52 reasons to get going.
For some of us, travel is a necessity. A luxury, a break, an adventure–yes, but what’s more, it is our true reality. Because when we travel, we are awake. Travel, its ethos of wonder, curiosity, and open-mindedness: it truly makes us alive.
Here at Fodor’s, we spend almost all of our professional time and much of our personal time thinking about where we want to go next. The beauty of the world is immeasurable and its people inimitable. Our annual Go List helps focus our wanderlust. Because travel is more than movement, greater than sightseeing. It is our sustenance and our substance. Here are 52 places that inspire us to get going in 2019.
A stunning sacred landscape harboring thousands of years of Native American history.
Why it’s Wonderful: One of America’s newest national monuments, this spectacularly rugged landscape is an ancestral crossroads for the Navajo, Ute, Hopi, and Zuni tribes. At its center are the Bears Ears, two sandstone buttes that rise above Cedar Mesa like the ears of a curious bear, which can be seen up to 60 miles away. When it was created in 2016, Bears Ears National Monument was nearly 1.5 million acres of deep canyons and flat-topped mesas, ancient ruins, and rock art. A year later, the Trump administration reduced the protected area by 85 percent, putting its ecological and cultural resources at risk and angering Native American leaders who consider the land sacred. The remaining core of Bears Ears National Monument, fortunately, includes some of the area’s most stunning natural beauty including the northeastern Indian Creek Canyon and its towering Sixshooter Peaks, the southern Valley of the Gods and the Dark Canyon Wilderness to the west. Scattered among these ecological wonders are more than 10,000 archaeological sites dating back 13,000 years like the Monarch Cave Ruin and House on Fire Ruin, ancient cliff dwellings on Comb Ridge.
Where to Stay: At night, the inky skies above Bears Ears National Monument, some of the darkest in the country, are aglow with the light of millions of stars. With no hotels or restaurants within the boundaries of the National Monument, it’s an unearthly performance you can only see by camping in the park overnight. In the Indian Creek region, there are several developed first-come-first-served camping areas including Indian Creek Falls, Hamburger Rock, Creek Pasture, and Superbowl. If you prefer to spend the night in a bed, the nearby towns of Mexican Hat, Bluff, and Blanding offer a handful of accommodations including the updated motel the Hat Rock Inn, the handsome resort the Desert Rose Inn, and the quaintly rustic Valley of the Gods Bed and Breakfast.
Insider Tip: For an extraordinary Bears Ears experience, hoist your pack and spend the night in the backcountry. Bureau of Land Management backcountry camping permits cost only $8 per person and will give you a chance to see a side of the monument few people outside of the local indigenous communities have ever seen.
When to Go: In the summer months, extreme heat and flash flooding make Bears Ears National Monument inhospitable. In spring (March through mid-June) and early fall (September through October), temperatures are far more comfortable.
What to Read: Edge of Morning: Native Voices Speak for the Bears Ears edited by Jacqueline Keeler
On the enchanted isle of Puerto Rico, the 2019 forecast is sunny and inviting.
Why it’s Wonderful: With rebuilding comes opportunity, and Puerto Rico is making the most of theirs in the wake of fall 2017’s devastating hurricanes. Capital city San Juan mostly bounced back in time for winter’s peak-travel season, as did beach towns like Condado and Isla Verde. All are enjoying new and renovated hotel and restaurant openings and welcoming travelers back with open arms. Activities also have rebounded in full force, from historic tours, coastal sailing trips, and kayaking in San Juan Bay, to Bacardi Distillery mixology lessons, and Farjado’s bioluminescent-bay excursions. Near the Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico in Santurce, a lively cultural and culinary district has taken root. There, La Placita market serves as a food and nightlife hub, flanked by renowned restaurants like Jose Enrique and Santaella. La Penultima lounge serves primo cocktails indoors or on the patio, while an array of flavors awaits at the Lote 23 “gastronomic park.” Smaller cities across the island continue their recovery in 2019, all part of Puerto Rico’s comeback as one of the Caribbean’s best year-round destinations.
Where to Stay: Old San Juan is home to smaller hotels hopping with urban nightlife, shopping, and dining. But beach lovers may prefer Condado. Its centrally located San Juan Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino has spacious balcony rooms, plus both a pool area and swath of shore with restaurant service, and live evening salsa music. Early 2019 brings the opening of Condado’s new O:LV Fifty Five, a boutique hotel with a tiered rooftop pool and 26 designer guestrooms with panoramic balconies.
Insider Tip: Old San Juan holds many great attractions, but with a rental car, travelers can explore scenic coastal towns, like Rincon and Arecibo, for dining and adventure. Head east into El Yunque National Forest for rainforest hikes, bird watching, and waterfall gazing.
When to Go: Winter and spring weather is pure paradise on the island—just reserve far ahead for the best peak-season rates. Atlantic hurricane season is June to November, but intense storms remain rare and good deals await.
What to Read: The House on the Lagoon by Rosario Ferre. And don’t forget to listen to Despacito by Puerto Rican singer Luis Fonsi.
Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s Puerto Rico Guide
Dynamic Lagos is in the midst of a cultural renaissance.
Why it’s Wonderful: Those who travel to Lagos often do so for two contrasting reasons: because they want to or because they have to. And this dangerously seductive city caters to neither. Lagos is Lagos and it doesn’t bend for anybody—and that’s what makes Nigeria’s economic powerhouse the tantalizing and thrilling place it is. It’s loud, chaotic, plied with contradictions—but now home to a generation of millionaires and “returnees” (Europe-born and educated), Lagos is swathed in fabulous fashion, perpetual parties, and sun-soaked moments of beach life. And it’s fantastic. Abutting the Atlantic, this city sprawls across Lagos lagoon with a mainland and “The Island,” which actually refers to three: Ikoyi, Victoria, and Lagos. It’s no surprise that the islands contain the wealth and are where visitors will likely jaunt. Lagos island is home to the business downtown while Victoria is synonymous with luxury (especially concept boutiques Alara and Temple Muse). Ikoyi is where you’ll find posh hotels and pulsating nightlife. As the Banky W. song goes, “Ain’t no party like a Lagos party,” and revelry continually pops up in the streets, but try Sip Lounge, especially on industry night, or Club57 for Afropop/beats and dancing until dawn. Or, go OG with New Afrika Shrine, the resurrected club of Fela Kuti (do not go to Nigeria without knowing who he is!). Don’t expect to sleep much while you’re here.
Where to Stay: Those seeking luxury are best at The George—the latest five-star establishment for seeing and being seen—or The Wheatbaker, which appeals to foreign business travelers. For a similar experience without the price tag, The Moorhouse is a favorite recommendation of in-the-know Lagosians. Meanwhile, though the boutique boom has yet to come Lagos’ way, Bogobiri answers the call for the alté (that’s hipster to you). Evoking African heritage (Yoruban wood statues, Ashanti Kente cloth, local paintings, etc.), this 16-room compound is also the spot for all-night live music and a hip vibe.
Insider Tip: West of Victoria is Lekki–technically its own city–but Lekki Phase 1 is close enough to The Island to be a necessary adventure for those who seek culture. Nike Art Gallery is an 8,000-piece collection of Nigerian artists that serves as both a museum and a gallery. Don’t miss Lekki Market, where traditional crafts and ankara (traditional dress) are sold in organized open-stalls while outside vendors satisfying Nigeria’s pastry obsession serve hot balls, puff-puffs, and fries. Lekki is also home to the creative hub/shop/cafe/art gallery Stranger, where the cool, young, and beautiful hang out and create community.
When to Go: Across Africa, there are two seasons: rainy and dry. But in Nigeria, not far from the equator, the weather varies between extremely hot and humid, or hot and extremely humid. The temperatures don’t change much—from the 80s to the 90s Fahrenheit—with the humidity hovering between 80-100 percent much of the year. April through June are the wettest months, while January is the driest and hottest.
What to Read/Watch: Read Welcome to Lagos by Chibundu Onuzo, or watch anything from Nollywood–Nigeria’s answer to Hollywood.
Long on the radar of seasoned travelers, Mexico City looks set to secure its spot in the mainstream in 2019.
Why it’s Wonderful: Mexico City may not have the coastlines of Cancún, but this hectic megalopolis has got pretty much everything else. Look no further than the food and art if you want to see where the capital really excels. Enjoy cheese- and mayo-covered elotes while marvelling over always colorful, sometimes political street art in the centro; go art museum hopping in leafy Roma and Condesa before heading for vegan tacos; grab coffee at El Jarocho, then queue for hours to get into Frida’s Blue House in Coyoacán (or just go to the other blue house in San Ángel). Outside of the obvious, you can go farther south still for a less pretentious intro to art on the UNAM campus, and, finally, float through Xochimilco on a trajinera.
Where to Stay: For unbeatably central accommodation in Mexico City head to Chaya B&B, which overlooks the people-watching haven of Alameda Central. Situated atop a recently redeveloped art deco shopping arcade in the heart of the historic center, it’s all chunky furniture and lush tropical plants inside, while the rooftop terrace is lined with cacti and hammocks. Meanwhile, Roma’s La Valise is fashionable extravagance condensed into just three rooms. Splash out on the La Terraza suite and roll your bed out onto the terrace.
Insider Tip: Get high to really gain perspective on Mexico City and its surroundings. Two hours outside the capital lies Nevado de Toluca, Mexico’s fourth highest peak. Alternatively, stay in the city and scale Torre Latinoamericana for drinks with a view.
When to Go: Most will pinpoint spring as the best Mexico City season. Not only are the jacarandas in bloom, but the weather is pleasant and June-September’s brutal afternoon downpours are yet to begin. November isn’t half bad either.
What to Read: Umami by Laia Jufresa
Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s Mexico City Guide
Find yourself at the lowest place on earth.
Why it’s Wonderful: The Dead Sea is like nowhere else on earth. This shimmering saltwater lake appears in the distance like a mirage in the desert. It’s somehow both otherworldly and right in the middle of it all, surrounded by Israel, Palestine, and Jordan in the heart of the Middle East. It’s undeniably special here and the kind of place that you’re not likely to forget. The moniker is not figurative, it’s literal—this saltwater lake is a wasteland, with water that’s too salty to support life and land that’s too dry to support any vegetation (with the exception of the occasional palm tree). From any perspective, sunrise and sunset are incredible here—it’s hard to tell what’s more spectacular, seeing the mountains across the sea bathed in rosy morning light or watching the sun set behind the peaks. It’s downright biblical, which is fitting because it’s supposedly the site of Sodom and Gomorrah, that (frankly, quite fun sounding) town from the Bible that was struck from the earth by an Old Testament God for being a little too liberal and a little too naughty. When you visit, it’s hard to imagine that a town could survive here with no fresh water, but it’s clearly a place of healing. Enormous spa complexes in Israel and Jordan take advantage of the healing powers of the salt and the nutrient-rich Dead Sea mud.
Swimming here is not the all-day splashing around that you would do in, say, the nearby Red Sea. It’s impossible to describe what it feels like in the sea—but it’s something you have to experience at least once in your lifetime.
Where to Stay: On the Jordan side, the Marriott has got to be one of the most stylish Marriotts on the planet—it’s truly a five-star hotel with a five-star location. In Israel, the Ein Gedi Hotel will let you experience the Dead Sea and also explore the nearby Ein Gedi Nature Reserve.
Insider Tip: There are a lot of rules here: don’t shave before getting in the water, don’t get in the water with even a small cut, don’t put your face or eyes under the water, and don’t jump into the water (all of these things will lead to a very unpleasant stinging sensation). Bring a friend down to the shore with you to cover each other in mud, let it dry, and rinse off in the sea.
When to Go: The Dead Sea is popular as a winter resort, when it’s packed with Russians and Europeans who are just an easy flight away. In the summer, it’s lovely but deserted, and having a mega-resort to yourself can be a little eerie. Stick to the spring and fall.
What to Read: The Red Tent by Anita Diamant.
The Caribbean’s prettiest city is one of South America’s chicest destinations.
Why it’s Wonderful: The closest thing to a Disney movie this side of reality, Cartagena, Colombia stars pink, turquoise, and gold buildings; beautiful palenquera women in wide skirts; horse-drawn carriages; cobblestone streets; and some of the sweetest sea air in South America. While Cartagena has been a beauty haven since 1533, this infrequently-visited corner of the Caribbean has been showing up in Instagrams around the world, making it one of the chicest trending destinations in the world. Threaded throughout the colonial beauty, you’ll find innovative cocktail bars, the world’s most unique restaurant, high-end shopping, and more Instagrammable moments per square meter than almost anywhere else on earth.
Where to Stay: Part of Cartagena’s city-wide upgrade is its first five-star luxury resort: the Conrad Cartagena, a gorgeous, sprawling property with suites that come with private pools, a TPC-rated golf course, and a gorgeous private beach. For a more budget-conscious stay, try Casa India Catalina, a gorgeous colonial hotel with a bougainvillea-covered entrance, sparkling clean rooms, and Wi-Fi.
Insider Tip: If you want an insider’s guide to the city, try out one of the Conrad Cartagena’s Stay Inspired itineraries, designed to plug guests into Cartagena’s chic, quirky vibe.
When to Go: While the weather is great year-round, Cartagena can get toasty. If you’re heat-averse, head there between January and March when the weather is warm and breezy.
What to Read: One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez–the author was inspired to write the book during an extended stay in the city.
Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s Cartagena Guide
A constantly evolving capital is always worth returning to.
Why it’s Wonderful: Atop Berlin’s haunted soil, there coexist parallel universes. Somehow, the bohemianism of the Weimar Republic mingles effortlessly with a pulsing, futuristic metropolis that powers the modern engine of the German spirit. Toss in a lingering mentality of those who still remember the former times (2019 marks the 30th anniversary of the Wall coming down), a pinch of the hipsterdom that has conquered towns across this globe, a thriving immigrant and refugee community, and a willingness to accept just about anything and anyone, and you’ll find something familiar and yet uniquely magical. A place where the old and new don’t clash, but dance together beautifully. In short: you’ve got yourself a good time. And, don’t forget, this is one town that is always, always, always evolving—and quickly—so there’s always a reason to return. There’s always a neighborhood reborn, a club reignited, a restaurant reimagined. And, yet, there’s always that old Berlin mentality, a land that will somehow accept anyone, no matter their personality, proclivity, or peculiarity, just so long as you follow the most Germanic of rules: don’t cross against the light, find your place in the queue, and be generally respectful of those around you.
