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Travel hot spots for the year ahead

BRAZILLIANT: Sugar Loaf and Guanabara Bay in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Picture: PA

BRAZILLIANT: Sugar Loaf and Guanabara Bay in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Picture: PA

Whether you’re looking to book a family break or an adventure of a lifetime, take a look at these hotly-tipped spots for the year ahead

AMSTERDAM:

Art fans should head to Amsterdam’s Museumplein in April when the city’s national art gallery, The Rijksmuseum, opens after an epic 10-year renovation, with works including Rembrandt’s Night Watch.

The creative theme continues with the reopening of the Van Gogh Museum, which also celebrates its 40th birthday, and special musical performances to mark the 125th anniversary of the Concertgebouw. In addition, contemporary art museum Stedelijk reopened at the end of last year after a renovation.

2013 also marks 400 years of Amsterdam’s Canal Ring, which was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2010.

• Housetrip offer a range of holiday apartments. Visit www.housetrip.com

ECUADOR:

Brazil may be hogging the limelight for the next few years, but the spotlight will be shining on Ecuador in 2013.

No longer simply a gateway to the Galapagos Islands, the impressively diverse country offers visitors wildlife, cultural heritage and historical sights.

This year, a new airport opens on the outskirts of capital city Quito, offering a safer alternative to the current city centre terminal, often described as one of the most dangerous in the world.

The world’s highest capital - it sits at 2800m above sea level in the Andes - is home to some of South America’s finest colonial architecture and several new luxury hotel openings.

The resurrection of Ecuador’s railway network also offers a pleasant solution for exploring one of South America’s smallest countries.

• KLM operates flights to Quito via Amsterdam with various regional departures. Visit www.klm.com

TENERIFE:

Better known as a beach destination, Tenerife, in the Canary Islands, is home to one of the best locations for year-round stargazing. The rugged volcanic landscape of Teide National Park, dominated by Spain’s highest mountain, Mount Teide (3718m), is considered one of the most important solar observation sites in the world. Thanks to low levels of light pollution, it’s possible to see the Milky Way, gas clouds, globular clusters, Saturn’s rings and even satellites that orbit Jupiter.

From April 1, British Airways will be operating five flights per week to the island.

• Parador Hotel Canadas del Teide is the only building in the Nature Reserve. Doubles from 128 Euros (£106) per night. Visit www.paradores-spain.com

SRI LANKA:

When Sri Lanka’s civil war ended in 2009, tourists began to flood back to the country. Last year, it was named best-value long-haul destination by the Post Office, and its popularity looks set to continue.

In April British Airways launches new flights to Colombo and a new highway linking the capital to the south has cut road journeys to southern beaches and wildlife in Yala National park by half.

New hotel openings on the east coast, such as the Beach House at Pasikudah, will also open up an area little visited since the Seventies.

• Western Oriental offers a 13-night Taste of Sri Lanka Tour including Yala safari and the beach near Galle from £1765 pp. Visit www.westernoriental.com or call 0207 666 1234

KOSOVO:

Fairly new to the tourist map, Kosovo was only declared a country in 2008. Now peace has returned to the region, it’s a good time to explore a largely undiscovered corner of Europe.

Highlights include Pizren, a small town with mosques, monasteries and narrow cobbled streets, and the Sharr Mountains National Park, blessed with scenic walking trails.

Also worth visiting is the Decani Monastery, which houses some excellent frescoes and examples of Orthodox art.

n Explore offers the 14-day Undiscovered Balkans small group tour from £1296 pp. Visit www.explore.co.uk or call 0844 499 0901

CROATIA:

IN 2012, the number of visitors to Croatia increased by 20 per cent and figures look set to continue as the Eastern European country prepares to join the EU.

There are more than 1244 islands to explore along the Adriatic coast, making a cruise a great way to discover the region.

The pretty town of Dubrovnik, where Venetian influence is felt in the picturesque old town, is an essential port of call. EasyJet are introducing a route from Edinburgh.

• Prestige offers a seven-night cruise calling at Split, Brac, Hvar, Mljet, Korcula and Dubrovnik from £1198 including flights. Visit www.prestigeholidays.co.uk/croatia-deluxe-cruise/

MOZAMBIQUE:

THE east African country has recently emerged as one of the world’s fastest growing economies, but the tourist industry is yet to explode.

Fantastic beaches, great dive sites and idyllic islands are all key attractions.

For the ultimate desert island castaway experience, venture to the Quirimbas Archipelago. Some of the world’s finest coral reefs can be found off the coast of Ibo Island, where local women still wear painted faces.

For great wildlife viewing, head to the uninhabited Mogundula Island, where many species of bird live in the mangroves.

• Acacia Africa offers the 8-day Mozambique Dhow Safari from £1595, excluding international flights. Visit www.acacia-africa.com

NANTUCKET:

IN May this year, Baz Luhrmann’s star-studded adaptation of The Great Gatsby will be released in cinemas.

Chase the American dream by planning a trip to Nantucket Island, the billionaires’ playground in Massachusetts, USA, where F Scott Fitzgerald’s novel was set. Social butterflies may still flutter past the clapboard houses - Uma Thurman, Bill Gates and Tommy Hilfiger have summer residences here - but there’s still enough to suit the regular traveller.

n Nantucket Island Resorts offers 7 nights at The Cottages & Lofts at The Boat Basin from $2800 (£1755) including breakfast. Visit www.nantucketislandresorts.com

BRAZIL:

With the World Cup scheduled for 2014 and the Olympics two years later, South America’s party destination has even more to shout about.

Visit now before prices go up, and take advantage of improving facilities and new hotel openings.

Rio de Janeiro is still the jewel in Brazil’s crown - offering culture, beach, and natural beauty in one place - and is now much safer to visit thanks to government programmes in the favelas.

For an indulgent treat, head to the mountainous region of Campos do Jordao, where boutique hotel Botanique Hotel and Spa opened last year.

• Doubles at Botanique start from 2500BR (£790) per night including all meals.

MADAGASCAR:

Presidential elections in 2013 are the beginnings of democracy in this ‘lost continent’ in the Indian Ocean, which has been troubled by political instability for many years.

More than 80% of wildlife on the world’s fourth largest island is endemic, with lemurs and chameleons being the highlights.

National parks are well looked after, with many locals trained as guides. Visit Mantadia to hear the eerie call of the Indri (the largest lemur), and continue to Ranomafana to find the highly endangered Greater Bamboo lemur.

Landscapes - ranging from rainforest to Jurassic rock formations - and welcoming communities make this the holiday of a lifetime.

• Explore offers the 15-day The Lost Continent tour from £2,247 pp. Visit www.explore.co.uk or call 0844 499 0901

 

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