Fodor’s Go List 2020: 52 places to set sail for in 2020.

  • 52 places to set sail for in 2020.

    Every year in our Fodor’s Go List—and this is our ninth year of doing this—we look forward to what’s next to come. The next it destination, the next big event, or simply the places we want to travel to next. And, while we definitely do that in our 2020 Go List, this year, on the cusp of a new decade, we’re also looking backward.

    So much of travel is the metaphorical act of walking through history—and by looking backward, we move forward. A number of our chosen destinations have had their share of hardships in the recent past, whether it be from natural disaster, the cruelty of individuals, the uprising over dictatorship, or a cavalcade of bad and erroneous press.

    But these places, along with all the others on this year’s list, have not only shown extraordinary resilience thanks to the people who have always called them home, but are stalwart in their perseverance of what’s to come next. And, ultimately, they are our inspirations for our tomorrows.

  • Athens, Georgia

    The original indie-rock college town delights visitors with its laid-back vibe and thriving creative community.

    Why it's wonderful:

    It’s no secret that Athens has been a destination for music fans since the B-52’s burst onto the scene nearly 40 years ago, followed closely by R.E.M. and, in the mid-90s, by seminal acts like Neutral Milk Hotel and Of Montreal. Music continues to be the town’s heartbeat, with live shows on tap nightly at dozens of venues (all within walking distance of each other), from famous stages like the 40 Watt Club and the Georgia Theatre to smaller spaces like the Caledonia Lounge, Flicker Theatre & Bar, Hendershot’s Coffee Bar, The World Famous, and Go Bar. The creative scene isn’t confined to music, of course. The University of Georgia is home to the highly regarded Lamar Dodd School of Art as well as the Georgia Museum of Art, which anchor a diverse and exciting visual arts community. Downtown, ATHICA showcases local visual and performing arts. Creativity also finds an outlet in local shops like Community, which stocks chic upcycled clothing and accessories designed and made by local artisans. Athens is also home to several nationally regarded restaurants, including Five & Ten (helmed by James Beard Award winner Hugh Acheson) and The National. The classic vegetarian comfort food at The Grit will make you forget all about meat (even in this BBQ-driven state), and nothing beats a cup of coffee and a breakfast biscuit on the patio at Big City Bread on a sunny spring morning.

    Location: 33.953192, -83.358201

    Where to stay:

    Nearly all of the best that Athens has to offer is concentrated within a few minutes’ walk of each other (or, for campus sights, a free bus ride), so it makes sense to stay downtown. The Hotel Indigo is a budget- (and pet-) friendly option, with stylish rooms starting at about $110 per night on weekends. Also downtown is The Graduate Athens, which occupies beautifully renovated historic row houses and features a full-service spa.

    When to go:

    Spring is beautiful, with mild temperatures and gardens in full bloom. Summers are sweltering, but the absence of students brings out a quieter local side of the town; fall brings perfect weather for outdoor activities; winters are cold and dreary.

    Insider tip:

    If you want to enjoy all your live music in one fell swoop, visit during June’s AthFest, when more than 100 bands grace three outdoor stages and numerous indoor venues around town. For fall visits, avoid home football game weekends, when hotel prices skyrocket, parking is impossible, and the streets teem with rowdy fans.

    What to WATCH:

    Athens, Ga. – Inside/Out , directed by Tony Gayton

    What to listen to:

    Owe it 2 The Girls by Locate S,1

    Visit Fodor's Athens Guide

    Guidebook

    Sean Pavone/iStock

  • Baltimore, Maryland

    A former industrial seaport is having its moment of coolness.

    Why it's wonderful:

    Believe it or not, Charm City isn’t just about its gritty, blue-collar past. Nor is it just about iconic Inner Harbor, historic Fort McHenry, and crab-cake shacks—all worthy virtues, don’t get us wrong. But more and more, this city on the Chesapeake is all about its booming neighborhoods, each one distinct in history and persona. And the thing to do is to tuck down into one of these happening ’hoods and experience the city’s awakening. There’s Mount Vernon, where 19th-century gentry built majestic townhouses around the Washington Monument. Here you’ll find the spectacular Walters Art Museum, built by tycoon Henry Walters as a private gallery to share with friends; and George Peabody Library, whose glowing atrium has starred in Sleepless in Seattle, Washington Square, and other films. Fans of John Waters may recognize the groovy Hampden neighborhood, quickly revitalizing with hipster cafés, boho shops, and stylish restaurants along The Avenue—though not too quickly. Ole Bawlmer still survives at places like Café Hon, home of the famous HONFest, a celebration of cat’s-eye glasses and sky-high beehives. Once salty Fell’s Point has made a comeback with local shops, night clubs, and buzzy restaurants along its harborside cobbled lanes. And Station North’s grassroots art scene shines on at venues like Ottobar music club and the Crown performance space, all anchored by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Parkway, a beautifully renovated 1915 movie house. The quarter’s street murals by global artists also are worth a peek. And if all this isn’t enough to entice you, 2020 is gearing up with more happenings, including a year-long celebration of female-identifying artists at the Baltimore Museum of Art ; the reopening of the Mencken House, the home of Baltimore Sun journalist and author H.L. Mencken; and the transformation of Harbor Point, bringing more hip shopping, eating, and drinking to downtown’s waterfront. And that’s just a teaser. Clearly, Baltimore’s moment is now.

    Location: 39.290376, -76.612932

    Where to stay:

    The stately Sagamore Pendry Baltimore, which ignited the resurgence of Fell’s Point, occupies the historic Recreation Pier building. Hotel Revival Baltimore is a mod-Americana retreat in the Mount Vernon neighborhood, built on the site of a railroad tycoon’s mansion; north-facing rooms look out over the Washington Monument. The Ivy Hotel is Maryland’s only Relais & Châteaux.

    When to go:

    The shoulder season—April/May and September/October—is a good time to visit, when the weather should be good (always expect rain) and crowds are few. Summer is steamy, hot, and crowded, though this also is festival season and lots of fun.

    Insider tip:

    Baltimore’s foodie and cocktail scenes are exploding as well, focusing on local ingredients (especially seafood) and global flavors. Woodberry Kitchen, Cosima, and Thames Street Oyster House are good places to start. Check out Visit Baltimore’s website for more—or just strike out into the neighborhoods and discover on your own.

    What to READ:

    Wicked Baltimore: Charm City Sin and Scandal by Lauren R. Silberman

    What to listen to:

    Feel the Lightning by Dan Deacon

    Visit Fodor's Baltimore Guide

    Guidebook

    Jon Bilous/Shutterstock

  • Newfoundland, Canada

    Clinking icebergs and remote artist communities make this rugged destination a must-visit.

    Why it's wonderful:

    A parade of icebergs on Newfoundland’s northern coast are like 12,000-year-old postcards sent from the Arctic Circle: the towering chunks of ice drift south during the summer months. (Polar bears even hitch an iceberg ride to Newfoundland from time to time, before getting collared by the authorities and shipped back north in a helicopter.) The prime destination for iceberg viewing is the fishing village of Twillingate, where hopping an iceberg cruise also gives you a front-row seat for spotting humpback whales as they breach just offshore. A warming climate means diminishing sea ice and fewer icebergs, so start planning now, before the frigid spectacle slows for good. Melting ice isn’t the only reason to put Newfoundland on your 2020 itinerary. This year is also the 20th biannual Sound Symposium, a collaborative festival in St. Johns that draws artists, scientists, and musicians for a series of genre-hopping performances in early July.

    Location: 53.938836, -61.283493

    Where to stay:

    Sleek design and a rugged setting at the all-inclusive Fogo Island Inn (one of our Fodor’s Finest Hotels two years running) combine for one of the most visually stunning hotels in the world. Despite lofty rates, the inn is deeply integrated into traditional culture, with guided outings to forage food and jig for cod. Get the same coastal drama at a fraction of the price at the tiny house–like pods that debuted at Bonavista’s Russelltown Inn in 2019.

    When to go:

    The ice arrives in April, but May and June are prime time for building-sized ’bergs. Hiking UNESCO-listed Gros Morne National Park ? Opt for sunnier July and August.

    Insider tip:

    With an extra day in St. John’s, hike a section of the spectacular East Coast Trail that follows the easternmost shore of North America for 300 kilometers. One portion departs right from St. John’s Quidi Vidi neighborhood, while regular guided hikes explore more remote trailheads.

    What to READ:

    The Shipping News by Annie Proulx

    What to listen to:

    Come in From the Cold by The Dandelion Few

    Visit Fodor’s Newfoundland and Labrador Guide

    Guidebook

    Carolyn Parsons-Janes

  • Palm Springs, California

    Get wacky, transcendental, kitschy, spiritual, and down to some serious fun in whimsical Palm Springs.

    Why it's wonderful:

    A trip to Palm Springs gives travelers the experience of visiting the past and the future, mixed with the spiritual replenishing of otherworldly solace infused with the opportunity for free-for-all party time. Palm Springs is a contradiction in all the best ways: it’s Jetsons -esque aesthetic and Googie architecture make it timelessly kitschy but with modern, stylish accommodations and entertainment establishments to satisfy every traveler’s contemporary creature comfort. Most importantly, Palm Springs caters to The Self, whether that be via finding respite in the majesty of expansive desert vistas (take a hike for full immersion or a ride on the Aerial Tramway for the views without the effort) of extraterrestrial landscapes and stunning sunsets, or in adrenaline-pumping fun and entertainment in the form of boisterous pool-parties, lively parades, day-drinking, and cultural entertainment that ranges from top-notch art museums to the RoboLights house.

    Location: 33.830243, -116.543234

    Where to stay:

    The accommodations are as unique and varied as the city’s offerings. Looking for a luxury experience? Don’t miss the Parker Palm Springs, one of Fodor’s Finest Hotels of 2020, where Johnathan Adler’s flashy design meets old Hollywood glamor. Mid-level hotel stays like the Ace, the Saguaro, and the Kimpton Rowan offer easy access to the scene as well as LGBTQ pride and family-friendly amenities. And of course, there’s always Airbnb or VRBO–with an abundance of vacation units up for grabs, you’re bound to find exactly the facilities you’re looking for: patio grill, pool and hot tub access, and pet-friendly privileges.

    When to go:

    Summertime temperatures can be scorching, but it’s also the best time of year to lounge poolside day after day. For hiking and nature aficionados, the desert blooms in early spring and cooler temperatures make outdoor physical exercise a bearable experience. Late fall offers the unparalleled experience of Palm Springs Pride, an extravagantly joyful celebration of love and LGBTQ activism.

    Insider tip:

    Buying a day pass for hotel pool access is standard if you are looking for a party atmosphere and a great way to save money and gain entry to over-the-top festivities.

    What to WATCH:

    American Gigolo, directed by Paul Schrader

    What to listen to:

    How Can a Man With so Many Friends Feel so Alone by Eagles of Death Metal

    Visit Fodor’s Palm Springs and the Desert Resorts Guide

    Guidebook

    Josh Cho Photography

  • Portland, Maine

    The heart of Vacationland is brimming with great food, great beer, great people, and great memories.

    Why it's wonderful:

    Portland has been experiencing a food renaissance in recent years, one that was wholeheartedly affirmed when Bon Appétit named this tiny city its 2018 Restaurant City of the Year. Since then, the culinary scene has exploded, and so too has the city’s popularity. One of the best ways to sample the food, especially if you’re only here for a few days, is the Land, Sea to Fork tour with Maine Food for Thought, which stops at six noteworthy eateries and helps participants understand how passionate this city is about farm- and sea-to-table dining. There’s also the Maine Brew Bus, which highlights the city’s bursting brewery scene with a variety of tours. If foodie culture is not your thing, there are numerous guided tours including the 50-minute tour with The Portland Fire Engine Co., while the self-guided Family Walking Guide is available from Greater Portland Landmarks. Portland Museum of Art is a must to see amazing seascapes and landscapes by great American painters like Winslow Homer, Andrew Wyeth, and Edward Hopper. And the Portland Observatory, built in 1807, provides a unique view of the city, bay, and surrounding islands. Then there’s the numerous art galleries and boutique shops to browse like Abacus and Angela Adams. If you’ve got kids in tow, the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine and the Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad Museum are great options. As Portland is still very much a working waterfront, don’t miss the opportunity to take a sunset schooner sail, or a whale-, dolphin-, or seal-watching cruise, or better yet, a lobster boat tour. But before you leave, make sure you stop by the Harbor Fish Market, in business since 1968, to buy some lobster to send home, and just around the corner, pop into Sea Bags to buy the perfect souvenir—bags made from recycled sailcloth.

    Location: 43.660430, -70.258908

    Where to stay:

    With a handful of new hotels opening in 2020, including a West Elm brand hotel, there are plenty of options to rest your head. Built in 1823, Federal-style The Danforth is one of Portland’s grandest inns with gorgeous rooms and modern amenities. The Press Hotel, located in the former home of the Portland Press Herald , gives clever nods to its past life with a printing theme that runs throughout. Its central location can’t be beat, and neither can a table at the excellent Union.

    When to go:

    Portland is a year-round destination, but July and August are the busiest months. If you don’t have to travel during the summer, don’t. Late-May, early June, September, and October are ideal times to visit as the weather’s still warm, most places are open, and there are fewer tourists and less traffic to contend with.

    Insider tip:

    Be sure to leave an afternoon to experience Casco Bay Lines’s Mailboat Run, which takes mail and freight (and passengers) along the coast with stops at Little Diamond, Great Diamond, Long, Cliff, and Chebeague Islands. Trips are offered twice a day throughout the year and take about two-and-a-half to three-and-a-half hours depending on the amount of cargo and the number of stops.

    What to READ:

    Lobsterman by Dahlov Ipcar

    What to listen to:

    Love Is Not Enough by Spencer Albee

    Visit Fodor’s Portland Guide

    Guidebook

    lucky-photographer/iStock

  • Queens, New York City, New York

    The world’s most diverse district continues to inspire awe in visitors looking to get off the beaten tourist path in New York City.

    Why it's wonderful:

    Standing in the shadow of the Manhattan skyline to the west, Queens is an international mosaic of the world in miniature. As the biggest borough in New York City and the most ethnically diverse district in the world, it hosts a revolving door of immigrants who color its vast tapestry, from the South Asian and Himalayan communities of Jackson Heights and New York’s superior Chinatown (in our opinion) in Flushing, to a taste of the Mediterranean in Astoria. Queens is increasingly becoming famous as its own food capital, recently premiering the Queens Night Market on Saturdays, as well as upgrading the beautiful Queens Botanical Garden, and drawing in art aficionados to MOMA’s PS1. It doesn’t hurt that both of the city’s airports are located here, so if you’re looking for a budget trip around the world, why not just come to Queens instead?

    Location: 40.728290, -73.796599

    Where to stay:

    The newest and most unique lodging options in Queens are popping up all over Long Island City, just across the East River from Manhattan. Places like The Paper Factory Hotel, which is housed in a 100-year-old—you guessed it—paper factory in previously industrial LIC, offers an upscale art gallery experience. On the other end, rooms for the budget traveler at My Refuge Paisa are conveniently located near Laguardia Airport. 2020 will also see the opening of Hotel Indigo in Flushing.

    When to go:

    Cultural parades take place along its main boulevards on weekends throughout the summer, while Flushing’s sprawling Spa Castle, a Korean complex with European influences, comforts during the colder months.

    Insider tip:

    For a quick day trip from Manhattan, catch the Q32 bus from Madison Square Garden and grab a window seat for a tour of Queens highlights along bustling Roosevelt Avenue.

    What to WATCH:

    Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown: Queens

    What to listen to:

    If I Ruled the World (Imagine That) by Nas, featuring Lauryn Hill

    Visit Fodor’s Queens Guide

    Guidebook

    fotomak/Shutterstock

  • South Walton, Florida

    The 16 idyllic beach towns of this coastal county are the best-kept secret in Florida—but not for long.

    Why it's wonderful:

    Picture a quaint, upscale community where emerald water laps powdery white sand, and you’ll start to understand the appeal of South Walton. The county on Florida’s Gulf Coast is home to not one but 16 of these communities, all with their own architectural style—and no high rises in sight. There are stark white beach homes, cute boutiques, rare coastal dune lakes perfect for paddleboarding, and biking trails galore. Even better, 40% of the land is nature preserves, which keeps it feeling small and remote compared to other parts of Florida. The area has drawn regional travelers for years, who dubbed it 30A after the scenic highway the towns line, but now the secret is out. New direct flights to two airports, Beaches International Airport (ECP) or the Destin–Fort Walton Beach Airport (VPS) from Atlanta and New York now make it easily accessible to more of the country. We say, let the crowds head to the well-inked beaches on either side—Destin and Panama City Beach—before South Walton catches on.

