The TripAdvisor app is available for both Android and Apple iPhones and takes everything the website does and combines it into a lightweight, easy-to use package. The only downside is that as all its data is stored online (given the huge size of its information database) that you'll either need to be on a Wi-Fi connection in your hotel or cafe, or risk getting charged huge data fees when using your mobile phone abroad.
2. KayakPros: Comprehensive booking app for flights, hotels and car rentals; good itinerary planner with flight and tour times
Cons: Requires Wi-Fi or other internet connection to use, not accessible offline;
Likewise one of the biggest brands in terms of travel apps, Kayak serves as a useful one-stop booking station. Booking flights with Kayak is an especially smooth process compared to many other apps hoping to achieve the same thing, particularly their multi-city function that allows you to plan long-haul flights leg-by-leg and select specific airports to make the trip as customised as you want it. Prefer to have a 1-day stay over in Dubai to look around at all the incredible development rather than an awkward 5-hour layover where you can't really leave the airport? With Kayak's multi-city function, you can.
Hotel booking is similarly simple, with the ability to filter the massive range of hotels all around the world by such criteria as star rating, price, whether or not it has photos, average reviewer rating, and much more. One of the major qualms with the Kayak app's hotel bookings is that, upon clicking the Book button, for some reason the app then loads the full version of the Kayak.com website and attempts to display it within the confines of the smaller mobile-type skin. This can make it both slow to load and cumbersome to navigate.
Lastly there's car rental, which is perhaps the easiest of the lot – you simply select the date you'll need the car for along with desired pickup and dropoff points, and you'll be presented with the cheapest possible result. All in all, a great app and essential if you're going to be booking any of these three things from a mobile device.
Pros: Huge number of languages; translation getting more and more accurate over time; has both text and voice functions; lightweight and easy to use.
Cons: Longer sentences can still be hit or miss; have to type direct, basic phrases so as not to confuse with colloquialisms; requires internet connection
Google's translation software has come a long way since the early days of its inception, and now sports an impressive range of languages and character sets within its massive database. If you've ever been in that awkward situation in a foreign country where you just can't QUITE explain to the taxi driver where you're trying to go, Google translate has you covered. You simply select your input language, desired output language, and you'll be presented with a list of possible translations sorted by “most recommended”. Google has incorporated a ton of feedback from multilingual users who are able to flag certain translations as the preferred or most accurate, which has helped for those times where one word might have several translations in another language.
All the world's most popular languages are covered within Google Translate, from the major players such as Chinese and Spanish and even down to less widespread languages like Belarusian and Haitian Creole. If you don't feel comfortable trying to pronounce the phrase yourself (or can't read the script), the majority of the languages in Google Translate can be read by the program's integrated voice simulator – just press the button and a slightly-awkward voice will do its best to pronounce the word or sentence out loud for you.
As with many other apps on this list, one of the only downsides is that you'll need an internet connection for the translations to come through, so if you're planning to travel to a single specific country and don't need access to multiple languages, a more offline-based solution might be a better idea.
4. Unit Converter
Pros: Converts more than just currency; great for shopping abroad; distances, weights, power and wattage and much more.
Cons: Requires consistent updates for currency figures to be accurate
Unlike the huge number of pure currency conversion apps out there that merely display the transition of one country's money to the other, this handy app also includes conversions for many other metrics such as weight, distance, power, and more all within an extremely simple and easy-to-use interface. You'll never have to make a wild guess at if it's safe or not to plug one of your electrical appliances into that crazy foreign wall socket again; just enter the power ratings in and the conversion will instantly display with a few touches of the screen.
Currency conversions are also mostly accurate, although if you haven't used the app within range of an internet connection for a while the figures will only be as current as the most recent exchange rates you have stored locally on your phone will be.
Cons: Have to ensure you update times before going out of network range for complete accuracy
This handy little app can make the painful calculations that come with travelling through multiple timezones a matter of glancing at your phone's screen; while its a simple function that takes the local time from your mobile phone's clock and displays it in a visual appealing “clock” widget (both digital and analogue), when you're feeling the effects of jet lag and fatigue of flying long distances, such a simple convenience can be a godsend.
The app allows you to select multiple countries and/or cities, and even create separate widgets for each on your phone so you'll have instant visual access to each at a glance. If you're planning a Europe trip and going to be country-hopping, then this app is a definite must; just make sure your phone's local clock is as accurate as possible because if it's off, then all your other time-translations will likewise be wrong as well.
