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This year, why not travel to a place that's really got something to celebrate? Discover 10 destinations that might not be on your radar (but should be).
Seemingly impossible to get to, this archipelago of 18 craggy islands in the North Atlantic is more accessible than you might think. Direct flights to the Faroes run year-round from Denmark, England, Iceland and Norway. For the intrepid traveller who’s prepared for ever-changing weather, the Faroe’s remote landscape of unspoiled moorlands, dramatic fjords and bird-rich cliffs are rewarding. This year, book your trip to coincide with a celestial event. On March 20 at 9:41 a.m., local time, the Faroes make history as one of only two places in the world where you can view the total solar eclipse. (The other land-based viewing point is Svalbard, Norway.) But book early. On this 1,399-square-kilometre archipelago, accommodation options are limited. And since Scandinavians love to throw a good party, expect to celebrate those two momentous minutes of complete darkness well into the evening. visitfaroeislands.com
Prim and proper Singapore is letting her hair down for her 50th. In its Golden Jubilee year, the sovereign city state plans to whoop it up as host of the 2015 Southeast Asian Games (June 5 to 16) and celebrate the opening of major architectural projects, including a redesigned National Museum, a brand new National Gallery and Jubilee Walk, a pedestrian trail with public art that links historic sites to the 57-storey ultra-modern Marina Bay Sands resort. Add to that a burgeoning fine-dining scene (two local restaurants made Asia’s top 10 for 2014, as rated by San Pellegrino and Acqua Panna), a legendary street-food scene and hot hotel openings that include the Sofitel So Singapore and the Patina. Singapore is a destination you’ll want to hang out in for longer than a stopover. singapore50.sg; yoursingapore.com
Dinophiles have had this small northern Alberta town on their radar since 2013. That’s when ground broke on the Philip J. Currie Dinosaur Museum, a research and education centre named after Canada’s most prominent palaeontologist. Scheduled to open this fall, the building is more than a gallery space for old bones. Toronto-based Teeple Architects designed a striking, energy-efficient, timber-truss structure that can handle the temperature extremes of the Prairies. It sits on a four-hectare site, on top of a Mesozoic bone bed, and has classrooms, a 70-seat theatre and an outdoor discovery fossil walk. Budding scientists can tap into the latest findings of research staff, including head palaeontologist Dr. Matthew Vavrek, who recently discovered the fossils of several young plesiosaurs in Nunavut. curriemuseum.ca
Instead of animal sightings, the vast plains of the Serengeti often becomes overpopulated with humans in Jeeps in peak migration season. If you’re after a more authentic wildlife-viewing experience, venture into the eastern Serengeti’s Soit Le Motonyi region. Until recently it’s been closed off to tourists, and has been used instead as a research centre to study big cats and as a breeding ground for cheetahs. Tanzania National Parks Authority has opened up the area but allows only one mobile safari camp – Asilia Africa’s Namiri Plains, pictured top right – to pitch six luxury canvas tents, which limits the number of visitors. The nearest camp is more than 45 minutes away, so when the migration passes through from October to May, you’ll feel like it’s a private showing. namiriplains.asiliaafrica.com
Blink and you may miss St. Kitts, a sleepy island that historically lacked the cachet of neighbouring St. Barths, Saint Martin and Puerto Rico. But a recent hotel boom is creating some buzz, throwing the Caribbean’s smallest sovereign country into the spotlight. Condo-hotel projects such as Pirate’s Nest, Prime Hotel, Imperial Bay and a new Park Hyatt are changing the landscape, introducing luxurious residential-style resort living to the island and luring more “economic citizens.” (At the Park Hyatt, for example, $430,000 (U.S). buys you a piece of resort paradise and your whole family can apply for citizenship on the island.) For a change of pace from the typical beach holiday, try Belle Mont Farm (bellemontfarm.com) on Kittitian Hill, a collection of guesthouses and farmhouses with a strong culinary slant. On its sprawling 161-hectare estate, you can eat organic fruit off the trees, learn West Indian cooking and join locals at a weekly fish fry. stkittstourism.kn