Insider Tip: For first-timers, take your time. This is an expansive city of neighborhoods, each of which carries its own beat. Listen carefully to every district’s pulse, figure out its rhythm, go with its flow, and you’ll be OK. This town is a network of off-the-beaten-path exploration—it’s not a list of the Ultimate Things to Do—but an urban expedition that can be curated to your desires, regardless of how tame, lame, or debauched. This is a place where you can do you. So, lean into Berlin’s parallel universes—and find the one that best suits your needs.
When to Go: Springtime is best, but summer and fall will do. January and February can be bleak as Siberian winds blow through, but Christmastime is always delightful.
What to Read: Goodbye to Berlin by Christopher Isherwood
Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s Berlin Guide
Cosmopolitanism and tradition merge in the multicultural Malaysian capital.
Why it’s Wonderful: With its mix of gargantuan skyscrapers, quiet backstreets, and a diverse population with roots across Asia, Kuala Lumpur feels both cosmopolitan and classic. The Malaysian capital has large Malay, Chinese, and South Indian communities, each of which contributes greatly to the fabric of this multicultural city. There’s also plenty to do and see here, from the iconic Petronas Twin Towers to the multi-tiered Chinese-style Thean Hou Temple, though it’s easy enough to forego KL’s classic sights and just while your days away in its numerous shops, markets, street cafes, and restaurants. The city is also home to some interesting new attractions, including the Museum of Illusions, a brand-new interactive experience full of holograms and mirrors that feels like a hybrid of a science museum and a carnival fun house.
Where to Stay: Kuala Lumpur has a huge range of hotels for travelers of all budgets. Those wanting a bit of history may wish to book a stay at the charming Carcosa Seri Negara, a government-run hotel housed in a 19th-century mansion that was originally built as the residence of the British High Commissioner in Malaya. For something more modern, the Four Seasons has just opened a new hotel in the city, housed in the country’s third-largest building, a stone’s throw from the Petronas Towers.
Insider Tip: Kuala Lumpur is an excellent hub from which to explore Southeast Asia, with one of the region’s busiest airports just a short shuttle ride from downtown.
When to Go: Malaysia has two monsoon seasons: one that starts in May and goes on through September and a second that begins in November and continues on until March. KL is impacted by both to some extent, so while the city is a year-round destination, those who want to avoid getting wet are best off planning their visit for April or October.
What to Read: The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng
Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s Kuala Lumpur Guide
Lower Broadway stays flashy while DIY scenes, boutique hotels, and innovative dining crop up in and around Music City.
Why it’s Wonderful: Nashville has never been an “under-the-radar” city—Lower Broad still flickers from early morning late into the night as honky-tonk players serenade buzzed crowds with four-hour sets that get increasingly raucous with each round of moonshine. Johnny Cash and Patsy Cline are still revered names here, and busloads of tourists still tear up during visits to the recording haunts of Elvis and Dolly. Beyond the strip, though, are hipper enclaves like East Nashville, Germantown, and 12 South. There are secret cocktail bars, basement bars with college kids dancing to Motown, and essential eateries without all the bells and whistles (and shorter lines). There are hip bars and seedy bars, (sometimes both), ultra-cool record shops, and incredible pizzerias. Meanwhile, boutique hotels are popping up, and others are revamping, like the Hutton which just added a music venue to their second floor. For foodies, inventive dishes can be found at places like Rolf & Daughters, The Catbird Seat, and Little Octopus.
Where to Stay: Steps from Music Row in Nashville’s West End, the Hutton Hotel provides sleek, modern lodgings, suited especially to touring musicians: they have two writers studios on the property (designed by Ryan Tedder and Dierks Bentley), a special musicians’ suite, and their own music venue. Urban Cowboy is the hippest, most design-forward lodging option, while the Germantown Inn has the least hubris and the most charm.
Insider Tip: If you’ve come to Music City to hear live music, take that one step further and visit Imagine Recordings, where you and your group can actually sit inside the studio with the artist, then mingle over to the mixing board while songs are being recorded. Each ticketed session includes the recording of one original song and one cover; the latter is later mixed and sent to you as a keepsake. The husband and wife duo who run the studio are extremely personable; husband Steve Fishell has played guitar in bands with Emmylou Harris and Dolly Parton, so you know he’s a pro. Carrie Underwood and the late Merle Haggard have both recorded here.
When to Go: During late spring into early summer before the city gets too hot, join rooftop parties on Lower Broad or sit on cafe decks. Nashville is a popular stopover in mid-June on the way to Bonnaroo music festival in Manchester, Tennessee. Later in the summer, venture an hour outside the city to Rutledge falls to take a dip.
What to Listen to: Etta James Rocks the House was recorded by the seminal soul artist live at Nashville’s New Era Club in 1963. For something more contemporary, check out Nashville grunge outfit Bully’s debut record Feels Like from 2015.
Plan Your Trip: Look for Fodor’s Inside Guide to Nashville out in June 2019.
This massive sandstone rock set in a sacred and spiritual landscape is not just iconic, it’s the heart of Australia.
Why it’s Wonderful: Framed by vivid blue skies by day and incredible starry scapes by night, and rising out of a rusty-red desert surprisingly alive with wildflowers, hardy scrub, and sculptural trees working their angles against the iconic backdrop, this giant rock in Australia’s “Red Center” will make you feel small, but it will also make you feel … connected. You’ll want to just stand and stare at it, walk or bike around it, and toast it with every sunrise and sunset. As if this landscape is not dramatic enough, artist Bruce Munro’s epic Field of Light immersive art installation at the base of Uluru features 50,000 solar-powered stems that magically light up the desert in slowly changing hues from nightfall until morning, when the rising sun sets Uluru aglow. The installation opened in 2017 and has been extended until December 31, 2020, so you may want to check Uluru off your bucket list before this vision in the desert fades away.
Where to Stay: Ayers Rock Resort, set in the village of Yulara just 12 miles from Uluru, offers several different lodging options catering to different price points. Sails in the Desert is a luxurious and contemporary oasis in the desert with a stylish décor inflected with local, Aboriginal art and textiles, as well as a modern Australian menu that integrates Aboriginal ingredients. The newly opened the Lost Camel, a mid-range boutique style property, blends modern and traditional design a few minutes from the town square. All Ayers Rock properties offer guided Bush Tucker walks and dot-painting workshops.
Insider Tip: Plan your dinner before you book your flights! Don’t miss an opportunity to dine under a canopy of stars with the Tali Wiru desert dining experience (offered through Ayers Rock Resort). Limited to 20 guests, this intimate lantern-lit dinner, set in the dunes within view of Uluru and Kata Tjuta, includes a gourmet four-course dinner with didgeridoo playing and campfire stories from Uluru’s traditional owners and guardians, the Anangu. There’s also after-dinner stargazing with Anangu perspectives on the constellations. If you can’t get a reservation for Tali Wiru, book the Sounds of Silence desert dining experience.
When to Go: Visit in Spring (March-May) and early Autumn (August–October) when days are sunny and warm and the clear desert air is cool at night. If you visit in the summer months, you will have to limit activities to early morning and late evening.
What to Watch: While Priscilla Queen of the Desert was not filmed at Uluru (instead it ends at nearby Kings Canyon), this cult 1994 road trip movie about three drag queens taking a bus through the Outback for a gig in Alice Springs will give you all the desert feels.
Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s Australia Guide
With its gentle surf, boho vibes, and scenic wonders, Morocco’s Atlantic Coast is so not what you’d expect.
Why it’s Wonderful: Move past the bustling cities of Marrakesh, Casablanca, and Fez down the surprisingly temperate coast of Atlantic Morocco. With the Anti-Atlas mountains to one side and the Sahara Desert due south, the geographic wonders along the way are well worth the road trip. Learn to surf in the hippie-centric towns of Taghazout and Sidi Ifni, or marvel the natural arches on Legzira Beach. There’s plenty of incredible hiking along the way as well as opportunities to meet and mingle with Berber communities still living in the craggy ridges of the Ammeln Valley. And you can’t leave Morocco’s coast without a stay or a meal in a kasbah, a fortress city often topped with views from mountain peaks to sea and options for meals and accommodations. Shop along the way in tiny towns like Tafraoute for handmade leather slippers and silverware.
Where to Stay: The best place for a cozy beach stay is Sol House, with its private modern bungalows and surf instructors on-site who provide gear and wetsuits for modesty. There are all-inclusive options in Agadir, but why not opt for riad-esque chic at Auberge Kasbah Chez Amaliya or kasbah-couture at Tizourgane Kasbah?
Insider Tip: If you have the time, finish your travels down the coast in the Sahara desert. Guelmim, or the Gateway to the Desert, is a great place to saddle up for a camel ride and adventure out into the dunes. Or there’s an airport ready to zip you back to the bustling metropolises of the north.
When to Go: If you’re in it for surfing and swimming, you can’t beat the summertime–but it is hot. March to May is best for seeing Morocco in bloom (plan to hit Paradise Valley, a lush oasis full of swimming holes and cacti, during these months), and September through October is great for temperatures and even better for prices.
What to Read: The Sand Child by Tahar Ben Jelloun
Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s Morocco Travel Guide
America’s favorite comeback city is finally ready for its close-up.
Why it’s Wonderful: Detroit has had several false starts, but it looks like America’s favorite comeback city is finally making a legit comeback. There are so many urban planning and building projects underway that in a few years’ time, the city will look completely different. The Detroit Riverfront Conservancy has already transformed three and a half miles of the riverfront into manicured parks and bike lanes, with the goal of developing five and a half miles of riverfront. The next phase is the renovation of Atwater Beach, which is slated to open in summer 2019 with a sandy beach, floating barge for food and drink, retail, and a children’s play area. Local developer Bedrock is pumping $830 million into the Monroe Blocks development, which will transform a section of the Central Business District into a master planned development blending residential, retail, offices, restaurants, and public space. New York-based SHoP Architects are building the Hudson’s site development, which was once home to Detroit’s premier retailer on Woodward Avenue. But perhaps the largest vote of confidence in the Motor City’s future comes from Ford, which recently acquired the abandoned Michigan Central Station and plans to transform it into a new campus for transportation innovation. And these are just the biggest changes—there are plenty of grassroots efforts too.
Where to Stay: A boutique hotel boom is underway and it’s only growing. The Detroit Foundation Hotel was a frontrunner when it opened in 2017 in the former fire department headquarters with an industrial-chic design and a restaurant by Michelin-starred chef Thomas Lents. The Siren Hotel opened in 2018, giving new life to the historic Wurlitzer Building downtown with a gorgeous design that evokes Detroit’s golden age and destination dining and drinking outlets. Next up, the Element Detroit and the Shinola Hotel are both slated to open later this year.
Insider Tip: Detroit is still very much in transition, so don’t be surprised to see boarded-up buildings next to new developments, but artists and designers are beautifying the city’s streets. Be sure to check out their work at the Belt, a public alley lined with murals by street artists. And don’t miss Diego Rivera’s larger-than-life frescoes at the Detroit Institute of Arts.
When to Go: Summer, ideally. Detroit winters are brutally cold and can last well into April.
What to Watch: The Detroit episode of Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown.
Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s Detroit Guide
A quiet, reflective land smack-dab in the middle of a bustling country.
Why it’s Wonderful: It’s possible that you’ve never heard of the Setouchi Region—and that’s OK—but you’ve certainly heard of its most famous city: Hiroshima. But Setouchi stretches far into the horizon beyond that city, encompassing all of the Seto Inland Sea and its coastal communities. What makes the region, which comprises of over 16,000 square miles, seven prefectures, and 171 cities and villages, so uniquely magical is that it exists beyond the ultra-modern chaos of Tokyo and instead will whisk you away to a calm romanticism of the once upon a time. Here exists a place of castles, like Himeji, a sprawling stark-white 1333 hilltop fortress; of ancient fishing villages, including Tomonoura, a quaint Edo-era hamlet; of authentic ryokans, like Hotel Hikyounoyu, which is surrounded by a moat of mist in the Iya Valley; and a sea dotted with enough fantastical islands to make Lemuel Gulliver jealous, including Okunoshima, which is inhabited solely by rabbits. But beyond the yesteryear whimsy, here in the now, there’s the food—this region houses Kobe, after all. This is a land where you can stuff your face with the finest beef this world has ever tasted, where you can drown your gullet in oysters, where you can writhe in the glory of udon, and walk toward the edge of this world by feasting on the deadliest of delicacies: fugu.
Where to Stay: Hotel Ofutei in Hiroshima offers both traditional-style and Western-style room options, while Peanuts Hotel in Kobe offers Charlie Brown and Snoopy-inspired rooms and is perfect for kids.
Insider Tip: Naoshima Island in the Seto Inland Sea is another of the region’s fantasy-lands. Here you’ll find a shocking number of museums and art installations. It’s a surreal wonderland of underground lairs and abstract spaces.
When to Go: The Setouchi Triennale, a major contemporary art festival that will feature the likes of Yayoi Kusama and Mariko Mori, begins on April 26 and extends through November 4.
What to Read: Black Rain by Masuji Ibuse
Marked as the legendary home to Santa and his elves, there’s more than yuletide lore to this Finnish wonderland.
