Thursday, January 26, 2012

Top 4 Travel Hot Spots of 2012

Each year, there are several destinations that become the "must visit." And 2012 is no different. Here are our picks for the Top 4 Travel Hot Spots of 2012.

Wales

With 641 castles, three national parks, 750 miles of coastline and one very happy royal couple, Wales (size of Massachusetts) is must see this year. Lonely Planet put Wales as the #1 place to visit this year, and it also made the New York Times list of place to visit in 2012? So, what makes 2012 so special for Wales?

* In May, the Welsh Government will open the Wales Coastal Path. This will make Wales the only country in the world you can walk all of the coast.
Wales will host the first 2012 Olympic event, a ladies soccer game at the Millennium Stadium. 

* Great place for families w/excellent food, great farm shops, great festivals (mud festival, beer festival, Snorkeling Championships, Man Vs Horse Race) = great way to meet the Welsh people. 
* Wales is one of the greenest countries in the World.
What to do there? Kayak, mountain climbing, visit copper mine, fishing, cliff diving, mountain biking, opera, rugby, dolphin watching, drive a steam train or ride the “best wooden rollercoaster in the world” with an 80 ft drop.


Cuba
With the travel ban, Cuba was never a travel option for most Americans. However, with the loosened travel ban, religious organizations and institutions of higher learning can now sponsor trips to Cuba. And as more travel companies get licenses to run guided trips, we should see opportunities to travel to Cuba grow immensely in 2012.

Cuba enjoys a unique cultural history, nice climate, beaches, colonial architecture and attracts over 2 million people a year as tourism is one of the main sources of revenue. In the past two years, the number of Americans visiting Cuba has doubled, and we can expect even more as major airlines increase flights.

For this year, travel to Cuba will most likely remain restricted to guided groups, which means basically it will stay relatively expensive. But for travelers who want a “new” destination that's close by, put Cuba on your list.

South Korea
Now is a great time to visit Korea as two major events geared toward international travelers occur in 2012. The World Expo, which will be held May-August, will host more than 50 countries. Featured attractions will include a giant pipe organ that visitors can play using their smartphones and the Extreme Climate Experience, which has a simulated Antarctic blizzard.

And their in value in traveling to Korea now as well. The country is in the last of its three-year-long Visit Korea Year campaign, a promotion that brings greater access and better prices to foreign visitors with special rates on trains, free bus service to popular cities and attractions, and special "international taxis," whose drivers speak English. There are also dozens of fourth-night-free promotions, as well as the massive Korea Grand Sale 2012, which features discounted shopping until the end of February.

The Netherlands
Three huge events make The Netherlands a “must visit” in 2012. The country blooms its way through the duration of Floriade, the once-a-decade horticultural expo running from April to October 2012. Visitors can explore more than 160 acres of carefully crafted nature divided into five themed zones where they can witness the splendor of more than a million tulips, bid on flowers at a simulated flower auction, or arrange a floral masterpiece. Plants won't be the only cultivated offering: there are also 900 dance, music, theater, and other performances staged during the six-month expo.

Winter heats up starting in January with the Holland Dance Festival, a three-week series of more than 70 performances, 100 interactive workshops, and a massive dance parade. March 16 marks the opening of the 25th TEFAF art and antique fair. The event draws serious art buyers, but it's also a great way for noncollectors to get a glimpse at exceptional artworks not on the museum circuit.

Many thanks to SmarterTravel for contributing information.

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