Unique Places to Travel in 2015

Posted by Cindy Clarke on 8/8/2014
Posted in: Tauck’s Travelogue
Tags: Myanmar, Cuba, Puglia, Travel

inle lake

Travel writers like me share a common yearning to be among the first to discover places, the more exotic the better, untouched by crowds and commercialism, and ready to touch hearts. That’s the image that comes to mind when I think about setting off for unique travel destinations like Myanmar, which so entranced Marco Polo and Rudyard Kipling centuries ago, or Cuba, Ernest Hemingway’s “muse,” or even Puglia, an Italian gem in the heel of the country’s boot often overshadowed by scene-stealers like Rome, the Tuscan landscapes, Florence and Venice.

katy myanmarTravelers making their way to Myanmar, more commonly known as Burma, will find temples, thousands of them gilded in gold or mother-of-pearl, standing timelessly atop city hills, near rivers and in fields far from the beaten path. They’ll see crafts like silver-smithing and parasol-making, being handmade by artisans skilled in intricate designs. They’ll meet people, some with powder-pasted faces, all gentle and welcoming, who live near a high-water lake, ethereal and emblematic of leg-rowing lifestyles unlike any place else in the world. And they’ll find welcome hospitality in gracious hotels, one dating back to British colonial gentility, that thrive on personal service and guest comforts. My daughter visited Myanmar last summer and she commented on “the spirited people, the rich land, and diverse culture” and said if there was ever a time to experience its unique essence and come away with a real life look at a place authentic and wonderful in every way, now is the time to go.

Cuba, long off limits to Americans, welcomes travelers warmly and Tauck received a special license to bring guests to even more towns in Cuba in 2015. While Havana seems to be in the spotlight for most visitors hoping to see where Hemingway wrote his novellas, hear the irrepressible beat of Cuban music or see the cars – vintage 1950s Chevys, rocket-finned Fords, Buicks, tops down, Pontiacs with gleaming hood ornaments, Detroit icons more than 60 years old saved from the wrecking ball – the entire island, lots of places incredibly stopped in time like it was in the 1950s, begs to be experienced.

The Cuban culture is based on the riches of the heart that speak volumes about the irrepressible spirit of the Cubanos and promotes a way of life that is refreshingly simple and incredibly inspiring. The music, the art, the genuine desire on the part of the locals to exchange thoughts, conversation, political commentary and traditions with us makes this a destination that begs to be treasured as is. There is not a ton of infrastructure in Cuba, but you’ll find scenic beauty, clean, comfortable hotels, flavorful home-cooked dishes in authentic paladares restaurants, friendly people and some of the best music you’ll ever listen – or dance – to.

cuba collage

Go soonest, advise travelers who have been there, and make connections to people longing to share their lives with you. Tap your feet at dance performances by modern dancers and seniors; listen to children play their band instruments; learn the history behind the traditional Cuban shirt, the guayabera, and let local artists draw you into their paintings. So different than a traditional island vacation, a trip to Cuba is an education in culture where living snapshots offer an untouched portrait of local beauty and souvenirs manifest in thoughtful images of your day on the farm, your dinner at a paladar or your visit to a small printshop or pottery studio where the owners walk you through their business with well earned pride. Leave your thoughts of a beach vacation at home and bring your thirst for knowledge as Cubans open your mind to their way of life.

masseriaEven in Europe, arguably one of the most popular “tourist” destinations in the world, you find yourself without crowds in an Italian dream town nestled in the heel of Italy’s boot. I’m talking about Puglia, agriculturally abundant, historically rich and infinitely irresistible. And Tauck is traveling there for the first time in 2015. If you want to feel more like a local than a camera-toting tourist, you can stay in Tauck’s picks that really give you an authentic sense of place. In Puglia, they are plentiful and planted on fortified working farms amidst groves of olive trees, doing double duty in the past as watchtowers and today as masserias that invite you to be part of the daily life with welcome hospitality, picturesque scenery and all the comforts of home. Food here is a particular treat with farm-to-table, sea-to-plate meals perfectly prepared to bring out the best of local culinary specialties. And the people are equally delightful, eagerly sharing their passion and talents with visitors who are welcomed like familia. Taste morning-made mozzarella and burrata a few hours after it was hand cut; watch a papier-mâché artist sculpt historic figures before your eyes; and raise a toast to the winemaker as you taste hand-crafted vintages in the vineyards where they made – all without the crowds of tourists who as of yet have not discovered the real rural charms of Italy’s soul… hidden in its sole!

The rewards of experiencing places authentically inviting, are endless, and each points to the very real connections you can make when visiting a destination before it becomes over-developed. Wanderlust notwithstanding, if you want to truly immerse in the essence of new destinations with experiences you couldn’t have on your own – without any worries about language barriers, currency conversion, getting lost or doing something that may be culturally inappropriate – go with Tauck on their new trips to unique places such as Myanmar, Cuba and Puglia in 2015 and you can’t go wrong.


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