Our tips for 2014

By | Category: Travel tips & opinions
Thracian cliffs in Bulgaria © Anthony Lydekker

Thracian cliffs in Bulgaria © Anthony Lydekker

Each year, Just about Travel asks its writers for their highlights and tips for the coming year. Because we are individuals just like all our readers, few ever agree with each other.  That is partially because they get inspired by where they have been just like you do. You can read so much but without visiting a country, a resort, a destination or an attraction do you really know it will live up to the hype?

The thing that public relations people and tourist authority staff are pretty good at is publicising their patch. You never get told to forget this place or avoid that. Everywhere is usually rosy – provided you hear about it. And so many destinations are lamentable about publicising their areas partially because of money (although that should never be an excuse but many say it is) and partially because there are other things to do. An outbreak of civil unrest, a war, a disaster and the wires into our office go quiet. And media reports can be unbelievably wrong in creating impressions of whether it safe to go somewhere. Pictures of floods, famine, disasters or unrest don’t generally engulf a whole country. Yet quite often the whole country suffers in a drop of tourists.

We are suggestion that – in 2014 – short holidays will grow as travellers become cash rich and time poor with City Breaks to unusual locations a very popular option.  If a no-frills airline starts a new route and the prices are reasonable then the attraction will boost visitor numbers. Shorter length cruises for those who enjoy being at sea will be a big trend. We think that this year will see an increase in food tourism as people seek out new and exciting tastes to accompany their adventures.

But when we come to make our recommendations they have to be based on where we have been and what we have seen with our own eyes.

croustois from the Dordogne. France as a food tourism destination © © Frederic de Poligny

croustois from the Dordogne. France as a food tourism destination © Frederic de Poligny

In alphabetical order then, here are the destinations that our writers are tipping for this year as spots that you should seriously consider visiting,

Bulgaria

France

Hull

Mexico

Pembrokeshire

Queensland

South Korea

Tunisia

Turkey

USA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhat made them choose the places they did out of all the places they could have selected?

BULGARIA .  Although it’s not going to hit the top 10 destinations list in 2014, the hunch is that Bulgaria will significantly improve sales and market share in the coming year. For a start the sensational Thracian Cliffs golf course on the Black Sea has been selected as “European Golf Course of the Year 2013” by Golf Monthly magazine.   Bookings for some of the best value skiing in Europe are reported to be better than ever and the tourist board has had an energetic trade programme through the second half of 2013.   As well as the culture and history in Plovdiv and Sofia, pastoral delights abound  with fishing holidays, butterfly and birdwatching trips and a population of 800 brown bears leads one tour operator to claim “60 per cent chance of seeing a bear- 100 per cent chance of seeing bear tracks”.

FRANCE.  Spain is unlikely to be toppled from the top slot in 2014 but there should be a increase in France’s share of UK visitors.    There are excellent value family holidays to be had particularly those based in mobile home and chalet parks. Rather than just ferries and accommodation, the operators concerned seem to be promoting outside activities such as cycling events, keep fit including yoga, alpine walks and other local excursions much more than in the past.  As ever, one does not have to stay in the chateaux in order to meet the owners to have a tour and a garden visit.  France will benefit from the Great War Centenary but probably more from the D Day 70th Anniversary. And then there is the food, the culture, the wine and the fact that France is so easy to get to.

HULL. Long plagued by negative travel reviews and criticisms of buildings, Hull isn’t perfect by any means. But there is a lot more to see than 99% of those living outside the city appreciate. The quays have been re-developed; the art gallery is one of the best in any region and there are some significant buildings. It has spawned one of the most well-liked theatre companies in the UK and one of the most appreciated farce writers – John Godber. For those who drive, there is a ton of parking and for those using public transport they actually have an integrated system. On top of that it will be the next capital of culture in 2017. All of that raises two fingers to those who have written about Hull but failed to appreciate the city.

Cholula, Mexico

Cholula, Mexico

MEXICO.  Favourite with sun-seekers for years, our writers have been impressed by what they have seen in the country other than just on the beaches. Return visits have justified this interest yet few British journalists, if any, attend the large tourism gathering that happens each year. Mexico made it onto Lonely Planet’s recent Best in Travel 2014 countries’ list owing to exciting developments such as major new Maya museums in Merida and Cancun, a burgeoning art scene in Mexico City, the installation of Latin America’s longest series of ziplines on the rim of the Copper Canyon, a new breed of boutique hotels and a decrease in drug related crime. Go now – before the crowds catch on that there is so much more than just beaches and sun.

