.

    The Cliff House Hotel has been in operation since the 1930s. The O'Callaghans purchased the hotel in 2005 and closed the property for a full renovation. The hotel was re-opened in 2008. Over the years, the hotel has hosted some very notable guests, along with visitors from all over the globe.


    Driven by my desire to search out culinary excellence, I was drawn to the hotel to dine at the Michelin-starred restaurant, run by Executive Chef, Martijn Kajuiter. Chefs are artists and those that reach a high level of prominence, like Kajuiter, tend to be perfectionists. When Chef Kajuiter arrived at the Cliff House Hotel in 2007, he scoured the outlying Waterford communities for the best local fisherman, farmers, and growers could offer for his kitchens. Everything served in the dining room and bar is made in-house, from jams and breads to sauces. Nothing is served that does not meet Kajuiter's exacting standards.


    Sea Front Bar, Cliff House Hotel

    My evening started with meeting Marketing and Sales Director, Honor Byrne for cocktails. Since it was Sunday, Chef Kajuiter had the day off and the formal dining room was closed. After drinks, we had dinner in the relaxed atmosphere of the sea facing bar.

    On the Menu:


    Filet of Halibut served with Shrimp


    McGrath's Beef: Rib Eye, Grilled, Red Wine Jus, Gratin Potato, Onion, Mushroom

    Visit Photo Gallery for an inside look at the Cliff House Hotel and surrounding area.

    Ballymaloe House and The Ballymaloe Cookery School

    On the southern coast of Ireland, a 45 minute drive from Ardmore, you'll find Ballymaloe House Hotel and Restaurant. Located in Shanagarry Village, the sleepy rural community is also home to, the famous Ballymaloe Cookery School, established and run by celebrity chef, Darina Allen.

    While driving to the Ballymaloe Cookery School, I had no idea what to expect from my afternoon. As I walked into the school's dining hall, packed with students having lunch with Chef Darina Allen, I couldn't help feeling amazed. Allen is the author of several successful books focusing on Irish cuisine, is a leader of the Slow Food movement in Ireland, and was also a key player in establishing a network of farmers' markets in the Cork area.


    I spent the afternoon in a cookery class with Allen and her students; I learned the proper technique to debone and joint a chicken for cooking. Allen stressed the importance of using organic, locally grown produce and believes that all people should have affordable access to healthy, natural foods.


    Darina Allen

    I found it interesting how she stressed the importance of bees in the ecosystem. "The bees are dying worldwide," she stated, "we, as future food growers and purveyors, must think about what we can do to help restore the balance. Bee keepers are sprouting up all over the place -- and even in major cities, like New York."

    The amount of knowledge she imparted to her students was very impressive. In fact, I learned quite a bit about the potato, different tomato varieties, and about "Cassia," a close botanical relative of cinnamon, but is considered faux cinnamon.

    The property includes residential cottages for students, a shop that is open to the public, and an organic farm with a greenhouse garden, where a large variety of crops are grown all year round. Tomatoes, cucumbers, spinach, green beans, and pumpkins, along with a wide variety of flowers and herbs are just a sample of what is grown at the school. Freshly gathered produce from the farm is fundamental to Allen's curriculum.


    A sea of tomatoes growing in the organic greenhouse

    Tim Allen, Darina husband, teaches the art of butter- and cheese-making. Rachel Allen, Allen's daughter-in-law, also teaches at the school and is a celebrity in her own right. She makes regular television appearances and contributes to many magazines and newspapers.

    Ballymaloe House and Country Restaurant


    Ballymaloe House, located about a few kilometers away from the school, is a picturesque country hotel. The hotel grounds feature a working farm with grain storage, a country shop, self-catering cottages, and, of course, the Ballymaloe House Hotel and Restaurant.

    Myrtle Allen, matriarch of the Allen family, opened the doors of Ballymaloe House as one of the first country restaurants in Ireland. It was here that Darina Allen first honed her culinary skills. Today, it is a five-star escape featuring 30 guest rooms and one of the finest dining experiences in the area. The property is managed by Myrtle's daughter-in-law, Hazel Allen. The Allen family resides either in the main house or on the farm.


    Ballymaloe House's elegant living room

    Visit Photo Gallery for a tour of the Organic Farm and Ballymaloe House cuisine.

    NB: My trip to Ireland was assisted by Ireland's Tourism Board. All opinions expressed in this article are my own.

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    Toronto has not had it easy this winter, what with true winter weather, flailing sports teams and yes, a mayor who is regularly the butt of Jimmy Kimmel's jokes. So how better for to console ourselves than by visiting some of Toronto's best new restaurants?

    Despite the hectic holiday season, plenty of hotspots opened up in November and December, with diners just getting a chance to discover them now. Among the selections are a bevy of Mexican restaurants, a trend that's been apparent in Toronto for a few years, albeit now with healthy and traditional twists. Menus are also heavy (quite literally) with meat, as barbecue battles for its own status in a city of grillers.

    One thing almost entirely missing from these new menus? As predicted, kale is very much on the way out, with items like coconuts and cipollini onions making their way in.

    Below, check out the 25 new restaurants Torontonians are talking about. Tried them out? Have a suggestion of your own? Let us know in the comments below:

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    Toronto, Ottawa, Quebec City and Montreal are about to get a little more cheesier.

    The four cities will be participating in this year's La Poutine Week from Feb. 1 to the 7. Over 100 restaurants across the country will be creating their own version of poutine for $10 or less, while through a voting process, Canadians will get the chance to choose their favourites.

    "It can be argued that it's our national dish, so why keep it all in Quebec? That's not fair. This one week is dedicated to our favourite comfort food — we can burn the calories later," says La Poutine Week co-founder Na'eem Adam.

    For those who are not familiar, poutine is traditionally made with cheese curds, fries and gravy, and is one of the country's most iconic dishes, made popular in Quebec as a post-drinking indulgence.

    And while some restaurants haven't shown off their secret poutines just yet, several joints have already put their menu items online. Some highlights include a Toronto sushi bar with a caramelized kimchi, beef tongue and Japanese mayo poutine, and an Ottawa pub featuring a poutine made with pulled pork, pork meatballs, cheese with bacon bits, topped with a Jack Daniels sauce. And yes, there are a few veggie options as well.

    In August, the same organizers and several of the same cities participated in Le Burger Week, featuring some of Canada's most over-the-top burger creations — including a Montreal version of the cronut burger.

    Adam says he plans to involve other Canadian cities in the years to come and hopes Feb. 1 can officially become Canada's National Poutine Day. Think about it, a day off to eat poutine? We dig it. So, will you be participating this year with your bellies? Let us know in the comments below.

    LOOK — What you can eat at Poutine Week this year

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    A Royal Caribbean Cruise ship has cut short its voyage after a viral outbreak left over 600 passengers on board sick with with diarrhea and vomiting.

    The Explorer of the Seas was into day 10 of its 12-day itinerary after an illness believed to be the norovirus — also known as the stomach flu — struck crews and passengers on Sunday. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says 577 guests and 49 crew members reported feeling sick. It's estimated 4,215 passengers were on board the cruise liner at the time.

    The outbreak was severe enough that the ship skipped its stop in Haiti for Saturday and sailed straight to San Juan, Puerto Rico for extensive sanitizing, CNN reports. Officials with Royal Caribbean Cruise later decided to cancel the remaining portion of the trip after consulting the CDC.

    New reports of illness have decreased day-over-day, and many guests are again up and about. Nevertheless, the disruptions caused by the early wave of illness means that we were unable to deliver the vacation our guests were expecting,” Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. said in a statement to the Associated Press.

