Where to Go in 2014

Once a year, usually in the autumn, travel writers are asked by editors what their picks and forecasts are for travel in 2014. These are usually a very news-driven projects that require us to chase new hotels, museums, tourist developments, anniversaries, and flight routes. My own list doesn’t differ, and some of the following 11 places you’ll also find on lists I contributed to at T+L, NYT, Robb Report, Endless Vacation and National Geographic Traveler for 2014.

Obviously, there are thousands of  places to travel  every year, and like all these superlatives, this is by no means a comprehensive list. These are compiled from bits and pieces of used and unused pitches and ideas. It should do nothing more than inspire you to travel. Also, I’ve tried to emphasize places with ecological, art, and scientific angles. Enjoy!

1. Space

Training for commercial travel to space has already begun with Virgin Galactic  (virgingalactic.com; from $ $250,000) and SXC, (spacexc.com; from  $95,000) both of which officially launch in 2014, and two of the most advanced in the launch plans. Training for SXC is in the Netherlands, while Virgin is using Mojave Air and Space Port and teamed up with NASA for less commercial projects. SXC will perform daily commercial flights into space, offering the chance to view Earth from 64-miles high from a specially designed spacecraft dubbed the Lynx, and built by XCOR Aerospace in Mojave. Virgin Galactic is using a different system altogether, the White Knight Two, a special plane whose hulls are fused together by a central wing, and which functions as the mother ship and launch-platform for the spacecraft SpaceShipTwo. Four additional companies are launching commercial travel to space, including Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin, commencing in 2016.


2. L.A.

Los Angeles art scene was too long in the shadow of New York but a crop of new museums, renovations and arty anniversaries have firmly fixed the City of Angles on the art map. 2014 marks the 35th anniversary of the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in Downtown LA, founded in 1979, as the then only museum in Los Angeles devoted to contemporary art produced after 1940. MOCA celebrates with a yearlong series of special events and exhibitions including a retrospective of the late Mike Kelley who was a pivotal part of L.A.’s scene in the 1970s. (moca.org; running through July 2014.) The 25th anniversary of the Hammer Museum is not until 2015, but in 2014 the museums hosts the second “Made in LA” Biennial Exhibition featuring L.A. artists and emphasizing emerging and under-recognized talent. (hammer.ucla.edu; admission free since February 2014). In 2014 the Museum of Neon Art (MONA) shutters its Downtown location and moves to Glendale. Designed by the Shimoda Design Group, the 10,000-square-foot museum houses a permanent collection of 50 plus vintage signs, rotating exhibition spaces and a neon fabricating facility. (neonmona.org/). The most anticipated opening is Downtown LA’s new Broad Museum opening in late 2014 and designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro (and located across from Disney Hall). The three-story, 120,000-square-foot museum was designed to showcase the extensive collection of contemporary art amassed by billionaire philanthropists Eli and Edythe Broad (rhymes with owed). (thebroad.org; free). Other 2014 news include a new Ace Hotel in Downtown (acehotel.com) located in a former theater, and the long-awaited $1.7 billion re-opening of the Tom Bradley Terminal at LAX (la-next.com), which includes a few California classics like Fred Segal, Sees’s Candies, and Lamill Coffee not to mention an Umami Burger, Bulgari, and news shops sponsored by Travel + Leisure and The Economist.

Hollywood also celebrates several 100-year milestones and anniversaries in 2014. In 1914 Charlie Chaplin moved to LA, Patchwork Girl of Oz, Perils of Pauline, Keystone Cops were shot, Paramount Pictures was founded and the Los Angeles Aqueduct began delivering water from the Owens Valley launching the country’s then largest municipal water system. 2013 also saw the openings of a massive new city park/reserve Cahuenga Peak with awesome views of the Hollywood Sign, and the re-opening of the Japanese Gardens at Huntington.


3. Namibia

African conservation success stories are scarce, but Namibia bucked the trend with its communal conservancy movement, which pairs sustainable tourism with rural community outreach. As a result, 2013 saw Namibia’s 79 conservancies receive the prestigious WWF ‘Gift to the Earth Award’ and its Sand Sea Desert join UNESCO’s World Heritage List. Wilderness Safaris, a collection of African properties, run Desert Rhino Camp in partnership with the Save The Rhino Trust. Stays there include tracking rhinos on foot and directly support the conservancy, which has reversed dwindling rhino populations. They also plan to open the Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp in 2014 on the Hoanib River in the north. To help access these and other rural areas, Namibia’s Tourism Board is launching three self-drive routes in 2014 (the Arid Eden, Omulunga Palm and Four Rivers) to divert visitors to lesser-visited corners. Air Namibia is expanding their fleet by ordering a pair of new A330s.