Why it’s Wonderful: Often thought of as only a winter destination, this northernmost region of Finland offers a magical experience year-round. In the summer, the Midnight Sun casts its 24-hour glow, lighting the path for hikers exploring the fells or taking in the back-to-back films shown around the clock at the Midnight Sun Film Festival in Sodankylä. The fall season brings about “Ruska” around mid-September, when in less than one week, all the foliage transforms to vibrant shades of red, yellow, and orange. Spring is the season that brings out all the little witches and wizards as young children go door-to-door in costumes singing traditional songs and receiving Easter eggs, sweets, and coins in return. The winter season lasts from November through May and is the best time for viewing the Northern Lights, which can be seen more than 200 nights each year in this region. Winter is a time for skiing, snowshoeing, and taking an authentic reindeer-drawn carriage ride to the Arktikum Science Center and Museum to learn about the Sami people’s indigenous culture.
Where to Stay: Lapland is home to some outlandish accommodation options, ranging from tree houses and igloos to mobile cabins and a number of “Santa Claus” villages. The Hostel Café Koti is a great budget option in the region, while the Arctic TreeHouse Hotel puts a designer spin on sleeping in the Lapland wilderness. Book a glass igloo at the Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort for the chance to drift asleep in warmth beneath the Aurora Borealis.
Insider Tip: Enjoying a Finnish sauna is an essential experience in Lapland, but it takes a bit of prep work to sweat it out like the Finns. Drink plenty of water before, and leave your modesty at the door, as these wood-burning saunas are traditionally experienced without clothing. Visit the world’s only sauna gondola at Sport Resort Ylläs.
When to Go: Every season offers a rare experience in Lapland, but winter’s unusually high odds of seeing the Northern Lights make it the clear winner for when to visit. Arrive between September and March for the best chance to see this phenomenon.
What to Read: Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name by Vendela Vida
Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s Essential Finland Itinerary
From Badlands to buffalo, remarkable vistas and breathtaking scenery set Rapid City apart as one of 2019’s most memorable destinations.
Why it’s Wonderful: Rapid City is the perfect base for exploring the Black Hills because there are five National Park Service Units within an hour or two hours of the city. That means you could see Mt. Rushmore National Memorial, Badlands National Park, Wind Cave National Park, Jewel Cave National Monument, and Minuteman Missile National Historic Site over a long weekend. And that doesn’t include the 71,000-acre Custer State Park (and its buffalos) or the mind-boggling Crazy Horse Memorial, which has been under construction since 1947.
Even with all that to see, though, there are numerous attractions to explore within the City of Presidents. One highlight is the 42 life-size bronze sculptures of past U.S. presidents that line the city’s major streets; Obama’s sculpture will be installed in 2019. An excellent collection of Plains Indian art and crafts are on view at Prairie Edge Trading Co. and Galleries, and interactive exhibits at the Journey Museum & Learning Center span the creation of the Black Hills to the pioneers of the plains. Just outside of town, Bear Country U.S.A. and Reptile Gardens give a more accessible glimpse at southwestern South Dakota’s wildlife.
Where to Stay: Rapid City’s lodging options are mainly budget choices, but the Holiday Inn Rapid City-Rushmore Plaza has an ideal location across the street from the Journey Museum and about a seven-minute walk into downtown. If historic properties are more your speed, the Hotel Alex Johnson is part of the Curio Collection by Hilton. The rooms were completely overhauled in 2017, but the lobby remains as it was when built in 1928—beautiful wood accents and Native American art.
Insider Tip: The Central States Fair, held every August for 9 days and nights, is chock full of midway rides, free entertainment, and rodeo favorites like barrel racing, bull riding, and team roping.
When to Go: There are four distinct seasons with a wide range of weather conditions. Summers have average highs of 90°F and lows near 60°F at night, but winter weather can dip below freezing.
What to Watch and Read: HBO’s Deadwood, Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House series, and Dances with Wolves (1990) directed by and starring Kevin Costner.
Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s South Dakota Guide
Discover unparalleled wildlife experiences in the “Pearl of Africa.”
Why it’s Wonderful: Uganda’s mountainous terrain, soaring waterfalls, and amazing wildlife encounters set it apart from the rest of the continent. Although Uganda claims to have the Big Five (lion, leopard, rhinoceros, African elephant, and Cape buffalo), the country could easily stake its claim as having the “Big Six” since it is also home to the world’s largest population of mountain gorillas. Aside from countless opportunities for spotting wildlife while on safari, you’ll also be able to take a boat ride to the source of the Nile River on a day trip with Paraa Safari Lodge, or channel your inner Jane Goodall by trekking for chimpanzees in the Budongo Forest. The highest mountain range in Africa borders the country, but it’s in the hills of the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest that you’ll have the rare chance to spend an hour observing the elusive silverback mountain gorillas in their natural environment.
Where to Stay: For waterfront retreats, choose to wake up just steps from the Nile River at the Paraa Safari Lodge, or take your morning coffee on the breakfast veranda overlooking the Kazinga Channel at the Mweya Safari Lodge in Queen Elizabeth National Park. For the ultimate mountain gorilla experience, book a banda at the eco-chic Volcanoes Bwindi Lodge, where the gentle giants have been known to wander through on their way down the mountain.
Insider Tip: If you plan to trek for mountain gorillas, you’ll need a permit, as only eight people are allowed to see one gorilla family per day. One permit costs $600 USD, and it’s best to book your permit at least two months in advance through a safari agent like Maranatha Tours and Travel or Let’s Go Travel.
When to Go: The best time to see wildlife in Uganda is during the dry seasons, lasting from June to August and again from December to February.
What to Watch: Disney’s The Queen of Katwe with Lupita Nyong’o and David Oyelowo.
Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s Uganda Guide
Easy-to-get-to Arran offers a Scottish island fling.
Why it’s Wonderful: Arran’s oft-used moniker, “Scotland in Miniature” may sound like a bit of a cliché, but it’s actually a good description of an island that offers a fairly broad experience of the country’s landscapes on the fly. Scotland’s Highland-Lowland dividing line passes straight through the bean-shaped island, creating a rugged, brooding landscape of mountains and glens in the sparsely populated north and a lush south, home to most of the island’s population and some surprisingly golden beaches. Just as appealing for those short on time, Arran is easily the most accessible of Scotland’s major islands. Drive all the way from Glasgow by using the Ardrossan to Brodick ferry, or travel by train from Glasgow to Ardrossan Harbour and hop on the ferry. The island is best explored by heading out on a hike or embarking on one of the island’s bike trails, ideally fueled by Arran’s local specialties—creamy cheeses, rich ice creams, and fortifying oatcakes. Reward your efforts with an Arran single malt whisky or pint of Arran-brewed beer at a cozy pub.
Where to Stay: If it’s pampering you are after, book the Auchrannie Resort and Spa, surrounded by woodland close to the ferry, and make time for its two pools and a Scottish tapas dinner at Eighteen69. A homier vibe and lower price point can be found at the family-run Kildonan Hotel on the southern tip of the island, looking over the islands of Pladda and Ailsa Craig.
Insider Tip: Musician-owned Fiddler’s Music Bar and Bistro is one of the island’s most buzzing spots for hearty home-cooked food, stiff drinks, and live music five days a week.
When to Go: Weather in Scotland is always fickle, but Arran enjoys a milder climate than many parts of the country, making it worthy of a visit year-round. Avoid the height of summer and Scottish school holidays when it seems like the whole world has descended on the island—its accessibility can feel like a blessing and a curse.
What to Read: The Legacy of Elizabeth Pringle by Kirsty Ward
Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s Argyle and the Isles Guide
Doha is busy reinventing itself as a world-class city and tourist-friendly stopover in advance of hosting the World Cup in 2022.
Why it’s Wonderful: If you have never experienced Arabian hospitality, Doha is a great place to start. Safe and inviting, it offers a splash of history and culture to accompany its lavish five-star hotels and other attractions, which includes a vast equestrian center, shiny new sports stadiums, an impressive national library, a historic souk, and an impressively redesigned “downtown” (called Msheireb, still under construction). A modern metropolis, it’s within easy reach of both the beach and the desert, offering opportunities for both dune-bashing trips and dhow cruises, not to mention authentic Arabian cuisine, supplemented by excellent art and cultural museums (all of which are free). Doha will also have a new Metro system (with three Metro lines under construction, one partially open by 2019), street improvements, new buildings, and other preparations to be completed in time for the World Cup in 2022. The highlight may be the Museum of Islamic Art, designed by I.M. Pei and topped with a restaurant from French chef Alain Ducasse.
Where to Stay: Wallet-friendly five-star hotels (most for $250 a night or less) abound in Doha. Among the most popular are the Four Seasons Doha (which has Nobu, one of Doha’s best restaurants); the Sheraton Grand, which was Doha’s first international hotel when it opened in 1979; and the Marriott-Marquis City Center. However, the forthcoming Mandarin-Oriental Doha (expected sometime in 2019), a boutique luxury hotel, is likely to set a new standard for luxury in the new Msheireb Downtown Doha development. But not all hotels in the city are expensive. Cheaper hotels abound, including the Holiday Inn Doha, popular with both business travelers and tourists on a budget. And you can also stay right in Souq Waqif at one of Tivoli’s collection of boutique hotels, which have a much more local feel (just remember that alcohol is not served in any of these hotels).
Insider Tip: As an Islamic country, Qatar follows Sharia law, so alcohol can be consumed only by non-Muslims and then only in licensed hotel bars, where it’s quite expensive. If you have a connecting flight in Doha on Qatar Airways, you can extend it to include a free one-night stopover (or add $100 for a two-night stopover).
When to Go: Daytime temperatures in Doha can easily reach 120°F (or higher) between June and August. The best times to visit are between November and March, when temperatures are cooler, but in the desert, even temps in the mid-90s are tolerable. Before you plan a visit or stopover, consider the timing of the month of Ramadan (which can vary), when Muslims cannot eat between sunrise and sunset and when business is curtailed, as are all sales of alcohol.
What to Read: Qatar: Small State, Big Politics by Mehran Kamrava
From heli-skiing to polar bear gazing by hot air balloon, adventure travel has reached new heights in the Canadian Arctic.
Why it’s Wonderful: Dramatic fjords and glaciers (plus plenty of whales, muskox, and caribou) make the territory of Nunavut an awe-inspiring Arctic safari destination. Not only is it more accessible than its bucket list cousin Antarctica, but it also boasts several small communities where Inuit traditions thrive. Stay awhile and you may just be invited to try some bannock (fried bread) or muktuk (whale skin and blubber), if you’re feeling daring. As wilderness abounds, it’s best to visit Nunavut with a trusted guide or expedition company, many of which have recently launched new adventures. Weber Arctic offers the world’s most northern helicopter skiing excursion in the Arctic Cordillera, a dramatic mountain range known for having the world’s tallest sheer granite walls. Meanwhile, Baffin Safari offers a hot air balloon service over Floe Edge, where the frozen sea meets the open ocean. With climate change rapidly impacting the Arctic, the time is now to experience its icy beauty.
Where to Stay: New hotels are rumored to rise in the capital of Iqaluit, but Frobisher Inn remains the top choice for a budget-friendly stay. Luxury travelers will best appreciate the territory aboard an expedition cruise, such as Adventure Canada’s Into the Northwest Passage trip. If time allows, visit the Arctic Watch Wilderness Lodge on Somerset Island. With a Beluga Whale observation site nearby, the area offers incredible wildlife photography opportunities and 24 hours of summertime daylight to capture it all.
Insider Tip: Aim to spend a day or two in Pangnirtung, a hamlet famous for its tight-knit community of artists. The friendly locals will welcome anyone who shows a genuine interest in their unique treasures—including the colorful “Pang” hats, which are hand-crocheted in the north.
When to Go: April to early June is best for snowmobiling, skiing, dog sledding, and Toonik Tyme (the festival of spring) celebrations, while July and August offer warmer weather for boat trips, kayaking, hiking, and camping under the midnight sun.
What to Read: The Terror by Dan Simmons
Bolivia’s capital is gaining recognition for its extensive cable car network and drawing record numbers of visitors.
Why it’s Wonderful: One of the highest cities on earth, La Paz combines otherworldly landscapes, indigenous culture, and Spanish colonial architecture and traditions. Wandering through the streets, you might be amazed to find a riot of colors with historic buildings painted lime green, neon yellow, royal blue, and a variety of other eye-popping hues. Though in the past, La Paz didn’t have much infrastructure to support tourism, recent developments are making it easier to get around, including the much-lauded (and much-Instagrammed) urban cable car network, the most extensive in the world. It’s easy to combine a stay in La Paz with a visit to Lake Titicaca, where the Uros people have been living since the days of the Inca Empire. While Sol Island and Luna Island are popular destinations, there are off-the-beaten-path towns along the shores that are waiting to be discovered.
Where to Stay: Opened in 2016 as Bolivia’s first member of Design Hotels, Atix Hotel brought a new level of hospitality to La Paz. The sleek, modern hotel features fine art photography and other artwork by native artist Gastón Ugalde in the 53 rooms and common areas. Guests can sip cocktails at the rooftop terrace, sample Bolivian cuisine at the restaurant, and take a dip in the infinity pool.
Insider Tip: Locals have long combatted the effects of altitude sickness by chewing coca leaves or drinking coca tea. Find these and other traditional remedies at the Witches’ Market in La Paz. In shops near the market, you can also find antique hand-woven aguayos (traditionally used by indigenous people to carry everything from fresh produce to small children), which make nice souvenirs.
When to Go: May through October is the dry season, with sunny days and colder temperatures, especially at night.
What to Watch: The 2007 documentary Cocalero, which sheds some light on Bolivia’s political struggles surrounding coca plants, and Evo Morales, who became the country’s first indigenous president in 2006.
Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s La Paz Guide
The only carbon-negative country in the world is your true gateway to sustainable tourism and a place lost in time.
Why it’s Wonderful: If there ever was one destination left in the world deserving of the word “unspoiled,” it would be Bhutan, whose success is measured not by the riches it has amassed, but by its citizens’ collective happiness. No wonder it’s the only country that’s managed to achieve a negative carbon footprint, the perfect place for any discerning traveler to learn what exactly eco-friendly tourism truly means. And if that isn’t enough to convince you, its over-abundance of mesmerizing gems will. It’s a kingdom of evergreen landscapes, ancient fortresses and temples, rice paddy terraces, wind-blown rocky cliffs that may harbor monasteries, and bustling cities looking little-changed, all the while adorned with bright prayer flags and slightly peeling rich-colored murals. Bhutan does maintain some strict tourism rules, which include requiring visitors to pre-arrange tours with licensed travel operators, but that only means you’ve got everything covered when you get there—from your accommodations to your daily transportation—so all that’s left is for you to sit back and breathe in all of that magic.
