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Favourite Travel Experiences of the Month #32 – February 2014

This month we feature major February themed articles including visiting the host city of the Winter Olympics; Sochi, as well as National Geographic’s list of worldwide February events. There are more 2014 themed ‘to-visit’ lists appearing every day, we take a look at a few of our favourites; 52 destinations to visit and Lonely Planet’s top 10 USA destinations for the current year. This months featured Holiday of the Month is the Serbian capital of Belgrade. We give our view on why it is emerging as an Eastern European favourite with great value for money and a fascinating history.

Kicking things off in our usual fashion, here are our top 10 travel experiences of this year so far:

Sochi, RussiaPhoto courtesy of Gregory Smirnov.

1. The world’s attention this month will be focused on Sochi, Russia for the 2014 Winter Olympic Games. Often referred to as the Russian Riveria, gaze through a beginners guide to Sochi courtesy of the Huffington Post, to see why you should visit even if you can’t make it in time for the Olympics.

2. Sapporo Snow Festival in Japan, Kala Ghoda Arts Festival in India or the New Zealand Fringe Festival in Wellington. All are happening this month and are just some of the top events worldwide in February as listed by National Geographic, do something unique this February.

3. Easily the most stunning photo gallery we have seen this year is Rough Guide’s ’20 of the worlds most impressive natural phenomena’. Astonishing shots of wildlife across the world it will be sure to have you gasping in amazement, our top snap had to be the Scandinavian Northern Lights.

4. Aeon Film features an incredible time lapse video travelling along the Panama Canal from the Pacific to Atlantic in under 5 minutes of footage. Definitely worth 4 minutes and 34 seconds of your day!

5. The USA is prominent in the world of travel and destinations across The States continue to feature in varying top travel lists. Lonely Planet go one step further with their Top 10 USA destinations for 2014, we are going to try and make it to them all over the next 11 months.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/seanpritchard/Photo courtesy of Sean Pritchard.

6. Continuing the 2014 ‘to-visit’ theme, check out NY Times’ 52 destinations for 2014. If you are likely enough to have the spare time, this will give you a weekly travel fix for the remainder of the year! A few we would like to tick off included; Seychelles, Quang Binh – Vietnam, & the Mekong River – Southeast Asia.

7. The so-called Tornado Alley of the USA’s Midwest is hit by hundreds of Tornadoes annually, its often hard to get a good shot however. BBC Future has put together a gallery of phenomenal photos taken over the last decade by local photographer Mike Hollingshead.

8. Another spectacular photo gallery we viewed this month featured 50 mind-blowing undiscovered destinations. Displaying countless inspiring photos from around the world, our bucket-list just increased ten-fold.

9. When travelling on a budget, gaining value with eating out is always a bonus. The Guardian features an article listing 6 pay-what-you-want restaurants from across the globe! From as far afield as Melbourne, Vienna and New Jersey, hopefully you will find you way to one this year.

10. With the World Cup this year and the Summer Olympic Games in 2016, Brazil is ever becoming a more popular destination with travellers from all corners of the globe. Trivago’s recent top 10 places to visit in Brazil is worth a read if you are planning a trip anytime soon.

Holiday of the Month – Belgrade, Serbia.

Serbia’s capital has not always been the subject of positive news in the past two decades, however the situation has stablised in the 21st century and the bustling city has emerged as an Eastern European favourite with backpackers. There are of course relics of communist rule still scattered throughout the city and on the surface Belgrade can seem gritty and hostile in places. The city centre however is over-flowing with cafes, restaurants and Western retail outlets, nestled between an abundance of historic architecture from Belgrades colourful past. Kalemegdan Citadel has dominated the city for centuries, the impressive fortress dates back to Celtic times, it is now a popular destination with tourists and locals alike relaxing in its park surroundings.

One absolute must-see for Belgrade is the Nikola Tesla Museum close to Tasmajdan Park and the towering Sveti Marko Church. The museum provides a fascinating insight into arguably one of history’s most important scientists, there are even interactive demonstrations of his work.

Despite its size and stature, Belgrade is an extremely affordable destination to visit, especially for Western tourists. Its renowned nightlife draws party goers from across Europe, keen to take advantage of the cheap drinks in Belgrades many bars and clubs, notably along Skadarska and by the banks of the Sava River. Serbian cuisine, like many neighbouring regions, has been shaped by various occupying empires throughout the ages, mainly Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian bringing their own cultural dishes. This gives Serbia an exciting blend of tastes for visitors to sample, often found for incredibly good value, adding to Belgrades all-round affordability.

