London, Paris, Rome… Dream destinations for some and “been there, done that” for others. Popular destinations are popular for a reason. They’re easy to get to, and there’s a slew of information and advice from fellow travelers who have been and can tell you the best things to see and do. Their shops, restaurants and museums are well documented and the lines to see them can be legendarily long. But what happens when you feel like you’ve already been everywhere or you’re simply uninspired about your next destination? Enter the travel industry buzz-term d’jour, ”emerging destinations”.
Emerging destinations are not new places to visit. They’ve been there all along but for various reasons haven’t been popular for tourist travel. Perhaps getting there was difficult or a reputation for being unsafe kept them off your bucket list. Maybe they’ve been easy to reach and safe all along but have just been standing there like the shy girl against the wall at a school dance…afraid to speak up and be noticed for the great beauty she is. Shy no more, emerging destinations are speaking up by investing in infrastructure, advertising, safety and getting the word out about why you should visit.
The list of places considered emerging is quite long, but let’s focus on three generating a lot of buzz.
Cuba. The lady of the hour. You’ve heard a lot about Cuba lately but it’s still technically illegal to visit unless you’re on a sanctioned trip for one of about a dozen reasons. Airlines and cruise ships are making it easier, helping with the proper paperwork to ensure you stay out of trouble with the government. For the time being, visiting Cuba with visions of lounging on the beach is still illegal and tourist feedback is mixed. Some delight in seeing the lavish but crumbling architecture, the meticulously maintained classic cars and interacting with the Cuban people. But others say there’s still an uncomfortable political tension permeating the air and that the tourist infrastructure simply isn’t ready for American expectations. Kempinski Hotels, a luxury leader in Europe and around the globe plans to change the perception that Cuba has no luxurious accommodations with the opening of the gleaming Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinski La Habana. We're visiting soon to try her out on her promises.
Colombia. Business breeds business and Colombia’s entry onto the list of hot places to visit is partially fueled by business travelers going for work in one of South America’s most thriving economies. When they aren’t working, they’re taking notice of what Colombia has to offer from spectacular colonial cities, to beach towns busting with culture and nightlife. Most people don’t realize the often snowcapped peaks of the Andes Mountains reach well into Colombia offering a vastly different landscape from the perception of palm trees and sweltering temperatures. Big cities like Cartagena on the coast and Bogota in the mountains are luring travelers in increasing numbers year over year. The luxury Four Seasons hotel chain believes in the country so much, they recently debuted two new properties. The Four Seasons Bogota and the Four Seasons Casa Medina.
Romania. The dark seductress of Europe. Romania suffers from a perception problem but this is a land of villages that look plucked from a fairytale and the Carpathian mountains, home to legendary Vlad the Impaler, AKA Dracula (perhaps part of that perception problem). In a short amount of time you can travel from the Danube river, to the capitol city of Bucharest and out to the Black Sea, taking time to stop in medieval towns and visit storied monasteries once viewed as safe havens from the clutches of the vampires still rumored to come out at night. Romania is a striking country with fascinating architecture stemming from being at a crossroads of eastern and western Europe. If you’re seeking a chance to seemingly step back in time…Romania will delight without hurting your wallet.
These are just a few examples, but emerging destinations offer an exciting opportunity to see new places and experience things that your neighbors haven’t yet. Don’t rule them out when thinking about your next trip. Just remember that although they are trending, they may not have the creature comforts you expect, like a Starbucks on every corner. But with an adventurers’ spirit and open mind, a trip to an emerging destination might be the greatest journey you’ll ever take.
Written by Chip Barker
Originally written for & published in Bayside Living Magazine
Exploding volcanoes, “Sneaker Waves” that can drag a beach goer out to sea forever, icebergs and glaciers that collapse under your feet, and slippery hot springs with scalding mud that can burn you to a crisp. Sounds like a place to steer clear of, right? Well, no. All those dangerous and scary things are just a few reasons why Iceland is a seriously hot travel destination.
Did you know, beer was illegal in Iceland until 1989? We know, another reason to question a visit to the “Land of Fire and Ice”. But don’t panic, the beer situation has been remedied and with all that ‘danger’ lurking around every corner, you might find a warming shot of schnapps more appropriate and in tradition with the local ways.
Iceland is a country of extreme contrasts. It’s home to some of the largest glaciers in Europe, and some of the most active volcanoes in the world. In 2010 the volcano under the Eyjafjallajokull glacier erupted, sending an ash plume into the atmosphere that brought European flights to a standstill for 6 days. Iceland is also the land of light and darkness, where summer days bring nearly 24-hours of sunlight and winter days bring no more than dusk-like light, the entire day.
Thanks to the Gulf Stream, winters are milder than you’ll find in New York and when the temperatures hit 68°F in summer, Icelanders soak up the sun at outdoor cafes and beaches. Yes, that’s crazy talk to a Florida dweller but the tradeoff in cooler temperatures for the experiences you’ll have is worth it.
No matter the weather, you’ll want to bring your swimsuit as visits to Iceland’s thermal pools are on the top of most travelers lists, and a visit to the spectacular Blue Lagoon is a must!
Iceland is also hot with Hollywood. Scores of movies film in Iceland and the popularity of HBO’s Game of Thrones has driven visitors en masse to see the other worldly landscapes that are anything but make believe. If you are a fan of Westeros and Game of Thrones, then hop on a tour of the movie sets and filming locations. You never know, you might just catch a glimpse of the Mother of Dragons.
It’s not all glaciers and volcanoes in Iceland. Iceland is also home to the elusive Northern Lights, dramatic fjords, Viking history and archeological explorations. After a day of sightseeing, put on your dancing shoes and enjoy the bustling nightlife in the capital city of Reykjavik where the party doesn’t get started until midnight.
Ready to see for yourself just how hot Iceland is? Visiting Iceland is about to get easier than ever. Icelandair Airlines studied the US market closely and selected Tampa International Airport to host nonstop flights between TIA and Keflavík International Airport starting September 7, 2017. So, as the locals say, “on with the butter!” or, as we would say, “Move your butt and get going.”
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