Where to Stay: You’ll be surprised at the variety of hotels available to travelers in Bhutan, all of which may be booked through an accredited travel agency of your choice. There are modest accommodations boasting only two stars to sprawling five-star lodges that perfectly blend simplicity with luxury. For a splurge, Amankora Bhutan has a group of five luxury lodges spread throughout the country including Amankora Paro. Six Senses will debut in November 2018. For the budget-minded, places like Park Hotel Bhutan and Dewachen Hotel & Spa are only two of the many affordable options.
Insider Tip: Adopt a slow pace, as this isn’t a destination in which to rush about. Take time to admire the intricacies of its traditional architecture and chat with the locals. And bring enough cash for personal expenses, as working ATMs are few and far between, especially outside the cities.
When to Go: Spring, from March through early May, is an ideal time to visit Bhutan, with its pleasant weather and stunning rhododendron blooms carpeting the landscape. September through November is an excellent stretch for partaking in festivals and exploring its great outdoors.
What to Read: Beyond the Sky and the Earth: A Journey into Bhutan by Jamie Zeppa
Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s Bhutan Guide
Rich in culture and steeped in history, Senegal is at once soulful and dynamic.
Why it’s Wonderful: Magical Senegal is a country where sweetness and smiles will land you new friends, dinner invites, and local tips. Senegal is Africa’s longest stable democracy and has some of the lowest rates of crime, corruption, and disease across the continent. The Senegalese are a lively and communal bunch. On the Western tip of Africa, at the mouth of the mighty Atlantic, Senegal may not be Namibia with its divine desert, or Kenya with its elephants, but Senegal is filled with some of the greatest people you’ll ever meet, and a culture brimming with soul and style that spills out onto the streets whether in the form of colorful boubou (traditional dress) for sale, a sporting jeux de foot (football game) amongst friends, or the sounds of live music at a rooftop party you’re often welcome to join (just use your ears). Dakar brims with a bustling medina, a comprehensive African Institute, contemporary art scene (even a biennial) and of course, ferries to Ile de Goré, the last point of Africa most slaves saw–a site that cannot be missed by any visitor. But Senegal’s traveler path doesn’t end in Dakar. Up north in St. Louis, a world-class jazz festival ascends every year (music is life to the Senegalese) to this crumbled French Colonial capital, while down south on Sine-Saloum Delta, you can go truly off the grid by sleeping in a Baobab tree in Niassam in the Palmarin Nature Preserve.
Where to Stay: In Dakar, like most African capitals, the best hotels are kitted for international businessmen (yes, men do tip the gender scale, but ladies, this is a safe city/country for women travelers). Right now, Hotel Pullman is the spot to be. However, the cool kids direct their out-of-town friends to stay at Hotel Djoloff, where they can dine al-fresco and party with artists. In St. Louis, stay and dine at Le Siki, where expats mingle with local legends. In the midst of the Fathala Wildlife Reserve is a luxury resort where while you sleep, the lions roam (and you can walk with them during the day)!
Insider Tip: The Bou al Mogdad cruise that runs from St. Louis up the Senegal River (that’s the actual border of Senegal and Mauritania) is one of the coolest journeys you may ever take. It’s a 1950s trawler that, for seven days, stops along French colonial towns, Wolof fishing villages, lagoons and more–the whole experience feels from another time.
When to Go: Dusty and arid in the interior, breezy on the coast, Senegal isn’t beleaguered by the treachery of tropical West African weather. But sidled up to the Sahara, the interior gets hot. Really hot. Specify an air-conditioned vehicle when traveling, for most cars aren’t equipped. The rains come in May and June, but June is the most popular time for tourists. C’est pas grave, as the national motto seems to be: it doesn’t matter. Go when you want.
What to Listen to: Yssouf N’dour records are a must! As is the film Touki Bouki.
Plan Your Trip: Visit with Fodor’s Guide to Dakar
This popular tropical destination has given us two more reasons to say Aloha.
Why it’s Wonderful: This last year has been a bit of a rough one for these paradisiacal islands—the Big Island coped with an erupting volcano and Hurricane Lane pelted the state (and don’t forget that false missile alert). But in the midst of all of this, Hawaii did something really wonderful for the environment: the state passed a bill banning sunscreen that’s harmful to coral reefs. The bill doesn’t go into effect until 2021, but in the meantime, several hotels have led the charge to provide guests with reef-safe sunscreen, chief among them Aqua-Aston Hospitality, the largest hotelier in the state. Not only is Hawaii perched high on the list of destinations doing something to save this planet, but it’s climbing its way to the top of foodie bucket list, too. The entire state, especially on Maui and Oahu, has transformed itself into a local-food paradise, featuring chef-driven restaurants and next-level farm to table meals starring ingredients that taste better than they do on the mainland: fish fresh from the ocean, pears from down the road, and pineapple so deliciously-sweet they sometimes turn them into alcohol. As an added bonus, in response to environmental factors, the islands have built a well-deserved reputation for producing sustainable foods.
Where to Stay: On Maui? The Grand Wailea. Once a year, their Fire It Up fest employs the world’s best chefs to cook for their guests. On Oahu? The newly-remodeled ‘Alohilani Resort offers incredible views of Waikiki Beach. On the Big Island or Kauai? Try out that reef-safe sunscreen at the Aqua Aston Kauai Beach Resort or the Big Island’s Volcano House.
Insider Tip: If you’re serious about a Hawaiian foodie adventure, rent a car and drive to some of Maui’s local legends: shave ice at Ululani’s, this locally-famous farm-to-table food truck, Aloha Mixed Plate, and anything on the menu at Simeon Sheldon’s famous Tin Roof.
When to Go: The weather is always great in Hawaii, so when you go depends on what you want to do. Want to avoid the tourist traffic (and high season prices)? Go in shoulder season. If you’re a surfer, you’ll find the best waves in winter. If snorkeling is your jam, you’ll find that the water’s calmest in summer.
Low key yet lively, the Bywater is full of cultural surprises.
Why It’s Wonderful: Perhaps no neighborhood represents New Orleans today, a comingling of the old and the new, better than the Bywater, a section of the 9th Ward that stretches along the Mississippi River downstream from the French Quarter. Tucked among the colorful shotgun houses, displays of political satire, bougainvillea, and overgrown tropical plants, you’ll stumble upon new-wave dining rooms, artsy coffee shops, record stores, vintage markets, and community gardens. Celebrity chef Nina Compton opened her exciting new restaurant Bywater American Bistro blocks away from old-school landmarks like Frady’s One Stop Food Store that have withstood decades of change and hipster influx. Studio Be, a warehouse art gallery of social justice murals, sits across the tracks from NOCCA, the creative arts school that helped mold talents of Trombone Shorty, Jon Batiste, and Harry Connick Jr. At night, locals sip cocktails in the secret gardens of Bacchanal or N7, dance the night away on St. Claude Avenue, or enter the magical, interactive world of The Music Box Village.
Insider Tip: There are so many culinary appeals of the Bywater, but don’t sleep on the most important meal of the day. If time allows, plan to eat at least a few breakfasts here. Greatest hits include mushroom toast and king cake at Bywater Bakery, lemon ricotta pancakes at Paladar 511, and the Drag Brunch (and Bloody Mary bar) every Saturday and Sunday at the Country Club.
Where to Stay: The Bywater maintains a residential charm, so if you’re looking for a full hotel experience, you’ll need to stay in the CBD or French Quarter and walk, take the streetcar, or bus to the 9th Ward. A good compromise is Melrose Mansion, a boutique hotel between the Marigny and French Quarter (and an easy 10-minute walk to most Bywater attractions). Within the neighborhood, lodging choices are limited to small B&Bs like the charming Maison de Macarty.
When to Go: For the most fun, visit two weekends before Mardi Gras for Krewe of Chewbacchus, a sci-fi-themed foot parade through the Marigny and Bywater border, or early Mardi Gras morning for St. Anne’s Parade, a magical, costume-clad march through the neighborhood’s colorful streets.
What to Read: We Cast a Shadow by Maurice Carlos Ruffin
What to Listen to: NPR’s Tripod: New Orleans at 300
A different kind of Caribbean island for fete, food, and fun.
Why it’s Wonderful: As you enter the city of Port of Spain, you’ll notice two things. One, all the steel and glass rising into the air—this is the bustling economic capital of the West Indies. And two, the diverse features and shades of beautiful people. “Trinis” trace their multi-ethnic heritage to West Africa, India, Europe, China, Syria, and the indigenous peoples of the Americas.
One of the many ways to enjoy this diversity is the island’s food culture. Wake up and get doubles (two perfect soft breads with chickpea curry), arguably the country’s best street food. Walk the Queen’s Park Savannah, the largest roundabout in the world, to see the Magnificent Seven, a group of buildings from the colonial era. Under the Savannah trees, try Pholourie, an Indian snack, with spicy chutney, washed down with a cold coconut water. (Don’t forget to ask for the jelly inside.) Enjoy the best selection of local Afro-Trini dishes like callaloo, pelau, and fish broth at the open-air Breakfast Shed (a great spot for lunch) or at the bright and cheerful Veni Mange at dinner. For first-timers, Trini English has brilliant slang and takes some getting used to. Trini’s don’t party, they “fete” and they don’t chill, they “lime.” On Ariapita Avenue–picture Miami’s Collins Avenue lite–you’ll find plenty of spots to practice this national pastime. If you want to immerse in a different vibe, lime in St. James, home of the Muslim Hosay procession, WeBeat Steelpan Festival, the best curry at Ali’s Roti Shop, and Harry’s and Brown’s punch stalls for super-rich smoothies. Soca music fuels these limes and a great way to connect is to ask people about their favorite tunes. Need a break from all the energy? Trinidad’s biodiversity is equally rich. Stroll in the city’s botanical gardens, take a short day trip to the Bamboo Cathedral in Chaguaramas, or see the Scarlet Ibis, the striking national bird, at the Caroni Bird Sanctuary. Drive to Maracas Bay Beach for a dip or to the north coast to see the Leatherback Turtles nest and hatch or hire a boat and go “down the islands” for snorkeling in secluded bays. Want more rainforests, coral reefs, and postcard beaches? Take a 15-minute flight to Tobago and discover Trinidad’s more laid-back and picturesque twin.
Where to Stay: The Hyatt Regency is the most upscale choice with a poolside terrace from which you can see the ocean. The Courtyard by Marriott is just as reliable with a lovely staff. You might choose to support the local Kapok with two onsite restaurants, the Normandie Hotel with the best gift shops and bookstore on the island, or L’Orchidee for a homey feel.
Insider Tip: Time your trip for Carnival, the week before Ash Wednesday, in February or early March.
When to Go: Five miles off the coast of South America, Trinidad is beautiful year-round with just two seasons, wet and dry.
What to Read: Dragon Can’t Dance by Earl Lovelace and A House for Mr. Biswas by V.S. Naipaul
—Liza Raynal & Newton Martin
This coastal region is turning the heel of the boot into the hottest spot in Italy.
Why it’s Wonderful: With the longest coastline of any mainland Italian region, and beaches on both the Adriatic and Ionian Seas, Puglia is quickly climbing Italy’s already lengthy list of must-sees. The heel of Italy’s boot, Puglia (sometimes called Apulia) is home to 13th-century castles, 10th-century cathedrals, and cultural wonders like the trulli of Alberobello. These round, limestone huts painted white and capped with conical roofs make use of prehistoric construction techniques and come together 1,500-strong in a sea of fairytale dwellings that earned Alberobello its distinction as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Don’t miss medieval hilltop villages like Ostuni and Lecce, “the Florence of the South,” famed for its Baroque architecture dating back to the 3rd century BCE. Like anywhere in Italy, save plenty of room in your itinerary for eating. Aside from the freshest seafood, Puglia produces more than 40 percent of Southern Italy’s olive oil, which pairs well with the region’s prized tomatoes, eggplants, and artichokes.
Where to Stay: Accommodation is generally inexpensive here. For the most quintessential Pugliese experience, stay in one of the famed trulli with a reservation at Trulli and Puglia Resort or Trulli Colarossa. For a more traditional, luxury experience with spas and fine dining, try Masseria Torre Maizza or Borgo Egnazia.
Insider Tip: Puglia isn’t just for beach bums. Much of the region is flat and picturesque, providing the perfect backdrop for cyclists of all skill levels, and the Borboni Cycleway offers more than 200 miles of terrain with some hills for more the more serious athlete. Gargano hosts an annual Running Week, and the cliffs of Polignano a Mare are home to the grande finale of the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series.
When to Go: Puglia’s Mediterranean climate and minimal rainfall make it an ideal year-round destination, but if you’re a sun-worshipper looking to sip Bellinis by the sparkling shores, summer and early autumn are for you. For richer food at the height of the olive oil harvest, visit in winter.
What to Read: Casa Rossa by Francesca Marciano
Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s Puglia Guide
Ditch the crowds of the southern beaches for hill tribe villages, elephants, and pleasantly cool nights.
Why it’s Wonderful: Where the Mekong and Ruak Rivers and the borders of Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar all meet is the Golden Triangle, and with Thailand’s eradication of its drug production, where once traders came for opium, a global crop of tourists now come for a different high: trekking. This is an area that has more in common with its neighbors Myanmar and Laos than southern Thailand, and you don’t need a backpack full of wilderness supplies to explore it. Hit the trail, explore caves (in the company of an experienced guide), visit hill tribe villages, swim in waterfalls, and breathe in a fresh, loamy smell you can’t even dream of in Thailand’s crowded cities. Treks, on foot and even by horse, are easy to organize in Chiang Rai, Chiang Dao, Tha Ton, and Mae Sai. Leave time in Chiang Rai to see the dazzling pearly-white temple Wat Rong Khun and, just down the road, ethical elephant sanctuary Elephant Valley, where there’s no riding, no shows, no bathing: just happy elephants roaming free.
