A pristine bay in Costa Rica has been a secret favorite of backpackers and migrating whales. But it couldn’t stay under that shroud of cloud forest forever. The opening of an eco-resort makes Bahia Ballena more inviting and accessible, and 2013 the right moment to visit.
The world is still vast, and even as you check iconic places off your bucket list, there’s a craving to set sail for the new, the next, the undiscovered. To determine which destinations like Bahia Ballena are coming up on the radar, T+L asked safari experts and art dealers, cutting-edge chefs and even branding agencies where they’re seeing a new neighborhood emerge or wineries getting more acclaim. What started with 40-odd places we distilled down to a baker’s dozen: the hottest travel destinations of 2013.
Related: Best Places to Travel in 2014
Two countries written off in recent years—Zambia and the Philippines—are safe to visit once again, and thriving with cool new safari camps and island thatched-roof villas. The archipelago of Palawan, a UNESCO biosphere reserve in the Philippines, just added a resort with a scuba center; hop a two-hour flight from Hong Kong, and you’ll soon be diving with the sea turtles.
In Amsterdam, reachable by nonstop flights from many U.S. cities, the Rijksmuseum emerges from a 10-year renovation in April 2013, with a wing devoted to Vermeer and Rembrandt, steps from the recently redone Stedelijk Museum. And a 7,000-year-old historic region in the arch of Italy’s boot may finally see its moment in the sun thanks to the debut of a Hollywood legend’s family home as a hotel.
Even in our backyard, we’ve found places that offer compelling new reasons to visit this year. In San Juan, Puerto Rico, two chefs are shaking up the food scene, while Minneapolis has embraced the foraging-and-farming ethos of Scandinavia—Bachelor Farmer has the city’s first-ever rooftop garden, and an alum of Noma restaurant has set up shop at Union.
So get out your map, block out some vacation time on your calendar, and make 2013 a year of travel discoveries. We promise at least a few of these places to go next will surprise you.