January has come and gone and, for most of us, so have our New Year’s resolutions. Still, there’s a lot to look forward to in the year 2014.

In the gallery below, we take a look at places from around the globe that are sure to be in the international spotlight, for good reasons and bad, and assess what we’re likely to face in 2014.

With places ranging from the opening of the world’s largest cave and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter to controversial stadiums and historic battle grounds, 2014 already seems like one for the record books.


Sochi, Russia

The 22nd Winter Olympics are currently being held in Sochi, Russia. Already plagued with controversy regarding gay rights issues, conflicts between Russian law and the Olympic charter, security threats, and its enormous price tag, this resort city is definitely making headlines.
Photo: Jesse


Qatar’s FIFA Stadium

As the death toll of construction workers building the infrastructure for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar rises, this controversial stadium is sure to spark fresh waves of concern over the treatment of migrant workers, human rights, and labor issues as the year goes on.
Photo: Futbolete



Photo: Dagblad van het Noorden



As peace talks continue in Geneva surrounding the conflict in Syria that has left hundreds of thousands dead and millions displaced, continued violence, official negotiations, international aid, and the refugee crisis will keep the war-torn country in the news through 2014.
Photo: International Committee of the Red Cross


Zaatari refugee camp

Located about eight miles inside Jordan on the Syrian border, the Zaatari refugee camp is home to about 120,000-160,000 refugees fleeing the civil war. Many estimate the camp to be the second-largest refugee camp in the world. As the violence in Syria rages on, the camp will receive thousands of refugees and much international coverage this year.
Photo: EmadZyuod



After marking the third anniversary of the revolt that brought down President Hosni Mubarak on January 25th, Egypt continues to make news in 2014. The country’s political turmoil and upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections will be highlighted throughout the year.
Photo: Rania Effa



Thailand’s fierce protests demanding President Yingluck Shinawatra’s resignation and a crackdown on corruption have been the latest eruption in a political conflict that has plagued Thailand for eight years. With the upcoming elections, the possibility of protestors disrupting the vote, and fears that the violence could escalate, Thailand is very likely to stay in the news this year.
Photo: GnarlyKitty


Kiev, Ukraine

Hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians are protesting their government’s failure to sign an European Union integration pact that could have strengthened ties with the EU. With the passing of each day, we hear of new violence as tensions escalate throughout Ukraine.
Photo: Snamess


South Sudan

All eyes will continue to be on the world’s youngest nation as it struggles to survive amongst deadly ethnic fighting in the capital Juba and the political conflict between the loyalists of President Salva Kiir and ex-deputy Riek Machar. According to the Financial Times, ethnically motivated killings have already claimed almost 10,000 lives and displaced nearly half a million citizens.
Photo: Oxfam International



The birthplace of the Arab Spring is taking crucial steps towards democracy three years after the uprising against its former leader Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. In addition to passing a new constitution, which has already been seen as one of the most progressive in the region, the country is expected to hold presidential and parliamentary elections by the end of 2014.
Photo: tom_walker_



This year is the 20th anniversary of the Rwanda massacre, where more than 800,000 people, mainly from the Tutsi ethnic group, were brutally murdered in one of the worst atrocities of the 20th century.
Photo: DW / Carl Gierstorfer



This South American nation recently announced plans to develop the country’s first nuclear reactor with help from Iran, France, and Argentina. Only three other Latin American countries have operating nuclear programs – Argentina, Brazil, and Mexico.
Photo: Utenriksdept


Vatican City

Pope Francis, who has more than 3.6 million followers on Twitter, certainly captured the hearts of many during his first year in papal office. The Vatican is expecting record pilgrim attendance in 2014 due to the South American pope’s popularity, as well as the canonization of John XXIII and John Paul II on April 27.
Photo: Tudor-rose



Expect Nigeria’s new anti-gay legislation criminalizing homosexuality to keep it in the spotlight this year as the law continues to draw criticism and outrage from far beyond the borders of Africa’s most populous country.
Photo: Reuters


Western Australia

Holding the unenviable reputation as the world’s deadliest place for shark attacks, Western Australia is still trying to figure out how to address the problem. Their controversial plan to bait and destroy sharks, including the great white, has already drawn sharp criticism from conservationists.
Photo: Mshai



Last year’s tragic and deadly attack where former Miss Venezuela Monica Spear and her ex-husband were shot dead in a roadside robbery pushed Venezuela back into the spotlight as one of the most violent nations in the world. The South American country’s rising murder rate, paired with its ongoing economic crisis, will certainly make headlines.
Photo: canaldenoticias



Three words: FIFA World Cup.
Photo: Crystian Cruz


Mount Sinabung, North Sumatra

After more than 30 eruptions in January alone, Mount Sinabung in Tiga Kicat, North Sumatra will certainly force officials to keep a close eye on the 8,530-foot volcano throughout the year. More than 25,000 were evacuated after volcanic ash and gas began to rain down after a particularly large eruption early January.
Photo: Passetti


Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley

The latest and much-anticipated addition to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Diagon Alley, is sure to gain attention and visitors from across the globe this summer. The addition will feature a new ride at Gringotts bank, several eateries including Florean Fortesque’s Ice Cream Parlor, and shops for brooms, quills, and wands.
Photo: Scott Smith


