5 Top Travel Destinations for 2014
Winter is gone, and spring has fallen. Hopefully, the area where you live (and are reading this) has started to show some sunshine. And, with all this great new weather, the thought enters the mind, "there may be other places with even prettier weather." And you'd be correct! So, future traveler, read on to learn more about some of the best destinations of 2014!
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I'm a little biased towards Colombia, since I spent all of January in Medellin studying Spanish. There are several preconceived notions about Colombia, many of them negative due to the drug violence that disrupted the nation for much of the 1980s and 1990s.
However, Colombia is now safe for travelers. And, with so much biodiversity, you can find the "perfect" vacation for any type of journeyer. The beaches of Santa Marta, north of the cruise port of Cartagena, are the dream of any sand lover. The jungles in the east of the country, at the headwaters of the Amazon, are sure to satisfy the eco-travelers reading this list. And, for the city lovers, Medellin, 2013's Urban Land Institute Most Innovative City, will not disappoint with its culinary offerings, wonderful cultural gifts, and thrilling nightlife surrounding Parque Lleras in the trendy El Poblado neighborhood. (See also: Vacation Destinations That Stretch Your Dollar)
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Cape Town, South Africa
Featured on many "best of 2014" lists published this year, it would be foolish not to include Cape Town here as well. South Africa is frequently cited as one of the world's top emerging markets (it is the 'S' in the developing country acronym BRICS, after all), and the influence of all that new capital can be seen flowing through the city's culinary scene, nearby wineries, and beaches. Mosey over to Woodstock for the city's best cafes, organic food items, and art galleries. (See also: Eating Great Food for Cheap While Traveling)
A country only recently opened to foreign investment and large-scale tourism, Myanmar, located next door to Thailand, offers incredible excursions for the brave traveler. The Pagan temples are worth the trip alone, and a visit to a country before the major foreign influences take over is always a more worthwhile one, in my book.
In my opinion, this is the most "unspoiled" Caribbean island, due to it being less frequented by cruise ships. Dominica boasts a river for every day of the year. Much of the filming for "Pirates of the Caribbean 2" was done here, taking advantage of the lush jungles that climb the volcanic mountains that make up Dominica. Don't miss the abundant fresh water, of course, but also be sure to visit the island's shores and beaches. Champagne Reef is a special place, with harmless volcanic gas making your snorkeling experience feel like you are trapped in a champagne glass! (See also: Cheap International Vacation Destinations)
Latvia? Yes, Latvia. The 2014 European Union Capital of Culture with dozens of Art Nouveau buildings, Gothic churches, ballet performances, and Baltic Sea beaches, Riga is certainly an "off-the-radar" pick. So, travel to Riga in 2014 before the readers of Lonely Planet or Fodor's get there first!
So, How Do You Travel There?
Travel can be expensive, but it doesn't have to be unattainable. I frequently consult with interested parties about using reward miles and points to travel the world for very, very cheap (see our top picks for the best travel rewards credit cards).
To do so, you'll need to leverage your good credit to apply for and receive a miles or points earning credit card. There are credit cards out there that offer you a large amount of points, sometimes up to 100,000 miles, to spend a certain amount of money in a certain amount of time (usually three months). (See also: Earn Tons of Miles Without Traveling)
You can then use those miles to purchase airfare without out of pocket costs. For some perspective — 40,000 miles is enough to secure a round trip domestic flight anywhere in the US. 60,000 miles can get you to Europe.
There are many credit cards out there, including co-branded ones with your preferred airline. It's best to weigh several different options before applying for a credit card, and to see what your travel and spending habits are to make sure that you are making the right decision. And, fair warning — once you discover this trick, you will become addicted!
Which off-the-beaten-path destinations would you like to travel to? Please share in comments!