TOP TRAVEL DESTINATIONS IN 2012

Photo by J. Miers

LONDON, ENGLAND

Yes, this choice is a little bit cliché but with the summer Olympic Games just around the corner, why wouldn’t you spend some time in London this year? No other city in the world provides the traveler with such a blend of history and modernity, and while you can visit some of the most-renowned museums on the planet in London, you can also spend your time looking at the national monuments scattered around the city.

Want an affordable way to see the city of London in a completely different light? Why not take a ride in the London Eye – a majestic white wheel presiding over the Thames at Waterloo. How about an experience of a lifetime at William Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre-reconstructed? For all you music lovers out there, London has some of the best record shops this planet has to offer – Rough Trade East, Honest Jon’s, and Sister Ray are good places to start your search for that old vinyl you’ve been looking for forever.

How to get there?
From Boston, the only way reasonable way you’re getting to London is via plane. A quick search on the internet shows that round-trip, non-stop flights from Boston to London Heathrow go from $755 and up.

 

HANGZHOU, CHINA

Photo by Jacob Ehnmark via Flickr

Are you the type that loves a little bit of scenery? One of the world’s not-so-well-kept secrets is the city of Hangzhou, the capital and largest city of Zhejiang province in China. World-renowned, Hangzhou has been one of the most prosperous cities in China for the last 1,000 years due to the region’s natural beauty and scenery. And the main attraction: West Lake.

West Lake, made a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2011, is a fresh-water lake peppered with pagodas, temples, gardens and artificial islands. There might be no better place in the world to take a photograph of the place described as having “influenced garden design in the rest of China as well as Japan and Korea over the centuries” and as reflecting “an idealized fusion between humans and nature” by UNESCO.

How to get there?
Like most of the destinations on this list, if you’re traveling from Boston you will need to hop on a plane to get to Hangzhou. Sure, a trip to Hangzhou might be a bit pricier than closer destinations, but if Marco Polo decided to call Hangzhou “the most splendid and luxurious city in the world,” then you’d better visit!

 

CHICHEN ITZA, MEXICO

The most unique of the travel destinations on this list, Chichen Itza in Mexico is arguably the most famous pre-Columbian city built by the Mayan Civilization. A trip to Chichen Itza should be on top of your list of vacation destinations if you’re the type that enjoys gearing up with a pair of sturdy walking shoes and a walking stick. That’s because once you get to Chichen Itza you’re going to do plenty of walking as the architectural site is walk-only.

Sunscreen is recommended during the day as there is little to no usable shade in the afternoon hours. However, at night the sky shines bright littered with stars so bring a pair of binoculars to experience the night sky without the hindrance of city lights.

What’s the point in going? Well, it’s hard to argue with the 1.2 million tourists who travel to the ruins every year.

How to get there?
The most popular way to visit Chichen Itza is as a day-trip from Cancun, Mexico via car or bus. However, there is more than enough to look at and experience at Chichen Itza to justify a couple of days at the Mayan ruins.

 

AMSTERDAM, THE NETHERLANDS

Photo by Will Ye

2012 is a special year for a visit to the Netherlands. Once every decade, the country holds the world horticultural expo, Floriade, and the huge occasion occurs this year from April 5 to October 7. But if horticulture isn’t exactly your cup of tea and you’re more into the past, for all you history buffs out there, why not take a visit to Anne Frank’s childhood home and squeeze yourself into the Hidden Annex where the World War Two-figure hid with her family.

But Amsterdam is also magnificent for its canals and “canal bus” tours that are almost as good as the subway system in the city. For a relaxing and quiet trip through the city, consider a trip on one of the many canal lines that take your through many sites around Amsterdam. And best of all, you can hop on and hope off any time!

How to get there?
Unless you already live on the mainland of Europe, the only way you’re getting to the Netherlands is by plane. You’re probably going to have to fork out a little over $1,000 for a round trip plane ticket to Amsterdam.

 

SANTORINI, GREECE

Despite the country’s economic woes, Greece is still cherished as one of the most scenic and beautiful countries in the world. The country’s beauty is exemplified in Santorini, an island in the southern Aegean Sea about 120 miles southeast of Greece’s mainland.

Santorini’s crescent shape is the result of a massive volcanic eruption which “blew the top off” the island in around 1500 BCE. But what isn’t the result of a volcanic eruption are the iconic blue-topped churches and houses that line the Santorini coastline. Or if you just want to lie in the sunshine then there are plenty of pristine beaches all around the island.

How to get there?
There are two ways to get from Greece’s mainland to Santorini: By air and by sea. Getting there by plane is far more convenient; however flights to the island tend to fill up very quickly during peak season. There are many connecting flights between Santorini (Thira) National Airport and Athens, and the flight typically lasts 30 minutes. By sea, high-speed catamaran is your best bet. The trip from Piraeus, the seaport in Athens, to Santorini typically takes 4.5 hours.

 

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