    U.S. health officials will remain on board the ship where they'll continue testing for more information until it returns to port in Cape Liberty, N.J.. It's still uncertain what caused the rash of sickness but the close quarters of a cruise ship are expected to play a role in the spread.

    The norovirus is very easy to catch and hard to kill, according to a report from NBC, adding that it's just as easy to catch while on land. Those infected with the virus are considered contagious, often showing signs within one or two days, though symptoms will eventually pass with plenty of rest and liquids, according to Health Canada.

    For the time being, CDC members have placed the sick in quarantine who, for the most part, are showing signs of improvement.

    "Those affected by the short-lived illness have responded well to over-the-counter medication being administered onboard the ship," Royal Caribbean International told Fox News, adding “We sincerely apologize for the disruption to our guests’ cruise vacation.”

    This wouldn't be the first time the norovirus has thrown a Royal Caribbean cruise off course this year. On January 18, the Majesty of the Sea
    had to shorten its four-day voyage from Miami after 66 passengers fell ill, the Bermuda Sun points out.

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    Paris will forever hold a piece of my heart: the city, the people, the art, the culture, the long walks along the Seine (the list goes on). To quote Ernest Hemingway, on living in Paris, "...The memory of each person who has lived in it differs from that of any other." Here are 34 reasons why I fell in love with the City of Light after studying there abroad, and why you will too.

    1. You get to learn French in the most cosmopolitan, chic, and romantic city in the world.


    2. You start each day with some of the world's most butterlicious croissants. My favorite breakfast spot? Salle à Manger (138 Rue Mouffetard).


    3. You can practice your French with the locals.


    4. You don't have to be religious to appreciate the beauty of Parisian churches (photo of a chandelier at Sainte-Chapelle).


    5. Need to satisfy your humanities credits? Take a course on the history of Parisian architecture -- class requirement? A trip to the Louvre.


    6. If you get lost, you might end up on this street: Rue la Crémieux.


    7. You can always kick back, relax, and appreciate a local performance.


    8. Class trips make learning fun: The Louvre, Musée d'Orsay, Centre Georges Pompidou, Hôtel de Ville, Musée de l'Orangerie, Musée Rodin, Carnavalet Museum, to name a few.


    9. When you have to study, you can envision yourself among the greats like Voltaire and Rousseau at the Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève.


    10. There's nothing classier than hosting a wine and cheese party with friends (and baguettes).


    11. Need something to do on a Wednesday night? You can always check out a ballet or a performance at L'Opera Garnier.


    12. There is nothing more romantic than watching the sun set on top of the Ferris wheel at Place de La Concorde.


    13. Indulge your inner-athlete by watching a French soccer match at the Stad De France (and if you're really into it, don't hesitate to paint a French flag on your face).


    14. Enjoy dancing? Hit up one of Paris's chic bars or clubs -- Wanderlust, anyone?


    15. In Paris, a meeting with friends always starts at a cafe.


    16. You'll develop a newfound appreciation for street art.


    17. Your day trip possibilities are endless -- Versailles, Champagne, Normandy ...


    18. Popping champagne is legal (anywhere and everywhere) so do it on top (and in front of) the Eiffel tower.


    19. Macarons and chocolate will become staples in your diet.


    20. When it rains ... it bows.


    21. You have no shame when it comes to crashing every random couple's wedding photographs.


    22. Fashion week in Paris is like nothing you've ever experienced before (I spy Donatella Versace on the left).


    23. You prepare the finest French cuisine with locally grown ingredients (coupled with French wine) on a regular basis.


    24. There is always a different breathtaking view of the Eiffel Tower (View from Père Lachaise Cemetery).


    25. Paris is home to Europe's largest business district, La Defense (and it's in your city).


    26. You find the most unique treasures in a flea market (visit a different market every weekend).


    27. You can climb to the top of Notre Dame and touch a gargoyle (Quasimodo, anyone?).


    28. There's more to Paris than what you see above ground -- head beneath the city to the Catacombs of Paris where there are over 6 million skulls and bones.


    29. This could be your apartment window.


    30. The best way to tour the city is through an open-roof vintage Fiat.


    31. You appreciate the solace of riding alone when you catch an empty metro (or RER) cart.


    32. You find charm inside a tiny book store. My favorite? Shakespeare & Co.


    33. The "nature" of Paris makes you feel alive (stroll through as many Parisian parks as possible).


    34. You will fall in love, I guarantee it ... with Paris.


    All photos were taken by Sydney Berger using a Samsung Galaxy Camera.

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    All of these spa hotels and resorts are highly rated by our readers -- and all offer transporting natural surroundings to make your stay feel like a true escape.

    Originally posted on

    More from Condé Nast Traveler:

  • Stop Visiting These Places! You're Ruining Them!

  • This Massive Lake Disappears Overnight Several Times a Year

  • The Friendliest and Unfriendliest Cities in the World

  • 12 Travel Mistakes You're Definitely Making

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    It's been three months since National Geographic released a set of rare North Korea photos and weeks since rap duo Pacman and Peso debuted the music video they shot secretly (and illegally) on the streets of Pyongyang.

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    HOLLYWOOD, Fla. - Police in South Florida have issued an arrest warrant for a suspect in the death of a Canadian tourist whose body was found on a sidewalk.

    Hollywood police spokesman Lt. Osvaldo Perez says they received a report early Sunday morning about a body along Jefferson Street, just east of Federal Highway.

    He says the man had been stabbed and the death has been ruled a homicide.

    The victim has been identified as 58-year-old Domenico Perruccio. His hometown was not immediately known.

    Perez says police have notified his family and Canadian consulate officials.

    Police say an arrest warrant has been issued for 37-year-old Twane Dobard, and they are asking for the public's help in finding him. The police release did not specify a charge.

    Local media reports quoted neighbours as saying Perruccio was waiting for his wife to arrive because the couple were supposed to leave on a cruise on Monday.

    — With files from The Canadian Press

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    Ever wished you could jump into the perfect blue waters of your computer's desktop image?

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  • 01/27/14--11:05: Chinatown Revisited
  • My mother is the oldest of five siblings, most of whom grew up in New York’s Chinatown. They are voracious eaters and bargain hunters, and lifelong visitors to Chinese neighborhoods everywhere. When we talk about a good Chinatown, we point to certain signs: live fish for sale, dragon eyes in sidewalk produce displays, smokers, crowds.

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  • 01/27/14--11:05: Chinatown Revisited
  • My mother is the oldest of five siblings, most of whom grew up in New York’s Chinatown. They are voracious eaters and bargain hunters, and lifelong visitors to Chinese neighborhoods everywhere. When we talk about a good Chinatown, we point to certain signs: live fish for sale, dragon eyes in sidewalk produce displays, smokers, crowds.

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    Hung high in collectors' homes or hidden away behind museum walls, 2D art can have the (often undeserved) reputation for being inaccessible. Street artist Ernest Zacharevic's recent work in George Town, Malaysia is anything but.

    Zacharevic's stencilled-and-aersoled portraits are found all over the city, from unassuming alleyways and industrial spaces to the outside of 7/11s. The surfaces he paints are not interchangeable canvases -- they become an integral part of the work itself. He incorporates found objects and "rubbish" as well.

    “Penang Island, with its heritage and rich blend of cultures, is an artistic inspiration in itself. I have always been fascinated by its culture and history; especially reflected in its textures, old walls and heritage shop houses,” says Zacharevic to Juxtapoz Magazine of the island where George Town is located.

    As a result, his art invites not only collaboration, but participation. We personally think the best shots in the video are those that show people approaching and posing with the painting of the little boy on the motorcycle.

    No museum pass necessary.

