I can’t believe 2013 is practically over, the year has flown by and as I’ve come across so many great hidden gems over the last 12 months I wanted to share my top 5 hidden gems of 2013 with you below, in no particular order. As was the case last year, with so many hidden gems to choose from it was tough picking my favourites. Let me know if you agree, or if there are any others you’d care to share. Happy New Year and looking forward to giving you the low-down on lots more hidden gems in 2014.
The year got off to a cracking start with a post on Beach Park, the biggest waterpark in Latin America. I’ve already admitted to my obsession with waterslides and this gave me the opportunity to put some of the best to the test in Brazil so it’s no surprise that Beach Park makes it into my top 5 hidden gems of 2013. Perhaps I must be a little bit insane – as you can see from the pic I dared to go on the Insano, the highest waterslide in the world. It’s 41m high and you go down it at a speed of 105km per hr. I’ve since heard that a waterpark in Kansas is in the process of building a bigger waterslide to try and trump Beach Park’s record-breaking slide. Perhaps a visit to Midwest America is on the the cards for 2014.
Montenegro is undoubtedly one of Europe’s hidden gems and the little fishing village of Muo, where I stayed, is the ideal place to be based which is why it’s one of my top 5 hidden gems of 2013. Kotor’s old town may be quaint but it’s also packed with tourists which is why Muo, just a 10-minute walk away, is the perfect spot. Montenegro is brilliant value for money, there’s lots of fresh fish and seafood and temperatures are in the high 20s in late September, and these are just a few of the reasons why if you get the chance you should check out Muo in the new year.
I know Brazil has already got a mention in my top 5 hidden gems of 2013 with Beach Park. But it’s a country bursting full of hidden gems, especially when you go off the beaten track , which is why I just had to include another Brazilian hidden gem in my top 5 hidden hidden gems of 2013. I was torn between Atins, a little known paradise in the North East of Brazil, and my final choice. But in the end my other true love, my belly, won. I don’t think it’s ever been so happy in the mornings as it was when I stayed at Alcino’s pousada in Chapada Diamantina. I loved it that much doing an Alcino has even made it into my vocabulary (making a top-class breakfast). Prepare to drool with delight as I did at the seemingly never-ending array of food if you’re lucky enough to book into Alcino’s pousada in Lencois. Plus, you’re in the perfect spot to check out Chapada Diamantina’s incredible scenery, hikes, Capao Valley and it’s even home to Ribeirao do Meio, a natural waterslide.
I’ve been wanting to check out Anthony Gormley’s Another Place for years but it wasn’t until 2013 that thanks to my dad I finally managed to get there. And for it’s sheer weirdness alone, 100 cast-iron statues dotted across Crosby Beach in Merseyside, Another Place is one of my top 5 hidden gems of 2013. This surreal art installation will leave you in awe.
It seems fitting to end the year on a hidden gem from my very own hometown, Manchester. It had been years since I last visited the Midland Hotel Manchester and I still can’t quite get over the incredible transformation of its restaurant. Chef Simon Rogan has turned a mediocre at best hotel restaurant into a destination diners would happily travel miles to with his newest offering The French restaurant at the Midland Hotel. Definitely one to watch The French easily rivals L’Enclume, Simon Rogan’s award-winning Cumbrian restaurant –The Good Food Guide gave L’Enclume 10 out of 10 making it their highest ranked restaurant in the UK. This Manchester hidden gem is one of a host of new restaurants to have opened in the city of late. And Manchester’s restaurant scene looks set for the up in 2014.