The Next 11 Great Destinations
We’ve found every lagoon and towering peak, and thanks to technology, we only need seconds to inform our friends of the epic stretch of deserted beach we just discovered. Yet, despite our best efforts, destinations remain cyclical. They ebb and flow in popularity over the decades and centuries.
For all you true travelers out there looking for the coolest passport stamps of 2016, we bring you the 11 Next Great Destinations.
Last year, it was Colombia on everyone’s minds. But it’s neighboring Bolivia that is stealing the spotlight for 2016. La Paz is the world’s highest capital city, and the food scene here is exploding. Visit Gustu, a fine dining concept opened by NOMA Chef Claus Meyer in 2013 that operates dually as a Gastronomic Educational Center for financially challenged Bolivian youth. They also helped launch the Suma Phayata street food tour, which offers a self-guided eating journey of the best curbside carts in town.
Lake Titicaca is home to The Floating Island communities, who live on villages made of bobbing reeds. The Uyuni Salt Flats are four times the size of Hong Kong, and these white plains of crusted saline are remote and stunning under the brilliant blue sky. Cox & Kings offers luxury excursions to Bolivia, and this year, they are expanding their airstream camping adventures on the Uyuni Salt Flats!
The Republic of Georgia
History buffs and architecture fans are pushing this Eurasian destination to the top of the must-see lists. The capital town of Tbilisi just added a new wine festival and a Summer Olympic festival both in 2015.
The Kakheti wine region has vineyard tours and elegant, easy-to-drink reds that you’ll find for a fraction of the price of Italy or France. Kazbegi in the north is the land of towering mountains and you can hike the Caucuses in the summer or ski them in the winter. Don’t skip Batumi on the western coast for black pebble beaches and a town center that could easily pass as New Orleans’ rambling, European ancestor.
Havana’s been hot for a while now, but we predict savvy travelers will add Santiago, Cienfuegos, Trinidad and the beach enclave of Varadero to their road trip plans on this newly accessible island. Hemingway’s house, just a few miles past Havana, includes his beloved possessions left exactly as he placed them last. They have only been dusted since his death, never moved.
You can stop in the Bacardi rum factory in Santiago de Cuba, where they celebrated their 500th anniversary in 2015 with a brand new release.
Cienfuegos is a photographer’s dream, and after hours snapping away at the ancient, wrought iron balconies and crumbling, Art Deco architecture, lounge at a Paladar. These family-run restaurants allow you to dine in a Cuban home, giving you a unique vantage of local life.
Often compared to the Thailand of 20 years ago, Cambodia’s beaches are only now featuring a fresh range of accommodation. If you have the budget, opt for Song Saa Private Resort, which will fly you down from Phnom Penh to a paradise of restored reefs, 24-hour inclusive dining and personal infinity pools. The archipelago of Koh Rong and the Ream National Park areas also shine with breezy, budget accommodations. You can find a sweet thatched hut for as low as $10 per night here. We like the Last Point Resort on Koh Ta Kiev Island. There’s a beachside bar, a slew of hammocks, and it’s a short hike to the Syn absinthe distillery - located in a tree house in the island’s interior.
The hundreds of temples stretching off in the distance in Bagan. The sunrise over Inle Lake, as the fishermen push out their distinctive boats and dripping nets. The hustle and flow of Yangon as seen from a carved teak balcony, sipping a cup of hot tea while reading Rudyard Kipling.
There’s a mystique and a romance to Myanmar that cannot be denied. Each year, the country expands with new places and incredible hotel and dining options for tourists willing to make the trip. Want to really get off the path? This year Asia Transpacific is offering the intimate, small boat trips up the Kaledan and Lay Mro Rivers, positioning travelers in the midst of unchartered, ancient kingdoms of Wethali and Mrauk U.