    Location: 30.443673, -86.140617

    Where to stay:

    There are two ways to vacation in South Walton. One: grab a few friends and rent a stunning vacation home, such as those geometrical wonders in Alys Beach, where you can have your own picture-perfect pool, kitchen, and three bedrooms. Or, set up in one of the amazing hotels in this area like the Watercolor Inn in Santa Rosa Beach or The Pearl in Rosemary Beach.

    When to go:

    South Walton is pleasant for most of the year, but summer can be blazing hot and winter is a lot cooler here than the rest of Florida. Go in shoulder months like May, before the heat sets in (and before school gets out) or in October, when things cool down.

    Insider tip:

    Not sure which of the 16 beach neighborhoods are for you? They’ve all got their own vibe, so base yourself in Alys Beach if you want an upscale town with striking white buildings. Seaside, with its All-American houses, is perfect for families to bike around with ice cream cones in hand. And Grayton Beach is the funkiest of the beaches, with tons of live music, art galleries, and lively bars. You really can’t go wrong.

    What to WATCH:

    The Truman Show , starring Jim Carrey

    What to listen to:

    I Won’t Back Down by Tom Petty

    Visit Fodor’s Florida Guide

    Guidebook

    Rotorhead 30A Productions/Shutterstock

  • Sun Valley, Idaho

    Nearly 100 years ago, this sleepy village in Idaho was transformed into a winter getaway for celebrities. Now, it’s more interesting than ever, with a year-round community of artists, writers, and of course, ski bums.

    Why it's wonderful:

    There are two kinds of people in the world: those who can’t find Sun Valley on a map, and those who are completely obsessed with this place. This tiny ski town in Idaho is a winter wonderland with over 2,000 acres of skiable terrain and runs that go for miles. For the 2020 ski season, Sun Valley is joining the Epic Pass, making this remote ski paradise more accessible than ever. While the ski resort might be Sun Valley’s claim to fame, the town is also a year-round destination, with hiking and biking trails luring visitors during wildflower season, and the Trailing of the Sheep Festival headlining fall, when thousands of sheep are paraded down Main Street by traditional Basque shepherds. Summer might be the best season of all in Sun Valley, when nearly every weekend is filled with events, festivals, and concerts like the world-class Sun Valley Summer Symphony and the Sun Valley Writers’ Conference. Alpine lakes and rivers beyond town offer day trips or multi-night camping adventures, adding to the allure of long, sunny days in the mountains. There are plenty of beautiful ski resorts in the U.S. with myriad outdoor activities available at your fingers. But what sets Sun Valley apart from the rest is the history and culture of this small town that first became popular in the 1930s, when Hollywood stars flocked to America’s first ski resort. Nearly 100 years later, the resort is still popular with celebrities of all kinds (ahem: Oprah, the Obamas, Reese Witherspoon) who are drawn to this low-key Eden where even billionaires dress in fleece and everyone owns at least three dogs. With around 5,000 year-round residents, Sun Valley is surprisingly cosmopolitan, with restaurants good enough to rival those in big cities, galleries exhibiting works by up-and-coming and big-name artists, and a community of residents dedicated to making sure it’s the best little mountain town on earth.

    Location: 43.696883, -114.351540

    Where to stay:

    One of the best things about Sun Valley–and what sets it apart from places like Jackson Hole or Aspen–is that there are no luxury chain hotels. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t great places to stay. If you have a big budget and young kids in tow, you’ll likely be happiest at the Sun Valley Lodge –but the high prices and family-friendly vibe might not be right for you. The three best places to stay in Sun Valley are all within walking distance to boutiques and restaurants, and steps from the free bus to the mountain: The Knob Hill Inn is best for more mature visitors or couples, with laid-back elegance and an excellent on-site restaurant; The Limelight is your chicest option, with cozy minimalist rooms and great views; and Hotel Ketchum, in a converted motel, which is where you should stay if you’re looking for fun–it’s sort of an upscale and stylish ski bum hangout with a funky bar and affordable, spacious rooms.

    When to go:

    There’s really not a bad time to visit Sun Valley. The mountain is generally open between Thanksgiving and Easter, but for the best chance of fresh snow and empty slopes, visit in early January. Summer is spectacular, with concerts and events taking place under clear skies with hiking, biking, rafting, and fishing around every corner. But fall in Sun Valley is something special. Months before the mountain opens for the season, the aspen trees begin to turn and empty hiking trails take you through a fall kaleidoscope of color.

    Insider tip:

    People like to say that Sun Valley is a drinking town with a skiing problem, and if you like to party, you’ve come to the right place. It’s not a visit to Sun Valley without a margarita at the Pioneer Saloon followed by a lost night in the “Barmuda Triangle”, a trio of bars that are essentially the only real bars in town. First up on the schedule is the Cellar Pub, a Irish-adjacent bar that’s not annoying about it, followed by Whiskey Jacques for live music and DJs, and finally, the Casino, which is without a doubt the world’s best dive bar, where it’s equally likely that you’ll encounter a celebrity or witness a brawl.

    What to WATCH:

    Sun Valley Serenade , starring Sonja Henie

    What to listen to:

    Crazy Eddie’s Last Hurrah by Reckless Kelly

    Visit Fodor's Sun Valley Guide

    Flaviu Grumazescu // Visit Sun Valley

  • Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada

    Find awe-inspiring nature and culinary adventures on British Columbia’s enchanting main island.

    Why it's wonderful:

    The towering ancient cedars and windswept shores of Vancouver Island have been immortalized by artists for centuries. Many of Emily Carr’s paintings depict the island’s dark, fog-wreathed forest, and writer Alice Munro also lived and worked here. It isn’t difficult to find inspiration in the rugged beauty of Canada’s westernmost reaches, and it’s long been a remote escape from city life. It still plays this role, but a thriving foodie scene has also taken root, where fresh shellfish, wild salmon, foraged mushrooms, and craft spirits abound. The streets of downtown Victoria, B.C.’s capital city, are dotted with restaurants like the award-winning Courtney Room and locavore favorite Olo. A quick jaunt outside the city brings visitors to the Saanich Peninsula, where the pastoral landscape is reminiscent of Provence and peppered with spots like Sea Cider and Victoria Distillers. Further north in Tofino, languish on the area’s sandy shores in between surf sessions or head out to Hot Springs Cove by boat, where you can steep in natural springs found at the end of a FernGully -esque forest walk (you’ll likely spot a whale or two on the ride there). At Tofino Brewing Co., linger over a pint of kelp ale, or head next door to Tofino Craft Distillery to sip on rose hibiscus gin. In the summer, guests can catch their own dinner on the open ocean and then have it cooked at Wolf in the Fog, and Tofino Resort + Marina runs a Tide to Table course where guests learn to free dive for dinner on a deep-sea forage.

    Location: 49.672232, -125.440843

    Where to stay:

    In Victoria, the Magnolia Hotel has an intimate, Old World vibe. Tofino’s Wickaninnish Inn is an elegant, historic hotel perched at the ocean’s edge, while Pacific Sands Beach Resort is a more contemporary, kid-friendly option. For the ultimate luxury Canadian safari, travel 30 minutes from Tofino by boat or floatplane to Clayoquot Wilderness Resort.

    When to go:

    Vancouver Island’s temperate, Pacific Northwest climate makes it a year-round destination. Go in the summer for sun-drenched beachcombing or relish the drama of storm watching in the winter months.

    Insider tip:

    In Tofino, rent a kayak and paddle out to Meares Island, where you can hike along the Big Tree Trail and wrap your arms around some of B.C.’s largest old-growth cedars.

    What to READ:

    Klee Wyck by Emily Carr

    What to listen to:

    People Got a Lotta Nerve by Neko Case

    Visit Fodor’s Vancouver Island Guide

    Guidebook

    Photo by Lesly Derksen on Unsplash

  • Easter Island, Chile

    It’s 63 square miles of wondrous beauty.

    Why it's wonderful:

    There may be no other island that’s more magical than this one. It’s an almost alien-like landscape: rolling hills of long-dormant volcanoes and dark, ashen soil. There are few trees; most of them were felled centuries ago. And yet it’s all so green, like a bucolic English countryside. Wild horses meander and everywhere you turn, there’s a giant stone head staring back at you. There are only 6,000 people on Easter Island, or Rapa Nui as it’s called locally, but these heads, the moai, which are the embodiment of the ancestors of the Rapa Nui people, have a population of almost 1,000. But they’re in danger. Their features are quickly eroding from lichen, a fungal-algae that’s creating white blotches across them like pimples on an oily teen. Coupled with threats from climate change and over-tourism—there are now 100,000 annual visitors, compared with only 5,000 in the ’80s—there are serious concerns about the long-term viability of the island. So, why go? Is this just another “see it before it’s gone” destination? No—do it for the people who live there, too. Easter Island is a protectorate of Chile and for most of the last couple of centuries, the people who have called Rapa Nui home for more than a millennium have not been the primary beneficiaries of the island’s revenue. But in December of 2017, the ancestral lands were returned to the Rapa Nui and it’s the Rapa Nui who now benefit from ticket sales to see the moai. So, now is hardly the time to abandon it. Rather, visit it responsibly—head there in the off season, which runs from April through November. And, do your best to learn about the Rapa Nui and experience their culture—a common complaint is that too many tourists interact only with the moai, the embodiment of the Rapa Nui ancestors, rather than with their descendants, who work and live all around.

    Location: -27.110366, -109.350153

    Where to stay:

    Hangaroa Eco Village & Spa, a gorgeous and comfortable property, is certainly the best hotel on the island—it’s also the most expensive. There are more affordable options that also benefit the local community: Tupa Hotel is owned by a local archaeologist who was also once governor of Rapa Nui; and Taura’a Hotel is owned by a local and her Australian husband.

    When to go:

    The off season, which lasts from April through November, will not only be considerably less crowded, but less expensive, too. As it’s in the southern hemisphere, June through September are the chillier months. LATAM is the only airline that operates on the island, and even through the low season, there are at least two flights per day.

    Insider tip:

    While it’s easy enough to rent a car, explore the island, and see the moai on your own, it’s a smart idea to hire a guide. The history of the island is fascinating as is the local lore that’s been passed from generation to generation. Ask your hotel to arrange a tour with Hugo Hito, who’s an excellent guide and an all-around good guy, too.

    What to WATCH:

    Rapa Nui , directed by Kevin Reynolds

    What to listen to:

    Rapa Nui Mi Amor by Hai Luau

    Visit Fodor's Easter Island Guide

    Guidebook

    lovelypeace/iStockphoto

  • Humahuaca, Argentina

    Traditional cultures are alive and well in an ancient Andean landscape.

    Why it's wonderful:

    The Quebrada de Humahuaca—a long, high-plateau, rainbow-hued valley in northern Argentina—presents one of the world’s most dramatic landscapes. At 8,000-plus feet in the rain shadow of the Andes, it’s a scorched, remote realm of sandy arroyos, bald peaks, and salt pans. It’s haunting, and it’s spectacular, especially in the early and late daylight, when the rocky landscape’s ever-changing, effervescent palette of oranges, reds, and pinks turns richly majestic and exceedingly photogenic. Lonely Ruta 9 traces the ancient Inca Road cultural route through the valley, passing by a string of lively market villages, each existing long before the Spanish conquest: Tilcara, site of an ancient fortress; sleepy Uquía; scenic Iruya; and the largest and most important, the Qulla town of Humahuaca, a perfect base from which to explore this seemingly last frontier. A sunny collection of adobe buildings—including the whitewashed San Francisco Solano and a Spanish-Moorish cabildo with a locally famous clock tower—clusters around Humahuaca’s colonial square. Down one cobbled lane, the Heroes of the Independence Monument combines 70 tons of bronze in a magnificent display honoring indigenous soldiers who fought during the country’s wars of independence (the town views from the top are worth the climb). But it’s the cultural buzz connected to the realm’s indigenous population that’s most riveting: Humahuaca’s age-old festivals, artisan heritage (don’t miss the crafts market), and culinary traditions reaching far into the past. Much of Humahuaca’s mystique is its setting. Locals claim the jagged Serranía de Hornocal, just outside Humahuaca, has 33 different hues of stone. Take the trail and count for yourself. Farther south, the Cerro de los Siete Colores (Hill of Seven Colors) near Purmamarca village is a geological fantasy with hues ranging from purple to khaki to scarlet; hikers and horseback riders can explore the hill along the Paseo de los Colorados. From here, many more geological wonders and traditional villages await. And soon enough you’ll understand why UNESCO declared this mighty realm a World Heritage site, its natural and cultural elements melding to create “a site that is beyond comparison in every sense.” Indeed.

    Location: -23.203846, -65.348593

    Where to stay:

    Hotel Huacalera, just south of Humahuaca, is a colonial-style ranch complete with spa and swimming pool. There’s also Hotel El Manantial del Silencio in quieter Purmamarca, a whitewashed colonial-style resort and spa with breathtaking views of the Cerro de los Siete Colores.    

    When to go:

    The best time to visit the Quebrada de Humahuaca is between May and August, when rainfall is minimal and temperatures are cooler.

    Insider tip:

    Every August, Humahuaca joins in the Incan tradition of honoring Pachamama (Mother Earth) for her generosity with a lively traditional festival full of dance, music, and costumes. It’s a must-see.

    What to READ:

    Along the Inca Road by Karin Muller

    What to listen to:

    Choque de Brujos by Fabiana Cantilo

    Visit Fodor's Humahuaca Guide

    Guidebook

    Diego Grandi/Dreamstime

  • José Ignacio, Uruguay

    Don’t miss out on the sand, surf, and sun in the St. Tropez of the Americas.

    Why it's wonderful:

    José Ignacio may be home to only 30 permanent residents during the winter, but it’s become a not-so-secret hideaway for those looking to escape the seasonal summer crowds in Uruguay’s premier destination, Punta del Este. Shakira, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Mark Zuckerberg have been known to visit. The bohemian locale is on a peninsula that juts into the Atlantic Ocean with La Mansa Beach for relaxing and catching the sunset, and La Brava Beach across the peninsula for surfing and windsurfing. Indulge in eating freshly caught seafood, horseback riding along the coast, and dancing on the shore until the sun rises. After enjoying the beach, check out P Art Corner, a locally-owned gallery showcasing contemporary pieces open December 15 to March 15. International boutique Nimo With Love will open for a second season during the holidays and offers shoppers globally-inspired clothing. Make a reservation at one of the top 50 restaurants in Latin American to taste the celebrated asado-style cuisine by Fernando Trocca and Martín Pittaluga at the barefoot-luxury La Huella restaurant, situated on the beach.

    Location: -34.835793, -54.645191

    Where to stay:

    The jet-set wouldn’t imagine staying anywhere but the luxurious cattle ranch Estancia Vik, beachfront Playa Vik, or upscale bungalows at Bahia Vik. For those looking for a more rustic experience that suits the naturalist vibes of the coastal village, there are many more unique accommodation options like CDL , where shipping containers have been transformed into a creative upcycled hotel.

    When to go:

    The summer season starts in December and ends in March when the town reverts to a sparsely inhabited fishing village. It’s warm until May, and whales are seen from June to August.

    Insider tip:

    The third annual CAMPO Artfest is nearby in Pueblo Garzón from December 28-29. CAMPO is a nonprofit creative colony that debuted in 2017. The theme is “Uncommon Sense: Shifting Perceptions + Perspectives” and features over 40 artists who’ve reimagined how we interact with art.

    What to WATCH:

    Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown: Uruguay 

    What to listen to:

    De Mi Pueblo by Eduardo Mateo

    xeni4ka/iStockphoto

  • Medellín, Colombia

    The City of Eternal Spring has year-round appeal.

    Why it's wonderful:

    Medellín may well be a city shaped by a problematic past, but paisas (people from Medellín and the surrounds) have been trying to shake off the pesky Pablo Escobar association for ages. Hugged on all sides by verdant mountainous slopes and located midway between Bogotá and Cartagena, Medellín is a flourishing second city with consistently warm weather (it is the City of Eternal Spring, after all) making it the perfect spot to catch some Copa América soccer matches this year. Otherwise, take a cable car high above the city for panoramic views, stroll the art-covered streets of Comuna 13—once one of Medellín’s most dangerous neighborhoods, since revitalized—and snap photos with the exaggerated sculptures of Fernando Botero in the eponymous Plaza Botero. Don’t miss the region’s most famous dish either, a hefty bandeja paisa, complete with that quintessential chicharrón flourish.