Where to Stay: Most travelers use Chiang Rai as a jumping off point for exploring the Golden Triangle. Outside Chiang Rai, next to the Burmese and Laos borders, are two luxury tented resorts complete with elephant camps—Anantara and Four Seasons. In the rolling hills of Mae Chan are a handful of Thai-style moderately priced resorts, including Phu Chasai and Katiliya Mountain.
Insider Tip: Up here you can easily cross from Thailand into Laos and Myanmar. Laos visas are on arrival; get your Burmese visa in advance (though we do recommend avoiding Myanmar, as it’s on our No List). Cross into Bokeo province in Laos via Thai Friendship Bridge #4 and into Myanmar at the Mae Sai/Tachileik crossing (Burmese e-visa is OK here).
When to Go: The alleged cold season (November to February) is all blue-skies and sunny days, with daytime temperatures around 80-88°F and cooler nights. Days during hot season (March to May) near 100°F, but temperatures are slightly cooler at elevation. This is when farmers practice slash and burn agriculture, which can lead to poor air quality. Rainy season (June to October) sees brief afternoon downpours and rain overnight, but the countryside is beautifully lush and temperatures fall back into the upper 80s.
What to Listen to: The Mekong: A River and a Region Transformed on NPR
Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s Chiang Rai and The Golden Triangle Guide
Black Sea beaches, snow-capped mountains, and thriving cultural hubs draw intrepid travelers to this soon-to-explode hotspot.
Why it’s Wonderful: In this country of five million people, each region feels like a new world. In the buzzing capital of Tbilisi, Soviet buildings have been repurposed as trendy hotels and artist residences; neon bar signs cast a pink glow over cobbled streets; traditional dishes make their way into new cuisine; and ancient winemaking rituals in the eastern Kakheti region produce the natural blends to be bottled and sold in Tbilisi’s underground spirit shops. North in Mount Kazbek (part of the Caucasus range), the views are unparalleled and life is more remote; in the Imereti province, abandoned Soviet factories of Georgia’s recent past oxidize and decay. Parts of Georgia are still occupied by Russia, but the general sensibility throughout the country is one of gratitude and resilience. Rich in history with a cuisine to match, Georgia tourism grows every year but the country retains its ragged edges, and your experience as a visitor will feel anything but contrived. Whether you come for the amber wines, the breathtaking views, or the urban gem that is its capital city, you have to experience it to believe it.
Where to Stay: Known for its hospitality, Georgia does hotels right. If you’re staying in Tbilisi, the design-forward Rooms Hotel is the clear choice, attached to the brand-new even more opulent and stunning Stamba; they also have a scenic lodge in the remote Kazbegi region with breathtaking mountain views. For the budget-conscious, the same hotel group operates Fabrika, a colorful and super hip hostel in an old Soviet textile building in a complex with a bar, coffee shop, and a record store that hosts live performances. If you want an ultra-luxury experience, about two hours from Tbilisi, Lopota Lake Resort and Spa is a bucolic retreat.
Insider Tip: If you really want to know your way around and contextualize your experience with the region’s history and geography, go with a tour guide. The Eager Tourist Tbilisi Nightlife Tour offers a hyper-local experience with a Tbilisi ambassador who can answer any and all questions you have about the country and its culture.
When to Go: In July and August, swim in the Batumi region and attend the Black Sea Jazz Festival; in late May, watch Independence Day parades; in winter, cozy up at Rooms Kazbegi and look out onto the snowy Caucasus mountains.
What to Read: Stories I Stole by Wendell Steavenson
Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s Georgia Guide
One of the world’s most fascinating civilizations is back on the tourism radar and ready for prime time once again.
Why it’s Wonderful: With more than 5,000 years of history, Egypt is among the top trips on many a bucket list, and 2019 should be a sweet spot for travelers with the tourist economy headed toward recovery but not yet at its peak. Egypt has been seemingly off the tourist radar since the Arab Spring uprisings began there in 2010; subsequent political unrest and terrorist attacks didn’t help. But the country turned a corner in 2016, and the growth in tourism has continued apace into 2018, when over 8 million visitors have come to the country so far (still many fewer than the 14.5 million during the peak of tourism in 2010). And while prices in Egypt are recovering from their depths, it can still be a surprisingly affordable place to visit. The first phase of the Grand Egyptian Museum will open in early 2019 (including the first display of all the objects found in King Tut’s tomb), and other sights around the country (in particular the major archaeological monuments, which were all built along the Nile) are getting their own improvements.
Where to Stay: The best way to explore the Nile is on a cruise, which will include your accommodations and meals for its duration, which is typically four or five nights, but most tourists spend a few nights in one of the main cities along the Nile as well. Among the popular luxury cruise lines are Oberoi, which operates two ships on the Nile (the Zahra and the Philae); and Sanctuary Retreats, which operates four. Viking River Cruises recently introduced the Viking Ra, its first company-owned and –operated ship on the Nile. But there are many other options at both the high and low ends. Most hotels in Egypt are a good value, with prices only starting to recover from their 2011 highs. If you’re looking for a reasonably priced luxurious retreat for the rest of your stay in Egypt, look no further than the Fairmont Nile City, the Sofitel Winter Palace Luxor, or the Sofitel Legend Old Cataract Aswan. And a new player will be present for 2019, the new St. Regis Cairo, set to open in December 2018.
Insider Tip: Egypt remains a difficult (though certainly not impossible) place to organize independent exploring, and you’ll be happier if you book a guided tour. Companies both big and small offer typical Egyptian itineraries including both a cruise and sightseeing in Cairo, but well-regarded local companies like Djed Egypt Travel can offer tailor-made experiences the bigger companies don’t. If you are looking for a more authentic sailing experience, look into chartering or joining a cruise on a traditional Egyptian dahabiya sailing yacht on either the Nile (primarily between Esna and Aswan) or on Lake Nasser.
When to Go: October through April is the high season in Egypt and has the best weather, but December and January are typically peak season and have the most crowds. You can often find better deals in May and September when temperatures are hot but still tolerable. Avoid June through August, the hottest months (many cruises don’t operate in June and July). Ramadan affects travelers in Egypt less than in other Muslim-majority destinations.
What to Read and Watch: Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie (or the 1978 film starring Peter Ustinov, David Niven, and Bette Davis).
Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s Egypt Guide
Imagine pre-Giuliani Manhattan, but with 300 sunny days a year.
Why it’s Wonderful: Downtown Los Angeles wasn’t always this way. Not long ago, it was a desolate, terrifying land—its old buildings rotting on dirty silent streets, its sidewalks empty by nightfall. But then they arrived: the developers. They promised a manufactured make-believe of New York loft-living at a fraction of the price. What else would you expect in a city of make-believe? And now, more than a decade later, it’s been completely transformed. Cranes are taller than most of the buildings and the buildings are the tallest west of the Mississippi. Fashionable hotels, trendy restaurants, Volstead-themed bars, and expensive boutiques dot every block. Tourists mingle with locals and locals mingle with the disenfranchised—after all, just because it’s changed doesn’t mean its problems have gone away. Just east of Downtown’s heart, in the shadows of million-dollar apartments, Skid Row remains an American tragedy. Within a 30-block radius, the largest population of homelessness in the country exists together. The calamity of the Row spills out beyond its boundaries and tourists will need to reckon with this reality, even while drinking bottomless mimosas and shopping for chic duds. But don’t turn a blind eye to this or let it scare you from wandering these streets, especially the Historic Core, where much of the architecture is as old Los Angeles itself. Rather, what makes Downtown Los Angeles so wonderful is all manner of person existing together in this strange, fabricated enclave of the world.
Insider Tip: Downtown’s a lot of things—many of them incredible. But, it’s also a bit dirty. And this is despite the fantastic team of men and women in green and purple shirts who clean the sidewalks throughout the day. A lot of tourists come to Los Angeles expecting to wander it in flip-flops. But here’s some advice: don’t do that here. Your feet will turn black with filth.
When to Go: Anytime you like—there are 300 days of sun in Los Angeles.
What to Read: Post Office and Ham on Rye by Charles Bukowski, the Poet of Skid Row.
Plan Your Trip: The Best Things to Do Los Angeles
Australia’s easternmost point is a must-visit destination for surfers, nature-lovers, and foodies.
Why it’s Wonderful: Just over an hour by plane from Sydney, this boho beach town in New South Wales has long been a haven for surfers, nature-lovers, and crystal-peddling hippies. For some people, that might be reason enough to go, but it turns out the area is seeing renewed interest from more mainstream visitors as well. Besides gorgeous beaches, scenic walking trails, and architecturally impressive homes perched on the hills overlooking the ocean, Byron Bay and the surrounding area have a lot to offer foodies with an appetite for locavore cuisine. Lunch at Three Blue Ducks might start with a visit to the farm to meet the chickens producing the eggs served on your plate. Paper Daisy at Halcyon House in nearby Cabarita Beach serves simple yet sophisticated cuisine made using the freshest local ingredients by award-winning chef Ben Devlin.
Where to Stay: Elements of Byron is a sustainable resort built with clean-lined modular smart units spread out along the beach. Halcyon House is a design lover’s paradise that channels the breezy seaside style of the Amalfi Coast.
Insider Tip: Trek up to the Cape Byron Lighthouse at sunrise for incredible views–it’s the easternmost point in continental Australia. Then stroll along Watego’s Beach and watch the surfers setting out to catch some waves. You might spot some dolphins or even whales too.
When to Go: It doesn’t get terribly cold in this part of Australia, but summer in this part of the world runs from December to March.
What to Watch: Byron Bay: The Meeting Place, a documentary about the unique community that grew up around this small Australian surfing town.
Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s Byron Bay Guide
This crumbling and colorful city in the Yucatan is the soon-to-be hotspot for chic travelers in the know.
Why it’s Wonderful: Mérida is a city whose secrets lie behind the crumbling facades of colonial buildings. What might not look like much from the outside might actually be an underground cocktail bar or a perfume boutique–there’s a sense of discovery in visiting Merida and finding something amazing behind the veneer. It’s not a vast, sweeping city like Mexico City, it’s not cute like Todos Santos, it’s not beachy like Tulum, and it’s not in the mountains like Oaxaca—but Merida still deserves attention as one of the chicest cities in Mexico. Everything here is stylish, from centuries-old plantations-turned-hotels to street parties to the mezcaleria that has live bands. Mérida is also at the heart of Mexico’s Yucatán peninsula, with easy access to a diverse and rich culture—Yucatecan cuisine like cochinita pibil (marinated roast pork, served a myriad ways) and sikil pak (pumpkin seed paste), historic haciendas hotels like Hacienda Xcanatun, off-the-beaten-path Mayan ruins like Dzibichaltún, underground cenotes, and colorful colonial towns like Izamal. It’s a touristy place, but you won’t find it overrun with North Americans or Europeans—most of the tourists here are from elsewhere in Mexico.
Where to Stay: You can’t get much more authentic than renting a gorgeous hacienda in the heart of the city, but if you’re more of a hotel person, the luxe Casa Lecanda is a surprisingly affordable option.
Insider Tip: Visiting Merida doesn’t necessarily mean missing out on the white sand beaches of the Gulf of Mexico. The funky beach town of Progreso is only a 40-minute drive to the north.
When to Go: It is always hot in Merida, which is what makes it a wonderful place to escape to during the winter. During the rainy season from June to October, you’ll experience fewer crowds and little actual rain—perhaps just a short tropical storm every other day.
What to Read: It’s a good idea to come prepared with the basics of Mayan history. Michael D. Coe’s Breaking the Mayan Code should do the trick. And if you’re not into textbook nonfiction, there are plenty of beautifully illustrated children’s books about the myths and mysteries of Mayan culture.
Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s Merida Guide
The otherworldly beauty (and extreme altitude) of the highest and driest desert on earth will take your breath away.
Why it’s Wonderful: The vast and remote Atacama Desert, spanning more than 40,000 square miles between the Andes and the Pacific Ocean, is not a destination for the faint of heart. The altitude (ranging from 8,000 feet in San Pedro de Atacama to inaccessible mountain peaks soaring over 20,000 feet) and extreme aridity scorch the land with blazing sun during the day and plunge it into bone-racking cold at night. In fact, this region is so inhospitable that NASA has been testing its Mars landing and surveying equipment there since 2003. So why would we send you there? Because the Atacama, forged by wind and sun and numerous volcanoes, rewards visitors with some of the most heart-stoppingly beautiful landscapes on earth and flora and fauna that might have sprung straight from the imagination of Dr. Seuss. You can see the sunrise through the steam of the Geysers del Tatio, the world’s highest geothermal field; watch the graceful dancing of rare Andean flamingos as they forage in the shallow salt lakes of the Reserva Nacional los Flamencos; or hike and sandboard through the canyons and dunes of the Valle de la Luna. The rare and near-total lack of air and light pollution also make the Atacama a stargazer’s dream, and on July 2, 2019, the southern portion of the desert will be in the path of totality for the next full solar eclipse.
Where to Stay: The most popular and convenient base of operations is the dusty frontier town of San Pedro de Atacama, where most lodgings cater to the adventure/backpacking set, with simple hostels and inns. The centrally located Hotel Tambillo is a good option for the budget traveler, with clean rooms and a decent on-site restaurant. Travelers looking for an all-inclusive combination of luxury and adventure can venture a short distance out of town to the desert-chic retreat of the Alto Atacama Desert Lodge and Spa.
Insider Tip: After a few days of enduring the rigors of a high-altitude desert, take a side trip to the oasis village of Mamiña, where you can rinse away the dust and aches in natural hot springs. Most hotels pump the curative waters directly into guest rooms, or you can visit the town’s public spas for a more social soak.
