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.
36. Placencia, Belize
Best Places to Travel in 2016
36. Placencia, Belize
Belize is still great for backpackers—much like Costa Rica in the 1980s—but certain areas have also become bona fide retreats for the well-heeled. For years now, Francis Ford Coppola’s Turtle Inn has been drawing glamorous types to its cottages in the beach town of Placencia, on a little-known peninsula on the country’s east coast. But the secret is on the verge of getting out, especially with the late 2016 opening of Itz’ana, an ambitious farm-restaurant-retreat hybrid with 39 upscale villas—all within mere feet of the world’s second-largest coral reef system. The project, which is just down the road from Turtle Inn, is not just ambitious for its five-star creature comforts (rooms will have terraces with daybeds, waterfront views, and soaring ceilings). It’s also a stage for chef Mara Jernigan, of the immensely popular Limilita pop-up restaurant in Placencia, who will be using indigenous ingredients to spotlight Belizean agriculture and fine dining. (She’ll even have a personal fleet of fishermen.) Also on property: a Mayan-inspired spa using locally harvested rainforest botanicals, a room (and sommelier) dedicated to rum, and chartered yachts for sundown cruises. —Nikki Ekstein
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.
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