If you are reading this, you survived the Mayan Day of Reckoning (whoo, that was close wasn't it!), and are now happily imagining some fresh 2013 travel destinations. I find that this time of year beckons travel lists, so here's your ultimate Christmas wish list/New Year's resolution 2013 list for travelers everywhere looking to do something a bit different with my 2013 Travelers Go/No Go List.
Serious travelers want authentic, exciting and participatory adventures nowadays. They want to visit places that are exotic, places that are exciting and that offer them a chance to get out of their comfort zones and have a real adventure of not only body but mind too. This list covers all bases.
This list may not include the "hottest" or "latest" up and coming emerging travel destinations, or even any clichéd bucket list or illusive off the beaten track travel destinations, but the 2013 list does offer some rather fresh and exciting destinations:
Cyprus The Turkish north is more scenic, colorful and laid back than the overbuilt, gaudy Greek south side. Enjoy the breathtaking Karpas Peninsula or rent a sailboat at Kyrenia for a truly magical day. The history here isn't too bad either! (Easy access to Nicosia, Cyprus via Athens.)
Borneo. Whether you are looking for beaches, rainforests or marine reserves to snorkel or scuba, the Malaysian part of Borneo has it all. For something truly exhilarating visit a Dayak longhouse along the Rajang River or spend a day at an orangutan rehab camp just helping out. (Not so easy access to Sarawak via Kuala Lumpur or Singapore.)
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Be ahead of the curve and save money too by visiting the home of both the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Summer Olympics before the rest of the world does! Relax and enjoy the sublime Cariocas beach culture that is unparalleled. The revitalized museums, parks and music scene aren't bad either!
The Great American Road Trip Life is a highway, so get off the generic Interstates to see the real America that lives along the side roads and byways. Try the West Coast's Route 1 or the Blue Ridge Parkway back East -- or take Dylan's infamous Highway 61 from Memphis to New Orleans to enjoy all the blues and BBQ you can handle!
Slovenia Forget Italy (this year anyway!) and visit its picture-perfect neighbor. What's not to like either, from: the rolling green Julian Alps, the beautiful bridges and cafes of Ljubljana, the amazing UNESCO caves of Postojna and Skocjan or the blue jewel that is Lake Bled. You will not be disappointed! (Easy access via Milan, Italy and Vienna, Austria.)
The Global Scavenger Hunt Let's see... It's a daring adventure for one, A Blind Date with the World for two, a real-life around the world Amazing Race-like competition for three and philanthropic opportunities abound for four -- where's the bad? The ninth-annual three-week travel adventure event is scheduled to begin April 12. (Visit GlobalScavengerHunt.com)
Myanmar (Burma) The coast is now clear to visit this hermit-like country now that Noble Peace Prize recipient Aung San Suu Kyi and Hilary Clinton have cleared the way (although human right issues and crushing poverty remain). This country is incomprehensibly vast in culture, natural and cultural beauty: the mighty Irrawaddy River, the vast ruins that liter the plains of Bagan, mythical Mandalay is easy to explore and the rich environs of Inle Lake. Oh yeah, we almost forgot the hidden gem of the world, Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon. (Easy access via Bangkok, Singapore and Taipei.)
Madagascar Called the "eighth continent" for good reason, this Darwinian dreamscape has flora and fauna seen nowhere else on the planet! Loveable lemurs, the Labyrinth of Stone and beloved baobab trees should satisfy. It's changing fast so visit it soon! (Not so easy access via Paris, Bangkok and Johannesburg.)
Oman A laid-back real alternative to hyper-glitzy Dubai with honest and friendly people, coastline forts, inland desert dunes and oasis villages and lively souks. Oman is a sight for weary travel eyes. Considering all the craziness nearby, Oman is indeed a welcome oasis. (Easy access via Amsterdam, Paris, London and Germany.)
Aurora Borealis Isn't it time you saw nature's magical light show firsthand? And with the 11-year solar cycle in full swing, the best places to see the Northern Lights show during the months of September and March are Alaska, Canada, Iceland, Scotland and Norway.
In Dante's Inferno, Hell is divided into nine concentric circles where sinners are sent... Here is my 2013 No Go List of nine places you should avoid:
Moscow An ugly city, drab, empty museums, crazy high prices, major infrastructure issues, crime, corruption... Other than that, Putin says it's a great place!
Karachi, Pakistan Who needs the headache of always looking over your shoulder.
Cape Town, South Africa A beautiful place to visit; but don't carry a camera, ask directions, use an ATM, walk alone, hail a cab or eat outside.
Mexico-US border towns Express kidnapping on the rise and drug lords run amok. 45,000 dead so far -- sad, really sad.
Caracas, Venezuela Chavez is not totally to blame, but this is a tough town!
Dubai, UAE From hot to not: PDAs will get you arrested in this manufactured over-hyped expensive Disneyland!
Sao Paulo, Brazil Sure you can get a great cocktail, but why would you in this urban purgatory run amok?
Lagos, Nigeria Always on the list: overcrowding, corruption, clogged sewers, traffic beyond belief, one of Dante's original rings of hell!
Somalia It just doesn't stop: militant Islamists, pirates, bandits and dire famine -- 31 years running. Buy a really good K&R policy!
DR Congo Just 10 years running with the worst conflict since World War II -- but since no reporters are stupid enough to go there, nobody knows!
Timbuktu, Mali Sadly, things are getting worse by the day. It may soon become terra incognito!
So. The good, the bad and the ugly. What say you America?
Happy Holidays and happy New Year's. May 2013 be your best year ever -- for travel!