A Traveller’s Guide Through The Countries of the 2014  FIFA World Cup

Brazil – Christ The Redeemer, Rio

What a glorious, apt setting for a World Cup. The Brazilians have been a leading force in world football for decades, with the skill, flair and outrageous ‘touch’ displayed by the Seleção creating a benchmark for other national teams, and kids in park for that matter to aspire to. Christ the Redeemer kicks off this journey through the landmarks and tourist attractions of this years participating World Cup nations. For many football has come home…

Brazil – Christ the Redeemer overlooking Rio Brazil – Christ the Redeemer overlooking Rio  (source)

Mexico – Chichen Itza, Yucatan Peninsula

Like Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez popping up for a header, Chichen Itza rises from the dense Yucatan jungles as one of Mexico’s most popular tourist attractions. It’s one of the Seven Modern Day Wonders of the world and a fine example Mayan stone masonry.

Mexico – Chichen Itza Mexico – A wonder of the Modern Day World, Chichen Itza (source)

Croatia – The Walled Fortress Town of Dubrovnik

Is it just me or do the Croatian’s have the best home shirt in the World Cup? Anyway, they also have a little tourist gem of Dubrovnik old town, where sea food restaurants serving octopus salad, delicious Lubin (or sea bream) and black risotto afford visitors splendid views over the azure waters of the Adriatic. George Bernard Shaw once wrote:”Those who search for paradise on earth should come and see Dubrovnik.”

Croatia – The Walls of Dubrovnik Croatia – The Walls of Dubrovnik (source)

Camerooon – The Climbing of Mount Cameroon

Mongo ma Ndemi (or the Mountain of Greatness) erupted as recently as 2012, situated right on the coast of Cameroon, a 1999 lava flow cut across the main highway and nearly hit the shoreline. A tricky country to pick a main attraction having not visited personally, I’m astonished to read that hundreds of crazy runners scale the 13,000 ft volcano in 4 1/2 hours.

Cameroon – Mount Cameroon – Active Volcano Camerooon – The Climbing of Mount Cameroon (source)

Holland – Tulips & Windmills

We could have quite easily chosen, urban cycling scenes in Amsterdam, strips of cafe’s lining canals, cannabis shops or even the Red Light district but for a stereotypical dutch scene, fields of tulips and a windmill on the horizon screams Holland. Their fans are pretty good at screaming too and their players adept at ‘total football’…dark horses for the trophy – will this finally be their year?

Holland – Windmills on the horizon makes for a good travel shot (source) Holland – Windmills on the horizon makes for a good travel shot (source)











Chile – The High Andes, Llamas and Snow Capped Volcanoes

At nearly 3,000 miles long there’s a lot to see in Chile from the incredibly arid Atacama desert in the north (0.5mm of rain per year) to the wet and often blustery Fjords of the southern lands, Chile is a wonderful choice for a few weeks (or months) of backpacker style exploration. However, the Andes run down the entire spine of the country, hence the photo choice with Parinacota Volcano just one example of a typical Andean scene – it’s very Chile isn’t it?

Chile – the High Andes Parinacota Volcano Chile – Llamas munching on the Altiplano with Parinacota looming (source)

Spain – Alhambra de Granada

Another country with a plethora of landmarks and tourist attractions and so a difficult choice to select one image. However, as Spain were crowned Kings in South African four years ago,  it was fitting to use an image of a Palace of Kings. The Alhambra of Granada in the south has a heavy Moorish influence and makes for a fascinating afternoon stroll around the various wings, ramparts and grounds…

Spain – Alhambra de Granada Spain – the elegant Alhambra with the Sierra Nevada range as a backdrop (source)

Australia – Uluru in the Red Centre

The mystical, magical outback setting of Uluru was an easy choice for the Australian selection. The huge monolith has to be one of the most famous natural landmarks in the entire world. Difficult to see the Socceroo’s hopping out of their group though!

Australia – Uluru or Ayers Rock Australia – the magical monolith of Uluru (source)

Colombia – Coastal Paradise of the Tayrona National Park

Pristine Caribbean beaches, over 400 species of bird, average temperatures of around 27C, friendly locals and home to traditional indigenous tribes, this is our idea of backpacker heaven. Head to El Cabo and rent a hammock for the night, then snorkel through the day (watch for riptides). If Tayrona is Colombia’s star attraction then Monaco star James Rodriguez is Colombia’s star player on the pitch, how far can he take Los Cafeteros?

