Ten velvet escapes for 2010

When I was sixteen, I made a pledge to myself to visit at least one new country every year. It’s the first day of 2010, a great day to sit down quietly and make some exciting plans for the new year. Which countries would I like to visit this year? My wish list is really long and consists of places I’ve been to before and some I’ve yet to visit. I had a long stare at my list and picked ten countries for a variety of reasons:

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Vancouver

1. Canada The Winter Olympics will be held in Vancouver in February, which should ensure a blaze of publicity and a barrage of visitors. Aside from that, Vancouver is a sure bet for stunning sea and mountain scenery, gorgeous food and a laid-back lifestyle. However, Canada offers so much more – from the bustling metropoles of Toronto and Montreal to the desolate ice of Nunavut to the rugged coast of Nova Scotia.

2. China Another big event that will be a crowd-puller: the World Expo 2010 in Shanghai. The organisers expect 70 million visitors!! China, of course, has so many other must-see attractions, from the Great Wall to the Li River; the Forbidden City in Beijing to the terracotta soldiers in Xi’An; and the towering Himalayas in Tibet to the desolate landscapes of the Gobi desert.

 

Shanghai

Shanghai

3. South Africa The FIFA World Cup is the second largest sporting in the world after the Summer Olympics. This will be South Africa’s ultimate opportunity to shine, and I’m confident they will. My favourite place is Cape Town (and the Western Cape province). Spectacular scenery, fine food and wines, and magnificent flora and fauna are just some of the things any visitor can expect in this amazing province. I want to go back there!

4. Antarctica Tourist numbers showed a significant increase in 2008-2009 and I expect it to be the same story in 2010. Its ‘last frontier’ image draws an increasing number of cruise liners packed with tourists. I wish I’ll be on one of those ships this year! 🙂

Blue Lagoon, Iceland

Blue Lagoon, Iceland

5. Iceland This country was for many years branded as a pricey destination (and for good reason!). That all changed in 2008 when the financial crisis resulted in a near-bankruptcy. As a consequence, it is now a lot more affordable to explore the pristine natural treasures of Iceland. The surreal landscapes and mind-blowing natural wonders certainly warrant a visit. And I wouldn’t mind another soak in the Blue Lagoon!

6. Mexico The staggering diversity of ecological and archeological sites, combined with blindingly-white beaches, excellent cuisine and ditto hotels make Mexico a very attractive holiday destination. The swine flu and economic crisis severely damaged the country’s tourism industry in 2009. As the real danger of swine flu dissipates and the global economy recovers, I hope tourists will once again turn their attention to this magnificent country. I hear the gorgeous beaches of the Riviera Maya calling my name… 🙂

Tiger's Nest, Bhutan

Tiger's Nest, Bhutan

7. Bhutan This tiny Himalayan kingdom is still relatively isolated despite its huge tourism potential, and that aspect makes it a precious gem. Bhutan is a country of stunning contrasts: rustic villages dot the verdant valleys while the imposing snow-capped peaks of the Himalayas tower high above. Bhutan is unique in the world as it adheres to a concept called ‘Gross National Happiness’ (GNH). Coined by the former king as an alternative model to Gross Domestic Product (GDP), GNH stresses a balance between material and spiritual development. GNH may be a model that is difficult, maybe even impossible, to quantify but Bhutan often ranks as one of the ‘happiest countries in the world’.

The current financial and economic malaise provides us with an opportunity to take stock, reflect and perhaps even re-invent ourselves in time for the expected upturn in 2010. What better way than to do it in Bhutan. The mighty Himalayas will humble any soul while the many serene spots are perfect to meditate, reflect and re-discover our balance.

Perito Moreno glacier

Perito Moreno glacier

8. Argentina Ahhh…. Buenos Aires. I fell in love with the city during that unforgettable Sunday in San Telmo. It’s one of the most fascinating cities I’ve ever visited. The evening I danced the tango (or something like it) will stay in my memory forever. Then there’s the expansive Pampas, the stunning Iguazu Falls, the beautiful city of Salta, the mind-blowing nature of Patagonia and the Valdes Peninsula, and the awesome food and wines in Mendoza.

9. Mozambique I’m betting that Mozambique will have its big break this year, what with the FIFA World Cup being hosted in neighbouring South Africa. The country is still relatively uncommercialised and there are few tourists. Think private safaris, virgin tropical beaches, colourful towns and magnificent dive spots.

Kamakura, Japan

Kamakura, Japan

10. Japan This is Visit Japan Year so there will be tonnes of activities to showcase the best this wonderful country has to offer. Japan is certainly one of my favourite countries in Asia. High-tech Tokyo is one of my favourite cities, but there’s also the historic city of Kyoto, gorgeous Mount Fuji, the temple towns of Nikko and Kamakura, and unspoilt Hokkaido. Then there’s the awesome food and the fabulous onsen (hot springs)… excellent ingredients for a typical velvet escape!

