Rapa Nui Sunset by Marguerite Smit
With the rush of the holidays behind us and the chill of winter winds keeping us inside, it’s the perfect time to start planning this year’s trip. We asked our travel consultants for ideas on places to visit in 2014—some that are “off the beaten path” and some of our trusted favorites.
1. Rapa Nui
At the southernmost point of the Polynesian Triangle in the southeast Pacific Ocean, Rapa Nui is a treasure not to be missed! The island, also known as Easter Island, is famous for its 887 moai statues created by the early Rapa Nui people. A World Heritage Site, the island is one of the most remote inhabited islands in the world and filled with majestic history, rich in controversy. One of the top reasons to visit is to experience firsthand the history of a fascinating culture that has endured famines, epidemics, civil war, colonialism, deforestation and population decline. Activities cater to those who enjoy the outdoors: mountain biking, hiking, horse-riding, snorkeling or diving, to fishing and days filled with epic folk law tales inspired by the moai statues scattered across the island. Marguerite’s island recommendation offers a tropical rainforest climate making it a great year round destination easily combined with Chile or Peru.
2. Southwest France
When most people travel to the south of France, they visit the southeast—Provence and the Cote d’Azure. Yet southwest France has quaint towns and villages nestled in the Pyrenees, tastebud tickling foie gras, gorgeous scenery ripe for photography, world-renown Bordeaux wine and so much more for travelers to discover. Think of southwest France as having the laid back atmosphere of southwest America, and you’ll start to understand why Ann thinks it’s a destination worth adding to your next European trip.
The reasons to visit Colombia are almost endless, but here are the ones that top Jennifer’s list : an exciting combination of Caribbean and Latin American cultures; beautiful, clean cities like Bogota, Cartagena and Medellin; colorful architecture and history; lovely beaches; a wide variety of natural history and ecosystems from marine to mountain, jungle and river; active adventures; the “coffee triangle;” great music; happy people. According to Jennifer, Colombia is definitely the next big destination in South America!
4. Berlin, Germany
It’s nearly impossible to suggest Berlin as a travel destination without focusing first on the city’s World War II devastation and division. Berlin today acknowledges the past through memorials, parks and historic preservation and continues to build toward a better future. As Bob discovered on his most recent trip, Berlin is a city that is best explored on foot—whether on a private walking tour of WWII history with a knowledgeable guide, wandering through Museum Island’s numerous exhibits or discovering the delicious cafes and restaurants dotting her streets.
Torres del Paine in Chile by Jennifer Gillmore (Bravo)
We let our newest consultant Jennifer give an extra recommendation since South America has so much to offer. Also on her list: Chile, which she described as “very hot right now.” With such a wide expanse from north to south and far out into the Pacific, the Chilean possibilities are varied and exciting. Atacama, the driest desert on Earth, is an otherworldly destination where wide-open valleys are surrounded by mountains and volcanoes, and the red rock provides changing scenery with the movement of the sun and passing clouds. There are hot springs and geysers and flamingoes, as well as dunes, lakes and volcanoes for hiking, biking and exploring. Patagonia in the south offers pristine wilderness and stunning scenery, with jagged mountains shooting into the sky juxtaposed with crystal blue lakes and magnificent glaciers.
Kauai’s allure lies in its scenery—the stunning Napali coastline, picturesque Waimea Canyon, lush jungles and crashing waves—but, according to Ken, the views are only one piece of the island’s puzzle. An incredible number of activities—zip-lining, nighttime snorkeling, horseback riding, helicopter tours, hiking, kayaking and more—give Kauai a special island experience.
Pam previously lived and managed a safari lodge in Malawi, so the country called “The Warm Heart of Africa” holds special warmth for us too. Recently referred to as “Africa’s next go-to destination” by CNN, Malawi offers many cultural immersion opportunities, spectacular freshwater activities on or in Lake Malawi, which is home to more species of fish than any other fresh body of water in the world, and a taste of rural Africa that will stay with you long after your return.
8. Arctic – Polar Bears
Perhaps it’s surprising that one of our two Travel+Leisure A-List Agents for Africa is recommending a destination that is almost the polar opposite of Africa. Yet, for Craig a trip to the Arctic is definitely worth it. That because a trip to the Arctic offers a rare opportunity to see polar bears—a population that is rapidly declining. In addition to polar bear encounters, guests can photograph and explore stunning Arctic landscapes, often including the Northern Lights!
Anyone who follows our blog knows that Kota is passionate about Kenya. The East African country offers abundant wildlife for incredible safari game drives, stunning landscapes with wide open spaces, unrivaled cultural interaction and sustainable community-based tourism. As Kota explains, his most enthusiastic safari clients are those whom he has sent to Kenya!
Kangaroo Island by Jenny Mikkelson
10. Kangaroo Island, Australia
Sure, Australia’s third largest island has kangaroos like its name suggests, but it’s home to koala bears, sea lions, pelicans and wallabies too. The island also hosts the last genetically pure population of the Ligurian honey bee, adding a sweet touch to any trip. In addition to wildlife viewing, Jenny recommends checking out local artwork, gorgeous beaches, adventure activities and the island’s beautiful gardens.
11. South Africa
With an extremely favorable exchange rate, South Africa offers excellent value for money. Cape Town is a mecca for foodies and those wishing to experience natural beauty, history and culture, not to mention the adorable African penguins. South Africa is also a fantastic family safari destination, where even the top luxury safari lodges and camps take children of all ages, as Jeanie experienced firsthand in December when she traveled there with her daughter Daniela. Embrace history and follow Nelson Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom by visiting Robben Island from Cape Town and Soweto and the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg. South Africa truly is the Rainbow Nation and a great destination for all types of travelers.
Tanzania’s diversity of landscapes leads to a variety of trip ideas in just one country. Follow Rose’s suggestion and enjoy a classic safari in the vast, game-rich plains of the Serengeti and private remote reserves, followed by relaxation on the spice island of Zanzibar, rich in cultural history, white sand beaches and world class snorkeling and diving. Learn about the Maasai culture at a traditional village or connect with your roots at Olduvai Gorge, the Cradle of Mankind. Feeling more adventurous? Trek for chimpanzee in the Mahale Mountains or climb the iconic Mount Kilimanjaro.
As our resident airline specialist, it’s no wonder that Phil’s first reason for visiting Bermuda was a two-hour flight from Boston, making it a great destination for a quick getaway. Other reasons include the gorgeous pink sand beaches and diving and snorkeling opportunities ranging from beginner to expert.
The landscapes of the Okavango Delta may change drastically between seasons, but animal viewing is consistently dramatic. Whether photographing newborn calves in the lush green season or crowded waterholes in the dry season, travelers will find each visit to Botswana offers an unforgettable safari experience. If you’ve been to Botswana before, follow Marsha’s suggestions and visit at a different time of year for a fresh experience.