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    Where will you go in 2014? We can't plan your vacations for you, but we can certainly help you narrow your wish list of destinations with our annual Top 50 Travel Destinations list. No, we don't propose that you visit all 50 in a year -- although, hey, that's an admirable goal -- merely that you take these 50 places into consideration when planning your 2014 travels.

    Some of these 50 destinations have major events in 2014 that you won't want to miss. Some are celebrating anniversaries in 2014 that make this a compelling year to visit. Some are simply places that you may not otherwise think of as great vacation destinations -- and we'd like to change that.

    Wherever you end up this year, however, we hope you'll have a splendid time. Now, in no particular order, we invite you to join us on a virtual tour of the Top 50 Travel Destinations for 2014.

    Dubrovnik, Croatia


    Fans of the TV show "Game of Thrones" will recognize the Croatian city of Dubrovnik, although they may not have believed it's a real place. The walled city that serves as the setting for King's Landing - home of the Iron Throne at the heart of the story - is no Hollywood sound stage. Dubrovnik is a genuine medieval walled city, one of the most picturesque in the world and certainly the main draw in Croatia. Even before "Game of Thrones" fans started visiting, Dubrovnik already had plenty of lures for tourists - the historic city center is surrounded by the sparkling Adriatic Sea, close to several sizable beaches, renowned for its vibrant nightlife, home to several interesting museums, and a bargain compared to nearby cities in Italy. More recently, Dubrovnik has become Croatia's "see and be seen" destination, raising its profile (and cost) somewhat - a trend the "Game of Thrones" will no doubt continue.

    Browse Game of Thrones tours in Dubrovnik

    Adelaide, Australia


    If winter has you singing the blues head down under to the capital of South Australia, Adelaide, for what locals lovingly call "Mad March." In Australia, March is the first month of autumn, and it's still plenty warm - warm enough for it to be a month of festivals (hence the nickname). The Adelaide Fringe Festival runs from mid-February through mid-March (the largest arts festival in the Southern Hemisphere). The Adelaide Festival starts at the end of February and shares an end date with the Fringe Festival. And WOMADelaide, the Australian version of the WOMAD Festival Peter Gabriel started in 1982 to celebrate music, arts, and dance, springs to life for a few days in early March.

    Leeds, England

    We're all familiar with the merits of a trip to London - and there's never a bad time to visit England's capital. But if you're looking for another English city to check out, one that lies in a region favored by the English as a vacation spot, then head for Leeds in the northern county of West Yorkshire. Leeds has consistently been one of the UK's fastest-growing cities for more than five years, and it continues to bloom with economic and cultural development making it an even more desirable place to live. The 2014 Tour de France will have its grand départ in Leeds, and foodies will appreciate the fact that the four counties that make up Yorkshire now have more Michelin-starred restaurants than any county outside London.

    Hunan, China

    If China has been on your wish list, chances are good you've already got cities like historic Beijing and sparkling Shanghai on your dream itinerary. China is, of course, an enormous country with much more varied terrain than simply the big cities on the eastern coast. For another view of this fascinating country, head for the Hunan province in the southeast. The region is increasingly easy to reach with new high-speed train access, the first few lines of the Changsha Metro set to open in 2014, and direct flights into Hunan from international airports all over the world. Are you into superlative structures? Then you'll want to check out Hunan's Sky City skyscraper, officially the world's tallest skyscraper (at least for the time being). Hunan province also delivers natural beauty, too, with portions of the region still going mostly ignored by visitors - including the spectacular UNESCO World Heritage listed mountains, rock formations, and verdant valleys of Wulingyuan.

    Flanders, Belgium


    August 4, 2014 marks the 100th anniversary of the invasion of Belgium by German armies. World War I had broken out a week earlier when Austro-Hungarian forces had invaded Serbia, and Germany paid no attention to Belgium's neutral stance - it wanted to attack France, and that meant crossing Belgium. Germany first invaded Liege in the French-speaking Wallonia region, but some of the costliest battles of World War I took place in Ypres in the region of Flanders. The In Flanders Fields Museum in Ypres - the name taken from the famous poem - recently underwent a major renovation and expansion in preparation for the 100th anniversary, and there are remembrance ceremonies in Ypres on a daily and monthly basis. This year, they take on even more significance.

    Visit the World War I Battlefields in Flanders

    Normandy, France


    While many places in Europe will be celebrating the momentous 100th anniversary of the start of World War I, in 2014 the French region of Normandy is focused on the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings. From June 5-August 21 there is a series of events scheduled to remember the people involved with D-Day and the Battle of Normandy - including an international ceremony at Sword Beach on June 6th, the actual D-Day landings anniversary. As the official 70th anniversary site notes, this may be "the last decennial anniversary" for which there are still living witnesses. For a completely different take on why you should visit Normandy in 2014, the region is hosting the World Equestrian Games from late August through early September. The highlight of the games may just be the day-long endurance race that will take place across the beautiful Bay of Mont-Saint-Michel on August 28th.

    Book the Normandy Battlefields Tour - American Sites



    Scotland wants to make 2014 the year when those of Scottish descent pay their homeland a visit. They're calling 2014 the year of Scotland Homecoming, with a series of special events, exhibits, and activities planned throughout the country to highlight what makes Scotland unique. It seems fitting, then, that in mid-September Scotland will be voting on whether to become independent from the UK - there will no doubt be plenty of discussion from both sides of the debate leading up to the referendum. Not Scottish or interested in politics? Then you might be interested in the XX Commonwealth Games, which are a mini-Olympics that take place every four years between Commonwealth countries. In 2014, Glasgow is the host from July 23-August 3. And for those of you who want to get out and see Scotland's natural beauty, consider a hike along the new , a trail starting just outside Edinburgh and winding more than 45 miles along the coastline past Muir's birthplace of Dunbar.

    Browse our Scotland tours



    Each year, the European Union selects a few cities to be its "Capital of Culture" destinations - and in 2014, one of those cities is Umeå, located in northern Sweden. This pretty university city - the largest in northern Sweden - is home to the Umeå Jazz Festival and Norrland Opera, not to mention a hotbed of heavy metal and punk music. The kickoff events for Umeå's year-long status as European Capital of Culture are January 31-February 2, with events and exhibits focused on music as well as theater, art, and dance throughout the rest of the year. Chances are good you'll be going through Sweden's capital of Stockholm to get to or from Umeå, which is great for culture vultures - Stockholm is a city that values aesthetics and design so much that there's an official "Beauty Board" to help preserve the city's beauty. Visit in early February to experience Stockholm Design Week.

    Hamburg, Germany

    Most music fans are familiar with the images of The Beatles on "The Ed Sullivan Show" after they first arrived in New York City, 60 years ago in February, but fewer people are aware of the strong association the group had with the city of Hamburg years before anyone in the US knew their names. From 1960-1962 The Beatles played in Hamburg (in what was then West Germany) in various clubs on a regular basis. It was in Hamburg that they all got what later became known as the "Beatle haircut," and where they honed their act enough to get noticed by US promoter Brian Epstein. Many Beatles landmarks in Hamburg still exist, including the clubs they once played, and there's a square named after them - Beatles-Platz - with sculptures representing the group. Music is still a big part of Hamburg's cultural scene, and you can check out local and international musicians at venues all over the city.


    If you've been hoarding your Latvian currency from your last visit to Riga, saving it for the next time you would visit, let this be your final warning - Latvia joined the European Union as of January 1, 2014, and the deadline for exchanging your Latvian lats (the country's currency prior to this year) in Latvian banks is June 30. After that, the notes and coins are simply a souvenir. And, of course, if you've not been to Latvia before, let this be your invitation - in the same year that Latvia joins the EU, its capital, Riga, is one of the European Capitals of Culture for 2014. Riga will play host to a number of cultural events, exhibits, and performances throughout the year as a result. The city is also hosting the World Choir Games (the world's largest choir competition) in July. Whether you're visiting Latvia for the first time or the 50th, the country is putting its finest foot forward in 2014.