The Nicaragua of the 1970s and 1980s was a dodgy place associated with revolutionary Sandinistas and the Iran-Contra affair, but the country has evolved into Central America’s “it” spot. Less visited than Costa Rica and Guatemala and less Americanized than Panama, it has lots to do: active volcanoes that can be climbed and surfed with a sand board, hot springs to soak in, and lush rainforests to explore. When the country’s new Emerald Coast Airport is up and running later this year, Nicaragua’s pristine beaches will be even more accessible. Soon to open on the southwest Pacific coast are The Inn at Rancho Santana (a boutique hotel run by the Rancho Santana beach villa resort) and AquaNicaragua Wellness Resort, pictured bottom right, introduces a larger spa, new restaurant and treehouse accommodations. If you’re heading inland to Granada, check out its colonial-chic boutique hotels Tribal and Bubu. visitnicaragua.us
Italy’s design capital has always attracted certain types of travellers: those who appreciate its big-city vibe, its industrious upmarket fashion houses and its impossibly well-dressed (and often snooty) locals. From May 1 to Oct. 31, however, Milan will attract a broader audience when it hosts Expo Milano 2015, a world’s fair with 144 participating countries. The theme – Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life – explores what we’ll be eating in the future and renewable energy. The expansive grounds will be set up like a classic Roman city, complete with a canal and a lake surrounded by pavilions where visitors can watch cooking demonstrations and indulge in food and wine-tastings. Tickets are currently on sale, and start at €32 ($45) a person. expo2015.org
Key West, Fla.
Thanks to a recent shake-up in the hotel scene, the southernmost island of the Florida Keys is getting its groove back. Once home to Ernest Hemingway and Tennessee Williams, Key West has long been an inspiration for literary folk. It’s also attracted kitschy tourist shops, run-of-the-mill resorts and party-hardy Spring Break crowds. To draw out a hipper, more sophisticated traveller, two new boutique hotels have recently opened on opposite sides of the island. The Gates (gateshotelkeywest.com) and the Marker Waterfront Resort (themarkerkeywest.com) have embraced whitewashed ocean-chic design and contemporary amenities such as scooter rentals, in-room Starbucks coffee, slick fitness facilities and a garden reserved for cigar smokers. It may be enough to draw the South Beach crowd away from the mainland. fla-keys.com/keywest
Plzen, Czech Republic
It may not be as pretty as Prague or as elegant as Karlovy Vary, but the Czech Republic’s fourth-largest city and the 2015 European Capital of Culture is ready for its close-up. Until now, Plzen has been known more for its major industrial feats. It’s the home of Skoda Engineering Works and the original source of Pilsner beer (the brewery is still its No. 1 tourist attraction). But on Jan. 17, the city turns into a global stage for the performing arts with celebrations that kick off a year-long festival of cultural events. Of note are February’s Festival of Light, which illuminates the old city centre, and Le Cirque Nouveau – a rotating line-up of circus performance groups from France, Italy, Spain, Canada and Switzerland. plzen2015.cz/en
Canadian travellers destined for South America have often bypassed Colombia, choosing instead to explore destinations where the tourist trail is better established. The country that we once associated with violent drug cartels and armed rebels has, however, evolved into a refined getaway with significantly lowered crime rates and hotels and restaurants that cost a fraction of what you’d spend in neighbouring Ecuador, Brazil and Peru. Thanks to new direct flights from Sunwing and Air Transat, you can now reach the country from Toronto and Montreal in less than six hours. Luxury hotels are also catching on with such notable openings as W Bogota, Bastion in Cartagena and the ever-growing Movich chain (a local brand and member of Small Luxury Hotels, it has locations in Bogota, Medellin, Cali, Pereira and Cartagena). colombia.travel