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Soak up the culture in historic Riga, indulge in Oman’s thrills, cruise the Panama Canal, explore Malawi’s open savannah or take in Glasgow’s revival

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Malawai: A decade ago, poachers left the Majete Wildlife Reserve nearly barren. But work by African Parks has helped it gain “Big Five” status, which means you can search for elephants, leopards, lions, buffalos and rhinos without battling the tourist crowds found in the Serengeti or Masai Mara. Or, try stellar freshwater diving at Mumbo Island on Lake Malawi.

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Glasgow: Since being named host of the XX Commonwealth Games (July 2 to Aug. 3), Scotland’s largest city has undergone a major spit and polish. The once gritty River Clyde waterfront has been cleaned up and don’t miss the city’s chic boutiques, bustling flea markets and the Burrell Collection and Kelvingrove Art Gallery museums.

Glasgow CMB

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Vietnam: Thanks to recent cave discoveries, the coastal province of Quang Binh is turning into a must for adventure travel. The record-breaking Son Doong Cave (which boasts a chamber five kilometres long) opens to tourists for the first time this year. Access is severely limited so try the also impressive Tu Lan Caves.

Deb Limbert

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Winnipeg: The big news for 2014 is the September opening of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Manitoba, a $351-million steel-and-glass structure that is the first national museum to be built in nearly 50 years. Planning a visit? Consider the new Mere Hotel, a modern, waterfront boutique outpost in the Exchange District.

John Woods/The Globe and Mail

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Panama: Wish the Panama Canal a happy 100th while sailing through its waterways; Holland America, Celebrity, Princess and Norwegian have themed sailings. Or spend a few days in Panama City, its once dodgy UNESCO-listed old town is now home to a clutch of sophisticated hotels, try the bakery-turned-bolthole Casa del Horno or Canal House, where Daniel Craig’s slept while filming Quantum of Solace.

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Riga: Culture junkies who consider Paris, London and Rome to be old hat should add the Latvian capital to their list. A concerted effort to spruce up historic buildings (it has the largest concentration of Art Nouveau structures in Europe) means the 2014 European Capital of Culture is primed for its close-up.

Foundation Riga 2014

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Oman is a hot spot for travellers looking for thrills with five-star perks. Among the sybaritic retreats are Hud Hud Travels’s luxury tented camp in the Wahiba Sands (gourmet meals under the stars, Bedouin tents with comfy beds and crisp linens), a remote yet remarkable Six Senses hotel in Zighy Bay and, later in 2014, an Alila resort in Jabal Akhdar.

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Chicago: Diehard baseball fans can sit in the bleachers of 100-year-old ivy-covered Wrigley Field, enjoying old-fashioned snacks and watching the Cubs play in throwback uniforms. Themed Friday home games, featuring prize giveaways and commemorative souvenirs, are sure to be highlights of the nostalgic season.

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Cape Town: South Africa’s prettiest city won title of World Design Capital for 2014 and celebrates with a focus on social responsibility and urban renewal. Rundown buildings will become giant art installations and open-studio days will showcase artists’ work. In all, 450 design projects will transform the city.

Greg Beadle

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Shenzhen is one of China’s wealthiest and fastest-growing cities, and a key member of the Shenzhen-Guangzhou-Hong Kong triangle that draws a steady stream of business and leisure travellers. A hotel boom saw the entry of the luxurious Four Seasons brand and the bargain-priced Pengheng Space Capsules Hotel, which is staffed entirely by robots.

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