The 50 biggest, buzziest destinations to visit this year include France’s new culture hub, a revived Hawaiian hideaway, and Mexico’s next great arts city.
Best Places to Travel in 2016
This lush island (part Indonesian, part Malaysian) has long been known as the home of the endangered Bornean orangutan—and as one of Asia’s last surviving great rain-forest habitats. For years, only the truly adventurous made the difficult journey into its wild, undeveloped heart, but high-end offerings are slowly opening the island to the world. The National Geographic Orion (now operated by Lindblad Expeditions) was among the first to venture into the waters off Borneo’s coast. Other lines are following suit; Silversea has introduced a new port of call in 2015 in Bintulu, a coastal town on the Malaysian side of Borneo and a gateway for exploring the nearby Similajau National Park (home to hornbills, gibbons, and long-tailed macaques). New itineraries in otherwise remote and under-the-radar areas have also spurred hotel development. Gaya, an island off Borneo’s Malaysian coast that once consisted mainly of fishermen’s villages, has recently welcomed another hotel: Gaya Island Resort has 120 hillside villas with spectacular views of the sea and comes with its own yacht and resident naturalist. Last April marked the opening of the 101-room Mulu Marriott Resort & Spa, the second in Borneo for the Marriott brand, whose design mimics its forested surroundings. And with the reopening of the North Borneo Railway system, visitors are gaining unprecedented access to the island’s rural corners, and a chance to see a world not yet overrun by civilization. —Lindsey Olander
To compile our annual list of the best places to travel in the upcoming year, T+L editors thoroughly and meticulously consider a variety of factors. Which under-the-radar gems are most exciting to our network of contributing writers and global correspondents? Which destinations are our A-List travel specialists fielding requests for? Which classic vacation spots are starting to emerge—but for entirely new and compelling reasons? Which global events and changes in travel restrictions have made certain destinations easier to get to?
This year’s list ranges from the Andaman Islands, off India (which impressed even the most discerning ocean-lover, Jacques Cousteau), to an unspoiled stretch of the Caribbean, and nine other beach destinations with sun, sand, and beautiful views. For food lovers, we’ve got everything from Ghent, Belgium (where a group of young chefs is leading the culinary revolution and plans for a massive food hall are under way), to the canal town of Aarhus, Denmark, which is stepping out of Copenhagen’s shadow with three Michelin-starred restaurants of its own.
Related: Best Places to Travel in 2017
Closer to home, once-overlooked spots have proven themselves worthy of another glance. The bike-friendly town of Richmond, Virginia, has standout architecture, a burgeoning art and food scene, and a brand-new design hotel. Detroit’s renewal has been on our radar for a while, and with signs of life springing up in its abandoned buildings—including a hotel that set up shop in a historic fire-department headquarters—it’s finally earned a much-deserved spot on this list. And in San Antonio, the Roman and Williams–designed Hotel Emma, in a former brewhouse, sits at the heart of the restaurant- and shopping-packed Pearl district.
In the geopolitical sphere, the recently signed nuclear deal between Iran and the UN security council has opened up opportunities for Americans to more readily visit the cosmopolitan capital of Tehran and the mosques of Kashan. And while Cuba was on last year’s list, a spate of new cruises that dock in Havana—all thanks to eased travel restrictions for Americans—mean the destination is continuing to blossom. Cruise ships are also heading to Batumi, in Georgia, with its gorgeous botanical garden. It’s a Black Sea port that’s gaining attention from the big cruise brands given the safety concerns in Ukraine.
Whether you’re looking for a weekend getaway close to home, a farther-flung bucket-list trip—or even a multi-stop tour that combines, say, the art- and design-filled Taipei, the classic Chinese retreat of Hangzhou, and the hip surf community of Canggu, Bali—consider the 50 incredible destinations on this list a road map for your planning and inspiration in 2016.
Flip through the slideshow for the full list, and share your thoughts (and travels) with us on social media with the hashtag #TLBestPlaces.—Stephanie Wu