    Zürich, Switzerland


    The European Athletics Championships take place this summer in Zürich. For one week in mid-August, athletes from 50 European nations compete in 47 different track and field disciplines. The European Athletics Championships are held every two years, and since 2014 is not a Summer Olympics year the full slate of events is on the schedule in Zürich. August is a great time to visit Zürich, too, with typically warm temperatures allowing you to enjoy the spectacular scenery and the city's many attractions.

    Belfast, Northern Ireland


    The "Game of Thrones" story may take place in the fictional land of Westeros, but the filming locations are quite real. Many of them are in the countryside of Northern Ireland near the capital of Belfast. Some of the filming locations you can visit are the Cushendun Caves and Larrybane (The Stormlands), Castle Ward (Winterfell), Ballintoy Harbour and Murlough Bay (Iron Islands), and Inch Abbey (The Riverlands). The haunting location for the King's Road is the difficult-to-locate Dark Hedges, a tree-lined road leading to an 18th century mansion - although it's significantly easier to find these days, with all the "Game of Thrones" fans seeking it out. Many of the "Game of Thrones" filming locations can be visited in a day trip from Belfast, making the city an ideal home base for exploring Northern Ireland's very film-worthy scenery.

    Book a Private Game of Thrones and Giants Causeway Tour from Belfast


    Not many years ago, Croatia still seemed far beyond the borders of where most travelers went in Europe. Now, Croatia is becoming quite a popular vacation spot - and it's neighboring Slovenia that can be described as an emerging holiday destination. Of course, Europeans have known about the fantastic reasons to visit Slovenia for ages - but many of us are just coming around to the idea. Slovenia is part of the EU (which means it uses the euro currency). The country shares borders with Italy, Croatia, Austria, Hungary, has a small coastline on the Adriatic Sea, and is easy to reach. It's a fairly small country, so adding Slovenia to an itinerary that includes any of its border countries could be an ideal way to explore it. And to top it off, Slovenia remains a relative bargain compared to many countries in Western Europe.

    Read more about Slovenia

    Victoria Falls, Zambia and Zimbabwe


    There are several categories for superlatives when it comes to waterfalls. Victoria Falls, which straddles the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe, isn't the tallest waterfall in the world, nor is it the widest. It does, however, hold the title of "largest," since its height and width result in the largest sheet of falling water on earth. The sight has been drawing tourists since it was found and documented by David Livingstone in 1855 - both for its visual impact and the sometimes deafening roar all that water produces. Victoria Falls is on many a travel wish list, so here's why you should check this one off in 2014: The towns that serve the falls, Livingstone in Zambia and Vic Falls in Zimbabwe, played host to the UN General Assembly in 2013. As such, they both had massive makeovers leading up to the event, and are better equipped than ever to host visitors. Even Zimbabwe, in the news so much in recent decades for ludicrous-sounding inflation rates, is getting back on track - the US dollar is now one of the main currencies accepted, so you wouldn't even need to visit the currency exchange office.

    Shanghai, China


    China's largest city, and the one that continues to grow at an exceptional pace, is Shanghai. Many travelers are familiar with the sparkling skyline of Hong Kong, and have favored it for years for quick stopovers in Asia. Shanghai offers the same kinds of visitor perks - shopping, attractions, great food - and as of last year, travelers from 51 countries no longer need a visa to visit Shanghai for 72 hours or less. This makes Shanghai an excellent option if you're looking for a long layover where you can explore the city for a few days before moving on to your final destination, because as long as you're flying in and out of Shanghai's airports, you've got a 72-hour pass to see the city. Enjoy the gleaming new skyscrapers and neon lights, but don't overlook the few historic neighborhoods that remain - including some areas of the Huangpu District near the City God Temple and the former Shanghai French Concession.

    Tokyo, Japan


    There has been much talk among sports fanatics about Brazil hosting the 2014 World Cup and then the 2016 Summer Olympics. But in late 2013, the International Olympic Committee announced the host city for the 2020 Summer Olympics - Tokyo. Sure, 2020 may seem a long way off, but time (as they say) flies. As Tokyo begins its initial preparations to host the world's athletes in six years, it's still a bustling and fascinating city to visit today. Unlike some Olympic host cities that require major upgrades in infrastructure to support the influx of visitors the games usually draw, Tokyo is already known for its robust tourist infrastructure. With more than 13 million people calling the prefecture home, this is a place that's quite accustomed to dealing with crowds. In 2014, you can visit Tokyo without being slowed down by any of the inevitable pre-Olympics construction, and still enjoy the ease a 21st century metropolis provides.

    Read more about things to do in Tokyo



    Bhutan, the famously reclusive country that measures success in "Gross National Happiness," has long been known as a tourist destination for only the wealthy and patient. With limits on the number of visas issued per year, a minimum stay requirement, and the need to use official tour guide partners, Bhutan has been off-limits to many would-be travelers. In recent years, however, tourism in Bhutan is getting comparatively easier - the country no longer limits the number of tourist visas issued, and there are more licensed tour operators these days.

    Fraser Island, Australia


    Australia is home to the world's largest sand island just off the coast of Queensland. Fraser Island is a relatively small spot in the South Pacific at only 710 square miles, but it packs quite a bit of natural wonder into that small space. While there are very few people who call Fraser Island home today, there is evidence that people have lived on the island for more than 5,000 years. It is also currently home to 25+ mammal species, 350+ bird species, and 865+ plant species. There are more than 100 lakes on Fraser Island, and a 75-mile-long stretch of beach on the eastern coast. It's a nature lover's playground. Fraser Island was added to the UNESCO list of Natural World Heritage Sites in 1992, and remains a popular tourist attraction for visitors to Queensland.

    Check out our Fraser Island tours


    For travelers craving a Southeast Asia trip without the crowds that now flock to Thailand and Indonesia, however, there are other options. The tiny country of Laos, sandwiched between Vietnam and Thailand, still has French elements leftover from its colonial days, but remains a far more "authentic" Southeast Asian experience than its neighbors. Laos (officially called Lao PDR) is home to two UNESCO World Heritage Sites - Luang Prabang (a city in northern Laos) and Wat Phu (the ruins of an 11th century Khmer temple complex) - and Laotians have a reputation for their relaxed lifestyles. Tourist infrastructure in Laos may not be as robust as it is in other parts of the region, but budget-conscious travelers who want to escape the crowds shouldn't let that stop them from exploring this beautiful country.

    Read why Laos is one of the cheapest countries for backpackers

    Gallipoli, Turkey


    Several countries in Europe will be marking the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War I this year, including England, France, and Belgium. The historic ANZAC landing at Gallipoli in Turkey didn't happen until the second year of the war, so that 100th anniversary isn't until 2015 - but since the outbreak of the war will be taking center stage across the continent this year, we think a 2014 visit to Gallipoli will be meaningful, too. Anzac Day in Australia and New Zealand marks the date (April 25th) when Allied troops landed at Gallipoli, and the World War I battlefields have long been some of the main tourist draws. During the 100th anniversary commemorations, there are likely to be even more people visiting World War I sites than there normally are, so plan ahead - especially if you want to be at Gallipoli on April 25th.