The Rockhouse in Jamaica is 'the friendliest fashionable hotel I've ever known,' says Decca Aitkenhead. Photograph: Alamy
The Rockhouse, West End, NegrilIf you're after the cliff-edge drama of the West End, but don't fancy slumming it, the Rockhouse is probably for you. Some of the West End's most upmarket hotels are so antiseptic and uptight you'd hardly know you were in Jamaica, but the Rockhouse has managed to combine modern boutique comforts – a world-class spa, crisp bed linen, fabulous food – with the laid-back hedonism of the old Negril. The rooms look a bit like stone thatched wigwams, some with private terraces, but it's the drama of the cliff-edge dotted with diving platforms that holds everyone's attention, alternately tempting and terrifying. It is the friendliest fashionable hotel I've ever known.
• rockhousehotel.com, double rooms from $125 a night plus taxes
Palms Resort, NegrilA lot of the mid-range hotels along Negril's white sandy beach have seen better days, but the Palms' natural wood aesthetic has aged more successfully than the gaudy tropical motifs of its neighbours. From its stylish wooden decking and beach bar, just feet from the water's edge, you can enjoy all the spectacle and carnival of Negril's beach life, but the property itself is peaceful, and the service has all the efficiency of a much pricier hotel, with none of the formality. There's nothing phoney about the relaxed friendliness of the staff; by day two, the gardener was busy teaching my toddler to speak patois.
• thepalmsnegril.com, double rooms from $80 a night plus taxes
Banana Shout, West End, NegrilThe rocky stretch of Negril known as the West End became a mecca for hippies in the 1960s, and Banana Shout evokes the best of the old bohemian spirit, perched on the edge of the cliffs right next door to Rick's Cafe, the famous sunset diving spot. The four cottages have a lovely rustic charm, and the whole property has a friendly communal feel. Guests tend to be likeably left-field travellers rather than tourists, and Milo, the Italian owner, is a mischievously charismatic host. The cottages have little kitchens, but if you like, Milo will cook for you in the alfresco bar/kitchen, making Banana Shout feel more like a home than a hotel.
• bananashoutresort.com, double rooms from $80 a night B&B plus taxes
San San Tropez, Port Antonio, PortlandFrenchman's Cove. Photograph: AlamyToday's fashionable jetset like to winter in Barbados or St Barts, but half a century ago they flocked to the luxury villas and exclusive hotels just east of Port Antonio. The atmosphere these days is heavy with nostalgia, as if ghosts of faded glamour haunt the peeling paint and untamed tropical gardens, yet bafflingly few of the hotels have downgraded their prices accordingly. San San Tropez is one of the few affordable options (just blowing our £100 budget), with spacious, comfortable rooms around a small pool. It's a minute's stroll away from a crescent of creamy white beach you're pretty much guaranteed to have all to yourself, and the famous Blue Lagoon and Frenchman's Cove (pictured) are a few more minutes' away.
• sansantropez.com, double rooms from €900 a week including breakfast and taxes
Harmony Hall Cottages, Ocho RiosHarmony HallThese two cottages for two were built by the owners of a local art gallery, and everything about them exudes artful individual style. The wooden two-storey cottage has an outdoor bathroom overlooking the ocean, while the other is less characterful but more spacious, amid lush tropical gardens. Thoughtfully equipped with proper kitchens, Wi-Fi and iPod docks, and brimming with all sorts of art, they feel like proper homes. Higgledy-piggledy stone steps lead down to the sea, passing private sun decks. The owners' home sits between the two cottages, and their cheerful informality and warmth have a great deal to do with the relaxed intimacy.
• harmonyhall.com, cottages from $130 a night (three-night minimum)
Great Huts, Boston Bay, near Port Antonio, PortlandPhotograph: AlamyNothing can quite prepare you for the shock of what lies behind a plain wooden gate at the end of a scruffy little track. You step through it into a kind of tropical Narnia fantasy – an African village carved into a Brazilian rainforest above thundering Caribbean waves, less like a hotel than a hallucinogenic movie set. The huts – some tiny, some big enough to sleep a large family – are dotted among dense tropical vegetation. They're crafted out of bamboo and rock with batik drapes. A cliff-top bar features thrones carved out of stone, gazing out over crashing waves next to a swimming pool perched on the edge of a sheer rock face, while steps lead down to a private sandy beach. You'll need plenty of mosquito repellent.