PEMBROKESHIRE.  The beaches at Tenby and Saundersfoot might be well known as is the cathedral at St David’s but the opening of the Welsh Country Path has reinforced Pembrokeshire as a place for ramblers, walkers and those just wanting to enjoy the countryside. That the county is so far away from the rest of the UK means that many visitors can’t just stumble across it- you have to want to go there. The M4/A40 is dual carriageway for virtually the whole way into Haverfordwest making the journey much faster than 20 years ago.  For seal and dolphin watching, stunning scenery as rivers cascade, local produce of a high standard, bird-watching and the heritage of a Wales fighting England, Pembrokeshire is as good as it gets.

Nulbullulul in Queensland's Daintree rainforest

Nulbullulul in Queensland’s Daintree rainforest

QUEENSLAND. This Australian state is often overlooked. Yes, you might go the Great Barrier Reef as a side trip from Sydney or Melbourne but this northern state tends to attract Aussies and those from the Far East. From the capital Brisbane to the top of Cape York is over 1,300 miles so you need to allow time to explore the state. It has the oldest rainforest in the world, an outback where you can still get directions to turn at a fork where you’ll see an old fridge and a hospitality second to none. And, of course, wildlife, beaches, islands, sea and sunshine. For those who like their holidays outdoors, Queensland won’t disappoint.

SOUTH KOREA.  South Korea is becoming an excellent year-round sports destination. Spring, summer and autumn exercise is sorted with the one-thousand miles’ worth of cycle paths recently opened and in winter there’s a good number of ski resorts with ever-improving facilities in the run-up to the 2018 Winter Olympics. That the culture, the food and the history is so different only adds to the excitement for the holidaymaker. Not many of us visit the country;  some just stay in Seoul – the capital – on a stopover with one of the airlines. It is the countryside that you need to explore as well otherwise you won’t see the “true” South Korea.

Sphinx=like in  the desert of Tunisia

Sphinx=like in the desert of Tunisia

TUNISIA. Forget the tourist resorts of Hamamet, Souse, Djerba and Monastir and head south to Douz, Tozeur, Remada and the desert. The richness of the desert landscape, the olive groves,  the red mountains and the salt lakes is about as far removed from the resorts as you can imagine. Increasingly visited by travellers from other nations, the attractions are not the nightlife, the wall-to-wall restaurants or the bars because there are few but the desert life.  When you reach a town with a market that attracts hundreds and hundreds from the desert to buy anything from food to wheel trims and spices to animals you can see how life really is and how it has disappeared from the resorts that concentrate on feeding western tastes.

TURKEY. Again, the resorts are well known and increasing numbers of us are flocking there. But the Turks haven’t rested on their laurels; once the hotels are built they haven’t stood back and waited for the cash. They have understood that you need to continually update, create more attractions and provide different things for the holidaymaker. Museums, marinas, ski-resorts and the number of available tours has grown at an astonishing pace. If you haven’t been to the country for a few years you would be surprised at the changes that have taken place. And most are designed to provide a better holiday and a better trip. Would that other countries continued to innovate as Turkey has done.

WASHINGTON DC.  With its multi-cultural inhabitants and neighbourhoods reflected in its food scene – this is the place to sample excellent Ethiopian, Mexican, Colombian and much more.  And, of course Washington takes on their own cuisine  Often seen as a place for politicians, lobbyists and businessmen, it generally isn’t looked at by us as a place to spend more than a day. See the White House and you’ve “done” it many incorrectly say. The suburbs have quirky names to match the quirkiness of some of them. The range of museums can keep you occupied for days if you wanted to but so can the opportunity to sail, fish and potter on the Potomac. Americans visit Washington for a short break; we haven’t learnt to do the same yet.

So there are suggestions from us, places that impressed us and believe me, it takes a lot to impress jaded travel writers. Drop me an e-mail with some of your suggestions and I’ll happily include them.

 

 

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