As 2012 draws to a close and the darkness of winter closes in ever tighter, it’s about this time that those of us who suffer from incurable wanderlust start fantasising about the next big getaway. Planning a trip to an exotic destination can help you get through even the darkest of winter days, so here are three suggestions to get you going.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Famous for its beautiful beaches and even more beautiful people, Rio is a long time favourite on the South American backpacker trail, but in 2013 things are about to get even hotter. The world is looking to Rio as it gears up to host two of the biggest events in the sporting calendar – the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympics in 2016. Few travellers visit Rio and regret it. Party-loving and proud, Brazil’s coolest city hits the headlines every February with its flamboyant carnaval celebrations, although a samba-tastic fiesta can be found any night of the year. Yes, the city has its problems with poverty and crime, but just keep your head about you (as you would anywhere) and don’t let fear-mongering ruin your trip – the truth is that Rio de Janiero is one of the world’s great cities, with a sense of fun and a life-well-lived that is incredibly contagious. With its global reputation growing the city is buzzing with preparations and innovations, and there has never been a better time to visit before the sporting hordes descend in 2014.
After decades of global isolation and a troubled political history, Myanmar has finally opened its doors to visitors, and is allowing the world to take a closer look at its unique beauty and profound grace. Many traveling through Southeast Asia, making stops in the Philippines, Malaysia, and Thailand, end up staying at one of the cheap Bangkok hotel rooms offered there. Not only do travelers explore those countries but they also take short trips to Myanmar and experience what this country has to offer. All the years spent cut off from the rest of the world have preserved a vibrant culture and deeply Buddhist community, markedly unaffected by the influences of the Western world, with some of the friendliest people in Asia (yes, even friendlier than the Thais!) Abundant in natural resources and ancient sites, Myanmar is a nature lover’s dream, with some of the most breathtaking and secluded landscapes anywhere in the world. It takes a bit of organization and planning to get the most out of a trip to Myanmar – there are strict rules regarding currency, travel to and from the country, and language barrier can sometimes be a bit of an issue – but for those who have the time and patience to uncover one of Asia’s hidden gems, they can be rest assured shall be justly rewarded.
What with the seemingly never-ending recession, the euro taking a nosedive and the entire future of the EU looking more than a little uncertain, you could be forgiven for thinking that that Europe would be best avoided these days. But, you would be wrong. Spain, a country that never quite seems to get a break, is as passionate, vibrant and beautiful as ever. From the green and rain-drenched northern shores to the arid desert of the Cabo de Gata natural park in Andalucia and more mountain ranges than you can shake your castanets at, Spain is a great place to get away from it all and get back to nature. If cities are more your thing, then Madrid, Barcelona, Granada and Seville rank up there with some of the world’s best, not to mention the hundreds of smaller towns and villages in between, each true to their unique way of life and Spanish culture. The trick with Spain is to steer clear of the package holiday hordes along the south and eastern coasts, and get off the beaten track in Asturias and the Basque country in the north, Extremadura in the west, or the oft-ignored Almeria in the south-east, home to some of the country’s most jaw-dropping beaches.