• greathuts.com, from $60 a night B&B (two-night minimum) plus taxes
Calabash House, Treasure Beach, St ElizabethIt's almost impossible to believe you can get all this for less than £60 a night. The guesthouse's four rooms are all massive – some can sleep six – with hot water and air conditioning, while the garden groans with mango trees. A path leads through a riot of flowers past a little wooden cottage (also for rent), to a quiet sandy beach where you can buy fresh lobster from fishermen. Suzette, the hugely likeable cook, will make fantastic local meals for a modest charge, but otherwise guests share the huge kitchen and living room.
They can be an eclectic mix – I mingled with Hungarian backpackers, retired Austrian teachers, and a middle-aged Midwestern couple – which might have felt a bit like an experimental house party if it weren't for owner Elizabeth's remarkable gift for hostessing. An American artist, she lives in a cottage in the garden and never seems to stop laughing; she runs an art gallery next door, and her mosaic artwork shimmers across the guesthouse walls. It would be worth a stay here just to hang out with Elizabeth, and if you book the garden rental cottage you share her open-air kitchen and outdoor shower.
• calabashhouse.com, rooms/cottages from $75 a night plus 10-15% staff tip
Jakes, Treasure Beach, St ElizabethBack in 1996, when Jake's was just a handful of cottages in a remote fishing village, it won the Tatler award for best hotel for under £100 a night. Since then it's evolved into a world-class collection of boutique rooms and villas, the destination of choice for every international hipster looking for tropical chic without risking bumping into Simon Cowell. A beautiful spa, daily yoga classes and beachside seafood restaurant have all been added, along with rooms built on stilts over the ocean, honeymoon suites, rock star villas …
Yet Jake's is still far and away the best beachside hotel in Jamaica for less than £100 a night. Even the cheapest rooms are an aesthetic delight, though the real joy of Jake's remains not the status of your room but the rare laid-back charm of sitting at the beachside bar with a supermodel on one side, villagers playing dominoes on the other.
• jakeshotel.com, from $95 a night (two- or three-night minimum) plus taxes
Ital Rest, Great Bay, St ElizabethIf you're looking for hardcore authentic Rasta Jamaica it's hard to beat Ital Rest, two wooden two-storey cottages, thatched with palm fronds, at the end of a dirt track among tamarind, sweetsop and palm trees. The four rooms are simply furnished, and from your balcony you can watch the sun set into the ocean, across a goat field that slopes down to a coastline dotted with tiny sandy coves; the darkness is sudden, and the rooms have no electricity, just candles and hurricane lamps. The cottages have kitchens and bathrooms, and share an outdoor shower, and the Jamaican co-owner's wife cooks spectacularly good Ital food (the vegetarian diet followed by many Rastafarians), with vegetables from their organic farm. Be sure to ask for some of her guava and ginger juice.
• italrest.com, from $40 a night
River Lodge, Strawberry Fields, St MaryThis is pretty much the definition of off-the-beaten-track perfection, at the end of a pot-holed lane that peters away into a dirt track overlooking a deserted cove. A stone fort built by the Spaniards in the 17th century, it has a river curling through its lush gardens, with steps carved out of roots and vines leading down to a plunge pool. The five rooms are cool, airy and simple, arranged around a courtyard with an open-air dining area; lawns are dotted with snoozing dogs and clucking hens. The German owner is married to a Jamaican farmer and fisherman, whose vegetables and fresh fish supply the kitchen, and at night guests gather near the water's edge round an open fire beside an alfresco bamboo bar.
• river-lodge.com, from $25 a night B&B
W2MN - Welcome to Montenegro
January 2013 brings a special surprise. W2MN (Welcome to Montenegro) micro web site becomes part of Visit-Montenegro.com. Visually unique and very useful site that offers all visitors a short and very useful information. At any time, the W2MN bring you special offers for lodging, rental, flights and so on.
W2MN is the place where you can enjoy the best photos of Montenegro. You can also use it as a beautiful wallpaper on your computer.
Visit W2MN and enjoy in Montenegro: W2MN micro web site
In 2012 Visit Montenegro start to provide FREE digital books (eBooks) in Apple iBookStore.
Our first digital book was: Montenegro Photo Book. Very simple e-book, where you can enjoy in beautiful photos from Montenegro.
Next one was: Montenegro Top 10 Tours, excellent tour guide for tourist, with selection of 10 best tours in Montenegro.