The Shard, UK

Billing itself as “Europe’s first vertical city,” London’s newest landmark, the Shard, still remains empty a year after its opening. This £1.5 billion building, one of the tallest in Western Europe, will continue to try to pull in some of the richest people in the world to fill its ten apartments – priced between £30m and £50m each.
Photo: Alex Groundwater


Cape Town, South Africa

Following the death of Nelson Mandela last year, Cape Town is sure to draw hundreds of thousands of visitors to the coastal city where he made his first address as a free man. Crowned the World Design Capital for 2014, the city is also planning 12 months of art and design events, including a pixel mosaic portrait of Nelson Mandela using one million portraits of South Africans.
Photo: Harvey Barrison


Son Doong Cave, Vietnam

Son Doong Cave in the Quang Binh province of Vietnam, the largest cave in the world, is now open to tourists. The cave is so big it contains a jungle, a river, and enough space to accommodate 40-story skyscrapers. Ropes and harnesses are needed to get inside the cave, with visitors required to rappel 80 meters to reach the bottom. Only 224 tourists will be allowed to visit the surreal space this year.
Photo: SonDoongCave.org


Glasgow, Scotland

Glasgow will be hosting the 2014 Commonwealth Games, Olympic-style competitions for Britain and former British colonies, from July 23-August 3.
Photo: Cameron King


The Philippines

Months after Typhoon Haiyan, one of the deadliest natural disasters in the world last year, all eyes are on the Philippines as it struggles to recover.
Photo: EU Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection


Riga, Latvia

This Baltic beauty will certainly be in the spotlight this year as the European Capital of Culture 2014.
Photo: mgreidans


Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina

Marking a century since World War I, thousands are expected to descend on Sarajevo, now the capital of Bosnia-Herzegovina. The assassination of the Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife on June 28, 1914, in Sarajevo triggered a chain of events that led to the First World War.
Photo: Michiel2005


Normandy, France

June 6 will be the 70th anniversary of D-Day, the decisive battle of World War II that marked a turning point for the Allies. Several world leaders have been invited to mark the solemn day on the beaches of Normandy, including President Obama, Queen Elizabeth II, and her husband Prince Philip.
Photo: Fort Bragg


Berlin Wall, Germany

Berlin will be staging events all year long to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall on Nov. 9, including an installation of illuminated balloons along a 12km path marking the former course of the wall as a “symbol of hope for a world without walls.”
Photo: Whitevoid


Stratford-upon-Avon, UK

Celebrating the 450th birthday of William Shakespeare, thousands of theater fans from across the globe will attend the two-day event and fireworks display in his English hometown, Stratford-upon-Avon.
Photo: Venet Osmani


The Geirangerford, Norway

The Geirangerford in Norway will certainly see some more visitors this year after Adventures By Disney added the gorgeous destination to a new itinerary inspired by the Disney film Frozen.
Photo: Jose Hernandez


New Zealand

Tourism in New Zealand has boomed since the first Lord of the Rings movie, with thousands of fans flocking to the country to “explore the real Middle Earth.” A record 2.7 million people visited New Zealand last year, with even more expected this year as the Hobbit film trilogy draws to a close by the end of the year. Air New Zealand even unveiled a 54-metre long image of the dragon Smaug on one of its planes to celebrate the premiere of the second movie.
Photo: Sally


One World Trade Center, USA

After a decade of planning and construction, the One World Trade Center building, informally called the Freedom Tower, in New York will be open for business by the end of the year as the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere. The National September 11 Memorial Museum located below will also allow visitors to reflect on and remember the events of 9/11.
Photo: Xpressbus



All eyes will be on India as the world’s largest democracy prepares to elect a new prime minister and members of Parliament starting mid-April and continuing into early May. The Election Commission of India estimates that almost 788 million people are eligible to vote this year – a mammoth electorate that is larger than the entire population of Europe.
Photo: Al Jazeera English



The year 2014 will be a pivotal one for Afghanistan, as the country prepares for its upcoming presidential elections in April, the third poll since the fall of the Taliban and first peaceful transfer of power, as well as the withdrawal of NATO, US, and UK troops from the country by the end of December.
Photo: The U.S. Army



The next 12 months will also be critical for Pakistan as the United States prepares to withdraw troops from Afghanistan – a move that will likely produce significant political and economic effects on Pakistan and possibly exacerbate tensions with neighboring countries, particularly India.
Photo: Reuters/Mukesh Gupta



Scotland’s referendum on September 18 to decide whether or not it should be an independent nation will be a crucial choice that will spark a broad range of social, political, and economic decisions for the country, Great Britain, and the rest of Europe.
Photo: Phyllis Buchanan


Washington DC, USA

As President Obama begins his sixth year in office, the US Congressional mid-term elections on Nov. 4 will be crucial in shaping America’s political agenda on various issues, including the economy, immigration, healthcare, LGBT rights, etc.
Photo: Photo Phiend


Sky City, China

Stealing the title from the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, Sky City in Changsha, China could soon be the tallest building in the world at 838 meters (10 meters taller than Burj Khalifa)…once it is completed. Although the actual construction of the building is scheduled to start in April, the tower’s developer, Broad Sustainable Building, claims that Sky City can be constructed in just a few months due to its prefabricated design.
Photo: Broad Sustainable Construction (screen grab)



Stressing the importance of resumed peace talks toward a two-state solution, the United Nations declared 2014 the International Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. With peace talks in the works and an ambitious goal of final status in May, the world will continue to monitor the political situation, status, and negotiations between Israel and Palestine as the year goes on.

Photo: Real.tingly