    Location: 6.246480, -75.565836

    Where to stay:

    Since opening in 2011, the Charlee has offered travelers a slice of five-star luxury in the heart of El Poblado, although visitors looking for understated boutique elegance should check out the nearby Patio del Mundo.

    When to go:

    There’s no bad time to visit the City of Eternal Spring, although June welcomes both the Expoartesano (Artisan Expo) and Medellín Design Week, while August is known for the Flower Festival.

    Insider tip:

    Medellín is a city with much to explore, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take a day trip or two. Just two hours from Medellín, multicolored Guatapé —the eclectically-decorated streets of which look torn from the pages of a children’s book—is a firm daytripper favorite, although Jardín may just be prettier still.

    What to WATCH:

    Rosario Tijeras , directed by Emilio Maillé  

    What to listen to:

    Loco Contigo by J. Balvin

    Visit Fodor’s Medellín Guide

    Alexander Canas Arango/Shutterstock

  • Paracas, Peru

    This lively fishing village is surrounded by incredible nature and full of delightful regional character.

    Why it's wonderful:

    Paracas, a few hours south of Lima, offers holidaymakers island and shoreline voyages, low-cost seafood, and copious amounts of local color along its dirt roads and surrounding countryside. While increasingly on savvy travelers’ radars, the sleepy allure of this town has yet to be overrun by tourist hordes. Hop on a boat and motor out the stony Islas Ballestas, affectionately referred to as the “poor man’s Galapagos,” where you can spot stout sea lions sunbathing or Humboldt penguins waddling about—and if luck holds, whales or dolphins breaching through the waves. The Paracas National Reserve, where the dunes of the desert flow toward the Atlantic, astonishes with its austere views, solitary beaches, and flocks of pink flamingos milling about…and of course, deafening dune buggies ripping across the desert (if speed and sand are your holiday jam). For an enlightening reminder that nothing is permanent, the curious can drop in on remnants of the past at the Tambo Colorado ruins, which offer glimpses into Incan lowland architecture, and the networks of roadside inns this extinct empire once built for weary travelers centuries past.

    Location: -13.840892, -76.250803

    Where to stay:

    If you’ve come in from the desert and need a scrub and some pampering, Marriott’s Hotel Paracas, a Luxury Collection Resort offers exhausted nomads a bounty of epicurean delights, guaranteed ocean views, and a lavish spa to indulge in. The Hotel San Agustín Paracas, in the northern part of town, is more affordable, but still with superb vistas of the wild Atlantic, as the property hugs the shoreline.

    When to go:

    While chilly weather and torrents of rain don’t really hit the arid coast, May-October generally has the least amount of precipitation, with the warmest days coming during the Peruvian summer, peaking around January and February.

    Insider tip:

    You’ll want to chow down on fresh fish and seafood, which can be had for reasonable prices (try the lime juice-infused ceviche). Paracas also has some of the most reliable wind in the world (and plenty of kitesurfing schools), which makes the local coastline a breezy sanctuary for any sailor who prays daily to the wind gods to release their mighty gales.

    What to READ:

    Trail of Feathers: In Search of the Birdmen of Peru by Tahir Shah

    What to listen to:

    Distancia by Gala Brie

    Visit Fodor’s Paracas Guide

    Guidebook

    xeni4ka/iStockphoto

  • Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

    Dance through the streets of one of the world’s most beautiful cities.

    Why it's wonderful:

    It’s impossible not to fall in love with Rio de Janeiro. It’s a city for free spirits, the wild at heart, and those who prefer to travel with no map, no plan, and no reservations. Dazzling beaches, incredible music, and strong drinks create a no-shirt-no-shoes-no-problem vibe in what is arguably the world’s most beautiful natural setting for a city—and that’s not just opinion: Rio’s Guanabara Bay has been named one of the seven wonders of the natural world. Rio is a city that feels alive, like it has its own heartbeat (the rhythm of samba, of course) and it’s own moods (visit during the rainy season and you’ll see for yourself). The topography and architecture of this city are like nowhere else in the world, with limestone cliffs covered in lush vegetation, favelas built on improbable slopes, steep winding streets paved in cobblestones, and of course, the world-famous beaches of Ipanema and Copacabana. Carnival lights up the city for weeks leading up to the extravaganza (happening from February 21 to February 26 in 2020), but dancing in the streets is the norm here year-round, especially in the nightlife-heavy neighborhood of Lapa, home to Rio Scenarium (it’s touristy, but still one of the best places in the city to get a taste of samba). Rio is undeniably a party, but it’s much more than that. The art scene here is out of this world (check out the Museum of Modern Art [MAM] and the work by Favelarte, who are bringing together communities through art and photography) and although Americans tend to immediately associate Brazil only with churrascaria, the dining scene here will surprise you. Head to the hills for the tropical treehouse vibes of Aprazivel (and order the Arroz Carioca and the hearts of palm) or luxuriate in the old-school service upstairs at Bar e Restaurant Urca, hidden in a quiet neighborhood at the base of Pão de Açúcar. In Rio, there’s a surprise around every corner, and the sense of discovery permeates the entire city. The best way to explore is to have no destination. Wander around, find a bar, make some friends, and see what happens. Anything is possible in this magical city filled with beautiful people—as long as you know how to relax and go with the flow.

    Location: -22.869953, -43.181771

    Where to stay:

    If you’re heading to Rio to dance in the streets and live your best life, you’re going to want to either stay on the beach or up in the hills with the hipsters. Hotel Fasano is a celeb-studded beachfront hotel that exemplifies the modern, upscale panache of Ipanema. In stylish Santa Teresa, the Santa Teresa Hotel by M Gallery is a luxe oasis with an incredible view, while Chez Georges, winner of our 2020 Fodor’s Finest, is a design-y and casual accommodation just a few blocks away. For those on a budget, Mama Shelter has affordable rooms that don’t sacrifice style.

    When to go:

    If it’s your first time in Rio, don’t visit during Carnival. The best time to see this city shine is in the weeks between Christmas and Carnival, when the northern hemisphere is freezing and the sun and sand beckons. In the weeks leading up to Carnival, the city is a frenzy of impromptu outdoor parties, making this an exciting time to visit.

    Insider tip:

    It seems like a terribly cheesy thing to do–and it is–but to truly appreciate the varied landscape of this city, you should plan on a visit to either Pão de Açúcar or Christo Redentor. These tourist traps are touristy for a reason, as they offer incredible panoramic views of one of the most scenic places on earth.

    What to WATCH:

    City of God , directed by Fernando Meirelles and Katia Lund

    What to listen to:

    Chica Chica Boom Chic by Carmen Miranda

    Fodor’s Rio de Janeiro Guide

    Guidebook

    microgen/iStockphoto

  • Sucre, Bolivia

    Bolivia’s constitutional capital, bathed in magnificent white colonial architecture, is a glorious highland destination that shouldn’t be passed by.

    Why it's wonderful:

    Sucre, nicknamed “the White City” thanks to a wealth of whitewashed colonial-era buildings—from the Universidad Mayor de San Francisco Xavier (founded in 1624) to the Casa de la Libertad, where Bolivians signed their Declaration of Independence in 1825—is a gorgeous UNESCO World Heritage Site where European and South American aesthetics and cultural sensibilities are woven together. Immensely walkable, Sucre hosts a number of architectural riches and museums, including the divine Chapel of the Virgen de Guadalupe, and the nearby Cathedral, with touches of Baroque, Mestizo Baroque, and Renaissance in its design. For an edifying peek into the past, call on a mummy or two at the Museo Charcas, or soak in Bolivia’s contemporary art scene at the Museo del Arte Moderno. For food, color, and an array of smells, the Mercado Central as well as the sprawling Mercado Campesino are sure to hit you with a barrage of visual and olfactory excess. Tuck into appetizing street eats like salteñas (Bolivian empanadas) as you wander about, and if you’re arriving in September when the International Cultural Festival is on, enjoy free dance and theatrical performances across this cobblestoned city.

    Location: -19.036061, -65.259789

    Where to stay:

    Because Sucre is so easy to explore on foot, try to stay close to the center. The Mi Pueblo Samary boutique hotel, with its picturesque courtyard, is only a few minutes away from the exceedingly central Plaza 25 de Mayo. Slightly farther afield but more affordable is the Hotel San Felipe, which offers tranquil surroundings, with breakfast severed on a lovely, sunlit terrace with panoramic city views.

    When to go:

    The dry season (April-September), while a bit cooler, is the perfect time to go if you fancy sunny days. The rainy season, which hits in October, shouldn’t be a problem either, as long as you don’t mind overcast skies.

    Insider tip:

    Love giant lizards? Satiate your dino-cravings and visit clay-dried dinosaur footprints, skeletons and (somewhat cheesy) sculptures at Parque Cretácico, a few miles northeast of the city. For a genuinely rural shopping experience, head a couple of hours southeast to Tarabuco, where indigenous culture, polychromatic textiles, and a variety of handcrafted goods are hawked in celebratory fashion at the weekly Sunday market.

    What to READ:

    Bolivar: American Liberator by Marie Arana

    What to listen to:

    Maestro by Estrello de Marzo

    Visit Fodor’s Southern Bolivia Guide

    StreetFlash/iStockphoto

  • Aruba, Caribbean

    This Dutch Caribbean island appeals to both fashionistas and hard-core adventurers.

    Why it's wonderful:

    An international vibe, Dutch history, and desert landscapes make Aruba more than a laid-back, beachy destination. Aruba is an undeniably cosmopolitan island, with dining and shopping that wouldn’t be out of place in the world’s most stylish cities. The Kitchen Table by White’s tasting menu takes tastebuds for a walk on the wild side with dishes like duck tortellini or Netherlands-style apple tart served in a minimalist-design setting with only 16 seats, while Laurent Tourondel’s BLT Steak at The Ritz-Carlton, Aruba is where you’ll find the island’s best New York strip and indulgent sides like truffle mac and cheese. Aruba is also popular with musicians, celebrities, and Instagrammers, like Swedish “Yoga Girl” Rachel Brathen, who has a restaurant (Nourish) plus a studio with stand-up paddleboarding and yoga classes. Shopping at the island’s diverse boutiques ranges from masks and animal figurines crafted from mopa-mopa tree buds at Mopa Mopa/The Mask to colorful locally-designed apparel for men and women at Trash by Ronchi. The island is home to the Caribbean’s latest crop of music and art festivals, including Soul Beach Music Festival held every Memorial Day weekend and Island TakeOver in late October, joined by Fashion Week in April and Aruba Art Fair in November. And yet even with all these glitzy factors, Aruba’s got everything you’d expect in a perfect Caribbean vacation, from snorkeling at a shipwreck in Malmok Bay to lounging at Eagle Beach (consistently ranked as one of the world’s best beaches). The island is also an adventure paradise, with off-beat experiences you won’t be able to find on other islands like off-roading in the desert or foraging for edible plants with Taki Aruba instead.

    Location: 12.522025, -69.969005

    Where to stay:

    Click past the slew of all-inclusive and chain hotels when booking your stay for cool properties in Aruba that are family-owned. Overwater villas are a new arrival to Aruba at Aruba Ocean Villas. Boardwalk’s cute and bright casitas, stocked with original art by locals, are a few steps from Eagle Beach, with a pool tucked among lush jungle-like foliage.

    When to go:

    Shoulder season (spring and fall) is key if you want to land the best table at dinner and don’t want to elbow your way through crowds. Summer is blazing hot (don’t even think about booking a hotel without a pool) while winter is when cruise ships dock, dumping thousands of passengers on the island during the day. Also, because Aruba is one of the few Caribbean islands south of the hurricane belt, it’s generally hurricane-free.

    Insider tip:

    Aruba is called “one happy island” for a reason. “Fusion of the World” food tours take your palate on a trip.

    What to READ:

    Nights in Aruba by Andrew Holleran

    What to listen to:

    Favorite Song by Pete Philly

    Visit Fodor’s Aruba Guide

    Guidebook

    dbvirago/iStockphoto

  • Bahamas, Caribbean

    This archipelago nation needs your support after Hurricane Dorian hit two islands but left the rest open for business.

    Why it's wonderful:

    White sand beaches, warm water, and friendly locals are found fewer than 200 miles south of Florida, across the Bahamas’ 700-plus islands and cays that stretch out over 100,000 square miles of pristine ocean. In September 2019, Hurricane Dorian struck two islands (Grand Bahama Island and the Abacos) causing severe damage. And while those islands might not be ready to welcome visitors just yet, 14 others including Nassau and Paradise Island, Eleuthera, Andros, Bimini, Exumas, Cat Island, and Long Island are all undamaged and ready to use tourism dollars to support their island neighbors. In 2020, the best thing you can do to help the Bahamas is to visit the Bahamas. Thankfully, the islands provide so much beauty, amusement, relaxation, and tasty food and drinks that it’s well worth the trip. From continued development at Baha Mar in Nassau (a water park and the Sugar Factory, which includes a carousel bar and a candy shop with more than 500 confections, are due to join the dozens of restaurants, bars, and hotels already there) to swimming with spotted pigs in the clear waters off the Exumas to surfing in Eleuthera to getting an Ayurvedic massage and practicing yoga at Sivananda Ashram Yoga Retreat in Nassau, the islands have something for every type of traveler. But whichever island you choose, you’re pretty much guaranteed warm sun, colorful reefs ideal for snorkeling and diving, miles of soft pink or white sand, and more conch than you can crack and eat.

    Location: 24.699982, -78.042694

    Where to stay:

    With so many islands, the accommodation options are endless, from sprawling luxury Paradise Island resorts like the swanky Ocean Club, A Four Seasons Resort and the massive playland that is Atlantis, to smaller, secluded hotels like the five-bungalow Shannas Cove on Cat Island and the glamping tents at the Other Side Hotel on Eleuthra. In November, sleepy South Andros Island will welcome its first new property in nearly 20 years when Caerula Mar Club  debuts. Bryan and Sarah Baeumler, celebrity designers with a TV show on HGTV Canada, restored and redesigned an abandoned hotel, turning it into 18 oceanfront suites and six villas. Still to come, illa Bimini Resort & Residences recently broke ground on 54 villas and a five-star boutique hotel across three private islands north of Bimini.

    When to go:

    The Bahamas are a tropical climate that’s sunny and warm October to May. May brings a rainy season, although often that can mean a brief shower once a day. Peak hurricane season lasts from August through the end of October.

    Insider tip:

    Island hopping by boat requires a bit of planning (and spending) but it’s worth the trouble of leaving your patch of soft sand for another, if just for the scenic boat ride. Water taxis provide short service between Nassau and Paradise Island; Great Exuma and Stocking Island; and Eleuthera and Harbour Island. The inter-island ferry service is Bahamas Ferries, which travels from Nassau to Harbour Island, Eleuthera, Long Island, Andros, and the Exumas, and service has resumed to Grand Bahama Island and the Abacos. Sometimes flying between islands can be the same price and take much less time—and the view from above is just as stunning.

    What to WATCH:

    Casino Royale, starring Daniel Craig

    What to listen to:

    Let Your Love Come Down by Blind Blake with Bertha Henderson

    Visit Fodor’s Bahamas Guide

    Guidebook

    tomalu/iStockphoto

  • Guatemala,

    One of those most beautiful countries in the Western Hemisphere is often one of the most misunderstood.

    Why it's wonderful:

    OK–let’s point out the obvious. In the last year, Guatemala has gotten some seriously bad, and seriously unwarranted, press (see: all the idiotic claims of caravans). Earlier this year, we published an article specifically pleading with readers to not only not be afraid of this country, but advising them as to how easy it is to fall in love with it. And you know what happened? We received dozens and dozens of emails from readers who likewise absolutely adore Guatemala. And how could you not? It is a truly remarkable country—a varied land that brings to life every child’s imagination of mysterious far-away wonders. Think wild jungles, ancient ruins, volcanic lakes. And then there are the cities: the namesake capital, Guatemala City, a vibrant metropolis of museums and culture; Antigua, a colorful town of crumbling cathedrals and hidden courtyards; Flores, a village isolated on a lonely island, floating in a great lake as though it were a Latin-American Venice. But, as is so often true of the best destinations in the world, it is ultimately the friendliness of the locals who live here that becomes its defining trait. And Guatemala, despite what so many politicians may have said, is a country of astonishingly kind and hardworking people.