In cooperation with SNV Montenegro, we publish CookBook, Traditional Mediterranean Recipes with Olives and Olive Oil. This book is absolute bestseller in our iBook Store.
And finally, our last title in 2012 was Catalogue, Traditional Olive Industry Like a Part of Cross Border Tourism Offer.
In 2013, we prepare more FREE e-Books for all of you. You will be able to enjoy in wonderful Montenegro, and to get more useful information through digital books we provide.
Visit our FREE iBook Store account, and enjoy in our FREE iBooks.
Visit Montenegro MAGAZINE
Biggest part of our job is already finished. We just need couple of weeks to make final polish to FIRST MONTENEGRO DIGITAL MAGAZINE: Visit Montenegro MAGAZINE.
This year will be great for all of us, because we will publish this amazing digital magazine, and make a major step in our development. Visit Montenegro was and is a leader in the internet promotion and presentation of Montenegro. We have always strived to provide the highest level of service and information to our visitors. With new devices, we continue to go in development of new content, and we want to provide mobile device application.
Visit Montenegro MAGAZINE will be FIRST but also BEST app for iPad users (later this year we will make Android version also). Great amount of unique and useful information is main point and our main goal.
Web presentation of Visit Montenegro MAGAZINE.
1. Amsterdam, The Netherlands
This capital city made three lists for 2013: Fodor’s Go List, Lonely Planet’s Top 10 Cities, and Travel + Leisure magazine’s Hottest Travel Destinations.
Amsterdam’s 2013 milestones include the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra’s 125th anniversary; Van Gogh’s 160th birthday; the Artis Zoo’s 175th anniversary; and the 400th anniversary of the Canal Ring, designated a World Heritage site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The Rijksmuseum also reopens after a 10-year restoration.
So, Fodor’s says, “The city is ready to celebrate with concerts, exhibits, festivals, and sport events designed to embrace the spirit and culture of Amsterdam.”
2. Marseille, France
France’s second-largest city also made three lists: Fodor’s, Travel + Leisure’s, and National Geographic magazine’s Best Trips – plus the European Union’s European Capital City.
Travel + Leisure calls Marseille France’s edgiest city: “Style seekers browse the racks in the Cours Julien district; artists are colonizing the Le Panier area; and trendy types hole up at Philippe Starck’s Mama Shelter.”
But, National Geographic says, “For all the new energy, Marseille’s old pleasures remain as alluring as ever: a stroll along the narrow lanes of the Panier Quarter, the lusty aromas of a good bouillabaisse, a boat ride into the fjordlike inlets called calanques. It’s no wonder that visitors are becoming fadas (big fans) of France’s southern gateway.”
This European country made Fodor’s and Lonely Planet’s Top 10 Countries.
Fodor’s calls Montenegro – wedged between Bosnia, Serbia, Albania, and the sea – the newMonaco at half the price.
But despite the small Mediterranean country’s size, Lonely Planet says, “Nature has been prolific and creative…producing such iconic draws as the bewitching Bay of Kotor and the buzzy beaches along its Riviera. But be sure to pack a pair of hiking boots along with your swimsuit, for Montenegro’s beauty is no less intense in the wild and rugged interior. A new – and steadily growing – network of hiking and biking trails and improved infrastructure is making this glorious quilt of nature ever more accessible.”
4. Palawan, Philippines
Palawan, on Lonely Planet’s Top 10 Regions, is another secluded locale to visit before crowds of tourists arrive.
“Palawan incorporates thousands of sparkling, rugged islands and is fringed by [more than 1,200 miles] of pristine coastline. So far Palawan’s natural marvels have only been sampled by plucky backpackers. Not for much longer,” says Lonely Planet. “The trail these pioneers have blazed is set to explode, with regional airlines waking up to Palawan’s potential and clambering to schedule direct flights to the capital.”
Travel + Leisure also listed the Philippines.
5. Samana Peninsula, Dominican Republic
JetBlue started offering direct flights to this less-visited part of the Caribbean country in November, Fodor’s reports.
“Secluded beaches, small hotels, friendly locals, and plenty of natural wonders – including great whale-watching from January through March – await in an area that has not (yet) experienced massive development,” they say. “So go now before the megaresorts follow.”
Lonely Planet also listed the Dominican Republic, which shares the island of Hispanola with Haiti.
