14 trips to take in 2014
The travel year starts here. James Ellis offers inspiration for your itinerary, from literary breaks to high-speed adventure
Wednesday 01 January 2014
Follow in Mandela's footsteps
Idris Elba's powerful portrayal of the late Nelson Mandela in Long Walk To Freedom hits the big screens on Friday, but if you want to pay more of an homage to the great man then 2by2 Holidays' (01582 766122; 2by2holidays.co.uk) 10-day South Africa tour is ideal. Johannesburg sights include his last home in Houghton, the sprawling Soweto township and Apartheid Museum; and Robben Island, the prison off Cape Town where he was incarcerated for 27 years. The "Long Walk to Freedom" trip costs from £1,995 per person, B&B, including international flights, accommodation and transfers.
Get a taste of Brazil
The spotlight is on Brazil with this summer's World Cup, followed by the Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro two years later. Those sporting events may be prohibitively expensive for most, but you can get a full flavour of the country with Chameleon Worldwide's (0871 423 7937; chameleonworldwide.co.uk) 14-day Natural Brazil tour that sneaks into three host cities: Rio, Cuiaba and Manaus. Other highlights include the Amazon, Pantanal and the powerful Iguacu Falls. The trip costs from £4,710 per person, including international and domestic flights and mixed board.
Make a date with Dylan Thomas
There's a year-long programme of events to mark the centenary of the birth of poet Dylan Thomas (dylanthomas100.org), with the bulk of them, naturally, being in Wales. Celebrities including Liz Taylor, Richard Burton and US President Jimmy Carter have stopped off at Browns Hotel (01994 427 688; browns-hotel.co.uk) in Laugharne in search of the Thomas spirit – it played host to many of the Swansea-born poet's legendary drinking sessions – and you can follow suit. Double rooms start at £95, B&B.
Do Vegas like it's 1959
There's a multimillion dollar cast of screen legends appearing in the Hangover-on-Viagra film Last Vegas, also released on Friday. Morgan Freeman, Robert De Niro, Michael Douglas and Kevin Kline play four 60-somethings on a bachelor party weekend. If you want to party like it's 1959, head to the newly regenerated Downtown area where it all started, and take in the Mob and Neon museums for some Vegas history. Kuoni (0844 488 0233; kuoni.co.uk) is offering seven nights at the Luxor Hotel and Casino from £850 per person, B&B. The price includes international flights.
In with a bullet in Japan
The shinkansen (bullet train) turns 50 in October. These sleek trains can reach speeds of up to 320kph with the route between Tokyo and Osaka being one of the busiest high-speed lines in the world.
The first trains ran in time for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics and this year, Inside Japan Tours (0117 370 9751; insidejapantours.com) is launching a 15-day tour that takes in all six lines from the top to the bottom of Honshu and Kyushu islands, including a ride on the new red-nosed Super Komachi train. The "Bullet Trains and Temples" trip costs from £1,994 per person, including B&B, transport, a visit to a shinkansen depot and Maglev (magnetic levitation) museum, but not international flights.
Thanks to festivals such as Austin City Limits and South by Southwest (SXSW), the state-capital of Texas now bills itself as the Live Music Capital of the World. Getting there gets easier from March when British Airways (0844 493 0787; ba.com) starts direct flights from Heathrow.
Once in the city, The Austin & Hill Country Tour checks out the urban music scene, hip shopping districts, culture, local art, and Hill Country vistas and lakes. It's offered as part of a four-night package to Austin by America As You Like (020 8742 8299; americaasyoulikeit.com) which costs from £966 per person including BA flights and room-only at America's Best Value Inn.
Stroll like Shakespeare
The 450th anniversary of the birth of the Bard is on 27 April and there are a number of events to coincide with it, as well as a new West End stage version of Shakespeare in Love in June. Get an idea of how Shakespeare would have journeyed from Stratford-on-Avon to Oxford with a five-day walking tour along The Shakespeare Way. The trip covers 58 miles heading south from Stratford along the Stour river valley and through the Cotswolds. Macs Adventure (0141 530 1713; macsadventure.com) is offering five nights at hotels along the route from £375 per person, B&B. The price also includes luggage transfer and walking maps.
