PHOTO: The U.K. is one of the most popular destinations for summer travel, according to travel agents. (Photo courtesy Thinkstock)
Protravel International has revealed its top summer destinations according to what their agents have booked - and there aren't too many surprises on the list, which includes a number of destinations in Europe. For those thinking that the continent might take a hit after a number of terrorist attacks within the region, there is little to worry about.
The top destinations include the U.K., Italy, France, Germany, China, Switzerland, Hong Kong, Spain, Japan and Australia, in that order. And here is what Protravel agents say is the best about each one.
"This summer, see London in a different light: privately and behind the scenes. With my onsite team, you can visit the Tower of London at night with a viewing of the crown jewels or obtain behind-the-scene access to the changing of the guards," said Sharon Ritter of Protravel in Woodmere, N.Y.
Visitors can also consider extending their stays and getting outside of London. One suggestion: a pub "hike" through the Lakes District.
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"Kicking off the season with the international opera festival in the ancient Roman arena under the stars, Verona offers culture, history, remarkable cuisine and relaxation. My tip: Enjoy classic Venetian cuisine and wine at the Trattoria Tre Marchetti. Also, take two days to visit Lake Garda, surrounded by medieval villages each distinguished by charming castles, atmospheric shops and restaurants," said Suzanne Homme of Protravel in Palm Desert, Calif.
Another classic destination to visit while in Italy - Florence. Here's a mini guide of what to do and where to stay.
"Just two hours east of Bordeaux - also known as the cradle of mankind - the Dordogne is pristine to this day and offers 15,000-year-old cave art, the medieval town of Sarlat, stunning... villages, medieval fairytale chateaux, history, magnificent views, sumptuous French gardens, and boutique hotels. My favorite: The Dordogne is a gem of the French Renaissance and home to great wines, truffles and foie gras," said Howard Lewis of Protravel in Beverly Hills, Calif.
The Dordogne region also made Lonely Planet's list of the top European destinations to visit this summer and, one of the reasons is the opening a new portion of its Lascaux Caves museum, Lascaux IV, which replicates a portion of the original cave.
"This summer, experience Germany's Romantic Road - fly into Frankfurt, rent a car and drive all the way to Munich or vice versa. The Romantic Road combines hospitality, nature, art and culture and delicious food with historical festivals and entertainment. My tip: Visit the vineyards of the Tauber valley, explore Augsburg, and see the iconic Neuschwanstein Castle," said Loretta Carson of Protravel in New York, N.Y.
For a more off-the-beaten-path experience in Germany, also consider exploring Schonau am Konigsee, which made our list of under-the-radar destinations.
"Shanghai is the place to be for authentic cuisine, luxury accommodations and activities for any preference. My favorite: On weekend afternoons, go to the north side of the People's Park where young and old from all over China participate in the marriage market - the avenue walls are covered in hundreds of resumes and messages indicating age, height, schooling, job and salary," said Arlene Feen, of Protravel in Miami, Fla.
And, if you are in China this summer, keep your eye out for these crazy new buses. Prototypes may hit the road in July or August in Changzhou.
"In diverse and enchanting Switzerland, active travelers can take 'the 5 lakes hike,' stand up paddle on Lake Lucerne, or fly over a Swiss gorge on 'flying foxes.' My favorite: Bath in the spas of Bad Ragaz, taste wine in the Levaux Vinyard, and enjoy a fondue tasting in Emmental or a candlelight dinner on an Alpine mountain top. My tip: Celebrating its 150 anniversary, Bucher Travel's bellboy service is Switzerland's best-kept secret," said Dini Schild of Protravel in Palm Desert, Calif.
This summer, Switzerland has also opened the longest train tunnel in the world and, for a brief time between August and November, visitors can tour the cavernous tunnels beneath Gotthard Massif.
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"Boarding from Central Pier or Kowloon Public Pier, charter a beautiful private junk to explore Hong Kong and its over 260 islands during the hot summer months. Sai Ying Pun in the Western District of Hong Kong is the best place for foodies seeking a unique and vibrant neighborhood offering a variety of restaurants and bars, art galleries and boutiques. Make sure to get a custom-tailored suit in just 24 hours," said Patricia Chungsathaporn of Protravel in New York, N.Y.
While you are getting that suit made, maybe check out some of the city's best bars with a view where you can sip exotic drinks from around the world, such as some of Australia's finest red wines or green tea-infused Brazilian Cachaca.
"This summer, travel to Mallorca and San Sebastián. On Mallorca, stay at a private villa or luxury hotel, enjoy the white beaches and activities for young and old. My tip: Visit the fragrant citrus plantations in Fornalutx. San Sebastián is known for its beaches, bayfront promenade, upscale shops and exquisite restaurants offering regional specialties," said Ann St. Hilaire of Protravel in New York, N.Y.
Spain also made Lonely Planet's list of the best European destinations for the summer, in which they called out the undiscovered region of Extremadura, known for its Roman ruins and hillsides that mimic Tuscany.
"Spend your summer vacation in Japan to experience one of the biggest UNESCO World Heritage sites: Mount Fuji. Easily accessible from Tokyo, you can reach the top of Japan's sacred iconic mountain in a two-day climbing program. The summit is attainable with guided assistance for any reasonably fit individual during the climbing season, July 1-Aug. 31," said Roxana Lewis of Protravel in Beverly Hills, Calif.
You can also follow in the footsteps of President Obama in Japan, where he visited the Peace Memorial Park, the site of the atomic bomb blast during World War II.
"Australia is known for its food, luxury accommodations and most of all its unique wildlife. My favorite: Take the scenic countryside drive from Melbourne to Phillip Island to watch the 'penguin parade' of countless little fairy penguins marching up the shore to their habitats after a whole day of fishing out on the sea," said Honey Moss of Protravel in Miami, Fla.
Roseann Iovine of Protravel in San Diego added, "Interact with platypuses at the Healesville Sanctuary."
Other amazing experiences that you can only have in Australia include cuddling a koala bear, diving in the Great Barrier Reef and driving the Great Ocean Road around the country in a campervan.
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