My passport is pretty full. But there’s still room for another few stamps — and I haven’t been everywhere in the world yet.
What’s on your travel wish-list for 2013? If you’re wallowing in post-holiday blues, then it’s time to make getaway plans. To inspire you, here are seven travel destinations where I would love to go — or revisit — in the upcoming months.
Plus one weird experience I wouldn’t say “no” to trying…
White Nights in Saint Petersburg
To borrow Winston Churchill’s quote about Russia: “It is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.” Russia is missing from my own passport pages, and I long to experience Saint Petersburg and treasures such as the Winter Palace and the fabulous Hermitage. Especially during midsummer’s White Nights.
In such northerly latitudes, the summer sun never truly sets and night is almost indistinguishable from day. At the end of June’s White Nights arts festival, thousands of people gather on the banks of the Neva to witness a firework extravaganza and the Scarlet Sails event — the appearance of a tall ship with blood-red sails.
It’s a good thing Germany has spa towns as well as those storybook half-timbered villages. Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte is a decadently calorific chocolate cake that includes cherries, whipped cream and Kirschwasser, a local alcoholic specialty. I sampled far too many cakes and tipples during a recent trip to the Black Forest. It’s the setting for many foreboding fairytales — Little Red Cap (Red Riding Hood) and Hansel and Gretel are but two.
Expect Germany to be particularly magical in 2013 — it’s the anniversary year of the publication of the Grimm Brothers’ Children’s and Household Tales. North of Frankfurt, the Fairytale Road links a number of towns associated with the brothers and the stories they collected. Numerous special events for this year are planned in enchanted places like Hamelin, Bremen and Kassel.
South-east Asia always fires my imagination as well as an appetite for exotic and unpronounceable noodly things. With its return from political pariah status, Burma (Myanmar) seems on every publication’s “Where to Go” list. But I’m not one for trends, so Laos appeals far more.
With its gilded temples, crumbling French colonial mansions and backdrop of green mountains, Luang Prabang sounds the ideal starting point for discovering a country of hill tribes, waterfalls, and fishing settlements. Archaeological sites too — one star attraction is the mysterious Plain of Jars where thousands of ancient stone jars are scattered. And the 4,000 Islands of the Mekong Delta look a wonderfully laid-back spot to recharge the batteries.
Dingle Peninsula, Ireland
Last summer, I rediscovered county Kerry — a spellbinding land of color-drenched little towns and fishing villages. Its brooding mountains are Ireland’s highest, and the jewel-bright lakes and craggy Atlantic promontories are a photographer’s dream. Rather than follow the coach tour crowds around the Ring of Kerry, I suggest heading for the wild Dingle Peninsula and paintbox-bright Dingle town.
With walking trails into the megalithic past and silvery beaches on the doorstep, this arty-crafty little town is packed with traditional music pubs — you’ll love it. You might even go home with a few new words. Although everybody speaks English, the Dingle Peninsula is a Gaeltacht area where the Irish language is still spoken.
Wine Touring in Argentina
I enjoy mouth-watering steaks, Malbec wine, and it’s too many years since I was in Argentina. Buenos Aires and colonial Salta were a thrill — I’d love to revisit both. But last time I never got to Mendoza. At the foot of the Andes, this cultured city is at the heart of the country’s wine-producing area.
You can combine wine-tasting with horse-riding… with cookery classes… with fly-fishing for rainbow trout. Some vineyard hotels have spas that offer wine treatments, including wine baths. Maybe I’d need a detox afterwards, but a great time to experience Mendoza would be during the annual grape harvest festival. The city takes on a carnival atmosphere — the festival is planned the first week of March in 2013.
As it was my first ever overseas assignment, I have a soft spot for Lisbon. Not much has changed in the twenty years since I initially wrote about Portugal’s shabby-chic capital. Steeped in maritime bygones, the city delivers old-fashioned romance: wooden trams, cobbled streets, tiled houses and a castle-topped old Moorish neighborhood where fado singers wail out songs of loss and lament until the wee hours. Along with alluring pastry shops, there are boho bars, literary cafes and tiled beer halls. A perfect spot to have a glass of chilled vinho verde wine and watch the sun go down is the “Gates of the Sun,” a terrace with giddying views over palm trees and terracotta roofs.
Coromandel Peninsula, New Zealand
I had New Zealand on my wish list last year, and it came true. But while the rest of the world obsesses over hobbits and other fantasy Middle Earth creatures, I recommend an escape to the North Island’s Coromandel Peninsula. New Zealand’s real magic is its lifestyle, and the Coromandel was made for lazy days of fishing, hiking, bird-watching or fossicking for semi-precious stones. An unspoiled area of wooded mountains, old gold-mining towns and little beach settlements, the Coromandel’s best known beach is Hot Water Beach. People take spades and dig their own hot pools at low tide. That’s only the start of a coastal spectacular of hidden coves and silver sands.
Zombie Encounters in the UK
Ever wondered what it would be like to be a shambling, groaning, brain-eating member of the undead horde? (Maybe not. After the last festive party, I’ve no need to wonder at all.) But I’ll be visiting England next year, and travel writing can cover all kinds of experiences…
Taking bizarre to entirely new levels, you can act out your zombie fantasies in a deserted shopping mall in Reading or a manor house in Cheshire. If a rampage with zombied Brits is your idea of a must-do activity, check out zedevents.co.uk.
[Editor’s Note: Learn more about opportunities to profit from your travels (and even from your own home) in our free online newsletter The Right Way to Travel.]