When to Go: Visitors must exercise extreme caution in the Atacama year-round, but fall and spring (keep in mind that this is the Southern Hemisphere, so the seasons are flipped) bring more moderate daytime temperatures and fewer tourists.
What to Watch: Cielo, a recent documentary by Canadian filmmaker Alison McAlpine, captures the piercing beauty of the desert’s night sky and paints an intimate portrait of the people who choose to live quite literally in the middle of nowhere.
Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s El Norte Grande Guide
One of the world’s most populated islands is fast becoming a hot spot for adventure travelers.
Why it’s Wonderful: Indonesia is in the midst of a tourism boom, recording 22 percent year-on-year growth between 2016 and 2017. It’s not hard to figure out what all the fuss is about: The island of Java in particular is peppered with vibrant cities, lush national parks, ancient temples, virgin beaches, coffee plantations, hot springs, alpine forests, smoldering volcanoes… and everything in-between. Most international travelers land in the capital of Jakarta, where they can tap into Indonesia’s urban heart, before continuing on to the artistic and cultural epicenter of Yogyakarta in Central Java, to the southeast. There, visitors can catch traditional dance performances or explore nearby UNESCO-listed architectural marvels such as Prambanan, a 9th-century Hindu temple compound, and Borobudur, a pyramidal 9th-century Buddhist monument. Farther east, travelers won’t want to miss the chance for a sunrise walk to the top of the otherworldly Mount Bromo volcano or an evening trek around the rim of Ijen crater to witness the “blue fire” emitted from this ethereal turquoise lake.
Where to Stay: Java’s hotel industry has exploded in recent years, with a mix of international and boutiques brands planting their flags across the island. In the past two years, Java welcomed the likes of Marriott Yogyakarta, Four Seasons Jakarta Hotel, Amanuba Hotel & Resort in Ungaran, and many more. Looking for a classic beauty in the capital? Try The Dharmawangsa in South Jakarta, where a country club environment promises afternoon martinis, antique furniture, and marble all around.
Insider Tip: Exploring Java by train is one option, but it’s best to rent a car if you’re keen to see the more remote parts of the island. If you have extra time, we’d suggest hopping from eastern Java over to beautiful Bali to experience Indonesia’s soulful yoga retreats and contemporary restaurants.
When to Go: Java’s monsoon season generally occurs between November and March, so plan your trip in the late spring, summer, or early fall. In addition, it’s recommended to avoid traveling during Eid al-Fitr—an important Muslim holiday that will fall on June 4-5, 2019. For hikers, the best time to visit popular volcanoes is on weekdays during shoulder season.
What to Read: This Earth of Mankind by top Indonesian author Pramoedya Ananta Toer.
Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s Indonesia Guide
Ancient, modern, and a bit obscure, feel the pull of Riga’s quirky magnetism.
Why it’s Wonderful: Riga is the biggest city in Latvia and the largest city of all three of the Baltic States, but it still clocks in just a few square feet smaller than Arkansas’ capital city of Little Rock. Riga may appear cobblestoned, historic, and reserved on the outside, but behind those 800-year-old Gothic spires, you can find some of the most cutting-edge bars, restaurants, and businesses in Europe. The city is home to the largest market on the continent, an awesome Beer Spa, an art gallery that doubles as a trendy restaurant, an outrageous chocolate museum, and pop-up laser tag fights that take place in an abandoned power plant–smoke grenades provided. More than a handful of the city’s young designers are on “designers to watch” lists around the world, so leave room in your suitcase for original pieces, many of which can be found at Bold Concept Store.
Where to Stay: Hotel prices are more than reasonable in Riga, where $35 USD can get you a decent single room many hotels, including the Dreamfill Hotel Riga. The Old Town is home to some of the city’s top properties, including Hotel Gutenbergs and The Grand Palace Hotel.
Insider Tip: Keep an eye out for black cats. The black cat became the symbol of this cheeky city when, as legend has it, a Latvian merchant was denied entry to the German-only Great Guild during WWI. To retaliate, he placed two statues of black cats on his building, directing their backsides at the guild.
When to Go: With snow on the ground between November and April, the summer months of June and July are an ideal time to walk the streets of Riga.
What to Read: Natasha: And Other Stories by David Bezmozgis
Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s 10 Ultimate Things to Do in the Baltics
Historic and trendy, funky and fashionable, Key West is always a memorable getaway.
Why it’s Wonderful: As the southernmost point in the continental U.S., Key West often feels like a different world than that just 90 miles away on the mainland. The little seven-square-mile island took a beating by Hurricane Irma in August 2017, but like so many times before, residents took it in stride and have rebuilt where necessary to retain the charm and lifestyle not found anywhere else in the U.S. Locals will tell you that living here creates an independent mindset manifested in the unique vibe of Key West that visitors might label as quirky or eccentric. It’s that atmosphere that fed Ernest Hemingway’s creativity in the 1930s and thousands of additional artists throughout the decades. His home here, his famous six-toed cats, and the annual Hemingway Days festival in July remain the most popular attractions for visitors. Hemingway’s reputation for alcohol consumption is celebrated at Sloppy Joe’s and numerous bars along Duval Street. Get away from the crowds with an air-conditioned tour of the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum, dedicated to a man who literally found buried treasure, or a lazy afternoon at Fort Zachary Taylor State Park, widely recognized as Key West’s best beach.
Where to Stay: Experience Key West as it was in the earliest days of tourism at one of the Historic Inns of Key West. The Key Lime Inn dates to the 1850s and is a quiet escape from the rowdiness of Duval Street, yet is less than a 10-minute walk to all of those restaurants and music venues. For a more modern take, the Laureate Key West opened in 2018 on the island’s northeast side with 64 dog-friendly modern suites facing bayside and a lush pool.
Insider Tip: The Schooner Wharf Bar on the Historic Seaport is a popular hang-out for locals who love the storytelling, music, and irreverent humor.
When to Go: Because of its southernmost location, Key West has sunny, warm weather all year long. In the summer months, however, it becomes brutally hot and humid. October is the beginning of high season when humidity is low and ocean breezes are cool.
What to Read: Mile Marker Zero – the Moveable Feast of Key West by William McKeen
Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s Key West Guide
No matter when you choose to visit, this easy-going Canadian charmer will put on a spectacular show.
Why it’s Wonderful: Montreal has all the old-world charm of a trip to Europe for far less money, time, and effort, plus one of the freshest cultural scenes on the planet. You’ll hear and see French everywhere but have no difficulties getting around using only English. In the summer months, the streets fill with wave after wave of ecstatic revelers at a cavalcade of world-class festivals from Jazz Fest to the Just For Laughs Comedy Festival. Seriously–Montreal hosts so many festivals that there’s an entire section of the city named for them, the Quartier des Spectacles. Quaint Old Montreal charms with cobblestoned streets, complete with horse-drawn carriages; chic shops and galleries line the streets of Mile End and The Plateau; and various ethnic neighborhoods serve up an array of global cuisines at restaurants and public markets. Outside the city lie celebrated vineyards, forests ablaze with fall color, and earth-shaking skiing and snowboarding at Mont-Tremblant.
Where to Stay: Where else in the world can you spend the night like a Beatle? Lie in John and Yoko’s sheets (not the exact same sheets; it’s decorated just as it was then but you do get fresh linens) in the suite where they held their famous bed-in and recorded “Give Peace a Chance,” at the Fairmont Le Reine Elizabeth. Or if your band hasn’t quite hit the big time, mingle with the future stars of the art and tech universes at the stylish but affordable ALT Montreal Griffintown.
Insider Tip: Even with all its focus on music, comedy, and fine arts, Montreal also found time to reinvent…circus arts. Catch some spectacular aerialists and acrobats–hopefully not literally–at one of the many local circus companies such as Cirque du Soleil or Les 7 Doigts de la Main.
When to Go: For festivals, visit in June, July and August; for stunning foliage just outside of town, visit from late September to mid October; for fresh powder on the slopes and a Canadiens hockey game at Centre Bell, choose December and January; and for a break from the crowds swarming all of the above, come in late April and May.
What to Listen to: Montreal’s native sons and daughters could fill several outstanding rock playlists with odes to their city, but get started with Leonard Cohen’s “Suzanne,” Arcade Fire’s “Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)” and “Neighborhood #3 (Power Out),” and Rufus Wainwright’s “Hometown Waltz.”
Plan Your Trip: The Best Things to Do in Montreal
This Portuguese archipelago in the wild Atlantic offers food, culture, and nature in abundance, making it one of 2019’s top travel destinations.
Why it’s Wonderful: While the rest of the world has been busy discovering the Portuguese capital of Lisbon over the last few years, the Azores still remain largely unspoiled and quite affordable. But as more and more budget airlines fly to the islands, the crowds will inevitably pick up. From the volcanic thermal baths in Furnas, and the striking calderas (crater lakes) of Sete Cidades and Lagoa do Fogo on the biggest islands of São Miguel, to the austere beauty of the volcano Mount Pico (Portugal’s tallest mountain) on Pico Island, the Azores will overwhelm your senses with big nature, tons of Portuguese charm, opportunities to spot marine life galore, and lots of yummy seafood. Go now before the rest of the planet stumbles upon the diverse landscapes these nine Atlantic islands and the delightful local Portuguese flavor begins to change.
Where to Stay: While there are plenty of big, fancy hotels in the Azores, especially on São Miguel, the islands provide many other intriguing options for your stay as well. The Aldeia da Fonte Resort on Pico, built on a seaside cliff, with guesthouses made out of volcanic stone, has all of the rustic goodness, views, and garden-like surroundings your heart could desire. On São Miguel, Furnas Boutique Hotel Thermal & Spa will have you relaxing in no time at all with its minimalist, serene design—and the fact it’s only minutes away from the Poça da Dona Beija thermal hot springs.
Insider Tip: The distance and time spent traveling between islands can be considerable, so figure out what areas tickle your fancy the most, and plan accordingly. You can book local flights between islands (the local ferries will really eat away at your schedule), and on larger islands like Terceira or São Miguel, renting a car will give you more travel flexibility and extra time in your favorite spots as compared to booking a package jeep or bus tour.
When to Go: While the Azores never experience wild fluctuations in temperature, spring and summer are definitely the most agreeable times of year to go weather-wise. Winter means buckets of rain, although being an Atlantic archipelago, the Azores get plenty of storms, which can dump down rain in the summer too. Come prepared for bouts of fog, precipitation, and wind as far as clothing goes, no matter the season you arrive.
What to Read: The Tenth Island: Finding Joy, Beauty, and Unexpected Love in the Azores by Diana Marcum
Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s Portugal Guide
Immerse yourself in South Indian arts and culture in this vibrant coastal city.
Why it’s Wonderful: India’s Supreme Court has just passed a landmark ruling legalizing gay sex and banning discrimination based on sexual orientation, and there’s no better time than now to visit the subcontinent. But while many visitors choose to spend their time in Delhi or Mumbai, we suggest touring the South Indian metropolis of Chennai for an alternative view of urban Indian life. Spread out along the Bay of Bengal in southeast India, Chennai (formerly Madras) is a lively city featuring a mix of colorful Dravidian-style temples and stately structures dating back to colonial days, along with a hodgepodge of lush parks, sandy beaches, and sleek shopping malls. As the capital of Tamil Nadu, Chennai sits at the heart of Tamil cultural life, and it’s ground-zero for the enormous Tamil film industry, affectionately dubbed Kollywood. The city also has a huge selection of museums ranging from the Fort Museum, housed in the 17th-century Fort Saint George, to the Vivekananda House Multimedia Cultural Museum, which provides great insight into the life of one of India’s most beloved spiritual teachers: Swami Vivekananda. The city also offers lots for those with an interest in religion and architecture, and is home to stunning religious sites: the iconic tiered Kapaleeshwarar Temple, adorned with intricate carvings from Hindu myth, as well as a number of historic churches, including St. Thomas Cathedral Basilica, a Gothic-style church housing the tomb of St Thomas Apostle.
Where to Stay Like most Indian cities, Chennai offers a wide range of hotels, from simple budget digs to swanky luxury properties. Budget-conscious travelers who still want contemporary comforts may want to stay at the cozy Avenue 11 while those looking for something more opulent should consider splurging on the swanky Taj Coromandel.
Insider Tip: Chennai makes a great base for exploring Tamil Nadu, with plenty of interesting cultural and historic attractions within day-tripping distance. If you have the time, don’t miss the UNESCO World Heritage monuments at Mahabalipuram, a collection of seaside rock temples dating back nearly two millennia.
When to Go: Chennai is consistently warm throughout the year, though it’s at its most pleasant outside of the rainy monsoon season, which peaks in October and November. February is an ideal month to visit, when temperatures are relatively lower and the rainfall is limited.
What to Read: Chennai, Not Madras edited by A. R. Venkatachalapthy
Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s India Guide
These photogenic National Parks give you eight more reasons to put Croatia on your 2019 travel list.
Why it’s Wonderful: The pebbled beaches lining Croatia’s shorelines are wonderful but heavy with the traffic of cruise passengers and visitors from around the world. Heading inland doesn’t mean straying from the turquoise waters that have lured so many to this Eastern European jewel in recent years, but it does mean swapping the Adriatic for Croatia’s lesser-known but equally azure rivers, lakes, and waterfalls that flow through its pristine National Parks. The parks—eight in total—are a photographer’s dream. The 16 interconnected lakes and soaring waterfalls of Plitvice Lakes National Park have earned it a spot as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the Manita Pec Cave in Paklenica National Park is akin to exploring another world. Get active swimming in the waterfalls at Krka National Park, fly fishing at Risnjak National Park, or kayaking to a 12th-century Benedictine monastery-turned-café on an island in Mljet National Park. Sjeverni Velebit National Park offers the chance for a late night stargazing hike, and the 140 small islands of Kornati Islands National Park are perfect for a weekend sailing or snorkeling trip. More than 200 dinosaur footprints were found at Brijuni National Park, and today you can walk alongside these giant reminders of the planet’s past.