6. Quito, Ecuador
“For too long, travelers have neglected Ecuador’s capital city en route to the nation’s marquee attraction, the Galápagos Islands [which didn't make any of the aforementioned lists]. Though its Spanish colonial center has been enshrined as a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1978, the area has more recently undergone a renaissance warranting longer stays,” say National Geographic.
Lonely Planet also listed Ecuador.
7. Istanbul, Turkey
“Stunning historical sights and urban style define the city that straddles two continents,” Fodor’s says. “Istanbul has an irrepressible energy that constantly propels it forward with exciting new hotels, restaurants, and art galleries, even while the culture maintains a firm grasp on the traditions of the past.”
Lonely Planet also listed Turkey.
8. Bagan, Myanmar
“The best Burmese travel experiences require a bit of planning, but the rewards are great—especially in Bagan, the arid, pagoda-studded plain along the Ayeyarwady River in Upper Burma where the first Burmese Buddhist kings, their courtiers, and other merit-seeking patrons built thousands of religious monuments from the 11th to 13th centuries,” says National Geographic. “According to Burma scholar Donald Stadtner, these 16 square miles…rank among Southeast Asia’s most significant sacred ancient sites.”
Fodor’s also listed Myanmar, formerly known as Burma.
Best of the best on a budgetIf you want to travel in style without breaking the bank, consider one of these destinations. They all made a best-of list as well as one of these money-minded lists: Lonely Planet’s Best Value Destinations, TravelZoo’s Wow Deal Destinations, and “Budget Travel” magazine’s 10 Best Budget Destinations.
9. Slovakia: Its capital has remained “surprisingly affordable” despite this country having one of the fastest growing economies in the European Union, according to Budget Travel. Plus, this year also mark’s the 20th anniversary of Slovakia’s independence (from Czechoslovakia, now theCzech Republic), and the city of Kosice made the E.U.’s European Capital of Culture 2013.
10. Slovenia: This European country is “as picture-perfect as Switzerland or other Alpine areas to the north, but much smaller and easier on the wallet,” says Lonely Planet.
11. Portland, Oregon: “Cheap food! Free things to do!" raves Lonely Planet. “Yes, budget-conscious but still fashionably minded travellers may have reached the promised land in Portland.”
12. Nepal: It’s possible to live for a day on the price of a Starbucks latte or two in this tiny landlocked Asian country, if you’re willing to stick to budget accommodations and meals and avoid the capital of Kathmandu, according to Lonely Planet.
13. New Zealand: Thanks to the “Lord of the Rings” and now the “Hobbit” movie series being filmed on this island nation, TravelZoo says more flights to the home of Middle-earth should result in more competitive prices.
Best of the restIf you’re looking for something a little more specific or spunky, check out these unique best-of travel lists for 2013.
Hotel del Teatre, Regencós, Catalonia The name tells something of its history: the characterful building that houses the restaurant was once a cinema, and the stage with the big screen remains. Located in a hamlet, with a church and a pretty square, the restaurant is on one side of the square, with the bedrooms across the street in a stone building with white beams, white walls, crisp-linen beds and a minimalist feel. Splash out on the suites with big windows. Pine cliffs, sandy beaches and sparkling coves are a 10-minute drive away.
• +34 972 306270, hoteldelteatre.com, doubles from €95 a night, including breakfast
La Jaima, Refugio Marnes, Benissa, AlicanteIn the grounds of this eco-friendly B&B, is a bedouin tent, made by the man who built tent lodges for King Mohammed VI of Morocco. It has been designed for all weathers with a double wall that can be rolled up to let the breeze in on hot days. There's a kitchen, a canopy bed, colourful furnishings and a pool. The rate includes breakfast; dinner can be arranged at €23 a head, including drinks.
• 01275 395 447, canopyandstars.co.uk/lajaima, sleeps 4, from £50 a night
Casa Aloe, Atalbeitar, Granada, AndalucíaFollow shoestring lanes carved by Moors and mules through the Alpujarras to an ancient white village on the southern slopes of Spain's highest mountain, Mulhacén. The owners have renovated two adjoining 700-year-old houses and decorated them in Moorish style. Six cosy bedrooms hide surprises: a hobbity oval door, granite meditation chair and antique baths. Between the houses is a flower-filled patio with loungers, olives, palms, and a solar-heated pool.
