Adrenaline-loving travelers looking to push the boundaries in 2014 have plenty of enticing destinations to choose from next year. Whether it's the time-warped villages of Burma, or the far-flung shores of Antarctica (which, as it happens, will be in the spotlight for the 100th anniversary of Sir Ernest Shackleton's epic adventure), 2014 is sure to be filled with inspiration, adventure, and plenty of good photo ops.
Antarctica: In recent years, this frigid continent has drawn more and more adventure travelers who come to see awe-inspiring winter landscapes of icebergs, glaciers, and whales – and, of course, for the bragging rights of venturing to such distant horizons.
And 2014 could usher in a new crop of visitors, with the 100th anniversary of legendary explorer Ernest Shackleton’s historic (although ultimately failed) expedition to make the first land crossing of Antarctica. In late 1914, Shackleton’s team was less than 100 miles from the continent’s Vahsel Bay when his ship went down in ice-filled waters, preceding Shackleton’s eventual rescue of his 27 crew members – an excursion widely regarded as the greatest adventure in history.
Follow in Shackleton’s footsteps on a trip with modern-day explorer Tim Jarvis and Intrepid Travel, which sponsored Jarvis’s 2013 recreation of Shackleton’s excursions, and which offers several other Antarctic journeys for travelers looking for a little more comfort.
Ecuador: Sure, this coastal country boasts the Galapagos – an epic destination for outdoorsy travelers since Charles Darwin put the biodiverse islands on the map more than 100 years ago as the inspiration for his theory of evolution. But Ecuador’s mainland has also been generating buzz as of late as one of South America’s under-the-radar gems, with an inviting blend of cosmopolitan appeal, colonial charm, and adventurous offerings like the 19,347-foot Cotopaxi, an active volcano that towers over the capital of Quito.
Burma: Yes, Burma, also known as Myanmar, is expensive. No, it’s not easy to reach or get around. But savvy travelers who want to experience Asia’s time-warped, last frontier should still make the trek despite all that. In recent years, developments such as more foreign exchange centers, ATMs, and Internet are evidence of a steady increase in tourism that’s expected to continue.
In June, the country unveiled a new master plan for tourism that projects more than 3 million visitors in 2015 and initiatives such as a new airport and other infrastructure improvements. Go there now, and you’ll still have Burma's remote villages, welcoming locals, and vastly different customs and culture, almost to yourself.
East Africa: Seeing some of East Africa’s most exotic wildlife – gorillas along with the Big 5 – on the same trip will become much easier for travelers beginning in 2014, when changes to visa regulations in Kenya, Uganda, and Rwanda take effect.
The new joint visa will go into effect in January 2014, costing $100, which promises a much cheaper, and far less complicated process for travelers moving between the three countries than the previous scheme. For those hoping to see the gorillas of Uganda along with the Big 5 in Uganda’s Queen Elizabeth National Park, tour operators such as Africa Adventure Consultants have already introduced new offerings taking advantage of the joint visa.
Outer Space: In August 2014, Sir Richard Branson’s suborbital commercial flights will launch for the first time, with Branson and his two children as the first passengers. But if the quarter-mil ticket on one of Virgin Galactic's flights isn’t in your travel budget (ours either) for a trip of your own, you can experience the last frontier from Earth via a live broadcast of the inaugural journey on NBC’s The Today Show.
[Photo: Intrepid Travel]