    The tiny Mediterranean island nation of Malta packs a lot of vacation destination punch into not very much space. Malta is made up of three islands, although the vast majority of visitors stick to the largest of the three (also named Malta). Even so, you can explore several parts of the island in one day if you're visiting on a cruise (even the hop on, hop off bus tours of Malta visit multiple cities on each route). There are three UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Malta. The most impressive are the "megalithic temples" built from 5000 B.C.E. to 700 B.C.E., making them what some say are "the oldest free-standing monuments in the world." There are annual arts and music festivals, plenty of hiking (particularly on the smallest island, which is mostly a nature reserve), excellent sailing and diving opportunities, and the sort of "melting pot" culture that can only come from constantly changing hands from one ruling nation to another. One of the top annual tourism conferences in the UK has chosen Malta as the host for its 2014 conference, which indicates the country is on the verge of something. Why not go and find out what it is?

    Browse our Malta Tours



    There are few places on earth that are simultaneously more complicated and more fascinating than Israel. This small country contains places of historic importance to three major religions - Judaism, Islam, and Christianity - as well as historic monuments and UNESCO World Heritage Sites that attract visitors from all faiths and backgrounds. Ever since the creation of the Jewish state in the years after World War II, however, the region has also been the scene of quite a bit of unrest. In recent years, as the peace process between Israel and Palestine remain ongoing, tourists interested in visiting some of the holy sites in the Palestinian Territories have begun taking advantage of an increasing number of guided tours that combine Israel with Palestine. This is an exciting development for visitors who want to see first-hand the many significant monuments and locations in this part of the world, but who may not be bold enough to organize a trip on their own.

    Visit the Dead Sea

    Barcelona, Spain


    Let's be honest - Barcelona is always a good bet for a holiday destination. This cosmopolitan city boasts proximity to great beaches, excellent Catalonian cuisine, a picturesque historic city center, and iconic Gaudi masterpieces. Barcelona is even more accessible now with the newly-launched high-speed rail line connecting the city with Paris in less than 6.5 hours. But what makes 2014 the year to consider a visit to Barcelona? Sports fans may be focused on Brazil this summer for the World Cup, but a trip to Spain means a trip to the country that won the last World Cup - as well as the last two European Championships. Attend an FC Barcelona match, and you'll see one of the top teams in the world playing "the beautiful game."

    Pompeii, Italy


    The destruction of the city of Pompeii is a familiar piece of history to most of us. Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 A.D., covering Pompeii and neighboring Herculaneum in ash and rocks. Both cities are still being excavated, but the far larger Pompeii is the more famous site - it's one of Italy's most popular attractions. The archaeological site is likely to see even more traffic in 2014, after the February release of the film "Pompeii." The scenes recreating what the city looked like prior to the volcano's eruption may well be useful to visitors who can't make heads or tails of the rubble in some parts of the site today, although a good on-site guide can help quite a bit in that regard. When you visit Pompeii (easy to do on a day trip from Naples, the Amalfi Coast, or even Rome), don't overlook little Herculaneum - the site may be significantly smaller, but it's better preserved and usually sees far fewer tourists.

    Check out our Pompeii trips here

    Porto, Portugal

    Portugal is something of the forgotten country on the Iberian Peninsula, Spain taking up as much room as it does, so although it's in Western Europe it's routinely listed as a good spot for budget travelers. Portugal's second-largest city, Porto, sits on the northwestern coast of the country and is a particularly popular spot for visitors - especially those who are interested in wine. It's the region around Porto that is famous for its production of the fortified wine we know as port. The historic city center is considered one of the oldest in Europe - it's a UNESCO World Heritage Site - and, if two architects get their way, it may be getting a new monument. They would like to move the historic Maria Pia Bridge, designed by Gustav Eiffel and no longer in use since a new rail bridge now crosses the River Douro, into the historic city center and turn it into a monument.

    Browse our Porto Wine tours



    The Sultanate of Oman curls around the coast of the Arabian Peninsula, bordered by Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and the United Arab Emirates. It's only since the 1970s that Oman has been relatively open to tourists, and in recent years it's more of an emerging destination for intrepid travelers. There are two small parts of Oman that are separated by the UAE from the rest of the country, but once you've arrived in the capital of Muscat you can arrange for transportation to the two exclaves if you wish. The UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Bahla Fort, a 13th century adobe fortress, was reopened to visitors in late 2012 with very limited hours.

    Bogotá, Colombia

    If you told friends in the 1990s that you were planning to visit Bogotá, you probably would have received some strange looks. Even today, people going to Colombia often hear from concerned friends and family. Today, however, Bogotá is a different place than it was two decades ago, and tourism in Colombia is increasing exponentially. The country is a bargain for budget-minded travelers, and the monuments and colonial architecture in the historic center help tell a story about a place many of us don't know enough about. In 2014, Bogotá will come alive with theater performances when the largest theater festival in the world opens in April - the Ibero-Americano Theater Festival of Bogotá takes place every two years, and attracts more than two million visitors - who enjoy more than 450 theater presentations and 150 street productions over the course of 17 days.

    Read our Best of Bogota blog

    Arizona, USA


    The Grand Canyon is on most travel wish lists - and it should be. But there are so many other excellent reasons to plan a visit to Arizona. The southwest state is ideal for road trips in almost any season (it can be unbearably hot in summer, though), with lots of interesting places to aim for on your map. Consider the funky college town of Flagstaff up in the mountains - an ideal spot for a ski trip or as a home base for exploring the Grand Canyon as well as native ruins in the area, and don't forget to check out the night sky from the observatory. Get your aura aligned in the artsy community of Sedona - or simply enjoy hiking through the region's stunning red rock formations. You can consult spirits of a different kind in any of Arizona's many ghost towns (every county has some). The new Museum of the West will open in Scottsdale in late 2014. And fans of "Breaking Bad" can continue their road trips right into Albuquerque in neighboring New Mexico, a 6.5 hour drive from Phoenix.

    Yosemite National Park, USA


    In 1864, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Yosemite Grant Act, making the Yosemite Valley and Mariposa Grove the very first protected wilderness. This created the first state park in California and set in motion the events that would lead to the creation of the National Park system in the United States. This year, Yosemite celebrates the 150th anniversary of that act with a series of events and special exhibits scheduled throughout 2014, including special ranger walks. We also think that visiting Yosemite - and any of the US National Parks - in 2014 is a great way to show support for these national treasures after they were closed during the government shut-down last year. No matter what your politics are, there's nothing like a trip to a National Park to inspire national pride.

    Check out our trips to Yosemite


    The group of French islands known as Guadeloupe have recently stepped up their efforts to lure tourists from North America to their five islands. There is a new Guadeloupe Tourist Board office in New York City, and there are new direct flights connecting Guadeloupe with Miami, San Juan, and Montreal. As eco-tourism becomes more and more high-profile, Guadeloupe is poised to cash in on the trend, with marine reserves, several remote (and largely untouched) islands, and several sparkling beaches that are typically free from the usual Caribbean crowds. Foodies will appreciate the cultural mix that goes into Guadeloupe's cuisine. Clearly, Guadeloupe has extended an invitation to visit in 2014. What will your answer be?

    Monterey and Carmel, California, USA


    Enjoy a quieter side of Californian life with a visit to Monterey and Carmel. Monterey sits on a bay of the same name, and is well-known for its fantastic aquarium, an annual jazz festival, an annual classic car show, and the historic Cannery Row. Carmel (formally known as Carmel-by-the-Sea) is a pretty coastal town with a strong artistic history, having been home to an artist colony since the early 1900s. Both of these sophisticated beach towns serve as good bases from which to visit Big Sur, play golf at the famous Pebble Beach, or watch the cars at Laguna Seca. And 2014 marks the 75th anniversary of the publication of "The Grapes of Wrath," for which author John Steinbeck will be honored in his nearby hometown of Salinas.

