Travel Picks: Top 10 places off the beaten path
LONDON (Reuters) - While the arrival of a new year often means diets and resolutions, it also means a slew of new vacation days. With their upcoming travels in mind, the members and editors of VirtualTourist.com (www.virtualtourist.com) have selected their "Top 10 Places off the beaten path". Reuters has not endorsed this list:
Stretching 4,270 km (2,653 mi) along the Pacific Ocean, Chile's length and range of latitudes (from subtropical to sub Antarctic) create incredible biodiversity and a variety of natural settings to see and enjoy. Most travelers planning to visit Chile will want to do so in the next few months, as this is the country's summer season, meaning temperate weather and a chance to explore areas of Chilean Patagonia that are difficult to traverse in other seasons.
Torres del Paine National Park is in splendid form during these months, and the region's famous winds are the most manageable they will be all year. However, there is no shortage of incredible spots to see in Chile year round, like the Atacama Desert, Santiago, and Valpariso. One of the most arid places in the world, the Atacama is an especially great site for avid starwatchers since the sky is completely clear about 340 days a year. Santiago, Chile's capital city, is a growing metropolis and located adjacent to fantastic vineyards. Valpariso, only 74 miles (120km) from Santiago on the coast, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site known for its sloping hills filled with colorful homes and Chile's most vital port.
Since NASA has predicted that the winter season (October 2012 - April 2013) in the Northern Hemisphere will be the brightest northern lights display in 50 years, it makes sense that two of our destinations are spots to see this natural occurrence. Aurora Borealis, the scientific term for the northern lights, occurs when energetic particles are flung out from the sun and hit the magnetic field around Earth, and this year's conditions suggest some of the best sightings since 1958. As the phenomenon's name suggests, the display is most commonly seen in a zone within a certain radius of the North Pole, in an area including Iceland, northern Scandinavia, northern Canada, Alaska, and some parts of Siberia. Tromsø, located above the Arctic Circle, is known as "the capital of the Arctic" within Norway. With relatively mild winters and long winter nights, it is an ideal location for viewing the northern lights. However, a lack of storms does not mean you should pack light - the average temperature in Tromsø from January to April is about 31 degrees Fahrenheit (-0.55 Celsius), so remember your gloves or mittens. Also, make sure to avoid the full moon and places with lots of lights, as these will interfere with your viewing. During the daytime hours, visitors can check out the Arctic Cathedral, with its beautiful glass mosaic.
Myanmar (also known as Burma) has been added to many travelers' wish lists in the last year after the nation held elections and U.S. political leaders visited the Southeast Asian country. While the destination just recently appeared on the general public's radar, VirtualTourist members have been traveling and enjoying the country for years. In Yangon (also called Rangoon), visitors will find the Shwedagon Paya known to be the most sacred of all Burmese temples with a golden stupa that can be seen from miles away. Members did note that the complex is filled with things to do and see, and it can be a bit overwhelming so make sure to allow at least half a day to explore the site. Farther north, the Mandalay division showcases some of the country's other types of structures such as the teak temple and also hosts great views from atop Mandalay Hill. Members frequently visited the temples and pagodas of Bagan noting that the Shwesandaw Paya is the best viewpoint of the temples and sunsets in Bagan.
4. Sibiu, Romania Continued...