Cathedral of Saint SavaPhoto courtesy of Brian Pocius.

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Favourite Travel Experiences of the Month #31 – January 2014

Welcome to 2014! Happy New Year from all at Not Just a Holiday, we are excited for all of our travel prospects this coming year, we hope you have a prosperous 2014 wherever your travels may lead you! This month we feature a range of end-of-year themed articles from across the world wide web, such as; National Geographic’s favourite 2013 photos, and the best 10 islands to visit in 2014.

Other articles examined this month include; Thailand’s top budget beach hotels, 20 abandoned places across the world, and 15 charming Italian villages. We conclude with our first holiday of the month for 2014; The Canadian Rockies.

We kick things off as usual with our top 10 articles of the month gone by.

Havana

Photo courtesy of gustaffo89.

1. Trip Advisor concluded last year by compiling a list of destinations on the rise in 2013. The top 10 includes destination as far apart as Kathmandu, Havana and Fortaleza in Brazil. Several have made it on our 2014 bucket list.

2. In a photo summary of 2013, National Geographic featured their favourite photographic memories from the past 12 months. Our personal favourite was an arial shot of a lake in Poland, the collection is definitely worth 5 minutes of your time.

3. 2014 has been declared the International Year of Small Island Developing States by the UN. To coincide with this, Lonely Planet has posted their top 10 Islands to travel to this year. See for yourself the beauty these islands possess as well as some of the environmental issues that have caused the UN take note.

4. This year is of course the 2014 Football World Cup in Brazil, featuring 32 nations from across the globe. The Independent looks at these nations in a different light and has started a series listing their to visit each of the 32 countries this year, starting with the host country.

5. Technology has vastly changed the world of travel, especially in the last two decades. Embracing technological advances can often be handy on the road and with a large quantity of Western travellers equipped with SmartPhones, apps have sprung up for nearly everything. Check out these top 10 travel apps to take with you on the road in 2014.

Hashima Island - Japan

Photo courtesy of chrisluckhardt.

6. 20 cool abandoned places in the world on imgur is one of the most fascinating photo collections we have seen in a long time. From Siberian mines to Japanese theme parks, the photos are simply breathtaking and often remarkable and hard to believe!

7.  A relaxing hotel on a budget? They are in abundance across Thailand’s beach resorts, check out The Guardian’s 10 best-value Thai beach hotels.

8. Italian countryside provides some of the finest culture in Western Europe, small villages rich in history dot the hillsides across the North and South alike. Explore 15 charming small Italian towns listed on Buzzfeed last month.

9. Sweden’s world famous Icehotel in the village of Jukkasjärvi, Swedish Lapland has opened for its 24th season with a range of new sculptures from over 1,600 tonnes of ice! See a full gallery of photos with The Guardian for the certain inspiration to visit.

10. BBC Travel’s ‘Around the World’ series has shown some truly inspiring destinations in its 11 episodes so far. Episode 9 really stuck out for us as the team visited Chile; a fascinating blend of old and new.

Holiday of the Month – Canadian Rockies – Western Canada

The Canadian Rockies provide some of the finest mountain scenery and skiing anywhere on the globe, so it’s no surprise that thousands flock to its renowned resorts each year. Fortunately due to the mountains vast area it rarely feels overcrowded especially at the larger ski resorts such as Lake Louise and Sunshine Village. Banff and Jasper National Parks form a large chunk of the region and their respective towns of Banff and Jasper form ideal bases to explore from. The Icefield Parkway that connects the two regularly makes top scenic driving lists and its easy to see why with endless mountains on either side, stunning lakes such as Peyto and Bow, and the magnificent Columbia Icefields keeping your eyes entertained throughout.

The town of Banff is just a 90 minute drive from the city of Calgary, home to the nearest international airport, making it a popular initial destination in the Rockies. Featuring the best range of accomodation, shops and nightlife, Banff is perfectly equipped for travellers on a range of budgets and needs.

The impressive mountain range is not just a winter destination, during the summer the abundant wildlife and breathaking hiking trails attract another section of the tourist market to marvel in the beauty.

Banff - Canadian RockiesPhoto courtesy of irakshiv.