Kotor, Montenegro is a favourite spot with travellers

From sporty spots to cultural kingdoms, we’ve compiled the best places to go in 2014. Start planning your holiday now, because these destinations are just begging to be explored.


Copacabana beach Rio2014 will be Brazil's year in the spotlight
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All eyes are on Brazil, the host of the 2014 World Cup and future home for Rio’s 2016 Olympics. Gearing up for two huge events, Brazil is striving to impress and has never been riper for visiting. The fifth largest nation on earth is a veritable visual feast with sizzling beaches, lush rainforest and vibrant cities. Feel the spray of Iguacu Falls on the border of Argentina, sunbathe on the beach of Praia de Fora in Rio and party in Florianopolis in Santa Catarina for a total Brazil experience.

Best time to go: The World Cup starts in June (12 June - 13 July) so plan your trip accordingly. 


Sochi palm treesSochi's subtropical climate means it's surprisingly green
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Looking for a holiday of Olympic proportions? Look no further than Russia, where Sochi will be the host of the 2014 Winter Olympics. A popular destination for locals, especially in the summer, Sochi has yet to be discovered by international travellers, but the Olympic Games will bring it onto the world’s radar. Dotted by palms stretching along a Black Sea coastline, Sochi draws everyone from beach bums to nature lovers. Visit for the games, and watch your favourite athletes compete, or plan a trip for summer, and be a trailblazer in discovering Russia’s best sunny getaway.

Best time to go: Peak season is July through August, but swimming season lasts from May until October. Go in February for the Games (7-23 February).


Manzamo sunset OkinawaCatch the sunset over Manzamo, Okinawa
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The first low-cost airline in Japan, Vanilla Air, takes to the skies from 20 December 2013, enabling travellers to fly from Tokyo to Okinawa and Sapporo, with fares starting as low as £35 one way. It's great news for those on a tight budget.

For those with cash to burn, KLM is the first European airline to offer flights to Fukuoka on Japan's increasingly popular island of Kyushu. Brimming with verdant scenery, hot springs, samurai culture and dramatic volcanic formations, Fukuoka is also the departure point for a new luxury sleeper train service called Seven Stars, the country's answer to the Orient Express. Polished wooden interiors, exquisite Japanese-designed ceramic sinks and panoramic windows don't come cheap but for rail buffs, this is a far more sophisticated way to travel than the bullet train.

Best time to go: Go in the spring to see the world-famous cherry blossoms. The Seven Stars is fully booked until March 2014.


Mykonos housesGo to Mykonos off season to get the best value prices
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After so much political strife, Athens may not be on the top of anyone’s travel list, but for 2014, the rest of Greece is emerging as a year-round destination. Off-season offers lower prices, less crowds and a wealth of activity. For active outdoor enthusiasts, Thessaly is a premier hiking destination. Home to Mount Olympus, it is the perfect place to traverse steep cliffs and see if you can glimpse the gods. Karpenissi offers skiing, whilst Delphi is shrouded in history. While a holiday anywhere in Greece will be easier on the wallet than before, with the cutting of the VAT from 23% to 13%, 2014 is the year to explore the lesser-known side of mainland Greece.

Best time to go: Hiking is best in the shoulder months on either side of the high season, while ski season runs from mid-December to late March.


Scottish pipers in kiltsEnjoy the musical competitions during the Highland Games
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While Scotland’s rolling lush green highlands and sparkling blue lochs are enough to entice any traveller, 2014 has the added bonus of being the Year of Homecoming. Glasgow is hosting the 20th Commonwealth Games and a huge cultural celebration will be happening alongside them. Music, theatre and art will all be featured; one exhibition called GENERATION will showcase the best contemporary Scottish art in the last 25 years. Don’t miss the Highland Games which will feature hammer throwing, tug-o-war, and traditional dance, pipe and fiddle competitions taking place all over Scotland.

Best time to go: Go in the summer, around July and August for the Commonwealth Games and the Highland Games.


Umea BildmuseetGet your fill of culture at Umea's Bildmuseet
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Culture vultures need look no further than Umeå, Sweden, a European Capital of Culture for 2014, where events will be taking place every single day of the year. The Bildmuseet (the Museum of Images) and Vasterbotten Museum will overflow with art exhibits alongside theatre and storytelling. Get there for the inauguration, running from 31 January to 2 February, and join the grand party where international and local artists have transformed Umeå into an arena of snow, ice, fire and light. In July, the first U x U music festival will be held, where for every ticket sold, 15 seconds will be added onto the length of the festival.

Best time to go: Get there for the inauguration party at the end of January, but if you can’t, don’t worry, events will be going on all year.


ReSTART ChristchurchChristchurch is rebuilding itself, with shipping container shops
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Two years on from a devastating series of earthquakes that destroyed much of its historical centre, Christchurch is busy reinventing itself with lashings of creative ingenuity. New pop-up bars, cafés, open-air markets and shops have sprung up in the guise of colourful, old shipping containers in an area called Re:START. Colombo Street has been enlivened with eye-catching road paint and planters, while rescued architectural pieces will be exhibited in a new Quake City exhibition, from February, including the former cathedral's distinctive spire and rose window and the clockface from the old railway station. Christchurch, affectionally known as the Garden City, is certainly beginning to blossom once again.

Best time to go: December to February are the summer months.


Unexploded shell FlandersUnexploded bombs remain grim reminders of WWI
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2014 marks 100 years since the Great War, and in Belgium, Flanders is the hub of commemorations. Ypres was the most fought-over city during the war and tours of the battlefields are available. History buffs can get their fill with the opening of the Royal Army Museum’s special exhibit, “’14-18 it’s our history!”. Putting a more positive spin on the future, the 1914 Pontoon Bridge will be reconstructed as Peace Bridge. Its inauguration day is 3 October where visitors can walk across  in a show of remembrance and solidarity.

Best time to go: Visit in October to be there for inauguration day.

Cape Town

Robben Island Cape TownVisit Robben Island, where Mandela was held for 27 years
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Newly elected World Design Capital, Cape Town will have no shortage of excitement in 2014. Along with the International Design Exhibition and the International Design Gala, the city will be hosting 450 projects, ranging from the culinary entrepreneurs of street food to a Red Bull Doodle Art competition. Expect tons of exhibits (along with local pride) to be on display. It will also be the 20th anniversary of the first inclusive elections that marked the end of apartheid in South Africa – sure to be all the more poignant, following the death of freedom fighter and former president Nelson Mandela in December. In between exhibits, head over to Robben Island Prison Museum where Mandela spent 18 of his 27 years of imprisonment. It'll make you appreciate just how far Cape South Africa has progressed in a relatively short space of time.

Best time to go: November to February is summer and the dry season; winter is a bit wetter but overall mild. Events will be going on all year long.


Budva old Town MontenegroStroll the cobbled streets of Budva
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Re-emerging as a fashionable destination, Montenegro is shedding the dark shadows of Yugoslavia’s civil war and stepping into the sun. Savvy travellers can explore this Balkan gem, lush with thick forests, from the imposing mountains to the pebbled coasts along the Adriatic. One of the most beautiful bays in Europe is in Kotor, seeped in sailing culture and brimming with local legends. Eastern Europeans frequent Budva for the plentiful bars, clubs and pebbled shorelines; step away from the hustle and bustle with a walk around the charming Old Town.

Best time to go: Peak season is July to August, but to avoid any crowds, go during the shoulder seasons (May-June and September-October) when the sea is warm enough for a swim.

Visa and passport information is updated regularly and is correct at the time of publishing. You should verify critical travel information independently with the relevant embassy before you travel.