Where to Stay: There aren’t many options for accommodations within the National Parks, but Plitvice’s Hotel Bellevue and Mljet’s Hotel Atlas Odisej are nice options. Otherwise, camping or booking a hotel outside of the park gates is the best bet. Homestays on Booking.com are a great way to sleep nearby to be first in line for the trails in the morning and see how locals live.
Insider Tip: Even the smallest of these National Parks would be a challenge to see in just one day. Plan at least two full days per park to make the most of your time inland.
What to Read: Café Europa: Life After Communism by Slavenka Drakulić
Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s Croatia Guide
There’s a little bit of everything under the Tucson sun.
Why it’s Wonderful: If savoring long glistening days of sunshine, epic sunsets, and rugged mountain ranges in every direction aren’t your thing, then you probably won’t like Tucson. But then again, what self-respecting traveler doesn’t want those, not to mention charming adobe architecture painted in vibrant colors, wide-open spaces blanketed in saguaro, and hearty helpings of Mexican and Mexican-inspired dishes? In this Sonoran Desert city, the only thing that’s better than its golden outdoors is its rich culture, in which Spanish and Native American traditions co-exist with Anglo American ones. A dream vacation is a healthy mix of everything: exploring the desert, immersing in its eclectic art scene, warming your bellies with good food, and maybe going out for a drink or two. Go ahead and bask.
Where to Stay: Much like any other big city, Tucson has its share of budget, mid-range, and luxury accommodations so you can scrimp at two-star motels and hip hostels, if you’d like, or indulge in expensive hotels and sweeping resorts tucked in the middle of the desert somewhere. For an affordable stay, the Adobe Rose Bed and Breakfast offers a charming slumber a hop, skip and a jump away from the university. If you want to go all out, a proper cossetting may be had at either Canyon Ranch, an award-winning wellness resort, or JW Marriott Starr Pass, where you can also squeeze in a game of golf.
Insider Tip: Tucson is among the country’s bike-friendliest cities, so rent a bike during your visit and hit the streets. If you’re more comfortable on your feet, running paths and hiking trails abound as well. For a Wild West-themed day trip, go for a drive headed southeast to Tombstone.
When to Go: Tucson’s year-round sunshine might tempt travelers to visit any time of the year, but beware! The summer months can be excruciatingly hot and only advisable when you’re used to that kind of weather. Otherwise, you’re better off sticking to the cooler months.
What to Watch: Tombstone (1993) and Tin Cup (1996)
Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s Tucson Guide
A new high-speed train opens up the age-old traditions and breathtaking landscapes of China’s not-so-long-ago-remote Yunnan Province.
Why it’s Wonderful: Perennially snowcapped, 18,360-foot Jade Dragon Snow Mountain soars over the Tibetan highlands of China’s southwestern Yunnan Province, a magical, fresh-air, color-saturated realm of chartreuse fields, red-edged monasteries, and ancient Naxi tradition—a matriarchal ethnic group descending from Tibetan Buddhists (Yunnan has 26 different ethnic groups). The centerpiece is the 800-year-old village of Lijiang, captivating with its labyrinthine, shop-lined lanes; traditional rooflines sweeping to the skies; and koi-filled canals. After suffering a devastating earthquake in 1996, this UNESCO World Heritage site has reemerged in all its glory. Venture into the iridescent countryside beyond and you’ll be treated to some of China’s most beautiful marvels: Black Dragon Pool at the foot of Elephant Hill, its pagoda and arched bridge reflected in black-obsidian depths; the famous frescoes at Baisha’s Dabaoji Palace; bird-thronged Lashi Lake; and mystical Tiger Leaping Gorge, one of the world’s deepest gorges. Once impossibly remote, this bewitching realm recently has opened up with the inauguration of the Kunming–Dali High Speed Train, which will sweep you from the provincial capital of Kunming (and even as far away as Shanghai and Beijing) to Dali. This Yunnan city sits on mountain-ringed Erhai Lake, where cormorant fishing still prevails. From here, hop a bus, train, or plane to reach Lijiang. About 155 miles northeast of Kunming, you’ll discover the heavenly and isolated Dongchuan Red Land. Especially rich red soil, tinted with oxidized iron, sets off a stunning natural palette of striated yellow and green fields of wheat and barley, looking every bit like a van Gogh masterpiece. The best time to visit is September to November when tilling overturns the soil and the vibrant red-browns emerge. You’d be excused to think any ensuing photos have been photoshopped—and yet, they haven’t.
Where to Stay: For a splurge, Aman Resorts’ new Amandayan overlooks Lijiang’s historical center, with jagged mountain peaks towering beyond. LUX* Tea Horse Road Lijiang has 10 rooms melding modern and traditional design in the heart of Lijiang’s old town.
Insider Tip: Be sure to take in an “Impression Lijiang” extravaganza. A cast of 500 local Naxi, Bai, and Yi perform traditional music and dance against Jade Dragon Snow Mountain as a stunning backdrop.
When to Go: Yunnan is a geographically diverse province, with high mountains and lower valleys supporting different weather patterns. Spring and summer are the best times to visit Lijiang—be sure to pack warm clothes for coolish nights, plus an umbrella in summer.
What to Read: Travels Through Dali With a Leg of Ham by Zhang Mei and Leaving Mother Lake: A Girlhood at the Edge of the World by Yang Erche Namu and Christine Mathieu. There’s also an excellent chapter in What Am I Doing Here by Bruce Chatwin that delves into the fascinating history of Yunnan Province. Listen to “Ancient Music of the Naxi People: Suite of Baisha Xiyue.”
Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s Southwestern China Guide
Taste the South of France on the French side of this two-nation Caribbean island.
Why it’s Wonderful: Though severely damaged by 2017’s Hurricanes Irma and Maria, recovery efforts in 2018 brought both French St. Martin and Dutch Sint Maarten almost back to their pre-hurricane capacity. The hurricanes also created opportunities to rebuild and improve. In 2019, new properties are opening and new brands are debuting on the island, showing that the world’s smallest two-nation island is once again ready for visitors. Divided since 1648, the slightly smaller Dutch side of the island is on the south and is home to the main airport and mammoth cruise ship port. The French side, called an Overseas Collectivité, is quieter and hosts some of the best restaurants in the Caribbean. Shoppers find duty-free bargains on both sides; the French side also features chic boutiques and local artisan works. In Marigot, the French capital, you’ll feel like you’re in the South of France. Take a promenade along the harbor, pausing for a proper croissant and café au lait at a sidewalk café. Vacationers love the Friendly Island for its white sand beaches, crystal-clear sea, sailing, and lush hills (explored via the world’s steepest zipline). Going topless on the French beaches is common; the beach at Baie Orientale is clothing optional.
Where to Stay: The island has a good selection of high-end resorts and more modest properties. Leading luxe resort Belmond La Samana reopens in December 2018. Grand Case Beach Club, a good value hotel, is one of the best spots to watch the sunset. A handful of St. Martin properties are all-inclusive, with more coming. Expected openings in 2019 include a Secrets resort featuring the Caribbean’s largest pool, via a $20 million renovation of the former Riu Palace.
Insider Tip: The village of Grand Case is the island’s culinary capital, and in high season the top spots require advance reservations. Stop by a lolo, a tiny eatery offering Creole food, often roadside. Tips of 5-10 percent, in cash, are customary on the French side. Paying your bill in U.S. cash often means a 1:1 exchange rate with euros.
When to Go: Peak season is from Christmas to Easter, matching the December to April dry season. Festivals include Carnival, fishing tournaments, and the Heineken sailing regatta.
What to Read: Gone Bamboo by Anthony Bourdain
Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s St. Martin and St. Maarten Guide.
See why this stunning capital city was favored by Roman emperors and Ottoman leaders.
Why it’s Wonderful: Delightfully off-the-beaten-path of the European tourist circuit and right at the bottom of the list of the EU’s most costly capital cities, Sofia’s unassuming appeal and clandestine charm put it on our 2019 Go List. The city is Europe’s hidden gem, where British bachelors spend weekends away with friends and seasoned skiers escape to Vitosha Mountain to avoid the crowded alpine slopes for the winter. The city’s storied past is laid out on the streets, where stark Soviet-era buildings stand beside colorful Ottoman mosques, golden-domed cathedrals (like the Aleksandar Nevsky Cathedral), and ancient Roman ruins (like the St. George Roman Rotunda), and where meat-centric restaurants like Hadjidraganov’s Cellars share walls with trendy, modern vegetarian establishments like Sun Moon.
Where to Stay: Only a few international brands can be found throughout this city, where Airbnb and Booking.com are the norm. Upscale hotels can be booked for less than a hundred euros per night (depending on the season), including the Sense Hotel Sofia, where the rooftop bar offers one of the best views in town, or the five-star Arena Di Serdica.
Insider Tip: Don’t leave without trying a traditional Bulgarian banitsa, a hearty breakfast pastry made with delicate layers of filo dough and Bulgarian cheese. Furna’s modern version is a favorite for many locals.
When to Go: May is a great time to be in Sofia as the temperatures fluctuate in the 60s and hotel prices are at their lowest.
What to Read: Bai Ganyo: Incredible Tales of a Modern Bulgarian by Aleko Konstantinov
Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s Sofia Guide
From UNESCO forts to rolling dunes, this Arab sultanate offers the perfect mix of ancient architecture and surreal scenery.
Why it’s Wonderful: Oman’s capital of Muscat feels refreshingly humble compared with the glitz and glam of its neighbors. Instead of omnipresent glassy highrises, you’ll find uniform low-rise beige buildings and old-world architecture, among others the Royal Opera House, Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque and Mutrah Souq. Located along the Mutrah Corniche waterfront in Muscat’s old town, the region’s oldest marketplace brims with spice vendors, handmade scarves, frankincense, rose water, ceramics, gold jewelry, silverware, and more. Beyond the capital, natural beauty abounds in every direction. Trace the coast and dive with turtles in the crystal-clear waters of the Daymaniyat Islands, head inland to explore the ancient Nizwa Fort and UNESCO-listed Bahla Fort, or experience a Bedouin-style stay amidst the silky dunes of the Wahiba Sands Desert. A visit to the Al Hajar mountains will reward travelers with breathtaking views of Wadi Ghul—Oman’s answer to the Grand Canyon—and Jabal Akhdar, also known as the “Green Mountain.” To the south, find incredible stretches of coastline including Salalah, along the southern coast, where visitors can enjoy sailing, stargazing, and desert adventures in the Empty Quarter—the largest contiguous sand desert on earth.
Where to Stay: Oman has enjoyed a tourism boom over the past decade with an expected annual growth rate of 13 percent from now until 2021. The hotel industry has kept pace with an abundance of new openings. Oman recently welcomed the Kempinski Hotel Muscat and Mysk Al Mouj hotels with more in the pipeline, including W Muscat, JW Marriott Muscat, and Novotel Muscat Azaiba coming soon. The new additions join existing favorites such as the recently renovated Al Bustan Palace, a Ritz-Carlton Hotel, Crowne Plaza, and The Chedi Muscat. Farther afield, ultra-romantic properties such as Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar Resort and Alila Jabal Akhdar are both secluded on dramatic cliffs in the mountains.
Insider Tip: If you’re venturing outside of Muscat on a desert safari, mountain adventure, or relaxing coastal sojourn, we’d recommend renting a 4×4 or hiring a driver in order to have the flexibility to explore the country’s more remote areas. Better yet, tuck in for a night or two with Desert Nights Camp. The glamping outfit offers luxe accommodations as well as camel rides, dune drives, and trekking for an unforgettable desert adventure.
When to Go: Temperatures in Oman can easily exceed 104 degrees Fahrenheit during the summer months, so skip June through August unless you plan to camp out by the beach. Instead, book between September and March, when you’ll experience cooler, Mediterranean-esque weather. During March and April, the terraces of the Al Jabal Akhdar mountains bloom in all shades of pink and farmers prepare to harvest the flowers to make rose water.
What to Listen to: Sultanate, a podcast that covers off-the-beaten-track experiences and cultural insights.
Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s Oman Guide
Woodstock celebrates its 50th anniversary amid mountains, chic hotels, and a booming art scene.
Why it’s Wonderful: Move over, Hudson Valley: the Catskills see your hip escape from New York City, and want to raise you some of the best outdoor activities in New York State and the anniversary of the most famous music festival of all time. Located three hours north of New York City, the Catskill Mountains and its surrounding towns have long been family-friendly retreats for city-dwellers, New Englanders, and Dirty Dancing fans alike. But in recent years, the region has shed its kitschy image and welcomed the boutique, farm-to-table hipness of the nearby Hudson Valley while still embracing its stunning mountain setting and a bevy of outdoor activities. The Catskill Preserve offers something for outdoor lovers of every age and interest while towns like Windham, Earlton, and Woodstock take advantage of the bounty with farm-to-table restaurants, breweries, and wineries. And of course, this summer will see the 50th anniversary of the legendary Woodstock Music Festival, which took place in Bethel over three days in August 1969, forever defining a generation and the meaning of “peace and love.” The Bethel Woods Center for the Arts is currently located on the grounds of the festival, and plans are in the works to celebrate the anniversary accordingly with various performances from Woodstock alumni, lectures and panel discussions, a poster contest to commemorate the anniversary, film screenings, and a special exhibit in the center’s museum set to debut in late March.
Where to Stay: You’ll find plenty of old-school mountain lodges and trendy boutique hotels here, but your best option is to find a place to stay that combines the region’s outdoorsy past with its hip future. Eastwind Hotel & Bar in Windham was once a bunkhouse for hunters and fisherman, and opened in June 2018 as a Scandinavian-inspired boutique hotel; you can also choose to glamp in A-frame luxury cabins. In Greenville, check out The Woodhouse Lodge, a favorite in the area since 1962 that recently got a glamorous yet low-key makeover.
Insider Tip: Confusingly, while Woodstock actually took place in the town of Bethel, it got its name from the nearby town of Woodstock, which has long been a haven for artists, writers, musicians, and designers. The country’s oldest Arts & Crafts colony, Byrdcliffe, opened here in 1903, and the area continues to attract creative minds. You can explore the town’s contributions to the art world at the Woodstock Artists Association & Museum.