Colombia – Tayrona National Park Colombia – Tayrona National Park is a backpackers utopia (source)

Greece – The Whitewashed Majesty of Santorini

Greece surprised football fans the world over by winning Euro 2004 and their own backyard is full of suprises too. Packed with history, idyllic islands, excellent cuisine and friendly faces, Greece isn’t on many backpacker’s must do lists but it should be. You could spend 6 months ‘globocating’ yourself in Greece and clearly don’t forget to visit the volcanic island of Santorini, take a camera, stunning contrasts and memorable sunsets.

Greece – Santorini Greece – put Santorini on the must see list (source)

Ivory Coast – Basilique de Notre Dame de la Paix, Yamoussoukro

I’m hoping for comments from travellers who have been to the Cote d’Ivoire and can share some Ivorian hotspots! In the meantime enjoy this image of the imposing cultural landmark of Our Lady Queen of Peace in Yamoussoukro, certified by the Guiness Book of World Records as the largest church in the world. Have Drogba & Co said their prayers for success in Brazil?

Ivory Coast – the Basilica of Notre Dame de la paix, in Yamoussoukro Ivory Coast – Basilica of Notre Dame de la Paix (source)

Japan – Kinkaku-ji Golden Temple of Kyoto

Again, a country blessed with a myriad of attractions and landmarks but the Kinkaku-ji temple, whose top 2 floors are covered in gold leaf, represents a spritual side of Japan too, namely Zen Buddhism. This tranquil temple is 40 minutes by bus from Kyoto and well worth a visit.

Japan- Temple of the Golden Pavilion Kyoto Japan – the beautiful Kinkaku-ji Temple near Kyoto (source)

Costa Rica – Arenal Volcano

For such a tiny nation, there’s a lot going on in Costa Rica. Just 80 miles north west of San Jose is the Arenal Volcano which is most certainly still active, it’s spouting, steaming, fuming, rumbling demeanor just reminds you that nature is firmly in control here. It’s a country full of natural phenomena, just my kind of place. The jungles are incredibly bio-diverse and the beaches are a dead cert for honeymooners wanting something a little bit different.

Costa Rica – Arenal Volcano Costa Rica – The fuming Arenal Volcano (source)

Uruguay – Little Nation Big City – Montevideo

Uruguay’s official title is actually The Oriental Republic of uruguay due to the country lying to the east of the Uruguay River. Whilst there aren’t really world famous landmarks or attractions, Montevideo is the nation’s beating heart, with a population of 1m people, it is ten times the size of Salto, the second city. In footballing terms Uruguay continue to defy the odds, the second smallest nation in South America with just 3m people, they seem to have a knack of producing talented footballers – think Suarez, Cavani and Forlan. Uruguay triumphed in the first World Cup in 1030.
Uruguay – Montevideo City Uruguay – Montevideo City off the Gringo Trail of South America (source)

Italy –  Il Duomo di Firenze or Florence Cathedral

If there was a World Cup for landmarks and tourist attractions you’d get pretty short odds on Italy winning the trophy. We’ve gone for Florence (because we had to pick one!) with the Duomo (Santa Maria del Fiore – St Mary of the Flowers) jutting out above the city skyline. From the Alps in the north (check out Dobbiaco) to the islands of Sicily and Sardinia, Italy is a place where a gap year could turn into gap years. However, we’re also talking Western Europe here, not the ideal place shoestring budget travel.

Italy – Duomo di Firenze Italy – Duomo di Firenze (source)

England – Stonehenge Pre-dating the Pyramids

We all know England has history (in fact recent history proves England once won the World Cup in 1966AD!) but in terms of landmarks and attractions, Stonehenge is something else. The purpose of the stone circle is shrouded in mystery but we do know they were constructed over 5,000 years ago in the Neolithic period. Truly a world famous landmark.

England – Stonehenge England – Stonehenge Neolithic Circles (source)
So that wraps up our journey through World Cup Groups A to D, we’ll be publishing Part 2 featuring Groups E to H very soon…

Written by the team at SportsGambler.com