Tasmania is Australia 's island outpost, a remote destination that's ideal for thrill seekers looking for the next big adventure. To see Tassie's jaw-dropping, prehistoric-looking scenery, embark on the 80-kilometre Overland Track, a five- to six-day trek that snakes between Cradle Mountain and Lake St. Clair through moorlands, forests, glacial lakes and jagged mountains. Between December and March, hardcore rafters can conquer the treacherous rapids of the Franklin River (a full descent takes about a week). Those who are fainter of heart can stick to the island's wine route and explore the emerging art and architecture scene. According to James Lohan of the boutique hotel website Mr. and Mrs. Smith (mrandmrssmith.com), sybarites won't be disappointed: "The just-opened Mona Pavilions in Hobart teams state-of-the-art rooms with a winery and a future museum, and the Saffire resort, opening in 2010, is eagerly awaited by nature lovers and serenity-seekers alike." (Visit www.moorilla.com.au; www.saffire-freycinet.com.au.)
After years of being hammered by bad press about political protests, drug-related violence and swine flu, Mexico is primed for a comeback. The state of Oaxaca - home to the pretty colonial capital of Oaxaca City and the chilled-out surfing town of Puerto Escondido - made Lonely Planet's Top 10 Regions of 2010 list and Mexico City received a mention on Frommer's annual Top 10, citing that the city is "doing well what it's done well for over four centuries" as a cultural and ethnic nexus for Mexico and Latin America. David Lytle, Editorial Director of Frommers.com, adds that the capital is a solid destination for city-oriented travellers., with top museums, amazing archaeology, and perhaps the best food of any city in North America. And in case you thought the only accommodation options are all-inclusive, the hip Mexican hotel empire Grupo Habita has a clutch of chic boutique hotels from Mexico City ( www.hotelhabitamty.com) to Playa del Carmen and is planning to bring modernist glitz back to Acapulco with the reopening of the Boca Chica on Caleta Beach.
On the heels of Beijing's 2008 Olympics, Shanghai is getting ready for her own clos-up as host to this year's World Expo from May to October. "The World Expo may have lost some of its allure through the years," says travel blogger Keith Jenkins, "but the Chinese government is ensuring this one gets noticed with dazzling pavilions, mind-boggling architecture and state-of-the-art technology." The event is expected to draw 70 million visitors and 200 participating countries, including Denmark - which plans to bring in a million litres of seawater and Copehagen's Little Mermaid statue for its display. Don't leave without experiencing the Shanghai skyline from a boat on the Huangpu River, says Jenkins. "You'll pass the stately colonial buildings of the Bund and the glittering skyscrapers in Pudong. The never-ending flow of boats that ply the river will keep you entertained if your neck starts to ache from looking up at some of the tallest buildings in the world."
In February all eyes are on Vancouver as it hosts the 2010 Olympic Winter Games. With improvements in the Sea to Sky Highway and the recently expanded Skytrain zooming from airport to downtown in 25 minutes, Vancouver is ready for the influx of sports fans, athletes, and journalists. But the Olympics last only two weeks and B.C.'s real draw is its vast, stunning wilderness. To the north, the unspoiled archipelago of Haida Gwaii is Canada's Galapagos, an exquisite expanse of mountains, inlets, and old-growth rain forests with strong native roots and an unparalleled collection of vegetation and wildlife that includes whales, black bears, sea lions and some 1 million seabirds. The backcountry terrain of the Monashee Mountains and the more developed Revelstoke resorts are "it" spots for skiers and snowboarders. And with a vibrant restaurant scene in Vancouver and a growing epicurean community in the Okanagan Valley, B.C. is adding fine food and wine to its list of attractions.
The Nicaragua of the 1970s and 1980s - a country associated with the Sandinista revolution and the scandalous Iran-Contra affair - has evolved into Central America's eco-tourism it-spot. It's less well-trodden than Costa Rica and Guatemala, less Americanized than Panama and safer than El Salvador. It has active volcanoes that can be climbed, hot springs that are suitable for soaking, pristine white sand beaches, and lush rain forests that cover more than 20,000 square kilometres of the country. And hotels are arriving, including the newly opened Jicaro Island Ecolodge: a luxurious environmentally friendly collection of casitas that's situated on a private island in Lake Nicaragua. If you tire of beachcombing and of doing sun salutations on the floating yoga deck, then take a boat ride across the lake to Mombacho Volcano and hike up to the cloud forests for some wildlife watching.
More than 15 years after the fall of apartheid, South Africa makes history again as the FIFA World Cup descends on the African continent for the first time ever. While tickets and accommodation won't come easily (matches will be hosted in several cities in June and July), nothing compares to revelling in the festive World Cup atmosphere. "Cape Town will be the biggest winner," says Keith Jenkins, founder of the Velvet Escape travel blog ( www.velvetescape.com ). "The city's spectacular location, fronting Table Bay and backed by the iconic Table Mountain, its beaches, gastronomic delights, stunning scenery, and unique flora and fauna make it a dream holiday destination." For a less frenetic experience, consider escaping to South Africa's rugged bushland. Hikers head to the scenic Drakensberg, a 1,000-kilometre-long mountain range, and the lunar landscapes of Vensterval Trail in Richtersveld Transfrontier National Park which is considered the country's wildest national park. You can also opt for viewing elephants, white rhinos and lions in Hluhluwe- Imfolozi Park, South Africa's oldest game park.
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