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The Experiential Travel Awards 2014

  • 1 / 23
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    Dream Remote Beach Destination: Maldives

    A chain of 26 atolls in the Indian Ocean, the island nation is chockablock with postcard-perfect resorts and hotels. It’s also at risk of inundation due to rising seas. Get there soon to explore coral reefs, visit quiet fishing villages, and claim your own deserted island (for a day, at least).

    See some of the places we're dreaming about in the Maldives.

    Photo by Jon Sheer
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    Best International City for Street Food: Bangkok

    AFAR Readers’ Five Must-Eat Dishes
    1. Mango and Sticky Rice
    2. Pad Thai
    3. Chicken Satay
    4. Kway Tiew Nahm (Clear Noodle Soup)
    5. Larb Neua (Minced Beef Salad)

    See some of our favorite places to eat in Bangkok.

    Photo by Lonely Radio/Flickr
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    Best Eye-Opening Trip for Kids: Kenya’s Ol Malo House

    On the banks of the Uaso Nyiro River on the Laikipia Plateau, the Ol Malo House encourages families not only to meet the local Samburu people, but also to visit homes, share a meal, and even attend school with the children. There’s also kid-friendly camel trekking and camping by the river. Lauren Maggard, Jet Set World Travel

    Rainer Jenss, our family travel special correspondent, has recommendations for 18 not-so-ordinary family vacations.

    Photo by John Warburton Lee/SuperStock
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    Best Boutique Hotel Experience: Ace Hotels

    The magnum opus comes from U.S.–based Ace Hotels, whose latest project opened in downtown Los Angeles in January. The hotel is in the restored 1927 United Artists building, complete with a screening room and a 1,600-seat theater. John Clifford, International Travel Management

    We've collected 20 of our favorite boutique hotels around the world.

    Photo courtesy of Atelier Ace/Spencer Lowell, 2013
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    Best City to Photograph: Paris

    Because at press time there were 9.3 million posts on Instagram with the hashtag #paris.

    Check out the AFAR Guide to Paris to plan your next trip.

    Photo by Tara Guertin
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    Best 10-Day Cruise:
The Seabourn Sojourn, from Athens to Monte Carlo

    The new style of luxury cruise—a small ship of ocean-view suites. Anne Halsey-Smith, Gayle Gillies Travel/ Worldview Travel

    See 9 incredible cruise experiences.

    Photo courtesy of Seabourn
  • 7 / 23
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    Best Retreat from Modernity: Fogo Island Inn

    It may seem ironic that the contemporary Fogo Island Inn is a place to escape from the modern world. But the 29-room hotel off the remote northeast coast of Newfoundland is deeply rooted in tradition. The Canadian-born, Norway-based architect Todd Saunders found inspiration in the island’s clapboard houses and fishing sheds, and rooms are individually decorated with local furniture and quilts. Susan Sparks, Points of Interest Travel

    Discover 13 places to get away from it all.

    Photo by Alex Fradkin
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    Best Transcontinental Rail Journey: Ghan Train

    Australia's Great Southern Rail runs the three-day, two-night Ghan Train between Darwin and Adelaide, through the heart of the outback. Will Kiburz, Coronet Travel Ltd.

    Experience more of the joys of train travel.

    Photo courtesy of Great Southern Rail
  • 9 / 23
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    Best International Airport: Amsterdam Schiphol

    Because the airport contains a miniature Rijksmuseum, a sleek Yotel hotel, a casino, a kids’ play area, and boutiques perfect for last-minute tulip and Delft china needs.

    See 20 of our favorite airport museums, restaurants, shopping, and architectural details.

    Photo courtesy of Amsterdam Schiphol
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    Best International Destination for a Wellness Vacation: Bali

    Three Essential Experiences: The Cita Ening massage and rice scrub at the Amankila resort is the best cure for jetlag. At the Four Seasons Resort at Jimbaran Bay, the Balinese Soul Purification treatment incorporates a sound bath, reiki, and yoga. Cancer survivor Rick Cowley founded Surf Life to offer travelers eight days of yoga and surf classes—and the chance to retreat and recharge.

    See 21 ways to relax in Bali (it's not hard).

    Photo by Justin Guariglia/National Geographic Creative
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    Best Inflight Service: Singapore Airlines

    An AFAR reader writes, “I once had the opportunity to fly first class on Singapore Airlines from Los Angeles to Bangkok. There were 12 passengers in first class and there must have been 12 or more flight attendants catering to every need—from Champagne and caviar to carved roast and homemade ice cream sundaes. I really hoped the pilot would just get lost and keep flying around the globe.”

    Photo courtesy of Singapore Airlines
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    Best Safari Destination: Botswana

    In the Selinda and Linyanti regions of northern Botswana, huge populations of giraffes, elephants, and antelope flock to the water of the Linyanti River and Selinda Spillway. Naturally, lions, hyenas, and other predators follow. Camps here are modern, and tour operators are committed to sustainable conservation strategies. Malaka Hilton, AuthentEscapes and Admiral Travel International

    Plan your trip with these 31 incredible African safari experiences.