    Location: 14.686452, -90.508133

    Where to stay:

    This year, we named not one, but two hotels in Guatemala as some of the very best in the world in our 2020 Fodor’s Finest list. Francis Ford Coppola’s La Lancha, just outside the Mayan ruins of Tikal, is a spectacular resort buried in the jungles. And Casa Palopó, on Lake Atitlan in the highlands, is about as glamorous as you can get.

    When to go:

    November to April is considered the dry season, but you still may be OK in October or May. The summer months may be dicey, but discounts will be aplenty.

    Insider tip:

    There are 11 villages that surround the serenely beautiful Lake Atitlan in the highlands. Ask your hotel to organize a private boat for a day. It will cost $110, but you’ll be able to wander the lake at your leisure and visit as many of the towns as you like.

    What to READ:

    Men of Maize by Miguel Angel Asturias

    What to listen to:

    Fractions by Fraaek

    Fodor’s Guatemala Guide

    SL_Photography/iStock

  • Montserrat, Caribbean

    This emerald isle is a volcanic wonderland in the Caribbean.

    Why it's wonderful:

    Montserrat is the epitome of a serene, tropical getaway. The Soufrière Hills Volcano, now a popular tourist sight, is the reason for the island’s calm and mysterious vibe. A series of volcanic eruptions in the 1990s has left the island with a population of fewer than 6,000 people. But as the “emerald isle” of the Caribbean, its soaring peaks and lush rainforest-covered hillsides are the most fascinating thing about Montserrat. Proof of this is at Montserrat’s National Trust Botanical Gardens, which features a host of nature trails and indigenous flora. While the effects of the disastrous volcanoes can still be seen in Plymouth, the island’s former capital that was completely destroyed, Richmond Hill and the Montserrat Observatory provide the most stunning viewpoints of the untouched isle. For fun in the sun, visit any of the island’s eight black-sand beaches (like Little Bay Beach for rum and music) or Rendezvous Beach, the island’s sole white-sand beach.

    Location: 16.743251, -62.187111

    Where to stay:

    Lodging options in Montserrat are limited, but the few places to stay on the island are budget-friendly and comfortable. If you want a full-service lodging near the airport, stay at the Tropical Mansion Suites. While it has its own great amenities, it’s also close to restaurants and a nightclub. A more private and serene option is the Miles Away Villa Resort, completely surrounded by the lush greenery that Montserrat is known for and just minutes away from Lime Kiln Beach.

    When to go:

    Montserrat enjoys the warm tropical climate of the Caribbean, but the best time to visit is during the summer months, especially August and September when the turtles take over the beaches. If you plan to visit during winter, expect cheap resort prices and lots of rain.

    Insider tip:

    While the Soufrière Hills Volcano is a popular tourist site in Montserrat, be sure to check in with the Montserrat Observatory for the status of the volcano. The last eruption of the Soufrière Hills Volcano was in 2012.

    What to READ:

    Beyond Relaxed: Precious Time in Montserrat by Angie Dawson and Derek Jensen

    What to listen to:

    Socka Rocka by Arrow

    Visit Fodor’s Montserrat Guide

    Guidebook

    Industryandtravel/Dreamstime

  • San Jose, Costa Rica

    Costa Rica’s capital city is leading the way in sustainability and undergoing a serious culinary revolution in the process.

    Why it's wonderful:

    Costa Rica has long been a mecca for tourists eager to explore its many beaches, rain forests, and stunning biodiversity, but its capital city of San Jose has mostly remained a fly-in/fly-out destination. Luckily for anyone with taste buds, more visitors are spending more than just one night here and a food scene with a focus on all things local and eco-friendly continues to thrive. Costa Rica has always been at the forefront of sustainability, and the country continues to lead the fight against climate change, winning the United Nations 2019 Champions of the Earth award, the UN’s highest environmental honor. An ambitious plan to decarbonize its entire economy has the country scheduled to reach net-zero emissions by 2050 and 100% renewable electricity by 2030. One surprising benefit to this whole saving the planet business can be seen in the San Jose food scene. No longer content with being a land of just rice and beans, Costa Rican chefs have been encouraged to utilize the overwhelming bounty of produce grown here, creating a culinary renaissance that is 100% local and 1000% delicious. A rising number of restaurants in San Jose now get their ingredients from farmers’ markets or directly from the fincas (farms) that surround the city. Many eateries, like Al Mercat in the trendy Barrio Escalante neighborhood, even have their own fincas to help create true farm-to-table menus that focus on the freshest, most innovative takes on Latin American dishes. From fine dining establishments like Restaurante Silvestre to low-key eateries that embrace Indigenous recipes like Sikwa, San Jose is seeing an influx of talented chefs redefine just what Costa Rican food means.

    Location: 9.927829, -84.091715

    Where to stay:

    You’ll find a startling amount of chain hotels in San Jose, but there are quite a few gems too. The gorgeous Hotel Grano de Oro does its best impression of an old coffee plantation house, complete with a lush courtyard, dark wood interiors, and a rooftop pool; the on-site restaurant of the same name is also one of the city’s most long-standing culinary legends. For a more down-to-earth and colorful experience, spend the night at Hotel Aranjuez, a family-run spot close to Barrio Escalante that proudly touts its use of solar panels and its recycling and composting programs.

    When to go:

    Avoid the rainy season by visiting in mid-December through April, although beware that the time between Christmas and Easter will be the most crowded and expensive. May and November are especially lovely times to visit; you’ll avoid the crowds while still missing the worst of the occasionally torrential rains.

    Insider tip:

    You’ll find the most exciting restaurant openings in up-and-coming neighborhoods like Barrio Amón and Barrio Escalante. Take the time to explore Mercado Escalante, a collection of recycled shipping containers that now house a boutique clothing shop, coffee shop, a pizzeria, several bars, a colorful dog park, and a parking lot that holds a rotating collection of street art from local artists.

    What to READ:

    Pura Vida by Sara Alva

    What to listen to:

    Periodistas by Los Waldners

    Visit Fodor’s San Jose Guide

    Guidebook

    Bogdan Lazar/Dreamstime

  • St. Barth's, Caribbean

    The Caribbean’s elite island paradise has recovered from the hurricane and is better than ever.

    Why it's wonderful:

    A Caribbean island paradise with French flair, St. Barth’s has long been a playground for the rich and famous. Its capital city, Gustavia, is lined by designer shops, independent boutiques, chic restaurants, bars, and the marina where billionaires dock their yachts. Thanks to investments from local business owners, St. Barth’s was one of the first islands to get back up and running after being devastated by Hurricane Irma in 2017. Exploring the island now, you would hardly know how badly damaged it was. (Ask the locals though, and they will tell you some harrowing tales.) Spend your days as the celebrities do, hanging out at a beach club like Shellona or yachting around the island, stopping at scenic spots like Colombier Beach, which is only accessible by foot or boat. In the evening, head into town for dinner at La Guérite followed by drinks and dancing at hotspots like Bagatelle or Le Ti.

    Location: 17.900566, -62.821156

    Where to stay:

    Seven out of the island’s 10 five-star resorts are now fully open and operational, and the last one—Le Guanahani —is slated to reopen in October 2020 following a complete renovation. Stay there or at Le Sereno, a member of Leading Hotels of the World, on the protected Grand Cul de Sac with just 36 rooms and suites, an Italian restaurant, a luxurious spa, and a pool.

    When to go:

    Winter (mid-December through February) is high season, so you’ll get better rates by visiting during the shoulder season (mid-April through June and mid-November through mid-December). You might want to avoid hurricane season (June through November).

    Insider tip:

    The Grand Cul de Sac is home to a colony of sea turtles, and guests of Le Sereno can get up close and personal with them by borrowing snorkeling equipment or a glass-bottom kayak.

    What to READ:

    In the Spirit of St. Barth’s by Pamela Fiori

    What to listen to:

    Autour du Rocher by Jimmy Buffet

    Visit Fodor’s St. Barthélemy Guide

    Guidebook

    NAPA74/iStockphoto

  • Valladolid, Yucatán, Mexico

    This “pueblo magico” has it all—nature, culture, shopping, architecture, food—but is still largely unexplored by foreigners.

    Why it's wonderful:

    The “Capital of the Mayan East” may be the second-largest city in the Yucatán State but embodies the alluring charm of a quaint town. You’ll enjoy a sense of peace as you stroll by the pastel colonial structures and 19th-century mansions that line Calzada de los Frailes in the historic downtown quarter. Charming eateries on the picturesque street serve Yucatecan specialties such as creamy papadzules (a vegetarian enchilada-esque dish covered with a sauce made from pumpkin seeds) and savory-sweet marquesitas (crispy crepe-like pancakes filled with cheese and chocolate). Unique boutiques offer modern designs with Mayan infusion, including clothing at Caravana, Daniela Bustos Maya, and Valladolid Folks. Authentic handcrafted souvenirs can be found at KuxTal Galería de Arte Popular and Dutzi. Chukum-Ha, a newly-discovered 130-foot cenote, is the perfect place to cool off after a day of exploring downtown’s cobblestoned lanes, churches, and San Bernardino Convent. As dusk settles, there’s almost always a cultural demonstration of Yucatecan folk dancing or music to be found somewhere in town.

    Location: 20.689803, -88.202246

    Where to stay:

    Don’t miss the opportunity to spend the night in a historic building while in Valladolid. Book a room at the 17th-century mansion Meson del Marques set on the main square across from the Catedral de San Servasio. For a stay that’ll ignite your senses, reserve the one-suite residence at the Coqui Coqui Perfumeria near the Convent of San Bernardino de Siena.

    When to go:

    Plan your trip around local festivals such as the Virgen de la Candelaria on February 2 and the largest event to celebrate the city’s anniversary from May 20 to June 4.

    Insider tip:

    Make a half-day trip out to the mustard-hued Izamal Pueblo Magico. Climb several Mayan pyramids and visit monasteries, churches, convents, and charming laneways all doused in yellow. Authentic Yucatecan cuisine and artisan crafts can be enjoyed at Kinich Izamal.

    What to READ:

    Mexico: Sunlight and Shadows by Michael Hogan

    What to listen to:

    Zombies by Rey Pila and Disco Ruido

    Visit Fodor’s Valladolid Guide

    Guidebook

    eddygaleotti/iStock

  • Aeolian Islands, Italy

    From glamour to thermal bathing to hiking, these dreamy islands have something for everyone.

    Why it's wonderful:

    “Magical” may seem like a boring and overused travel cliché, but nothing else encapsulates the archipelago that is Sicily’s Aeolian Islands. The beauty of these eight islands, accessible via multiple southern Italian ports, is that each has its own character. With bubbling mud thermal baths, active volcanoes, sparkling turquoise waters, and gourmet delights to please the fussiest of foodies, Le Eolie have long been the summer playground of Italians. There are so many island styles to choose from: With freshwater springs, Salina is known as the greenest, and its caper and Malvasia wine production make it a gourmand haven. In the distance sits Stromboli with its black lava beaches–the locals call it iddu, which in English means “he” and represents a certain respect for its ominous presence as one of Italy’s three active volcanoes. Lipari, the largest of the group, is the most commercial, but don’t let that deter you. The new agriturismo Al Numero Zero combines farms, beaches, and dining, where you can enjoy an organized trek or live jazz event. Panarea is the jet-setter island known for its all-day long Ibiza-style parties on yachts. Whereas in contrast, the scent of sulfur indicates your arrival to Vulcano, where travelers can indulge in therapeutic hot mud baths and a sunset aperitivo at the upscale Therasia Resort. Car-free Alicudi and Filicudi are the furthest in the chain and remain the most unspoiled.

    Location: 38.495890, 14.926950

    Where to stay:

    Wine lovers should make a beeline for the stunning Capofaro Locanda and Malvasia on Salina. Think minimalist-designed rooms, a pool surrounded by vineyards, and sea views that stretch out to Stromboli. For a smaller boutique feel, the family-run Signum is your place. It boasts a gorgeous spa and a restaurant where young Chef Martina Caruso has secured a Michelin star. Raya Hotel and Resort on Panarea is an island institution with an offsite concept store and club that has Italians dancing the night away.

    When to go:

    The perfect summer destination, the season here runs from April through to October. If crowds aren’t your thing, it’s probably best to avoid the bigger islands in July and August.

    Insider tip:

    Food lovers rejoice! Nonna Antonia Rosticceria has the best arancine (stuffed rice balls–try the pistachio!) on Stromboli. Don’t miss fresh ricotta-filled cannoli at Lipari’s Pasticceria Ambra, or try Salina’s Solemar for delectable raw seafood and gnocchi with clams. Fashionistas, pick up bespoke fabric bags by Studio Accanto and stylish island-inspired swimwear at Filicudi’s Isole & Vulcani summer pop-up store.

    What to WATCH:

    The Postman (Il Postino ), directed by Michael Radford and Massimo Troisi

    What to listen to:

    La ballata di don giovanni by Benito Merlino

    Visit Fodor’s Italy Guide

    Guidebook

    Giulio_dgr/iStock

  • Albania,

    Its sparkling mountain lakes, enchanting forests, and rich culture make this uncrowded coastal country the hottest Mediterranean destination for 2020.

    Why it's wonderful:

    Located along the Adriatic and Ionian Seas, Albania has somehow managed to remain surprisingly low key despite its stunning Mediterranean positioning. The mountains to the north are home to some of the most beautiful lakes in Europe, including the emerald-green Lake Komani and the crystal clear Ohrid Lake, while the coastline is marked by white-sand beaches that remain refreshingly uncrowded even during peak season, and the inland regions are filled with rustic Mediterranean villages like the World Heritage Site of Gjirokastra. Coffee breaks in Albania last hours and happen at all hours of the day, where cafés are filled with friends and co-workers leisurely sipping strong cups of Turkish-style coffee in true Albanian “avash-avash ” (i.e., slowly, slowly) fashion.

    Location: 41.329654, 19.825749

    Where to stay:

    The brand new Meliá Durres will set a new standard for luxury when it opens in 2020. The five-star hotel will offer 400 rooms, eight restaurants, and an opulent YHI spa from its beachfront property in Gjiri I Lalzit. Although not located directly on the beach, the sea views are breathtaking from the boutique Hotel Brilant located off what is becoming known as the Albanian Riviera in Saranda.

    When to go:

    Albania never really fills with tourists, even during peak season (July-August), and the country really shines from April-June, when temperatures are ideal for either a beach or a mountain getaway.

    Insider tip:

    Albanian food was heavily influenced by Greek and Turkish cuisines, so you’ll find a delicious mash-up of Mediterranean dishes with an Albanian twist. Try qofte (grilled meatballs) spiced with mint dipped in fresh yogurt or opt for the vegetarian speça me gjize  (rice and cheese stuffed peppers) before ending on a sweet note of baklava or trilece (three milk cake).

    What to READ:

    The Accursed Mountains: Journeys in Albania by Robert Carver

    What to listen to:

    Bonbon by Era Istrefi

    Visit Fodor’s Albania Guide

    Aleksandar Todorovic/Shutterstock

  • Andalusia, Spain

    From majestic palaces to charming white villages, find the real Spain just a few hours south of Madrid.

    Why it's wonderful:

    Madrid’s high-speed train connections mean that within just a few hours, you can fulfill all your romantic Spanish dreams in Andalusia. Think pretty pueblos blancos (white villages); ancient, narrow streets; national parks; elaborate processions during Holy Week; charming fishing villages; flamenco; tapas, tapas, and more tapas; sherry; and an amazing cultural heritage with bucket-list attractions like Córdoba’s Mezquita Mosque-Cathedral and Granada’s Alhambra Palace. It’s all the quintessential Spain buzzwords–the Spain of your imagination.

    Location: 37.577623, -4.738268

    Where to stay:

    While you can certainly find your pick of modern hotels in the south of Spain, you really should eat, sleep, and breathe history in this part of the world. You’ll need to book ahead to stay at the Parador de Granada (it’s worth planning your entire vacation around), Spain’s most desirable Parador, set within the World Heritage-listed Alhambra complex–one of Spain’s most-visited attractions. The refurbished 15th-century convent offers elegant and contemporary rooms in the most magical setting. In Seville, stay in the supremely chic, supremely Spanish, converted 18th-century palace, Palacio de Villapanés, which is a little off the beaten path. (The Beckhams stayed here recently–enough said.)

    When to go:

    Andalusia is worthy of a visit year-round, but it can get crowded, hot, and expensive in the summer months. Visit in late fall, when there are fewer tourists. You can find steals at magical hotels and enjoy still-beautiful, slightly cooler weather.

