We’ve travelled far and wide this year from South America to Asia, the Middle East and across Europe. We’ve worked hard, had fun and many wonderful experiences, plus one or two we’d rather not repeat. But we aim to inspire, so we’ve pulled together some of the best places to go from some of our favourite trips of the year.
Look out for our round up of the best places to visit next year, coming later this week.
Plus check our guides to some of the most fantastic places to go in destinations around the world as well as excellent places to stay. We’ll also be expanding these guides in the coming weeks, so keep checking back for more of the places we love and think you will too.
We visited Sabah, in Malaysian Borneo, in November and still have lots to write about it – look out for stories in the next few weeks. But here’s a taster, including the reasons why we think it’s the one of the best places to go in the world.
We were in Sabah to discover what it had in store for honeymooning couples.
Borneo is frequently associated with adventure, but we were there to enjoy a rare, romantic break.
What we found was a region for beach lovers – like the three kilometre long (and nearly as wide) stretch of beach at the Shangri-La Rasa Ria, one for animal lovers – from the jungle of the Kinabatangan River, to sanctuaries for orangutans and sun bears.
There were also great times to be had for foodies, snorkelers and scuba divers, spa fans, history buffs and more.
It’s a varied destination, with welcoming people, interesting customs and more great viewing points than your camera can handle. Read more about it and see our exclusive special offers to experience it for yourself.
Whenever we see photos of the Northern Lights we get a tingle of wanderlust, a surge of excitement and a yearning to enjoy a once in a lifetime experience.
This year, thanks to a Hurtigruten Northern Lights cruise of Arctic Norway, Sarah got the chance to make the dream a reality. She did miss the fleeting aurora on two occasions as they flitted through the sky in the middle of the night. But by the last night of the cruise, she wasn’t taking any chances. Taking her coat, hat, scarf, gloves and camera to dinner she was ready when the captain made the call.
But what we love most about travel is the unexpected joys. And for Sarah, seeing the Northern Lights wasn’t even the highlight of the trip. This turned out to be a husky ride across a frozen fjord near Kirkenes – the most northerly town in Europe.
It was one of those rare occasions when everything comes together to make a life-enhancing experience – we rode under dazzling sunshine, led by the cutest dogs in town.
Read more about this trip soon.
There’s something to be said for a hotel that gives you a loaf of freshly homemade bread on departure.
Quirky – check. Homely – check. Delightful – check. Rustic (as in chocked full of wonderful rustic charm, no euphemisms here!) – check. All of these things exemplify the Bio-Hotel Stanglwirt.
Throughout the year we have stayed at many lovely hotels and a few that were exceptional. Our favourite has to be Bio-Hotel Stanglwirt in Tirol Austria. It’s been beautifully crafted and designed to create a warm and welcoming environment, with a striking wood-carved interior.
Everything from the rustic dining rooms, to the lavish spa, the excellent sports facilities, down to every corridor revealed the style and quality at the Stanglwirt. The hotel even has a stable of world-famous Lipizzaner horses, renowned as the horses of Vienna’s Spanish Riding School, which were available for guests to ride.
The traditional Tirolean architecture of the 400-year-old Stanglwirt hotel is alluring enough for many. Yet, when combined with the excellent accommodation, and the quality of its facilities and service – it makes it a hotel to be savoured.
Check availability and rates at Bio-Hotel Stanglwirt
This year Terry visited one of the world’s most pristine island ecosystems – the Galápagos Islands. This is often considered a once in a lifetime experience – just a very limited number of visitors are able to go to the islands each year.
But as much as he enjoyed sailing around and visiting the islands, it was in Ecuador’s Mashpi rainforest that he found his natural nirvana.
He stayed at Mashpi Lodge, a environmentally-friendly, five-star hotel deep in virgin rainforest. It provided a luxury stay amid wildlife and vegetation as diverse as it was spectacular.
The plant life was of all colours, sizes and types – few he had seen before. There was an abundance of birds, monkeys, and critters. He was particularly thrilled to see toucans and the vast array of multi-coloured hummingbirds.
For those keen on nature and real, natural experiences, Mashpi rainforest provides both.
And the best bit? You don’t have to go back to nature in your accommodation – Mashpi Lodge is first rate.
Check rates and availability at Mashpi Lodge
What elevates eating out from a delicious meal to a memorable experience? Well, at Armani Hashi restaurant in Dubai, it is both the location and the exceptional quality of the food.
You don’t find many better locations. It is at the base of the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, giving the Armani restaurant an imposing backdrop. We dined at an outdoor table with fabulous views over the dancing fountains of the Burj Khalifa lake, with the accompanying music serenading the cool night air.
From the first cocktail to the excellent menu (don’t miss the giant shrimp) it was an evening of delectable Japanese food and lovely memories.
Check rates at the Armani Hotel, Dubai.
One of the best places to go in the world for the view
Any way you look at Weissensee the views of this wonderful Alpine lake will linger long.
Perhaps due to there being little mass tourism, Weissensee is regarded as having the purest bathing water in the Alps. You have to drive over the mountains to get to the lake and this makes for little traffic. No motorboats are allowed on the lake, so it remains unpolluted and very quiet.
We found Weissensee so impressive we made the most of our stay on its banks, viewing it from a stand-up paddle-board on the water, while swimming in the lake, overlooking it from a bridge, and from high up on the hills above. At each and every point it was a vision of serenity and an idyllic setting in which to kick back and relax.
Compare rates of hotels in Weissensee
It’s said that the journey, not the destination matters. But with air travel as exasperating as it is in 2014 (yes, we’re talking about you long check-in lines and frustrating security measures), it’s becoming harder to really enjoy flying.
But on our trip to Sabah we flew aboard the Dreamliner – an excellent experience in both economy and business – though you can likely guess which cabin came out on top in our Royal Brunei Airlines review.
Where have you been this year? Share with us your favourite trips, destinations, hotels and experiences.