    Rocky Mountains, Canada


    Canada makes a great candidate for a long-distance train trip - particularly on the Rocky Mountaineer tourist trains in Western Canada. The glass-topped train cars allow you to take in the spectacular scenery of the Rocky Mountains, and of course during a train trip you're free to move around as much as you like (rather than being strapped into a confining coach seat on a plane). Get there in style - and more relaxed - with a train trip through the Canadian Rockies.



    The South Pacific island nation of Fiji is incredibly remote, and the name alone conjures up images of the kind of high-priced over-water bungalows you might see in an article about celebrity honeymoons. Sure, Fiji can be that version of paradise, if you've got the vacation funds. If not, however, rest assured that Fiji can actually be relatively budget-friendly, too. There are two small chains of islands (among Fiji's more than 300 islands), the Mamanucas and Yasawas, with resorts even bargain hunters will be pleased about. In addition to the multitude of activities Fiji offers on and around its beaches (including some excellent diving in coral reefs), you can exercise your green thumb with a visit to the Botanical Gardens of Thursten in Suva, and check out one of the newest entries on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites - the historical port town of Levuka on the island of Ovalau.


    With South Africa to the south and Botswana to the east, Namibia is in good safari company - but the Namibia ranks among the least densely populated countries on earth, and less popular with tourists than its neighbors. In Namibia, you can see zebra, antelope, baboons, wildebeest, African buffalo, elephants, lions, leopards, and cheetahs. Not only that, Namibia has a well-earned reputation for its eco-tourism efforts. Add to that the fact that the Namib Sand Sea has just been added to UNESCO's list of World Heritage Sites, and you've got more than enough reasons to visit Namibia this year.

    Chicago, USA


    Of all the reasons to visit Chicago, few would fault you if you went solely because you love baseball. Chicago is home to two Major League Baseball teams, and locals are sometimes defined by their allegiance to one or the other, but only one of those teams is celebrating the 100th anniversary of its home stadium in 2014. That's right - in 2014, Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago Cubs, turns 100 years old, and the Cubs have planned a series of special events in honor of that milestone. The team will highlight 100 great moments in Wrigley history, honor former Cubs players, and give away special souvenir mementos to fans. On the actual 100th anniversary of the first game at Wrigley (then called Weeghman Park) in 1914, the team will wear a uniform that's a replica of their 1914 kit, and other replica uniforms will make appearances through the rest of the season. No matter what the scoreline says at the end of each game, 2014 is a winning year to be in Chicago at Wrigley Field.

    Check out our Chicago activities



    One of the last great frontiers, Antarctica isn't really such a frontier anymore. With regular cruises leaving Ushuaia, Argentina these days, it's the sort of experience that really can be a "once in a lifetime" trip instead of an impossibility. Of course, when we say "cruises," we're talking about those sturdy expedition ships that are tasked with crossing one of the roughest stretches of water on earth, so it's the very opposite of smooth sailing. Luckily for those of you with severe seasickness, there's a relatively new fly-in option to reach Antarctica - you can fly from Tierra del Fuego to King George Island in the South Shetlands, and sail to Antarctica from there. You'll avoid the treacherous Drake's Passage, and cut your travel time. And in 2014, the 100th anniversary of the year when Sir Ernest Shackleton set off on his expedition to the South Pole, that sort of easy travel is even more of a marvel.

    South Africa

    South Africa was in the news in late 2013 with the death of legendary anti-apartheid activist and former South African president Nelson Mandela. Those interested in learning more about Mandela's legacy in South Africa can do that in a more poignant and powerful way by visiting the places where Mandela lived, worked, and was exiled. One of the most moving stops on a Mandela-focused tour of South Africa is an island just off the coast of Cape Town. It was on Robben Island where Mandela spent nearly 30 years in prison - you can even visit the cell where he lived. On a less somber note, Cape Town is undergoing something of a facelift at the moment, as it prepares for its status as World Design Capital for 2014. A year's worth of special events tied to many different aspects of design are on the calendar.
    Browse our South Africa tours


    Speculators in the travel world has had "US lifts ban on travel to Cuba" among their year-end predictions for several years now, with the predictions getting louder after Fidel Castro stepped down from the presidency in 2008. But the ban remains - at least for now. Of course, Americans can get around it the same way Beyonce and Jay-Z did (with a license from the Treasury Department) or risk it by sneaking in via a third country. Don't be surprised, however, if you can soon book tour packages to Cuba the same way you can any other island in the Caribbean. If that happens this year, book your ticket ASAP - Cuba just lifted its 50-year ban on the import of new vehicles, which will change the 1950s time-warp scenery of the island dramatically. And, of course, if you're not a US citizen, you've got no excuses not to book a trip to Cuba right now.

    Auckland, New Zealand

    From the first sweeping shot of "The Fellowship of the Ring" that we all saw back in 2001, hearts around the world were set on visiting New Zealand. The country's stunning scenery almost became a character in Peter Jackson's "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, and led to the creation of a host of Tolkien-inspired tours of the film locations. Now that we're two films into the trilogy of "The Hobbit," also filmed in New Zealand, our collective hearts are set on seeing Middle Earth for ourselves yet again. Some of the filming locations for "The Hobbit" are the same ones Jackson used in the "Lord of the Rings" movies, but there are new ones as well - and many of them are included on LOTR tours in New Zealand. Auckland, the largest city in the country, is a great place to begin your Tolkien tour of New Zealand - Hobbiton is about two hours from the city center.

    Siem Reap, Cambodia

    Once you've seen the photos of the forest slowly taking over the temple ruins, it's hard to not want to walk among the buildings at Cambodia's Angkor Archaeological Park. But even people who have Angkor Wat on their "must-see" list don't always know much about the city at its edge - Siem Reap. This town used to be relatively quiet, until the temples at Angkor were popularized as a tourist destination in the mid-19th century. Today, it's a bustling hub of tourist activity - which is a cause of some concern, as the Angkor site is somewhat fragile. It was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1992, and UNESCO has worked to preserve and study the ruins ever since. While in Siem Reap, don't miss a stop at the Angkor National Museum to learn more about the Khmer culture responsible for building it. And, for something completely different, visit in early December when the Angkor Wat International Half Marathon runs right through the famous ruins.


    Nepal was in the international news late last year as political demonstrations and rallies sprung up around the country's elections. The US State Department even issued a travel warning in early November, but that warning expired in mid-December and the situation in Nepal has quieted back down again - which means plenty of people are planning a trip to Nepal in 2014. The mountainous country is home to 10 of the world's highest peaks, including the tallest peak in the world at Mount Everest. 2013 marked the 60th anniversary of the first official ascent of Everest by Tenzing Norgay and Sir Edmund Hillary. In addition to climbers and adrenaline-junkies, Nepal also attracts hikers and spiritual travelers who simply want to soak up the rugged natural beauty of the country and the warmth of its people.

