Hottest Travel Destinations of 2013
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.
Bahia Ballena, Costa Rica
Surrounded by mountains and jungle-fringed beaches on the Pacific, this pristine bay bordering a national marine park was long the secret of surfers and backpackers—and migrating whales. Now there’s Kura Design Villas ($$$$), an upscale eco-resort whose six minimalist villas are open to the tropical air.
It’s a mystery—no, a miracle—why this coastal region in the instep of Italy’s boot has remained so overlooked for so long. Known by Italians for its 7,000-year-old cave dwellings, peasant-style cuisine, and thermal springs, it grabbed global attention last year when Francis Ford Coppola opened a hotel, Palazzo Margherita ($$$), in his grandfather’s hometown of Bernalda. Now beachfront tavernas are getting paint jobs and sleepy agriturismos such as the 370-acre Tenuta Visconti-San Teodoro Nuovo ($) are waking up.
His tenure at 1919 ($$$)—the new restaurant inside San Juan’s historic Condado Vanderbilt Hotel, whose rooms will reopen in mid-2013—has been brief. But native son Juan José Cuevas has already created something other Puerto Rican chefs only talk about: a menu dedicated almost entirely to island ingredients. Cuevas is one of the reasons food lovers are homing in on P.R. Another? Dorado Beach, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve ($$$$$)—which opened last month 30 miles west of the capital—where culinary wizard José Andrés showcases his own versions of such classic dishes as lechón asado (roast suckling pig).
Chefs in America’s most Scandinavian city have embraced the foraging-and-farming ethos of Copenhagen’s famed Noma. The pioneering Bachelor Farmer ($$$) has the city’s first-ever rooftop garden. In June, the American Swedish Institute opened Fika ($$), serving smörgås (open-faced sandwiches). The next place to watch: Union ($$$), run by Noma alum Jim Christiansen.
This far-flung French département in the Indian Ocean has begun marketing to English speakers, even offering ESL lessons for tourism workers. U.S.- and U.K.-based operator Black Tomato is introducing multiple itineraries there this year. The appeal? Secluded beaches, volcanoes—and damn good croissants.
Boracay hogs the spotlight, but there are thousands of other islands to lure beach lovers. At Eskaya Beach Resort & Spa ($$$$), on Panglao, thatched-roof villas face the sea. Palawan, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, now has El Nido Resorts Pangulasian Island ($$$$). Groups can reserve Ariara ($$$), a 125-acre private isle.
Cirque du Soleil cofounder Daniel Gauthier has spent 10 years and $350 million developing this once-sleepy ski area into Le Massif de Charlevoix. A new diesel train makes the 41-mile run from Quebec City to the base of eastern Canada’s largest vertical drop (2,526 feet). You’ll find the coolest digs and a fireside lounge at Hotel La Ferme ($).
Uco Valley, Argentina
Will this sunny expanse outside Mendoza City become Napa South? New hotels are making it easier to sample the region’s Malbecs and Semillons: Francis Mallman—the Argentine Thomas Keller—runs the kitchen at Vines Resort & Spa ($$$$), while Casa de Uco, Wine Hotel & Spa ($$$$) has freestanding tubs and outdoor fire pits.
Instability in Zimbabwe continues to divert safari-goers and guides across the border. In South Luangwa, walking-safari pioneer Norman Carr’s daughter-in-law is opening Chinzombo ($$$$), and the Bushcamp Company ($$$$) has redone several camps. In the Lower Zambezi, the Ana Tree Lodge will have eight luxe tents with private plunge pools when it opens in April.
Gold Coast, Australia
More Americans are joining A-list Aussies in this beachside Queensland city, thanks in part to Qantas’s new daily nonstop from Dallas to nearby Brisbane. Tap into the scene at star chef Luke Mangan’s Salt Grill at the buzzy Hilton Surfers Paradise ($$) and the new Gwinganna Lifestyle Retreat ($$$$), a wellness resort co-owned by actor Hugh Jackman.
The scruffy charm of France’s edgiest city—one of the European Union’s Capitals of Culture for 2013—will be on full display this year. But clothing designers such as Caroline Hanny and Didier Parakian are also turning heads. Style seekers browse the racks in the Cours Julien district; artists are colonizing the Le Panier area; and trendy types hole up at Philippe Starck’s Mama Shelter ($).