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New hotels and tours, emerging food scenes, and special events make these places the hottest travel destinations in 2014.

Sochi, Russia

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Up-and-Coming Cruise Port: Sochi
Excursion: Long before this city was chosen to host the 2014 Winter Olympics, the region was a favorite retreat of Joseph Stalin. Tour the dictator’s austere 1937 dacha, still filled with his personal possessions. The day ends in the 30-acre subtropical Dendrary Botanical Garden (mind the roaming ostriches!).
Voyage: Celebrity Constellation, to and from Istanbul. October 14; 11 nights from $2,499. —Jane Wooldridge

Best Places to Travel in 2014

Sochi, Russia

Up-and-Coming Cruise Port: Sochi
Excursion: Long before this city was chosen to host the 2014 Winter Olympics, the region was a favorite retreat of Joseph Stalin. Tour the dictator’s austere 1937 dacha, still filled with his personal possessions. The day ends in the 30-acre subtropical Dendrary Botanical Garden (mind the roaming ostriches!).
Voyage: Celebrity Constellation, to and from Istanbul. October 14; 11 nights from $2,499. —Jane Wooldridge

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Best Places to Travel in 2014

On Nicaragua’s Little Corn Island, the fresh lobster is cheap; the hammocks plentiful; and the pace slow. Factor in a new hotel and spa with 16 oceanfront cabanas, and vacationing here is more blissful than ever.

It’s just one of the places that will appeal to travelers seeking what’s new and notable in 2014. They remind us that there are still discoveries to be made, even in seemingly familiar destinations—and that with travel, too, timing is everything.

Consider Iceland, where NASA expects the northern lights to reach the vibrant peak of an 11-year solar cycle in December 2014. For prime views, book a stay at the Ion Hotel, where the bar has dimmable lights and wraparound windows, or a small-group tour with storm chaser George Kourounis that includes volcano hikes and glacier treks.

Culture seekers, meanwhile, will be drawn to Cape Town, which has more than 450 events in the works as part of its World Design Capital designation in 2014, along with hip boutiques and forward-thinking restaurants. StumbleUpon revealed that Cape Town is one of the top 10 destinations generating interest among its community of 30 million users.

Palermo, Sicily, is another destination capturing the collective imagination. TripAdvisor has noticed a recent uptick in searches and positive feedback—and we’ve noticed compelling reasons to visit, like a surprisingly sophisticated wine scene and affordable independent hotels.

Of course, you don’t need to cross international borders to find a worthy vacation spot for the New Year. Enterprising chefs have congregated right in Nashville, where you can hop from Germantown’s Rolf and Daughters to Josephine, a new farm-to-table spot in the emerging 12South neighborhood.

Find out the rest of our picks for the best places to travel in 2014—and share your to-visit list in the comments below.

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