    Check out our Nepal Trekking tours

    Rajasthan, India

    You might think first of intensely crowded cities when you think of India, but if you head for the state of Rajasthan in the northwestern part of the country you'll find nature reserves, national parks, one of the world's oldest mountain range, an enormous desert, and historic hill forts. There are six forts that, collectively, make up one of the region's UNESCO World Heritage Sites - these forts were built between the 5th and 17th centuries, and some of them are remarkably well-preserved. Other UNESCO sites in Rajasthan include the Keoladeo National Park, a famous bird sanctuary, and a collection of 18th century astronomical buildings in Jaipur called a Jantar Mantar. Rajasthan is also home to the Dilwara Temples, five 11th-13th century temples that are pilgrimage sites for Jains. And animal lovers can rejoice at the two tiger sanctuaries in Rajasthan - Sariska Tiger Reserve and Ranthambore National Park - where you can go on tiger safaris to see the gorgeous cats in the wild.
    Read more about things to do in India

    Komodo Island, Indonesia

    You don't have to be a kid to be fascinated by monster stories, right? So if the main reason you want to go to Komodo Island in Indonesia is to see the enormous lizards named after the island, we can't blame you. Komodo dragons, the largest lizards on earth, can grow to 10 feet long, and can easily overpower large deer (one of their diet staples). There were stories of fire-breathing dragons on Komodo Island as recently as the early 20th century, when a large lizard was finally captured and analyzed. In more recent years, the Komodo dragons have become the main reason people visit the island (they are also found on a few other nearby Indonesian islands, too), although they've also been listed as "vulnerable" by one conservation group. Komodo National Park was founded in 1980 (and became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1991) in an effort to protect these impressive creatures.

    The Kimberley, Australia

    The state of Western Australia takes up nearly half the continent, but contains a fraction of the Australian population. The region known as The Kimberley in the northern part of Western Australia has a particularly scattered population - owing partly to its rugged terrain. This region has some of the oldest evidence of civilization in Australia, dating back more than 40,000 years, and is often called one of Australia's "last wilderness." If you can tear yourself away from the gorgeous coastline, The Kimberley's heart is made up of deserts, gorges, red rock canyons, and rivers. The Kimberley is remote and rugged, which means it's not easy to navigate without a 4WD vehicle and a guide, but the effort of securing both will reward intrepid tourists with scenery and stories most travelers to Australia will never see.

    Oaxaca, Mexico

    The city of Oaxaca is an incredibly popular tourist town, but this inland capital doesn't have any beaches to boast. Instead, Oaxaca's claim to tourist fame is its colonial architecture and well-known food scene. The city center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site thanks to its historic buildings, and not far from Oaxaca is another UNESCO site at Monte Alban - the ruins of an impressive Zapotec city dating from 500 B.C.E. Foodies have been flocking to Oaxaca for years for the region's distinctive mole sauces, among other things. In between meals, you can shop for local ingredients at the city's markets - or take a cooking class in Oaxaca to learn how to make some of the famous dishes yourself.

    Perth, Australia

    Most of Australia is unpopulated - or so sparsely populated that it might as well be people-free. You have to go all the way to the west coast of the country to find the fourth-largest city of Perth, capital of the state of Western Australia. One of the benefits of a visit to Perth is being able to enjoy both city and countryside essentially without leaving the city limits. From central Perth you can head east into the area known as The Hills - this is Perth's wine country, as well as the John Forrest National Park. Only a half-hour outside Perth's bustling downtown, you can be strolling between rows of grapes or exploring the bush environment of the park. And in April 2014 there are two particularly Australian reasons to visit Perth - the city will play host to both the World Vintage Rugby Carnival (for "mature" rugby players) and the World Boomerang Cup.

    Galápagos Islands, Ecuador

    When Charles Darwin visited the Galápagos Islands in 1835, he returned home with specimens and observations that led to his famous "The Origin of Species." Today, nearly 180 years later, scientists have used the reptiles living on the Galápagos Islands to add further credence to one of Darwin's assertions - that animals living on remote islands are more tame than their mainland cousins. Of course, this is one of the main reasons we still love to visit the Galápagos Islands - to get close to exotic animals like Galápagos green turtles, blue-footed boobies, Galápagos penguins, albatross, and marine iguanas. Efforts have been made since the 1930s to protect the unique environment of the Galápagos, with the creation of the Galápagos National Park in 1959 and the UNESCO World Heritage Site designation in 1978. Tourism remains a threat to the ecosystem, and so it is strictly regulated - which means you'll need to plan ahead to get on one of the tours.
    Book a trip to the Galapagos Islands

    New York City, USA

    New York is constantly changing, offering new reasons to visit even if you've been there before. In 2014, there are some poignant reasons to add New York City to your travel plans. One year after the devastating impact of Hurricane Sandy, both the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island are once again open to visitors. There are still some exhibits at Ellis Island that are being repaired, but most of the museum is open. These are just two examples of recovery more than a year after Sandy - the signs of rebuilding are all over New York and other nearby states, and the influx of tourist dollars helps further those efforts. Another momentous opening scheduled for March 2014 is the Museum at the 9/11 Memorial. The above-ground portions of the memorial opened in 2011, but opening dates for the museum have been pushed back a few times. There's no doubt the 9/11 Museum will be a top draw for travelers in 2014 and beyond.

    Walt Disney World, Orlando, USA

    What kid (or inner child) doesn't want to go to Walt Disney World at some point? If you're the kind of person who wants to enjoy the amusement park but doesn't want to have to choose between a Disney vacation or a luxury trip, then take heart - starting in 2014, you don't have to make that choice anymore. In July, Four Seasons is opening the doors to its Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World. That means you can have your cake (AKA all the Four Seasons luxury you've come to expect, including an on-site spa and a golf course) and eat it, too (AKA the resort property is right outside the Disney entrance). Yes, there are Disney touches at this new Four Seasons, but once ensconced in your room or the spa or the restaurants it's easy to forget you're anywhere near the Magic Kingdom. Which, in between rides on Splash Mountain, might be just what the doctor ordered.

    Get tickets to Walt Disney World



    Dylan Thomas remains a much-beloved poet in his native Wales more than sixty years after his untimely death. It's not surprising, then, that Wales is making 2014 - 100 years after Thomas was born in Swansea - the year of Dylan Thomas. The Dylan Thomas 100 Festival includes a slate of events to honor the late poet that started in October 2013 and will continue throughout 2014. In Swansea, there will be a world premiere performance of five musical tributes to Thomas' poetry. Literature Wales is hosting a series of Thomas-focused literary experiences in Wales as well as the US. An opera based on Thomas' "Under Milk Wood" will be performed in Swansea in April. There is even a series of presentations aimed at children, demonstrating the magic of Thomas' poetry to a new generation. While you're in Wales, you can visit Thomas' Boathouse in Laugharne, where he lived the last four years of his life (the outbuilding where he did some of his writing is also preserved) as well as his grave in the Laugharne cemetery.

    - Viator Travel Team

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    A Vancouver hotel has nabbed two major travel accolades.

    The Rosewood Hotel Georgia, located in downtown Vancouver, was awarded a Forbes Travel Guide 2014 Five Star Rating Award—the highest recognition. Only four Canadian hotels made the top rating, two of them in Vancouver— the Hotel Georgia and its neighbour, the Four Seasons Hotel Vancouver. (The Four Seasons Hotel Toronto, and the Trump International Hotel & Tower Toronto also received Five Stars.)

    Another high-profile pat on the back for the Rosewood Hotel Georgia comes from TripAdvisor's 2014 survey of the world's best hotels, which puts the hotel at number 16. Toronto's Trump Hotel, the only other Canadian facility to make the list of 25, came in at number 10.

    Check out photos of the Rosewood Hotel Georgia:

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    SÃO PAULO -- Olá from Brazil. I'm here for the launch of the Brasil Post, in partnership with the Abril Group, one of Latin America's legendary media companies. For more than half a century, Abril has been telling the story of Brazil, in the pages of iconic magazines like Veja, Claudia and Exame, and in its growing portfolio of online publications. We're delighted to welcome the Brasil Post -- The Huffington Post's first South American edition, putting us on our fifth continent -- and Abril's fabulous team to the HuffPost family.