• holidaylettings.co.uk, enquire by email, sleeps 12, from £1,090 a week
La Rectoria de Sant Miquel de Pineda, Sant Feliu de Pallerols, CataloniaNext to a Romanic church on Garrotxa's volcanic western fringe, this restored 12th-century rectory was a school under Franco. The owners, a Scottish chef and a Catalan whisky expert who met in Edinburgh, have restored chunky oak beams, made bedheads from doors, lampstands from wine kegs and a coffee table from a baker's chest. There are leather armchairs by the fire and great food is served in the sunny gallery.
• +34 691 353111, larectoriadesantmiquel.com, doubles from €75 a night, including breakfast; dinner by arrangement
Jascal, Berodia de Cabrales, AsturiasSet in the Picos de Europa national park and surrounded by majestic pines, Jascal is in the red-roofed village of Berodia, reached by crossing the Casano river and climbing a winding road. Choose from three apartments set in the hillside, or two "casas" in the three-storey house. All have open-plan living rooms with wood-burning stoves and big beds. Explore the mountain villages or drive to the coast in half an hour.
• +34 686 193302, jascal.com, sleeps 4, from €525 a week
La Lancha, Cáceres, ExtremaduraOwners have restored and landscaped this farm in the Gredos foothills into a luxury home for groups. The house has an ornamental staircase, giant clocks, art and antiques, and airy sitting and dining rooms with fireplaces. There's a pool and 30 hectares of landscaped grounds, with an olive grove, orchard and stream. You can play tennis and basketball or head to the village and parador, a short cycle away.
• +34 659 494155, sawdays.co.uk, €2,500 a week, sleeps 14, maid service included, babysitting and cook available
El Halcón Peregrino, Rábago, CantabriaA large, renovated farmhouse, with chestnut timbers and views over mountains and valley, and a large but cosy central fireplace smouldering with logs in winter in the lounge/dining room at its heart. Enjoy breakfast on the terrace, tapas, and drinks all day; or venture out to the cafes in the village of Rábago. Walkers can venture along the Vendul and Nansa rivers and there are crystal-clear pools to swim in.
• +34 942 746679, elhalconperegrino.com, from €85 a night, sleeps 2
Hotel Rural El Añadio, Vilches, AndalucíaThe approach is an adventure in itself. A three-mile track winds its way up to the remote farmhouse; all you hear are the birds, and the lowing of cattle. The single-storey building wraps around a courtyard with a fountain. The ganaderia, or ranch, dedicated to the rearing of fighting bulls, has been in the owner's family for four generations. The cosy, rustic bedrooms with bare-stone walls are in the old farm manager's quarters, and there's a pool and terrace for alfresco meals.
• +34 953 066031, elanadio.es, doubles from €99 a night, includes breakfast
Woodland Yurt, and Orange Grove Yurt, Málaga, AndalucíaThese two peaceful woodland yurt camps are set in classic Andalucían countryside, surrounded by white-walled villages, cliffs, orange trees, cork woods and rambling hills. Designed for family holidays, you can let the children run wild in the woods, or exhaust themselves on the play area and rope swings, while the grown-ups relax in the hammock or sun deck. The yurts are simply furnished, with toilets and showers near by, a breakfast bar and sensational views.
• 01275 395 447, canopyandstars.co.uk/cloudhouse, from £65 a night (sleeps 2 adults and 2 children)
La Posada del Candil, Serón, AndalucíaAbsorb the tranquillity of Almería from a pool with views south over the ancient Almanzora valley. High in the Sierra de los Filabres, the owners have built the eco-friendly apartments, communal library and restaurant, from local wood, cork, marble and stone. Diners enjoy home-grown vegetables and organic meat cooked a la brasa, or you can barbecue in terraced gardens while the kids splash in the children's pool, or order a platter of jamón bellota and a glass of wine and watch the birdlife.
• +34 675 987242, laposadadelcandil.com, from €365 a week for apartment sleeping 2, room only
BEST TRAVEL DESTINATIONS 2013
1. Sri LankaCut-price paradise back on the map
Best for: Culture, off the beaten track, value for money
Battered tragically by the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami and wracked by civil war from 1983 to 2009, many areas of the country have remained off limits to even the most intrepid traveller. Now the bitter conflict is over, investment is fuelling the tourism industry, and visitor numbers are steadily increasing. Prices are affordable, and with low-cost flights from the convenient travel hub of Bangkok, Sri Lanka is emerging as one of the planet’s best-value destinations.