    Insider tip:

    Unless you have unlimited time, you will have to choose between one amazing little town or city after another when planning your Andalusia itinerary. It’s so hard! If visiting for 10 days, limit yourself to three: Córdoba with its majestic Mezquita, lively Seville with its orange trees and Game-of-Thrones -famous Alcázar, and Granada with the incredible Alhambra. Then, get planning your return visit so you can take in Cadiz and Huelva.

    What to READ:

    The Gypsy Ballads  by Federico García Lorca

    What to listen to:

    Salto by Hungry Butterfly

    Visit Fodor’s Spain Guide

    Guidebook

    Valery Bareta/Shutterstock

  • Athens, Greece

    It’s more than just a port from which to set sail to a faraway island.

    Why it's wonderful:

    For whatever reason, Athens has traditionally had a bad rap. For a long time, it’s been viewed as a lesser European capital, a destination to avoid while en route to one of the numerous paradisiacal islands dotting the Aegean. Then, in the middle of the decade, came a sustained period of turmoil amid austerity measures. But, even in troubled times, and especially now, Athens is—and always has been—a vibrant, artistic, cultural, and gastronomic metropolis. You just have to look for it. It used to be that anyone wandering into Athens spent their time solely in Plaka, the central area of storied old Athens, meandering amid the ruins and along the narrow streets. And, Plaka remains an epicenter of wonders—after all, look up and you’ll see the crown jewel that rests atop the hill it abuts: the Parthenon! But more magic exists outside these well-trodden paths and it’s worth exploring. Head to Pagrati, an adorable residential hive of artists and creatives; or Gazi, an industrial-chic district with enough street art to fill a museum; or Psyri, an old area that has been reborn as drinker’s paradise—in fact, two of the best bars in the world (according to World’s 50 Best), The Clumsies (#6) and Baba Au Rum (#31), both earned their stripes on these streets.

    Location: 37.983389, 23.727350

    Where to stay:

    Not only is the New Hotel one of the best in the city, we named it one of the best in the world in our 2019 Fodor’s Finest Hotel Awards.

    When to go:

    Shoulder seasons are certainly the most pleasant—the weather is warm and tourists aren’t yet out in droves. The summer months can be unbearably hot, but the winter months are never unbearably cold or wet, just brisk with occasional rain.

    Insider tip:

    Still yearning for island vibes in Athens? Head to Anafiotika, a hidden village in Plaka that’s nestled into the hillside. It looks like a little slice of Santorini but is right smack dab in the middle of the big city.

    What to READ:

    The Two Faces of January by Patricia Highsmith

    What to listen to:

    Περασμένες μου αγάπες by Manolis Chiotis

    Visit Fodor's Athens Guide

    Guidebook

    Anastasios71/Shutterstock

  • Brittany, France

    This beautiful windswept peninsula and many surrounding islands are perfect for hikers, birdwatchers, luxury lovers, foodies, and hopeless romantics.

    Why it's wonderful:

    If geography is destiny, Brittany’s outlier position at the far western edge of France helps explain its uniqueness. Surrounded by sea on three sides, this wild and windswept land harbors a mystery and magic that date back well before Roman times to its Celtic roots. Today, residents jealously guard a culture rich in folk dances, costumes, foods, and festivals, and the ancient dialect is spoken by more than 200,000 Bretons. The romance of Brittany is everywhere. The northern coastline’s jagged cliffs give way to rocky pink granite inlets and hidden beaches. Inland forests shelter medieval villages frozen in time (many with Celtic names). To feel Brittany’s ineffable majesty, walk Saint-Malo‘s ramparts at sunset, wander among Carnac‘s prehistoric megaliths, or scour the long sandy beaches along the southern Quiberon coast. Slurp oysters on the bay of Cancale or tuck unto a savory buckwheat galette (crêpes are the sweet ones) accompanied by a crisp cider and savor the bounty of Brittany’s fertile farmland. Don’t miss the famous pré-salé lamb, “pre-salted” from sea-salt infused meadow grasses, and Brittany’s famously luscious butter—especially beurre Bordier , headquartered in St-Malo’s old town.

    Location: 48.216560, -2.937654

    Where to stay:

    There is every kind of hotel in Brittany, but while there you’ll want to benefit from three things: the sea, the countryside, and the great food. At Les Maisons de Bricourt, a gorgeous property bordering the sea, you can choose from a chateau, a charming traditional cottage, two luxurious private villas, or a seaside cottage, all with stunning decor, modern amenities, plenty of privacy, and a gourmet restaurant on the premises. Best of all, it’s on the sea and within walking distance to lovely Cancale. Every one of Auberge des Glaziks‘s eight rooms is different, but what they do have in common is contemporary decor, spacious bathrooms, plenty of light from huge windows overlooking the countryside (and sea not so far away), and the freshest air. Chef Olivier Bellini’s gastronomic restaurant draws foodies from near and far.

    When to go:

    Brittany is magical any time of year, and because of its sea breezes, is rarely too hot. While rarely over-touristed, its more charming villages and ancient sites do get crowded in July and August. To really benefit from sea and sun without the tourist hoards, May and June and September and October are the best.

    Insider tip:

    Exploring Brittany’s islands is a must, especially for cyclists: beautiful Belle Île‘s charming ports and secluded beaches, and windy Ouessant’s towering lighthouses and rocky bays, where you’re likely to find yourself totally, blissfully alone.

    What to READ:

    The Chouans by Honoré de Balzac

    What to listen to:

    Burnout by DI#SE

    Visit Fodor’s Brittany Guide

    Guidebook

    RolfSt/iStock

  • Bucharest, Romania

    Once known as “Little Paris,” Bucharest is now making its own name as one of the most romantic European cities.

    Why it's wonderful:

    Bucharest was once the darling of Europe, where fashionable travelers came to admire the city’s many gardens or sip elegant Romanian wines at the chic cafes overlooking the Arcul de Triumf (modeled after the Arc De Triomphe in Paris). Years of communist rule changed the perception and architecture of the country, all but squelching the city’s charisma. Today communism has ceased, the vineyards have been replanted, the historic buildings have been restored, and the once faded luster of the city has again begun to shine. Renovated Belle Époque buildings and converted Soviet-style structures now house fantastic restaurants, clubs, and storefronts, like Old Town’s Caru’ cu Bere restaurant and the jaw-dropping Cărturești Carusel bookstore. Spring and fall showcase the city’s best colors, as the seasonal blooms paint the landscape of the Cişmigiu Garden, where locals rent paddleboats on the pond between May and September or sit at the park’s outdoor cafes sipping glasses of award-winning Fetească Neagra.

    Location: 44.426746, 26.103206

    Where to stay:

    The hotels in Bucharest range from historic mansions to brand new luxury hotels. The Athenee Palace Hilton Bucharest Hotel dates back to 1914, where many of the hotel’s 272 rooms overlook Revolution Square and the Romanian Athenaeum.

    When to go:

    Summers are hot in the city, but spring and fall are absolutely ideal for exploring Bucharest. Plan your trip April-June or September-October to see the city in its best colors.

    Insider tip:

    Take an artistic journey through Romania’s visual history inside a former Romanian communist leader’s private villa. The villa was converted into The Museum of Recent Art (MARe), and the collection highlights the limits artists were under during the communist regime and evolves to show the freedom of expression that followed the Revolution of 1989.

    What to READ:

    The Appointment by Herta Müller

    What to listen to:

    2 Mai by Zmei3

    Visit Fodor’s Bucharest Guide

    joyt/iStock

  • Faroe Islands,

    The primordial, otherworldly beauty of this Danish archipelago still feels undiscovered.

    Why it's wonderful:

    Before even touching down in the Faroe Islands, you’ll be doing a double-take. A teal fjord and emerald cliffside whir by like dashed paint strokes, eclipsing your view out the window as the plane soars into the small airport on the island of Streymoy. Wedged between Iceland and Norway, the rugged, wind-carved archipelago is comprised of 18 main islands, each one offering a vista more spellbinding than the last. On Vagar, a walk around Lake Sorvagsvatn offers a view of the lake hovering hundreds of feet above the churning Atlantic, as if by some magic trick. Following the old postman’s route on the same island leads hikers to the fairytale village of Gasadalur, punctuated by a cascading waterfall. Foodie outposts like Raest and Michelin-star KOKS, as well as boutiques like Gudrun & Gudrun, have given the islands fashion cred. The true draw of the Faroe Islands, however, lies not in what’s new, but in what hasn’t changed for centuries. Tourism still treads lightly here, sheep outnumber people in the archipelago, and on islands like Mykines, the population count holds at 14 year-round residents—plus an abundant puffin colony. It’s this uncanny solitude that makes the islands’ mythic beauty feel all the more surreal and worth visiting.

    Location: 62.125020, -6.986102

    Where to stay:

    The 12-key Hotel Havgrim instills instant serenity with its oceanic color palette, echoed by yawning views of the sea, while iconic Hotel Foroyar gives a nod to minimalist Bauhaus style, perched high above the capital city of Torshavn. Homestays also shouldn’t be overlooked in the Faroes. This historic house is tucked into the idyllic, turf-roofed village of Saksun, where guests can drink in the pastoral view from their private cedar hot tub.

    When to go:

    June to September sees the best weather in the Faroes. Even then, you’ll want to pack a wool sweater (or purchase a handmade one there), but any rain or fog you encounter just adds to the islands’ moody romance.

    All major tourist sights will be closed from April 16-17 for conservation efforts. If you plan on traveling here during that period, you’re encouraged to sign up and volunteer to help in the effort.

    Insider tip:

    The music scene is a less-talked-about aspect of the archipelago that can end up being a trip highlight. The Faroes have their own symphony orchestra, and every summer people celebrate contemporary music at popular events like G! Festival and its more intimate offshoot, HOYMAbit.

    What to READ:

    The Old Man and His Sons by Heoin Bru

    What to listen to:

    Lurta by Eivør

    Visit Fodor’s Torshavn Guide

    Swen_Stroop/iStock

  • Galway, Ireland

    Europe’s 2020 Capital of Culture beckons with charming pubs, excellent restaurants, and thought-provoking art.

    Why it's wonderful:

    Located on Ireland’s western coast, Galway is an Irish city at its best: quaint, lively, and welcoming, with all the perks of a big city (happening bars, cobblestone streets, delicious restaurants) and none of the pretension. Known as the city of festivals, it can be a challenge to find a pub here that isn’t hosting a live Irish music session on any given day, but as Europe’s 2020 Capital of Culture, Galway has plans to go big this year. Focused on the themes of language, landscape, and migration and structured around the ancient Irish Celtic calendar of Imbolc (spring), Bealtaine (summer), Lughnasa (the harvest), and Samhain (end of harvest), Galway will come alive with events and art projects intent on bridging the gap between past and future traditions. Festivities will start in February 2020 and run until January 2021 with artists from Galway and beyond participating in over 1,900 events spanning visual arts, theater, musical performances, and more. The aforementioned themes will be given special attention, with projects delving into the importance of the Gaelic language in modern Irish culture, Galway’s immigrant population (24% of the city comes from outside Ireland), and the breathtaking nearby Connemara mountain range (which will be the scene of an illuminated art installation).

    Location: 53.270869, -9.056480

    Where to stay:

    If you want to be close to the action, the House Hotel is an intimate boutique hotel near the quays. But to experience Irish hospitality at its finest, a classic bed & breakfast is a must; Sea Breeze Lodge offers the charm of a B&B with the chic luxury of a boutique hotel.

    When to go:

    The weather in the west of Ireland tends to be temperate and cloudy all year round, so visit according to which events interest you most. Highlights include early February’s Opening Event, a March International Women’s Day conversation with Margaret Atwood, the Connemara light installation just in time for St. Patrick’s Day, August’s Fire Garden, and an Otherworld Halloween celebration to usher in Samhain.

    Insider tip:

    Capital of Culture events won’t be limited to just Galway City. There will be performances and art installations all throughout larger Galway County too, so be sure to venture into the countryside to explore the region’s rural beauty. Options range from performances of The Odyssey on nearby beaches (some say part of Homer’s tale took place off the Irish coast) to a traveling theater troupe presenting the greatest one-act Irish plays of the 20th century.

    What to READ:

    The Country Girls by Edna O’Brien

    What to listen to:

    The Spinning Wheel by Delia Murphy

    Visit Fodor’s Galway Guide

    Guidebook

    sfabisuk/iStock

  • Struve Geodetic Arc,

    One of our planet’s most abiding truths is hidden in plain sight between the Arctic Circle and the Black Sea.

    Why it's wonderful:

    Many of the markers that make up the Struve Geodetic Arc are, shall we say, humble. A stone surface with a hole drilled into it, a stacked rock cairn, a brick. But these markers are part of bigger a story, one that comes into focus when you consider the complicated undertaking and massive scientific accomplishment they represent. The findings that came as a result of the Struve Geodetic Arc’s completion quite literally helped shape the world. Between 1816 and 1855, scientist Friedrich George Wilhelm von Struve led a team of surveyors and scientists in establishing a chain of survey triangulations in order to find the first accurate measurement of a section of a meridian (line of longitude). The triangulations stretch for 1,752 miles through ten different countries, from Hammerfest, Norway to Ismail, Ukraine. Though mapmaking and knowledge of spherical earth stretch back into antiquity, the Struve Geodetic Arc made it possible to have a more precise understanding of Earth’s size and shape. One of the major byproducts was that the scale of maps became more accurate than they’d ever been—or possibly ever will be. Struve’s conclusions weren’t far off from the measurements that were determined via a 2005 satellite survey of the Arc.

    What makes a pilgrimage along the 34 station points an enriching experience is that they represent an unimpeachable truth about our world that bears no allegiance to countries or borders: This is the shape of home. The efforts made by Struve and his team—whether they’re marked by a stately monument or a simple brick—articulate our universal connection as residents of this pale blue dot via the secular language of scientific discovery.

    Location: 59.057778,26.337778

    Where to stay:

    Kick off your geodetic journey at the site of the northernmost point in the Norwegian municipality of Hammerfest. There you’ll find accommodations, like Scandic Hammerfest, that offer a comfortable place to rest along with views of the nearby harbor. As you make your way into the Lithuanian stretch of your trip, you’ll find yourself visiting points that are a short drive to Vilnius. There you’ll have the opportunity to treat yourself to a stay at Hotel Pacai, a gorgeous 5-star property located in the city’s Old Town.

    When to go:

    With many of the points being located in rural places (some of which are in or near the Arctic Circle), it’s probably best to arrange your trip for the summertime to avoid the difficulties that can arise during brutal winter months.

    Insider tip:

    You can visit the Tartu Old Observatory in Tartu, Estonia, where Struve was as a professor and studied double stars. The building now houses University of Tartu Museum.

    What to READ:

    The Mapmakers by John Noble Wilford

    What to listen to:

    I Like U a Lot by YASMYN

    Visit Fodor’s Europe Guide

    Guidebook

    Francesco Bandarin(CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO)/WikimediaCommons

  • Bora Bora, French Polynesia

    This far-flung island oasis offers so much more than just overwater villas perched on infinite shades of blue.

    Why it's wonderful:

    In a country filled with breathtaking islands, Bora Bora is special. From the brilliant turquoise lagoons that nestle up against the emerald slopes of its dormant volcanoes to the fragrant frangipani welcome leis that tickle your nostrils with their sweetness, a visit to this vivid paradise is a delight to every sense. Luxury has become Bora Bora’s calling card, with expensive overwater bungalows beckoning honeymooners and A-list celebrities from around the world. But as luxe as the resort scene can be, Bora Bora’s true appeal is the opportunity to drink up its marvelous panoramas (and mai tais), enjoy fresh fish and fruit, and slip into the warm coral-fringed waters. Recently, several family-run lodges have begun opening up around the island, including the charming three-bungalow Rohotu Fare Lodge (starting at $398), meaning there is now a somewhat affordable, laid-back way to experience Bora Bora. This plus the recent influx of flights available to Tahiti from the U.S are helping make a visit to this once far-flung paradise more accessible than ever before. Manuia (cheers) to that.

    Location: -16.495448, -151.741397

    Where to stay:

    If you do decide to opt for something sleek and swanky, you’ll want to head to the Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora to laze away the day from the deck of one of their 100 overwater bungalows, some with plunge pools, which are all designed with soothing cream-colored interiors that quite literally shimmer courtesy of their mother of pearl accents. Come next year, beloved boho-cool hotel brand Coqui Coqui will debut a single residence beside their chic, fragrance-filled boutique on Matira Beach. The brand’s keen eye for design promises to make the residence not just a gateway into Bora Bora, but a destination in itself.

