The top 10 countries to visit for 2014

The top 10 countries to visit next year, as chosen by Lonely Planet.

1. Brazil

“As if endless strands of sun-toasted coast, mountains splashed with Crayola-green rainforest and some of the planet’s most beautiful colonial villages didn’t already add up to an unfair share of heaven, Brazil goes and snags two of the most coveted sporting events in the world, beginning with the 2014 FIFA World Cup and followed two years later by the 2016 Summer Olympics. Tack on a recession-dodging economy, and boom! Brazil is the belle of the ball.”



2. Antarctica

“Tune into your average wildlife television program and you can’t fail to be dazzled by Antarctica’s majestic icebergs, calving glaciers and unexplored mountain ranges. This year marks the centenary of the start of Ernest Shackleton’s infamous attempted Antarctic crossing. Visiting this pristine continent (which doesn’t have an indigenous population and is not actually a country) in 2014 is a chance to take life on and follow in the path of other intrepid explorers – but with cushier amenities.”



3. Scotland

“To coincide with Glasgow hosting the XX Commonwealth Games in the summer of 2014, the city has had a multi-million-pound facelift: new sports venues, improved transport links and a regeneration of Glasgow Harbour. It is also the Year of Homecoming, a government initiative to welcome the Scottish diaspora back to the mother country by celebrating Scotland’s heritage, food and drink. Despite all this, politics will take centre stage: to be or not to be independent, that is the question. Hold onto your hats, Scotland.”



4. Sweden

“Thanks to the late Swedish author Stieg Larsson, most people have a sense of what Sweden’s like, even in the far north – cold, beautiful and a bit scary. Sweden is emerging with a new pop-culture persona. Perhaps not coincidentally, northern Sweden’s largest city, Umeå, is European Capital of Culture for 2014. Then there’s the food. Stockholm has long been a stylish, top-notch destination for serious gourmands but lately the reputation and influence of Swedish cooking have spread beyond the country’s borders.”



5. Malawi

“Picture this: mere hours after touching down in Malawi’s second-largest city, Blantyre, you check into superluxe digs (or pitch your tent) at the Majete Wildlife Reserve, which only 10 years ago lay decimated by poaching, but last year gained Big Five status thanks to a wildlife relocation project. You get up close to the aforementioned elephant, rhino, lion, leopard and buffalo without the pesky 4WD scrum so common in Africa’s best-known parks. Then perhaps it’s off to Lake Malawi for a spot of high-visibility snorkelling.”



6. Mexico

“Sun-baking on a Caribbean beach after partying all night in Cancún; shopping for brightly coloured handicrafts or gorging on seven types of mole (chilli sauce) in Oaxaca – it’s easy to feel optimistic when you’re kicking back in Mexico. And it’s not just the holidaymakers – many Mexicans are happier about living in Mexico now than most can ever remember. Exciting developments on the travel scene have continued, from major new Maya museums in Cancún and Mérida to Latin America’s longest ziplines on the rim of the Copper Canyon.”



7. The Seychelles

“These 115 divine islands strewn across the peacock-blue Indian Ocean have all the key ingredients for a once-in-a-lifetime holiday, but their reputation as a millionaire’s playground may have kept you away. Good news: on top of exclusive island hideaways and elegant eco-villas, you can benefit from the wallet-friendlier B&Bs, picturesque Creole guesthouses and self-catering apartments that have sprung up over the past decade. And if expensive air tickets deterred you from visiting, rejoice! Increased competition has dramatically changed the situation.”



8. Belgium

“Belgium has picturesque cities – Bruges, Antwerp, Ghent – and in Brussels a walkable capital with great museums. The food and drink is a gustatory blast (think the world’s best beer, chocolate and chips), the seaside surprisingly chic, while cultural treasures range from medieval masters to Tintin. From 2014, a huge influx of visitors is expected due to the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of WWI. Belgo-newbies will find medieval towns where culture and gastronomy meet, with Gothic buildings, canals and cool shops.”



9. Macedonia

“The year 2014 marks the completion of the government’s makeover of the capital, Skopje. The Macedonian capital is becoming more visitor-friendly, with new hostels, upscale wine bars and bistros, and one of southeastern Europe’s best club scenes. Beyond the more established tourist sites, quiet Berovo is an up-and-coming contender on the spa-hotel scene. Sturdy old Kratovo – with Ottoman-era stone bridges and cobblestone lanes – is revitalising previously derelict Turkish mansions. And in arid Tikveš, new quality wineries are catering to thirsty visitors.”



10. Malaysia

“Malaysia is rolling out an array of new attractions. The headline-grabbers are the largest bird park in Southeast Asia in Melaka, and Legoland Malaysia and Hello Kitty Land in Nusajaya, which are packing in both locals and Singaporeans flocking across the causeway. The new second terminal at Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA2), catering mainly to budget airlines, is another factor in attracting visitors. Amazing experiences await in Malaysian Borneo, from exploring off-the-beaten- track Kudat to indulging at the luxurious Gaya Island Resort on Pulau Gaya.”