Conditions are perfect for visiting these near and far-flung, culture-rich locales: Price-wise, 2014 is the year. Dipping hotel rates, new attractions, and some perennially affordable sights and eats make these cities ideal to consider for your travel itinerary this year.
This write-up will be spread in two separate parts.
Why: Hotel rates are down 8 percent across the country. Put wildlife at the top of your agenda, whether you’re looking to see the big five on a safari or just want to hang out with the free-roaming penguins on Boulders Beach in Cape Town.
For a less risk-fraught animal excursion, Kruger National Park is one of the best on the continent. For an entrance fee of about $20, you can take in the South African landscape and keep your eyes peeled.
Beach lovers will flip for Cape Town’s beaches, at the intersection of the Atlantic and Indian oceans. Go Atlantic for sunbathing or watercolor sunsets; hit the Indian for swimming and surfing.
Soweto township in Johannesburg offers numerous opportunities to absorb the city’s prominent history, such as the Nelson Mandela Museum and the Apartheid Museum.
Where to Stay: The Parliament Hotel in Cape Town have helpful staff, free breakfast, and safe location next to a police station are key basic reasons to book your stay. Nearby, you’ll find Company’s Gardens, where you can marvel at an aviary and scope out the oldest pear tree in Africa, and the Slave Lodge Museum, which educates visitors about South Africa’s history.
Why: Floating down picturesque Venetians canals in your gondola should be one of your itinerary. Along with the iconic gondola trip, visiting the Piazza San Marco is a must: The Sansovino Library and the Ducal Palace stand at either side.
Soak in the work of Venetian masters such as Vittore Carpaccio, Tiziano Vecelli, and Giorgione at Gallerie dell’Accademia, then follow it up with a dose of modern art at the Peggy Guggenheim museum, which showcases works from her personal collection by big names including Picasso.
Where to Stay: For opulent Venetian atmosphere, consider Hotel Al Ponte Mocenigo. Nice touches in the hotel adds to the 1700s feel.
Why: Growing more popular by the day, the Dominican Republic is a go-to 2014 beach destination if you’ve been priced out of vacation spots like Cabo, Brazil, or aren’t up for sharing sand in the fashion crowd in Tulum. The five-star all-inclusive Majestic Colonial Beach Resort in Punta Cana is surprisingly affordable, at about $212 per night for two people.
For a more rustic trip, up-and-coming Las Terranas, a little-known former fishing village in the Samaná province, is easy on the purse strings and heavy on pristine beaches.
For the nature lover in you, pay a visit to Los Haitises National Park, a protected virgin forest informally known as Caño Hondo. Rent a kayak for $3 and glide through lagoons and mangrove canals to revel in awe with wildlife like brown pelicans and endangered leatherback turtles.
Where to Stay: The private and affordable Eva Luna, in Las Terrenas, has five Mexican-style villas, each with a kitchen.
Why: Dubbed as the “Paris of South America,” Buenos Aires has a cosmopolitan feel and is heavy on museums, historical sites, and nightlife. Hotel rates are 8 person lower than they were 2013. In the evening, make a stop at busy Corrientes Avenue for everything from a slice at an all-night pizzeria to rare books to dance clubs where you can brush up on your tango skills — the street is rich in tango history.
If it’s been a while since you’ve watched Evita, go to the Evita Museum and re-educate yourself on the life of Eva Perón, which spotlights Eva’s clothing, items from her charity work, and videos of her speeches.
More than 100 years old, Teatro Colon, in downtown Buenos Aires, houses opera and ballet performances, and concerts by the Buenos Aires Philharmornic Orchestra among other classical concerts by musicians from around the world.
Where to Stay: Situated in a residential area outside the city center but two blocks from the subway, the Hotel Boutique Racó de Buenos Aires is a boutique hotel that’s high on style and comfort — there’s even an outdoor courtyard where you can enjoy breakfast.
Why: If you’ve been planning to go there for its theme parks eventually but haven’t booked your tickets yet, do it in 2014: Hotel rates are down 7 percent. To sweeten the deal, the “big three” theme parks all have brand-new elements, including Universal Studios’ Transformers: The Ride 3D; the ever-expanding Fantasyland at Disney World, including the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, scheduled to open in 2014; and Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin, SeaWorld’s biggest attraction to date, which drops temps to 30 degrees—colder than it ever gets in Florida.
If eating well appeals to you after your fora into action-adventure, hit up downtown Orlando: The recently opened Rusty Spoon restaurant sources local fare from Florida farmers.
Where to Stay: Rosen Inn International is the newst addition to Rosen’s roster of family-friendly, value-conscious Orlando hotels. Take note: Free shuttle rides to SeaWorld, Universal Studios, and Wet ‘n’ Wild are provided, and children under 9 eat free in the hotel’s buffet restaurant.