Where will your velvet escapes be in 2010?

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22 Responses to “Ten velvet escapes for 2010”

  1. Mariya 04/03/2010 8:16 am
    #

    This is a very interesting blog and so i like to visit your blog again and again. Keep it up.

    Mariya

    http://holidaydestinationinindia.blogspot.com

  2. Anil 07/01/2010 4:19 pm
    #

    Iceland is incredible and you won’t be disappointed when you visit the Blue Lagoon.

  3. Beverly 06/01/2010 6:34 pm
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    Keith, I have long held Argentina and Iceland on my list, too. Your beautiful descriptions renew my resolve – maybe this year! Hope you get to many on your list too. – Beverly

  4. velvet 04/01/2010 7:26 pm
    #

    Hi David,
    Thank you for your comment. You’re absolutely right; you don’t have to go half way around the world to experience a beautiful or exotic spot. There are many places closer to home that are stunning and definitely worth exploring. I’ve highlighted many of these places (Edinburgh, the Lake District, Liguria, Positano, Normandy, etc..) on my blog too. I compiled this list as my ‘wish list’ for this year. Hopefully, I’ll be able to get to some of these places before the end of the year! 🙂

    Cheers,
    Keith

  5. David 04/01/2010 6:57 pm
    #

    You have suggested some good destinations to visit and those of us that love travelling would have those places on our list, but they are expensive places top get to for many people especially from here in the UK. Most people can only dream about these places as the economic situation takes its tole on the holiday spending plans of most people in the UK.

    There are many places that are equally good for exploring and seeing beautiful scenery without spending a fortune. How about walking in the mountains of Majorca or exploring the Greek islands of Skopolos or the volcanic Santorini. How about a trip to Lake Garda in Italy or the incredible wine growing hilltop towns of southern Tuscany. These places don’t sound quite as exotic as Bhutan but the visitor would get incredible satisfaction to these beautiful and historic places.

  6. velvet 04/01/2010 2:59 pm
    #

    Haha, a handful of them would be very cool! 🙂

    Cheers,
    Keith

  7. Caitlin @ Roaming Tales 04/01/2010 7:03 am
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    Do you actually intend to make all 10 countries this year? That would be quite an impressive year in travel if you did!

  8. Matt 03/01/2010 8:27 pm
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    Great list. Iceland was definately on mine for 2010 and I’ve just added Bhutan after your brilliant description!

  9. velvet 02/01/2010 12:47 pm
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    Haha! But Italy is always HOT, in my book anyway! 🙂 Have a fab 2010 Gloria. Keep those delicious Italy posts coming!

    Hugs,
    Keith

  10. Gloria 02/01/2010 12:20 pm
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    No Italian destinations, ah ah ah Keith! Just kidding! A great article as usual, happy new year, Gloria

  11. Johnica Reed 02/01/2010 12:38 am
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    Great list! In 2009 I visited South Africa, Vancouver, Bordeaux, Curacao, Mexico and Argentina among others. Cape Town is my favorite, with Vancouver and Buenos Aires following closely behind. I’m starting the year with visits to Barbuda and Israel, and hope to visit China, Australia, Morocco and possibly Malawi. I’m also interested in exploring places in the US like Portland, Asheville, NC and Charleston, SC.

    Happy New Year!

  12. velvet 01/01/2010 6:14 pm
    #

    Thanks Jen! Hope you get to visit South Africa this year. I know you’ll love it. Baby no. 2? Wow! Congrats!

    Hugs,
    Keith

  13. jen Laceda 01/01/2010 5:29 pm
    #

    Great predictions! I’m hoping to go to South Africa this year (2010) — well after the World Cup. But of course, we’ll have baby no. 2 by then….so let’s see how it all goes….

  14. velvet 01/01/2010 5:08 pm
    #

    Thanks Shannon! I can absolutely recommend Japan. Many people say that Japan is expensive. Accommodation and transport can be expensive but meals are very reasonable. I think the language barrier makes it more difficult for tourists to find the great off-the-beaten path spots/eateries or great travel deals. I always love visiting Japan. I have family who live there and it’s always great visiting them.

    Happy New Year to you too!

    Cheers,
    Keith

  15. Shannon OD 01/01/2010 4:59 pm
    #

    We have many of the same places on our bucket list! Japan is one of those places that I dream about adding into my yearly goal, but I get intimidated by the costs! Happy New Year and best of luck with these 10 countries! 🙂

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