When to Go: August 2019 is the official 50th anniversary of Woodstock, so expect the biggest celebrations to happen then; summer in the area is also filled with opportunities for kayaking, canoeing, hiking, and fly-fishing (Sullivan County is known as the birthplace of modern American fly-fishing). Otherwise, fall is the perfect time for a Catskills trip with hiking, gorgeous fall foliage, and plenty of apple-picking and cideries to enjoy.
What to Watch: Taking Woodstock, a 2009 film about how the festival came together (and okay, fine, Dirty Dancing).
Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s Catskills Guide
Despite Brazil’s troubling election results, there’s nowhere quite like tropical Bahia.
Why it’s Wonderful: Sure, Bahia has 700 miles of Brazil’s most beautiful pristine beaches—the sort people come home still glowing about. But it would be remiss to come to Bahia only to sunbird and surf. The state of Bahia is the home of Afro-Brazilian culture, the heart of where most West African, particularly Yoruba, slaves landed and settled post-emancipation and to not engage with the distinct African-influenced culture here is to overlook why this place is so special. That said, Bahia state doesn’t attract the same sort of luxury seeker as say Buzios, Paraty, or Ilha Bella, but make no mistake, these praihas (beaches) do beckon the style set of New York, Paris, and Milan. Likely you’ll land in the capital of Salvador, the gateway to all points south, and certainly the 16th-century fishing village of Trancoso is a must for a reason (so is Praia do Espelho). But mile-long ankle-deep sandbars of Ilha Boipeda are worth the trek, as are the secret beaches around the colonial town of Itacaré.
Where to Stay: While in Salvador, consider a stay at Villa Bahia, a modern take on the city’s colonial past inside UNESCO-site slave quarter Pelourinho or Aram Yami, which has killer views of the bay, Baia de Todos Santos. For that luxury life on the beach, the sceney beachside UXUA Casa Hotel in Trancoso is a favorite amongst New York fashionistas, while Txai (a Relais & Chateau) in Itacaré is still holding strong as the premiere vacation-worthy resort on the coast.
Insider Tip: Besides learning a bit of Portuguese (essential to get to hidden beaches), get thyself to Praia Prainha near Itacaré, cited across the country as the most beautiful beach in Brazil. Don’t listen to locals if they say it can’t be reached—you’ll have to talk to your bus driver to drop you off on the highway or haggle for a taxi. Locals use the walkable path from Ribiera beach through a forest and coconut plantation, but lately, there’s been talk about armed robbers on the trail.
When to Go: Though Bahia is an all-year-round destination lovely tropical weather, April through June is the rainy season, July/August is packed with Brazilians and Europeans alike, and things can get quite crazy for the holiday and New Years, especially in Salvador, where it’s not just fireworks blasting into the celebratory skies but gun rounds, too. The best time to visit is September through November.
What to Listen to: Listen to the sounds of Tropicalia and its most famous musician Gilberto Gil.
Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s Bahia Guide
UNESCO-worthy colonial charm, private islands, and sleepy beach towns make Panama the place for a warm-weather escape.
Why it’s Wonderful: Let Costa Rica and Colombia get hordes of tourists while you uncover Panama, sandwiched between the two. A capital city with historic district of renovated colonial houses positively dripping in bougainvillea? Check. That’s Casco Viejo in Panama City, its quiet streets filled with Spanish-colonial, French-colonial, neoclassical, and Renaissance Revival buildings. There was a time when Casco Viejo was dodgy—the handsome American Trade Hotel was gangster HQ—but thanks to a government push, the neighborhood now has cafés and boutiques and has managed to retain its authenticity. Panama teems with islands surrounded by either the Caribbean Sea or Pacific Ocean, and private island resorts are booming, with three opening in 2019 and 2020. Active types can hike in national parks like Volcán Barú and Chagres and kayak, snorkel and dive all over, especially in Parque Nacional Coiba, whose waters house schools of sharks, sea turtles, and shimmery tropical fish. If vacation for you is synonymous with feet in sand and bum in beach chair, there are myriad placid little beach towns with moderately-priced hotels and eco-lodges, some just 20 minutes from Panama City by plane. In pop culture terms, Panama is wild enough for Bear Grylls (Man vs. Wild S2E9; S4E7), who loses himself in the rainforest and, later, a deserted island, but tame enough for House Hunters International (S4E13).
Where to Stay: Most visitors will spend a night in Panama City, most charming is its historic district Casco Viejo, with quiet streets lined in pretty colonial buildings. Hybrid hostel-hotel Selina, which opened in November, has cheerful guest rooms and a young, fun vibe that stops well short of spring break. The posh grown-up version is the American Trade Hotel, a painstakingly renovated 1917 neoclassical apartment building. For sun, sand, and ample splashing about in the warm, blue sea, ensconce yourself in luxurious isolation at resort hideaways Islas Secas (opening in January) and Isla Palenque, or post up at one of the eco-lodges in Bocas del Toro archipelago, like La Loma or Eclipse del Mar.
Insider Tip: The pretty beaches of Isla Contadora are just a 20-minute flight from Panama City. There are one to two flights daily, morning and afternoon, not from international airport PTY but from Albrook, 15 minutes’ drive from Casco Viejo. Depending on your flight schedule, you’ll likely have a bit of time for breakfast or lunch in Panama City before zipping off to the Albrook. For caffeine, head straight to Casa Sucre Coffeehouse.
When to Go: Panama is warm and humid year-round. Mid-December to mid-April is dry season. May to December is wet: on the Pacific side the rain comes in short bursts so there’s still sun; on the Caribbean side it pours, but in March and October Bocas del Toro archipelago becomes fairly dry.
What to Read: The Path Between the Seas by David McCullough
Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s Panama Guide
Sleep under the stars in the Chihuahuan Desert.
Why it’s Wonderful: Stretching across the Mexican border in Southwest Texas, the impressive, dramatic landscape of Big Bend National park is characterized by high mountains and low deserts, diverse species of plants and animals, prehistoric geological features, and some of the best stargazing in the country. The park’s enormous size and remote location make it feel other-worldly and pleasantly escapist, with great opportunities for hiking, horseback riding, and camping, and jaw-dropping sunsets and moonrises. Today, the attraction to Big Bend goes beyond its natural resources. Small surrounding towns like Alpine, Marathon, and Marfa, with burgeoning art and culture scenes that range from quirky to chic, make the area even more appealing to explore.
Where to Stay: The park is a camper’s paradise, with plenty of RV campgrounds, car camping sites, and more primitive backcountry and hike-in locations. Campsites in the Chisos Mountain area come with some of the most beautiful views of the park. If you aren’t a camping person, you’ll get a similar experience at the Chisos Mountain Lodge. Nearby, Lajitas Golf Resort Spa in Lajitas, and Hotel Paisano in Marfa, offer luxe resort stays with Old-West flair.
Insider Tip: It’s about a three-hour drive from Midland International Airport, the closest airport to the park, but you’re likely to pay a fraction of the price for a direct flight to Dallas, San Antonio, or Austin. Driving times to the park from these major cities range from six to eight hours, but the shifting scenery along the way makes a Texan road trip half the fun.
When to Go: Temperatures can climb to the upper 90s May through September. It’s best to avoid the thick of summer, especially if you’re camping. Crowds are bigger during major holidays and spring break vacations.
What to Read: Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy, Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry
Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s Big Bend National Park Guide
You’ve never seen an underwater world like this one.
Why it’s Wonderful: Long on the radar of Chinese tourists, this tiny Micronesian island country some 500 miles east of the Philippines (and a quick hop from Guam) is known for having some of the best scuba diving in the world. With recent diplomatic relations with China strained of late over Taiwan, Palau’s beautiful beaches and reefs are emptier than they’ve been for years. The country has been in the spotlight of late, too, for taking radical measures to protect its pristine environments, including requiring visitors to sign a “Palau pledge” upon entering Palau to do their part to protect its unique ecosystems. The result is renewed green tourism initiatives throughout the islands that let you enjoy the reefs and rainforest in ways that are more sustainable than ever. Scuba divers head to the famed outer reefs like Big Corner and Peleliu Express, loaded with reef sharks and pelagic fish, on day trips with long-running island operators like Sam’s Tours and Fish ‘n’ Fins. Afloat on boat tours along the Ngerdorch River, you can spot Palauan fruit bats, archerfish and wild orchids. And head out into the incredible limestone landscape of the Rock Islands during kayaking tours with Paddling Palau. It’s all about getting up close with nature in a sustainable way. And when you’re ready for the ultimate adrenaline rush, book a sightseeing flight with Palau Helicopters over the Rock Island, along with the many waterfalls and rainforests on the “mainland.”
Where to Stay: Hotels in Palau tend to come on either a grand or intimate scale, with not a lot in between. Set on a private beach, Palau Pacific Resort is the grande dame in these parts and offers a luxe experience in its hotel rooms, and for the ultimate splurge, within the posh overwater bungalows (predictably popular with honeymooners). For a more traditional Palau hotel, guests love the Palau Plantation Resort, with just 20 jungle-shrouded rooms decorated with woven native materials.
Insider Tip: For what locals swear is the best and most authentic Indian food outside of the Subcontinent, book a table at The Taj, a famous Koror restaurant known for its fish tikka and tandoori dishes.
When to Go: The best time to visit is during Palau’s dry season, from December to March, when calm seas also promise the most agreeable scuba diving conditions. This is also high season, so expect hotel prices to soar.
What to Read: World War II had a heavy toll on Micronesia. And while not a light read, Vanished: The Sixty-Year Search for the Missing Men of World War II, by Will S. Hylton details the fascinating mystery of airmen who disappeared during a bombing run near Palau.
Plan Your Trip: Fodor’s Australia and the Pacific
Venture to Argentina’s remote northwestern corner to discover surreal landscapes and some of the world’s highest vineyards.
Why it’s Wonderful: When you think about Argentine wine regions, Mendoza probably comes to mind, but Salta province in the northwest is home to some of the world’s highest vineyards and unique grape varieties. It’s remote, to be sure. Most routes from the U.S. will have a stopover in Buenos Aires or Igazú, then it’s approximately a four-hour drive to reach the vineyards. But you’re not just going for the final destination—the journey is part of the adventure. The drive takes you along winding roads that twist and turn in surreal red rock landscapes before you reach the Ruta del Vino, where the wineries are. Spend some time exploring Salta city, which has a charming main square, colonial buildings, and artisanal markets before heading off to the countryside. Pay a visit to Piattelli Vineyards, where you can sample white wine made from Torrontés grapes—which only grow here—in addition to more conventional wines like Malbec. At Bodega El Porvenir, you can create your own blend and take it home.
Where to Stay: Grace Cafayate is by far the most luxurious hotel in the remote wine region. A private estancia with a hotel and collection of residential villas, the property is spread out over 1,360 acres with vineyards, a pond and picnic area, sand dunes, pools, and a spa that was added in 2017. Another fantastic place to stay is the House of Jasmines, a Relais & Châteaux inn once owned by Robert Redford that oozes gaucho-chic style.
Insider Tip: Channel your inner gaucho with a horseback ride through the vineyards and in the sand dunes at Grace Cafayate. The hotel recently introduced some bespoke experiences, including a pottery-making class at a studio in nearby San Carlos, a lesson in making traditional fabrics at a local weaving studio, and a blind wine tasting.
When to Go: December through February is summer in Argentina, though this time of year tends to bring rain that can lead to flooding. July (winter break) and Easter are also popular times to visit.
What to Watch: Lauded Argentine filmmaker Lucretia Martel’s Salta trilogy (La Ciénaga, The Holy Girl, and The Headless Woman) offers a glimpse into this fascinating part of the world.
Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s Salta Guide
This Norwegian capital, no matter the weather, is the coffee-infused, architecturally-riveting, museum-laden Nordic hotspot to visit in 2019.
Why it’s Wonderful: Oslo has been experiencing a cultural renaissance of late, with an emphasis on the modern and cool. From trendy neighborhoods like Grünerløkka coming to life, chock-full of modish art galleries, funky clothing shops, and hipster-friendly coffee spots, to the architecturally stunning Oslo Opera House (opened in 2008) pushed up against the water’s edge, Norway’s capital city is brimming over with creativity and an invigorating sense of cultural reinvention these days. And regardless if you come for some of the tourist classics, like The Viking Ship Museum, the medieval Akershus Fortress, or a kayak outing in Oslo Fjord, or to dive deep inside the hip coffee roasting culture or the imaginative Scandinavian foodie scene, Oslo is definitely the place to swing by for a spot of inventive Nordic fun.
Where to Stay: If price isn’t much of a concern, The Thief is a trendy boutique hotel situated in the up-and-coming Tjuvholmen borough, which is full of cool outdoor spaces (and sculptures), and even a city beach. Hotel Christiania Teater is another chic and fun lodging option for savvy travelers. The hotel was built in a former theater in the center of Oslo, putting a ton of attractions within easy walking distance, and giving hotel guests the opportunity to enjoy some lovely afternoon and evening city strolls.
Insider Tip: Just like England’s Buckingham Palace’s Changing of the Guard, Oslo’s Royal Palace offers up a changing of the guard as well. And while Oslo’s Royal Palace can’t match Buckingham’s pomp and circumstance, it’s still a load of fun to watch. But the real gem here is a walk through the Royal Palace Park with its ponds, tall trees, and numerous ducks, which make for a truly tranquil and beautiful setting, regardless of the time of year you go.
When to Go: If you’re sensitive to the cold or a dearth of natural light, head to Oslo during the summer months, but even then, as this is the far north, bring some warm clothing with you. If you want to investigate Oslo’s microbrewery or coffee roasting culture, or plan on spending lots of time inside art galleries and museums, stop by any time of the year—although come the winter months, sunlight does become a scarce commodity.
What to Watch: Oslo, August 31st directed by Joachim Trier
Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s Oslo Guide