    When to go:

    The best times to go to Bora Bora are November and April. Think temperatures in the mid-70s to mid-80s (with the perfect tropical breeze).

    Insider tip:

    Instead of flying from Tahiti to Bora Bora, consider sailing. Hop a short flight from Tahiti to Raiatea before boarding one of Tahiti Yacht Charter’s catamarans. All cruises are tailor-made and include the opportunity to discover the more remote areas of the Leeward Islands, from snorkeling in hidden lagoons to picking up local rum on Taha’a.

    What to WATCH:

    Mutiny on the Bounty , starring Marlon Brando

    What to listen to:

    Bora Bora by Lil Durk

    Visit Fodor's Bora Bora Travel Guide

    Kim Bailon/Dreamstime

  • Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

    Ditch Australia’s hotspots for its most up-and-coming yet down-to-earth city.

    Why it's wonderful:

    With its Vancouver-meets-Santa Barbara vibes, Brisbane has way more to offer than just a jumping-off point to some of the best beaches in Australia. Relaxed with routinely great weather and plenty of culture, nature, and nightlife, Brisbane offers visitors a chance to partake in the typically great Australian experience in an extremely laid-back scene. But don’t discount the city’s capacity for fun–locals and travelers alike are bound to find adventure, entertainment, and massive amounts of cocktails within reach of any activity. The annual Brisbane Festival celebrates theater, music, dance, circus, opera, and major public events like pyrotechnic and laser-light spectacles. Past performances have included an Aboriginal adaptation of King Lear , an all-male Singaporean cast performing The Importance of Being Earnest , Gatsby-esque burlesque shows, and dance-battle royales. But besides its major cultural festivities, Brisbane routinely hosts sporting competitions including tennis, rugby, and soccer matches. But it’s the everyday encounters with Brisbanite lifestyle that makes the city so irresistible: sampling the night noodle markets and parties at the man-made beach, cycling and scooting across the city promenade and through the City Botanic Gardens, meandering through extensive museums (Queensland Museum, Queensland Performing Arts Centre, and State Library of Queensland), or getting active rappelling the Kangaroo Cliffs or climbing Brisbane’s Story Bridge. Just wandering around the city, you’re bound to encounter outdoor, free, and approachable activities taking place.

    Location: -27.435182, 153.023574

    Where to stay:

    The South Bank is the best neighborhood to stay in–close to restaurants, parklands, museums, and within walking distance to pretty much everything you want to experience in the city. For the best of the nightlife scene, try Fortitude Valley, where there are plenty of affordable-yet-chic stays (check out The Calile Hotel on trendy James Street or the whimsically hip Ovolo The Valley). More upscale, centrally located lodging includes the Emporium Hotel and Westin Brisbane.

    When to go:

    Brisbane’s weather is pretty perfect, but there are more perfect times than others to experience it. Drier months April and May offer great beach weather without being too hot. Winter (June-August) is better for those splendidly cool temps. September is warming up to what can be a hot summer season (November-February), but it is also a bit rainier than in the fall.

    Insider tip:

    Snuggle real-life koalas and hand-feed free-ranging kangaroos at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, home to a wide range of unique Australian species of adorableness.

    What to READ:

    Johnno by David Malouf

    What to listen to:

    Streets of Your Town by the Go-Betweens

    Visit Fodor’s Brisbane Guide

    Guidebook

    zetter/iStock

  • Christchurch, New Zealand

    South Island’s largest city is back—and better than ever.

    Why it's wonderful:

    Christchurch has seen more than its fair share of tragedies, from back-to-back earthquakes in 2010 and 2011 to devastating shootings in early 2019. But the city of roughly 400,000 people has wasted no time getting back on its feet. Not only is Christchurch considered the “Friendliest city in New Zealand,” according to a 2019 poll , but the evolving metropolis rewards visitors with colonial-era British architecture, enormous parks, panoramic gondola rides, relaxing boat tours down the Avon River, and an exploding public art scene that emerged after the earthquakes. For instance, 185 Chairs, a moving outdoor installation by New Zealand artist Peter Majendie, serves as a memorial to the victims. Thanks to its relatively compact nature, Christchurch is easy to explore on foot or by bike. Either way, be sure to make pit stops at leafy-green enclaves like Hagley Park and the Botanic Gardens, then swing by the immersive Canterbury Museum where you can get lost in interactive natural-history collections or unpack the natural disasters at the permanent Quake City exhibition. When your feet start to protest, hop on the historic tram for a scenic 50-minute loop around Cathedral Square, the Avon River, Victoria Square, and more. From a home base in Christchurch, there’s a buffet of nearby adventures—think waterfalls and wildflowers in Arthur’s Pass National Park, rural paradise on the Akaroa Peninsula (home to sheep, dolphins, and penguins), and the celebrated winelands of Marlborough up north.

    Location: -43.532825, 172.638970

    Where to stay:

    Just opened this month, the new Novotel Christchurch Airport Hotel makes those late-night arrivals and early morning departures much more bearable. If you love to wake up in the heart of it all, the Observatory Lodge —located inside the Christchurch Arts Centre —will aim to deliver an intimate atmosphere, central location and bevy of local artwork when it opens in 2020. For those seeking the lap of luxury, The George overlooks Hagley Park and promises a one-to-one ratio of staff to guests so you’ll want for nothing. For those on a budget, the old Jailhouse Accommodation is a surprisingly comfy option: Built in the city’s 19th-century Addington Prison, the unique address is better known for its high ceilings, arched windows, and modern dorms.

    When to go:

    Christchurch is beautiful year-round, even in the dead of winter, however, summer (December to February) tends to be the most popular season to visit. While the city rarely feels overly crowded, the spring (from September to November) and autumn (March to May) are worthy alternatives if you prefer quiet streets, temperate weather, and dramatic foliage.

    Insider tip:

    Don’t skip the strip malls. They might not look like much, but these humble establishments are full of surprising restaurants and shops. To get you started, check out Dimitris Greek Food for big-as-your-head souvlakis packed with grilled lamb, chicken, beef—or a combo of all three—and wrapped in pillowy pita bread.

    What to READ:

    The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton

    What to listen to:

    Apple Pie Bed by Lawrence Arabia

    Visit Fodor’s Christchurch Guide

    Guidebook

    Nicram Sabod/Shutterstock

  • Hoi An, Vietnam

    Vietnam’s most beautiful city grows more alluring year after year.

    Why it's wonderful:

    The world is finally catching on to Hoi An. Colonial-era architecture, market-fresh food, pristine coastline—the historic port town on the central coast of Vietnam has got it all. An Instagrammer’s paradise, Hoi An offers no shortage of postcard-worthy scenes, from a sea of rainbow-hued silk lanterns that light up the streets every evening to countless 18th-century merchant houses, ancient assembly halls, al fresco restaurants and bars, and sun-kissed beaches nearby. A wander through the little lanes of Old Town, named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999, is all it takes to fall in love with Hoi An. In these pedestrian-friendly streets, foliage falls like water from the rooftops, while friendly vendors hawk bespoke leather bags, beautifully tailored silk suits, freshly pressed juices, and locally roasted coffee. Adding to the allure, many of the historic merchant houses have been transformed into contemporary bars, boutiques, and restaurants. Check out favorites like lifestyle shops Sunday in Hoi An or Ô Collective for boho fashion and homeware, and cool off with a tipple at Q Bar or the ever-popular White Marble Wine Bar. To get a taste of Hoi An’s famous food scene, pull up a seat at institutions like Little Faifo (where you’ll be spoiled with ultra-fresh dishes piled high with market herbs), Banh Mi Phuong (proclaimed the “world’s best” banh mi by the late Anthony Bourdain), or Green Mango for an opulent French spin on Vietnamese cuisine. Adding to the variety, recently opened Co Mai —opened by acclaimed French chef Didier Corlou—guides diners through a Vietnamese tasting menu inside a 200-year-old wooden house, while new-to-town Tadioto serves up ramen, sushi, and Japanese whiskey in a speakeasy-like setting.

    Location: 15.879982, 108.337765

    Where to stay:

    Riding Hoi An’s wave of momentum, several hotels are ready to debut in 2020, including swanky beachfront resorts like the Akyra Beach Resort, TUI BLU Nam Hoi An , and Viceroy. Stalwart luxury outfits like the Four Seasons Resort The Nam Hai ensure you’re never far from a chilled glass of rosé and a lifetime’s worth of wellness experiences. But you don’t have to spend a fortune to enjoy the good life. Budget accommodations like Vinh Hung Library Hotel provide great bang-for-your-buck accommodations near Old Town.

    When to go:

    Hoi An sees a dramatic monsoon season from October to January every year. During that time, it’s possible to encounter flooding, so we’d recommend skipping the rainy season, and instead visiting from February to April for a better chance of sunny skies.

    Insider tip:

    Cycling is one of the best ways to explore the area. Pedal through the leafy streets of Old Town at your own pace or zip into the wide-open countryside on a motorbike. Local tours like Vespa Adventures will guide you around rural Cam Nam Island, where you’ll encounter glistening rice paddies, farms, and water buffalo galore. More of an ocean explorer? To the east, sunseekers can stretch out along An Bang Beach or dive around the coral-fringed Cham Islands, just off the coast.

    What to READ:

    The Quiet American by Graham Greene

    What to listen to:

    Bup be khong tinh yeu by Son Tuyen

    Visit Fodor’s Hoi An Guide

    Guidebook

    mikeinlondon/iStock

  • Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, India

    With its majestic fortress rising from the golden sands of the Thar Desert, once-remote Jaisalmer is now easier to visit than ever.

    Why it's wonderful:

    If seen from a distance, the remote desert city of Jaisalmer could easily resemble a sandcastle, with its golden mass of winding old streets crowned by the massive, and aptly named, Golden Fort (Sonar Qila), which dates to the 12th century. While the fort certainly dominates the Jaisalmer skyline, this desert city offers plenty more, from a set of five beautifully preserved mansions known as the Patwon-ki Havelis to the opportunity to hop on a camel for a safari into the Thar Desert. For many years, the only way to visit Jaisalmer involved spending many hours on a train or in the back of a long-distance bus or taxi. However, new commercial flights between the city and other major Indian hubs have made magical Jaisalmer more accessible than ever before.

    Location: 26.915966, 70.908641

    Where to stay:

    Jaisalmer is full of elegant, historic properties at a variety of price points. If you’re on a budget, Nachana Haveli offers amazing value, occupying an 18th-century haveli (city mansion) run by descendants of the founder of Jaisalmer. Alternatively, Suryagarh, an ultra-luxury palace hotel in its own quiet strip of desert on the outskirts of town, is worth a splurge.

    When to go:

    Jaisalmer’s high season runs from October through February, when temperatures are cooler, but you’ll get cheaper lodging and fewer crowds if you visit during the hotter off-season (April-June).

    Insider tip:

    Jaisalmer’s desert scenery is among its biggest selling points, and it’s worth getting out to the Sam Sand Dunes for a camel safari. Sunset visits are available for those short on time, but if you can spare a night, it’s worth booking an overnight safari for the chance to sleep in a traditional desert camp.

    What to WATCH:

    The Golden Fortress , directed by Satyajit Ray

    What to listen to:

    Ranaliyo by Various Artists

    Visit Fodor’s Jaisalmer Guide

    Guidebook

    milosk50/Shutterstock

  • Luang Prabang, Laos

    Celebrating 25 years as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Luang Prabang is a glorious hub of Buddhist art and culture.

    Why it's wonderful:

    In the quiet, northern reaches of Laos, Luang Prabang boasts a beautiful convergence of Laotian and French colonial architecture along with an abundance of Buddhist temples. Every morning, local monks traverse the city collecting alms from locals and visitors in a moving ceremony, and travelers with an interest in Buddhist traditions and art will find plenty of ways to keep busy in this sleepy town. The most impressive of the town’s many wats (temples), Wat Xieng Thong dates back to the 16th century and has survived numerous invasions over the centuries, while the equally antique Wat Visun houses an extensive collection of Buddhist statuary. At the heart of the old city is the Royal Palace, a royal abode-turned-museum full of period decor and royal ephemera; it’s worth sticking around for an evening Ramayana performance by the Royal Ballet Theatre. Don’t miss the chance to take a sunset stroll through the Night Market, which materializes every evening along the main thoroughfare. Here you’ll find a hodgepodge of artisan goods and Laos-themed tchotchkes along with all sorts of street food vendors serving up everything from curries to coconut donuts.

    Location: 19.880147, 102.143068

    Where to stay:

    Among the most elegant options in town (and there are many), the Sofitel Luang Prabang was launched in 2016 in the former governor’s residence and boasts large suites and villas with four-poster beds and Laotian art. For boutique ambiance at budget prices, the intimate Aspara features Gallic elegance and Mekong River views with a lovely little restaurant on the ground floor.

    When to go:

    The best time to visit Luang Prabang is during the cooler, drier season that runs from October through April (though this also means more crowds).

    Insider tip:

    If your hotel doesn’t have a pool (or you just want to spend some time out in nature), head out to the terraced Kuang Si Falls, a short drive from town. Along with three levels of aquamarine waterfall pools, you’ll find changing rooms, food stalls, coconut vendors, and even a bear rescue center.

    What to READ:

    Thirty-Three Teeth by Colin Cotterill

    What to listen to:

    Khab toum luang prabang by Tiao Phün Muang

    Visit Fodor’s Luang Prabang Guide

    Guidebook

    Only5/iStock

  • Macau, China

    From casino city to cultural mecca, Macau continues to reinvent itself.

    Why it's wonderful:

    Macau is most often associated with its status as the casino capital of the world, having eclipsed Las Vegas in revenues more than a decade ago. But there’s much more to this special administrative region than baccarat and blackjack. A former Portuguese territory between 1557 and 1999, the Special Administrative Region of China has managed to safeguard its unique blend of Eastern and Western cultures despite its astronomical rise. Multiple languages—Portuguese, Cantonese, English and, increasingly, Mandarin—still adorn menus and signs, while the UNESCO-listed Historic Centre of Macau oscillates between cobblestone streets and Baroque-style churches, elaborate Chinese residential complexes, traditional pawnshops, and countless Buddhist temples. The compact territory measures just under 13 square miles, so you can easily absorb the highlights in a day or two—among them, don’t miss the Ruins of St. Paul’s Cathedral, Guia Fortress and Lighthouse, Senado Square, and A-Ma Temple on Macau’s main peninsula. Across the water, Taipa Village reflects Macau’s evolving identity through its cobbled streets, food stalls, modern cafes, and chic design boutiques. For glitz and glamor, head south to the Cotai Strip for mind-boggling hotels, including recent additions like MGM Cotai and Wynn Palace, joining the Venetian Macao, which opened in 2007. This is also where you’ll find Macau’s larger-than-life entertainment: The longest-running and most ambitious show is The House of Dancing Water, though international concerts and performances freshen up the calendar. Named a Creative City of Gastronomy by UNESCO in 2018, Macau draws a foodie following for its Macanese cuisine—a melting pot of influences from Portugal, Malaysia, Indonesia, Africa, and China. Get your fill of local staples like African chicken and bacalhau (dried cod) at rustic restaurants such as Restaurante Espaco Lisboa, A Lorcha , and Litoral. Then treat yourself to a flaky egg tart from famed Lord Stow’s Bakery’s —just like the pastel de nata you’d find in Lisbon.

    Location: 22.198076, 113.543375

    Where to stay:

    There’s a hotel for every type of traveler in Macau, from the ultra-luxe Morpheus hotel (a sinuous, architectural beauty by the late architect Zaha Hadid) to family-friendly guesthouses, such as freshly renovated Pousada de Mong Ha (due to re-open in early 2020). New hotels are constantly cropping up, with yet another big-hitter, Londoner Macao , coming soon.

    When to go:

    Macau is one of the most popular destinations for mainland Chinese travelers, so it’s crucial to avoid national holidays, otherwise, you’ll find yourself fighting for elbow room and paying top-dollar for hotels. Instead, we’d recommend visiting during November, December, or January (be aware of Chinese New Year) for a more relaxing experience.

    Insider tip:

    The recently opened Hong Kong–Zhuhai–Macau Bridge has been heralded as an engineering marvel, and as the world’s longest sea-crossing, it’s nothing to sneeze at. However, it won’t save you much time should you be visiting Macau via Hong Kong, which is the common route for international travelers. The most pleasant way to reach Macau is still via ferry (about one hour from Hong Kong).