2. MontenegroEmerging superstar with wild beauty
Best for: Activities, adventure, off the beaten track
Nature has been prolific and creative in Montenegro, producing such iconic draws as the bewitching Bay of Kotor and the buzzy beaches along its Riviera. But be sure to pack a pair of hiking boots along with your swimsuit, for Montenegro’s beauty is no less intense in the wild and rugged interior. A new – and steadily growing – network of hiking and biking trails and improved infrastructure is making this glorious quilt of nature ever more accessible, while creating new employment for locals.
3. South KoreaGeared up for the Great Outdoors
Best for: Activities, events, off the beaten track
Without fanfare, South Korea has quietly developed into an outdoor recreation destination with untapped potential in golfing, hiking and fishing. Though not quite undiscovered, few people outside the country know about it. That anonymity will likely fade away in 2013 as it bursts onto the world stage hosting a series of major sporting events.
4. EcuadorReborn railways open up rainforest
Best for: Food, off the beaten track, activities
Ecuador's railway network is scheduled to radically revamp in 2013 with new lines linking increasingly cosmopolitan Quito and the coastal port of Guayaquil. Tracks will also connect Ecuador’s famed 5900m-high volcano Cotopaxi and the Nariz del Diablo (Devil’s Nose), claiming the steepest (and most hair-raising) stretch of railway in the western world. Developers believe the gamble will pay off and pull in unprecedented tourist numbers.
5. SlovakiaMakeover for cultured corner of Europe
Best for: Culture, adventure, off the beaten track
Two decades on from the Velvet Revolution, Slovakia has galvanised to form one of the continent’s fastest-growing economies, joined the EU and ranks right up there in Google searches for bargain ski packages and stag weekends. Now the tourism industry is keen to distance the nation from being all cheap pistes and piss-ups. The image overhaul has been overdue but it’s here, and in time for the inevitable party in 2013.
6. Solomon IslandsSouth Pacific as it used to be
Best for: Adventure, off the beaten track, activities
Forget what travelling the Pacific used to be like – around the Solomon Islands it’s still that way. Forget mass-market or luxury retreats; think engaging eco-resorts, village homestays and some of the best scuba diving anywhere. In the past limited flights, difficult internal transport, a lack of infrastructure, a civil war and some particularly exotic strains of malaria all put travellers off. Today travel is much easier, the civil strife is off the radar and lately even the mosquitoes aren’t so threatening.
7. IcelandStrange land inspires devotion
Best for: Activities, off the beaten track, value for money
Ask any tourist during your trip to Iceland and you’ll quickly see that everyone develops an unconditional love for the little island nation, whether it’s for the mind-bending scenery, the platefuls of delicious lamb and fish dishes, or the sincere local hospitality. The currency crash – which effectively devalued the króna by 75% – also helped make a trip much more favourable to the wallet. As the global economy starts to heal, prices are climbing once more. The spoils of Iceland are no longer a secret, but they’re still yours for the taking – and in 2013 you’ll still be well ahead of the curve.
8. TurkeyStep off the beaten path
Best for: Off the beaten path, culture, food
New low-cost airlines are opening up the southeast of Turkey, and excellent bus services make getting around easy. Explore the historic old towns of Mardin and Midyat, feast on fantastic food in Gaziantep and see the recently uncovered ruins of Göbekli Tepe near Sanliurfa. Experience the Turkish section of the recently inaugurated Abraham’s Path walking trail, where accommodation is in simple Kurdish homestays, a long way from the tourist buzz of the coast or Istanbul’s Old Town.
9. Dominican RepublicThe Caribbean's 'Next Big Thing'
Best for: Activities, value for money, events
Fishing boats on beach.
© Copyright Lonely Planet Images
In the first quarter of 2012 the Dominican Republic saw an 8.4% increase in tourism. With more airlines offering stops to the country’s eight international airports, as well as cruise ships adding the DR as a major port of call, more people are escaping to the land of sun, sand, and surf comparable to anywhere else in the Caribbean.
10. MadagascarNoah's Ark rides out the storm
Best for: Activities, adventure, off the beaten track
After years of political instability and uncertainty, which has hampered tourism development, Madagascar might finally be the verge of recovery. Presidential elections are scheduled for 2013, which could herald a move towards greater democracy (although they have been repeatedly postponed). For visitors, the time to go is now, before the country reappears in travel agents’ windows. Be prepared to be overwhelmed: in both fauna and landscapes, the world’s fourth-biggest island is otherworldly. To those seeking a place out of the ordinary, Madagascar cannot fail to delight.