    Brazilians are social by nature, both online and off, making Brazil the perfect place for The Huffington Post to expand our platform, which is all about conversation and engagement. With more than 100 million Internet users and more than 50 million smartphones, Brazil is as hyper-connected as any country in the world. It is now the third largest market in the world for Facebook and the fifth largest for Twitter. In a country as large and diverse as Brazil, the Brasil Post will welcome all voices -- politicians, business leaders and academics alongside students, activists and artists -- and will be a hub where all Brazilians can come to share their passions or simply cross-post from their own blogs and add a new distribution channel to what they're already writing.

    My first meeting with the Abril team was a little more than two years ago, in September 2011, when Roberto Civita, who at the time was Chairman and CEO of Abril Group, invited me and Nicholas Sabloff, our executive international editor, to lunch at their offices. Also at the lunch were Fábio Barbosa, who was on the verge of becoming Abril Media's CEO, and Manoel Lemos, the company's chief digital officer. It was one of those moments when everything comes together: we were completely taken with our hosts' hospitality, humor and passion for using all the tools at their disposal to tell the story of Brazil and its people.

    A few months later, Roberto, Fábio and Manoel visited us in New York and convinced me more than ever that Abril was the perfect partner for HuffPost in Brazil. Our launch today is tinged with sadness because last May Roberto died unexpectedly from an abdominal aneurysm. Just a few months before, our CEO Jimmy Maymann and I had lunch with him in New York, and we were all full of excitement that everything had been worked out and looking forward to celebrating the launch together in São Paulo. As a young man, Roberto had told his father Victor, Abril's founder, that he wanted to start a weekly magazine in the tradition of TIME -- where Roberto had worked as an intern -- and he went on to shape Brazilian media for more than half a century, publishing both a roster of original magazines and Brazilian editions of Cosmopolitan, InStyle, Men's Health, Women's Health and Playboy, and launching MTV Brasil and the immensely popular women's website MdeMulher. It means a lot to me that Roberto's wife Maria and his sons Giancarlo and Victor will be at the launch. This day is dedicated to him.

    So today Abril and HuffPost finally tie the knot, and the lengthy courtship (by today's standards) makes the consummation of this romance all the more exciting. I'm very grateful to Fábio, who was with us from day one and has been so supportive of the partnership. I have learned a lot from Fábio and Manoel on this journey that began over lunch in 2011. Together with Ricardo Anderáos, our editorial director, and Otávio Dias, our editor-in-chief, they bring a deep knowledge of Brazil and its people, and I have learned a lot from them.

    Brazil in 2014 is a country at once facing big challenges and brimming with opportunity. In dramatic contrast to what's happening in America, about 40 million people in Brazil have moved from poverty into the middle class in the last decade, fueling a palpable sense that things are getting better. As Otávio put it, "In less than 25 years, Brazil stabilized the economy, strongly reduced inequality and created millions of jobs, giving rise to a new middle class. This is not an achievement of a specific government or president but a result of democracy and a more mature society."

    However, many challenges remain, from high unemployment and inequality to corruption, the quality of education and Brazil's infrastructure.

    Last week in Davos, together with a small group of journalists from the International Media Council, I met with Dilma Rousseff, Brazil's first female president, after her address at a special session. Seizing on one of the big themes of this year's World Economic Forum, she told us there's a great need for investors to look beyond the short term and focus on Brazil's long-term economic trends and developments. She spoke of Brazil's abundant natural resources, which present big opportunities for sustainable development and improving Brazilians' quality of life: "We will transform a finite resource, petroleum, into a lasting one: an educated population." And in the shortcomings of the country's infrastructure -- roads, train lines, ports and sanitation systems that need upgrading -- she sees a win-win opportunity for Brazilians and foreign investors in the form of public-private partnerships. When I asked her about the country's high youth unemployment (hovering around 20 percent), she focused on the need to improve educational opportunities, and the progress Brazil has made over the last 10 years, lifting 42 million people into the middle class and growing per capita income by 78 percent. In response to a question that assumed she was going to win the October election, she laughed, "No one can predict what happens in a judge's mind, a woman's womb, or a ballot box." And then she quickly corrected herself: "Well, now thanks to modern science, you can tell the sex of a baby, but you still can't tell the other two!"

    All these issues will be central to the conversations leading up to the general elections in October to elect the president, congress, state governors and legislatures. And the World Cup, which Brazil will host in June, will not only celebrate the country's proud sporting tradition -- and bring the World Cup to South America for the first time since Argentina hosted in 1978 -- but shine a light on Brazil's split-screen reality, its challenges and its promise.

    And the Brasil Post will be covering it all. Through a mix of original reporting and opening up our blogging platform to voices both new and well-known, we will not only tell the stories of the news and events shaping Brazil but also capture the spirit of its people. As we launch new editions internationally -- Brazil is now our 10th country -- we have discovered just how eager our readers around the world are to learn about the lives and traditions of people in countries other than their own. So we'll be putting the spotlight not just on Brazil's political and business life but also on all the ways Brazilians unplug and recharge -- including their active nightlife and tradition of botecos, bars where people gather for drinks, fingerfoods, conversation and music. And of course we'll be covering Brazilians' passion for futebol, and the beach culture of Brazil's many coastal communities.

    Beyond publishing, Abril includes the Victor Civita Foundation, which since 1985 has helped to improve basic education throughout the country. Putting the spotlight on what is working in Brazil, including private sector, nonprofit and philanthropic initiatives, will be central to our coverage. Our partnership positions the Brasil Post to combine the best of the old and the best of the new in order to tell the stories that matter most in Brazil -- and just as important, to help Brazilians tell their stories themselves.

    And now, a little more about our team. Our editorial director Ricardo Anderáos has been the social media director at the Abril Group and worked as a reporter and editor for several Brazilian outlets, including, where he was editor-in-chief, and MTV Brasil, where he was head of digital. He and I have bonded not just over our agreement on our editorial priorities but over his Third Metric lifestyle. Together with his wife and three children, he lives on the island of Ilhabela and commutes to the office in São Paulo. On the island, he meditates in the Nyingma Tibetan tradition and nurtures his passion for the environment by tending to a nursery of native trees from Brazil's most endangered rainforest, Mata Atlântica.

    Brasil Post's editor-in-chief, Otávio Dias, has worked at some of Brazil's most influential newspapers and websites. In 12 years at Folha de S. Paulo, he served as London correspondent and as an assigning editor on the paper's international desk, and at O Estado de S. Paulo he was tech editor and editor of the paper's website. He loves to sing and to practice yoga.

    We kick off with blogs from Congressman Marcelo Freixo on the problems of the Brazilian prison system; renowned journalist Gilberto Dimenstein on how to practice journalism in the new media era; popular transgender writer Laerte with a comic strip on how it feels to grow up; the feminist and entrepreneur Bianca Santana on her experience wearing a turban in her daily life; and journalist Renata Rangel on how her decision to move from the city to the countryside was influenced by Third Metric values.

    So bem-vindo to the Brasil Post! As always, use the comments section to let us know what you think.

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    UPDATE: The Canada Border Services Agency says the woman was detained at the B.C. immigration holding centre at the airport, reported CBC News.

    VANCOUVER - British Columbia's Coroners Service says it's investigating the death of a 42-year-old woman who was detained at Vancouver International Airport last month.

    Coroner Barb McLintock says the woman wasn't a Canadian citizen, had been in custody for a few days, and was transferred to the airport's holding cells on Dec. 19.

    McLintock says "things went wrong" early the next morning, and the woman was taken to several hospitals, ending up at Mount Saint Joseph Hospital in Vancouver.

    She says the woman died there on Dec. 28.

    McLintock says the coroners service isn't prepared to speculate about the cause or classification of the death because the investigation is preliminary.

    But she says the service considers it an in-custody death, so it will be investigated thoroughly.

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