New planet 2014
These 10 countries are destined for an epic year, whether they’re hosting festivals, cutting the ribbon on new attractions or simply raising their game for travellers. Feast your eyes on 2014's most unmissable destinations.
All eyes on the pitch for 2014’s World Cup
A game of beach football in Rio. Image by Yasuhide Fumoto / The Image Bank / Getty Images.
As if endless strands of sun-toasted coast, mountains splashed with Crayola-green rainforest and some of the planet’s most beautiful colonial villages didn’t already add up to an unfair share of heaven, Brazil goes and snags two of the most coveted sporting events in the world, beginning with the 2014 FIFA World Cup and followed two years later by the 2016 Summer Olympics. Tack on a recession-dodging economy, and boom! Brazil is the belle of the ball. Be it trekking across towering windswept dunes peppered with cerulean lagoons in Lençóis Maranhenses, exploring gilded colonial churches in frozen-in-time cities such as Ouro Preto or swimming in aquarium-like rivers near Bonito, Brazil’s diversity will leave you slack-jawed.
The adventure of a lifetime
A noisy gentoo penguin in Antarctica. Image by Ralf Hettler / E+ / Getty Images.
Tune into your average wildlife television program and you can’t fail to be dazzled by Antarctica’s majestic icebergs, calving glaciers and unexplored mountain ranges. Or you’ll watch its native penguin species frolic while avoiding fierce leopard seals and roaming pods of killer whales, as millions of seabirds spiral over the wild Southern Ocean. This year marks the centenary of the start of Ernest Shackleton’s infamous attempted Antarctic crossing. Visiting this pristine continent (which doesn’t have an indigenous population and is not actually a country) in 2014 is a chance to take life on and follow in the path of other intrepid explorers – but with cushier amenities.
An eventful year
The rugged scenery of Glencoe in the Scottish Highlands. Image by Stephen Weaver Photography / Flickr Open / Getty Images.
To coincide with Glasgow hosting the XX Commonwealth Games in the summer of 2014, the city has had a multi-million-pound facelift: new sports venues, improved transport links and a regeneration of Glasgow Harbour. It is also the Year of Homecoming, a government initiative to welcome the Scottish diaspora back to the mother country by celebrating Scotland’s heritage, food and drink. The phrase ‘there’s something for everyone’ applies: Europe’s biggest brass band festival blasts Perthshire, an orienteering contest around Scottish castles, the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival in May... Despite all this, politics will take centre stage: to be or not to be independent, that is the question. Hold onto your hats, Scotland.
Food, culture and scary stories
Summertime in Västra Götaland, Sweden. Image by Christer Fredriksson / Lonely Planet Images / Getty Images.
Thanks to the late Swedish author Stieg Larsson, most people have a sense of what Sweden’s like, even in the far north – cold, beautiful and a bit scary. Sweden is emerging with a new pop-culture persona. Perhaps not coincidentally, northern Sweden’s largest city, Umeå, is the European Capital of Culture for 2014. Then there’s the food. The capital has long been a stylish, top-notch destination for serious gourmands and boldly experimental chefs but lately the reputation and influence of Swedish cooking have spread beyond the country’s borders. Considering that Swedish cuisine is so strongly tied to locally sourced ingredients (be it seafood, game, berries, herbs or regional cheeses), it makes perfect sense to go to the source of all this fine food.
The Big Five and beach life without the crowds
Elephant marches through Majete Wildlife Reserve in Malawi. Image by John Warbuton-Lee / AWL Images / Getty Images.