We have some great news. The number of mountain gorillas has quadrupled in the last decade, thanks largely to conservation efforts of Volcanoes Safaris - the oldest and largest Gorilla trekking operation in the region. At the Mt. Gahinga Lodge – located in southwestern Uganda – a 4-day, 3-night package begins as low as $467 per person, per night and includes accommodations, massages, a volcano hike to see the golden monkeys, a chance to meet the Batwa people (a local pygmy tribe that the lodge helps support through volunteer initiatives) and, of course, a gorilla trekking permit to see the famed mountain gorillas in their natural habitat of Mgahinga National Park. Spend a few days more and trek a bit further north to the Kyambura Gorge Lodge for hot air ballooning in Queen Elizabeth National Park.
Manila’s hospitality scene is on the rise - from posh accommodations (The Conrad Manila will open this year alongside the existing Peninsula and the sainted Raffles Makati) to speakeasy cocktail bars and fine dining. However, we know why this country makes the list for 2016.
The beaches of Palawan are some the world’s most beautiful. Rock karsts covered in bright, tangled foliage, erupt from the water and stab a perfectly blue sky. There aren’t just a few deserted stretches of sand in this region, but dozens. There is also a growing contingent of local tour companies that have now gone online and demand you apply for a trip. Skype chats and questionnaires are used to group you with like-minded travelers for week-long, camping trips that include spear fishing, snorkeling, bonfires at midnight and access to the world’s most stunning, untouched islands. Look to TAO and to Abandon Paradise Expeditions for these epic adventures.
Carter Dennis Lathem, Alabama Tourism Department
This mid-sized southern city can now claim America’s oldest baseball park (Rickwood Field) and one of the newest with Regions Field, opened in 2013. Avondale Brewery, Good People Brewing and Trim Tab Brewing have all opened over the last few years, creating a craft beer scene to go along with the city’s serious culinary talent. The James Beard Awards nominated Highlands Bar & Grill in the national, Outstanding Restaurant category this year.
This January, the historic Lyric Theater will reopen across from the famous Alabama Theater downtown. Mae West, The Marx Brothers, Roy Rogers and Buster Keaton all found a spotlight in this vaudeville theater and after being shuttered for decades, it’s fully restored to its former glory. Expect national and global acts in performance art and music regularly.
When you hear “Poland,” you probably don’t think “forest.” However, you should. The Białowieża Forest was a primeval wild-scape that once stretched across Europe. It now only exists in northern Poland, and this UNESCO World Heritage site keeps strict rules for visitors. You must hike, ski or hop in a horse-drawn carriage to enjoy it. Go before sunrise to spot the Polish Bison. These shy, beautiful, 2,000-pound creatures were almost wiped out during World War II, but now live in a 800-head herd inside the forest.
Estonian Tourism Board
Europe for a great price should be this tiny country’s tagline, and it’s leading the charge in an overall tourism increase to the Baltic region. Start in Tallinn, where fairytale architecture wows in this medieval old town. Wander the ancient streets, pop by the plethora of museums and churches, and then venture to the country’s most famous national parks – Matsalu, Vilsandi and Lahemaa. These are prided for their wildlife populations that include enormous moose, wild boar, grey seals and, in Matsalu specifically, hundreds of species of birds, spotted best from the watchtowers built for just this purpose.
Cox & Kings
This Italian isle is one of the oldest inhabited places in all of Europe. Ironically, it’s now one of the best places for tourists to escape from the packed crowds of Italy’s mainland. Is Arutas beach on the west coast offers that iconic combo of emerald and pristine white quartz sand. La Costa Smeralda in the north is beloved by Italian celebrities. Stay at Faro Capo Spartivento on the island’s southern side, for the unique experience of sleeping in a lighthouse.
The city of Olbia gives guests the historical perspective, from the National Archeology museum to the San Simplico cathedral that dates to the 11th century. Your daily activities in Sardinia should include eating frequently, particularly taking advantage of the family-style meals that stretch hours. House wines, fresh bread, daily catches of fish lightly prepared and pasta are all expected. What you might not know is Sardinia’s largest population is the millions of sheep. The island might take the cake as having the best lamb dishes in the world.