Orlando is old news. The lake has lost its luster. Puerto Rico? Please. With the recession officially over (haven’t you heard?), it’s time to start planning your big 2011 getaway. For people who have already beaten the beaten track to death, the new year offers many unsung destinations ready to awe, amaze, and entertain. But act fast, because some of the deals—or the sites themselves—might not be around in 2012.
October 22, 2011, marks the two-hundredth anniversary of the birth of Franz Liszt, Hungary’s greatest and most beloved composer and piano virtuoso. Although music centers throughout Europe will be honoring the maestro all year long, his birth city of Raiding (which belonged to Hungary in Liszt’s time) will be in the throes of “Lisztomania,” brimming with concerts of the composer’s best-known works and his Hungarian Rhapsodies, played by world-famous orchestras and pianists. The house in which he was born has been turned into a museum where visiting music lovers can see his manuscripts, his beloved Érard piano, and even his death mask.
This city in the Campania region of southern Italy withstood an earthquake in 62 AD and the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD, but after years as one of Italy’s top attractions and a spectacular window into the ancient world, it’s crumbling. Although some blame neglect, the fact is that it’s impossible to maintain two-thousand-year-old ruins forever, and recent years have seen a series of building collapses on the site. Weather, the ages, and wear and tear by tourists are having their way with Pompeii, so if you don’t see it soon, you might lose your chance forever.
Designated as a 2011 European Capital of Culture, Estonia’s capital city, Talinn, will host concerts, film screenings, museum exhibitions, athletic events, and other attractions in order to increase its tourist profile to the world. This year also marks the twentieth anniversary of Estonia’s independence from the USSR, as well as its adoption of the euro.
The International Association of Golf Tour Operators recently named this country a “Best Golf Destination.” It boasts more than six hundred courses, which lure golfers of all abilities who want to take in the breathtaking scenery. When you’re not on the links, you can gawk at the most diverse selection of wildlife in Africa at Kruger National Park, including big game like elephants, zebras, lions, cheetahs, baboons, and rhinos. The CDC does recommend certain immunizations for travelers to Africa, however, especially measles.
The Global Heritage Fund has listed this ruined medieval city as one of the top three sites most threatened by neglect. Without government investment and protection, the deserted city, which dates from the eleventh century, is not likely to survive. The site is located on the border of Turkey and Armenia, and has fallen into disrepair because of vandalism, tourist damage, and poor attempts at restoration and excavation. Yet it once housed up to two hundred thousand citizens and was known as the City of 1,001 Churches, in reference to its grand cathedrals, mosques, walls, military reinforcements, and art.
Charleston, South Carolina
The year 2011 marks the sesquicentennial of the beginning of the Civil War, which started with the secession of South Carolina. The first battle occurred on April 12, 1861, at Fort Sumter, in the Charleston harbor. The National Park Service will be staging reenactments during the week of the anniversary, and will be offering new educational programs about the war for the entire year.
Head over and reserve your place along the parade route now, because hotel space is already filling up for the days surrounding April 29—the date of Prince William’s wedding to Kate Middleton. The two are scheduled to exchange vows at Westminster Abbey, and throngs of tourists are sure to descend upon the city in hopes of glimpsing the couple as they travel to the church. Although hotels are sure to be pricey during this period, those uninterested in royal watching may get a rare chance to have the racks at Topshop all to themselves.
The Greek economy may be in free-fall, but tourism represents about 20 percent of the country’s gross domestic product, and the government is doing everything it can to help keep visitors flowing. It’s lowered docking fees for cruise ships and landing fees at airports, and the poor economy has made the dollar much stronger against the euro, so Americans’ money can go further. The past few years have seen declines in tourism to Greece, so in 2011, the country is sure to do everything it can to make visiting affordable and attractive. This year also marks the 2,500th anniversary of the running of the first marathon.
UNESCO’s International Year of Chemistry may not sound like an exciting impetus for travel, but 2011 also marks the one-hundredth anniversary of Marie Curie’s Nobel Prize in chemistry. Celebrate the achievements of women in science and Curie’s discovery of the elements radium and polonium by taking a Marie Curie walking tour through Paris. Sites include the Curie Museum, which displays the contents of Marie’s lab and office, the Sorbonne (where she conducted her research), and her burial place in the Paris Panthéon.
Located off the coast of Venezuela, this island used to be part of the Netherland Antilles (along with Bonaire and St. Maarten) until October 2010, when it became a full-fledged nation in its own right—the world’s newest country. Although Curaçao was already known as a scuba diving paradise, the new country is reaping the benefits of heavier investment in tourism through Dutch tax dollars, airlines are already announcing more frequent service to the island, and new resort hotels are opening, making it significantly easier to get and stay there.
In 2011, even familiar destinations are springing to life with new activities, new amenities, and new attractions waiting to lure intrepid and adventurous travelers. There’s only one thing left to wonder: what are you waiting for?