Every year National Geographic makes a list of the most exciting destinations to visit. This list includes many options from simply exploring a big city and from simply escaping from everyday life to discovering new culinary options.
Among those that the magazine has singled out for this year are many European destinations, but also Xi’an, China, which is known for its clay army, a unique World Heritage Site.
In 2024, Tainan, the original capital of Taiwan, is set to celebrate its 400th anniversary in 2024, and the magazine says that this is a good occasion to taste the turkey rice, tofu pudding and more.
These are the 30 coolest destinations for 2024
Albanian Alps, Albania
Belfast, Northern Ireland
The tour of Europe by train
Galloway and South Ayrshire, Scotland
North Yorkshire, England
Wild Atlantic Way, Ireland
Atacama Desert, Chile
New York State
Nova Scotia, Canada
Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico
Wetlands of the Iberian Peninsula, Argentina
Antrefana dry forests, Madagascar
Akagera National Park, which will celebrate its 90th anniversary in 2024, covers an area of 433 square kilometers and is a patchwork of swamps, savannah and woodland teeming with wildlife. But it wasn’t always like that.
One of Rwanda’s oldest national parks, it was decimated after the country’s civil war in 1994, when formerly exiled farmers returned to the area, flattening the land and wiping out wildlife to make way for cattle grazing.
In 2010, the Akagera management company was founded with the vision of restoring the park to its former natural glory. Conservation successes include the reintroduction of lions and black rhinos in 2015 and 2017, and the introduction of white rhinos in 2021. Visitors will see giraffes, elephants, crocodiles, leopards and birds.
And it’s not just the wildlife that has benefited: 2,000 students visit the park each year as part of the education program, while the increased need for guides, rangers and anti-poaching staff provides employment opportunities.
It revives the network of night railways
After decades of decline, Europe’s once-rusty night train network is being revived. Leading the charge is Austrian rail company ÖBB, which is launching 33 new trains for its Nightjet sleeper service and a number of new routes, such as Paris to Berlin. Elsewhere, the European Sleeper is expanding its recently launched Brussels-Berlin route to Prague via Dresden, while also planning routes to Scandinavia and Spain.
Midnight Trains – which bills itself as a 1920s-inspired “hotel on rails” – is also set to launch its first service, from Paris to Venice via Milan, in 2025. Other routes in the pipeline include Paris to Edinburgh and Porto, meaning travelers from Scotland will soon be able to reach Portugal with just one change in the French capital, sleeping in stylish carriages en route.
These companies aren’t the only ones taking advantage of the feeling of nostalgia. Next year, the Orient Express La Dolce Vita sleeper train is set to make six routes covering the whole of Italy, from the snowy Alps to the Sicilian coast. Of course, this is a seriously elegant affair, reminiscent of the golden age of rail travel, with a cream color palette, five-star service and top-notch Italian cuisine.
It’s not just the fresh air and tranquility that draws Finns to Saimaa’s forests and lakes – it’s the food too. In 2024 it is expected to rise even more, when it will become the European Gastronomy Region. Many of the region’s best-loved products come from its forests and waters: wild game, chanterelles and blackberries from the forests, perch and fans from the lakes. Smoked reindeer hint at the region’s arctic influences, while producers such as Ollinmäki Winery are the ones who support Finland’s wine industry.
Food is a useful compass when exploring a corner of Europe full of hiking trails, mansions and historic cities. Särä, a dish of roast lamb and potatoes, is a specialty of Lemi, while the markets of the nearby town of Lappeenranta and the town of Mikkeli sell everything from local pickles and Finnish caviar to fresh strawberries and meat pies. The town of Savonlinna, 65 miles to the east, is worth a detour – it’s home to a fortress and is also the birthplace of lörtsy, a crescent-shaped pastry filled with meat and rice.
Valletta is a source of inspiration for many artists and has the right conditions to visit in 2024. For example Ridley’s new biopic ‘Napoleon’ also uses the Grand Harbor area, which connects the city to the neighboring walls -fort, as a double for the French naval city of Toulon. It’s no surprise that the filmmakers were impressed by Valletta.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, its battlements and cathedral domes skyline was shaped by a multinational order of knights who ruled Malta from the 16th to the 18th century. Picturesque terraces sit above a glittering waterfront, where the wooden balconies of townhouses tower over the narrow streets – add in the year-round warm weather and it’s not just filmmakers who should be inspired to visit in 2024 .
It’s quite strange when you consider that 50 years ago, a symbol of Chinese culture rested beneath the fields of Shaanxi province. Farmers digging a well on March 29, 1974 discovered the head of a figure that turned out to be one of more than 8,000 soldiers of the Terracotta Army.
Their duty was to guard the nearby tomb complex of China’s first emperor, Qin Shi Huang, after his death in 210 BC. – the low, forest-covered pyramid remains excavated to this day. However, the country’s cultural sector is not sitting idly by: 382 new museums were registered in 2022 alone, including Xi’an’s Shaanxi Archaeological Museum.
China has had the longest Covid-related travel restrictions of any major country, so visitors have plenty to cover, from sailing down the river between the mist-shrouded peaks of Guilin to sampling local cuisines in Beijing or Shanghai.
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