Here at Europcar we love exploring. So as 2013 draws to a close, our thoughts are turning to the great destinations we want to visit next year. You can keep your Christmas jumpers – this is all we’ve got on our wish list. Read on for some of the top travel spots that are set to soar in 2014…
Taking third place in the Lonely Planet’s recent rundown of the world’s best regions to visit in 2014, it seems like the sun is shining on Yorkshire, albeit metaphorically. This accolade follows last year’s crowning of Harrogate as the happiest place in Britain, while down the road, Bradford has become the world’s first UNESCO city of film. Hot on the tail of London, Yorkshire now even has more Michelin-starred restaurants than any other county outside the capital. Hire a car in Leeds and explore the best bits on your own schedule.
As the joint holder of European Capital of Culture 2014, Riga is set to be at the centre of a host of festivities next year. Concerts, art, theatre and film will all be in abundance, complimenting the hip cafes and cosmopolitan cuisine options that are popping up all over Latvia’s renewed capital.
Sharing the European Capital of Culture crown, northern Sweden’s largest city can look forward to its time in the spotlight next year. Stylish travellers who have long flocked to Stockholm should now be paying attention to Umeå as, aside from the usual cultural events, the city is a foodie’s dream. Restaurants here focus strongly on locally sourced ingredients which luckily happen to be totally delicious. Pick up your car hire at Umeå Airport and get there before the crowds hit.
More remote and lesser known than their east coast counterparts, the beaches of Western Australia are nothing short of spectacular. And if you somehow grow weary of endless blissful stretches of empty white sand and turquoise water, there’s plenty of activity here to keep you entertained. For starters, visit Monkey Mia in the stunning Shark Bay and see dolphins, turtles, pelicans, dugongs and sharks in their natural habitat. Continue up the coast to the amazing Ningaloo Reef, where you’ll come face to face with dazzling corals, wildlife and even pods of elusive Whale Sharks depending on the time of year. You’ll never want to go to SeaWorld again. Hire a car from Perth to start this incredible journey.
The country may have had a hard few years but, luckily for tourists, the crowning glory of Greece has never been its economy. If you’ve always wanted to go island-hopping or travel the country’s ancient ruins, now’s the time to strike. Prices are down and there are fewer visitors, but the sun still shines as brightly and that sparkling sea is just as appealing as ever. Hire a car from Athens for a spectacular holiday.
2014 is set to be an exciting year north of the border. Scotland plays host to a clutch of world-class events next year, including the Commonwealth Games, the Ryder Cup and the catalogue of artistic and cultural celebrations that make up the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. When the crowds and festivities get too much, nip off to the countryside and enjoy what Scotland has always specialised in – jaw dropping scenery. Hire a car from Glasgow or Edinburgh and explore from there.
The Algarve, Portugal
For some good family fun, sometimes a budget beach break to the continent is exactly what’s needed. Banish the blues without breaking the bank in Portugal’s Algarve. After recently topping a Post Office survey of the cheapest European holiday resorts, you’re guaranteed to get plenty of bang for your buck here. And if the main resorts get a bit crowded, there’s plenty of wide open space for you to enjoy a little further afield. Hire a car from Faro Airport and turn your budget holiday into a unique Portuguese adventure.
If Belgium is one of those places you’ve always fancied visiting but never quite got around to, now is the time to make your Belgian city break a reality. To mark the 100th anniversary of the First World War, a large Festival of Remembrance will kick off next year, lasting until 2018. And once you’ve taken in the history, a host of cosmopolitan cities and medieval towns are waiting to be explored, all bursting at the seams with winding canals, stunning museums and galleries, chic boutiques and cool cafes.
Let’s be honest – there’s never really a bad time to visit Paris. But if it’s been a while since you last laid eyes on the City of Love, 2014 is a particularly good time to go back for more. The French capital has undergone a change of late, with an improved infrastructure minimising congestion and making the city safer and more attractive. Aside from the ongoing beautification of the city, the usual fantastic cultural attractions and events will be in full swing, including the long-awaited reopening of the renovated Musée Picasso.
Thanks to the latest Hollywood offering from director Peter Jackson, the eyes of the world are yet again on New Zealand. But there’s a lot more to see here than hobbit holes and lonely mountains. Soaring peaks, paradise beaches, stunning wildlife and buzzing, cosmopolitan cities are all waiting to be explored. And wherever you go, you’ll always be welcomed with warm Kiwi hospitality. Unlike its neighbour across the ditch, New Zealand is small enough to take in most of the highlights in a (busy) few weeks. Plan your route and experience a real once-in-a-lifetime adventure.
You can’t always rely on the sunshine, but Wales is a pretty spectacular spot. Blessed with stunning coastlines and countryside, and home to plenty of festivals and events, this is a great place to head on a UK driving holiday. The sweeping coastline of Rhossili Bay in Swansea even recently featured in a poll of the world’s top ten beaches – and as much as a British beach claiming this accolade caused a stir in Australia, we know this is a special place whatever the weather.
Another hot city spot in the Lonely Planet 2014 list, Zurich is emerging as a vibrant destination that’s about so much more than bankers. Known for its high standard of living, it’s no surprise Zurich is home to world class restaurants and shops, with plenty of famous fashion houses and fine dining options. And as hosts of the 2014 European Athletics Championships, the time for Zurich to loosen its tie has come.