4. Ethiopia

Ethiopian Tourism doubled between 2011 and 2013. Upscale tour operator Cox and Kings launches a few new route to Northern and Southern Ethiopia in 2013/14. A new property Bale Mountain Lodge opened in fall November 2013. The 15-bedroom eco-safari lodge in the Bale Mountains National Park (BMNP) of south central Ethiopia where you can see rare wolves. There are a number of new 5* & 4* hotels being built in Addis, Capital Hotel & Spa – 5*, Kenenisa Hotel – 4* (is owned by one of Ethiopia’s famous runner’s, Kenenisa Bekele). Ethiopia Airlines is the biggest news. The excellent new airline just launched an brand new fleet of Boeing Dreamliners which puts the carrier in the running with 5-star Middle Eastern carriers. They are launching several new routes. There are new privately owned charter flight companies starting to emerge too, like National Airways, making many rural locations easier to get to.

5. Glasgow (Consideration for Top Ten)

I’ve already waxed poetic on what’s old in Glasgow, but visitors should also go for what’s new. 2014 sees Scottish Homecoming, possible Independence, the best online Games(Click To Find Out More) , and UNESCO Music City 2014. Two projects from Belle & Sebastian are released in late 2013/2014, an album and a feature-length film God Help The Girl produced (via Kickstarter), written, and directed by B+S lead Stuart Murdoch. Glasgow is also home to a new Zaha Hadid designed Riverside Museum (2011), but also a new 10,000+ seat arena called the Hydro (Foster & Partners) which opened in late September 2013. Other modernist projects include a new Velodrome and a Steven Holl annex at the Glasgow School of Art and the 2013 merging of two venerated institutions the Hunterian Museum and Kelvin Hall. 2014 also brings the Commonwealth Games, the Scottish referendum, which puts the future of Scotland’s sovereignty into voter’s hands, and a Visit Scotland sponsored Scottish Homecoming, modeled after Ireland’s successful tourism program inviting those with Scottish heritage and ancestry to come back “home” to explore their roots. A New Music Biennial will be featured at a showcase hosted by Glasgow UNESCO City of Music in August 2014. Gleneagles is also hosting the Ryder Cup in 2014, the first time it’s been hosted in Scotland since 1973.

6. Munich

This Bavarian city has shed its image as an old world hub of beer and begun a campaign of modernization. Why go in 2014? 2013 saw a modernist push as the Lenbachhaus Museum, renown for its collection of Blue Rider art, reopened after an extensive renovation by Norman Foster in May 2013, and the newly renovated Egyptian Museum housing one of the most important collections of Egyptian relics and art in the reopened in summer 2013. The Pinakothek der Moderne also reopened after renovations, in September 2013. The Deutsches Theater is re opening in 2014, and the Dokumentationzentrum, a history museum opens in 2014. Six affordable 4 star hotels are opening in 2013/14.


7. Aarhus, Denmark

Denmark’s second biggest city, Aarhus will be the European Cultural Capital in 2017, but it’s been quietly making itself a global hub of alternative energy with plans to go carbon neutral by 2030. It’s also where Copenhagen sources a lot of that New Nordic Cuisine and the home to Scandinavia’s biggest food festival. http://foodfestival.dk/en/ 2014 sees the completion of the Aarhus Docklands, a conversion of industrial space turned to car-free residential areas which includes a low-carbon residential Lighthouse—Denmark’s tallest building—a high tech library and media space, and a new light rail transit system. The Viking Museum, part of Moesgård Museum also re-opens in 2014. ARoS Kunstmuseum opened in 2004 and celebrates 10 years in 2014 with a noteworthy exhibit by light artist Tal R and a young new Norwegian director. An ongoing Sculpture by the Sea contest will be again commissioned by the Royal Danish Family in 2014. And a batch of new hotels is opening in 2014, including new highrise hotel The Comwell, which will be the largest in Aarhus.

8. Engadine Valley, Switzerland

Many know the Upper Engadine valley for its posh ski resorts in St Moritz, but the lower Engadin is a world apart. Home to Switzerland’s endangered Romansh speaking culture, this is one of the most rugged and least populated corners of Switzerland bordering Italy and Austria. Its Swiss National Park celebrates its 100th Birthday in 2014. The park, founded in 1914, is the oldest in the Alps, and will host a series of birthday events and nature lectures. Its hiking paths remain great spots to see ibexes, chamois, marmots, northern hares, lizards and innumerable birds and alpine wildflowers. It is a World UNESCO Heritage Biosphere for its diversity of Alpine wildlife, much of it on the Endangered Red List. If that weren’t enough, the Raethian Railway, also in the Engadin, is celebrating its 125th Birthday in 2014. The Glacier Express and the Bernina Express are UNESCO Heritage sites, one of three railways inscribed on UNESCO’s list of cultural sites. This is not a tourist train, but a regular SBB passenger train that runs along a steep, winding mountain track, careening and roller-coasting over dozens of stone bridges and coursing through tunnels and high over glittering rivers.

