South Africa, as I’m sure everyone is aware by now, is hosting this summer’s football FIFA World Cup. Although the global financial conditions and the high price of flights to South Africa mean that the number of people travelling to see the tournament is thought to be lower than in previous years, it will still raise the international profile of this country that is often unfairly overlooked by tourists. South Africa, it often seems, is more famous for crippling poverty and the associated crime than it is for truly astounding natural beauty, incredible wildlife and thrilling cosmopolitanism in the major cities. Hopefully this will change as the world media’s attention is focused on the country for a whole month and the profile of this underexposed country will change for good.
The Shanghai Expo 2010 will open on 1st May and run until October 31st, giving visitors plenty of time to plan their visit to this monumental event on the theme of the future of urban development. With 190 countries and many businesses and organisations planning to display their best and most modern products, the Chinese are expecting about seventy million visitors including many heads of state, so a visit to the Expo could be a good place to celebrity spot as well. The ticket regime is quite complicated, potential visitors should check the Shanghai expo website for complete details but try and ensure your visit doesn’t fall on one of the few peak days as the prices are higher and the crowds will no doubt be overwhelming.
Croatia has been aggressively promoting itself as an up and coming holiday destination, although its charms should speak for themselves. Easy and convenient to get to from the rest of Europe, but without the extortionate prices of more traditional destinations, Croatia‘s future as a bastion of the travel industry seems assured. The country has the quaint old cities one expects from Eastern European destinations but combines these with stunning beaches and an enviable climate. In fact, the Croatian coast is becoming gentrified remarkably quickly and it may soon be competing with Nice and Monaco for the Mediterranean luxury market. If you want to see Croatia as it is now then the best advice is to go soon, and spring or summer 2010 just may be the ideal time.
Stockholm has been a travel oddity for some time. Those who know it love it and everybody else seems to generally ignore it. This looks set to change as Stockholm has been declared the first European Green Capital this year thanks to the environmental considerations shown by most Swedes in their lifestyles and urban planning. Summer is probably the best time to visit as Scandinavian weather can be inclement (or worse) at other times and the city looks best in the golden sunshine. The city’s pride event will run from 26th July until the 31st but the film festival waits until November. Stockholm is, like all of Scandinavia, quite expensive by Western European standards and this puts many people off, however this is unfair and the city’s attractions more than outweigh the slightly higher prices.
Istanbul should need no introduction as a holiday destination and looks set to affirm its place in the heart of travellers once again this year. The city, with its vibrant mixture of Western and Eastern influences, has been enchanting visitors for centuries. The history of Istanbul is incredibly interesting and is often mostly unknown by western visitors, despite the massive influence it had on the development of both East and West. On top of all this, the beauty of Istanbul needs to be seen to be believed. The Blue Mosque and the sunset over the Bosphorus are both sights that will live in the memory forever. Istanbul has it all, romance, adventure and mystery, all within easy reach of Europe.
Photo of a beach in Bol, Croatia, by zsoolt.