David Nicolas

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

Uruguay

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New hotels beckon travelers to two up-and-coming destinations. The beach town of Jose Ignacio attracts a high-wattage crowd that has included Shakira and Jason Wu, yet “the vibe here is not so precious: everyone is so low-key and relaxed,” says insider Carrie Vik, who just opened her third hotel in the area: the 11-bungalow Bahia Vik, tucked among the dunes of Mansa Beach. “I love to horseback ride along the sand, or bicycle up to Laguna Garzon and watch the kite surfers, she adds.” Return in time to catch the spectacular sunset over caipiroskas at La Huella, Playa Brava’s iconic seaside restaurant. To the west, the boutique wineries and farm-to-table dining have made the Carmelo region a go-to weekend getaway for stylish Argentines. Casa Chic raises the cool quotient with its 20 rooms set on 250 acres of untouched forest and a showstopping pool overlooking the Río de la Plata. —Shane Mitchell, Paola Singer

Best Places to Travel in 2014

Uruguay

New hotels beckon travelers to two up-and-coming destinations. The beach town of Jose Ignacio attracts a high-wattage crowd that has included Shakira and Jason Wu, yet “the vibe here is not so precious: everyone is so low-key and relaxed,” says insider Carrie Vik, who just opened her third hotel in the area: the 11-bungalow Bahia Vik, tucked among the dunes of Mansa Beach. “I love to horseback ride along the sand, or bicycle up to Laguna Garzon and watch the kite surfers, she adds.” Return in time to catch the spectacular sunset over caipiroskas at La Huella, Playa Brava’s iconic seaside restaurant. To the west, the boutique wineries and farm-to-table dining have made the Carmelo region a go-to weekend getaway for stylish Argentines. Casa Chic raises the cool quotient with its 20 rooms set on 250 acres of untouched forest and a showstopping pool overlooking the Río de la Plata. —Shane Mitchell, Paola Singer

David Nicolas

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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