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.
1. Bocas del Toro, Panama
Best Places to Travel in 2016
1. Bocas del Toro, Panama
The Isthmus of Panama is home to some of the purest natural beauty in Latin America: dense tropical rain forests, wide savannas, coral reefs bursting with aquatic life, and delightfully deserted beaches. The latest idyllic spot to emerge on travelers’ lists is Bocas del Toro, an archipelago made up of nine islands and hundreds of cays and islets. In the country’s northeastern corner—a one-hour flight from either Panama City or San José, Costa Rica—it’s a sanctuary where the main mode of transportation is a wooden motorboat, dolphins swim through crystalline waters, and dockside restaurants serve the local fishermen’s catch of the day. Bocas Town, the archipelago’s main village, is equal parts rickety and charming, with tin-roofed wooden houses converted into colorful boutiques, guesthouses, and restaurants—head to Ultimo Refugio for the best food in town. And while Bocas isn’t losing its ruggedness anytime soon, a new hotel is likely to redefine tourism there. Sarani Resort, scheduled to open this summer, will bring unprecedented style to the area. The 35 hardwood bungalows, on 75 acres, were designed with the quiet mood of a Balinese resort in mind. There will be an infinity pool, an outdoor bar crafted from old wooden boats, and a restaurant serving organic Caribbean food. —Paola Singer
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