This New Year, skip the usual ho-hum resolutions! Not that losing weight and quitting smoking aren't laudable goals, but why not make a fun resolution this year -- one that you actually have a chance of keeping? We're talking about travel resolutions, of course. Maybe this is the year that you'll finally visit Tahiti, look up your long-lost relatives in Italy, or quit your day job to travel around the world.
Here at IndependentTraveler.com, we've made a travel resolution of our own: to experience as many new places as possible in the coming year. To that end, we've put together a list of five "dream destinations" that our staffers are hoping to visit for the first time in 2007. Some of these locales are just coming into their own as tourist destinations, while others are places we've had on our list for years (yet haven't managed to visit). With countries like Morocco, India and Peru in our future, we think this is one New Year's resolution we just might manage to keep.
We've had fun making our picks, but now we want to hear from you! What must-visit destinations are on your wish-list for 2007? Weigh in on our message boards.
Why We Want to Go: Pompeii? Check. The beaches of the Amalfi coast? Done 'em. The ever-popular Rome/Florence/Venice tourist loop? Been there, ate the gelato. But one part of Italy that's still lurking on our must-see list is the sun-splashed island of Sicily.
Though it's divided from the mainland only by the narrow Strait of Messina, many Italians consider Sicily to be a separate nation unto itself. It's set apart by its unique and tumultuous history, having been occupied over the centuries by the Carthaginians, Greeks, Romans, French, Germans and, now, the Italians. This diversity is visible in the island's architecture (you'll see everything from Norman-Arab churches to Roman ruins) and in its local dialect -- a mishmash of French, Greek, Italian, Spanish and Arabic. Just as diverse are Sicily's natural wonders; the island's wide beaches and rolling hills give way to the looming peak of Mount Etna, Europe's largest active volcano.
Our Members Say: "One must stand in the mile-long sand bar under a blue sky and a gentle breeze, where the Ionian Sea meets and embraces the Mediterranean Sea, to really appreciate why Sicilians are so proud, friendly and eager to welcome travelers. They have so much natural beauty and they want to share with the curious at heart. Better learn some Italian though!! English proficiency is still a rarity here." Read more of 11 Unforgettable Days in Sicily.
Why We Want to Go: Dramatically situated at the foot of Morocco's High Atlas Mountains, the millennium-old city of Marrakesh offers a tantalizing peek into the Islamic world. No visit is complete without getting lost among the labyrinthine alleys and bustling souks of the medina, where storytellers spin their tales on the Djema El-Fna square and local vendors offer a head-spinning array of pottery, carpets, spices, henna, jewelry and silver.
Those seeking a break from the clamor of the souks can visit urban oases filled with fruit trees and palms, or head out of the city to go trekking through the nearby mountains or desert.
Our Members Say: "I went to Morocco in March with my sister and had a fabulous time. We only spent a week, and wish we spent more time as there was so much to do. We went to a kasbah (but I cannot remember the name of the place!) and the Todra Gorge, which is amazing. The journey between Ouarzazate and Marrakesh was breathtaking, so I recommend that too. I do suggest a tour operator as it's very difficult to communicate with the locals unless you speak French." Read more of A Wonderful Trip in Morocco!
Savannah, Georgia Why We Want to Go: Legend has it that when General Sherman conquered Savannah in the Civil War, the city was so beautiful that he couldn't stand to burn it -- so he offered it to President Lincoln as a Christmas gift instead. Whether this romantic story is a myth or a fact, Savannah remains just as elegant and charming today as it was at the time of its lucky escape in the Civil War.
Within its 2.5-mile historic district are grand squares and thousands of traditional Southern homes, shaded by leafy trees draped with Spanish moss. The city's past is similarly well-preserved in the Savannah History Museum and in the childhood home of Flannery O'Connor, one of the most distinctive literary voices ever to emerge from the South.
Our Members Say: "THE one thing you have to do in Savannah is a ghost tour, of course! It's such a historical city and full of color. Certain things around the city made it so obvious that the locals have always truly believed. For one, the house next door to one extremely haunted house had up a brick wall with pointed shards of glass on top to keep out the ghosts from their own home. The guide even told us a creepy story about our own hotel being built over an Indian burial ground. That means no sleep for a bunch of 16-year-old girls -- thank goodness it was the last night!" Read more of Savannah Spree.
Why We Want to Go: Cascading waterfalls, colorful colonial towns, and a string of golden beaches along the glittering Arabian Sea -- who wouldn't want to go? Goa may be India's second-smallest state, but its myriad attractions make it a popular destination for Indians and international visitors alike.
In the eastern part of the state are the 2,000-foot Dudhsagar Falls, a perfect spot for swimming and picnicking amidst a tangle of tropical foliage. Closer to the coast are Panaji and Old Goa, where whitewashed buildings and 16th-century churches reveal the lingering influence of the Portuguese, who once used this coastal region as a base for their spice trade. But the true appeal of Goa is its famous coastline, from the colorful markets and late-night raves of the busy northern beaches to the utter seclusion of rugged Palolem Beach in the south.
Our Members Say: "A long overnight journey brought us to Goa, rightly the number one tourist destination of India. Clean roads, no garbage sights and lush greens/gardens greeted us. Coconut and date palms, pandanus, and cashew trees dotted the scenic roads. Flowers of daisies, mussaendas, wild berries and teccoma were seen. Local wines and seafood are a treat for the lover of seafood cuisine. Marketplaces are clean and women are seen everywhere working and managing shops, including wine shops!" Read more of The Strawberry and Cashew Trail -- India.
Why We Want to Go: Puno's main attraction is its proximity to Lake Titicaca, the world's highest navigable lake. Bordered by dramatic mountain peaks, the lake is home to 36 natural islands, as well as a number of unique manmade islands created from reeds by the Uros Indians.
For a glimpse into the local culture, stay overnight with a family on the agrarian island of Amantani, or watch weavers in action on Isla Taquile, famous for its handmade textiles. The city of Puno itself is also worth a visit, particularly if you arrive during its spectacular Fiesta de la Virgen de la Candelaria in February -- when the region's most colorful folk dances and costumes are on display.
Our Members Say: "Isla Amantani is a fairly large island with a population of about 4,000. It is pretty much an agrarian economy, with each family raising most of its own food. I was up at five one morning (trying to remember the way to the outhouse) and I saw our host, Felix, out in the field with a flashlight digging potatoes. As I passed the kitchen hut I saw his wife, Secundina, starting the morning fire. These are hard-working people." Read more of Three Weeks in Peru.
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