    Photo by Matt Long
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    Best Domestic Destination: Jackson, Wyoming

    Jackson has truly fine hotels, such as the Four Seasons and the Amangani; a town oozing with character; and the chance to do the American version of a grand safari in Yellowstone National Park. Both hotels offer naturalist-led trip options to the park, about an hour north of town, where travelers can explore secret geysers or see wolves and bears. Shelby Donley, Camelback Odyssey Travel

    See all the experiences this city has to offer in our guide to a perfect weekend in Jackson.

    Photo by Jason Hawkes/CORBIS
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    Best Bragging-Rights Trip: Bhutan

    Bhutan remains one of the most untouched, scenic spots in the world, with an enchanting culture—people constantly smiling, no stoplights or traffic, towns with little sign of modern overdevelopment. The best day of a trip? Hiking to the cliffside Tiger’s
Nest monastery in the upper Paro Valley, followed by a Bhutanese hot stone massage at the Amankora Lodge. Stacy Small, Elite Travel International

    Start planning for the experiences you'll brag about after your trip to Bhutan.

    Photo by Mirjam Evers
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    Dream Cruise Destination: Galápagos

    One AFAR reader’s Galápagos dream: “I want to go on a small cruise with scientists and historians to learn about Darwin’s journey and hear about current environmental concerns.” One AFAR editor’s Galápagos memory: “I taught myself how to do the blue-footed booby mating dance.”

    See our guide to the flora and fauna of the incredible Galápagos.

    Photo by Serena Renner
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    Dream Spin the Globe Destination: Iceland

    In every issue of the magazine, to capture the joys of spontaneous travel, AFAR’s editors choose a destination at random and send a writer there with as little notice as possible. The country the most readers would want to be sent to? Iceland. Because who doesn’t want to go to a place with frozen waterfalls and a population that believes in elves? Not to mention the Blue Lagoon (pictured here) and Bjork.

    For when your spontaneous travels land you in Iceland, we've compiled a guide to over 100 incredible experiences.

    Photo by Ana Nance/Redux
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    Best City after 1 A.M.: New York

    Twenty-eight percent of reader comments included the phrase “the city that never sleeps.” Here are some of New York's finest restaurants, dive bars, speakeasys, and jazz clubs to get your night started.

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    Best River Cruise: Orient-Express Road to Mandalay

    The 110-passenger Orient-Express Road to Mandalay offers journeys of 3 to 11 nights on Burma’s Irrawaddy River. This recently opened pocket of Southeast Asia is full of wonders, including thousands of ancient temples and pagodas dotting the horizon in Bagan, floating markets selling carved-teak and lacquer handicrafts, and Sagaing’s vibrant Buddhist monasteries. Judy Perl, Judy Perl Cruises

    Here are 16 experiences in Burma not to be missed.

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    Best Photo Trip: India

    In India, you never know when a bridal procession, a crowded rickshaw, or a painted elephant will come around a corner. Color is everywhere, and daily life is a visual feast. Katie Cadar, TravelStore

    See some of our favorite sights, sounds, colors, tastes, and smells of India.

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    Best Walking Trip: Namibia

    The exquisite thing about Desert Rhino Camp’s guided walking safari in Namibia is that it’s never the same. Any day’s scenery—stark plains or wild coastline—depends on where the trackers have spotted rare black rhinos. A collaboration between Wilderness Safaris and the Save the Rhino Trust, the camp works to protect rhinos of the Kunene region from poachers, all while you get to see them up close on foot. Betty Jo Currie, Currie & Co. Travels Unlimited

    Plan your next trip with these 31 incredible African safari experiences.

  • 21 / 23
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    Best Wine Country Bike Trip: Burgundy, France

    Burgundy offers unparalleled wine and perfect little roads between the vineyards and such towns as Beaune and Dijon. Cari Gray,
Gray & Co.

    Leave no medieval village unvisited: see some of our favorite Burgundy spots in this guide.

    Photo by Brown W. Cannon III/Intersection Photos
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    Best Overnight Flight: Thai Airways Royal First Class

    The moment you arrive at the Bangkok terminal for a Thai Airways Royal First Class flight, you’re whisked to a check-in lounge with orchids and scented towels. On board, the attentive cabin crew delivers a flute of vintage Champagne followed by endless fine cuisine, and ensures you’re satisfied with the provided sleepwear, though you won’t want to sleep through this flight. Josette Carrizzo, Trips Away Travel

    See 20 of our favorite airport museums, restaurants, shopping, and architectural details.

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    International City with the Friendliest Locals: Istanbul

    “We were about to take a photo in a local market,” says one AFAR reader, “and the shopkeeper stopped us, unscrewed a light bulb causing glare, and handed us a big fish. Made for a great photo.”

    Markets are some of the best places to meet locals. See our favorite markets in Istanbul.