    What to READ:

    The Ballad of a Small Player by Lawrence Osborne

    What to listen to:

    東邊晴時西邊雨 – 修復版  by Jenny Tseng

    Visit Fodor’s Macau Guide

    Guidebook

    Andre Djohan/Shutterstock

  • Raja Ampat, Indonesia

    Head east of Bali in Indonesia to find yourself in the planet’s mecca of marine biodiversity.

    Why it's wonderful:

    We’re not yet ready to say “move over” to beloved Bali. But much farther east in the Indonesian archipelago, in West Papua (a four-hour flight from Jakarta), the islands of Raja Ampat are giving intrepid travelers good reason to set their sights further afield and hone in on the Coral Triangle—a region that’s at the bullseye of the planet’s marine biodiversity. In the Raja Ampat archipelago, karst islands—similar to those you’ve likely seen in screensaver images—rise from turquoise waters so luminous they appear to be lit from beneath. There are four main islands, but a total of 1,500 other islands, cays, and shoals are also part of Raja Ampat. And all that warm, blue water makes for a striking contrast with dripping green jungle landscapes on land. But where Raja Ampat (the name means Four Kings) really makes jaws go slack is below the waterline, where pristine hard corals appear much like they always have since the beginning of time. Coral reefs—unbroken, for the most part, and staggeringly healthy—are adorned with a never-ending carousel of tropical fish that will make you feel like anyplace else you ever snorkeled was just joking. Scuba divers have Raja at the top of their wish lists. But even if you’re not scuba certified, shallow “house” reefs that fringe most island resorts here can be enjoyed at snorkel-able depths. Small ship cruise lines and private charter operators like Rascal Voyages, which operates a teak yacht with just five luxurious suites, have recently made the islands accessible to non-divers who come for the chance to snorkel with whale sharks and mantas and dive into local culture, too, at hidden Papuan villages along the route. And Aqua Expeditions’ first coastal ship, the 15-suite Aqua Blu, launches in November 2019 and offers seven- and 12-night sailings in Raja Ampat between December and February. If you’re looking to step out of the box with exotic tropical travel this year, look to Raja Ampat.

    Location: -1.181171, 129.709373

    Where to stay:

    Overwater bungalows from which you can step down into clear waters and swim to coral reefs that are nothing short of shocking in their pristine beauty await at Papua Paradise Eco Resort. The property occupies its own private island and has onsite PADI Dive Center where you can get certified in case you neglected to check that box before venturing here. Farther south in Raja Ampat, on another idyllic island, Misool Eco Resort has cottages and bungalows built from reclaimed materials and dives deep into local conservation efforts with projects that protect the reefs while empowering local communities at the same time with the property’s solar farm and electric boats.

    When to go:

    Raja Ampat is a year-round destination, but the dry season between October and April is the most pleasant time to visit.

    Insider tip:

    If all you want to do is dive, dive, dive, you’ll cover far more underwater terrain with a trip on a “liveaboard” dive boat. The Damai II by Dive Damai is a stunningly beautiful traditional Indonesian phinisi built by master boat builders that runs week-long dive trips through Raja Ampat.

    What to READ:

    The Malay Archipelago by Alfred Russel Wallace

    What to listen to:

    Mengapa Tiada Maaf by Ernie Djohan

    EdwardDerule

  • Tokyo, Japan

    After years of preparing to host the world’s biggest sporting event, Tokyo is ready to take center stage in 2020.

    Why it's wonderful:

    Wherever the Olympic Games go, the gaze of the world follows. And when the 600,000 people estimated to visit Tokyo during the summer games arrive, what they’ll discover is a metropolis brimming with just about everything a traveler could hope to encounter. Nighttime cityscapes act as a dazzling neon canopy for the ground level shrines and temples—this is a place where the sensory overload of Takeshita Street in Harajuku is mere steps from the entrance of the stately Meiji Shrine. Artful high-end dining experiences like the clever combination of French cooking techniques with Japanese ingredients at L’Effervescence are as beloved as down-to-earth late-night staples like the generously portioned bowls of udon at Tsurutontan. Quiet corners in verdant parks manage to make the ceaseless flurry of traffic fade away—it becomes as distant as another planet. Just as the Olympics challenge the limits of human achievement, so too does Tokyo challenge the boundaries of what a city can be.

    Location: 35.728068, 139.765860

    Where to stay:

    Book and Bed Asakusa, which bills itself as “an accommodation bookshop,” has the affordability of a hostel and the stylishness of your favorite indie bookstore all in one, making it the ideal place to curl up with a book. If you’re looking for a home base with a few more standard amenities, Hotel Century Southern Tower’s location right next to Shinjuku Station makes it the perfect jumping-off point for exploring the city. You’re also a short walk away from a stroll through the Shinjuku Gardens or a drink at one of the many small bars that make up Golden Gai. Travelers looking for a well-appointed respite from the bustling rhythms of Tokyo should find their way to Aman Tokyo, a beautifully designed property where no detail has been overlooked, or HOSHINOYA Tokyo, which combines the traditional ryokan- style experience with contemporary high-end luxury.

    When to go:

    The Olympics will be held smack dab in the middle summer (July 24 through August 9) which means it’ll be hot and uncomfortably humid, so if you’re lucky enough to score a ticket (or just want to be near the action) make sure you bring your most breathable outfits. Springtime means milder-but-still-warm temperatures and, for a week in late March/early April, the blooming of cherry blossoms.

    Insider tip:

    For a unique souvenir, check out Design Festa Gallery in Harajuku. This brick-and-mortar offshoot of Japan’s biggest art event provides a space for artists working across a wide array of mediums to exhibit and sell their work sans commission fees.

    What to WATCH:

    Stray Dog , directed by Akira Kurosawa

    What to listen to:

    The Reason Is Love by Zombie-Chang

    Visit Fodor’s Tokyo Guide

    Guidebook

    Photo by Fabrizio Chiagano on Unsplash

  • Uzbekistan,

    Dramatic desert scenery, colorful mosques and mausoleums, and captivating Silk Road history make this under-the-radar country the next hot tourist destination.

    Why it's wonderful:

    Uzbekistan’s desert oases, strung along the ancient Silk Road trading network, have been dazzling visitors for centuries. Images of Samarkand’s Registan, a complex of colorfully tiled madrassah buildings set around a central square, are reason enough to inspire frenzied trip planning, but it’s just a taste of the architectural and cultural treasures to behold in this land-locked desert nation, sandwiched between Central Asia’s other ’stans. Tashkent, the capital, is a modern city, with museums and mosques dedicated to the legacy of Amir Timur (a.k.a. Tamerlane, a.k.a. Timur the Lame), the Mongol conqueror whose military campaigns reputedly killed millions in the 14th century, as well as a Soviet-built subway in which each subterranean station is gorgeously and uniquely decorated. The triumvirate of desert cities—Samarkand, Bukhara, and Khiva—are rich with Silk Road history that spills over from mosques to palaces to fortresses. Get lost in old-school bazaars where you can shop for carpets and textiles, and make new friends through the warmth of Uzbek hospitality. After all, these cities have been catering to travelers since roughly the 6th century, when traders passed through, carrying their wares along the trade route that stretched from China to Turkey.

    Location: 41.955460, 63.999219

    Where to stay:

    There are plenty of modern hotels in Uzbekistan, but you’ll want to opt for the guesthouse experience to fully appreciate the traditional architecture and hospitality. It’s well worth booking early at the family-run Antica B&B in Samarkand, with old-school guest rooms set around a garden courtyard where a delicious home-cooked breakfast is served. At Buhkara’s Lyabi House Hotel, you’ll feel like nomadic royalty while you relax on a divan by the restaurant in the tiled central terrace.

    When to go:

    Uzbekistan is the desert, so late spring and early fall are when you’ll want to visit and appreciate breezy guesthouse courtyards and terraced restaurants. Otherwise, you’ll be dealing with blistering summer heat or freezing winters.

    Insider tip:

    There are enough museums, mosques, mausoleums, bazaars, and rambling desert fortifications in Tashkent, Samarkand, and Bukhara to take up at least a week. Khiva, the third desert city of the triumvirate, is the smallest and the farthest city of the typical tourist destinations, but many choose to focus on the others in order not to rush.

    What to READ:

    The Railway by Hamid Ismailov

    What to listen to:

    Девушка и кувшин by Botir Zokirov

    Ozbalci/iStock

  • Accra, Ghana

    Impeccably cool, exquisitely hot, Accra is Africa’s sizzling capital for culture vultures and leisure seekers alike.

    Why it's wonderful:

    Accra is at once chill and vibrant. It’s long been considered West Africa’s capital of cool (though Dakar and Lagos are certainly gunning for that title these days). Accra, through little urban planning or governmental development, balances African modernism and colonial vestiges, concrete and vegetation, cultural engagement and beachside revelry. It’s a leisure town, and quite refined, where Nigerian billionaires escape from Lagos to relax and play. From the luxurious Labadi Beach Club to the hip concept boutique-meets-design hub Elle Lokko , to sophisticated eateries like the newish Nobu-offshoot Santoku or sleek Urban Grill, Accra’s latest additions to the scene are worldly, sophisticated, and still super Ghanaian. 2019 was designated the Year of Return to mark the 400th anniversary of the first slave ship to reach America, so the Ghanaian government took the initiative to draw more African Americans to explore their roots as well as create new tourism protocols and standards, including opening the new Kotoka Airport, making Accra more accessible than ever.

    Location: 5.603717, -0.186964

    Where to stay:

    So far, boutique hotels haven’t quite hit Accra in droves. That said, La Villa Boutique offers a stylish stay with unique rooms, a bar scene, and a requisite pool at an accessible price point in the heart of Osu, the gritty-but-cool old city. On the other hand, the Kempinski Gold Coast Accra is able to offer 5-star service to business and leisure travelers alike. With extraordinary breakfasts, sizeable standard rooms, outstanding air conditioning, and the nicest pool in Accra, the Kempinski is an oasis of comfort in this sometimes intense city.

    When to go:

    Accra is hot. Really hot. In awesomeness, but also in temperatures. All year round. December is a bit cooler, and Christmas is when the Ghanaian diaspora all come back to visit their mamas and aunties, and the entire country comes out to celebrate.

    Insider tip:

    The people of Ghana are likely the kindest you’ll come across. Ghanaians are warm, trusting, and exuberant, and Accra is all of that. Accra is a city best explored through the counsel and company of its inhabitants—and boy, that likely won’t be hard. Put your chatty cap on and go forth and be friendly. If you’re sweet, you’ll likely end up at Accra’s hottest party: a funeral.

    What to READ:

    Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

    What to listen to:

    Tinambanyi by Wiyaala

    Visit Fodor’s Accra Guide

    Demerzel21/Dreamstime

  • Beirut, Lebanon

    Vibrant energy buzzes through this Mediterranean city, where foodies, 24-hour-party-people, hikers, the culture-obsessed, and beach bums will all find fun.

    Why it's wonderful:

    *Editor’s Note: Due to the current U.S.-Iran conflict, travelers to Lebanon should be aware of safety concerns. We advise you to check with the foreign office of your own home country before traveling here.

    A euphonious mixture of French, Arabic, and English sets the soundtrack for getting lost in Beirut’s maze of streets, where addresses are eschewed for directions like, “Make a right at the fruit stand next to the gas station and then it’s the third building on your left, above the travel agency.” But Beirut’s cultural centers are not hard to find: Sursock Museum, showcasing contemporary art in a 1912 Italianate-Ottoman villa; its grand neighbor Villa Audi (a banking family, not the car) whose free collection displays mosaics from around the world; and for history nerds, the National Museum of Beirut and the Archaeological Museum. In between museum-hopping, make time to snack (you’ll walk it off) on manakish— warm pizza-like dough painted with za’atar seasoning and jebneh (white cheese)—and falafel whose crisp crust gives way to a hot, fragrant interior of mashed broad bean and chickpeas with herbs. Independent galleries and concept stores abound in Beirut, so leave some time to visit a few and pick up souvenirs from Lebanese designers and artists. The sun shines 300 days a year in Lebanon, and watching it melt into the Mediterranean is a must in Beirut; go early to snag a good seat at a waterfront or rooftop bar.

    Location: 33.893420, 35.501622

    Where to stay:

    Get a true Lebanese experience by opting for a small hotel that feels like—or even is—a home. Ensconce yourself in Old World elegance in Hotel Albergo’s 33 suites. The Relais & Chateaux property, in an ochre 1930s building in the Achrafieh neighborhood, is a stone’s throw from the National and Sursock Museums. If you want to stay with a Beiruti, L’Hote Libanais has rooms in four charming apartments in the fashionable neighborhoods of Achrafieh, Mar Mikhael, and Geitawi.

    When to go:

    From June to September, the coastal cities (including Beirut) are hot , with highs above 90ºF—nice for the beach, but tough for sightseeing. The best time of year to go is autumn when the days are bright and pleasant, nights are comfortable, and the ocean is warm.

    Insider tip:

    Lebanon is small, so mountains and beaches are both an easy drive from Beirut. Head up the coast for sun and sea in Byblos (stay at the homey guesthouse Beit Faris wa Lucia) or Batroun (where you can spend the night at boutique hotel Villa Paradiso) or put on sneakers and breathe in pine-scented air as you hike Shouf Cedar Reserve in Qadisha Valley. If you’re more of a UNESCO-site buff than an outdoorsy type, stay at L’Annexe in Baalbek and visit its enormous Roman ruins.

    What to WATCH:

    Caramel , directed by Nadine Labaki

    What to listen to:

    Souleyma by Soapkills

    ramzihachicho/iStock

  • Ethiopia,

    A stunningly unique human legacy in Africa’s ecologically rich “Cradle of Humanity.”

    Why it's wonderful:

    Ethiopia is a land of volcanic fire, ecological treasures, and human innovation in East Africa’s “Cradle of Humanity.” Some of the oldest human ancestors have been found here, their fossilized remains eroding from the neverending plain of the Danakil Depression, the hottest place on Earth. South of the bubbling hellscape of the Afar Triangle, Ethiopia is blanketed in highland plateaus teeming with abundant wildlife, including the Ethiopian wolf and the gelada baboon, two species found nowhere else on the planet. But it’s human hands that are responsible for Ethiopia’s most spectacular legacies, including Lalibela’s monolithic Orthodox Christian churches, each carved with only hand-tools out of volcanic rock in the 12th century; Gondar’s medieval palace complex; the soaring 2,000-year-old monuments of Axum; and the walled medina at Harar, all laid out against a complex culinary backdrop of rich Ethiopian stews and curries served with sour, spongy injera.

    Location: 8.980603, 38.757759

    Where to stay:

    For an incredible out-of-the-ordinary experience, book the rustic Lalibela Hudad, a challenging hike (or donkey ride) up a steep plateau where baboons cliff-dive and local community members welcome guests with traditional Ethiopian hospitality. After a day at the royal palace in Gondar, indulge in some luxury of your own at the expansive Zobel Resort Hotel.

    When to go:

    During Christmas (January 7 in Ethiopian Orthodox tradition), witness the annual pilgrimage of worshipers shrouded in white to the churches of Lalibela and the royal pool complex at Gondar.

    Insider tip:

    Get acquainted with the Ethiopian landscape on a day hike or, better yet, an overnight trek in Simien Mountains National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site where razor-sharp peaks and deep valleys shelter baboons and monkeys, leopards and jackals, bushbucks and klipspringers, and 400 species of birds.

    What to READ:

    Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese

    What to listen to:

    Oak Tree by Mirel Wagner

    alekosa/iStockphoto

  • Luanda, Angola

    A bit of Bahia, a bit of Dubai, yet still Africa, Luanda has mystery and memories in droves.

    Why it's wonderful:

    Luanda is a jumble of wealth and poverty, glass towers and concrete slums, and natural bays of the Atlantic and a jutting peninsula, known as Ilha de Luanda aka Ilha do Cabo. It feels like a tropical sandbar island, yet it’s affixed to a rapidly developing city known for $300 dinners and Miami-style 5-star resorts and clubs. At times it feels like Brazil—not surprising as Luanda was the slave port for Portuguese sending Mbumdu captives to their New World colony—while at other times it feels like Dubai, especially in the neon-lit hotel bars where the scene is dominated by suit-wearing global businessmen striking it rich in oil or natural resources. But that’s not why to go. Go to connect with Angolans, sit beachside on the Ilha with the local sea catch, and drink gin (the new favorite spirit down here, even with a dedicated Gin Fest) at beloved Coconuts or newer Miami Beach. Luanda also has a robust contemporary art scene: Edson Chagas and Nastio Mosquito still have studios here and the Fondação Sindika Dokolo is a must-see to engage with African and Angolan contemporary art and identity.

