Winner: Rio de Janeiro
Runners-up: Cambodia, MonaCo, Norfolk Island, New Orleans
There’s a huge world out there to explore – and whether you are an armchair traveller or one who loves to discover new cities, Y has brought you a whole host of fabulous new places during 2014 for you to put on your bucket list.
From Lapland, the home of Father Christmas, to a wild road trip across the US and the little-known Madikwe Game Reserve in South Africa, we’ve been to every continent and more than 50 cities this year alone.
The good news is that there’s still plenty of travelling to do in 2015. But in the meantime, here’s our top five favourite cities we’ve been to this year. Safe travels!
Our Favourite Place: OK, so this was a no-brainer. The Latino warmth of Rio de Janeiro topped our list this year simply because it was in the spotlight thanks to the FIFA World Cup. It’s a month-long football fest that saw tens of thousands of fans pour into Brazil not only to watch the beautiful game, but also to explore all that is has to offer, including the famous Ipanema and Copacabana beaches. Second was Cambodia, where we were captivated by the beauty, rawness and the collision between old and new. Coming in third was Monaco. While it might be one of the world’s smallest countries, what it lacks in size it certainly makes up for in glamour.
Highlights: Where to begin? The top five spots we have picked all have their own charm and appeal. But that’s the beauty about exploring a new city – each one will take your breath away, but for different reasons. We loved the old bohemian area of Santa Teresa in Rio and delighted in exploring Ta Prohm in Cambodia, where Angelina Jolie, as Lara Croft, swung through the overgrown temple. In Monaco, it was the Palais Princier and the Musée Océanographique de Monaco that captivated us. On Norfolk Island, we were intrigued by the penal past of Slaughterhouse Bay, the site of weekly prisoner hangings. And in New Orleans, we found our dancing feet in the French Quarter, the vibrant heart and soul of the city’s music scene, which is slowly but surely emerging from the devastation of Hurricane Sandy.
Lowlights: The child poverty in Rio is heartbreaking and hard to ignore, and you need to be on the lookout for pickpockets in Cambodia. In Monaco, you may experience some rudeness from the locals, but it’s the expense that will leave you gasping for breath. There’s very little or no crime on Norfolk Island, but don’t expect sophisticated shopping or a lively nightlife, while the hurricane season in New Orleans – from June to the end November – can put some visitors off.
Souvenirs: If you love flip-flops, then the world’s coolest brand – Havaianas – can be had for a song in Rio as that’s where they are made. Colourful textiles, wooden handicrafts and handmade curios are the order of the day in Cambodia. Norfolk Island boasts a bevy of local sculptors, painters and jewellery makers, all of whom create unique memories of their surroundings. Expensive Monaco should more about the life experience (unless you find yourself a rich partner there) and New Orleans is all about trinkets you can’t find anywhere else – think ornamental alligator heads and carnival masks.
Where to stay: It all depends on your budget, but some of our favourite places included Villa Rio, which is set atop Joa’s Cliffs in Rio, and The Plantation – a luxe resort and spa in Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia. Norfolk Island and New Orleans offer a range of accommodation to suit all tastes, while in Monaco, there’s no other place to stay except the Hotel de Paris.
1. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
4. Norfolk Island, Australia
5. New Orleans, USA