New hotels and tours, emerging food scenes, and special events make these places the hottest travel destinations in 2014.
California Wine Country
Best Places to Travel in 2014
California Wine Country
Up-and-Coming Cruise Port: San Francisco
Excursion: Take a three-hour ride through Napa Valley on a restored 1915 train—passing wineries such as Far Niente (established in 1885), Robert Mondavi, and Opus One. Bonus: thanks to a conductor turned designated driver, feel free to enjoy the tasting bar, replete with some 50 local bottles at any given time.
Voyage: Azamara Quest, from Santa Barbara to Los Angeles. February 10; eight nights from $1,499. —Jane Wooldridge
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.
Related: Best Places to Travel in 2015
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.
Related: Best Vacation Spots
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.