9. Andermatt, Canton Uri, Switzerland

Opening in December of 2013, Switzerland’s svelte 106-room Chedi Hotel is part of a 1.8 Billion Swiss Franc Andermatt project built over the existing bones of a former working class town at a military base atop Canton Uri’s rural and rugged Adula Alps. The development will eventually feature six resorts and connects to ski resorts, a new golf course and loads of new residential housing. The game-changing Chedi property was designed by Jean-Michel Gathy of Denniston Architects. It will be home to a ski-in living room, a Japanese restaurant, and a 2,400-square-foot spa using organic Alpienne products emphasizing Swiss folk medicine like olive oil, beeswax, and lanolin. Canton Uri is also home to the new Gotthard Base Tunnel, made up of 95 miles worth of tunnels, shafts and passages snaking underneath the Swiss Alps, which will be the longest tunnel in the world when completed in 2016. It will also cut an hour off the trip from Zurich to Milan. 

10. Yakushima, Japan

Yakushima is a remote, mountainous and UNESCO-inscribed island south of Japan’s southern mainland tip. It’s home to an ancient cedar forest with 1,200 species of moss and was the inspiration for Hayao Miyazaki’s Shinto-and animism inspired classic Princess Mononoke. This winter I hiked to the center of the island, about 5-hours, to the “Mononoke Forest” (home to one of several famed cedar trees) and witnessed horned deer, native rhododendrons, giant ferns, birds and mushrooms. Afterwards, I snacked on Yakushima oranges and soothed my muscles with a dip in a secret oceanfront onsen (natural thermal bath), which is in an rock pool aside crashing waves and only accessible at low tide. Yakushima was inhabited by the ancient Amani people, who also colonized Okinawa, and sold the virgin cedar wood to mainland Japan. The prized, water-resistant cedar was used to build many of Kyoto’s (the then capital) temples and shrines.

Why go in 2014? The Yakushima municipal government is currently studying capping the number of daily visitors to Yakushima’s Jomon Sugi tree at 420. The island has undergone a local tourism boomlet but is adamant about finding a tourism-environmental balance to help preserve the trees and paths on the island. In 2013 Yakushima celebrates 20 years on UNESCO’s World Heritage List and remains a model of sustainable tourism. In August 2010, Nissan Motor Co. Ltd and Kagoshima prefecture signed a Zero-Emission partnership to jointly embark on the “Development of a CO2-Free Island” project to create an advanced low-carbon society on Yakushima. The partnership will primarily focus on promoting the widespread adoption of electric vehicles (EVs) on the island and creating an environment where people can safely drive EVs and utilize renewable energy. Culturally: Studio Ghibli, Hayao Miyazaki’s creative anime studio, is scheduled to release two feature films in summer 2013, including the Japanese classic The Bamboo Cutter which promise to continue an environmentalist message and renew interest in Princess Mononoke.


11. Ecuador’s Cacao Revolucion!

Why go in 2014? Cacao was long thought to be come from the Mayan world, but an archeological discovery in 2014 found traces of processed chocolate on 5,000 year old Ecuadorian pots, changing the history and provenance of cacao as we know it. Also, the heirloom “nacional” bean was “rediscovered growing wild in Ecuador in 2012. The Ministry tourism is working on a developing an official cacao tourism network in the Amazon, jungle, highlands, and cloud forests, while local cacao companies like Pacari, whose locally harvested biodynamic organic chocolate swept the London Chocolate Awards (blind tastings among 600 entries) in October 2012 in a movement similar to the France’s Judgment of Paris that shifted the geography of quality from Europe to the New World. They won ten awards in 2012. Visitors to Ecuador can harvest and roast their own cacao over fire, then make their own chocolate at several plantations and lodges, like the newly opened Chocolate Jungle in the cloud forests of Mindo, a 20 hectare cocoa plantation with thatched jungle lofts, adjacent to the lush forest. New volunteer vacations through Travel Works allow visitors to come to Ecuador and work directly on cacao farms. Ecuador is also the world’s largest grower of high-end cocoa. Most of its cacao farms are run by families who’ve been growing it for several generations, found in the Coastal Lowlands provinces of Los Rios, Guayas, Manabi, El Oro, and Esmeraldas (though some are found on the edge of the highlands in the Amazon near Sucumbios).  Ecuador also has a series of new train opening in 2013; A new luxury line known as Tren Crucero will travel from the Andes south to the Pacific Coast over the course of a four-day /three-night journey is powered by steam and diesel locomotives. Tren del Hielo (the Ice Train) will go from Riobamba to Urbina, and the Senderos de los Ancestros (Ancestors’ Trails) train will travel from Riobamba to Colta. The Tren del Hielo route passes through an especially scenic route and its large panoramic windows allow visitors to see Chimborazo, Ecuador’s tallest snow-capped volcano (20,564 feet), as well as the Altar, Tungurahua and Carihuayrazo peaks. Urbina is home to a new Eco-Center where traditional agricultural activities, including cacao can be observed. The train also offers typical Ecuadorian dishes from the Andean region, even ice cream made with local cacao and ice from Andean peaks. Ecuador is consistently overshadowed by other South American destinations like Machu Pichu, the Galapagos, and the Amazon, and its Highlands are one of the world’s richest biodiversity Hot Spots with over 25,000 plants, 1,600 birds (more than double the species found in Europe), 365 mammals, and countless other forms of life still being discovered and understood.


By adam