As 2013 winds down, people have started asking me about the "hot new destinations" they should visit in 2014.
While I’m not quite sure which destinations are "trending on Twitter" today, I do know with certainty where my fellow Canadians are going. (Statistics Canada keeps comprehensive travel data, and the Top 10 foreign destinations for Canadians haven’t changed in more than a decade.) So while there a small shifts in where we go, as a nation we opt for the tried and true over the hot and new!
Anecdotal information tells me more of us are venturing to South and Central America these days but not in numbers large enough to put them in the Top 10 of where Canadians go.
As for where you should go next year, that depends …
While exotic locales appeal to my sense of curiosity, travel to remote places can be pricey for most travellers. You don’t have to wander to too far off the beaten path for a great vacation unless you want to.
Mainstream destinations like the United States, Mexico and the Caribbean, Europe and the United Kingdom are tops with Canadians because they are great places to visit.
More important than how far you go, is knowing what type of a traveller you are and selecting a destination suited to your interests. So here are a few suggestions — near and far — for a few different types of travellers:
Wild Canada is calling. Go out and experience it before it’s gone. If you have kids, take them. From east to west, from north to south, every province in our nation offers once in a lifetime thrills for those who embrace the great outdoors. Suggestions: Whale watching, swimming with beluga whales, polar-bear watching, white-water rafting, ocean kayaking, heli-hiking, back-country skiing, ice-climbing, glacier trekking, dogsledding, back-woods camping in our awesome national parks — we have it all and more.
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Australia has a similar small-population-spread-out-across-a-big-territory vibe as Canada, but with outdoor thrills unique to the mighty Land Down Under: Diving and snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef, wildlife encounters — everything from koalas and kangaroos to wallabies, wombats, echidna, quolls, Tasmanian devils and more — road-tripping in the Outback, bushwalking, climbing Sydney Harbour Bridge, and visiting — but not climbing — Uluru. Australia is not one of the Top 10 places visited by Canadians but it is extremely high on our bucket lists.
Travellers interested in culture — the arts, architecture, history, cuisine, fashion, etc., will find some of the world’s best museums, galleries, theatre, symphonies, shopping, restaurants and cooking schools in the great cities just south of our borders. New York, Chicago, Washington D.C., Boston, San Francisco, Philadelphia and about a dozen more are heavy hitters when it comes to cultural attractions. Better still, major U.S. cities are easy to reach with myriad flights and accommodation for every budget.
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Any country in Western Europe is pretty much cultural nirvana, but for effortless and excellent cultural exploration, the United Kingdom tops my list for 2014. Perhaps I have been inspired by Downton Abbey, which showcases the genteel aristocratic way of life on one of England’s great country estates in the early 1900s. Whether castle-hopping, museum-hopping, gallery-hopping, theatre-hopping, concert-hopping or shop-hopping, Britain’s best bits are always just around the corner. History, specifically war history, will figure prominently in Europe next year, which marks both the 100 anniversary of the start of World War I and the 70th anniversary of D-Day in World War II. Major commemorative events are planned around the U.K. and Europe.
For a quick escape from winter, you can’t beat the white sands, blue waters and romantic sunsets of Mexico and the Caribbean. Situated between two oceans, Canadians have made Mexico a "go to" destination for a reason. In addition to its beaches and excellent resorts, it offers ancient Mayan sites to explore such as Palenque, Tulum and Chichen Itza, and a unique fusion cuisine recognized by UNESCO as part of the world’s "intangible cultural heritage." Ole. Other grand strands can be found on Cuba and the Dominican Republic, which are prime draws for Canadians as well as many Caribbean islands.
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The Seychelles, French Polynesia and the Maldives are all home to crystal clear waters and gorgeous beaches. These far flung island nations are a prime choice for honeymooners, who want escape their day to day world — and perhaps their electronic devices. Apart from watersports, beach bumming and eating, the No. 1 attraction in these places is relaxation.
A country with as many mountains and as much snow as Canada is bound to have great ski resorts. Three of the best are British Columbia’s Whistler Blackcomb, Alberta’s Banff-Lake Louise and Quebec’s Mt. Tremblant, which celebrates its 75th year in 2014. Canada’s ski resorts are in growth mode so look for new developments at Red Mountain and Big White in B.C. and Blue Mountain in Ontario..
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If you want to go big on a ski trip, it doesn’t get any bigger than Trois Vallees. France’s famous "3 Valleys" is the world’s largest ski area and encompasses eight resorts, including Courchevel, Meribel and Val Thorens. Its 600-plus-km of ski slopes are connected by 183 ski lifts, which can transport some 260,000 skiers per hour. Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!
Oenophiles don’t have to stray beyond our borders for world class wine touring. Canada is home to hundreds of wineries — most in Ontario and British Columbia. Ontario has three recognized wine appellations. The Niagara Peninsula — the so-called "Napa of the North," which encompasses the Niagara-on-the-Lake and the Niagara Escarpment And Twenty Valley wine regions — Lake Erie North Shore and Prince Edward County. B.C. is also home to hundreds of wineries –most in the Okanagan Valley. Many wineries in both provinces have tasting rooms and restaurants. Opt for a guided wine tour and leave the driving to someone else so you can sip, swish and swallow — or spit — with abandon. Cheers.
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Almost every corner of the world has interesting wine regions to explore. But a trip to New Zealand a few years ago introduced me to that country’s crisp sauvignon blancs and fruit forward pinot noirs, and I’ve been a fan ever since. For a small country, New Zealand packs a big delicious wine punch with 692 wineries spread throughout 11 wine production regions on its North and South Islands. New Zealand wine is not that widely available in Canada, which makes the "other Land Down Under" particularly well worth the visit for wine lovers.