Sami children in Sweden
Sample Sami culture
The joint 2014 European Capital of Culture is Umea in northern Sweden (visitsweden.com). Home to the Sami, the EU's only indigenous people, its festivities revolve around their eight seasons, with exhibitions and events throughout the year. Stay there in comfort with a luxury weekend for two at the Hotel Uman (00 46 90 12 72 20; clarionhotel.com). Double rooms start at Skr1,600 (£150), B&B. The price includes a bottle of wine, waffles and an evening smorgasboard. Norwegian (0843 3780 888; norwegian.com) offers return flights from Gatwick via Stockholm from £169.50pp.
Serving up a treat
Tennis fans will enjoy Andy Murray's new hotel, which is opening in April. The Wimbledon winner has teamed up with celebrity chef Albert Roux to launch Cromlix hotel and Chez Roux in Perthshire (cromlix.com). The Highlands retreat, close to the tennis star's home town of Dunblane, will have 15 rooms and offer a host of activities on its 34-acre estate, include clay pigeon shooting, archery, fishing, quad biking and off-road driving. Naturally, there's a tennis court and practice wall for those looking for some Murray magic to rub off. Doubles start at £200, B&B.
Walk over a glacier
The Grand Canyon has long had a glass-bottomed Sky Walk and the Canadian Rockies get their own version in May. The cliff-edge Glacier Skywalk (glacierskywalk.ca) will jut out 280m (919ft) above the Sunwapta Valley for majestic views and a glimpse of life from millions of years ago. Frontier Canada (020 8776 8709; frontier- canada.co.uk) has included the attraction in its 10-night Best of the Rockies holiday. The trip costs from £1,550 per person, B&B, including international flights and car hire.
Rock out in Ibiza
The spiritual home of house music will see Europe's first beachfront Hard Rock Hotel open on Playa d'en Bossa in June. The hotel will feature the usual iconic music memorabilia and host international artists on its poolside stage. Despite that, it's one for the little ones, too – there's a children's club and teen lounge for all the young dudes. The Hard Rock Hotel Ibiza (00 34 971 312 801; hardrockhotels.com) will have rooms from €376 per night, B&B.
Yorkshire Trike Tours
Do Le Tour the easy way
The Tour de France kicks off in Yorkshire (letour.yorkshire.com) in July as Sir Bradley Wiggins, Chris Froome et al battle it out for the Yellow Jersey. If you want to follow the route without the strain, check out Yorkshire Trike Tours (0113 258 5055; yorkshiretriketours.co.uk) where you zip up hill and down Dale on a customised chauffeur-driven trike that can take two passengers. Tours start from £25. Round off your trip with a stay at the award-winning Devonshire Arms Country House Hotel and Spa (01756 710 441; thedevonshirearms.co.uk) in Bolton Abbey which has double rooms from £99, including breakfast.
Wake up and smell the Java
Discovering Indonesia will be easier from 29 May when Garuda Indonesia (0871 744 0190; garudaindonesia.co.uk) starts direct flights to Jakarta from Gatwick with return fares from £576. You can seek out lesser known areas on a Best of Java tour that visits the European-like city of Bandung and the island's monstrous volcanoes at Yogyakarta, before finishing with a couple of days on a Bali beach. G Adventures (0844 272 0000; gadventures.co.uk) offers eight nights in Indonesia from £749 per person, B&B. International flights are extra.
A solemn centenary
This year sees the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War, as well as the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings. There are dozens of events to commemorate the occasion, including the reopening of the Imperial War Museum in London in July. Get a sense of battles from both wars with battlefields specialist Trafalgar (0800 533 5616; trafalgar.com). Its 12-day tour starts at the Imperial War Museum, visits the historic dockyards of Portsmouth and then heads to Normandy. Other highlights include the Somme, the Passchendaele Memorial and Arnhem. The 10-night tour costs from £2,099 per person, B&B with ferry travel, coach travel and five evening meals.
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