January 2, 2009 / 11:18 AM / 10 years ago

Travel Picks: Top budget-friendly '09 destinations

SYDNEY (Reuters Life!) - Looking for somewhere new to visit this year that is not going to break the bank?

A man walks along a lake in Angkor Wat in a file photo. REUTERS/Emma Goh

Frommers has released its list of top destinations for 2009, focusing on places that are affordable and interesting. Reuters has not endorsed this list:

1. Washington, D.C., USA

There’s the influx of new blood and governing energy from January 21 when Barack Obama is inaugurated as U.S. president, but the city is also one of the world’s great budget cities as almost every major attraction Washington has to offer —from the Smithsonian Museums to the National Monuments — is free. New for 2009? the National Museum of Crime and Punishment.

2. Waiheke Island, New Zealand

Located in the Hauraki Gulf of New Zealand, Waiheke Island is located about 17.7 km (about 35 minutes by ferry) from Auckland. At the forefront of New Zealand’s massive wine and olive industry, Waiheke Island still retains a lot of the summer holiday, beach-quality Europeans and creative types come to expect, but there are plenty of deals to be found.

3. Lassen Volcanic National Park, California, USA

Located 180 miles north of Sacramento, California, Lassen National Park is filled with hot springs, heat vents, sulfur ponds and dormant volcanoes. Open year-round, there’s only one place to stay within the park that’s not a campsite, of which there are 8, and everything from B&Bs to chain motels surround the park, all reasonably priced.

4. Istanbul, Turkey

Representing Istanbul’s up-and-coming and thriving arts scene, the European City of Culture 2010 has already started its build-up with street theater, art and music galore. You can throw off that old image of a kebab-laden diet, with sushi bars that would do Tokyo proud and cocktails perfect for chic rooftop bars.

5. Civil Rights Trail, USA (Selma to Montgomery, Alabama)

The Civil Rights Trail both captures a moment in history through it’s many small museums — both in Selma and Montgomery — and in the journey visitors take to travel from place to place. For families, it’s a well-marked trail that offers changing views, numerous stops, and generational discussions.

6. Cartagena, Colombia

After years of violence owing to the drug cartel wars, Colombia has begun to emerge as a safe and vibrant travel destination. Cartagena has a highly developed tourist infrastructure and is only a 2- hour flight from Miami. With gorgeous 17th century colonial architecture, beautiful beaches, and an emerging foodie scene, there are activities for everyone.

7. Cape Town, South Africa

A city situated on the water where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet, Cape Town will host the 2010 World Cup and promises to have one of the grandest venues for the event. Visit the African Penguin colony at Boulders Beach, along False Bay, or Robben Island where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 18 years.

8. Berlin, Germany

Whether you’re after nights filled with dance parties or sipping decadent cocktails in the born-again area of Kreuzberg, Berlin seems to offer something for almost anyone. Visit the vast Tiergarten park with lakes, canals, palaces and the eco-aware zoo that is home to superstar polar bear Knut. Tour Karl-Marx-Allee in an authentic Trabant car and walk the remaining stretch of the Wall at the East Side Gallery.

9. Belfast, Northern Ireland

In little more than a decade, Belfast has been transformed from feared city into hot destination. The army check points that once encircled the city center are a thing of the past and you can amble along the Golden Mile for relaxed drinks or enjoy Irish music in Cathedral Quarter bars. Try the Laganside for orchestral concerts at the riverfront Waterfront Hall and international cuisine from teppanyaki at Harbour View to seafood at Tedfords.

10. Angkor Wat, Cambodia

Most people who go to Cambodia do so to visit to Angkor Wat, the famed ruins in the jungle, but cast a net beyond the limits of Angkor Wat and see a bit more of the country. Among the highlights are boat trips up the Mekong River and through the jungle to catch a glimpse of the rare freshwater Irrawaddy dolphins or spend some time in vibrant, energized Phnom Penh.

11. Waterton National Park, Alberta, Canada

Waterton is the least-traveled of Alberta’s Rocky Mountain Parks and positively otherworldly, with its abrupt shift from prairie to mountain terrain, as well as its icy-blue lake that fills an ancient gully surrounded by mountains and glaciers. It’s one of the only places in the Canadian Rockies where you can feel apart from the modern world, and its relatively sparse traffic means most things are as much as 30 percent cheaper than Banff.

Editing by Belinda Goldsmith

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