Three of World’s Hottest Destinations Also Among the Most Peaceful

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Ringing in the New Year Where 2017 First Begins


If you’d like to get a head start on 2017 and experience the New Year as many as 23 hours ahead of some points within the United States, consider taking a trip to the South Pacific.


From a tropical island to a mountain resort to bustling cities, there are plenty of tempting choices for travelers. And just think about the bragging rights you’ll get for being among the first to ring in the New Year.


The Republic of Kiribati, in the central Pacific Ocean, is more than a little off the beaten path but it’s among the first inhabited spots in the world to greet the New Year. On New Year’s Eve, visitors will find parties on the beaches and in town, complete with local folk music and dancing. There’ll be special events at bars and guesthouses as well. Celebrations may be more low-key than in other parts of the world but if relaxation is your goal, Kiribati, with its 33 coral atolls, is a place to get away from it all. And there’s plenty for active, adventurous travelers to do, including scuba diving, golf, snorkeling, bird watching and fishing. The capital, South Tarawa, is about halfway between Hawaii and Australia, and still contains remnants of the battles fought there during World War II.


Travelers who want a vacation that’s less remote can still be among the first New Year’s revelers with a trip to Australia or New Zealand, both of which will be in the midst of their summer season.


Auckland is New Zealand’s most cosmopolitan city, home to nearly 1.5 million people and located in a stunning setting around two harbors on the country’s North Island. The iconic Sky Tower, which rises 1,076 feet, is the focal point for Auckland’s New Year’s Eve laser light show and fireworks display. The tower’s observation deck offers a panoramic view of the area and its base is home to an entertainment complex called Sky City, which includes bars, restaurants and a casino where visitors can ring in 2017.


If you’d rather combine a New Year’s Eve celebration with outdoor activities, head to Queenstown, on New Zealand’s South Island. Surrounded by mountains, and on the shore of crystal-clear Lake Wakatipu, Queenstown offers numerous opportunities for recreation, from hiking and biking to eco-tours through the backcountry. It’s also a great base for exploring the region’s renowned vineyards and old mining towns. On New Year’s Eve, everyone gathers on the lakefront for a celebration featuring music and fireworks at midnight.


Located on Australia’s east coast, Sydney is one of the country’s biggest and most vibrant cities. The distinctive Opera House, with its sail-like design, and Harbour Bridge form the backdrop for the annual New Year’s Eve celebration. The fun begins with an aerial display, followed by the Harbour of Light Parade, when illuminated ships pass by. As a sign of respect, a traditional welcome ceremony acknowledging Australia’s indigenous peoples is part of the evening. At midnight, a 12-minute fireworks show is set off from seven barges for a dazzling display of pyrotechnics.


For help planning a New Year’s Eve getaway, contact your travel agent.




Three of World’s Hottest Destinations Also Among the Most Peaceful


Iceland, New Zealand and Portugal have come out on top in a survey of travel agents that measures Americans’ interest in visiting the world’s most peaceful countries, according to the Global Peace Index, which was compiled by a nonpartisan organization, the Institute for Economics and Peace.


Iceland tops the list for the sixth year in a row, and is followed by Denmark, Austria, New Zealand, Portugal, the Czech Republic, Switzerland, Canada, Japan and Slovenia.


Travel Leaders Group asked 785 of its luxury travel agents across the United States to identify the level of interest among their most discerning clients in visiting the top 10 countries. New Zealand was the leader when it came to “high interest,” with 32.3 percent, followed by Iceland, 27.7 percent, and Portugal with 14.1 percent. When combining all interest levels, New Zealand ranked number one again, with nearly 90 percent indicating that their clients have expressed some or high interest, followed by Switzerland, 83.6 percent, and Iceland, 83.3 percent.


New Zealand, Iceland and Portugal have much to offer travelers.


New Zealand’s South Island features a landscape of mountains, lakes and glaciers that stood in for Middle Earth in the “Lord of the Rings” movies. A great way to get a glimpse of the cliffs and waterfalls of Milford Sound is by kayaking up close or by cruise. The cities are on North Island: cosmopolitan Auckland and the capital, Wellington, with its harbor, beaches and waterfront promenade.


Iceland has become one of the world’s trendiest travel destinations. Foodies will love the lively capital of Reykjavik, with its growing restaurant scene. For a soothing experience, try the Blue Lagoon geothermal spa. October to March is the time to view the dazzling northern lights. Also, fans of “Game of Thrones” can check out filming locations like the beautiful Lake Myvatn.


Portugal is a country with a rich history and sunny climate. Go to Lisbon, the capital, to explore colorful neighborhoods, quaint shops and historic sites like the 16th-century Jeronimos Monastery. Head south, to the Algarve, for gorgeous beaches, picturesque towns and some of the best golf courses in Europe. Or try the northern coastal city of Porto, famous for its Port wine.


A key factor for many affluent travelers is being able to work with a professional who has firsthand knowledge of a particular destination. Travel Leaders Group’s luxury-travel agents have seen the world, and they bring that experience home with them to assist their clients – feeding their curiosity, answering their questions and opening their eyes to new destinations and experiences.


Travel Leaders agents also bring the benefit of extensive training. Nearly 17 percent of those surveyed are specialists in New Zealand, based on their travels to the country and planning vacations for clients. Nearly 8 percent are 100 percent PURE New Zealand Specialists, having completed Tourism New Zealand’s training program. Following New Zealand, the next leading countries for which they have certification by a governing organization are Switzerland, Canada, Japan and Iceland.


For help planning a trip anywhere in the world, contact your travel agent.




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