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Wiggo-style cycling and outer space star in our list of places you must visit this year

Feeling that post-Crimbo slump? Don’t be daft – this is going to be the most adventurous year of your life.

Within the next 12 months, you could be standing in the glow of the northern lights in a far-flung Finnish village, toasting happy birthday to Amsterdam’s canals, hurtling down Corsica’s rocky roads by bike, getting up close and personal with jaguars in Brazil or being haunted by an Alcatraz ghost.

And that’s just a few of our top 13 tips for the most thrilling destinations of 2013, so get cracking and book your next break now. See y’all at the airport!


Kashmir

Why: In November, the Foreign Office finally lifted its long-standing travel warning against parts of Kashmir, India, meaning the cities of Jammu and Srinagar – and the road between them – are no longer considered unsafe for tourists.

So if you’ve been dying to go and explore the region’s lush green hills and undisturbed lakes for years, now’s your chance.

The main draw for tourists is Srinagar’s serene Dal Lake, where you can hire a houseboat or go for a paddle in a colourful shikara (wooden ship).

There are also ornate mosques to be visited and mountain paths to be trekked. 

Get there: Fly from London Heathrow to Srinagar, via Delhi, for £676 return with Air India.

 


Brazil

Why: Because in 2014 Brazil hosts the World Cup and then in 2016 the Olympics go to Rio de Janeiro.

In other words, interest in this South American playground is soon to soar and just as quickly, so will the prices.

Book now for a better deal than you’ll be able to get for years to come, not to mention the chance to explore the country before it goes totally sports bonkers, gets plastered with corporate sponsorship and swamped by gazillions of tourists.

While you’re there, visit the famous ‘jaguar zone’ at Pantanal’s Cuiaba River.

There are between 50 and 100 of the elusive big cats living here, so it’s a great place to spot them. 

Get there: Fly from London Heathrow to Rio de Janeiro, via Paris, for £656 with Air France.

 

Finland

Why: Everyone knows this is the year the northern lights are predicted to be the brightest and most colourful in a decade.

So, naturally, hordes of eager travellers are booking up their trips to the high latitudes quicker than you can point and shout, “aurora borealis!”

Avoid them all by heading out to the remote Finnish Lapland town of Kilpisjarvi, where regular spectacular light shows from nature are expected.

Get there: Fly from London Heathrow to Helsinki from £256 return with British Airways, and on to Enontekiö with Flybe for £118 return. 

 


San Francisco

Why: It was 50 years ago in March that the infamous prison Alcatraz shut its doors and turfed out the last of its resident crims. We recommend the night tours, as the Cell House is particularly sinister after dark, when ghosts are said to roam the island.

As a bonus, you get to see the iconic Golden Gate Bridge lit up on the way there.

Get there: Fly from London Heathrow to San Francisco for £519 return with Virgin Atlantic


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