    Location: -8.816210, 13.229169

    Where to stay:

    Perhaps the latest, newest cool-kid addition to Luanda is Thomson ArtHouse, located in the heart of the Ilha with 16 well-appointed rooms and attentive high-level service that feels quite different than the city’s more frequented offerings: the big 5-stars. Epic Sana still seems to be the favored of the lot with a swank bar scene, spa, gym, and pool that overlooks the Baixa with its Portuguese colonial remnants and views of the Ilha.

    When to go:

    Luanda remains perfectly pleasant in many parts of the year thanks to the Benguela Current, but May through August is the dry season, which is ideal. When it rains, many of the city’s streets (dirt roads) are inaccessible, grinding the city to a halt.

    Insider tip:

    Luanda is achingly expensive (it’s been called the most expensive city in the world for expats), so get in with locals for off-the-foreigner-path eats and drinks. Important: Angolans hate being photographed, and they will ask you to delete any photos they catch you taking, whether on an iPhone or otherwise. Best to leave the new DSLR at home (as well as any obvious displays of wealth, like jewelry, especially diamonds. Read up on Angola and the diamond trade before you visit.)

    What to READ:

    Another Day of Life by Ryszard Kapuscinski

    What to listen to:

    Ilha Vergem by Johens do Prenda

    Visit Fodor’s Luanda Guide

    Fabian Plock/iStock Editorial

  • Masai Mara, Kenya

    The world’s most luxurious wildlife destination is easier to reach than ever.

    Why it's wonderful:

    Like The Lion King come to life, the Massai Mara is a wildlife wonderland of epic proportions. Rocky hills rise up from the lush green plains while an alligator- and hippo-infested river swirls through the landscape—prime time for wildlife viewing during the famous Great Migration, when over a million wildebeest, zebra, and antelope move into the Masai Mara and the Serengeti next door in search of food and breeding ground. All year long, however, the Mara is home to the Big 5 (lions, leopards, buffalo, elephants, and rhino) along with a menagerie of other fascinating animals—the ostrich (so huge!), the warthog (so adorable!), the hyena (so menacing!), and the cheetah (so elegant!) are just a few of the most surprising and exciting ones you’ll see. But it’s so much more than a wildlife destination. The best part of the Masai Mara is undoubtedly the people who call this place home: devout conservationists, passionate guides, and local Masai tribes with a rich culture and deep knowledge of the land and its varied inhabitants. Dazzles of zebra and towers of giraffes are what lure you to the Mara, but the people are what will make you fall in love with this slice of heaven. The best part? New direct flights from JFK to Nairobi on Kenya Airways cut travel time and expenses significantly, while Air Kenya can transport you directly from Nairobi to your safari lodge in under an hour.

    Location: -1.366365, 34.938258

    Where to stay:

    Choosing the right place to stay can make or break your safari experience, and if you’re coming all this way, you might as well do it right and stay at Angama Mara, one of the most thoughtfully-designed safari lodges in the world. The nightly rate will clear out your savings account, but it’s all worth it for luxurious tented suites, gorgeous picnics, and some of the best guides in Africa. For adventure travelers, Extraordinary Journeys can plan a “fly camping” trip where local guides set up simple camping tents in the heart of the bush in a new location each day, surrounding you with the incredible flora and fauna of the Mara. If you’re looking for something much more affordable yet equally wanderlust-worthy, Intrepid’s women-only trips to Kenya connect visitors with inspiring local women all over the country, including a stop in the Mara.

    When to go:

    The Mara is a year-round destination with mild temperatures. Climate change has made both the rainy season and the great migration unpredictable, but you’ll find lower prices at luxe lodges in the spring and fall.

    Insider tip:

    One of the most unforgettable parts of a trip to the Masai Mara is a sunrise hot air balloon ride. Floating above the land gives you a unique perspective on creatures both big and small. Book with Governor’s Camp to enjoy this once-in-a-lifetime experience and their famous champagne breakfast.

    What to WATCH:

    The Lion King (1994)

    What to listen to:

    Asante Kwa Wazazi by Marehemu George Mukabi

    Visit Fodor’s Masai Mara Guide

    Guidebook

    Angama Mara

  • Ras Al Khaimah, United Arab Emirates

    New activities in the UAE’s “adventure emirate” are luring adrenaline junkies to the desert.

    Why it's wonderful:

    Just beyond the shadow of Dubai’s larger-than-life skyscrapers, the lesser-known emirate of Ras Al Khaimah has gone the opposite direction and made a return to the country’s natural roots. This sweep of sand is flanked by the craggy Hajar Mountains and lapped by 37 miles of calm coastline, making the UAE’s northernmost emirate a beloved staycation spot for in-the-know residents as well as an adventure playground for a few clued-in daredevils. It wouldn’t be the UAE without a few superlatives: Ras Al Khaimah is home to the world’s longest zipline, located on Jebel Jais, the country’s highest mountain. Thrill-seekers fly at 75 mph over rugged valleys–or if once isn’t enough, you can sign up for the newly opened Jebel Jais Zipline Tour, a series of seven ziplines that culminates at a 50-foot-long sky bridge that dangles from the side of the mountain 4,100 feet above sea level. Slightly closer to earth is the Middle East’s first via ferrata route, located at the base of Jebel Jais. Expect bungee jumping, a suspended-in-mid-air obstacle course, a Bear Grylls survivalist camp, and mountain biking and hiking trails to be launched here in the next 12 months. With Dubai preparing for the limelight of Expo 2020, Ras Al Khaimah will certainly see a huge influx of international adventurers who are ready to swap business for pleasure.

    Location: 25.732897, 55.976928

    Where to stay:

    Want the beach, the mountains, or the desert? Fortunately in RAK, you don’t have to pick just one. Sprawling seaside resorts, such as the palatial Waldorf Astoria or pyramid-shaped Rixos Bab Al Bahr, promise to cater to your every whim. Out in the secluded desert sands is The Ritz Carlton Al Wadi Desert, named one of Fodor’s top five hotels in the Middle East for 2020. The vibe here is more Bedouin than bedazzled, and on-site activities include camel caravans, Arabian horse riding, or simply watching gazelles and oryx roam past your private pool. The emirate is expecting even more big hitters to open in 2020, including resorts from Marriott and Anantara, plus the first luxury mountain camp atop Jebel Jais.

    When to go:

    The sun shines year-round on Ras Al Khaimah, but the best months to visit are between November and February when temperatures are moderate.

    Insider tip:

    Ras Al Khaimah shares a border with Oman’s Musandam Peninsula, often dubbed the “Norway of Arabia” thanks to its jagged fjord-like coastline. Keep the adventures going with a cruise on a wooden dhow , a traditional cargo boat that includes time for snorkeling and dolphin-spotting.

    What to READ:

    That Other Me by Maha Gargash

    What to listen to:

    Eleven Eleven Two Thousand Eleven by Hussain al Jasmi

    Jeff Kingma/iStock Editorial

  • Rwanda,

    Surreal wildlife encounters, outdoor adventure, and an inspiring sustainability story await in the heart of Africa.

    Why it's wonderful:

    Looking into the eyes of a mountain gorilla in the lush labyrinth of Volcanoes National Park is a humbling, transformative experience—but it’s not Rwanda’s only draw. The small Central African nation has emerged as a sustainability leader, remarkably only 25 years post-genocide. Rwanda was one of the first countries to ban plastic bags as well as actively work to conserve the critically endangered black rhino, which can be spotted on a game drive through Akagera National Park. Almost devoid of animals 10 years ago, African Parks worked with the Rwanda Development Board to replenish the wildlife population in the park, and it’s now home to the Big 5. The adventure-minded can immerse themselves in the park’s flora and fauna at Wilderness Safaris’ new Magashi camp. Jewel-toned birds such as the great blue turaco and chimpanzees escort you on a canopy walk through Nyungwe National Park, and next year will see the opening of Gishwati National Park, where hikers share trails with golden monkeys and other primates. Often overlooked as a quick stop on the way to the national parks, the capital city, Kigali, is emerging as a destination unto itself. Art hubs like Inema Arts Center cultivate local talent, while fashion houses like House of Tayo, boutique hotels such as The Retreat, and chic restaurants like Poivre Noir make the city a place to linger.

    Location: -2.006975, 29.906485

    Where to stay:

    Perched on the edge of Volcanoes National Park, Singita Kwitonda Lodge’s eight spacious suites offer a luxurious respite after a day of bushwhacking up the mountains to see the gorillas. Terracotta brickwork crafted by local artisans, private heated plunge pools, and twin indoor-outdoor fireplaces are an antidote to the area’s chilly evenings. Opening soon at the foothills of the Virunga massif is One & Only Gorilla’s Nest, a wellness-focused, design-forward sanctuary immersed in nature. Classic Lodge in Musanze offers slightly more humble accommodation but with the same sultry sunset mountain views.

    When to go:

    Rwanda is best experienced at the end of the dry season from July through September, which sees cooler temperatures perfect for trekking.

    Insider tip:

    Only eight people are allowed to visit a gorilla family in a day, and space at most lodges is limited, so book your gorilla trekking permit and accommodation six months to a year in advance through a local company like World Fusion Tours. To get a deeper look at Rwanda’s gorilla conservation story, plan your trip around Kwita Izina, the annual baby gorilla naming ceremony held in early September.

    What to READ:

    A Sunday at the Pool in Kigali by Gil Courtemanche

    What to listen to:

    Face to Face by Charly Na Nina

    Visit Fodor’s Rwanda Guide

    atosan/iStockphoto

  • The Skeleton Coast, Namibia

    This remote coastline is hauntingly beautiful, with towering dunes and meandering elephants who’ve adapted to living in the desert.



    Why it's wonderful:

    Along the brooding misty coastline that runs down Namibia’s northern coast lies the Skeleton Coast, one of Africa’s most captivating landscapes. The haunting shore, which has seen its fair share of shipwrecks, is home to the Skeleton Coast National Park, a beautiful desert area that recently saw the opening of its first permanent hotel, Shipwreck Lodge, one of Fodor’s Best Hotels in Africa 2020. The new lodge is reason alone to go, but it isn’t all the area is good for. The vast sandy landscape, which displays towering dunes and limestone gorges, is roamed by animals like desert-adapted elephants, hyenas, and zebras, making this one of Africa’s most unique safari destinations.

    Location: -19.987974, 13.260397

    Where to stay:

    Set on a low dune overlooking the windswept landscape, Shipwreck Lodge is the only hotel inside the national park. The hotel’s eight wooden cabins were designed to fit into the ghostly landscape. From the outside, they look like marooned boats, but on the inside, they’re extremely cozy, filled with snug cushions and wood-burning fireplaces. On the outskirts of the national park, visitors can also stay at Cape Cross Lodge, an unfussy ocean-facing lodge that offers a comfortable stay.

    When to go:

    The landscape is accessible year-round, but the Skeleton Coast is best visited during the warmer summer months between March and October.

    Insider tip:

    A five- or six-hour drive north of the national park is the Hoanib Valley, another remote desert landscape. Here, visitors can check into the tented Hoanib Valley Camp and go in search of giraffes and elephants.

    What to READ:

    Skeleton Coast by John H. Marsh

    What to listen to:

    Papadi Oyakae by Dark City Sisters

    Visit Fodor's Skeleton Coast Guide

    giannimarchetti/Shutterstock

  • Tunisia,

    Where the sands of the desert meet the sands of the beach and where tradition and modernity happily coexist.

    Why it's wonderful:

    Tunisia, one of the more liberal countries in the Arab world, is also one of the world’s most overlooked and underrated travel destinations. With a broad expanse of the Mediterranean bordering the north and a vast swath of the Sahara to the south, the former French colony is about the same size as New York State–compact enough for travelers to take in the country’s stunningly diverse terrain, even on a short holiday. Explore the medina in the capital of cosmopolitan Tunis, the remains of ancient Carthage, and the posh resorts on the Mediterranean before heading south to hoist yourself onto a camel and out into the desert where you can camp overnight as the Bedouins have done for generations. Tunisia was home to the so-called Jasmine Revolution that sparked the Arab Spring and is considered the only fully democratic sovereign state in the Arab world. In 2015, terrorist attacks scared off tourists, but they are beginning to return now that the U.S. government and other countries have downgraded their travel warnings.

    Location: 34.088366, 9.533846

    Where to stay:

    The old quarter of Tunis was declared a World Heritage Site for its palaces, souks, mosques, mausoleums, and madrasas. The Dar El Jeld Hotel & Spa, in the heart of the medina, is a lovely place to lay your head (and treat yourself to a hammam, the ancestral bathing ritual).  Dar Ben-Gacem, a seven-room guesthouse built in a 17th-century house, reinvests profits into restoring old homes in the medina and offers unique experiences like spending the day with a local calligraphy teacher.

    When to go:

    Tunisia’s ideal weather is between April and June, which is springlike, and between September and October when summer simmers down.

    Insider tip:

    Star Wars fan? Book a night at the Hotel Sidi Driss, built in the original film set of Luke Skywalker’s childhood home. George Lucas was blown away by the otherworldliness of the area of Tunisia called Tataouine and dubbed his fictional desert planet “Tatooine” in the films.

    What to READ:

    Talismano by Abdelwahab Meddeb

    What to listen to:

    Words by F.R. David

    Visit Fodor’s Tunisia Guide

    Romas_Photo/Shutterstock

  • Wadi Rum, Jordan

    This Martian landscape dotted with Bedouin camps and space-age hotels is like no other place on earth.

    Why it's wonderful:

    Wadi Rum is out of this world. In this sliver of the Jordanian desert, red sandstone formations rise out of a sea of orange sand, and camels wander between Bedouin camps and Martian domes. The desert here is a landscape like no other, with 280 square miles of towering sandstone cliffs, pillars, and arches. There’s very little vegetation aside from a few scrubby bushes, and the contrast of the deep orange rocks set against a turquoise sky makes this one of the most photogenic destinations on earth–every square inch is filled with jaw-dropping scenery. Besides stunning natural wonders, Wadi Rum has a lot to offer. Intrepid adventurers can hike to the top of Jabal Umm ad-Dami, the highest peak in Jordan, while history lovers can visit the old Hejaz Railroad or ride a camel to spot petroglyphs. The desert is also one of the best places to immerse yourself in Bedouin culture through food and music. Try to schedule your trip to include zarb , a traditional Bedouin barbecue with food (usually lamb, rice, and potatoes) cooked in an underground oven. Bedouins love a dance party–anytime, anywhere–so music lovers will especially love a trip to Wadi Rum to hear traditional Jordanian music performed after dinner or new Arabic pop songs blasted from the radio of a pickup truck. Sleeping under the stars in Wadi Rum is an experience you’ll never forget.

    Location: 29.575343, 35.421123

    Where to stay:

    Many cruise ships or guided tours stop at Wadi Rum for a day, but you won’t get to experience the magic of the desert without spending the night there. A visit to Wadi Rum can feel like a trip back in time or a visit to the future, depending on where you stay. The more traditional Bedouin camps, comprised of bare-bones goat-hair tents, are the best budget-friendly option, with places like Captain’s Camp offering private tents, shared bathrooms, and buffet meals for under $100 per night. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Sun City is home to luxurious geodesic dome tents with private bathrooms and a wall of windows open to the desert. For a truly magical once-in-a-lifetime experience that mixes traditional Bedouin-style with luxury glamping, book a trip with Bespoke Hideaways for a private custom campsite.

    When to go:

    Wadi Rum is loveliest in the early spring and late fall. Try to avoid summer, when the sweltering heat will put a damper on your fun.

    Insider tip:

    Jordan can sometimes be an uncomfortable place for women, especially those who are traveling alone. Most hotels are staffed entirely by men, and it’s not uncommon to be leered at or proposed marriage by a tour guide or hotel employee. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t travel to Wadi Rum, it just means that you should adjust your expectations and consider joining a group tour or hiring a private tour guide if you’re traveling on your own. Experience Jordan’s adventure-focused trips offer a range of itineraries throughout the country, many of which include Wadi Rum. Female-led tours by Escaping New York and Nomad and Jules both take groups into the desert for multi-night adventures with a focus on local culture.

    What to READ:

    Lawrence in Arabia: War, Deceit, Imperial Folly and the Making of the Modern Middle East by Scott Anderson

    What to listen to:

    Istanna Shwai by Autostrad

    Visit Fodor’s Wadi Rum Guide

    Sirithana Tiranardvanich/Dreamstime

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